The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Second Brain App in 2023

Two brains are better than one. Learn about the “second brain” movement and which note-taking apps you should consider when building one.
Matthew Ritchie
March 3, 2023
12 minute read

Your brain isn’t good enough.

That’s the sad, simple truth: try as you might, you’re always bound to forget a few things.

Every day, our brains encounter reams of information that could fill a hard drive. 

Most of it is useless. But some of it is useful. If only we had the brainpower to remember and make sense of it.

That’s where building a second brain comes in.

Related: Get early access to Bloks ←

Two Brains Are Better Than One

Building a second brain, popularized by productivity expert Tiago Forte’s course and book of the same name, is an antidote to the overwhelming amount of information we encounter in modern life.

Every day, we take in thousands of articles, podcasts, webinars, books, and conversations that form the basis of our knowledge. 

But it’s increasingly difficult to capture, store, organize, find, and use information when it matters.

“Without a little extra care to preserve these valuable resources,” Forte argues, “our precious knowledge remains siloed and scattered across dozens of different locations.”

Just think about how many thoughts, to-dos, and reminders you’ve written down over years, only to forget about them. Chances are, the number is high.

“How many brilliant ideas have you had and forgotten? How many insights have you failed to take action on?,” he asks. “By offloading our thinking onto a ‘second brain,’ we free our biological brain to imagine, create, and simply be present. We can move through life confident that we will remember everything that matters, instead of floundering through our days struggling to keep track of every detail.”

This is Your Second Brain on Note-Taking Apps

According to Fore, a second brain is “a system for knowledge management – a trusted place outside your head to preserve and protect your most valuable knowledge.”

For many, that takes the form of a digital note-taking app.

Although Forte says a second brain “isn’t one piece of software,” note-taking apps certainly form the centerpiece of it, acting as a “long-term memory bank where all your important information gets sent for safekeeping,” and is the tool most people initially gravitate towards when building a system for capturing, organizing, and retrieving knowledge.


Forte says digital notes apps are “perfectly suited for the demands of modern work”: they’re “informal and messy,” allowing you to capture ideas and snippets of information quickly; they can store different types of media (like text, videos, photos, and audio recordings); and information can be endlessly edited, updated, and adapted for future use.

→ Download Bloks for free

But Do You Really Need a Second Brain?

The idea has its skeptics.

“It’s tantalizing to consider: the idea that the answers to all of our questions are searchable in our own history and experiences, so long as we’re able to save everything (and arrange it in an orderly manner),” Sophie Haigney writes in The Cut, connecting the idea of building a second brain to the “knowledge-management systems” and “personal-knowledge bases” of the past. 

“Do we really need all of that information?” she asks.

The answer, for many, is yes.

Let’s face it: having a single, centralized place outside of our brains to store all the thoughts and information we want to remember clearly has its benefits. 

And that’s why we’ve created this list of the best apps for building a second brain.

For this list, we’re only focusing on apps mentioned in Forte’s building a second brain resources page (with one obvious exception, which we’ll get into below). 

Some of them are simple. Others are complex. But they’re all powerful in their own right.

But before we get into them…

We wanted to tell you about Bloks, and why we think it’s better than having a second brain.

Even with a second brain, there’s still a lot of heavy lifting that goes into making it work: notes need to be captured, summarized, reviewed, and reused to make the most of it.

It takes a highly analytical person to do that, which is why building a second brain, as a concept and method for capturing and organizing information, has grown in popularity with academics, engineers, and researchers.

But not everyone has the time or energy to invest in managing their note-taking app.

Bloks takes the effort out of capturing, organizing, and finding your notes.

Like other note-taking apps on this list, Bloks captures more than just notes—including images, links, and screenshots.

But it also provides users with task management capabilities for keeping track of their to-do lists, intelligent tag suggestions that help organize notecards based on the content of your notes, and syncs with your Gmail and Calendar, so you can add notes to events, see what’s on your schedule, and view relevant notes and recent conversations ahead of important meetings.

