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Top 7 note-taking apps for Mac in 2023

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8 min read

What’s the best way to take notes on Mac? The way that fits your workflow and content best, of course! That’s right, picking the most suitable note-taking app for Mac is the key to your productivity and satisfaction with the app’s functionality.

But worry not, you don’t have to do it alone. In this post, we will be looking at seven excellent note-taking apps, exploring their features, and discussing how they can improve into your daily routine.

Let’s dive in!

How to choose the best note-taking app for Mac

To choose the best Macintosh notes solution, browse our curated selection below and install the one you love most. But before we start, here’s a quick primer on what to look for in a note-taking app:

  • Lightweight. Since a note-taking app is something you’ll probably keep at your hand at all times, pay attention to how much RAM and CPU it consumes. If an app is permanently sipping a big chunk of system resources, it will slow down your Mac and eventually hamper your productivity. So lightweight is the way to go. 
  • Fast to add notes and easy to access. You can use a timer to test your app. The rule of thumb is if it takes longer than five seconds to open an app and start typing your notes, it’s not going to be efficient. 
  • Accommodates your specific note-taking habits. For example, you’re someone who takes notes during meetings and needs good templates for meeting notes. Not every app can cover this use case, but after a quick research, you’ll figure out there are great solutions such as NotePlan
  • User-friendly. It might sound like a cliche but the way your app is designed will have a direct impact on your productivity. Go for tools that are easy to navigate, whether you’re a beginner or pro. And remember, you don’t have to spend hours to set up your note-taking space — it should be a quick and intuitive process. 

Tip: With Setapp, all the note-taking apps we review below are part of one subscription, so you can simply try them all and decide later. Sign up for a 7-day free trial. 

Now that we’ve gotten this out of the way, let’s look at the note-taking apps to possibly meet your requirements. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Best note-taking apps for Mac

Below, we take a look at seven excellent Mac note-taking applications — SideNotes, MarginNote, Unclutter, NotePlan, MarsEdit, and MindNode. We discuss each on the list in detail, outline the key features and highlight some pros and cons to help you get a balanced view on each of the tools.

We tried to find a balance between brief and concise while also giving you just enough to make the right decision. Scroll down for our overview.

SideNotes

SideNotes is a convenient Mac note-taker that can be swiped into life from the right side of your screen. Create notes, manage to-do lists, and add images and files to your notes. Color code your items for easier management. What’s more, the app supports markdown formatting and has built-in sharing.

We love SideNotes because it’s always just a swipe away, it’s discreet but accessible, has all the right tools for note-taking and management, and is integrated seamlessly into your Mac workflow.

Pros:

  • Easily accessible
  • Built-in to-do list functionality
  • Code-friendly
  • Available on Setapp

Cons:

  • No note tagging

side notes mac

MarginNote

MarginNote brings highlighting and margin note-taking from the physical world and into the digital one. Highlight bits of your text documents, add comprehensive notes — both handwritten and typed, and much more.

This app is perfect for really getting into the nitty-gritty of your project or study materials. Actively working with text helps you digest and remember the information better, and MarginNote is just the tool to do that, without all the paper waste.

Pros:

  • Functionality to draw on top of documents
  • Perfect for complex, multilevel notes
  • Flashcard functionality
  • Available on Setapp

Cons:

  • Takes some time to figure out

margin note macos

Unclutter

Systemize your files and take notes? This Mac notes app does it all. Try Unclutter if you want to take notes, but also add files and use clipboard history to keep better track of your work and items.

We have to admit, we are fans of Unclutter not just for its note-taking capabilities but for file management. Dragging and dropping a file or folder onto the Files tile of the app and then moving the item directly where you need it when you need it? This simple solution frees up a lot of mental space spent on remembering which files go where. Just relax and let Unclutter take care of all the stuff on your plate!

Pros:

  • Built-in file management
  • Clipboard history
  • Sections can be used as desktop sticky notes
  • Available on Setapp

Cons:

  • Limited ability to structure notes

unclutter macos

NotePlan

One of the best notes solutions for Mac is NotePlan, and we are not just saying that because it looks so good. The app has a handy built-in calendar and a bunch of note editing and structuring functionality, enabling you to really get your thoughts and ideas in order.

