ColorNote: The Best Android App for Note-taking?

You’re out and about, you spot something, or perhaps think of a message you don’t want to forget – this latter point becomes especially prevalent the older we get.  They say that with age comes wisdom, unfortunately forgetfulness is often just a small misstep behind.

So, you’ve got this important information bouncing around inside your head and you need to jot it down.  You don’t have a pen and paper, and even if you did, you might misplace your note – what was that I just said about memory?

What to do?

Odds are, you’ve got the answer right in your pocket.  Most of us these days carry our phones around with us wherever we go.  They’re like an extra limb; it can certainly feel as though we’ve lost some vital part of us if we ever forget it.  Strange to think, barely twenty-five years ago, hardly anyone even owned a mobile (or cell phone, if you live on the other side of the pond)!

That sleek, shiny, slab of glass, otherwise known as the Android smartphone; capable of playing games, browsing the web, consuming your favourite TV shows and movies… and so much more.  Believe it or not, they still make phone calls, too.  But how does this help us when it comes to note-taking?  Isn’t such a basic function beneath these all singing and dancing devices?

Sure, not all phones will come with a built-in notes app, and those that do may not be up to much.  Fear not, my fellow technology lovers, the solution to all our woes (well, note-related problems, at any rate) is just a few screen taps away.

Allow me to introduce you to… ColorNote.

Getting started with ColorNote

The best way to learn ColorNote is to use it, and that’s precisely what we’re going to do in this tutorial.  Even if you’re already familiar with this app, you may not be getting the most out of it.  So stick with me as I guide you through the various features and functions available in this versatile note-taking program.

Feel free to read right through, step by step; or if you’re if you’re searching for how to do something more specific, you can click on any of the following headings to jump straight to that part.

Installing the app
Creating a Text note
Adding a splash of colour
Closing a note
Making a Checklist
Opening a note
Using a Checklist
The note menu
ColorNote main menu
ColorNote Notes screen
A word on widgets
Back it up
Is ColorNote available for other platforms?

Installing the app

That’s right, the first thing we need to do is go download it (if you haven’t got it installed already).  Head over to the Google Play store and search for ColorNote.  As you will see in the following screenshot, its full name is ColorNote Notepad Notes To do, but as that’s a bit of a mouthful, I’ll stick to calling it ColorNote.

Once you locate the app, tap the “Install” button to load it on to your phone.  When it’s finished installing, click “Open”.

Note, it should have also created a shortcut on your homescreen for when you need to open it in future.

The first time you open the app, it will ask you to grant it permission to access the photos, media and files on your device.  This is so that ColorNote can also use your phone’s internal storage to save your notes.

Click “ALLOW” as shown here.

ColorNote may then ask if you’d like to go through an on-screen tutorial.  Explore this by all means, but we’ll be covering that information and much more besides right here.  So let’s dig in.

Creating a Text note

As you’ll soon discover, ColorNote allows us to create two different types of notes.

We add either of them in the same way, by tapping the + sign at the top of the screen.

Two options will present themselves: Text or Checklist.

These are the types of note.  We’ll create a new text note first by tapping “Text”.  An empty note will appear with a cursor flashing in the main section of the note.

You can either:

Start typing your note.  In which case, the first few words will be automatically used as the title.

Or, if you’d prefer a separate title from your note’s contents, tap in the box at the top and create it, then tap in the main section to start typing the note itself (as illustrated below).

Once you’ve finished typing your note, tap the tick (top left) to save it, as shown in the following figure.  You can also press the back button on your phone to do the same thing – though you have to tap this twice (once to hide the on-screen keyboard, and again to save the note).

Adding a splash of colour

One extremely handy feature that you may well wish to use is colour-coding your notes – why else opt for ColorNote over myriad other note-taking apps; the clue is in the title, after all.

To change a note’s colour, simply tap the coloured box at the top of the screen (highlighted here).

Doing so will open up a colour picking grid.  Just tap the colour you’d like to use for your note, and, hey presto, instant colour change.  This works in exactly the same way whether you’re creating a text note or a checklist.

Closing a note

To exit out of a note, tap on the left pointing arrow (or tap your phone’s back button once), as in the image below.

Okay, now we’ve looked at jotting down your first text note, let’s see what a checklist has to offer.

