Productivity Windows

Why You Should Switch From OneNote 2016 to OneNote for Windows 10

Lori Kaufman 25-06-2018

Are you tired of tracking all of your tasks, plans, and notes in your head? Nobody can remember everything. That’s why you must write things down. And instead of using pen and paper, a note-taking app like OneNote is more convenient and reliable.


OneNote is great for keeping track of and organizing all your information and having it available on all your devices. Microsoft currently offers two versions of OneNote:

  1. OneNote for Windows 10 (the Microsoft Store app)
  2. OneNote 2016 (the Microsoft Office desktop app)

The former used to be much more limited, but things have certainly changed over the years.

OneNote 2016 is still more robust than OneNote for Windows 10, but it’s also being phased out. We’ll explain what’s happening to OneNote 2016 and show you some of the great benefits of switching to OneNote for Windows 10.

What’s Happening to the OneNote 2016 Desktop App?

Just in case you were starting to panic, OneNote 2016 is not going away. At least, not right away.

As of Office 2019, OneNote 2016 will not be installed by default. If you subscribe to Office 365, you can still choose to install OneNote 2016. And you can download OneNote 2016 for free even if you don’t subscribe to Office 365.


But OneNote 2016 will no longer receive new features.

Instead, Microsoft will be updating OneNote for Windows 10 (also referred to as OneNote) with features from OneNote 2016 as well as new features. For this reason, Microsoft encourages everyone to start using OneNote for Windows 10 so you’re always using the latest version through the Microsoft Store and taking advantage of the great new features.

If you need some of the features that OneNote 2016 has that have not yet been added to OneNote for Windows 10, you can still use OneNote 2016. Microsoft will continue to provide support, bug fixes, and security updates for OneNote 2016 through October 2020 for mainstream support and October 2025 for extended support.

If you have any questions about OneNote in Office 2019, see Microsoft’s FAQ list.


How OneNote Keeps You Organized

OneNote organization
The structure of OneNote mimics a three-ring binder. You create notebooks that have sections like tabs in a three-ring binder. Each section contains pages like the sheets of paper you put between the tabs in the binder.

Each page, or note, can contain different types of content like typed text, tables, images, attached files, web links, and even handwritten text and drawings.

Just like when you write on a piece of paper, you can insert content anywhere on a page in OneNote and move the items around.

OneNote for Windows 10 works like OneNote 2016 when it comes to the basic operations. Our OneNote guide The Only OneNote Guide You'll Ever Need OneNote is a powerful note-taking app. It's cross-platform and well integrated into Microsoft Office. Read this guide to become a OneNote pro! Read More covers OneNote 2016. Some things work a bit differently in OneNote for Windows 10 compared to OneNote 2016, but you’ll get the idea how OneNote works.


Why OneNote for Windows 10 Is Better Than OneNote 2016

So why should you switch to OneNote for Windows 10? Microsoft keeps adding new features to OneNote and migrating features from OneNote 2016 to the Windows 10 app.

Here are some awesome benefits you’ll get from switching over to OneNote for Windows 10. And the ones listed here are not all of them. You’ll find a list of features only available in OneNote for Windows 10 on Microsoft’s site, and new features are being added each month.

Share Notes With Any Windows 10 App

OneNote for Windows 10 allows you to share notes with other Windows 10 apps like Mail, Skype, and Twitter.

Open the note you want to share and click Share in the upper-right corner of the OneNote window. Then, click Send a copy.


Click Send a copy

The Share dialog box shows the Windows 10 apps installed on your PC that are fit to share your note with. If you don’t see the app you want to share your note with, click Get apps in Store at the bottom of the dialog box. The Microsoft Store shows you a list of available apps you can use to share your note.

You can also share your note with people by clicking on a person above the list of apps or clicking More people and selecting a person from your address book.

Share dialog box in OneNote

Draw Using Your Finger or Mouse

You can draw or sketch in notes using a Surface Pen (if you have a Surface) or your finger if you have a PC with a touch screen. If you don’t have a touch screen or a Surface, you can still draw using your mouse.

