Evernote or OneNote?

Andy Naselli —  August 8, 2011 — 32 Comments

I’m ready to go (almost) completely paperless in a more efficient way, and it seems like these are the top two programs for that:

1. Evernote

  • I’ve used the free version a bit over the last few years, but I haven’t used it extensively.
  • The premium version costs $45 per year.
  • Michael Hyatt highly recommends it.

2. OneNote

  • I own OneNote 2010, but I’ve never used it.
  • It seems like an efficient tool.
  • It doesn’t appear to have an iPad app. (Update on 12/12/2011: It now has an iPad app.)

I’m leaning towards going with OneNote since I already own it. (I wish Google Notebook didn’t stop development.)

Suggestions?

Related: I use Zotero to organize my library.

32 responses to Evernote or OneNote?

  1. I used OneNote quite a bit; I must say I have yet to find its equal. It does its job very well. I have not used the most recent version, but 2007 was quite well done and I can only assume it has gotten better. The bad thing is, it only works only on your windows PC.

    I moved off of it since I moved to a Mac computer. I have since used Evernote, and the one thing it has is the mobility. I can pull it up on my phone or another computer or an iPad (if I had one). This is the whiz-bang feature for me that I cannot give up.

  2. Having used both programs (though not the 2010 version of OneNote), I’d recommend Evernote. Keep using the free version until you hit your limit, see if that is something you can live with, and the $45 price tag may not even be necessary (though I’m sure the developers would appreciate the support!).

    Considering the ubiquity of Evernote, you are pretty well guaranteed access to your notes in any given situation, even if all you have is a web browser. And since it operates in the cloud, your notes are always backed up.

    For me, the mobility of Evernote makes it an easy choice. If mobility is not as big a need for you, stick with OneNote.

  3. Duncan Johnson August 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I have heard that some people have had difficulty exporting stuff out of OneNote into other formats because OneNote uses a proprietary file format.

    I’m not certain about this, but because of that I would probably lean toward Evernote myself.

  4. I’ve tried both programs but use Evernote primarily because of mobility and syncing among multiple computers even on different networks (home/work). It’s great to have access to all my notes at all times through my iPhone. So far my usage is not heavy enough where I’ve had to change to the pay version.

  5. Daniel Threlfall August 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    This is going to be a one-sided root for Evernote. I’ve never used OneNote.
    1. Evernote has top-of-the line apps for my iPad and my iPhone. That’s a must-have for me.
    2. Evernote keeps all my information securely stored in the cloud. Also a must-have, since I am skilled at crashing hard drives.
    3. Evernote is extremely versatile. It’s iSight feature (makes use of your camera, and converts even handwriting into text), means way less typing and input.
    4. Evernote’s search and tag feature is amazing. It more than makes up for any lack I may have had to organize a note.
    5. Even though I use Evernote extensively, I can still use the free version.
    6. Evernote has plugins for web browsers, meaning that anything you search, find, like, and want for future reference is a click away in Firefox, Chrome, et al.
    7. OneNote is a Microsoft product.
    8. If you’re into elephants, you can order Evernote t-shirts with pictures of elephants.

  6. Claude Wiggins August 8, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    I can’t speak to the features of OneNote. However, I can speak as an enthusiastic user of Evernote. I have found it extremely flexible and reliable. I am currently using it on Windows-based and Apple wireless products. It has performed flawlessly. Sync times for wireless are incredibly fast. The free version allows 60MB of usage. The paid version allows up to 1GB of usage. I can access it on my desktop, on the Internet, or on my wireless device. One note: if you desire to access material offline (e.g., using iPod Touch with no WiFi signal or if you can’t get a cell phone signal), you must first marked those files for which you want offline access.

  7. Jonathan Biddle August 8, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    I’ve used both pretty extensively. For me, they both serve different purposes (though I don’t use OneNote anymore since I switched to mac..). I use Evernote to store and categorize articles/blogs I read online. I also use it for sermon notes and some writing projects. I used OneNote for 2 years at school to take all my notes in it. It served that purpose pretty well but the notes aren’t as searchable. The primary advantages of Evernote are the tag features, searchability, and cross-platform use. The primary reason I used OneNote for school was its intuitive organization. Its main drawback is that it’s hard to find little bits of information or find things by topic. And the OneNote app for iPod is really slow.

