Comparing the Top 6 Self-Hosted Note-Taking Apps (Flatnotes, Memos, Benotes, and More!)

Everyone knows taking notes is important. Here's the best way to do it in 2024.

Publish date: 4/14/2024

Whether you're a student, professional, or just someone who likes to keep track of your thoughts, having a reliable note-taking application is important.

And nowadays, when it comes to choosing a note-taking app, you have several options...

Local note-taking applications

On one hand, you have local note-taking apps, such as Obsidian and Logseq which are installed directly on your device and store data locally.

The main advantages of local apps include full control over data privacy, seamless offline access, and customization options through plugins and themes.

However, local apps often lack collaboration features, require manual syncing across devices, and may have a learning curve for advanced features.

Cloud-based note-taking applications

On the other hand, cloud-based note-taking solutions like Evernote, Notion, and OneNote store data on remote servers and provide access through web and mobile apps.

These services offer benefits such as accessibility from any device with an internet connection, automatic syncing, extensive collaboration functionality, and regular updates.

However, you have less control over data privacy and are dependent on internet connectivity, additionally, this is likely the most expensive option.

The best of both worlds: self-hosted note-taking applications

My personal favorite option, however, is a combination of local and cloud-based note-taking applications, which is self-hosting your own cloud-based note-taking application.

Self-hosted note-taking applications bridge the gap between local and cloud-based solutions by providing the benefits of cloud-based apps while allowing you to retain full control over your data.

Feature Local apps Cloud-based apps Self-hosted apps
Data Control
Internet Required
Offline Access ❌ (Limited)
Setup Complexity
Subscription Fees
Mobile App Support ✅ (Most apps) ❌ (Limited)

This essentially cuts out the middleman while still giving you a great note-taking experience without any expensive subscriptions.

That said, it can be rather confusing picking the self-hosted application that's right for you, so that's why in this article we'll be comparing the best self-hosted note-taking applications available today. Our goal is to make that choice a bit easier for you.

Let's dive in.

1. Flatnotes


Flatnotes is a simple, lightweight, and distraction-free note-taking app that focuses on markdown-based notes.

It offers a clean and intuitive interface for creating and organizing your notes, with support for basic formatting and syntax highlighting.

It's easy to set up and requires minimal resources, making it an excellent choice for those who prioritize simplicity and performance.


  • Clean and distraction-free interface
  • Supports markdown formatting and syntax highlighting
  • Lightweight and easy to self-host
  • Ideal for those who prefer a minimalist approach to note-taking


  • Lacks advanced features like collaboration and file attachments
  • Limited customization options

2. Memos


Memos is a self-hosted, open-source note-taking application that offers a simple and intuitive interface for capturing and organizing your thoughts.

It provides a clean and distraction-free writing experience, with support for markdown formatting and basic organization features like tags and search.

It also offers an API for integration with other tools and services.


  • Simple and intuitive interface for capturing notes quickly
  • Supports markdown formatting and basic organization features
  • Lightweight and easy to self-host
  • API for integration with other tools


  • Limited advanced features compared to other note-taking apps
  • Lacks real-time collaboration functionality

3. Excalidraw


Excalidraw is a unique note-taking application that focuses on creating hand-drawn style diagrams, sketches, and charts. It offers both a cloud/local hybrid version, as well as offering a self-hosted version.

Overall, it's built with collaboration in mind, making it an excellent choice for teams that need to brainstorm, plan, or visualize ideas together.


  • Intuitive, hand-drawn style interface for creating diagrams and sketches
  • Real-time collaboration features for teamwork
  • Self-hostable for data control and customization
  • Supports exporting to various formats, including PNG and SVG


  • Primarily focused on visual note-taking, may not be suitable for text-heavy notes
  • Requires more resources to self-host compared to lightweight note-taking apps

4. Joplin

Joplin note taking

Joplin is a powerful, open-source note-taking application that supports markdown, encryption, and synchronization across devices. It offers a wide range of features, including rich formatting, file attachments, and web clipper integration.

One of the standout features of Joplin is its ability to self-host the synchronization server, allowing you to have full control over your data while still enjoying the benefits of cross-device syncing. It also offers a cloud version.


  • Feature-rich, with support for markdown, encryption, and file attachments
  • Self-hosted synchronization server for full data control
  • Cross-platform apps for desktop, mobile, and web
  • Active community and regular updates


  • Requires some technical knowledge to set up the self-hosted server
  • The user interface may have a learning curve for some users

5. HedgeDoc


HedgeDoc (formerly known as CodiMD) is a real-time collaborative markdown editor that allows multiple users to work on notes simultaneously. It's an excellent choice for teams that need to collaborate on documents, meeting notes, or knowledge bases.

It offers features like version history, slide mode for presentations, and support for various markdown flavors.


  • Real-time collaboration for seamless teamwork
  • Self-hostable for data privacy and control
  • Supports various markdown flavors and extensions
  • Slide mode for creating presentations


  • Focused primarily on collaboration, may not have as many features as other note-taking apps
  • Requires a server with Node.js and PostgreSQL for self-hosting

6. Benotes


Benotes is an open-source, self-hosted note-taking application that combines the functionality of bookmarking and note-taking. It offers a clean and modern interface for creating notes, saving bookmarks, and organizing your information.

Benotes supports both markdown and rich-text editing, making it versatile for different types of content. It also provides a browser extension for quickly saving bookmarks and web pages as notes.


  • Combines note-taking and bookmarking functionality
  • Supports both markdown and rich-text editing
  • Clean and modern user interface
  • Browser extension for easy bookmarking and note creation


  • Lacks real-time collaboration features
  • Requires some technical knowledge to set up self-hosting

The comparison

Feature Flatnotes Memos Excalidraw Joplin HedgeDoc Benotes
Open Source
Markdown Support
Mobile Apps ✅ (PWA)
Sync / Collaboration
Tagging / Categorization
Full-Text Search
Share / Publish Notes


It's hard to say any given note-taking application is better than the other. Because they're all designed slightly differently for different people.

Flatnotes offers a simple and distraction-free markdown-based note-taking experience, while Memos provides a lightweight and intuitive interface for capturing thoughts quickly. Excalidraw stands out for its collaborative, hand-drawn style diagramming and sketching capabilities. Joplin is a feature-rich, cross-platform app with self-hosted synchronization. HedgeDoc excels at real-time collaboration on markdown documents, and Benotes combines note-taking and bookmarking functionality in a modern interface.

Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on what kind of note-taking app you're looking for.

Besides, they're all free and open source, so why not try a few out and stick with your favorite?

That said, xTom has been providing digital infrastructure for longer than a decade and we would love to be your digital home next.

For your self-hosting needs, our affordable NVMe VPS line works perfectly. You can host all of your applications for less than the price of a cup of coffee per month.

For everything else, anywhere from dedicated servers to colocation and beyond, check out our site over here.

Thanks for reading!