Milanote is an online idea organizer, which can be used for things like worldbuilding, character building, story planning, or even things outside of writing like class notes or graphic design planning.
There are three tiers:
Free (the one I tried) allows up to 100 items (notes, links, or images), 10 file uploads, and unlimited shared boards (screens on which you organize info.)
Paid per person ($9.99/month billed annually or $12.50 billed monthly) offers unlimited notes/images/links, unlimited files, unlimited shared boards, and a search feature.
For a team ($49/month billed annually for up to 10 people) offers unlimited notes/images/links, unlimited files, unlimited shared boards, search feature, and priority support.
I mapped out my WIP in the free version. I have near future scifi with a sizable cast and easily used 75 of my 100 items before I included everything from my previous notes. However, I really liked the visual aspect when it came to the characters, as I could map their relationships (and even label the lines between them, which was a lovely surprise!) It allowed me to change the layout on my screen easily and quickly. It allows random notes on the screen, captions on photos, areas to organize similar notes, and it’s very intuitive. There was also a little bit of help at the beginning with dialogue boxes popping up and explaining buttons and likely next steps. I also like that there can be multiple editors, if I was collaborating. And especially, I love the fact there is no time limit! I can leave my Milanote page there and come back to it whenever, rather than powering through a timed free trial. It also has a built-in connection to the free photo site Unsplash, so you can easily search for inspiration images within Milanote.
It wasn’t all daisies, though. If you make a character profile in one place, but want it to also appear in another (like organizing by family tree on one board, but wanting that character to appear on another board based on setting, for example) you can’t do that, you’ll just have to make a copy of the profile. And that’s a waste of your free hundred items, which isn’t as many notes as you need for an entire novel worth of information. Exceptions may include books with small casts, contemporary settings with minimal outside worldbuilding, or shorter projects like a novella, picture book, or even MG. If you make something nested within a lot of other boards (ex. In the world building board you can have a location board, within that location board you can have a character board, which contains profiles boards for each character) things can get lost. This is why the paid version includes a search feature.
Is It Worth It?
The free version is 100% worth it. It’s fun to play around, and it’s great for anyone who is very visual or creates in a more abstract way. A lot of times, planning tools are word heavy and linear. Visual writers may prefer printing things and organizing on a cork board. This is the perfect digital way to do that. Paid versions may be useful for people with big series or epics who need to keep track of a lot of places, characters, and arcs. Paid versions also may benefit those who collaborate, whether as co-authors or an author/illustrator pairing.
Do you use Milanote? What do you think? Let's discuss in the comments!