Have you ever had a great idea pop into your head, only to lose track because life’s distractions got in the way?
If you have a system for taking note of life-changing ideas, you might retain them.
It’s common for creative inspiration to strike when you least expect it—when you’re out on a run or when you’re in the shower. That’s where second-brain apps come to the rescue. Quickly reach out for your phone, and voila!
These note-taking tools are built to help clear your mind, journal every day, extend your cognitive ability and build your second brain.
If you haven’t hopped on the second-brain app train for note-taking, it’s time to do it, and we’ll tell you why.
What is a Second Brain?
A second brain app is a digital tool designed to help you capture, organize, and store your thoughts, ideas, and information in a structured way that you can retrieve them anytime.
Building a second brain will extend your cognitive processes and ability, providing a structured and easily accessible repository for your notes, documents, and creative insights.
Tiago Forte introduced the second brain concept first in his book “Building a Second Brain.” He reasons that humans can’t always remember every piece of daily information, as it can get overwhelming.
Tiago went further to list the benefits of relying on the second brain system:
- Organizes your information perfectly, making access easy
- Keeps information unless you delete what you no longer need
- Preserves your creativity and ensures your work is tracked, allowing you to revisit it anytime
What Should You Look for In Second Brain Apps?
Here are some features you should look out for when choosing a second-brain app:
- Accessibility: A well-designed second-brain app should be available anytime on any device or platform
- Structure and flexibility: You should be able to easily modify the app’s note interface to different functions, formats, and styles. Classifying notes should be flexible with folders, tags, notebooks, etc.
- Sharing: A well-designed second brain note-taking app allows you to share your notes with others easily. Functions like editing and commenting improve teamwork, collaboration, and general productivity
The 10 Best Second Brain Apps to Use in 2023
ClickUp is the best all-in-one productivity tool for taking notes. Edit your notes and leave feedback for anyone you share it with. The best part about ClickUp is that what starts as a simple note can become a task or a larger project.
ClickUp streamlines all your ideas and workflows in a single app. ClickUp is available on various devices and platforms and works well with existing tools in your daily workflow.
ClickUp best features
- ClickUp Docs: Create documents in any format. Customize the doc to your preference, and share it with your team. Choose from different templates and formats so you don’t have to build a second brain from scratch
- ClickUp NotePad: Jot down ideas and quickly create checklists with a comprehensive range of notepad templates. Convert your notes into tasks. Use different fonts, colors, backgrounds, templates, etc., for your notes
- ClickUp Relationships: Bring your ideas and tasks together. Create links between your documents and, with backlinks, automate links between related tasks and Docs. This way, create one idea and use it everywhere!
- Clickup AI: Generate high-quality new ideas with AI. Summarize long notes or generate brainstorming ideas for group projects
- ClickUp Whiteboards: Collaborate with your team using the digital canvas to brainstorm ideas and plan projects. Create together, leave comments, tag, or mention people to collaborate
- Compatibility issues: ClickUp might not work fast on some mobile phones (yet)
- Free Forever
- Unlimited: $7/month per user
- Business: $12/month per user
- Enterprise: Contact for pricing
- ClickUp AI is available on all paid plans for $5 per Workspace
ClickUp ratings and reviews
- G2: 4.7/5 (5,000+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.6/5 (3,000+ reviews)
Notion is one of the versatile second brain apps that adapts to individual workflows. Use this unified space for note-taking, organization, task management, focused writing, and personal development to improve your focus.
Quickly jot down notes, ideas, to-do lists, or reminders from anywhere. It offers flexibility in organizing these notes without limitations, so you can easily retrieve them anytime.
Notion best features
- Notion AI: Generate ideas for your work and write faster with AI
- Unlimited notes: Write as much as you want without any limits
- Centralized organization: Consolidates all your necessities into one platform. Whether it’s notes, budgets, tasks, or recipes, you can create a customizable knowledge management tool that aligns with your thinking process
- Platform and device availability: Notion is available on iOS and Android for mobile, on Mac and Windows for desktop, and offers the Notion Web Clipper compatible with Chrome, Safari, and Firefox web browsers
- Security: Notion’s security could be better. This weakness could render vital documents in the app vulnerable
- Free Forever
- Plus: $8-$10 per user
- Business: $15-$18 per user
- Enterprise: Contact for pricing
- Notion AI: it is available on all paid plans for $8 per month
Notion ratings and reviews
- G2: 4.7/5 (4,800+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.8/5 (1,917+ reviews)
Google Keep is a note-taking tool software designed for writing, list-making, and organizing your thoughts; it is handy for setting effective reminders. It also allows easy sharing of notes with images and audio.
