Whenever you need to take notes, create notes, and to-do lists from your computer, you never know which software to turn to? Well, I can assure you that from now on, you will no longer have this problem: in the following lines, in fact, I will go to point out which ones, in my humble opinion, represent the best programs for annotations in circulation.
There are both for Windows and for macOS, and they are quite simple to use, even by those who, a bit like you, do not consider themselves a great expert in IT. Plus, they’re all completely free (or nearly so). How do you say? Would you like to know if I can also suggest some apps for taking notes on smartphones and tablets? Of course, yes, but now let’s not get confused, and let’s go in order.
Position yourself comfortably, take a few minutes of free time just for yourself, and start concentrating on reading what is written below. I am more than sure that, in the end, you will be able to tell yourself very happy and satisfied and that, if necessary, you will also be ready to provide useful tips about it to your friends. Let it bet?
The programs for annotations. There are plenty of them! If you are looking for resources for your Windows PC or for macOS, I am therefore happy to inform you that below you can find a rich list. Feel free to choose the one you think will do the most for you.
If you are using a computer with Windows installed, I am happy to let you know that you do not necessarily have to use third-party annotation programs: you can take advantage, in fact, of the Notepad included “standard” in the Microsoft operating systems, which lets you create quick notes and take notes.
To use it, click on the Start button (the one with the Windows flag ) located at the bottom left of the taskbar, type “notepad” in the search field that appears, and select the relevant link.
Now that you see the Notepad window on your screen start typing your notes + in the area provided. If you want, you can also choose a different font for the text by selecting the Format menu at the top and then the Font item from the latter. In the lower part of the window, however, you will find the count of the lines and columns of text written.
When you have finished writing your Note, you can save it by clicking on the File menu, selecting the Save As item from it, and indicating the name you want to assign to the file, as well as the location in which you want to save it. That’s all!
Microsoft OneNote (Windows / macOS)
Microsoft OneNote is one of the most renowned annotation programs in the industry: it is free software developed by the Redmond company, available for both Windows and macOS, thanks to which it is possible to take notes by creating notes available at any time on all devices connected to the same Microsoft account (which must be used in order to use the service).
If you are using Windows 10, you can download the software from the relevant section of the Microsoft Store by clicking on the Get button.
If you are using an older version of Windows, instead go to the web page dedicated to the program and click on the Free Download button. When the download is complete, open the .exe file obtained, and, in the window that appears on the screen, click on the Yes button. Wait, therefore, for the download and installation of all the files necessary for the operation of OneNote and click on the Close button to complete the setup.
If you are using macOS, on the other hand, visit the relevant section of the Mac App Store, click on the Get button, then on the Install button, and, if necessary, authorize the download using the Apple ID password or via Touch ID (if the Mac you use supports the above technology).
Now that you see the main OneNote window on the screen, regardless of the operating system used, log in to your Microsoft account by filling in the appropriate fields, then start creating your notes, selecting the notebook you want to use from the left section of the screen or by first creating a new one, by clicking on the Add notebook item.
You will then be shown the columns in which the notes are arranged: the first column indicates the sections that group several notes, while the second shows the notes for each individual section. To add a new section, click on the New section button located at the bottom left, while to create a new note, click on the Page button (always located at the bottom left).
Once you have created a new note, you can insert text in it through the appropriate section, visible on the right. In the field at the top, you can enter the title, below everything else. By selecting the Home tab at the top and using the toolbar that appears, instead, you can format the entered text, create bulleted and numbered lists, add highlights, etc.
If you need to insert drawings, tables, files, or other elements, just click on the appropriate buttons in the Insert tab at the top of the window, while to create and insert freehand drawings, you must select the Drawing tab, always on top, and use the pen, pencil and other tools available. By going to the View tab, you can then choose a different color for your Note, enable the display of lines and squares, etc.
The notes you create are automatically stored on OneDrive, so you don’t have to do anything to save them. If you wish, however, you can share them with other users by clicking on the Share item located at the top right. For more information on using the program, you can check out my guide on how to use One Note.
Evernote (Windows / macOS)
When it comes to annotation programs, it’s impossible not to mention Evernote, one of the most complete and efficient software in the industry. Available for Windows and macOS, it allows you to create notes with attached texts, images, and documents, organize them into notebooks and divide them by tags or even where they were created. The contents are automatically synchronized over the Internet. It’s free, but to be able to use the service on more than two devices and unlock other additional features, you need to subscribe to one of the pay plans (at a basic cost of 6.99 euros/month).
To download the program to your computer, if you are using Windows 10, visit the relevant section of the Microsoft Store and click the Get button.
