Note-Taking Software

Note-taking software is an informal category describing programs that provide a range of tools to aid in recording and organizing information. Features can include audio recording and transcription, text editing to add your own notes, tagging sections of audio or text for later review, and AI-generated summaries or quizzes on the recorded information.

Who can benefit?

  • People looking to improve their note-taking or organizational systems
  • People who are concerned about their focus wandering or not writing down important information during class
  • People who want to be fully engaged during lectures, instead of splitting their attention by taking notes

Below is an example note-taking program used at the University of Illinois, as well as some free alternatives available to anyone. The free alternatives listed are by no means exhaustive, and many won’t have all the features available from paid programs. However, they do give a good example of the basic functionalities available, and may help determine whether it’s worth pursuing more feature-rich alternatives.

Disclaimer: DRES and the University of Illinois do not formally endorse or recommend any specific software programs. The programs listed below serve as examples of different categories of AT, with a focus on the software available to University of Illinois students registered with DRES with assistive technology as part of their accommodations. For vendors interested in having their AT programs featured on the DRES website, please contact us at


Platforms: Web, Android, iOS.

Glean is a study tool that records and transcribes lectures, allowing students to pay attention and engage more fully in class without worrying about missing important information. A 2023 survey of Glean users found that students were less stressed, more confident, and got better grades after using Glean, particularly among first-year and at-risk students.

Feature Highlights

  • Audio recording & transcription: Glean records lecture audio in-person or online, and generates a text transcript that can be read or re-played later
  • Text notes: Include notes, headings, and tags alongside the audio transcript
  • Multimedia resources: Upload PowerPoint slides, images, and Wikipedia articles to your notes for later reference
  • Note syncing: Transcript, notes, and other resources are all synced to the audio recording, letting you see all relevant information in one place
  • Study tools: Set Pomodoro-style focus timers or quiz yourself with an AI-generated quiz on recorded materials
  • Organization and search: Sort recordings into personalized categories, and search all recordings, notes, and other resources in one place

See it in action

Glean’s YouTube channel offers a number of playlists showing off its various features. Start with their Intro video to get a feel for the basics, and browse their Hints & Tips playlist to see how to effectively utilize it when you study.

Free(mium) Note-Taking Alternatives

Glean’s combination of audio recording, transcription, and note syncing is difficult to find with fully free programs. The alternatives listed below offer some restricted functionality for free, but may offer premium subscriptions that remove some of their limitations.

Microsoft OneNote

Platforms: Web, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS.
How to get it: Try OneNote here.
Feature limitations: Does not transcribe recorded audio


Platforms: Web, Android, iOS.
How to get it: Try Evernote here.
Feature limitations: Does not transcribe recorded audio

Platforms: Web, Android, iOS.
How to get it: Try here.
Feature limitations: Month recording/transcription limits[1]


Platform: Web.
How to get it: Try tl;dv here.
Feature limitations:

  • Live recordings limited to integration with Google Meet, MS Teams, Zoom[1]
  • Limited asynchronous lecture uploads[1]

[1] This restriction is removed with a paid account

For More Information

If any of these programs sounded useful to you, contact your Access Specialist or begin the accommodation process today to get an assistive technology program added to your accommodations. For questions or to request personalized AT training, email AMS at and include “[AT]” in the subject line.