Bear note app: is this the king of note apps?

The title can be seen as quite bold and might reveal my opinion about the Bear note app. And that’s the case. I’m really impressed by this app. It seems to do everything right from looks to function to syncing. It doesn’t have the same amount of features as some competitors, but good design often means adding less features. I will tell you a little bit more about this great app.

Note taking apps

Bear is a note taking app that you can compare with OneNote, Evernote, Apple Notes and a bit with Simplenote. Simplenote has been my main note taking app after leaving Evernote. This was because of the app itself and because I needed an app that also worked on Windows. Now that I’m fully back to the Mac, the latter is no longer a requirement. I still think that Simplenote is a great app, but sometimes it’s just a little too simple.

Bear is build by a tiny Italian company Shiny Frog that only has team of three people. It’s amazing what this small did. Especially when you look at other apps like OneNote and Evernote. Evernote must be ashamed that its hundreds of employees can’t do what this small company of three does.

Bear writer

The interface

One of my main complains about Evernote is the messy and inconsistent user interface. Bear does this part very well. It’s interface is clean, with a distraction free mode, which is consistent on different screens. The iPad and Mac version have about the same features without having to rethink how it works, unlike Evernote. I’m sorry, I should just stop bashing Evernote at this point. The Microsoft OneNote interface is a big mess too ;). The iPhone version doesn’t have all the Mac features, but that’s okay for me.

Bear writer

There are a subtle icons in the screen that mark extra features that you can also access through easy shortcuts that you can remember. Like H1 is CMD + Option + 1, H2 is CMD + Option + 2 and a To Do List is CMD +T.

You can choose between different color schemes. I like the default theme, partly because I’m not that big a fan of dark interfaces.

Bear is the allround note app for writers

Most of the time I’m doing my writing in note app instead of something like WordPress. This always means that I have to do a lot of editing in WordPress or any other platform. Not with Bear. Bear lets you add html markup and copy text as html which works very well and is very convenient. You can add things like headings and links and it copies those items just like you would have added them in html. This is a big time saver for me.

Bear note app

Another useful feature is adding links to a part of the content. You just select the text where you want to add the link to, press CMD + K and your last copied link is automatically added. This will also be transferred when copying your node to html.

Besides exporting to html you can also export notes to other formats like Microsoft Word. This is something that I really miss in Evernote, Apple Notes and Simplenote.

Syncing and security

An import feature for me is syncing. This is one of the features that I really like about Simplenote and one of my main requirements for a new note taking app. Luckily Bear does this very well. It uses Apple’s CloudKit to do this. This means that you don’t have to create an extra account, because it uses your Apple. It also means that your data is encrypted with Apple’s private keys and that the developers at Shiny Frog don’t have access to your credentials or data. So you don’t have to worry about other people reading your notes. Which is the case at certain other note taking apps.

Pricing

The Bear note app comes as a free app, but with limitations. If you want to use all features you will have to go for the premium plan. That will cost you about € 15 per year and that is much cheaper than Evernote. The premium plan offers syncing across devices and more export functions.

Other features

Some of the other features are:

  • Save content from the web. It’s not an exclusive feature, but it’s a nice one to have and that’s the feature to save articles from the web directly to Bear. You don’t have the options that Evernote offers with its webclipper, but that’s not a problem. It just works and that’s what counts.
  • Add code. You can also include which works pretty well, although I like it more how Paper by Dropbox had done this. They did that very (and very) well.
  • Add attachments to your notes.
  • Hand written notes. You have some basic tools for drawing and to add hand written notes.
  • Create to do lists. I have tried a lot of to do list apps and I have decided to stop with it. Instead I now use a separate tag in Bear for all my to do lists and it works pretty well.

Verdict: the Bear note app is the best note app for me

I’m impressed with the Bear note app. It seems to do everything that I want in a note taking app well. I just hope that they can resist the temptation to add too many new features that can mess up the app. For now I’m just loving it and it has become my main note taking app.

You can check more note apps in the app section.

Header photo:  Elizabeth Meyers on Unsplash

By Wim

A techie who likes to do UX and WordPress stuff. Remote worker since 2010.

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The latest apps

Bear

Bear is a note taking app build by a tiny Italian company Shiny Frog and is a new kid on the block. It seems to do everything right from looks to function to syncing. It doesn’t have the same amount of features as some competitors. Bear uses Apple’s CloudKit to do this. This means that you don’t have to create an extra account, because it uses your Apple. It also means that your data is encrypted with Apple’s private keys and that the developers at Shiny Frog don’t have access to your credentials or data

Platforms

iOS, Mac.

Pricing

  • Free with limited features and without syncing.
  • Premium $ 14,99 annually.

Pro

  • Clean and great user interface.
  • Export notes to HTML, DOCX, PDF and more.
  • Low price.

Con

  • Only available on iOS and Mac.

You can read more about bear in our blog.

Todoist

This is an app worth trying. Todoist does a lot of things right as a to do app. You can add notes, attachments, dates and more to a task. It lets you create multiple lists and you can share these lists with other users. The sharing with other users works pretty well in Todoist and perhaps better than with other to do apps. This makes it a bit more of a collaboration tool than competitors.

Todoist has a clear and well designed user interface, but there are some minor flaws. For instance the feature for displaying completed tasks. This is hidden in a menu. Apps like Wunderlist display this feature on the main screen, which makes it easier to use. But Todoist does syncing better and in the end it’s a great app.

Platforms

IOS, Android, PC, Mac, Chrome.

Pricing

  • Free.
  • $ 28.99 / year for the premium plan which adds features like labels and increases the number of people on projects.

Pros

  • Available as an app on all major platforms.
  • Syncing works fast and reliable.
  • Sharing and collaborating works very well.

Cons

  • Some features are a bit hard to find.

Pixelmator

If you want a great app for photo editting, than you must try Pixelmator. It’s great on Mac and probably one of the best photo apps for mobile devices. You can edit photos on numerous ways with filters, color adjustments, cropping, repair tools, layers and more. The iPad, and even iPhone, app is a joy to use when your on the go and it integrates with Apples default photo app. For most people Pixelmator will be the best value for money for photo editting. You will pay a one time fee with no subscription model, making it a bargain compared to Adobe.

Platforms

IOS, Mac.

Pricing

  • IOS $ 4,99.
  • Mac $ 29,99.

Pros

  • For most users this app offers all they need.
  • Cheap.

Cons

  • Only available on IOS and Mac.

Scannable

This app belongs to the Evernote house. Scannable is not unique, but it has a clear purpose for scanning documents and it does that job very well. You can save scanned documents to Evernote or your photo library. The team of Scannable did a great job with the design of the app which lets you use it without having to think about the how. Scannable enables you to have a paperless administration and that’s a nice thing to have.

Platforms

  • IOS, Android.

Pricing

  • Free.

Pros

  • Easy to use.
  • No more worries about paper receipts.

Cons

Pocket

Pocket is a great app for people who are travelling, but also when you’re not travelling. It enables you to save articles found on the web for later. Even when you’re offline. You just have to click save to pocket in your browser or app and it will be saved. Pocket also lets you add tags to articles to stay organized. It can easily become your digital archive for web content.

Platforms

IOS, Android, PC, Mac.

Pricing

  • Free and that will do it for most people.
  • There is also a premium plan for $ 4,99/month. The premium plan has advance search permanent backup and suggested tags.

Pro

  • You can read articles on the go, even without an internet conncection.
  • Tags to organize content.
  • Easy to use.

Con