Use Bloks to build your second brain, get prepared for your day, or quickly capture thoughts and ideas before you forget them.

Ultimately, our main goal is to help you think clearly

Download Bloks for free.

And now…

Here Are Some of the Best Note-taking Apps for Building a Second Brain 🧠

Apple Notes (available on macOS, iOS, and iCloud)

Pros: Apple Notes (also sometimes referred to as Notes or iCloud Notes) is a built-in note-taking app that comes pre-installed on all Apple devices (including iPhone, iPad, and Mac). Its easy-to-use, simple interface makes it ideal for jotting down quick notes and managing to-do lists. Apple Notes also syncs across devices, so you can take notes and access them on the go.

Users can create different folders and subfolders to organize their notes. And Apple Notes supports multimedia content, like images, drawings, audio, and videos, so you can store different types of information.

Cons: One of Apple Notes’ biggest downsides is that it's only available on Apple devices, meaning that if you’re an Android or Windows user, you’re going to have to use Google Keep if you don’t want to download a third-party note-taking app to use as a second brain. 

Some users say it also lacks advanced organization features, such as tagging or linking between notes, which can make it difficult to find information quickly, especially as you add a large number of notes to your second brain.

Price: Free for 5GB of storage (additional iCloud storage starts at $0.99/month)

Further Reading: The 6 Best Note-Taking Apps for Mac and iOS Users in 2023

Google Keep (available on Android, iOS, Web, and Chrome Extension)

Pros: Similar to Apple Notes, Google Keep is a simple note-taking tool that comes pre-installed on all Windows and Android devices (and can be used as an extension through Google Chrome). Google Keep can also be downloaded to an Apple device, as long as you have a Google account.

Users can create and use customizable labels in Keep to organize notes and add them to their second brain. It also offers advanced search functionalities to help users find notes and integrates with other Google tools (like Google Docs and Google Drive), letting users link to and reference larger documents and files that might be stored outside the note-taking app.

Cons: Aside from lacking advanced features that are common with other note-taking apps on this list, users sometimes find that Google Keep’s lack of formatting options and tagging capabilities make it less practical for serious use as a second brain app. 

Price: Free (additional storage starts at $1.99 a month)

Microsoft OneNote (available on iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, and Web)

Pros: Compared to Apple Notes and Google Keep, Microsoft OneNote is a more advanced digital note-taking tool with better organizational features for use as a second brain. 

Users can create individual notebooks, sections, and pages to store and categorize notes. It also offers more formatting options than Apple Notes or Google Keep, allowing users to add tags, insert different symbols, and move notes and images around on each page—similar to the experience of writing freehand in a blank notebook.

OneNote also integrates with other tools in the Microsoft productivity suite, such as Word, Excel, and Outlook, which may be more beneficial to users who are building a second brain for business or research purposes (Microsoft 365 is more common in professional and academic environments).

Cons: Compared to more straightforward options on this list, OneNote’s biggest drawback as a second brain app is its learning curve. According to some users, it can take some time to get used to how OneNote organizes notes and fully understand all of its features.

Some users report that OneNote doesn’t integrate as well with other third-party apps (like to-do list tools and project management apps), so you’re more restricted to using productivity software from Microsoft’s 365 suite when building your personal knowledge management system.

Price: Free for up to 5GB of storage (additional storage starts at $1.99/month for 100G) 

Evernote (available on Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and Web)

Pros: Building a Second Brain author Tiago Forte is known to use Evernote for his second brain. And, despite limited improvements over the past decade, many still rely on the digital note-taking app for their personal knowledge management.

Like Microsoft OneNote, Evernote allows you to organize notes by notebooks and tags and offers advanced search functionality for finding notes.

Unlike others on this list of the best second brain apps, it also provides users with more common productivity features, like reminders, to-do lists, and templates, which can help users organize their tasks and streamline their workflow.

