While it might be difficult to switch away from feature-packed products like Gmail and Google Maps, there are thankfully plenty of competitors to Google Keep. After all, you don’t need millions of data points and industry-leading artificial intelligence to make a note-taking app. In this post, we’ll be checking out some free and open-source alternatives to Google Keep, some of which even have cloud sync.
Why does open-source matter?
Free and open-source software (FOSS) has a number of advantages, but to most people, the main benefit is privacy. All the code is out in the open, so anyone with programming knowledge can go through it and see exactly what an app is doing. Proprietary apps can sometimes feel like black boxes, where you don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes. That’s rarely the case with FOSS.
I say ‘almost,’ because there’s technically nothing stopping open-source apps from spying on you, but that behavior is extremely rare. If a developer is doing something they’re not supposed to be, like spying on users or bundling malware, they probably wouldn’t announce it to the world.
Many people simply prefer open-source apps out of principle, in the same way that some people prefer shopping at locally-owned stores instead of Walmart or Target. These apps are often created by individuals or small groups in their spare time, as opposed to large companies with income generated from advertising or venture capital.
We discussed NextCloud in a previous open-source app roundup. It’s a server application that lets you set up your own cloud storage, and with the help of some plugins, you can essentially have your own suite of Google service alternatives. Case in point: if you set up a NextCloud instance and install the free Notes extension, you get a self-hosted clone of Google Keep that you can access from the web.
There’s also an app for Android that can sync with NextCloud Notes — the aptly-named NextCloud Notes. It’s developed by Stefan Niedermann, a German web developer, and covers just about everything you could want in a note application. You can sync with multiple NextCloud accounts, create/edit/delete/share notes, use Markdown formatting, and search the contents of notes. There’s also a dark mode.
While the source code is open, the compiled app on the Play Store costs $2.49. Developers have to eat, too.
Standard Notes is probably the best open-source alternative to Google Keep if you’re looking for something simple with cross-device support. There are applications for all major desktop and mobile platforms (plus a web client), notes are end-to-end encrypted, and there is no limit on the number of devices you can sync. There’s not much to complain about, honestly.
All of the app’s clients are open-source, and code is even available for the server-side component, so hosting your own server is possible. While Standard Notes is free, there is a paid tier that adds unlimited file…