The Essential Guide to OneNote for Mac
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Are you a Mac user thinking about trying out OneNote? You’re not alone: Mac users have been curious ever since Microsoft made OneNote free OneNote Is Now Truly Free With More Features Than Before OneNote Is Now Truly Free With More Features Than Before Evernote no longer rules the roost of note taking apps. Microsoft recently announced OneNote would be more free than ever before. Let us show you what this means in terms of features and functionality. Read More , and offered versions for the Mac, iPad, and iPhone.

My recommendation: if you’re curious, you should absolutely try out OneNote for Mac. Forget about any Microsoft hatred you might harbor Why Brand Loyalty is the Enemy of Productivity Why Brand Loyalty is the Enemy of Productivity You can't gain knowledge of something you're not willing to explore. Can you break through your prejudices and try out new things? Try. Productivity could be just outside your comfort zone. Read More , because good software is worth using regardless of who made it – and this is good software.

We’ve gone over all the unique ways you can use OneNote 10 Unique Ways to Use Microsoft OneNote 10 Unique Ways to Use Microsoft OneNote OneNote is one of Microsoft's most underrated apps. It's available on almost every platform and can do many tricks you wouldn't expect from a note keeping app. Read More in the past, but really how you use this app is going to depend on what you need it for. In my case, I compile potential article ideas in one notebook and keep track of things that need doing around the house in another. But any project that requires you to compile and act on a lot of information could become easier with OneNote. Here’s how.

Getting to Know OneNote on the Mac

OneNote is definitely the sort of software you need to settle into before you find out how useful it is, but where it really shines is organization. The user interface is built around one main metaphor: a series of notebooks, each with their own tabs, where you can gather the information you need for projects on individual pages.


Information on these pages can be organized however you like: click anywhere on the page and you can start typing. You can also embed images, entire print outs of PDF files, and even files.

Basically, it’s designed to be a place to gather research for projects. The interface can be a little weird at first glance, however, particularly if you’re the sort of Mac user who has never used the ribbon.


It’s not complicated, though: just three tabs full of quick access to formatting and other options. If you’d rather not use the ribbon, that’s fine; just click the currently open tab to hide the ribbon. It’s not necessary because, like all Mac applications, OneNote offers every function in the menubar.


As you can see, this is also a great place to learn the keyboard shortcuts for the app, most of which are mostly the same as those in the other Office 2016 apps for Mac What's New In Office for Mac 2016? Download It & Find Out What's New In Office for Mac 2016? Download It & Find Out Microsoft is working on the next version of Office for Mac, due for release in 2016. For the time being, a (surprisingly stable) preview is available to download and use. Read More .

Below the ribbon you’ll see the name of the currently open notebook on the left. Click this to browse your notebooks:


You can add a new notebook, if you want, using the plus sign at top-right.

To the right of the notebook button are the tabs of the currently open notebook.


You can add as many tabs as you like, scrolling if necessary. You can also change the color of the tabs, allowing you to keep things organized visually.

That’s a brief tour of OneNote on Mac. You’ll need to work out for yourself how many notebooks and tabs to create.

Things Mac Users Need to Know About OneNote

If you’ve got Microsoft Office 2016 installed on your Mac already, there’s a good chance you’ve already got OneNote installed. But even if you don’t use Word, Excel, and Powerpoint on your Mac, you can download OneNote from the Mac App Store free of charge.

You’re not done after installing OneNote, however; you’ll also want the OneNote clipper, which lets you quickly clip articles and entire web pages to the notebook of your choice.


If you’re a Chrome user, you can check out the official OneNote Clipper for Chrome. Safari and Firefox users, sadly, do not get an official browser plugin – they’ll have to use a bookmarklet instead. It works just as well as the extension, but is stored in your bookmarks toolbar instead of with your other extensions.

Key OneNote Features from Windows Missing on Mac

OneNote on the Mac is relatively new: Microsoft only released it in 2014, a decade after the first Windows version launched. A lot of features are missing from the Mac version, meaning if you’re a longtime OneNote user who recently switched to the Mac you may be confused.