  8. I used OneNote for a while and did not care for it. I have been a Mac user for a year and a half now and really love Evernote. I am using the free version for now, and it meets my needs and will contribute toward my goal of going completely paperless. $45 for the premium version per year is a small price to pay for such a powerful and versatile tool!

  9. I use OneNote at the office (bank where I work). Great product

    For personal use I favor Evernote because it is cross platform and has the web interface

  10. I have to put a plug in for OneNote on this one. I have been using OneNote since version 2003, and could not make it without it. I use OneNote every day as I’m working on sermons, correspondence, and classwork. I tried Evernote for a few months, but found it not nearly as flexible. Can’t speak to the iPad functionality, but the iPhone app is okay. Needs some development (particularly in its [lack of] capability to handle tables), but other than that, it is a pretty solid app. Anyway, my 2 cents.

  11. I use both Evernote and OneNote though I’m far from being a power-user. IMHO, Evernote’s greatest strength is its portability and the ease with which you can export stuff out, as has already been said. (OneNote recently got an iPhone app. No news of iPad or Android apps for now).

    OneNote’s greatest strength is its formatting capabilities. Two examples: I haven’t found a way of automatically formatting hierarchical headings in Evernote, and the Evernote tables are terribly ugly.

    That said, if I had to choose only one, I’d have to go with Evernote.

  12. I’m going to have to vote for OneNote. I’ve used OneNote extensively since the 2003 version, and I’m currently using the 2010 version. I’ve tried Evernote at various times, and I agree with Brandon Carmichael above that Evernote is not as flexible OneNote. I was continually trying to do things in Evernote that I can do in OneNote and finding it did not have the functionality.

    OneNote has features that Evernote does not have:
    1. OneNote has superior organization with its Notebook, Section, Page, Subpage setup.
    2. OneNote allows for superior organization on the page itself. It allows for hierarchical lists. You can even collapse and expand any indented paragraph below headings for ease of navigating through lengthy notes.
    3. OneNote allows you to write/type/draw/insert pictures or screen clips anywhere on its canvas. This means that you can easily do mind maps. It also allows for greater flexibility in note taking. For instance, I’m doing research on natural law right now. My research is going into my ST notebook, in the Revelation/Bibliology section on a natural law page. Each book or article receives a “column,” and I can scroll horizontally to see the sources that I’ve consulted. In Evernote I’d have one very long page full of notes, and it would be hard to see what my sources were.
    4. OneNote has superior table creation abilities.
    5. OneNote has styles built in
    6. OneNote allows you to copy files right on to OneNote pages. So if you have a Word document or a PDF or an Excel file relevant to what you are doing, you can drag and drop them right onto the relevant OneNote page. So when I receive a chapter to edit at work, I’ll drag the Word doc into OneNote. I can open and work on the document right from OneNote. Any research I do or notes I take about the chapter can take place on the OneNote page.
    7. OneNote has superior sharing tools. My work OneNote notebook is shared with my coworkers via our network. My wife and I shared a wedding planning notebook via Dropbox. Notebooks can also be shared via the cloud using the Skydrive. The person you are sharing with does not have OneNote, they can access the notebook via the Skydrive. Or you can easily e-mail pages from OneNote or the OneNote app.
    8. OneNote plays nice with links. I can link to any page or paragraph within OneNote. This makes for easy cross referencing of notes. I can also link to files outside OneNote (e.g., to a book I have in PDF form) or to Logos resources.

