Are You a Professional Creative? Here’s Why You Should Use Milanote

Susanna Perkins
6 min readJan 30, 2021

If you’re a professional creative, here’s a planning and productivity tool designed with you in mind. Milanote bills itself as “the tool for organizing creative projects.”

At its most basic, it’s a note-taking app, but where something like Evernote or OneNote is designed to be read, Milanote is designed to be seen.

It’s the difference between viewing a list of ingredients (eggs, butter, flour) and a picture of the mouthwatering finished product.

Milanote is like the digital bullet journal for note taking. It’s more freeform and, requires more work to put together. But if you’re working on a creative project — and especially if you’re a very visual person — it could be the perfect note-taking and planning solution for you.

It lends itself to documenting creative processes like:

  • Moodboarding
  • Brainstorming
  • Storyboarding
  • Creative writing
  • Design collaboration
  • Creative briefs
  • Note-taking
  • Project management
  • Mind-mapping
  • Whiteboarding

Full disclosure: I find a lot to love in Milanote. I’ll still use Trello for day-to-day scheduling and task planning — the execution of my business — but for laying out projects and storing ideas — the creative parts of my business — I’m finding Milanote fills a real need. Also, the folks at Milanote were kind enough to comp me a pro version of the software for purposes of this review.

PC Mag explains Milanote as “a note-taking app for the visually inclined.”

Milanote is a web-based note-taking app that thinks of notebooks more like canvases than legal pads. It’s designed for visual people. . .

Since I’m definitely a visual person, I decided to check it out.

Milanote is a desktop app on your computer, and there are also Android and iOS versions for your phones and tablets. You’ll get the best use out of Milanote when you use it on your desktop, though (or you can work directly in your browser).

On a phone, you lose the visual impact of the wide screen, and everything on your board is reduced to a single column. The same is true on a tablet — even in landscape mode, you only get one column.

Basic Structure for Milanote

Where Evernote is structured around Notes which you can collect into Notebooks, Milanote uses Boards for structure, like Trello.

But where Trello boards display only lists with cards on them, Milanote boards can display, well, pretty much anything you want.

Here’s an example of a Milanote board, for a design concept.

Milanote board example

When you first open the desktop app after setting up your account, it’s essentially a blank page. This can be a little initimidating at first.

Unlike Trello, which automatically creates your first list when you start a new board, it’s up to you how you structure a new board in Milanote.

I decided to use my first board as an index, so it primarily shows individual boards. Note that you can nest multiple boards inside each board.

This is my main board on Milanote. Other boards are nested inside it.l

Prebuilt Templates

Fortunately, every new board comes with a template picker in the lower right corner to help you get started. And therein lies some of the true beauty of Milanote.

Their templates are, frankly, awesome.

Notice the template picker in the lower right corner

Templates include:

(The Novel plan has a note next to it saying “top pick,” leading me to believe that Milanote is popular with fiction writers.)

If those aren’t enough for you, there’s a “more templates” link where you can explore available templates by category, like:

  • Agencies
  • Creative direction
  • Film / TV
  • Game design
  • Graphic design
  • Illustration
  • Interior Design
  • Management & Strategy
  • Marketing
  • Moodboarding
  • Motion design
  • Photography
  • Product management
  • Productivity
  • Software development
  • Startups
  • Students
  • UX/UI/Product Design
  • Writing

Each category includes multiple templates. If you choose the Marketing category, for example, you then have a choice of seven templates, including:

  • Marketing hub
  • Buyer persona
  • Target audience
  • Marketing plan
  • Social media calendar
  • Website content plan
  • Marketing brief

Milanote Tools

There’s a set of tools to the left of each board, and you simply drag and place them anywhere on the board.

The left-hand toolbar is context sensitive, meaning that available tools change based on where your cursor is.

When I first got my Milanote account, I started out by trying to duplicate a familiar structure, lists. To create something resembling Trello’s lists, start with the column tool.

Simply drag and drop the new column to wherever you want it on the board.

Setting up columns is an easy way to start

Once it’s in place, you have the option to add a custom color.

The color shows up as a bar across the top of the column. You could color-code days of the week, or type of tasks, or. . . whatever you want. It’s up to you.

You can drag other tools into the column — a note, a to-do list, a comment, a link, whatever. . .

Here’s a list of the available tools.

  • Note
  • Link
  • To do
  • Line
  • Board
  • Column
  • Comment
  • Add image
  • Upload file

Here’s another cool thing — on the far right is a slide-out tray where you can store your “unsorted” materials. This could include images, documents, or notes you want to use on the board but you’re not ready to place them yet. It’s not easy to see the button to display the tray — it’s just a little tab on the right that says “unsorted” with a number next to it.

Once you’ve added something to the tray, it shows up like this.

To add visual interest to your boards, add images — either choose from a provided selection, or upload your own.

More than Just Notes

Milanote really shines for certain types of planning and organization.

Use it for basics like to-do lists, sure, but you can also create story maps, and use it for world building if you’re a writer or game designer. If you’re designing software or planning a marketing strategy, create a user journey map with it. Make a product launch plan. . . create mind maps. . .

If you’re a visual planner type person, give Milanote a try. Go to this page to sign up for a free account and download the desktop app. Once you’ve installed it, choose one of their preformed templates as an easy way to start.

If you’ve used Milanote, let me know what you like (or don’t like) about it in the comments.

Originally published at https://anywhereist.com on January 30, 2021.

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Susanna Perkins

I'm an Anywhereist - I've lived and worked in 7 different places in 5 years. Join me as a location-independent creative professional.