Making a Checklist

ColorNote’s second note-type is a Checklist.  This works a little differently from a text note, however once you get used how the app works, many of the same functions can be used in both types of note.

Let’s create our first checklist.

From ColorNote’s Notes screen, tap the + symbol at the top (as you did previously when making a new text note).

This time tap “Checklist”, as highlighted here.

The first thing we’re going to do is give our checklist a title.  Your on-screen keyboard should have already popped up, so start typing.  If it didn’t, click in the title box (shown in the next screenshot with my title, “Movies to go see”) and, when the keyboard appears, type in the name of your checklist.

Next, tap on “Add Item”.  Yes, there are two of them, but at this stage it doesn’t matter which one, as there are no items in our list yet.

In the screenshot opposite I’ve added the Mortal Engines film to my list.

Once you’ve typed in your first item, tap “OK”.  You’ll see your item has been added to the list.  As this is your first item, it’s on its own at this point.  So let’s add some more.  Now that we have an item in the list, the two “Add Item” functions make more sense, as we can tap the top one to add our next item above the first, or the bottom one to add it below.  Choose one and enter your second item, then a third… and so on.

If you later decide to alter the order of your items, this can be changed very easily.  Press and hold on the two small arrows to the left of the item you wish to move, as in the image shown here.

When the line lights up green, you can drag it to the desired position and let go.  Remember you can change the colour of the checklist in exactly the same way we did earlier with the text note.

Once we’re happy with our list, it’s time to save it.  Again, this is exactly the same process as with a text note.  So tap the tick (top left) or use the back button.  Now exit your checklist, and return to ColorNote’s Notes screen (pictured below), by tapping the left arrow (again, top left) or using the back button once more.

Opening a note

To open a note (either text or checklist), simply tap on it.  Your note will open in view mode.  This is good, as we don’t want to accidentally alter anything.  However, should you wish to make further changes to it, you need to go back into edit mode.

To do this, either tap the pencil icon at the top, or double-tap on the screen.

You should now be able to edit your note.  NB. In a text note, you can tap anywhere within the existing note to position the cursor ready for editing.

Tone’s Tip. Press and hold on a word to select it (shown here).

You can press and hold one of the handles that appear and drag to select multiple words, if required.  On the toolbar that also appears, you can then CUT or COPY the selected text, carry out a WEB SEARCH with it, SHARE it with another app, or SELECT ALL of the note’s text.  To paste any text you’ve copied back into another part of the same note (or into any other note), press and hold on the screen where you want to put it.  When you let go, and the menu reappears, tap “PASTE”.

Using a Checklist

The biggest difference between the two types of note (text and checklist), and the reason you would choose one over the other, is that a checklist has the option (as the name suggests) to check items off the list.  To do this, open your checklist and tap an item to cross it off, as pictured here.

Don’t worry, you can always tap it again to put it back.  Now, let’s really dive into what’s possible within a note, as we look at…

The note menu

Both text notes and checklists have a dropdown menu.  To access it, open a note and tap the three vertical dots at the top right of the screen.  When making or editing a note this menu is identical regardless of note-type.  However, when viewing a note, there is a small difference between the two, which I’ll explain at the end of this section.

So let’s open the menu.  First, make sure your note is in edit mode (you can tell this by checking the top bar contains the colour changing square and not the pencil symbol).

As you can see, there are a few options available to us.  We’ll look at them each in turn.

Revert

Tapping this will go back to your note’s last saved state, removing any changes or mistakes you may have made since you started re-editing it.

Lock

This allows you to password protect your note – pretty handy.

Send

As the name implies, you can send your note somewhere else.

For example, in an email or text message, or even on to social media.

Reminder

This is a cool one.  Tapping it let’s you choose how you want to be reminded about your note.

You can pin it to your phone’s status bar, as illustrated in the next screenshot.  Set it as a calendar reminder (with “REMIND ME TODAY”), which, despite the slightly misleading title, can remind you on any day, not just Today – in fact, it can even issue repeat reminders on a schedule.  You can also have it remind you at a set time (there are defaults for 15 or 30 minutes, but, as with the date, any time can be set).

Archive

If you’ve finished with a note, but don’t want to get rid of it, you have the option to archive it, so that it won’t show up unless you specifically go searching for it.

