Four Classes of Note-Taking Apps 2021

A few years back I wrote an article about emerging classes of note-taking apps. It’s now 2021 - let’s revisit.

The breakdown I gave then was:

  1. Note-Takers
  2. Reference Libraries
  3. Wiki/Documentation
  4. Paper Replicators

With the likes of Roam, Obsidian, Craft, and others coming on the scene, the note-taking space looks very different these days. In looking at these classes, I wouldn’t necessarily group them the same way anymore.

Here’s where I’d break things down today.

1. Basic Notes

This class relatively stays the same, but gets a new name.

The focus here is capturing and organizing basic notes, possibly with attachments. There isn’t a big focus on document management or collaboration here.

A new change is including the paper-like notes apps in this group. These are really basic note-taking apps at the core.

2. Document Managers

A re-think of the Reference Libraries class, these apps focus on handling documents. They may have note-taking features, but where they excel is searching, OCR, or organizing different styles of documents.

3. Personal Knowledge Managers

This class of apps burst onto the scene in 2020, with newcomers like Obsidian and Roam. These apps serve as a place to put all of your information and offer features to contextualize that info (backlinks, knowledge graphs, wikilinking, etc.)

While these apps might handle documents or allow collaboration, their primary drive is to help you connect knowledge, discover new ideas, and use that information creatively.

4. Collaborative Platforms

With the push toward remote work in the last year, collaborative platforms are more important than ever.

These apps may fit in other classes as well, but their primary drive is enabling teams or groups to work together or create a shared knowledge base.

Which are essential to your workflow?

What classes of apps do you use on a day-to-day basis? What’s most important to you?

  • Basic Notes
  • Document Managers
  • Personal Knowledge Managers
  • Collaborative Platforms

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