With millions of users, Keep is the top choice for those who enjoy vibrant notes, offering a range of colorful labels to organize and arrange your documents efficiently.
Keep best features
- Optical character recognition: Turn any photo into text so that you can instantly take notes based on your images
- Voice recordings: Automatically transcribe your voice recordings into text
- Available on iOS, Android, and web: Use this web application anywhere and on any device
- Lack of formatting options: Keep does not offer formatting options like italics, bold, and underlining
- It is free and does not have a premium version
Keep reviews and ratings
- G2: 4.4/5 (36 reviews)
- Capterra: 4.6/5 (161 reviews)
Workflowy is a web-based second brain note-taking app that simplifies note-taking with its straightforward and flexible interface, allowing you to organize ideas quickly and naturally.
It works great offline and seamlessly supports the development of those ideas when connected to the internet. Workflowy’s nested lists are its standout—create bulleted lists for any number of levels to break down the complexity of your ideas or lists.
Workflowy best features
- Infinite nesting: Develop intricate ideas while maintaining context. Delve into deep levels of detail within your notes or projects without losing track of the broader context or structure
- Files and images: Integrate an unlimited number of files and images directly into your content using the simple drag-and-drop feature
- No-login editing: Enable shared access without requiring recipients to have their own Workflowy accounts
- Templates: Choose from a library of Workflowy templates to get started if you don’t want to write your notes from scratch
- Limited features on the free version: The free version of Workflowy restricts users with fewer features, including a monthly bullet limit and a 100MB cap on file uploads
- Free forever
- Pro: $4.99 per user
Workflowy reviews and ratings
- G2: 4.4/5 (22 reviews)
- Capterra: 4.7/5 (14 reviews)
Craft’s seamless interface includes features like daily notes, collaborative documents, wikis, integrations, rich link previews, AI writing assistance, comments, and reactions.
Craft transforms team collaboration and note-taking by merging structured daily updates, aligning priorities, and eliminating blockers, all in one place. It is a central hub for teams to take notes and track tasks, ideas, and challenges across various projects.
Craft best features
- Workflows: Connect and organize work within and across teams
- Daily Notes: Enhance daily stand-ups with calendar-connected updates, priorities, and blockers
- Structured documents: Create Cards and Pages to provide detailed context and organization for ideas
- Rich content integration: Embed code blocks, rich link previews, images, videos, and AI assistant support
- Wikis: Consolidate team knowledge, eliminating the need for repeated requests for links or information
- Not so adequate for task management: Craft is primarily designed for note-taking and offers limited options for task management
- Pro: $5 per user
- Business: $10 per user
- Enterprise: Contact for Pricing
- Craft AI: Free to all users
Craft reviews and ratings
- G2: 4.6/5 (20 reviews)
- Capterra: 4.5 (32 reviews)
Evernote helps you organize your work and life with notes, no matter where you work. It allows you to take dynamic notes with text, images, templates, and more.
Evernote helps you manage notes with due dates and reminders, supports paperless document storage, and integrates with Google Calendar for efficient scheduling and contextual notes.
Evernote best features
- Work anywhere: Ensure crucial information is readily available with automatic note synchronization across all devices
- Remember everything: Boost the utility of your notes by incorporating text, images, audio, scans, PDFs, and documents
- Find things fast: Access what you need promptly using powerful and flexible search capabilities
- Pricing: Evernote is pricier compared to other second-brain note-taking applications
- Personal: $14.99 monthly
- Professional: $17.99 monthly
Evernote reviews and ratings
- G2: 4.6/5 (20 reviews)
- Capterra: 4.3 (5 reviews)
Reflect offers a comprehensive solution for enhanced cognitive processes and effective note-taking. It features instantaneous note synchronization with backlinked notes, forming a network of ideas.
