I finally realized that Google Docs isn't the best note-taking app. It's too clunky for quickly jotting down notes about a project or interesting things I come across throughout the day.
So, I went to the Chrome Web Store and searched for a solution that was simple, easy to access, and had only the features I needed (syncing and sign-in were not important). Skeuomorphic designs were immediately disqualified.
If you need a fast, easy way to take notes in Chrome, here are the four apps and extensions worth considering.
With Google Keep, you can create color-coded notes that sync from Chrome to the Google Keep app for Android or for iOS. It's a Chrome app -- not an extension -- that runs in a separate window. For the Type-As with an affinity for color-coding, Keep lets you set background colors for your notes and add labels for easy sorting.
Google Keep also supports checklists, but the feature is all-or-nothing -- you can't highlight, say, a few items under the header "Things to do today" and have only those items get the checkbox treatment. Instead, the header and all other lines of the note get checkboxes.
Other features include:
- Sharing notes via email.
- Adding images to notes.
- Setting reminders.
- Copy notes to Google Docs. (For the curious, a checkbox list on Google Keep becomes a bulleted list in Google Docs.)
The bottom line: Google Keep has a slick design, but might have too many features for minimalists. But if you aren't afraid of color and want your notes synced with an iOS or Android app, it's a good choice.
Papier is for very minimalist types. No account required. No mobile sync. No sharing. No lists. In fact, it's just one long note.
Once you have the extension installed, just open a new tab in Chrome and there's Papier. Formatting options are minimal: bold, italics, underline and strikethrough. And there's a night mode that puts white text on a black background so that it's easier on the eyes.
Your notes are autosaved. Just close the Papier tab and when you open another new tab, your notes reappear, just as you left them.
The bottom line: For my purposes, Papier is about as close to perfection as it gets. Really, the only thing I'd ask for is the ability to create checklists. For those who need note-syncing, Papier falls short.
Sticky Notes is a Chrome extension similar to Papier. It offers only one note and no syncing, no sharing, no lists and no need to create an account.
Instead of using a new tab, Sticky Notes installs a button to the right of Chrome's URL bar. Click on it to bring up your note. You can choose between six sizes for the note page. There are also six background color choices, the least attractive of which is the default beige color.
The only formatting options are font and font size, but they are universal. That is, you can't have a header in a larger font size and text below it in a smaller font size or in a different font style.
The bottom line: I applaud Sticky Notes for its simplicity, but the bright yellow button it installs is so garish that the extension takes a backseat to Papier. And like Papier, the lack of syncing might be a deal-breaker.
WorkFlowy takes hierarchical structure seriously. This Chrome app present a blank canvas where you can create seemingly simple bulleted lists. But when you start clicking around (or watch a few of WorkFlowy's intro videos) you'll realize that these are no ordinary bulleted lists. By clicking on a bullet, you can "zoom" in on an item to add even more detail.
Like Papier, WorkFlowy is just one long note, but the structuring options makes it more useful for managing multiple projects.
To use the app, you'll need an account. Once you're signed up, you can sync notes with the WorkFlowy Android or iOS app. You can also share notes, add tags, mark items as complete and search by keyword.
There is no reminder tool, but you can use tags such as #today or #tomorrow, for example, to keep track of when items are due.
The bottom line: WorkFlowy features a creative arrangement where you need to manage only a single note but also have the space to track different projects and tasks separately. For my simple note-taking needs, its flexibility and hierarchical power are overkill.
I'm sticking with Papier for now, but should I ever need to map out a complex project, WorkFlowy is where I'll turn.