Evernote also integrates with a variety of apps, including Google Drive, Microsoft Teams, and Slack, so you can link to information outside of the app and don’t have to worry about finding a place to store all your information in Evernote. 

Cons: While Evernote offers a free version, its overall functionality is limited. You’ll need to pay for a premium subscription to access more features and greater storage options. 

Over the years, many users have also claimed that Evernote can become slow or laggy, especially the more you add notes and notebooks to it, and have reported issues with notes not syncing properly across all their devices.

Some users have claimed it can be difficult to export their data to other applications, which could be a problem if you’re looking to switch to a different tool while keeping all your notes and information organized.

Although Evernote’s user interface was once popular among digital note-takers, some people find it could be more intuitive when it comes to organizing notes. Its search capabilities are limited, and some users say that integrations require a lot of manual setups.

Price: Free with limited options (Evernote Professional costs $9.99 a month)

Bear (available on macOS, iOS and iPad)

Pros: As a second-brain app, Bear is known for its clean and intuitive interface. It uses markdown to help users create visually appealing notes. It also provides a tagging system that uses hashtags to help users organize their notes and make them easier to find. 

Bear also allows users to export their notes in a variety of formats, including HTML, Markdown, PDF, DOCX, and JPG—helpful to users who may want to share their notes or import them into other tools.

Cons: While Bear offers a tagging system, it doesn’t provide a hierarchical folder structure, which, for some people (especially those used to Evernote or OneNote), may make it difficult to organize large amounts of information and find specific notes later on.

Bear’s biggest disadvantage as a second brain app is its limited cross-platform support: it’s only available on Apple devices, which could be frustrating for users who need to access their notes on other platforms, such as Windows or Android.

While Bear offers a variety of export options, some users have found them insufficient, particularly when they want to migrate their notes to another app or platform (many of Bear’s export options are only available with a Pro plan.)

Price: Free ($1.49 a month or $14.99 for a Pro plan that offers additional features)

Notion (available on iOS, macOS, Windows, Android, and Web)

Pros: Although not strictly a note-taking tool, Notion has become a popular tool for building a second brain in recent years, especially among Gen Zers and younger millennials, who gravitate towards its user-friendly interface, clean design, and overall flexibility.

Users can use Notion to create notes, pages, databases, and more, all within a single workspace. Notion also integrates with a range of tools and services—including Google Drive, Trello, and Slack—and provides features for task management and project planning, making it more common in group and team settings.

Cons: Because it's so customizable, some people find Notion difficult to learn and navigate, especially new users who may need to become more familiar with the app and its features. 

While it offers a range of formatting options, some users feel that its capabilities are limited compared to similar note-taking tools used for a second brain. 

And, like Evernote, Notion has been known to become slow and laggy, especially when users have multiple notes and databases.

Notion's mobile app is less robust than its desktop counterpart, too, making it difficult to access information on the go. And, because it’s a web-based application, it requires an internet connection to function, meaning there’s no offline mode.

Price: Free for basic use (Plus and Business plans cost anywhere from $10–$18 a month; Notion AI costs an additional $10 per month)

Roam (available on macOS, iOS, Windows, Android, and Linux)

Pros: Unlike other apps on this list, Roam is one of the few tools specifically designed for use as a second brain and personal knowledge management system. It even has a cult-like following online (the so-called #roamcult). 

Roam's daily notes feature guides users to create a new page for each day, helping users keep track of daily tasks, ideas, and notes, while acting as a chronological record of all their thoughts and ideas.

These notes (and others) can be connected using bi-directional linking, which allows users to create links between ideas and notes via backlinks, making it easier to explore related ideas and see connections between what they’re capturing. 

Another feature that separates Roam from more straightforward note-taking tools on this list is its graph database structure, which gives users a view of all their notes and how they're related, allowing them to see patterns and connections when researching or writing about particular topics.

Cons: Roam's graph database structure and bi-directional linking—although handy for some—can be overwhelming, with some users finding the learning curve higher than most traditional note-taking tools.

