Tools For Note Taking in the 21st Century

If you are anything like us here at Stacklist, you use a lot of sticky notes, and I mean a lot of sticky notes. Whether it is to-do lists, brainstorming ideas, or drawings of martinis, sticky notes are a hallmark of our office – and if they are not of yours we highly recommend them.

The importance of note taking cannot be understated. Taking notes not only helps you organize your own thoughts, but also enables better communication between you and your coworkers. Any way you look at it, note taking is a key element of any productive work environment. We have compiled some online note tools that we think will help you!

Note taking comes up repeatedly on Stacklist interviews with founders as a priority for startup teams.
  • Note taking is a key element of getting work done, building a startup, co-working as a team.
  • Notes help brainstorming efforts. By taking notes, you can better flesh out your thoughts into coherent ideas with value. This can lead you to see things from a new perspective.
  • Notes help you collect, sift through, and present your thoughts. By seeing your own thoughts and ideas reflected back at you and by being able to move them around and reorganize them, patterns and trends you might not have seen before emerge.
  • Notes are the most efficient way to remember great ideas! By taking notes in meetings or in conversations with coworkers, the nuances and ideas generated become permanent. It is too easy for details to fall through the cracks otherwise.
And, alongside the universal importance of note-taking is always the tools - new and old - that startups are adopting to help them with all of the above. Understanding the importance of note taking, several tools have been created to modernize, revolutionize, and reinvent note taking. In recent years, a plethora of tools have emerged that will make you rethink how you take notes. In an online, connected office environment, some pretty awesome note tools have developed to bring note taking into the 21st century. (Sticky notes are dead. Long live sticky notes!)

Google Keep: post it or forget about it: the new sticky notes


Google Keep runs with the concept of sticky notes and expands their purposes to be even more useful in the office setting. Traditional sticky notes are great - see our big endorsement above - yet, with so many ideas being written down on little pieces of paper, some can fall through the cracks.


With Google Keep your sticky notes become digital and outstrip their original use. You can make notes, to-do lists, and even create audio notes. Looking around for new items for you office? You can take an image-note to share with your coworkers and to crowd source opinions.

Looking to filter through your thoughts, you can color code your notes or apply filters, such as seeing only notes you have shared or those that have pictures. Setting location-based and time-based reminders ensures that you never miss an event, meeting, or shopping list again.

Pricing: Free.

Evernote: rethinking the journal

Evernote is one of our most popular note taking tools, appearing on 8% of stacklists, and once you delve into its features you can see why. While Evernote may perform some of the same actions as Google Keep, its engaging UI and journal layout demonstrate a whole new way of taking notes.

“I personally use Evernote for everything: marketing, drafts etc. I really appreciate the search tool in Evernote. That is what makes all the difference for me.”
-Tony Stubblebine, Founder & CEO of Coach.me

Like Google Keep, Evernote allows you to jot down your notes in a convenient to-do list and share them easily. But Evernote is better for more long-form notes. With Evernote, instead of reducing a to-do list, you can expand upon it, describing goals and what you want to accomplish. This ultimately makes for notes that are better thought out and more detailed.


A unique feature of Evernote is its multiple journal system. This is a great way to organize your ideas, thoughts, and projects. It is easy to navigate and is a really useful and productive way to keep track of all the different tasks and assignments bouncing around the office.

The most lauded Evernote feature is its search function. While other tools have search functions, Evernote’s is the most in depth. You search text, images, and documents. You can also search for specific words or terms across all your notes - even handwritten notes. In an office environment where you are constantly writing down your thoughts, searchability is key, and this is where Evernote triumphs.

Pricing: free for basic, $34.99/yr for plus, which includes accessing notes offline and customer support, and $69.99/year for premium, which includes 10GB of data and the ability to annotate PDFs.

Captio: never forget a thought again

“I use this as a personal tool, and it’s one of my favorites. It allows you to send yourself an email with one click. It sounds silly, but it’s so effective if you send yourself a lot of emails.”
-Derek Flanzraich, CEO & Founder of Greatist

Captio is a great tool for capturing your thoughts in the moment and making sure they don’t fly away. I have heard a theory that your best ideas come to you in the shower. While you’re washing your hair, eyes closed, eureka! There it is. Maybe you are on the subway, and you just figured out the next big thing for your startup, but there is no data in the subway. Captio is now here to fix that problem.


Captio sends your notes to your email in one quick click. Now your racing thoughts can be stored, concentrated, and revisited at your leisure. The app will store your thoughts offline if need be, so you never have to worry about being in a place without wifi. You can also share your notes, which can include photos, with others.

Pricing: $1.99 in the iTunes store.

Hackpad: increasing collaboration and introducing embedding

Digital document and note collaboration is not new. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and many of these tools improve over time and get better through different iterations. Hackpad is a prime example of a tool which, though similar to other collaboration tools, takes a different spin. In fact, they did what they do so well that Dropbox acquired them in 2014.

“We have started using Hackpad for documentation, and it works well for internal knowledge management. We needed to develop a process for sharing information because we have too much data.”
-Guillaume Cabane, Head of Growth Marketing of Mention

While Hackpad may be similar to Google Drive, it has some new aspects to it that Google Drive lacks and which make it a useful and unique tool in its own right.

With Hackpad, you can embed a document or a “pad” directly on your website for your consumers to comment on. This improves engagement and brings your entire readership and client base into your commentary and note taking network. Hackpad also incorporates an enhanced version of tracking so you can see exactly who came up with that next great idea.


Hackpad also incorporates social media. You can create a pad that your entire Twitter following can comment on. This enables your company to better engage with your consumers, enhancing the customer experience and boosting your company’s image.

Hackpad is a great tool to use for collaborative note taking and a great way to reach out to your larger audience.

Pricing: Public workspaces, or pages that are open to anyone, always free in Hackpad. Private workspaces, which have restrictions on who can view and edit the pads, are free for up to 5 members, and cost $2/user per month once the group hits 6 members.

GoodNotes: creating, commenting, and editing

Being a good coworker means that you are collaborative and thoughtful. Giving productive criticism is necessary for ideas to evolve, grow, and become better. Through note-taking, commenting, and feedback functionality, GoodNotes has become crucial to the brainstorming, editing, and creating process of many startup teams.

“GoodNotes makes your handwritten notes last forever. I take handwritten notes on my iPad, and then GoodNotes will sync them directly, create a PDF, and upload them to Dropbox. And I can see everything on mobile, etc. I can even pull in any file and sign it, or if a pitch deck is sent to me, I can send handwritten feedback via GoodNotes.”
-Brian Frumberg, Founder of VentureOut

GoodNotes allows you to give handwritten feedback on any document. It lets you take beautiful handwritten notes and annotate PDF documents. You can even comment on pitch decks and then send them back to your team. GoodNotes handwritten notes are searchable and are created using a pioneering vector ink engine.


Instead of printing out a long document and commenting by hand - or, worse, not providing comprehensive notes because it’s just too burdensome, GoodNotes enables you to write your comments digitally and then share them with your whole team, making sure everyone is on the same page. This dramatic increase in collaboration abilities speaks to the usefulness and indispensability of GoodNotes.

Pricing: $7.99 in the iTunes store.

Is your iPad more useful than your pen?

The rise of note tools does not spell the death of pen and paper. These original tools still have merit in an office space and should not be discounted, but in the same turn their limitations must be recognized. Regular notes can become disorganized, hard to search through, and are not shareable in the same way digital notes are.

Like many of the tools in our stacklists, these note taking tools saw a problem in earlier technology and tried to fix it. Check out some of these note tools today to see how you could make your company better connected, more organized, and up to date.