Delete

This one’s pretty obvious as to what it does.  Note, there is a Trash Can (or Recycle Bin, if you prefer), so while your deleted note will be gone, it’s not forgotten.  This is handy if you accidentally remove something, but you may want to periodically go in and empty the Trash Can, which I’ll show you how to do shortly.

Note menu differences between view and edit modes

Now we’re going to put our note into viewing mode and see what changes in the note’s menu.  To do this, either tap the tick at the top left of the screen (or use the back button), or close your note and open it again.  Assuming you’re in view mode, you’ll see the little pencil symbol at the top of your note.  Now open the menu (tap the three vertical dots at the top right of the screen).

If we do this first in a text note, you’ll notice the menu is almost identical to in edit mode.  The only difference is what was the “Revert” entry has now gone, and in its place we have “Check”.  Tapping this places a strikethrough the title of our text note.  If you tap the menu again, you’ll see the entry has changed to “Uncheck”, allowing you to remove the strikethrough, if you made a mistake.

Now let’s see how the note’s menu differs in a checklist that’s in view rather than edit mode.  Open your checklist.  Were we to start editing our list and tap the note’s menu, as with our text note, it also has a “Revert” entry (indeed, in edit mode, both note’s menus are identical).  In view mode, also like a text note, this entry disappears.  However, unlike a text note, our checklist note’s menu now has an entry called “List”.  Tapping this shows us the following.

We now have the option to sort the items in our list, to check or uncheck all of the items, and even to remove any checked items from the list entirely.

So there we have the note’s menu.  Next, let’s look at ColorNote’s main menu.

ColorNote main menu

I hope you’re starting to feel at home with ColorNote, so let’s delve a little deeper under the hood.  For this, we’ll explore the main menu.

From the Notes screen, tap the three horizontal lines at the top left, as highlighted opposite.

The main menu will open on the left of the screen (shown in the following screenshot).

“Notes” should be highlighted as that’s the screen we were on.

Below Notes is “Calendar”.  Tapping this opens a full calendar from where you can touch any date to create a text note or checklist (pictured below) with the calendar reminder already set.

Next on the main menu we have “Archive”.  Tap this to view notes that you’ve previously archived.

From here you can open any of them.  Once open, you can “Unarchive” or “Delete” an archived note (from its top right dropdown menu – tap the three vertical dots to access it).

After this comes the “Trash Can”.  Tap this menu entry to see your deleted notes.  From here, you can touch the small picture of a bin on a note to delete that individual note, or tap the larger bin icon at the top right of the Trash Can screen (highlighted in the next screenshot) to permanently remove all your deleted notes; as a precaution, it will ask you to confirm this first.

A spot of restoration?

Yes, should you happen to delete one of your notes accidentally, you can also restore it from within the Trash Can.

Open the deleted note in question and tap the curved arrow (as highlighted in the image) to confirm that you want to restore it, and, just like that, it’s as though you never deleted it in the first place.

The next entry in the main menu is “Search”.  This is a great tool for quickly locating a particular note.  You may find that, as you add ever more notes, it can become all the more challenging to locate the one you’re looking for.

Search allows you to type in a word, or even a sentence.  If that word (or whole sentence) appears in any of your notes, it will automatically list them for you.  Better still, Search is not case sensitive, so you don’t have to worry about remembering whether you used capital letters or not.

Next up is “Theme”.  As the name of this menu entry suggests, it allows you to change ColorNote’s appearance.

Three themes are available: Default, Soft and DarkIs it me, or are dark themes taking over the world these days? Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of ColorNote’s adaptation. To me, it makes the colours less effective.  I’d suggest the Soft theme if you find the Default a little too vivid for your eyes.

Then we have an entry for “Settings”.

Here we can set the default colour for all our notes.  Simply tap “Default color” (as highlight above) and pick a colour.  Other items of interest in the Settings are…

Default font size

If you find the text too small (or large).

List item height

Could be useful if you’d like to fit more items on a smaller phone’s screen.

Auto backup

As the name tells us, checking this box will let ColorNote regularly backup your notes automatically (something I advise doing, as you don’t want to lose all your precious notes).

Master password

Set, reset, or clear the Master password.  This is used to encrypt and decrypt any notes that you’ve locked with a password.  It is also used if you’d like to encrypt your backups, which we’ll come to shortly (for security, I suggest that you set a Master password – just don’t forget it!)

