With so much content out there saying OneNote is better than Evernote, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. In many areas, Evernote still beats OneNote. The question is whether Evernote’s benefits are enough to convince you to stay. For me, they were.
That’s how many notes I have saved in my Evernote account. Over the past six years, I’ve collected notes covering almost every area of life. Highlights from articles I’ve read, to-do lists, Instagram photos, guitar tabs, ideas, and a bewildering range of reference stuff picked up along the way.
And then only last year, I tried Microsoft OneNote for the first time. An amazing app, whichever way you look at it. Being able to arrange notes like I naturally would in a ring-binder was tempting. And the features that allowed me to drag and drop elements of my notes to make them truly look like a physical notebook? Now that was impressive.
After a while, I tried to go all in with OneNote, and the novelty of the app had me writing all sorts of odes to it. I explained why OneNote is the best Evernote alternative (I stand by that claim). I even told readers everything they needed to know before abandoning Evernote for OneNote.
But my love affair with OneNote was short-lived. I was probably just angry that Evernote had raised its prices without really improving its service (though its free option is still remarkable). Yet in the meantime, the web became awash with articles explaining why OneNote was so much better than Evernote.
Most of these articles, however, miss some important points that have seen a number of people (myself included) tiptoeing back to Evernote with their tail between their legs.
1. Importing Notes Is Horrific
After waiting over two hours for the importer tool to do its work, I stared at my screen in horror as I realized the task ahead of me.
OneNote did some strange things with my meticulous tags, pretty much making them worthless. After importing, it seems that OneNote turns the first tag in your notes into a section. I have no idea why this happens, as tags are entirely different to sections. You can imagine what an organizational mess this can make.
In Evernote, I also had a lot of stacked notebooks. OneNote for Mac (which I’m using) can’t deal with the simple task of stacking (whether that’s notebooks or even notes). Instead, I’m faced with a long list of unorganized notebooks (and notes). Windows users, you’re lucky here. You have the feature available to create notebook groups.
An option to keep parent notebooks as notebooks, and convert child notebooks to sections would have been intuitive (for Windows users, too), but that’s not possible. To achieve this intuitive setup manually (turning some notebooks into sections) takes a lot of work.
2. OneNote’s Lightweight Web Clipper
Evernote’s web clipper truly is the best in the business. With it you can save entire articles, simplified articles, or selections of articles. You can take custom-sized screenshots, or simply save web pages as a bookmark.
Yes, OneNote’s web clipper can do pretty much all of the above, but where Evernote’s clipper stands out is its annotation features.
When you take a screenshot with Evernote’s clipper, you can then insert arrows, notes, pixilation, highlights, and more to the screenshot, before it’s saved to your notebook of choice. This isn’t possible with OneNote.
3. OneNote Restrictions for Mac Users
Windows users, you’ve got it pretty good when it comes to OneNote. The range of clever OneNote features is astounding. But for Mac users (like me), there’s just too much missing.
- No Spotlight Support — Although you can search for OneNote notes via Spotlight in iOS9 and above, you still can’t do this in OS X. This is one of the main reasons I went back to using Evernote.
- No Local Storage — Windows users can choose to save their OneNote files locally, whereas Mac users’ notes must be saved to Microsoft OneDrive. When using Evernote, however, it’s easy to create local notebooks that are only accessible from your computer.
- No Collapsible Notes — Just like OneNote for Mac doesn’t allow stacked notebooks, it also doesn’t allow stacked notes. When you have hundreds of notes in one notebook or section, that long, unsorted list is enough to churn your stomach.
- No Custom Tags — Although OneNote for Mac comes with a range of default tags, you can’t add custom tags. This is especially frustrating when you’re trying to organize a large number of notes.
- No Page Templates — As a Mac user, you are unable to create or load page templates in OneNote.
- Limited Formatting — Although there are still quite a few text and image formatting options in OneNote for Mac, these pale in comparison to what’s offered to Windows users.
There are other restrictions for Mac users, but these are the ones I found particularly frustrating. Mainly because there is absolutely no need for most of these limitations. Microsoft could at least offer a fully-featured paid version for Mac users. But alas, they don’t.
4. No Easy Reminders
In Evernote, it’s extremely easy to set up reminders. These reminders send you an alert about a specific note, on a date you specify. As you can imagine, this can be pretty useful.
For OneNote users wanting to set up a reminder, things are more complicated. You have to mark individual notes as tasks, which will then appear as tasks in Outlook. Tasks created in Outlook will also appear in OneNote. This is fine if you use Outlook. But if you don’t, it’s far from ideal.
Again, even OneNote’s frustrating reminder setup is not available to Mac users.
5. It’s Just Too Different
I’m prepared to get a roasting for saying this, but OneNote is often just too different for anyone who’s heavily invested in Evernote.
Anyone who makes the shift to OneNote will have to be prepared to largely change their organizational setup. Yes, OneNote has a nicer interface than Evernote. And it’s completely free. But unless you’re prepared to meticulously edit the formatting and layout of each of your notes, OneNote’s huge range of features just seems burdensome. It’s too much.
Note-taking is usually a simple act of collecting and sorting information so it can easily be found in the future. For this, Evernote still seems the best choice.
And for Mac users, choosing Evernote seems to be a no brainer. The number of restrictions Mac users have when using OneNote is ridiculous. If you’ve used Evernote for any period of time, there are valuable features you’ll almost certainly have to give up when moving over to OneNote.
The decision is ultimately down to you. But for me, the mess that OneNote made of my notes, its lightweight web clipper, and the over-engineering of note-taking was enough to turn me back to Evernote.
What are your thoughts? If you’ve tried both Evernote and OneNote, which did you decide to stick with? And if not, which are you most tempted to use?