Ever find yourself in a meeting and someone says “as we’ve discussed last time” and you have no idea what they are talking about? NotePlan is perfect for people who are drowning in meeting invites and struggling to keep track of it all. The app allows you to create brief meeting notes, agenda, and action points, keep track of past events, and show up prepared every time!

Pros:

  • Perfect for detailed, highly structured notes
  • Markdown functionality
  • Built-in calendar
  • Available on Setapp

Cons:

  • No image embedding

noteplan macos

MarsEdit

If your primary use for note-taking software on Mac is creating content for your blog, MarsEdit is just what you need. The app is designed to help you make full-fledged blog posts and publish them to integrated blog services.

Now, you don’t have to be an influencer or a full-time blogger to need MarsEdit. This amazing tool can make it easy for you to post to multiple platforms, plan content, create and backup drafts and posts for any purpose, whether professional or hobby, — all without getting distracted from what you really have to say.

Pros:

  • Ideal for anyone running a blog
  • Smart previews
  • Built-in publishing
  • Available on Setapp

Cons:

  • Geared strictly towards blogging

mars edit note taking app mac

MindNode

Perfect for organization, planning, structuring, and refining ideas, MindNode is yet another option for your note-taking needs.

This mind-mapping and note-taking tool is as flexible and comprehensive as you want it to be. Need to take down just a few key points and understand your main flow? Easy. Want to create a detailed plan with numerous simultaneous steps and additional info? No problem! MindNode can handle your most eclectic ideas and seamlessly fit anything you throw at it while keeping it neat, structured, and truly glanceable (just zoom out of your map to view all of its elements).

Pros:

  • Mind-mapping capability
  • Cute icons
  • Comprehensive idea structuring tools
  • Available on Setapp

Cons:

  • Each map is stored as an individual file

mind map mac

Try every note-taking app for free

Selecting the best note-taking software for your Mac can make or break your productivity. Whether you are working on a project, developing a piece of software, planning a trip, designing a marketing campaign, studying, or running your blog, picking the note app tailored to your needs is one of the best things you can do for your productivity and inspiration.

Get inspired by our selection of seven amazing note-taking apps that can turn your workflow around and become invaluable helpers in creating content, producing ideas, and getting results without leaving anything out. Produce amazing plans with NotePlan, jot down ideas without breaking your flow with SideNotes, create mind maps with MindNode, work on your blog posts with MarsEdit, track ideas and items with Unclutter, get your hands dirty with highlighting and handwritten notes in MarginNote.

And the best news? You can try all of the note-taking apps we’ve mentioned today with your Setapp subscription! That’s right, all the apps — SideNotes, MarginNote, Unclutter, NotePlan, MarsEdit, and MindNode — are on Setapp. Get them all, several, or just the one you like most and become a true note-taking aficionado.

Not on Setapp? Try our app suite for free with the 7-day trial and find these and many more apps to help you save time, improve productivity, and solve tasks you face on the daily!

FAQ

What is the best note-taking app for Mac?

The best note-taking app is the one that accommodates your note-taking habits, is easy to navigate, and can be accessed fast when you need it. Depending on your workflow, there will always be pros and cons you will determine individually, but here’s our general recommendation: 

  • use MarginNote to take notes while studying

  • MindNode is great for visualizing notes and ideas

  • NotePlan is your perfect choice if you like to take notes during meetings, want to link your notes with calendar events, and generally rely on note-taking at work

  • Unclutter and SideNotes are great unsophisticated options for jotting down notes as quickly as possible

  • MarsEdit works best for blogging purposes. 

All these apps are part of Setapp, so you don’t have to buy them. 

How to take handwritten notes on Mac?

With some languages (Chinese and Cantonese), you can use Trackpad Handwriting (select it as an input source in System Preferences > Keyboard > Input Sources). If you want to jot down notes using Trackpad in any language, in your note-taking app, consider MarginNote. However, it’s generally not the fastest method, so if you want to take handwritten notes on a regular basis, it’s best to use an iPad and Apple Pencil, and then sync your notes to Mac. 

How to take notes on MacBook for college?

MarginNote is hands down unbeatable note-taking software for students, while it lets you interlink notes with study materials, and keep everything organized, in one neat space. You can annotate your books, create notes, and turn notes into mind maps using this single tool. 

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