Four interesting, non-hierarchical freeware notes programs

This article will present four novel, free note taking apps: Treesheets, Tobu, Cintanotes, and MindRaider. Each one of these apps is unique in its own way, yet they have one thing in common in that they are not your traditional, hierarchical-tree based notes programs.

1. Treesheets: this program is a conflation of a note-taking app with a spreadsheet. It employs the same cell-based spreadsheet structure with one important exception: the cells are designed to contain large amounts of data within them.

This means that once cell can contain, say, a header or category with 4 cells underneath it containing your information for that category, and yet each one of those cells can be literally”zoomed into” to reveal, say, dozens of rows of information within each one.

The result: a visual matrix that can be worked with easily, with huge amounts of information embedded within individual cells that can be accessed/revealed by zooming in (and out) of them.

Notetakers Screenshot2

Treesheets screenshot

Treesheets is one of the most original notes programs that I’ve come across in a long time, and despite being quite a mature software it still feels like a work in progress to me. The interface in particular takes a bit of getting used to (especially as it diverges in it’s functionality from that Microsoft spreadsheet that most of us use). Nonetheless it is a great way to organize, store and access information and packs quite a “wow” factor.

[via DonationCoder]

Tobu Screenshot 2. Tobu: this program’s slogan is “information should organize itself”, and while Tobu doesn’t quite achieve that goal, it offers an excellent interface for organizing notes using tags rather than a hierarchical tree structure.

Tobu displays notes based on relationships; type in a tag and you will get a list of all relevant notes, as well as a column-view of all other associated tags. You can then type in more tags in the filter box(es) to narrow your list of notes further. But the program goes one step further by allowing the user to assign values to tags (for example you can make up a tag such as “Rating” an assign it, say, values from 1 to 5). The end result of this is a database like functionality wherein tags connect notes to each other and function as database fields with user-defined values (and which can be a very useful/powerful tool for organizing information).

Cintanotes Screenshot3. Cintanotes: is a free, lightweight notes program that is really simple and straightforward and is organized around tags rather than a tree structure.

There are a number of things that make Cintanotes attractive; (1) it is very well suited to entering quick notes; (2) has a note-clipping function whereby you can select text in an app or in your browser and press ctrl+F12 to clip straight into Cintanotes (it will even preserve the URL if clipped from a browser, which is nice); (3) has a handy search function; (4) can display a tag “sidebar” that is really useful for navigation, and (5) can be run portably or from a USB drive.

MindRaider Screenshot 4. MindRaider: two things you need to know about this one; (1) it can organize your notes around a hierarchical tree structure as well as a tags both, and (2) it will automatically create a “mind map” representations of your notes, outlining the various relationships between your notes and creating a visual representation of the interactions that may exist in your information.

MindRaider offers a slew of other functions, including multiple notes formats, linking between various notes or entities (including URLs and local files), and a powerful search function.



  • If you know of other interesting FREE notes apps please let me know in the comments section
  • If you are interested in more of a “traditional” hierarchical outliner type notes app check out KeynoteNF (a newer version of Keynote that is back in development; NF stands for “New Features”), SEO Note, or TreeDBNotes Free.

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  • paolodelmare

    You can also consider which is a lightweight note taking software.
    This is a KISS an windows-only (2000 and upwards) application.


    Additional free alternative note taking software: (Mpad) (TheGuide)

    All the best from bRaZiL.

  • hari

    Thanks for the post, I really looking for this kind of program. The previous Evernote still the best application I can found (current version cannot run on W2K), only the look that I don’t like. While Cintanote good on it, but still need some more features. I really hope the keep developing Cintanote.
    Tiddlywiki and all its variant (MPTV is my favorite) should be in the list, simple yet powerful, with a tweak we can also have WYSIWYG editor with tiddlywiki.

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  • Joe

    Treesheets is also portable:

    Note that it does have a single setting (default font), which it saves to the registry (only if you change it).

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  • starroute

    Here are some other note-taking programs I use either regularly or occasionally. The first two are basically hierarchical organizers but with additional forms of internal linking that take them beyond the simple tree outliners. They’re not as handy for quick notes but can be excellent for organizing data — research files, inventories, etc.:

    TheKBase –

    NeoMem –

    There’s also xmind, which I believe was featured here recently. Basically a mindmapper, it’s got an abundance of ways to append notes, links, etc. and I’m finding it a good way of assembling collections of related information.

