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The Stickies app for macOS gives you Sticky Notes for your desktop, turning your Mac into a virtual bulletin board and letting you jot down short bits of text to remember later. The notes are desktop specific, so you can organize them however you want, and they’ll retain their layout and contents even after closing the app. Stickies is an old app, and recent versions of macOS have buried it in the “Other” folder, along with a lot of other utilities.

You can launch it from here, or by searching for it in Spotlight. Immediately you’ll be presented with two example notes containing some instructions, and showing off how Stickies will look on your desktop.

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  1. Once you make a new note, you can write what you want and use all the formatting you’d use in TextEdit or the Notes app.
    Stickies can get buried under all the windows you have open, so you can set them to always show on top by turning on “Float on Top” from the Window menu. You’ll have to do this for each note, so using Option+Command+F may save you some clicking around. If you don’t want the notes clogging up your screen, you can make them translucent from the same menu or with Option+Command+T. You can also collapse them from the Window menu, or with Command+M, or by double-clicking the title bar of the note:.
  2. Stickies will automatically save every edit you make to your notes, so you can feel free to close the app or restart your Mac without losing anything.
    The only way to get rid of a note permanently is to click the box in the top left corner of the note. This will ask you to save when you try to close the note, letting you store the contents as a text file. There’s no “Save” option in the File menu, but you can use “Export Text,” which will do the same thing. If you’d rather switch over to using the Notes app, you can export all your current Stickies into Notes from the file menu by selecting “Export All to Notes.”. They’ll show up in the Notes app under a new folder called “Imported Notes.”. Some things may look a little different, but they should retain their formatting and be sorted by their colors into separate folders.
    I considered 20 note apps for Mac, and after extensive testing, this article includes the best of the best.
  3. Apple Notes for a simple notes app.
    Microsoft OneNote for a traditional solution. Bear for an Apple Notes alternative.
  4. Obsidian for the most powerful note-taking app.
    Joplin for an open-source solution. All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category.
  5. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.
    You can take notes using just about any app, or a piece of paper for that matter. For the purposes of this article, though, we only considered apps built with note-taking in mind.
  6. Typically this means a primary window you can use to browse all of your notes, sorted into notebooks and usually arranged by dates.
    But that's the bare minimum. What makes a Mac notes app truly great? In our opinion, the best Mac note-taking apps: . Make it quick to add new notes. It should take moments to open the app and start writing.
  7. Offer fast and useful search.
    You're going to take a lot of notes—you need to be able to find the right ones quickly. Are easy to use. The best apps are designed with the user in mind and are easy to navigate for the beginner.
    All of the note-taking apps for Mac below meet all of these criteria—and excel at many of them.

The 5 best note-taking apps for Mac

  1. Apple Notes (macOS, iOS, web).
    There's a saying in photography: the best camera is the one you have with you. If you have a Mac, you have Apple Notes, and that alone makes it the best note-taking app for many people. I don't say this to put Apple Notes down—it's a very effective tool. But the fact that you don't need to install it, pay for it, or create a new account to get started is, for most Mac users, more than enough of a reason to try Apple Notes first. This app loads instantly, and creating a new note couldn't be faster. You can drag images to your notes, and they will show up instantly, and there's also support for embedding audio files. You can also attach any document to a note, if you want, and it all happens very quickly. This is a native Mac app, after all, so you don't have to wait for an upload before things show up. Notes are organized into notebooks and arranged by date.
  2. OneNote (macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, Web).
    OneNote first came out in 2003, making it by far the oldest app on this list. Notes are organized in multiple notebooks, which are divided into sections. This is a structure many other apps would go on to copy, but in many ways OneNote still does it best—all while offering a significantly more generous free option than you can find anywhere else.
  3. OneNote is particularly easy to recommend to Microsoft Office users, who will immediately find the user interface familiar, but it works for everyone.
    The core metaphor is that of a paper notebook, and it shows. Most apps in this list work like a text editor, but OneNote is more like a piece of paper: you can click anywhere to start typing in that exact spot. There's also support for drawing, though this is probably easier to use on a tablet than a Mac, and images and documents can be added inline or as attachments.
  4. And the search is very complete, giving you a way to find notes across every one of your notebooks.
    There's even optical character recognition (OCR), meaning if you attach an image or PDF, your search applies to the contents of those files. No other app on this list offers that. You can also clip articles and recipes from the web using the OneNote clipper for your browser.
  5. OneNote syncs to every kind of device you can imagine, well outside the ecosystem.
    So if you ever use Windows or Android, it's a great choice. You can make OneNote even more powerful using Zapier's OneNote integration, which connects OneNote with thousands of other apps.
  6. For example, you could automatically make new notes for all Google Calendar appointments so you're ready to go when the meeting starts, or you could automatically migrate notes from other apps.
    Add movies and other media files to your sticky note. Sticky notes don't need to be just text. You can drag media files into the sticky note, and they will appear with playback controls. This includes video and audio files. You can also add PDF files to sticky notes.[4]
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You might find the interface a little cluttered, but the flexibility is well worth the tradeoff. Microsoft OneNote pricing: Free with 5G of OneDrive storage. Microsoft 365 starts at $9.99/month and includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outline, and 6TB of OneDrive storage. OneNote's closest rival was, for a long time, Evernote. A recent update means the Mac app is essentially the web version of Evernote in a window. That's why we're not including Evernote in this specific list, even if we still think it's one of the best overall note-taking apps. OneNote is your best bet for an Evernote alternative for Mac. Bear (macOS, iOS). I'm just going to come out and say it: Bear is really pretty. It's clearly designed with aesthetics in mind, and it's going to appeal to a lot of Mac users for this reason exactly.
That alone speaks to how ambitious this app is: it wants to change the way you think.
I've got to say: it's my kind of crazy. Obsidian's notes are literally just text documents, formatted using Markdown.

