Analysis: The Search for the Perfect Note-Taking App

WEB EXCLUSIVE: In comparing Microsoft OneNote, EverNote and MindManager, Howard finds that there is currently no One Notetaking App To Rule Them All. The perfect app would be the one that combines the best of the three.

Last year we looked at Microsoft OneNote, EverNote and MindJet's MindManager to compare and contrast them. Used properly, these tools do more than support decision-making -- they support thought, planning, reasoning, evaluating and, ultimately, the taking and tracking of action.

Each of these products -- and there are certainly many others -- has great features and functionalities, but none has all of them. Here, then, is one vision of the utopian note-taking, freeform data-organizing, fully integrated thought-support environment of the future.

Some Prefer To Do It By Hand
While there are those who were fortunate enough to learn touch-typing at a very early age, most people find typing to be tedious. They prefer to take pen in hand and write, especially when taking notes at a meeting. Many note-taking software products enable this. Microsoft OneNote, for example, has always included extensive handwriting, highlighting and other stylus-driven functions.

While today's tablets hold out the promise of truly enabling this capability, be careful to audition any tablet you're considering for the job. Some of the premier entries in the new and nascent Windows 8 Pro touch-enabled market for tablets and ultrabooks do a surprisingly poor job of supporting handwriting. The resulting "text" is choppy and segmented, not smooth. If you're a handwriter, spend some time testing handwriting on your intended tablet or ultrabook.

Let Me Talk to You
Voice transcription is becoming almost frighteningly better. Anyone who has used Voice Search on Google will attest to that. While this still seems to be a third-party "bolt-on" for note-taking software, we're getting closer to the time when you can speak and have your favorite device record and transcribe it for you.

Being a user of visual voicemail, I often call into my own voicemail to dictate some notes about something and delight in copying and pasting the resulting text into my work when I get back to the office.

The Holy Grail
Integration will be the holy grail of note-taking and thought-support software going ahead. Picture a day when you can take notes right into a mapping solution by hand, by keyboard or by voice, move it around with touch-screen ease, and with a keystroke identify action items complete with priority, deadline and other pertinent information. These go immediately into your task-management system, such as Outlook, where you can act and track them to completion.

All of your notes -- including recordings complete with transcription, photos you may take to support your notes, and even videos -- are instantly, immediately and automatically saved locally.

Simultaneously, they are saved to your choice of cloud storage solution, which can also automatically save them back to your primary desktop computer for later work.

Is This a Vision for the Future?
No. It's not. All of the functionalities described are available in various products today.

MindJet has replaced its MindManager product with the MindJet service, available as a monthly subscription. The company has moved its entire model to the cloud, and added mathematics and other cool new functionality. EverNote continues to improve upon its user interface. OneNote has come out in versions for just about every platform, including iOS and Android. It's an exciting time in the thought-support segment with incredible new facility advancing all around us.

Hopefully, the providers of these products are looking over their shoulders (and at this article) and will take an inventory of what their competitors have that they need to add. The first one to achieve full integration of all of these functionalities has the opportunity to be a category killer, with everyone who takes notes and uses information as the winners!


About the Author

Howard M. Cohen is a consultant to IT vendors and channel partner companies and a board member of the U.S. chapter of the IAMCP. Reach him at