  • RG

    Nice overview thanx, really liking CintaNotes

  • taffit

    Thanks for this article.
    Even if it isn’t under development anymore, ShirusuPad is still one of my favourites: it is small, runs from an USB stick, it runs silently in the background until a shortcut is pressed. Notes can be “extracted” to floating sticky notes, you can set alarms, … I’m just sad that it isn’t developed anymore and its source code isn’t availabe (the author prior to leave development was thinking of making its code available).
    Take a look:

  • Samer

    Thanks for all the feedback guys. I hadn’t known about some of these apps; downloading 😉

    Wondering if anybody knows of a notes program that is organized by tags and is an RSS client as well (i.e. allows for organizing/tagging RSS entries as well as notes). There was one program that did this that I used a long time ago (whose name I now forget), but it wasn’t a very good implementation.

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  • Andrew

    Those seem pretty cool, haven’t used them yet. Probably wont, memento is my favorite note program. Its low on features and hasn’t been updated since ’05. But I like it.

  • Neotoma

    I really like Keynote NF. It has many features, is Portable and OpenSource.
    Give it a try :

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  • D. Jack

    How about this free notes APP:

  • Doug H

    I love these programs, though I never have enough time to really try them out! Am currently working with Evernote, Microsoft’s OneNote, and Aignes AM-Notebook registered version.

    AM-Notebook is another in the long line of hierarchical note programs. There is a free Lite version available. Has spreadsheet capabilities, etc. I used to use TreePad and went with AM-Notebook after that, but haven’t examined many of the above (I had liked Keynote, didn’t know it was resurrected).

    Anyway, thought I should mention AM-Notebook just for completeness. It is still updated, last update was May 2009.

  • Scott

    I’ve been using a combination of Notescraps and Cinta Notes to manage my information. But the biggest problem I had with this was that due to a lack of password protection. Now I am using Smart PIM ( I really like this free notes manager.

  • Scott

    I’ve been using a combination of Notescraps and Cinta Notes to manage my information. But the biggest problem I had with this was that due to a lack of password protection. Now I am using (SmartPIM). I really like this free notes manager.

  • neeraj

    mars notebook is the one I use.

    Pretty happy with it for almost a year now.

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  • d9ping

    An other suggestion: NoteFly, really small application under 100kb.

  • Sann

    I’m using Google Sites ( for taking long-term notes. You can set password on them and access any of your notes word wide. It supports themes, comments, file attachments, easy to create hierarchical menus and you can even include contents into pages (using it all the time).
    Right now I have 4 sites on different projects storing my notes and ideas safely and accessible.

    I didn’t know that there are sooo many note taking apps. Long before I was using simple text files, then I found OneNote. Using text files is not convenient, OneNote is a real helper, but has a very clunky interface and it’s slow.

    So Google Sites is the solution for me right now for long term notes. But I’m still looking for a very simple, pretty mini-note taking app.

  • Peter

    For a different take on note taking software have a look at IDEA! from SYCON

  • Ahmose

    WikidPad is hierarchical, can work with tags (you write them inside the note like this: [tag: tag1, tag2, etc], can export to html, is a Wiki so it automatically links and updates links between the notes/pages as you type, can save its database as .txt so you can find them using any desktop search, or save them in another format so they be more hidden, has a large community, is now opensource.

  • John R

    No one has mentioned Flashnote – It’s barebones, not much more than notepad, really, but has a hierarchical database for notes, and saves immediately, there is no save button. You never lose anything, unless you accidentally delete it yourself.

  • T800

    I heavily use TreeDBNotes Free.

    Beware, this is notes manager for power users. My advice: Pro version doesn’t have anything more to offer, Free is just fine.
    I use it constantly at work because the document tree feature is super useful when I want to quickly navigate across my text’s chapters, while others struggle through MS Word (haha, serves them right).

  • Kewapo

    There is a little tiny program: tiddlywiki. Is a html file (wiki-style) where you can add notes in a non-linear way.

    It has many plugins and is highly configurable.

    Is multiplatform (you only need firefox, or explorer, or safari, or opera with javascript active).

    The web is: