The best note taking tool does not exist.

08 Jul 2024 - Frans Vanhaelewijck

The best note taking tool does not exist Image by macrovector on Freepik

Over the past few months, I conducted 10 user interviews and spoke with many more people about how they use note-taking tools like Notion and Evernote. Each person has unique habits and preferences, and the variety is striking. Some manage vast collections of notes, while others use these tools as personal CRMs. I’ve talked to people who are very happy with a note-taking tool that holds just about 100 notes. On the other hand, some users have about 30 gigabytes of Evernote folders and 55,000 notes, which is absolutely mind-boggling.

Here are some quotes I noted during the interviews:

On organizing notes

“These things can be messy, my organization can suck, but it needs to be in one place. I have my emails, documents, notes, web clippings, and bookmarks. It’s really an issue if I don’t know where to look for them. If everything is in one place, that’s already a very good start.”

“Nah, I don’t do tagging. It’s too much work. The AI should take care of that.”

Saas or on your local disk?

“If this is my second brain, it cannot be on somebody else’s server.”

“I don’t mind where it is, as long as it works. That’s okay.”

Use on mobile?

“I have everything on my server. Why would I have to use it on my mobile?”

“For mobile, speech-to-text is the only thing I need… My voice recording should appear automatically in my to-do folder so that I do not forget it.”

Information management

“What I need is ‘Linking my thinking’.”

“My notes are my personal Wikipedia.”

As a conclusion…

People use note-taking tools in very different ways. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. That explains why there are so many tools in the market and it is not possible to define ‘the best’ tool because that depends a lot on your personal requirements.

The tempation is great to then just develop my own very specialized and very personal note taking tool. I would not need to do any user interviews, because I can interview myself and doing user interviews will undoubtely lead to conflicting requirements.