If you are using an older version of Windows, you can get Evernote from its website by visiting the download page and waiting for the program to finish downloading. Subsequently, open the .exe file obtained and, in the window that appears on the desktop, click on the Yes button, then select the item I accept the terms of the license agreement, press the Install button, and complete the setup by clicking on the button Finish.
If you are using macOS, on the other hand, you can find the application by visiting the relevant section from the Mac App Store, pressing the Get button, then the Install button, and, if necessary, authorizing the download using the Apple ID password or Touch ID ( if the Mac you are using supports the above technology).
When you see the main window of the program, regardless of the operating system used, register an account to start using Evernote: to do so, fill in the appropriate fields with your email address and password, or log in with your Google account.
Next, start creating your annotations by clicking on the New Note item located at the top left and typing them in the window that appears. At the top, then, you will find the toolbar with all the buttons useful for formatting the text for inserting voice notes, files from the main cloud storage services, images, items for sharing, etc.
When you have finished writing, assign a title to the Note by filling in the appropriate field at the top, choose which notebook to store it in, add any tags, and close the window.
Simplenote (Windows / macOS / Linux)
Another among the annotation programs that, in my humble opinion, you would do well to consider is Simplenote: it is free software that works both on Windows and on macOS and Linux, which allows you to create notes and write notes with simplicity. Its a strong point. In fact, it is very intuitive and has a clean and minimal user interface.
To download it to your computer, if you are using Windows 10, you can download the program from the relevant section of the Microsoft Store by clicking the Get button.
If you use an older version of Windows, you can download Simplenote from its website by connecting to its home page and pressing the Download for Windows button. Then, open the .exe file obtained and, in the window that appears on the desktop, click on the Yes button to complete the setup.
If you are using macOS, instead, you can find Simplenote from the relevant section of the Mac App Store, by clicking on the Get button, then on the Install button and, if necessary, authorizing the download with the Apple ID password or with the Touch ID (if the Mac you are using supports the above technology).
Now that you see the software window on the screen, regardless of the OS used, click on the Sign-Up item at the bottom to create an account useful for using the service and provide your email address and password. Alternatively, you can log in with a WordPress account.
Then, create a new note by clicking on the button with the sheet and the (+) located in the upper left corner and type your texts in the right part of the screen; at the top, you can enter the title, while at the bottom everything else. To add tags, instead, fill in the Add a tag field located at the bottom.
If you want to view the history of the changes made to the Note, click on the button with the clock located at the top right, while to delete the Note, press the button with the adjacent dustbin. To share it, instead, click on the sharing icon (the one with the square and the arrow ).
Note that notes are automatically saved to your Simplenote account. If you want, however, you can also export them by selecting them from the list on the left, clicking on the File menu at the top, and choosing the Export Notes item from it.
If you are using macOS, you can also consider using the Notes application, which is developed directly by Apple and is pre-installed on all computers of the Cupertino company. It has a nice user interface and can also synchronize with all the other devices of the “bitten apple” that are logged in with the same iCloud account. It allows you to create annotations, tables, and lists and also add drawings and attachments to them.
To use it, select its icon (the one with the Notepad) that you find on the Dock bar. In the Notes window that you now see on your desktop, select the folder of your interest from the sidebar on the left or create a new one by clicking on the New folder item at the bottom (if you can’t see the folders, click on the button with the window which is at the top) and click on the button with the paper and pencil at the top center to create your Note.
You can type your text freely in the space provided on the right, and you can format it as you see fit, by pressing the Aa button located at the top. You can also highlight the text using the appropriate items in the context menu that is shown to you by right-clicking. If, on the other hand, you want to insert a table or a bulleted list, press, respectively, on the buttons with the table and with the checkmark on the toolbar.
Also in the upper part of the Notes window, there is the button with the photo, which allows you to add images to the notes; the one with the padlock, which allows you to protect the annotations; the one with the little man, through which you can share the Note with other people, and the sharing icon (the one with the square and the arrow ) to import the Note into another app.
If you then want to view your notes as a gallery, rather than as a list, press the button with the four squares at the top left, while to make only the attachments visible, you can click on the button with the paper clip. To delete the notes created, instead, click on the button with the dustbin at the top left.
As far as saving is concerned, the notes are automatically stored on your iCloud account or, if the service is not in use, on the Mac disk. However, they can be exported by clicking on the appropriate item in the File menu, located in the top left.
The Note is also accessible via the web by visiting the iCloud website, logging in with your Apple ID, and clicking on the Notes icon.
Programs for annotating PDFs
Would you need to annotate PDFs, and would you like me to suggest some useful software for the purpose? I’ll settle you immediately. In fact, below, you will find listed the best programs in the category to which you can refer. Put them to the test immediately, I’m sure they will satisfy you.
