Home Information Management The Heavy-duty Note Takers for Information and Knowledge Management

The Heavy-duty Note Takers for Information and Knowledge Management

by Kerry Dawson

There are a ton of note taking programs available from the very simple yet useful note jotters such as Sticky Notes to that of the very heavy-duty, capture any kind of information referred to as information management systems to just basic note taking. For the purposes of this article we will be looking at the powerful information management systems. In fact, only four powerhouse information managers will be reviewed all of these in the top tier.

More specifically, we will be considering Evernote which resides at the top of food chain and those that are equal to or better than Evernote. One requirement for inclusion in this analysis is they all must be cross platform or more specifically Mac and Android. However, one system is an Apple Only system but because of its power as an information manager, DEVONthink has been included. It is however postulated that due to this serious limitation its long term viability must be question marked.

The Four Note Taking Systems

In this article, we will be looking at the following specific applications for their broad array of information capture capability and their ability to assist in making decisions and even forming new knowledge. The systems are in no particular order:

  • Evernote
  • DEVONthink
  • Notion
  • Nimbus Notes

This article is not a gang up on Evernote but there are many who would like to detach themselves of Evernote for one reason or another. Some of the other systems are just as good yet cheaper while you have others that are better and still cheaper. One thing about Evernote is it has a long history with a wealth of functionality. Yet, for some, it is just not good enough at this or that facet.

Evernote the behemoth of a Note Taker

There’s a lot to like about Evernote. It can capture your information in Notebooks and the information can be further refined with key words. You can search your database in no time and Evernote is heavily integrated into other systems. It is fully cross platform meaning you can get at your information anywhere. It can easily be the flagship of your workflow environment allowing you to do extensive research. Additionally, Evernote can capture pretty well any form of information allowing for a sophisticated and comprehensive research environment.

The system itself provides a structured form of database albeit a bit unusual. Evernote does not employ hierarchical folders but instead books with your notes in them. Some people definitely prefer an hierarchical structure.

Since Evernote can store any amount of data in any style it can be a very rich research environment. This can lead to the development of new ideas. Knowledge forms and thus although it is more of an information manager there’s the potential for knowledge management.


DEVONthink is an Apple only product. It is a note-taker based on a database engine. Some feel DEVONthink to be the most powerful of the bunch and others have been known to switch to the Mac just to run DEVONthink.

In reality, this is the most powerful system. It can store any type of information and is hierarchical in structure. DEVONthink is both a true information management system and a powerful knowledge-management system . It is extensively used in research but can take even the simplest of note.

This is not for everyone as it has a very rich environment and if it were cross platform it would be the one I’d recommend. However, since it is not cross platform, I shy away from recommending the product. An open architecture is essential as people are using a mix of platforms these days. At a minimum the product needs to run the two biggest mobile systems that being Apple and Android.

Notion the Most Innovative Note-taking system

Notion is probably the most interesting in this roster. It can be confusing at first but with time its power really shines. Notion can handle your notes in a variety of ways from a simple note to bulleted text through to embedded pages and a full blown wiki. This is not a to fear but to embrace. If you want to develop something from your information, Notion is the tool to do that.

Notion has an embedded hierarchical structure but it is easy to miss that as it is far more. Its fluid form causes this. Yet, it’s the fluidity of the structure that builds out knowledge from all the information contained within.

Nimbus Notes

One of the simplest and easiest to understand is Nimbus Notes. It has a structure similar to DEVONthink but cannot contain anywhere near the information of DEVONthink. However, as a place to gather a great repository of Notes, Nimbus works wonders. Hierarchical in structure and supporting tags it is easy to pull common info together for research and storage purposes.

Probably due to its simpler interface it rates better than DEVONthink. Ease of use is important when getting at information.


Evernote can be considered the go to app in all circumstances due to time, history and function. It’s powerful and is fully cross platform a big plus. DEVONthink Office Pro is the better of the two products overall but is complex and is not cross Platform.

Notion is the program not just to keep an eye on but to fully engage. In reality, this is probably the most complete and powerful package. To get really going with Notion though takes time and effort. Once there, you will be able to dance around the other products.

Should your Note-taking go beyond the basic to that of an advanced system that is cross platform and can store a variety of your information, Nimbus can be thought of as a nice alternative to DEVONthink or Evernote. Not as powerful as the two just mentioned it can enhance the ease of your Note capture and recall.

There is a place for a simple quick note capture system but a full bodied system that can store everything simply cannot be underestimated. This is where new ideas stem from. This is productivity at its best with the ability to form new knowledge.

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