Note taking – Free Microsoft OneNote Alternatives for Linux
Microsoft OneNote is a fabulous note taking software which can be bought alone, or comes bundled with Microsoft Office Student Edition. It is so good that I dare say, it surpasses the value of all other applications bundled with MS Office. Unfortunately, MS OneNote does not run natively in Linux.
So I searched for equivalent note taking applications in Linux which can accomplish what MS OneNote does. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any which came even close to MS OneNote in the sheer number of features it sported. The free note taking tools I tried out, and liked, are listed below.
GJots2 is a simple note taking application written primarily for GNOME/Gtk-2. It is quite lean in features. Does not have rich text support. Nor can you insert images. Gjots2’s chief strength is in its very configurable tree hierarchy where you can do things like sort the tree, merge items, split items, move the tree node up or down the hierarchy and so on.
When you install GJots2, it additionally installs two other command
line tools called
which can be used to convert all your gjots2 files to HTML or Docbook
Knowit is a note taking application catering to people who want to store text snippets as notes. It has the same basic functionality as seen in Gjots but with some additional features such as very basic support for rich text and support for creation of links (internal and external). You can export your notes in HTML format.
It is written with Qt 3.5 but is up for a major rewrite using Qt 4.0 which would bring in new features like linking to external documents and more. In it’s current form, it is quite usable though.
KeepNote is designed to be a general note-taking program that can be used in many different ways depending on the user’s needs. It supports rich text editing and inserting images into your notes.
One feature I really liked was an option in KeepNote to take a screenshot which will then be automatically embedded into your notes at the place you have positioned your cursor. What is more, you can even open the embedded screenshot in an image editor of your choice, manipulate the image, and then save it, to reflect the changes back in your note. You can resize the images in your notes by right-clicking on them and choosing resize.
KeepNote can store any file as an “attachment” to the notebook. On Linux, you can attach a file by dragging-and-dropping a file from the desktop onto the treeview or listview. To open an attached file, simply double click its icon in the treeview/listview. KeepNote allows you to easily backup your notes as an archive and then restore them from the archive. KeepNote saves notes as HTML files so they can be viewed in any web browser.
There is a Windows , Linux and Mac OSX version available.
Kjots is a very good note taking application. Recently, it has been rewritten grounds up using Qt 4 libraries. It is very quick to start up in GNOME even though it is essentially a KDE application. It supports limited rich text editing and has a slick interface. You can create links, lists, and change font properties. You can search through all the notes easily. KJots allow you to export all your notes as text files or in HTML. But there is no support for inserting images. I really like KJots.
NoteCase is a hierarchical notes manager (outliner). It supports rich text editing and image insertion. But unfortunately, as of now free version of this project has been discontinued by its developer. But you can install NoteCase in Linux and the application is quite usable in its current form. You will find NoteCase installed by default in many Linux distributions like Puppy Linux, Wolvix, PClinuxOS and so on.
is another note taking application which is
quite impressive. It doesn’t have image insertion capabilities, but it
has support for rich text editing. TuxCards optionally allow you to
encrypt your notes using blowfish encryption. To encrypt your notes,
while in Tuxcards, press
key combination and you
will be prompted to enter a password, which will be used to encrypt your
current notes file.
CherryTree is a cross platform hierarchical note taking application, featuring rich text and syntax highlighting. It allows you to insert images, tables, lists, and hyperlinks. Written by Giuseppe Penone, this is one fine note taking application.
BasKet is a note taking application developed for KDE. This is the only application which comes close to holding a candle against Microsoft OneNote. Some of the features of BasKet are as follows :
- Rich text support
- Image creation and embedding within notes. You can even open the image for editing in your favourite graphics editor, make changes and save them back to your notes in a seamless manner.
- Support for four ready made note templates namely – one column, two column, three column and free nodes.
- Tag support. You can tag individual notes and then filter the notes on tags.
- Very powerful search and find capability. It doesn’t yet find text in images though.
- Do a screen capture of your desktop and directly embed it in your notes.
- Easily backup and restore your notes.
- You can import notes from KJots, KNotes, KnowIt, TuxCards, Sticky notes, Tomboy and text files.
- Password protect your notes.
- Export the notes as an HTML web page.
- Embed BasKet into KDE Kontact.
Zim Wiki is another very good application for taking down notes. It does not behave anything like the traditional note taking applications or Microsoft OneNote. Rather, it works like a wiki. It is written using Gtk2-Perl and can be installed in Linux and Windows. I wrote this article and a couple of previous ones entirely in Zim Wiki.
Zim allows you to insert pictures into your notes, you can take a screen shot of your desktop and directly embed it in your notes. For the screen shot feature to work, Zim relies on a command line utility named scrot which has to be installed on your machine. Every page in Zim is saved as a text file with wiki markup – Zim uses Dokuwiki markup. Pages can contain links to other pages, and are saved automatically. Creating a new page is as easy as linking to a non-existing page. This tool is intended to keep track of TODO lists or to serve as a personal scratch book. But it will also serve you when writing longer and more complicated documents.
Tomboy is a nifty note taking application which comes bundled with almost all major Linux distributions. This cool note taking application has wormed it’s way into the hearts of most Linux enthusiasts. Its beauty lies in it’s simplicity. Inter-linking between notes takes place automatically without any user action.
Tomboy sports a very powerful search tool which allows you to track down your notes. And separate notebooks can be created to associate groups of notes. Tomboy supports both internal and external links, some amount of text styling is possible; Automatic spell-checking is provided by GtkSpell. But you cannot insert images in your notes. Tomboy is written in C# and utilizes the Mono runtime and Gtk#.
Other Noteworthy Mentions
Incollector – This is a note taking application that can be used to collect various kinds of information (like notes, conversation logs, quotes, serial numbers, source code, web addresses, words …). It is developed using DotNet and Mono and is available for Windows and Linux. It has support for tags, and lets you import or export your notes in an open file format.
Luminotes – This is a WYSIWYG personal wiki notebook for organizing your notes and ideas. It’s designed for note taking and note keeping without the hassle of learning special markup codes. You simply start typing.It is available for Windows and Linux to be run locally on your computer. But for Luminotes to work in Linux, you need to compile it from source code. Luminotes also provides a web based hosted account where you get 30 MB free space online. (Update : The author has discontinued this project – though you can access the source code of this note taking software.)
RedNotebook – This software positions itself as a journal than a note taking application. But RedNotebook has many features beneficial in, and relevant to, note taking applications such as tags and category support, insertion of images, search and so on. RedNotebook has some rich text support which is made possible using wiki markup. This is an ongoing project and you may not find it in your Linux distribution repository yet. But you can download a copy from its author’s website and give it a try.
Wixi – This is a multi-platform wiki application for the desktop. It is written in python/wxpython and uses txt2tags to generate text to many other formats. The goal is to provide a simple wiki tool around the txt2tags document generator and also be multi-platform.
Memoranda – This is a free personal diary and scheduling tool. However, it can be used to keep notes. It contains a notes tab which has a rich text editor built-in. You can insert images and use different styles of text as well.
Of all the note taking software listed above, the ones I really like using are BasKet, Zim Wiki, Tomboy, KJots, and CherryTree. But as I said earlier, these note taking tools do not stand up to MS OneNote which has no equivalent in the note taking field.