To draw in a note, open the note you want to draw in. The selected note can contain other content like typed text and images.

On the Draw tab, click the type of pen you want to use, then click Draw with Mouse or Touch. Start drawing in your note using your finger or mouse.

Draw using your finger or mouse

Solve and Graph Math Equations

OneNote will even solve and graph equations for you. You can either type or write your equations. We’re going to write the equation for our example because it’s quicker when your equations contain items like superscripts. We’ll also show you how to convert a written equation to a typed one.

To use the Math Assistant to solve an equation, click the Draw tab. Then, click the type of pen you want to use and click Draw with Mouse or Touch.

With your finger, stylus, or mouse, write your equation in the note.

Handwrite an equation

Click the Lasso tool and drag your mouse around the equation. The beginning and end of the lasso automatically connect, so when the connection shows that the selection includes the whole equation, release the mouse button.

Use the Lasso tool to select your equation

Click Math on the Draw tab.

Click Math on the Draw tab

To convert your handwritten equation to a typed equation, click Ink to Math on the Math pane.

Click Ink to Math on the Draw tab

Choose whether you want to solve for an unknown in the equation or graph the equation from the first drop-down list. Drag the box with the solution to the note.

You can also show the steps to get to the solution using the second drop-down list. Drag the steps box to the note.

Select the solution and the steps

Now you have a complete solution to your equation.

Equation solved

Transform Drawings Into Shapes

Another cool benefit of the drawing tools in OneNote is the ability to draw shapes and have them turn into shapes automatically.

Click the Draw tab and click the type of pen you want to use.

Click Draw with Mouse or Touch and then click Ink to Shape. With your finger, stylus, or mouse, draw a shape in the note.

Make sure you connect the beginning and end of the drawn shape.

Drawing a shape

The drawing automatically transforms into the shape you drew.

Transformed shape

Save Web Page Annotations in Microsoft Edge to OneNote

Microsoft Edge allows you to add annotations to webpages and save them to OneNote.

To add an annotation to a page and save it to OneNote, open Edge and navigate to the web page you want to annotate.

Click Add Notes on the toolbar in the upper-right corner of the window.

Click Add Notes in Edge

Choose whether you want to write on the web page with the Ballpoint pen, highlight text with the Highlighter, or Add a Note.

Click Add a note in Edge

Write on the web page, highlight text on the page, or add a note by clicking on the page and typing your note in the box.

Type a note on a web page in Edge

Click Save Web Note and make sure OneNote is selected on the dropdown pane.

Select a recently used section to save your web note in from the Choose a recent section dropdown list or accept the default section. Then, click Save.

Click Save Web Note, select a section, and click Save

A message displays when your note has been successfully saved to OneNote. Click View note to automatically open OneNote and see the new note.

If you have both versions of OneNote on your PC, OneNote 2016 may be the versions that opens automatically. If that happens, you’ll have to change the default version of OneNote used in Windows.

Click View note in Edge

A screenshot of the web page and the web note is added to a new note in the selected section.

Web note from Edge in OneNote

Pin Pages to the Start Menu for Quick Access

If you have some pages you access often, you can pin them to the Start menu for easy and quick access.

Go to the page you want to pin, right-click on the page, and select Pin Page to Start.

Then, click Yes on the confirmation dialog box.

Pin page to Start menu

The page is added as a tile on the Start menu. Click the tile to open the note in OneNote.

Page pinned to Start menu

If you decide you don’t want that note pinned to the Start menu anymore, right-click on the note’s tile and select Unpin from Start.

Unpin page from Start menu

Speak Your Notes Instead of Typing Them

Do you get tired of typing all your notes? Relieve your hands and start speaking your notes using Cortana.

To speak a note, open Cortana and click the microphone icon on the search box.

Speak what you want to add to your note. Cortana converts what you said to text and displays it. Click on the converted text to open the note in OneNote.