    Almost everything that the Evernote folks are saying they like about Evernote is already a feature in OneNote:
    1. OneNote converts handwriting into text with a high degree of accuracy.
    2. OneNote recognizes text in images. All images in OneNote with text are indexed and searchable. (This includes text that “bends” with pages or text in other orientations than horizontal; e.g., it would recognize the text on the spines of book, if you snapped a picture of your bookshelf.) You can also copy text from images and paste it.
    3. OneNote does a superb job with its own built-in search capabilities. It can even search by author if you’re using a shared notebook. OneNote is also recognized by the search built into PCs, so if you’re searching your PC for something, OneNote sections will be included in the results.
    4. OneNote has customizable tags. You can search and sort by tag.
    5. OneNote is mobile and in the cloud. With 2010 you can access OneNote on a PC (though not a Mac), iPhone/iPad, or on the Web. Microsoft has produced an iPhone/iPod Touch app. I use this on my iPad. MobileNoter has produced an iPad app.
    6. OneNote comes with the base package of Office 2010, and you get 25 GB of free storage on the Windows SkyDrive (rather than Evernote’s 1 GB per month). So if you’ve already invested in Office, OneNote could be the less expensive route.
    7. Data in OneNote is easily exportable. I’m not sure how one exports data in Evernote, but in OneNote you can save any page or section as a Word document, PDF, or even in HTML. If you want to export an entire notebook at once you can save it as a PDF.

    One downside: OneNote does not have a Mac application. But if you’re collaborating with someone using a Mac, they can access OneNote notebooks via the Skydrive.

    I would highly recommend using OneNote over Evernote. The two exceptions would be if you use a Mac as your primary computer or if you find Office too pricey. Otherwise, OneNote does everything that Evernote does plus a lot more.

    • A friend of mine emailed me replies to the comments above by Brian Collins and Mark Ward.

      Responding to Brian Collins’s first list:

      1. Evernote has notebooks, sub-notebooks, and notes; and with tags, I think you’ll find it more than meets your needs.
      2. Evernote also allows for hierarchical lists, but unfortunately you’re limited to Arabic numerals and bullet points. For my use, this completely meets my needs.
      3. Granted. But I don’t find myself missing this.
      4. I’ve never used a table in either OneNote or Evernote, so it doesn’t matter to me either way. :)
      5. Never used [styles] in Onenote. Don’t miss not having them in Evernote.
      6. Evernote does as well, though you need to upgrade to the premium edition to add office docs.
      7. Evernote allows me to share notebooks publicly or with individuals I choose. I can grant read-only or editing access. I can also share individuals note by email or the web (or post them directly to Facebook or Twitter).
      8. Evernote also allows you to link to other notes in Evernote, local files, and Logos resources.

      Unless I’m missing something, you’re left with not much that OneNote can do that Evernote can’t. If that little bit is important to you, OneNote might be the right choice. If not, Evernote seems to offer more flexibility for multi-platform users.

      Responding to Mark Ward’s point: “5. Evernote doesn’t appear to have an OCR feature like OneNote. I use that pretty regularly.”

      OCR was one of Evernote’s earliest and signature features.

    • I would add that Microsoft has just recently updated and greatly improved their OneNote for iPad… Functions quite well, and with a Skydrive account, one can work in OneNote on their Mac, and then take their iPad on the road for mobility.

      Even as a decades-long Mac user, I much prefer OneNote, and am quite happy it’s functionality is now available to me as well.

  13. Thanks, all, for these helpful comments. Now I’m leaning towards Evernote.

    Brian, I think I would go with OneNote if it crossed platforms better. Whichever program I go with, I’d like to invest in it pretty seriously, and I’d like to keep the door open to switching from PC to Mac next time I update our computers. Hmmmmm.

  14. I haven’t read any other comments, so this might be redundant.

    1. I like the layout of OneNote much better: tabs on top and on the side are ideal. Evernote doesn’t use my screen space quite so well, I think, and tags don’t accomplish the same obvious-to-the-eye organizational function as tabs.

    2. Windows has such a sorry, terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad screenshot mechanism compared to Mac OS X that I have taken to using OneNote’s screenshot taker. I like that very much and would miss it. Evernote doesn’t seem to have one that I can find.

