If you’re like me, you probably have hundreds of story ideas floating around inside your head. The good ones, as Stephan King once said, are the ones that you can’t shake from your memory. I found this to be true, but having access to a pool of ideas, concepts and research is still a valuable tool for any author looking to create content using free tools for writers.

Google Keep

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Keep is a tag (label) only system, so if folders are your thing Keep doesn’t make it easy. But tags are folders anyway. There is no text editing, just input. There are no categories in Keep. Instead, you can group notes into a small selection of colours.
What makes Keep useful is that its fast, simple, you can add images or drawings, and it has the ability to convert a note into a Google Doc when an idea is ready to be expanded. The mobile app integrates well, ideas can be written, voiced, pictured straight to keep, as well as webpage links.

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Onenote

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Part of the outlook and Onedrive ecosystem, Onenote is crammed with features. Just one notebook can cater to your whole library. Each notebook has a section, and in each section, you can create pages. The desktop version has subsections and subpages, but this causes a problem as the two are somewhat incompatible. The text edit box is as Microsoft as one can get. This has everything one would ever need. Major downsides; slowness, like all Microsoft online products, the lag between opening up a basic note is a big drawback. Plus there’s no exporting to anything else. The phone apps are okay, but the desktop app is a little convoluted in regards to how the files are stored.

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Simplenote

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Simplenote is just simple. It’s a tag only system, so no folders, but that’s the same thing really and Simplenote makes this look and feel the same anyway. There is no text edit box, just text input, but it supports Markdown extensions. There is a version roll-back capability. You can back up by download a zip file. It’s as basic as you can get.

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Box Notes

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Boxis well integrated with Google Drive and Onedrive, but with a 50 gig storage, it’s not really relevant, unless your exporting notes to another platform. Still handy though, because you can use the full functionality of the Microsoft Word and Google Doc create your notes. There’s also Box Notes which has a good but basic edit box with version history. With no tagging system, folders are the way to go. Both apps are available on iOS and Android devices.


Dropbox Paper

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With Dropbox, you can create folders and word documents using your own Microsoft online account, but with Paper, you can do this natively. Paper has numerous features to take advantage off. It is folder based, and it has a basic and easy to use pop-up text edit box. You can export to PDF, Word or Markdown. Its small storage is its downside, but even a gigs worth of notes is still a lot of notes. Available on iOS and Android devices.

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Evernote

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Apart from creating a library of notes, Evernote has the added feature of behaving as a research tool via is clipping app extension. You can create notes, organise them into notebooks, and organise those into stacks. The editing interface is not bad, although there is no undo function. The free service is not that limiting, you get 60 MB upload per month. As for backup, you need to use the Evernote desktop app, and there’s no ability to export to a different format. There is functionality to revert to a previous version.

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Gnote

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With Gnote you can create folders and then add notes or checklists. You can sort via tags as well. Extremely simple, fast and basic and there are few add-ons but there’s no exporting of notes. Even though a premium service gives you expanded usability, the free version doesn’t impede much in your note-taking. It is alsosupported by Chrome, Android and iOS app.

Supernotecard

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Supernotecard is designed for writers. You can organise notes under projects and type (fiction, non-fiction, scriptwriting, flashcards) it allows one to export notes to a good selection of formats. You can send a project to other writers. The platform is easy to use. Downside; there are limits on the number of projects, notecards, categories, and references that you are allowed to create. Also, over the long term, if supernotecard disappears, you may have to migrate your notes.

All of the above are decent for building an Idea Library. So it depends on how simple or complex one needs. This also should take into account what drafting platform you decide to use and how you want to integrate the process going from conceptualisation to writing that novel or screenplay.