Again, if you have both versions of OneNote on your PC, OneNote 2016 may be the versions that opens automatically. To have the OneNote app be the default, you’ll have to change the default version of OneNote used in Windows.

Use Cortana to create a new note

The Recent Notes list displays with your spoken note at the top. The notebook and section containing the new note is also shown.

You may have to edit your note depending on how well Cortana understood what you said.

Note added to OneNote using Cortana

Switch to OneNote for Windows 10 Today

OneNote for Windows 10 provides many benefits for improving your productivity like drawing and solving equations in notes, transforming your handwriting to text, and speaking your notes instead of typing them.

There are also other useful OneNote features you may not have tried yet The 13 Best New OneNote Features You Haven't Tried Yet Microsoft has added many new perks to OneNote for Windows 10. Here are the best new OnenNote features in OneNote that you may have missed. Read More , like converting handwritten text to typed text, the Tell Me search feature, navigating backward and forward, opening multiple OneNote windows, and creating and hiding subpages.

Related topics: Microsoft OneNote, Note-Taking Apps.

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  1. Kevin S.
    January 13, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    The link for the FAQ above was updated on 4 NOV 2019. Microsoft states:

    Frequently Asked Questions about OneNote
    OneNote for Windows 10 OneNote 2016 OneNote for Mac
    Last updated on November 4, 2019

    Microsoft is continuing mainstream support for OneNote 2016 beyond October 2020. This means you can continue using it and expect to see new feature updates. OneNote 2016 support dates will align with Office 2019 support dates (October 10, 2023 for mainstream support and October 14, 2025 for extended support).

    Starting in March 2020, when you install Office 365 or Office 2019, the OneNote desktop app will be installed alongside the Word, PowerPoint, and Excel desktop apps.

    Not going away yet...

  2. Sparks T.
    June 8, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    So I give up a robust ("OneNote 2016 is still more robust than OneNote for Windows 10") that I use for serious work so I can draw pretty pictures and use a voice to text function that I already have. And, I give up Onetastic.

    What is wrong with sticking with the more "robust" program that works?????

    Yes, I realize you are just trying to find some upside with this article but since Microsoft doesn't listen I feel like screaming at someone.

  3. Lucas H
    May 30, 2019 at 11:14 pm

    What is the user point of view of this article, a college student?
    Because everyone else that uses it with office suite for business, this article just sounds stupid.
    You don't need to be a smart person to conclude how much is lacking on the new app... completely disappointing.

  4. Huh
    May 7, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    Noone who actually uses OneNote would write this article. The desktop version is vastly superior and the inability to save local copies of the notebook borders on extortion.

  5. Jack
    April 12, 2019 at 6:24 pm

    OneNote 2016 has a feature I love- a "Take screen clipping" icon that stays in the Windows Taskbar, so I can easily clip from any application. Similar to the OneNote 365 screen clipper for browsers, but clips everything, not just Browser content.

  6. Dex
    March 8, 2019 at 3:34 am

    I appreciate what this article is trying to do but there are some issues with the position it takes. First, ON2016 is a superior program to ONW10 for anyone who does any actual work on it. ONW10 might be okay for clipping coupons or a five-item to do list but power-users require more. It is a similar strategy that Microsoft used in buying Wunderlist and forcing it into obsolescence while touting it's stripped down limited functionality version in To-Do.

    Second, while you may be correct that ONW10 may EVENTUALLY be an acceptable program because Microsoft will migrate features to it, there is no guarantee that they will do so, or that they will migrate the individual features that a specific user relies upon.

    Third, the support provided for your thesis - that ONW10 is better than ON2016 - is suspect. When you arrive at the part of the article that is suppose to support the alleged superiority, you cite things that are available in both versions. For example, drawing with your finger or mouse AND converting handwriting to text both exist in ON2016. I also believe that speech to text is available for both, but I use Dragon so I have not had to do this. As you know, if a feature exists in both versions, then it does NOT support your premise.

