Why I chose Apple Notes instead of Notion

This article could have been named “Notion vs Apple Notes vs Onenote vs Redmine” but it is no thorough comparison: this are very capable applications, each of them living in a different ecosystem, each with impressive strengths and some weaknesses. I, restarting my professional life in a few weeks, rechecked my toolbox and was surprised: some criteria have changed fundamentally and a few have turned out to be crucial for me. I want to write about these few criteria.

So just for my needs I evaluated and compared Redmine, Notion, Apple Notes and Onenote. Apple Notes has got many improvements lately, widely unknown (to me at least). I’ll try to detail my main requirements and will compare these four candidates. I will not include Evernote as I never got close to it, but I am interested in your opinion.

I am getting older (and lost some hair already; being 64 not so far away): more and more I like to use simple, beautiful tools. So switching from e.g. Redmine on my own server (installing, configuring, updating etc. myself) — which is a very impressive tool and with some plugins can do virtually everything — to something ready made seems to be much more adequate to my life than in former times. Besides not wanting to spend my time servicing my computer(s) or my servers (which is why I switched to a MacBook long time ago and which leads to thinking very hard about switching to an iPad) Redmine is just too powerful and complex for me. So what am I looking for?

ActivityRedmineNotionApple NotesOneNote
PricingFree(own server)/paidFree/beginning with €4/mthFreeFree/O365
Web
MacOS/iOS App❌/❌✅/✅✅/✅✅/✅
Win/Android App❌/❌✅/✅❌/❌✅/✅
StorageOwn Server/Paid ServicePaid Servicelocal/iCloudlocal/OneDrive
Shared editing

Easy Note Taking

This should be done easily, should be possible on the go with my mobile, from any computer everywhere and in various contexts, e.g. a found web site or some YouTube video or while reading something, epub or pdf. Although in case of Redmine this involves sharing via email this is possible with all tools, using tags too.

The screenshot function of iOS since version 15 is especially nice, producing a whole website PDF without any further software necessary. And quicknotes on iOS are very neat. Even now you probably can smell victory…

Easy embedding and searching of ALL PDFs

As I do my reading mainly on web sites or in PDFs or epubs this is crucial for me. I have a vast collection of pdfs being original or created by myself. These should be easily embedded but, which is of much greater importance, found via searching. This clearly is a function of a document management system, and could be done with a (searchable) file system. But this is where personal preferences begin to be important: every additional place to search is cumbersome although Spotlight on macOS/iOS does this for you (and possibly Windows search, don’t know much about that anymore).

And here I was really surprised. While DMSF on Redmine does exactly this neither Notion nor Onenote are capable of doing this (yet). Apple Notes DOES support this although I discovered this just by doing. And this works on iOS too! Drag pdfs onto some notes and search for a keyword: everyone is found instantly!

Task management, Kanban boards

All of the candidates are built for task management in many different forms starting with Todo-Lists. While the ticketing concept of Redmine is super-flexible with trackers, statuses, workflows for teams with a well defined hierarchy of rights this is overkill for my needs. Notion does this very nicely, OneNote and Apple Notes just do lists. Here Notion shines with it’s databases and predefined views which allow not only real kanban boards but project plans with Gantt-diagrams too.

OneNote can emulate a Kanban-board only using a table which is true for Notes too.

Integration of other applications – linking

Sometimes I wish there would be the one-and-only-all-purpose-swiss-knife-app to do it all. Even if there was there is plenty of legacy data to work with. And: some specialized applications will probably be used by me in the future, using my note-application as an information hub, a central organizing all others.

On MacOS and iOS links to apps/documents can be created (usually inside the apps). They can be used like any other URL everywhere and open the local app where available. This is perfect for integrating it into my information central. For example Marginnote (my favorite pdf studying tool) does this by providing a link into a note which looks like

marginnote3app://note/85AA7B25-03A0-43A1-A39D-FB2B8C9CC8D9

and can be set as a link like any other URL giving live clickable connections.

Apple Notes, OneNote (and even Redmine in Safari) can use these links. Notion, alas, does not recognize them at the moment — hopefully this is possible in the future.

Conclusion

Simply put: Redmine is too complex (and too much work to update) and OneNote and Notion fail to get the searching done. On the other hand Apple Notes is brilliantly implemented since iOS 15.4 and although task management or project planning is not really available, there are other tools to do this. While Reminders never won my heart, Outlook and ToDo for example do a really good job.

ActivityRedmineNotionApple NotesOneNote
Take Notes⊕ (4)⊕⊕ (5) ⊕⊕⊕ (6)(5)
Web Clipping⊕ (1)⊕⊕⊕⊕⊕ (2)⊕⊕
Search ALL entries including embedded PDFs✅❣️
Kanban board⊕⊕⊕⊕⊖(3)⊖(3)
Integration on MacOS/iOS⊕⊕⊕⊖(7)⊕⊕⊕⊕
(1) Send to email (2) Different possibilities: Screenshot, Share, Quicknote (3) Use a Table (4) Create ticket (5) Create Block/Page (6) Create, Share, Quicknote, Widget (iOS) (7) Brilliant for supported apps, no app linking
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