In today's electronic world, it can be quite a challenge to organize all useful information such as web clips, articles, bits of text, images, interesting web links, bookmarks, shopping lists, to-do lists, recipes, tips and many others that are hanging around your PC. It seems to be a common easy task but a difficult one to sort out as the information is so disparate.
Some folks have tried to get it organized by using free form databases while others use beefed up text editors or multi-media snippet managers. If you're one of them or just would like to look for a useful tool to organize your random bits of information, you might find that some of these freeware products come in handy and helpful.
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Evernote is an outstanding product that provides you with an excellent solution to manage notes and snippets of information. You can create notes on the page, drag-and-drop or cut-and-paste them with material including text and images.
This application supports multiple notebooks. To help organize your notes, the program allows for attaching multiple tags to a note. You can then choose to enter your tags, in addition to any keywords, to search for the stored information, while you can also sort your notes easily by a column title in a list view.
Clipping of web contents is made easier with its Web Clipper, which can be added as a bookmarklet or an extension to browsers such as IE, Firefox, Chrome or Safari. If the desktop program is installed, the clips go directly to the local application. Otherwise, they go to the Evernote Web application via a pop-up. In this way, Evernote offers a mix of a desktop application and web services.
CintaNotes is a lightweight and portable program which allows you to store your notes on an endless "roll' of virtual paper. It saves your workspace without cluttering like normal sticky notes.
This program is particularly useful when you need to frequently clip some text excluding images from any application. For instance, you can select some text on a webpage, press a pre-defined hotkey, and the selected text will be automatically saved to CintaNotes; together with time-stamping, subject and a link to that webpage.
Besides that, you can add tags to the notes so that you can find them easier, while you can also type any other keywords to get the instant search results.
Notes are saved into a dat file with auto backup and can be exported to a plain text file or xml format, though it's a pity that a print command seems to be missing from such a good program.
If you want to have a useful tool to relate notes and ideas together with a wiki-like linking system then Tomboy could be the answer.
Left-click Tomboy's tray icon and select "Create New Note", you can then start describing your new note to which a link is automatically created. Right-click on selected words in a note and choose "Link to New Note", the selected words will then become an anchor text with a hyperlink to a new note, in which you can add more descriptions.
You can search all your notes by clicking a Search button anytime and all notes are listed in a pop-up window. You can also create new notebooks by right-clicking the left panel, and re-group your notes among the notebooks easily with drag-and-drop.
Other features of the program include rich-text formatting and printing or exporting notes to html format. Some plug-ins are available to extend the functionality of the program, but adding images to a note is not available.
If you favor keeping notes in a tree-structure form, there're many good choices for free products such as Keynote, NeoMem, TreeDBNotes Free, KeepNote and more, which are now covered in this related category Best Free Outliner.
NotesHolder (free version) holds your notes together in one place in quite a similar way that CintaNotes does.
You can create notes by double clicking the top panel and type out or paste a note copied from anywhere with text but not images. You can add a subject to a note, or set a reminder for it. Printing notes is available by selecting and right-clicking the notes, while exporting notes into a plain text file is also supported.
The main window can be either set on top of other opened windows, or docked to the side on your desktop ready to pop up whenever your mouse moves over the right edge of your screen.
Clipping of text works by selecting text and pressing the hotkey Ctrl+Shift+Q, and the selected text will be automatically saved to NotesHolder. The hotkey worked for me on Firefox and Internet Explorer but not on the Chrome browser when I tried it.
NB: Another program QuotePad works almost exactly the same as NotesHolder even on the user interface. It's been commented that QuotePad might be a 'rebranding implementation' of the free version of NotesHolder.
Several other free notes organisers were not rated in this review. I am listing some of them here with brief descriptions and links to their sites for ease of reference.
- AllMyNotes the free version has disabled some useful advanced features such as hyperlinks, data sorting, auto backups, etc, that are available in the commercial version.
- Flashnote is a quick notes manager but it lacks storing images and other more powerful features as in KeepNote, which is included in Best Free Outliner.
- Linked Notes uses a Wiki-style notepad to organize notes into pages. The free basic edition lacks some useful features such as search all pages for specific words or export all pages into a single rtf file.
- Catzware's Simple Notes lets you make up to five notes with the first note allowing for scrolling left or right. It lacks search and many other useful functions available in other note organizers.
- Quicknote allows taking of notes grouped by category. It comes with an atypical user interface, and additional utilities such as a simple drawing tool, reminder, unit converter, screen measurer, etc.
- Delphinus Notes contains simple notes, notepad, calendar and expenditure management modules with encryption of data. Additional features include showing time in 3 time zones, import and export of notes, etc. Searching for notes with keywords or tags is not supported.
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