Users have documented these missing features at the UserVoice forum for OneNote, but here’s a few OneNote features missing from the desktop version that the Mac version doesn’t offer:


  • Custom tags. OneNote for Mac lets you add from a pre-set number of tags, seen above. Unlike the Windows version, however, you cannot add custom tags. So far as I can tell, custom tags from Windows will also not sync over. There’s also no support for searching tags.
  • Drawing shapes. On Windows, and mobile versions of OneNote, there’s a section of the ribbon dedicated to freehand drawing. This does not exist on the Mac, but any drawings you make on other platforms will sync over.
  • Opening .one and .onepkg files. OneNote for Mac is strictly for syncing notebooks to OneDrive, and you cannot use OneNote for Mac without a OneDrive account. Your notes are stored for offline use, but you cannot save them in a .one or .onepkg file – and you cannot open such files using OneNote for Mac.
  • Templates. OneNote for Mac does not offer templates.
  • Printing is offered, but it’s pretty basic. You can’t change the page layout or size, so sometimes things are going to come out badly formatted.

Migrating from Evernote Requires Windows

One more thing Mac users should be aware of is that, if you’re migrating from Evernote, you’ve got some work to do. I’ve outlined how to migrate your notes from Evernote to OneNote How to Migrate from Evernote to OneNote, and Why You Should How to Migrate from Evernote to OneNote, and Why You Should Do you think that Microsoft OneNote is better than Evernote? Or maybe, it just suits your project management style. Either way, here's how you can migrate all your notes from Evernote to OneNote easily. Read More , but the tool the process requires, Evernote2Onenote, is only offered for Windows. Try as I may, I could not find a Mac-friendly alternative.

The Essential Guide to OneNote for Mac evernote export

This means Mac users looking to migrate need to tediously copy all of their notes using copy paste. Alternatively, they could install Windows on their Mac 4 Ways To Get Windows On Your Mac 4 Ways To Get Windows On Your Mac Want Windows 8 running on your Mac, but don't know where to start? Let us show you how. Read More , or just bribe a Windows user and borrow their PC for the afternoon. Beer works, I find, as do cookies.

A Great Mac Version that’s Missing Some Features

If you’re a longtime Mac user who has never used OneNote, I think you’ll be pretty happy with OneNote for Mac. The application has, in my opinion, surpassed Evernote as the best note-taking option for Mac users.

But if you’re a longtime OneNote for Windows user who only recently switched to Mac, you might find yourself disappointed. It’s not clear if Microsoft is going to add all these features to the Mac version.

Of course, I’m just one person. I’m sure there are other opinions out there, and I can’t wait to hear them. Let’s talk about what you like, and don’t like, about OneNote for Mac. I’m looking forward to it!

Explore more about: Microsoft OneNote, Note-Taking Apps.

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  1. Josh
    February 21, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    I fell in love with OneNote several years ago, as a Windows user. I even recommended it to other people (so I was what would be called a "promoter", which companies love). Then I changed jobs and started using a Mac, and over the last two years I've stuck with it but grown increasingly disappointed with how much the Mac version lacks compared to the Windows version (and interestingly, the latest Windows version reportedly is a step backward in terms of features compared to OneNote 2016). To me, the most egregious is lack of local storage which also manifests itself in lack of export ability. That means I can't migrate my account from a personal one to my new work OneDrive account. The second is lack of Outlook integration. In Windows it's so easy to take meeting notes, with a direct link between an Outlook calendar entry and a Note in ON, plus the ability to create tasks in Outlook simply by marking something as To Do in ON. I'm considering making a switch to Evernote...not that I could use my work OneDrive account for it, but I'm just frustrated by how stunted ON for Mac is.

  2. Prashant Saund
    July 30, 2017 at 1:55 am

    Adding Macro add-on support would be great relief for Mac Users.
    At least Onetastic is not supporting Mac version yet.

  3. Juliet
    May 16, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    I tried to use OneNote for Mac. I mean, I really really tried. But I can't sort my notes alphatically or really even at all. And that just means it's unusable.

  4. Meghan Adamo
    February 1, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    There are a couple features that I wish they would offer soon:

    1. A way to change that date/time of the page manually.
    2. Use of templates.

    Is there a timeline for either of these to be introduced in future versions?

  5. Foobar
    January 20, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    The inability to sort by date is a deal killer. One Note stupidly puts a new note at the bottom of the list, making me scroll through hundreds of notes just to see the newest.

    Windows users having been requesting this feature for literally TEN YEARS.


  6. elvis
    November 30, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Migrated from Evernote. Fail.

    Super slow syncing. Its been a month and not all of my notebooks are synced.

    Now looking at something else, and I find there is not Export feature.

    Be careful before committing

  7. CJ
    October 21, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Thanks a lot for this nice review.
    Like you may be, i am not a great fan of MS software.
    But OneNote definitely turned out to be an easy, convenient and very productive tool for me.
    The key feature that is missing on Mac though, is the search for tags.
    It is a pity to see it works like a charm on Windows and we do not have it on Mac.
    This makes tags almost useless since only decorative as smileys would be in an email.
    I tried to post this feedback to OneNote developers.
    Do you guys know other ways to push for this update of OneNote?

