Your Resource Guide to Building a Second Brain

Finding and choosing the right tools to support your Second Brain can be confusing. We created this guide to help you navigate the ever-changing technology landscape.

Below, you’ll find a curated list of established tools used in our community, answers to common questions on how to choose the right apps, and much more. 

How to Choose Your Notetaking App

While a Second brain is not one app but your entire digital ecosystem, your notes app is at the very core of it. It’s where information from other places such as read-later apps and web clippers is gathered in a trusted place where you can begin working with it.

When you’re getting started, choosing your notes app can feel overwhelming and paralyzing. Here is a simple framework and guidelines you can use to make that choice with confidence.

Choosing an App Based On Your Notetaking Style

Check out the video below for a step-by-step guide on how to choose a notes app for your Second Brain based on your notetaking style and preferences.

The natural way you think, learn, and take notes can help you identify the best app for your situation. There are four styles to consider:

The Architect

Architects enjoy planning, designing, and creating their own processes. They benefit from a notes app that allows them to easily build their own structure, customize it and bring their ideas to life.

Recommended app: Notion or Craft

The Gardener

Gardeners enjoy exploring their thoughts and connecting ideas. They benefit from a notes app with a "bottom-up" approach where ideas and connections can emerge organically. These apps will make it easy to link notes together.

Recommended app: Obsidian or Roam

The Librarian

Librarians enjoy collecting notes and building a catalog of useful resources. They benefit from a notes app that provides a straightforward structure and allows for easy retrieval of their notes to support their projects and goals.

Recommended app:
Evernote or Microsoft OneNote

The Student

The student doesn’t have a strong preference for any of these archetypes. Their notes serve a clear purpose that’s often based on a short-term priority (e.g, writing a paper or passing a test), with the goal to “get it done” as simply as possible.

Recommended app:
Apple Notes or Google Keep

You’ll likely resonate with one style more than another. This isn’t an exact science so trust your intuition.

Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to find a single app to fulfill all your needs. You might use more than one tool at a time depending on the use case.

3 Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Choosing Your App

1. Putting Too Many Expectations On Any One App

Choosing a notes app is a bit like looking for a romantic partner. The one person that is perfect in every way doesn’t exist. You have to make compromises. Similarly, there‘s no perfect tool that will fulfill every need you have. Remember that your notetaking app is just one part of the digital ecosystem that is your Second Brain. You can and will work with other apps as part of your system.

2. Trying To Anticipate Every Future Need 

For now, don’t worry about what you think you might need from your notes app a year from now. Choose the app you can get started with right now with the least hassle. What’s important is that you start practicing the principles and habits you’ve learned in Building a Second Brain. It’s likely that you’ll switch at some point in the future to another tool as your priorities and needs change.

3. Falling For Shiny-New-Toy Syndrome

Yes, trying new technology is exciting and fun. You hear about a new upcoming app and immediately think of switching because you might like the interface more or it promises new features. But we recommend sticking with a notes app for at least a few months until you’ve understood how it works and whether it meets your needs. You can and should allow yourself time to play with new products, but make sure they meet a high bar before switching over. 

Next Steps: “I’ve chosen an app. How do I get started using it?”

Focus on learning the core features of the app so you can get started building your Second Brain as soon as possible. There’s no need to master every little detail to benefit from a Second Brain. Learning the software shouldn’t get in the way of applying the CODE methodology and moving your projects forward.

Remember that you’ll likely recreate and reinvent your Second Brain many times as you go through transitions in your life and career. Your Second Brain is not static – it is an ever-evolving complement to the changing landscape of your life.

Recommended Tools & Apps

Here are the different types of tools and apps you’ll find in this list: 

Basic notes apps

These are the notes apps that come pre-installed on your operating system (e.g., iOS, Windows, Google). 

Ebook apps

These apps allow you to store, read, and highlight ebooks. Often, you can then export these highlights to your notes app using a tool like Readwise.

Task management apps

These apps make it easy to keep track of all of your to-dos in one place. They often allow you to organize your to-dos in different ways and add deadlines and reminders. 

Podcast & audio transcription apps

These apps can record voice memos and transcribe them as text that can then be imported into your notes app. 

Workflow apps

These apps connect different tools and help notes and information flow between them. 

Notes apps

These apps allow you to capture written notes and save other kinds of content (e.g., images, attachments, audio notes, handwritten notes). Typically, you can organize your notes within folders, by linking them together, and/or adding tags. 

Read-later apps

These apps allow you to save content from around the internet (e.g., online articles, newsletters) for distraction-free consumption on your own time. They often include features to highlight certain passages and import those highlights into your notes app.

Web clippers

These apps are extensions for your web browser that allow you to save content from the web (e.g., bookmarks, complete webpages, screenshots) and save them in your notes app. 

Project management apps

These apps help you manage complex projects with multiple collaborators. They often include a dedicated place for taking notes and storing information related to projects. 

PDF readers

These apps allow you to read and annotate PDF documents. 

A Comprehensive Collection of Second Brain Tools

Search and filter the directory below to find the perfect app for your needs.

Last updated: April 22, 2022

Did you notice any out-of-date information? Email us at support@fortelabs.com so we can fix it. 

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