The cost is steeper than most, too (a Pro plan is $165 a year). That, combined with a lack of formatting options and a basic mobile version, may cause some friction with users who are used to traditional note-taking apps and just beginning to explore the concept of building a second brain and personal knowledge management apps in general.

Price: $15 a month or $165 a year (a Believer plan costs $500 for five years and comes with early access to new features, community calls with the team behind Roam, and priority support)

Obsidian (available on MacOS, iOS, Windows, Android, and Linux)

Pros: Obsidian is a personal knowledge management tool that has gained popularity among users as a powerful tool for creating a second brain.

In many ways, Obsidian is similar to Roam: both provide users with bi-directional linking and graph databases, and the platform is highly customizable.

But what separates Obsidian from Roam is its markdown support and offline mode.

Obsidian stores all of a user's data locally on their device, meaning they can access their notes even offline. But the main benefit is that none of their information is stored on the cloud, which means all their notes are secure (unless someone hacks into their computer or it's damaged) and accessible, even if the app shutdowns.

Similarly, Obsidian's markdown support allows users to customize their notes using an array of formatting options and import them to other platforms if they ever decide to use a different app for their second brain.

Additionally, Obsidian has an active community of users who share tips and tricks and create plugins that help users get the most out of the tool. It's relatively affordable compared to other premium personal knowledge management tools on this list.

Cons: There's one downside to Obsidian allowing you to store all your information locally: users will need to regularly back up their files to ensure they keep everything if their computer crashes or is stolen.  (Although it’s possible to sync notes from Obsidian to cloud storage services like Dropbox, doing so requires additional setup and may not be as fast or reliable as cloud-based note-taking apps.)

Although it's possible to integrate Obsidian with other apps, many of the plugins (867 and counting) are community made, meaning that some apps in people's personal knowledge management systems may not integrate as easily.

Price: Free for personal use; a $25 one-time payment for Catalyst pricing (early access to insider builds and the Obsidian community); $50 per year for commercial use

Logseq (available on macOS, iOS, Windows, and Android)

Pros: Logseq is an open-source, privacy-focused note-taking and personal knowledge management app, similar to tools like Obsidian and Roam, that provides users with bi-directional linking and customizable workflows for taking notes, organizing their life, and using it as a second brain.

Bi-directional linking allows users to link notes to and from specific pages, creating a network of connected ideas for easier navigation and organization of their notes. And Logseq automatically generates backlinks, which helps users see which pages link to each other, so they can see any overlap between their notes and ideas.

In addition to offline support, Logseq is open source, meaning users can customize the software to suit their needs.

Logseq also integrates with more advanced second brain apps on this list, including Roam Research and Obsidian, which means users can import their existing notes into Logseq, helping keep their second brains intact while minimizing disruption to their workflow.

Cons: Some users say Logseq can be hard to learn initially—especially for new users unfamiliar with Markdown syntax or bi-directional linking. The software requires a bit of technical knowledge and effort to set up and customize to your liking.

Unlike Roam and Obsidian, some have said that Logseq has limited support and documentation available on how to use it as a second brain app and troubleshoot issues. But their website recently underwent an overhaul and has more detailed walkthroughs on their blog.

Price: Free

Final Thoughts Before Building Your Second Brain

None of our brains are perfect. We can only hold and remember so much information.

That’s the benefit of using a note-taking app to build a second brain.

“With all your most valuable ideas at your fingertips at all times, you never need to struggle and strain to remember everything you’ve learned,” Forte writes. “Instead of endlessly optimizing yourself, trying to become a productivity machine that never deviates from the plan, it has you optimize an external system that is more reliable than you will ever be.”

But maybe you’re not looking for a system that you have to optimize endlessly.

If you’re looking for a note-taking app that does the hard work for you, get early access to Bloks—available on macOS, iOS, Android, and Chrome Extension.

