Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The re-launched Microsoft OneNote

Screenshot of Microsoft OneNote on OS X

Yesterday Microsoft unwrapped the latest changes to its OneNote software. Originally introduced with Office 2003, OneNote is now a separate product, albeit one integrated with Microsoft’s OneDrive (previously SkyDrive) service.

The main changes are that the basic OneNote system is free and available without having to buy Microsoft Office, and that there’s now an API for third-party services to connect to. Existing Office 2013 and Office 365 customers get some premium features, but the basic note-keeping and synchronisation tools are available for all at no cost now. There is also a Mac OS X app for the first time, as previously Office:mac 2011 didn’t include OneNote.

The new API access means that there’s already an IFTTT channel for OneNote, and the folks at Feedly have included support in their feed reader (free for now but paid customers only from next month). A few other apps are also available in OneNote’s app directory.

I imagine most people will be interested in a comparison with Evernote, which is the main leader in cloud-based note-taking. Though I’m not able to do a full comparison, personally I’ll be sticking with Evernote. The OS X app for OneNote is big (over 400 megabytes when installed) and slow to start up. I’ve found Evernote a bit easier to manage plain text notes, although OneNote offers more flexibility with arranging items within notes. Evernote also lets you export and print notes, unlike OneNote’s free offering.

Other competitors include Google Keep and Apple’s iCloud Notes. Google Keep is Android and web-only (an unofficial iOS app exists), but supports voice memos. iCloud Notes is available on iOS, OS X and the web, but there’s no Windows app and only simple text notes are supported. Whilst I think that the new OneNote is definitely better than Google or Apple’s offerings, Evernote is still the service to beat.

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