The best free alternative to Evernote 2017

Last year, Evernote's developers announced that the free note-taking app is undergoing significant changes. Controversially, these include limiting the Basic (free) account tier to just two devices, and raising the prices of Plus and Premium accounts to US$3.99 (about £2.96, AU$5.37) and $7.99 (about £5.93, AU$10.75) per month respectively.

That's disappointing news for anyone who uses the app on their desktop and mobile devices to keep track of thoughts, gather resources for projects or jot down ideas throughout the day.

The company vowed to give current users time to adapt before the new limits kick in, but if you're looking for an Evernote alternative, here are your options.

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Download Microsoft OneNote free

1. Microsoft OneNote

Text, drawings, web clips, audio – OneNote stores it all

  • Price: Free
  • Storage: Through OneDrive (5GB as standard)
  • Devices supported: Unlimited

If you use Evernote as a multimedia pinboard or to manage projects, Microsoft OneNote is an excellent alternative. The OneNote app comes pre-installed with Windows 10 as part of the updated Office suite, and is available to download for earlier versions of Windows. There are mobile apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone too, plus a web app.

OneNote synchronizes your data through your Microsoft account, and uses OneDrive to store everything you save. Earlier this year, Microsoft cut the standard OneDrive storage limit from 15GB to 5GB, which is worth bearing in mind if your notes tend to contain a lot of images and other media.

Like most Evernote alternatives, OneNote lets you gather and organise links, text, images and drawings in tagged notebooks, but it also has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. You can also import text and tables from other Microsoft Office apps, record audio, and email content straight to a notebook (a very handy option for working on fiddly smartphone screens). It can also record audio

There are optional extensions, too: OneNote Web Clipper lets you capture and clip sections of web pages, and Office Lens (for Windows 10 Mobile) captures pictures of handouts, whiteboards and other meeting-room paraphernalia, turns them into editable documents and saves them to a notebook.

Thanks to Microsoft's business clout, other developers are falling over themselves to integrate OneNote into their apps. WordPress, IFTTT, Feedly and Livescribe are just a few with OneNote compatibility now built in.

Convinced? Shift your clips and notes across using Evernote to OneNote Importer and you're ready to go.

Download here: Microsoft OneNote

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Download Simplenote free

2. Simplenote

Text-only notes for pretty much any device with a screen

  • Price: Free
  • Storage: Unlimited
  • Devices supported: Unlimited

You can use Simplenote on as many devices you like, with apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Kindle Fire, Android and Linux, plus a web version for good measure. There's unlimited storage too (as long as you don't go mad with it), and it's completely free.

The catch? It's text-only – no images, web pages or doodles. That won't be to everyone's liking, but if you never bother with Evernote's fancier options and just want a cross-platform notebook with automatic syncing, it's perfect.

Download here: Simplenote

Download Cintanotes free

3. Cintanotes

A lean note-taking app with handy shortcuts

  • Price: Free; Pro US$39 (about £30, AU$50); Lifetime Pro US$119 (about £90, AU$160)
  • Storage: 100MB for synchronized attachments
  • Devices supported: Unlimited (Windows only)

CintaNotes is a Windows-only Evernote alternative, and although it's also available as a portable app so you don't have to install it, there's no online version. There's no limit on the number of devices though, so if you're dedicated to Microsoft's OS that will be no obstacle.

CintaNotes comes in three flavors: free, Pro and Lifetime Pro. The free version is a straightforward affair offering text clipping, search, backup, customizable hotkeys and three sections to store your notes. It's nicely designed, and the keyboard and mouse shortcuts make it feel like a natural extension of Windows.

Notes created in CintaNotes are synchronized using Simplenote (above), so it's worth trying both programs to see which suits you best.

Download here: CintaNotes

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Try Google Keep free

4. Google Keep

Quick reminders to jog your memory

  • Price: Free
  • Storage: Unlimited (attachments stored in Google Drive)
  • Devices supported: Unlimited

Google Keep is available for Android and iOS, as a Chrome browser plug-in, and as a web app. As you'd expect. it uses your Google account to sync across devices, making it a particularly useful option for Android users.

However, despite this convenience, Google Keep is quite limited as a free alternative to Evernote. Although useful for keeping your own thoughts in order, it's not built with collaboration in mind. You can share individual notes with contacts one at a time, but that's the extent of it. There's no convenient way to work with teams, so you're better off using a Google Doc. You can't attach files directly to notes in Keep, either; they must come from Google Drive. This is particularly irritating if you want to add an image from a website – you need to save it locally, then re-upload it. Not ideal.

Ultimately, Keep's little notes are essentially a portable alternative to a collection of Post-it notes orbiting your monitor reminding you to make a phone call at 3pm, or pick up cake ingredients on Wednesday. They serve a definite purpose, but you wouldn't use them to gather ideas for a novel or manage a project.

Download here: Google Keep

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Try Dropbox Paper free

5. Dropbox Paper

Wave goodbye to the office whiteboard

  • Price: Free
  • Storage: Unlimited (for now)
  • Devices supported: Unlimited (online only)

In contrast to Keep, Evernote alternative Dropbox Paper (initially known as Note) is serious business. With support for images, tables and tasks (which can be assigned to people using their Dropbox usernames), it makes a great replacement for the usual handwritten minutes, hastily scrawled, then transcribed by an unfortunate soul and sent as a mass email. We're sure you've been there.

There's currently no size limit on notebooks created using Paper, but you can't insert documents directly; instead, the document must uploaded to your Dropbox account, then linked. Paper will display a small preview of the document, so teammates can see if it's relevant before adding it to their own Dropbox folder. The interface is straightforward, and everything can be clicked and dragged around the page.

Paper is still in beta, so its features are subject to change, but if you already use Dropbox for filesharing at work then it's definitely worth a look. Bear in mind that it's still undergoing stability and security testing.

Try it online: Dropbox Paper