So what should I use?
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of note-taking apps to choose from. No wonder they all promise to make you a guru for organization and productivity. If you're having trouble browsing all of them, ask the following questions:
What hardware do I own?
First and foremost, eliminate all services that your primary devices do not support. Let's say you own a Macbook Pro and an Android smartphone: you can immediately exclude any platform that does not support Google's mobile operating system, such as Bear and Ulysses. Why? Because it's important that you can access your notes anytime, anywhere. With a good, reliable mobile app, you can quickly read some review notes while you're on the bus or waiting in line for coffee. It is also a decent support if you forget to charge your laptop or tablet before class.
What is my learning style?
If you have not already done so, make a "learning style" quiz. Find out if you can capture and process information best with visual (pics, charts, maps, etc.), auditory (podcasts, audiobooks, classroom records), linguistic (old-fashioned reading and writing), or physical, tactile means (Looking at a globe, fixing a car by hand, etc.).
What am I studying?
Then you should think about your subjects. How do you best represent and digest the course materials? For example, a photography class will probably handle some prolific shutterbugs like Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson. If you want to remember your life and techniques, it makes sense to create some notes with a mix of text and example images.
What is my budget?
Do not give out what you can not afford. Set a budget (we also have a guide to managing your finances) and reject everything that goes beyond that. Also, be careful with "free" versions that protect basic features like offline access and cross-device synchronization behind expensive subscriptions. You do not want to feel restricted by your note-taking app in the classroom.
It is impossible to select a single "best" note app. Instead, we've made some suggestions that are tailored to specific users, devices, and learning styles.
"I want to do everything with an iPad and an Apple Pencil."
Alternative: GoodNotes 5
"I want to use a tablet and a laptop or PC."
If you spend your time evenly on a tablet and a PC, you should try OneNote Microsoft software, because it's completely free and available on a variety of platforms, lets you organize your life into any number of notebooks and nested sections, which are then backed up by default in your Microsoft OneDrive account Media types, including text, pictures, hand-drawn doodles, and audio recordings. You can also share your notebooks and share notes with a other people work together. We also love Evernote, but the free tier limits access to two devices.
"I'm a power user who wants to customize everything."