Last up on the main menu, we have “Tutorial”.  This starts the same tutorial you were offered when you first opened the app.

You can launch it from here, in case you missed it.

Tone’s Tip. When you’ve finished in the main menu, be sure to select the “Notes” entry to return to all your notes.

ColorNote Notes screen

If you’re not creating or editing a note, odds are, most of the rest of your time using this app will be spent in here. Besides flicking through the notes you’ve already made (and easily being able to make new ones), there are a few other useful actions that can be carried out from the Notes screen.

Notice, the same Search tool found in the main menu is available right on the top bar.

Tap the magnifying glass (highlighted opposite) to get searching.

There’s also a dropdown list at the top right of the screen.

Tap the three vertical dots (above) to reveal it.

This allows us to perform several useful functions.  “Color” let’s you list all of your notes of a single colour.  For example, you could show only the notes you created in red.

Tone’s Tip. Remember to go back into Color and select “All colors” to show all of your notes again.

Sort” allows us to arrange our notes by a range of criteria.  E.g. Alphabetically, by colour, or even by the time they were created.

View” let’s us change how our notes appear: in a List, Details, or (Large) Grid.

We also have access to the “Search” tool from here as well – apparently ColorNote REALLY wants us to search!

Then we come to “Backup”, which I’ll cover in a moment, which leaves just another entry for “Settings”.

A word on widgets

ColorNote also supports widgets.  What is a widget you may ask?  It’s merely an object you can place on your phone’s homescreen.  But isn’t that called a shortcut?  Usually, yes, but in that instance you just get a small picture (or icon) on your homescreen with which to open the app.  A widget is a little larger, so takes up more space, but as a result can perform some added functionality.

With ColorNote, this gives you the option to actually display one of your notes directly on your phone’s homescreen, then when you tap it, not only does it open the app, it also takes you straight to that note.

To do this, make sure you have some free space on your homescreen.  Then press and hold in that space.  Your display should alter and there should be a “Widgets” option available.  Tap this and scroll through the available widgets until you find “ColorNote”.  Select it and choose the size of your widget (2×2 is a good size, if you have the available real estate).

Now hold your finger on the chosen size and drag it on to your homescreen.  An outline will show you where it will be positioned.  When you’ve found the right spot, let go.

Your notes will pop-up on the screen.  Scroll through them until you find the one you’d like to place on the homescreen, then tap on it.  Finally, you can resize the widget by dragging any of its edges.  Tap another part of the screen when your happy with the results.

Congratulations, you’ve added your first ColorNote widget.

Back it up

We’ve put in the groundwork and are ready to get on with our note-taking, so now would be a good time to create a backup.  Tap the dropdown list on the Notes screen to get started, then tap “Backup”.

There are two types of backup available: Cloud and Device.

Cloud Backup

ColorNote offers its own cloud backup solution.  If you select this option, your notes will be encrypted before they are uploaded (which is more secure).  You can either sign up for an account, or sign in through Facebook or Google.

Device Backup

If you tap this tab, you can press “BACKUP NOTES” to create an immediate backup.  If you’ve followed my advice and set up a Master Password (in Settings) to encrypt your locked notes and backups, you will have to enter that password now before the backup completes.

Is ColorNote available for other platforms?

Unfortunately, there’s no iPhone app, but there is a version for Windows 8 or higher (grab it from the Windows Store).

And that about does it.  I hope you now have a pretty good understanding of how to get the most out of ColorNote, but before we finish let’s return to the opening question…

Closing note (pun intended)

Is Colornote the best Android App for your note-taking?

As with most things in life, this is a subjective question.  In my mind, the answer is yes.  But you may already be using a notes app.  It’s not as though there’s any shortage of them out there: Google Keep, Evernote, Microsoft’s OneNote… the list goes on.  However, there’s a good reason Colornote has been downloaded more than 100 million times from Google’s Play store.  Not only is it free, it’s also great at what it does: allowing you to store and neatly organize notes on your mobile phone, ready to be called upon whenever you need them.  Hopefully you’re discovering that it’s pretty easy to use, too.

So, whether it’s your weekly shopping list, or a series of jottings for that best-selling novel you’ve always dreamed of writing… whatever your musings, it’s time to go nuclear with your notes!