    • Juan Antonio Dominion
      January 6, 2017 at 6:14 am

      Hello –

      Within OneNote for Mac, and I believe OneNote for Windows, in the upper right or left side of the display. (I'm not at my computer so I can't tell you exactly where.) Either way on the upper portion of the screen on the left or right hand side where the icons are, there should be a smiley face icon.

      If you click on this icon, it gives you the option of telling Microsoft what you like or don't like about the application. Supposedly, they read all of these comments.

      Be prepared, however, because it does take a screen capture image to send along with the feature request; nevertheless, It does give you the option to NOT send the screen capture image with the feature request.

      I hope this is helpful and, as a dedicated OneNote user, I would love to see this enhancement added. So, good luck to you and getting this in stated in Microsoft OneNote for Mac.

      ~Antonio Dominion

  8. James
    August 25, 2016 at 2:08 am

    I was going to move from Evernote to OneNote, then I discovered that you can't edit or add tags on OneNote on the Mac.

    That's a deal breaker for me right now. Sorry Microsoft!

  9. pbn
    August 25, 2016 at 12:37 am

    Any ideas on finding a free or student affordable pdf editor that will allow editing/annotating of pdf's in OneNote on a Mac that will seamlessly save back to OneNote.

  10. Michael
    July 22, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I have been using scannable for capturing receipts into Evernote. taking your advice & moving to Onenote, do you have a suggestion to do replace this app?

  11. Laura
    July 17, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    I'm having issues adding Onenote to outlook, so I can streamline my work process. You can do it on a PC, I just can't seem to get it on any of my apple devices. Any input would be appreciated

  12. Patrick Houlihan
    July 15, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Many of the official Microsoft shortcuts for OneNote Mac (in Help and on their site) don't work, at least not on my Mac. In some cases, I've been able to find the correct shortcut.

    But I still haven't found one to move the cursor by one word. Microsoft lists Option + Left Arrow and Option + Right Arrow to move the cursor by one word, but neither works on my Mac. These commands are not listed in a menu, so you can't assign custom shortcuts to them in System Prefs > Keyboard > Shortcuts.

    Do these work on your Mac or have you found substitutes?

    • ar
      July 15, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Hi Patrick - this is was a bug introduced in an earlier update of OneNote for Mac. There are lots of people w/ the same problem. OneNote finally released an update about 2 days ago that put the functionality back in. If you install the newest version (15.24), you should be fine.

      Incidentally, they didn't overtly state that it was a bug or even that it was fixed in the update. After a few slightly pushy tweets w/ the support staff, they let on that they had fixed it.

  13. David Herst
    June 25, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    I find that after keeping OneNote open on my Mac for a while, certain menu commands disappear. For example, I now only have Edit, View, Window and Help menus. The others are gone, and the remaining menus are missing some commands.

    Usually I can clear this condition by restarting OneNote, but this time that doesn't work. (BTW the Quit command on the OneNote menu is disabled.) Tried bouncing the Mac, still no change.

    Have you seen this problem and can suggest how to fix it?

  14. Simon
    May 23, 2016 at 7:16 am


    This is perhaps the wrong forum for this kind of question but I've read some things here and there about Windows v Mac compatibility with OneNote. Our office stores all our .one files on a PC in the office and I roam with a MacBook Air.

    After downloading OneNote for Mac, I still can't see to access any files - files don't download with a OneNote icon like they do on PC and when I select "open with" after downloading a .one file the OneNote option is greyed and unavailable.

    I just can't seem to work it out.

  15. Peter
    February 12, 2016 at 4:52 pm


  16. Brett
    February 12, 2016 at 6:22 am

    Like it a lot, nice article Justin. Main issue for me are the crappy printing options. No ability to change orientation! ...although there is a work around if you print via the online version.

    • Justin Pot
      February 12, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      The online version is a nice workaround, sucks that you have to resort to it though.

  17. Anonymous
    February 12, 2016 at 2:40 am

    I love One Note and am now using it for Mac but I sure do miss some features.

  18. lccv
    February 10, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    I have Mavericks and can't download OneNote... It's seems it's only available for El Capitan :(

    • Justin Pot
      February 10, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      That's too bad man. El Capitan is a free upgrade, though, and I think I remember Yosemite being supported as well. But if you want to stick with Mavericks, the sad thing is software will slowly stop working for you.