    3. I’m afraid that I would go way over my usage limits if I used Evernote and would have to pay $45 per year. I do a lot of synchronized filing. At this point I’m not prepared to pay when OneNote with SkyDrive (and before that, Dropbox) works great.

    4. I like the pasteboard idea in OneNote: instead of having little RTF documents (that appears to me to be what Evernote is doing) that are linear, I have a board full of little boxes automatically created. That gives me some flexibility; they’re like note cards I can move around easily.

    5. Evernote doesn’t appear to have an OCR feature like OneNote. I use that pretty regularly.

    6. I would love it if OneNote would become part of the Mac Office suite and would get ported to the iPad as a full-screen app. MobileNoter may be a good solution, I’m told. (I don’t have an iPad.) Then I would have just one remaining app tying me to Windows: BibleWorks. Oh, BibleWorks . . . they’ll never make it into the Mac world, I’m afraid.

    7. I just noticed that Evernote’s export options appear very limited—at least in my Windows version of the software. It exports to formats I don’t have much use for and would have to re-export. That’s significant, because my philosophy is that I want to stick with formats that seem to be in it for the long haul. RTF is one of those; PDF is one; DOC is another. OneNote exports to the last two, as well as DOCX.

  15. Andy, perhaps another consideration would be which one works well with Zotero. I have started using Zotero since you posted on that, and it has been excellent to store those bits and pieces of information. But OneNote/Evernote seem to be another level again for this.

    • Thanks, Bevan. I’m still using Zotero, but I envision using Evernote or OneNote in a different way. Zotero is my bibliographic manager, and Evernote or OneNote would be for other items such as organizing projects and lists, taking notes, and filing receipts and other documents.

  16. As to my point 5 about OCR—I did forget that Evernote has had this since the beginning… But I’m still looking for the ability to “copy text from picture” like OneNote allows. Any help anyone?

    And I was wrong about the screenshot mechanism (point 2). Evernote’s, I find, is even better than OneNote’s. The only thing it lacks is a button that, like OneNote, automatically minimizes Evernote so you can take a screenshot. But the keyboard shortcut, the screenwide crosshairs, and the measuring function are really great.

    I’ve shifted a number of my notebooks to Evernote to see how it performs. Seeing so many people devoted to it persuaded me to try. I’d really love to drop Windows and go to Mac entirely, so that fact may outweigh any of the things I miss from OneNote.

  17. I love onenote. It’s organization and layout is more intuitive than evernote. I use mobilenoter for my ipad to sync my onenote notebooks to my ipad. I’d highly recommend both.

  18. I use both, but my use of Evernote is only for when OneNote is not available (such as when I am using my Android Tablet or phone). I’ve been a OneNote user since its introduction and have been through several updates. The current incarnation is very difficult to beat – flexible, fast, feature-rich. In fact, I use if for almost all of my personal journals, clippings, research, even project management. I’d say go with OneNote as a primary, Evernote for those occasions where OneNote is not available. I don’t think you will be sorry.

  19. Evernote all the way. I’ve used both, but Evernote allows me to retrieve information cross-platform.

    I always have the information I’ve stored in EN at my fingertips.

    I’d recommend reading Mike Hyatt’s post, as well as Brett Kelly’s Evernote Essentials.

    Once you see all the power Evernote offers, you’ll continue to find multiple uses for it that will surprise and amaze you (the $45 for the Premium version is well worth it).

  20. I have both (Onenote 2007) and have switched back and forth quite a bit, though I wish I’d make up my mind and stick with one. Evernote lost me with their disastrous version 3, but I’m leaning toward switching back. For me, Onenote’s strengths are

    1) Layout (though the noteback stack in Evernote, which is relatively new, can do what the Onenote notebooks/sections does – I either don’t like it as much, or I’m just not used to it)
    2) Outlining/organization. This is really the main pull I have to Onenote; when I’m writing, it’s great to have the outlining tools. Evernote’s outling is not nearly as good. However, the upgrades to Evernote in recent months have been dramatic, so I’m hopeful this will be remedied.