    The ability to pin pages to the start menu might appeal to some and I don't believe it is available in ON2016; however, by getting the free Onetastic add-on that Brad Ray mentioned, it's a snap. You do mention that MS Edge allows you to annotate webpages and save those annotations to ONW10 and I have to admit I don't know if ON2016 can do this because, frankly, I have never tried. There are a half dozen ways to do virtually the same thing in ON2016 and other programs that DO NOT require me to use MS Edge and, because of this, are superior. I am trying to keep an open mind but I am somewhat stumped as to why you would advocate using an inferior note app and compound it with an inferior web browser.

    While I have to admit that the solving of math equations is nice, it does not confer the "many benefits" that you suggest will prompt us to "switch to ONW1o today".

    Finally, and more importantly, your article omits reasons why you should switch. While it is idiosyncratic, to me the biggest reason not to switch is that ONW10 does NOT allow you to save your notebooks to your own hard drive. I am unapologetic in my view that it is my data/information/notes and I, not Microsoft, should decide where my work product is stored. It is not just that AT&T dropped internet service in my area for two days and, had I been using ONW10, I would have been out of luck. MIcrosoft understands that being able to control access to people's information is a source of power (See Thompson's Organizations in Action (1967)). No matter how they spin it, its decision was not to make our lives better.

  7. Bill
    November 15, 2018 at 10:36 pm

    I depend on OneNote. I have office 365. I had to reinstall the suite because of a glitch. Now OneNote doesn't install AND the office 365 makes no reference on how to get OneNote. Also, this article above doesn't say how to get it either. I've wasted so much time trying to figure out how to address this. I opened a chat with microsoft support and they didn't know either.

  8. A J
    August 16, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Cannot believe anyone is recommending this change.
    We have Office 365 and use OneNote seriously for our business records, the Windows 10 app is like a Tonka toy version, no proper formatting, just compare the toolbars.

    Seriously Microsoft is just so desperate to get their apps store working they will even sacrifice their Office Suite!

    However you damage your credibility by simply following the Microsoft line.

  9. Brad Ray
    June 26, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    I might find myself using the Windows 10 version of this app on a tablet etc, but I'm sad to hear that the desktop version is being abandoned as I'm not sure I want to give up my Onetastic addin.

  10. Matt
    June 26, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    I'll never fully trust OneNote for Windows 10 or OneNote on MacOS after what happened to one of the students I do IT support for.
    Something happened which stopped her OneNote for Mac from syncing to her OneDrive, causing her to lose an entire semester's worth of biochem notes.
    On older versions of OneNote, this wouldn't be a problem as there would be a local file that it saves to that can be opened in OneNote on any platform. With newer versions of OneNote for Mac and OneNote for Windows 10 (store version), they save to the cloud first and keep a local cache that they won't expose to the user and that isn't the standard OneNote Notebook format. If anything ever happens to cause a hitch in your sync, you're screwed.
    Even if you do manage to find the cache files, MS has no tool to restore from them and OneNote won't let you go File->Open and select those files.

  11. Puritan
    June 26, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Reminders! OneNote is so good, and yet it's completely useless because it doesn't have reminders. Seriously how hard is it to have reminders? Literally every one of OneNote's competitors have it.

    • Dex
      March 8, 2019 at 1:51 am

      OneNote has reminders . . . sort of. And, you have to have Outlook to make it work. If you have something you want to be reminded about you can highlight it and, from the "Home" menu, select Outlooks tasks. From the various red flags displayed, chose "Custom". The Outlook task window comes up and from there you can set dates and add a reminder.

      Certainly not optimal.

  12. Mercusio
    June 26, 2018 at 2:59 am

    I have only one reason for using OneNote 2016 instead of OneNote.
    Since I am a big user of Office 365, Microsoft Outlook is one of my main tools. But it is impossible to share notes to Microsoft Outlook with OneNote.