Whether you’re a sales superstar, in-demand consultant, busy recruiter, or someone who simply needs to schedule a lot of meetings, one thing’s for sure—you’ve probably booked a lot of them over the past two years.

Hybrid work has forced the majority of our meetings online, and while we appreciate being able to wear sweatpants during normal work hours, the time-consuming ballet that is sharing your availability, finding a time to meet, and adding it to your calendar isn’t quite as enjoyable. 

Speaking with everyone from solopreneurs to seasoned professionals, it seems like a lot of people find meeting scheduling software either costly, impersonal, or just plain boring. And Calendly and other alternatives don’t always cut it.

We hear you. 

Everyone is different, and so is how they work. Making good first impressions is important, and you shouldn’t have to pay a premium for them or basic customizations and integrations with your meeting booking system.

Nook Calendar’s meeting proposal feature is already used by tons of high-performing teams for selecting and proposing meeting times outside of their organization. 

Now, we’re making things even easier by letting you build personal pages with shareable calendar-booking links, right in Nook Calendar. Add them to your LinkedIn profile, email signature, website, or messages when finding a time to meet.

We think it’s the best meeting scheduling software out there, and we’re excited for you to give it a try, so let’s get started.

Here’s How to Set Up a Personal Booking Page in Nook Calendar

First off, if you’re new to Nook Calendar—hello! (If you’re already a Nook user, you can skip ahead.)

You’re going to start by syncing your calendar—either from Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook—and entering your work email address.

Once you approve any necessary permissions, you’ll set up your People Bar. Search for any connections and add the people you interact with the most when scheduling meetings.

From there, you can add any additional calendars you want to see (add your personal one, if you like, to further prevent any overlaps when scheduling meetings), integrate with Zoom (so you can launch calls straight from your calendar), and choose your preferred display setting—select Match OS, Light Mode, or Dark Mode.

Launch Nook Calendar, and you’re ready to set up your online meeting scheduler.

Now, the fun begins

You’re going to start by claiming your unique URL for sharing your meeting availability page. 

Your first name appears by default, but really, it can be anything. We recommend using your full name (e.g., /john-smith).

(You can always change your URL in the future, as long as it’s still available.)

From there, you want to complete your profile. 

Your profile pic is automatically pulled in from your Microsoft or GCal account.

But you can add your name, job title, welcome message, and links to social media profiles or professional website, so guests know a bit more about you when booking a meeting. 

Then, you can start setting your weekly availability.

Nook Calendar defaults to traditional time blocks—9–12 a.m. and 1–5 p.m. These are the hours someone can book a meeting from your personal page. Adjust them based on your availability. 

Your timezone is automatically set to your local time, but you can change it if you primarily work with people in a different timezone and it’s better to visualize that when setting your availability.

Choose which calendar you want to accept meetings in—it can only be booked in one, but Nook Calendar will automatically reference your availability in other calendars you’ve synced to prevent double-bookings when someone schedules a meeting.

Now, it’s time to set up some paramaters. 

You can set up your preferred meeting duration in either 15, 30, 45-minute or one-hour increments (or a custom time).

You can also add buffer time to give yourself a break between meetings, or set a lead time of up to 24 hours, so no one can book any last-minute meetings.

And you’re all set! You can preview what the page will look like, then share it with contacts or add it to your LinkedIn profile (we suggest adding it as a secondary URL), email signature, and anywhere else you do business.

Once someone books time in your calendar, you’ll receive an email and get a notification in the Pulse.

If you ever need to make any changes, you can access your personal meeting page in the bottom of the Magic Panel and make any adjustments—either to your weekly availability or personal information.

You can also remove your availability by simply creating events in Nook Calendar and marking them as Busy to block off time and prevent any bookings.

Nook Calendar’s new personal pages for sharing meeting availability are available on Web, iOS, and Android. 
If you have any questions or thoughts, we’d love to hear them. Hit us up in our Slack Community or contact us through Support.