Acrobat Reader DC (Windows / macOS)
Acrobat Reader DC
Acrobat Reader DC is a renowned program for Windows and macOS through which you can open, edit, and annotate PDFs. Basically, it is free, but some functions, such as the ability to convert documents, are reserved for subscribers to the paid version (with costs starting from 18.29 euros/month), which can, however, be tried at no cost for 7 days.
To download the program on your computer, go to its website and click on the Install Now / Download Acrobat Reader button.
When the download is complete, if you are using Windows, open the .exe file obtained, and, in the window that is shown on the desktop, click on the Yes button. Then wait for the installation procedure to be completed, press the Finish button, and wait for the program to open.
If you are using macOS, open the resulting .dmg package instead and run the .pkg file inside it. In the window that opens, then click on the Continue button (twice in a row), then on the Install button, type the Mac administration password and press the Install software button. Once setup is complete, click the Close and Move buttons and wait for the main software window to appear on your desktop.
Now, regardless of the operating system used, click on the File menu, located at the top left, choose the Open item from the latter and select the PDF of your interest. Then use the buttons in the toolbar on the right (and those in the toolbar that you will see appear at the top) to add notes and highlights to the file, to insert text, underline it, etc.
After making the changes, remember to save them by clicking on the floppy disk icon located at the top left.
Edge (Windows 10)
If you are using a computer with Windows 10 installed, I inform you that you can take advantage of Edge, the default browser of the Microsoft operating system, to add annotations to your PDF files. The browser of the most recent Microsoft OS, in fact, integrates a PDF reader that allows you to open this type of documents and make various changes.
To use it, just double click on the icon of the PDF file of your interest, select Edge from the list of programs to use, and click on the OK button.
Once the browser window with the PDF inside is displayed, click on the button with the pin located in the toolbar at the top and choose, from the purple toolbar that appears even higher, which tool to use: you can click on the icon with the pen, to write on the PDF; on the one with the highlighter, to highlight portions of text; on the hand icon, to use touch writing, and on the eraser icon, to undo changes.
When you are done, to save the changes made to the document, click on the floppy disk icon in the top right.
If you’re using macOS, you don’t necessarily have to resort to using third-party programs to annotate your PDFs. In fact, you can decide to rely on Preview, the default Mac application, to view and edit images and PDF documents, in fact.
To use it for your purpose, open the PDF on which you are interested in going to act by double-clicking on its icon. If doing so does not open Preview but another program, to remedy the problem, right-click on the icon of the file of your interest, click on the word Open with the present in the context menu and then select the Preview item.
Now that you are viewing the PDF call up the Preview editing toolbar by clicking on the pencil icon located in the upper right part of the window. Then click on the buttons located in the toolbar that is now shown to you to perform various operations: the button with the rectangle and the circle allows you to add geometric shapes and lines to the document, the one with the text box to add text and the one with the post-it notes to add notes.
The button with the dotted rectangle then allows you to create a selection, while the one with the signature allows you to sign the PDF. Further to the right, you will also find commands to manage the type of lines, shapes, fills, and text. To add highlights to the document, instead, click on the button with the highlighter located at the top of the window.
After making all the necessary changes to your PDF, to save the changes, simply close the Preview window by clicking on the red circular button at the top left.
To conclude, I want to tell you about some apps for smartphones and tablets that you can use to create annotations on both Android and iOS. Here they are.
Evernote ( Android / iOS / iPadOS ) – is the mobile counterpart, available for both Android and iOS / iPadOS, of the annotation program that I reported to you in the chapter at the beginning of the guide and has practically the same features as the latter, but optimized. For touch. It’s free, but a Pro plan must be signed up to unlock additional features.
Google Keep ( Android / iOS / iPadOS ) – is the Google home application, as you can guess from the name itself, to create notes and to-do lists. It’s free, easy to use, and has a nice user interface too. It is available for Android and iOS.
Microsoft OneNote ( Android / iOS / iPadOS ) – is the Android and iOS counterpart of the Microsoft program to create annotations that I told you about in the chapter at the beginning of the guide. It has practically the same features as the PC software and is free.
SimpleNote ( Android / iOS / iPadOS ) – is the version for Android and iOS of the program for taking notes that I told you about in the passage in the initial part of the tutorial. It has a simple and perfectly understandable interface and is very simple to use.
Color Note ( Android ) – specific application for Android, simple but very complete. It allows you to take notes, organize them by color, and use Sticky Note widgets to always have the most important things to do at your fingertips.
Notes ( iOS / iPadOS ) – is the app developed by Apple for creating notes and to-do lists on the iPhone and iPad. It has the same functions as the variant for Mac I told you about in the chapter at the beginning of the article. It is pre-installed on all iPhones and iPods, but, if removed, it can be downloaded again.