Reflect ensures secure and efficient note management with end-to-end encryption, calendar integration, one-click publishing, and AI assistance powered by GPT-4.
Reflect best features
- Networked notes: Form a graph of ideas using backlinked notes, creating a comprehensive intellectual network
- Integrations: Manage and summarize meeting discussions while importing events from Google Calendar and Outlook integrations
- Reflect AI: Leverage AI assistance powered by GPT-4 and Whisper from OpenAI to enhance writing, organize thoughts, and act as your intellectual partner
- Pricing: Reflect is more expensive than other second-brain apps
- Premium: $10 per month
Reflect reviews and ratings
- G2: 4.7/5 (41 reviews)
- Capterra: 5.0 (2 reviews)
Obsidian is a versatile note-taking app that adapts to your thoughts. As you write your online sticky notes, the app dynamically adapts to your style so that you convey precisely what’s on your mind.
Moreover, Obsidian allows you to easily link notes and share them with anyone. The app also supports office work and project management.
Obsidian best features
- Links and Graphs: Obsidian’s USP is its links and graphs effect. They help you track how your notes connect
- Collaboration: Share your work with others without giving out your private data
- Customization: Customize your work to your taste. With options to change your look, color, theme, etc, you should enjoy the creativity this app offers
- Extra pricing: You need to pay extra to use some simple and expected features, such as synching across devices
- Commercial use: $50 per user per year
Obsidian reviews and ratings
- G2: Not enough ratings
- Capterra: 4.4/5 (20 reviews)
9. iCloud Notes
With Apple Notes, you’re always ready to capture those moments of inspiration. Whether on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac, the Notes app syncs effortlessly with iCloud, ensuring that your notes are instantly accessible across all your devices.
iCloud.com offers a range of functionalities, including creating, editing, organizing notes, managing attachments, and sharing notes or folders.
iCloud best features
- Security: iCloud boasts a highly secure privacy system, ensuring that only authorized individuals are able to access their notes
- Adequate Storage: Premium iCloud users enjoy storage capacity exceeding 12 terabytes, providing ample space for personal and business data needs
- Limited collaboration feature: While sharing notes with others is possible, iCloud notes lack the capability for comments. Collaborators are unable to provide feedback or display the editing history of each contributor
- 50GB: $0.99
- 200GB: $2.99
- 2TB: $9.99
- 6TB: $29.99
- 12TB: $59.99
iCloud reviews and ratings
- G2: 4.3/ 5 (800+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.6/ 5 (1500+ reviews)
10. Roam Research
Roam Research is a note-taking app designed to help you help you write documents and research while collecting information as a graph database.
It started as a tool to help doctorate students structure and write their complex thesis.
Unlike other second-brain note-taking apps, Roam Research serves more as a tech research-based tool. It also does not have templates but offers great options to connect notes and build a second brain.
Roam Research best features
- Organized Interface Interface: Roam has different features for different folks, but it’s super organized—no clutter, easy to navigate
- Task tracking: Ideal for project management because you can assign tasks and easily track their progress
Roam Research limitations
- The tool is not always easy to use, and users report a lack of willingness from the company to build the features that customers need
- Roamresearch is more expensive than other second-brain apps in the market
Roam Research pricing
- Pro: $15 per month
- Believer: $500 per 5 years
Roam Research reviews and ratings
- Capterra: 4.2/ 5 (20reviews)
- G2: Not enough ratings
Why You Need a Second Brain App for Note-Taking
In essence, while the classic charm of jotting ideas in physical notebooks may have its appeal, the risk of misplacing them always looms. The beauty of a second brain app lies in its ability to safeguard your ideas and tasks in a centralized location, eliminating the worry of misplacement.
As the years pass, our cognitive abilities continue to dwindle with time as personal and professional lives intertwine. We accumulate professional expertise, creative breakthroughs, and ideas that must be documented and stored throughout our lifetime.
You can thank your second brain when you can access these decades of work in minutes.
ClickUp excels in providing a secure repository for your thoughts and tasks and offers many productivity options to go with it.