Taking notes on a Mac is as simple as opening Notes and starting to type. But the best way to take notes actually depends on your own personal habits and workflow.
Some people are better with sticky notes that stay on your screen all the time, or an app that syncs seamlessly with Calendar and Reminders — like NotePlan. If your notes tend to turn into blog posts, an app like MarsEdit can keep them organized until they’re ready to publish. And if your main focus is writing itself, it doesn’t get better than Ulysses.
Setapp is packed with useful apps that might fit your unique way of note-taking better than a one-size-fits-all solution like Apple’s own Notes. With over 200 apps to choose from — and a free trial — you’re bound to find the best app for jotting down your thoughts. Here are our favorites.
Create sticky notes with Unclutter
Unclutter is perfect for capturing the smallest germ of an idea, since it works as both a sticky notes app and a clipboard manager. Because it’s always open, you can write down an idea the second you have it. Unclutter’s notes are sticky because they never go away, and the interface is even better than default sticky notes on the desktop since Unclutter doesn’t clutter up the view when you’re working in other apps.
To access Unclutter, you can just mouse to the top of your screen and scroll down (or choose your own key command), and its three-pane layout appears, with sections labeled Clipboard, Files, and Notes.
In Clipboard, you’ll see a list of everything you’ve copied to your Mac’s clipboard, ready to re-copy and paste whenever and wherever you need. You can star favorite items to keep them accessible here forever.
Files is a handy place to drop files you need an easy access to, like things you’re working on right now.
Unclutter’s Notes pane is a text field where you can type out notes and also drag text and links into. You can keep one long-running note to yourself or create multiple notes and view them in a list — the Search field searches the full text of all of your notes, so you can always find what you’re looking for. All panes are easy to resize to give yourself more room.
Unclutter is easy to fit into your workflow since it’s always there, and the search field helps you find things later. Dropbox integration even syncs your Unclutter files and notes across multiple Macs. When you want to turn your thoughts into something more edited, you can choose another note-taking app from Setapp.
NotePlan for tasks + calendar + notes
If you’re looking for a productivity app that can change the way you work, NotePlan is your best choice. It combines notes, powerful markdown, Calendar, a handy spot for to-dos with progress tracking, Reminders, and so much more. In the recent update, NotePlan added bi-directional links so you can create links across all your notes. Also, it supports fast CloudKit sync that allows you to transfer and backup content safely across devices.
It’s fair to say that NotePlan replaces macOS apps like Notes, Reminders, and Calendar completely. Even more, it gives you the power of such popular tools like Bear, Evernote, and Notion — in a single interface and for a lower price.
For instance, Bear has great Markdown but doesn’t link with Calendar. Notion has a lovely interface but you can’t use it for recurring reminders. Evernote with its premium features is just too expensive for many folks. So NotePlan really fills the void here. Try NotePlan Mac and iOS app for 7 days free with Setapp.
MarsEdit and Strike for blogging
MarsEdit makes it easy to create content, cleverly edit what you write, and integrate with WordPress as well as other blog publishing services right from the app. Besides giving you a place to write in Markdown or Rich and Plain text, MarsEdit lets you build and format robust blog posts, complete with links, images, and other media. You can add tags and schedule your posts to go live anytime.
MarsEdit even makes it easy to gather links and media to blog about. It has a Safari extension that lets you save URLs and start blogging instantly once you find something worth writing about.
If you’re looking for a writing tool that allows to collaborate on a doc, you should go with Strike. This effortless text editor lets up to 10 people to work on the same content in real time.
Improve your writing with Ulysses
Ulysses is a writing app with outstanding organizational features, so you can move from notes to an outline to a full manuscript. In fact, Ulysses is a popular app for Mac users participating in NaNoWriMo, a month-long exercise that encourages people to write a novel. It has all kinds of features to get you to write more, from flexible themes to eliminate distractions, to writing goals that count words written.
You can use Ulysses to post to a WordPress blog, export Word documents, or even format an entire ebook. But at the most fundamental level, it’s a great note-taking app because you never have to save anything, and your writing can sync between multiple Macs and iOS devices via iCloud or Dropbox. Your notes can contain images, keywords, and PDFs. The search function is incredibly thorough; for example, you can find keywords in notes created before a certain date, in case you want to see how your thoughts about something have evolved over time.
Take study notes with Studies
While other note-taking apps are flexible enough to handle work and personal topics side-by-side, Studies is created especially for those in academic settings. It’s designed to take your notes and turn them into study notes, which are basically flashcards on steroids.
Instead of a traditional two-sided flashcard for memorizing terms, the study notes in Studies can have as many “sides” as you need. They can contain text, images, videos, even audio. This makes them flexible enough that you can create study notes for any subject, from accounting to zoology. You can share study notes with classmates or even download pre-written note sets from Quizlet.
Then, you can use Studies to quiz yourself. The app can set up a schedule for you, based on prepping for an exam or just learning the material as quickly as you can. It chooses notes to study every day, and the cards you got wrong will re-appear more frequently in future sessions, so you can get it right.
Setapp puts all the best note-taking apps together
All these note-taking apps are available in Setapp, so you have access to them for your ideal workflow. You could start an idea as a sticky note in Uncluttered, paste it into NotePlan, where you flesh out the idea a little more. Then, maybe you want to turn that note into a full-featured blog post for the world to read. Ulysses and MarsEdit got your back there, too.
It’s all up to you, and Setapp lets you focus on the work, instead of finding the right apps, buying them, and then buying them again for updates. Just consider subscribing once and get everything you need in one place.