    Evernote’s strengths:
    1) Ubiquity – available on my android, and the web version is practically identical to the desktop version (this is one of those dramatic improvements in the last year). I’ve tried Mobilenoter twice on my Android, and it’s awful – I’ve lost notes (not updates – whole notes disappear, and I have to dig into Onenote’s backups to find them), it’s failed to sync, etc.
    2) Search – faster and just better than Onenote. I’ll include use of tags here, which I think are far better than Onenote’s awkward tags. The Chrome plugin allows you to search your evernote files simultaneous with any google search.
    3) Web clipping is better on Evernote, especially if you use the Chrome plugin.

    I’m leaning toward Evernote right now, not for any particular feature, but because of how much the product has improved in the past year. I don’t jump on the newest version of office when it comes out every few years, but with Evernote there’s a regular stream of great new features. What Evernote lacks, I’m fairly confident will appear in a new update. What Onenote lacks… well, who knows.

  21. Also, I like Zotero – but give Meneley a try, particularly the pdf annotation feature.

    http://www.mendeley.com/

  22. Hi, Andy,

    Will you ever post your verdict and reasons why? Your explanations on having a digital library are insightful.

    Thanks.

  23. I’ll add a vote for OneNote. I’ve been using it since the 2003 version on a PC, and am now on Office2010. I use Outlook tasks extensively for GTD – which I either create based on an incoming email, or a note in OneNote (which serves as my project documentation). The ability to select a line in OneNote, right click and select create task – then to have a task pop up on Outlook, linked in both directions – is great.

    I also love the embedded OCR, and the way that search in Win7 works across OneNote and Outlook.

    I host my OneNote personal files on a Microsoft LiveMesh drive – so they’re instantly synchronized between the cloud and all of my PCs. For my work files – I just sync them between PCs directly (also using Live Mesh.

    I haven’t used Evernote – but from the comments above I may take a look, just to get some level of Android mobile connectivity.

  24. For me onenote is superior considering only the desktop apps and the cloud syncing capabilities (One note syncs to skydrive, which is a 25GB virtual disk drive), however evernote wipes the floor with onenote when it comes to integration with other devices and apps.

    Onenote will be amazing when win8 comes and have the same application on both desktop and tablet, but until then for me evernote edges it.

  25. I’ve been using One Note since I upgraded to Office 2010 at work and found that they had an iPhone app. Initially, it appeared that this was going to be the solution I’ve been looking for. I signed up for a SkyDrive account and started syncing between my iPhone, SkyDrive and my work PC. It worked well for a few days. For the last two weeks I’ve had frequent problems syncing my PC One Note to the SkyDrive (over the corporate network), accessing SkyDrive on the web and even getting the One Note app to sync anything at all on my iPhone (over cellular). It usually churns away for a minute or two and then crashes. Thankfully, Microsoft offers a limited, free version. If I had paid for this app, I would be livid. I can’t recommend this solution to anyone. I’m going to give Evernote a try.

  26. You’re better off with OneNote. Features are comparable but OneNote’s data is free up to 50 Gig. Not paying $45/year for storage. Just not going to do it.

  27. I started on Evernote but switched to OneNote and am having a hard time switching back now that I have a Mac. OneNote was so neat and clean and organized. Evernote is just so random-feeling.

    Also I’m not sure who said the Mac tool was better, but the Mac screen shot taker is NOWHERE near as easy to use as the Snipping Tool in Win7. Right on the start menu, no holding down of a million keys, and who can remember what they are. It’s better than the Grab.app too. In general Mac does a few things better, but overall it’s a bit overrated. It’s not AS great as everyone says.

  28. SM Sabbir Alam May 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    For me, evernote seems so easy, rather than one note.

  29. I have used both, in fact until last year I used one note exclusively for tasks and especially for note-taking in class. However, I have since switched to Evernote for my information capture and to-do list and have moved class notes to MS Word since I know have a cross-platform setup with windows machines and mac and an android tablet. Additionally, I like that many people have used the GTD methodology successfully with Evernote so I have some examples in implementing that and it integrates with Google Calendar to help add reminders with my to-do lists.

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