This means if you stop using Obsidian, you can keep all of your notes.

Best simple Mac note-taking app

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But don't let the simplicity of the file format fool you—Obsidian aims to be a database of your life.

Saving Your Notes

The app offers all kinds of structure, giving you a sidebar full of folders you can use to organize in but also emphasizing internal hyperlinks.
A core idea here is that you will create new notes frequently, then link back to them in other documents.
This creates a web of knowledge you can easily browse, and there's also a quick keyboard shortcut for pulling up notes by name or contents.
It's almost like a personal wiki, but better.
This sounds strange, but start using it, and the concept makes a lot of sense, quickly.
You can make it work exactly the way you want to. Everything about the interface is customizable, and you can have multiple notes open in the same window.
But the real power comes from the community plugins, which let you add features like a calendar for daily journal entries or a full-blown kanban board.
Obsidian pricing: Free for most features; from $25 for exclusive features.
There are also add-ons for things like end-to-end encryption and version history ($8) or the ability to publish notes and access to graph views and outlines ($16).
Joplin (macOS, Windows, Linux, Android, iOS).
Notes are intensely personal, and I understand if you don't want to trust them all to a company that has its own agenda.
Joplin is a free and open-source application, which among other things means that all of your notes live on your computer under your control.
You don't need an account to get started, and you can sync your notes between devices using any service you want: Dropbox, OneDrive, or the open-source Nextcloud are all supported, and you can enable end-to-end encryption if you don't want third-party services to have access.

Create a note

  1. The interface is that of a traditional note-taking app, with notebooks and notes organized in the left column.
  2. You can also organize notes using tags, and you can clip articles from the web using the web clipper.
  3. The main editor is in Markdown, but there's an optional rich text editor if you're not comfortable with that.
  4. There's also support for opening notes in external apps, so if you've got a favorite Markdown editor, you can use that instead.

Information

It's the most robust open-source option we found, and there's support for importing notebooks from Evernote.
I recommend it if you're looking for a OneNote alternative and want full control over your notes. Joplin pricing: Free. The best notes app is the one you like the most—but not all notes apps play nice on Mac. There are plenty of good note-taking apps for Mac, so give these ones a whirl and see which ones feels the most at home on your Mac.
This article was originally published in March 2019 by Tim Brookes.
The most recent review of apps was in July 2021 and it has since been updated for clarity.
Article SummaryX

1. Open the Stickies app.
2. Type some text.
3. Resize the note by dragging the corners.
4. Click the "i" to customize the color.
5. Drag media to the note if desired.

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ATTENTION: Due to a change made by Apple Desktop Notes does currently NOT work with 10.6.8.
All earlier and later versions work!Desktop Notes makes it easy for you to just write down the stuff you need to remember.
It doesn't need a complex interface, it just provides you with what you want: Taking notes and reading notes quickly and easily, without them being in your way when you don't need them.
Key Features: • Easy-to-use interface. Just create, delete and edit notes the way you expect it • Notes are auto-saved when you change them so you never lose data • Notes are not in your way: By default, notes stick to your desktop.
But if you need them, you can bring them to the front with a single click • Let Desktop Notes run all the time: It doesn't come with a dock icon, so it doesn't disturb you.

Ratings and Reviews

A little icon in your menubar - that's all you'll notice • Create and edit notes even if they stick to your desktop.
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