Take notes online free alternative to OneNote with collaboration

How do you store notes? Microsoft OneNote? Google Keep? Evernote? If you are looking for an alternative notes app, MeisterNote has great features. Take notes online solo or with teams.

MeisterNote is part of the Meister Suite, which consists of MindMeister, MeisterTask and MeisterNote. They can all be used for solo personal projects or for work teams and they have collaboration features built in. They also connect to each other, and you can create notes in Meisternote and link them to tasks in MeisterTask for example.

I signed up for the MeisterNote free plan which is useful for solo workers and personal use. You only need to subscribe to Pro or Business if you want to use it for multiple users and teams and have admins, roles and permissions for them. It is a free alternative to OneNote.

At the moment, MeisterNote is purely a web application that runs in a browser on Windows PC, Apple Mac or Linux. Phone apps are in development, but for now, you can make notes online only.

The site does actually work on a phone in a browser, but only in view mode. Workspaces can be opened and notes can be viewed, but they cannot be created. Mobile apps are needed. If you are reading this in six months time, phone apps may be available. For now, let’s look at MeisterNote on the web.

Organize notes online, customize them

Up to five workspaces can be created with a free account and they are unlimited for Pro and Business users. Workspaces are places where notes can be stored and they can be broad like Work and Personal, or specific to a topic, business project or team of co-workers.

Screenshot of MeisterNote. Take notes online
MeisterNote web app in a browser

Create a workspace for your notes collection, open it, and any number of notes can be added to it. Notes can have sub-notes and those can have sub-notes too. This enables you to create a heirachy of notes and in some ways it is similar to the folder structure on a disk drive. The sidesbar enables you to view this heirachy of notes, select notes and create notes.

This is a simple, but veru useful way to organize notes and the customization goes further. A color, icon and cover image can be assigned to a note. It is useful for top-level notes and the image is like a deep banner across the top.

Sometimes you just want simple plain text notes, but customizing them is great for work, product or project documentation. A special cover page can be created for these and then sub-notes created under it that contain all the information.

Format and style notes

Simple notes consisting of just plain text can be created quickly, but when text is selected, it can be formatted. A toolbar appears that has bold, italic, underline, strikethrough buttons.

There is also a more advanced formatting menu that enables you to create to-do, bullet and ordered list items, add quotes, warnings, infoboxs, tip and warning types. The background color can be set and an icon added. Headings 1 to 5 and body text are available. You can even enter code, files, and separators. External media can be embedded too.

Screenshot of MeisterNote notes web app
Customize MeisterNote

Everything is placed in blocks, which can be dragged and dropped to rearrange the order. It reminded me a bit of the block editor in WordPress that is being used to create this page.

Many different types of media can be embedded in notes, like YouTube and Vimeo videos, Google Docs, Sheets, Maps, Slides, Spotify, Airtable and more. You can interact with the inserted media, for example, you can watch YouTube videos embedded within a note.

You could create beautiful, useful and informative pages within MeisterNote, such as documentation for a business, process or project. The formatting, coloring, icons and so on, can look great. If you don’t need that or have the time for it, you can enter plain text notes quickly and easily.

Comment on notes, create tasks

Move the mouse over a block in a note and a couple of icons appear on the right. The first of these is a comment button. A comment can be attached to any block in a note, which would be useful if you are using the Pro or Business plan with a team of co-workers.

A Resolve button appears with the comment, so if someone raises concerns about something, the Resolve button can be clicked when it is fixed. This removes the comment.

Screenshot of MeisterNote notes web app
Create a hierarchy of notes and embed media

Commenting is less useful if you are working solo with the free version because you can simply edit a note and add or change whatever you want directly. However, there are some uses, like adding comments to files you have inserted into notes. You might need a reminder as to what they contain.

Any block in a note can be turned into a task that is automatically added to MeisterTask. Free and Pro accounts are available for MeisterTask task to-do and project manager. This is a useful feature and Notes and Tasks apps work together nicely.

Summing up

An obvious competitor to MeisterNote is Microsoft OneNote. Notes themselves have very similar formatting features in both services and you can format the contents and embed files and media. However, MeisterNote supports more types of embedded media, which could be an advantage for some users.

A OneNote Notebook can be shared with others and you can have multiple notebooks with different users. MeisterNote lets you create multiple workspaces that are shared with different people.

OneNote enables you to create sections and these can have pages, so you only have two levels. MeisterNote has multiple levels. I don’t know if there is a limit, but I created half a dozen levels that can be expanded and collapsed. This is very flexible and could be useful for organizing notes.

OneNote is mainly app-based with apps for PC, Mac, iPhone and Android phone. MeisterTask is web-based at the moment, and mobile apps are still in development. This means it is great on desktop computers, but not so good on phones.

MeisterNote is good and it will be even better when mobile apps are available. The organization and structure of notes may be preferred to OneNote.

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