So I'm beginning what some may come to describe as a "downward" technology spiral. I wrote a couple of months ago that I don't mind Microsoft products. Mainly due to work reasons, I've gradually swung more that direction. I recently realized that I don't actively use an Apple product anymore for work, something that hasn't been true for several years.

One app that has been a constant for me for most of my working life has been Evernote. However, I don't love the design on their Microsoft app. Also, they've been shifting their business model to charge a little more and a little more every year.

A few other people have even thought about migrating away from Evernote (check out this Twitter convo here). All the while, Microsoft has quietly improved their own note taking app OneNote.

I checked out a few reviews and OneNote ranked ahead of Evernote in a few posts, at least ones written within the last year. Since OneNote does work together well with Outlook and other products, I thought I'd continue my slide into Microsoft's ecosystem. I should disclose that I have all features on OneNote due to our company's Office365 account, so I really don't have to pay for a thing. On my own, I know there are features that I'd have to pay for. 

What did I like? Not like?

Pro: Felt More Like a Real Notebook

I really like the tab layout here better than Evernote. I just found it easier to organize files on OneNote. My Evernote account got out of hand really quickly, much of that my own fault for not having a clear governance. 

It's an adjustment at first typing in OneNote. Evernote reflects typing in a normal word doc much closer than OneNote. The adjustment period is short and I eventually appreciated how notes in OneNote have a wider, canvas-like layout. That piece doesn't always translate as well on mobile (more on that later) but I've found a lot of value being able to break up my notes into pieces. 

Con: Search Isn't As Good

I can't put my finger on it but searching for notes just didn't feel as intuitive on OneNote. Or at least wasn't as powerful. The search and tagging functionality on Evernote makes up for the lack of organization. 

Pro: Drop Microsoft Excel/PowerPoint/Word Docs Directly In a Note

Since it is a Microsoft product, it does sync well with other Microsoft products. You can embed, not just link to, a full file inside of an individual note. While I haven't had a use for that yet (I've only been using it a few weeks) but could see instances of being able to draw on PowerPoint presentations or have the PowerPoint deck on one side of the note and drop feedback on the other side. I have a feeling that I'll need this more for 2017 planning this fall. 

Con: Syncing is Weird

I have an Office 365 account through North Highland but also try to use OneNote personally. Maybe because I'm using two different sets of notebooks, it just doesn't seem to sync quite as seamlessly as Evernote did. I had a friend of mine using it personally that had syncing issues as well. It seems that an Office 365 account is necessary to really get the most out of it. 

Pro: Drawing + Video Recording

I love that you can both audio and video record a meeting. In addition to that, you can draw on notes as well. I have a touchscreen laptop for work, so this is a great piece of functionality. I haven't used it a lot yet but know it'll come in handy for our next website refresh. 

Con: Mobile Experience

The great thing about OneNote is the canvas-like layout for note taking. The con is that the experience doesn't translate as well to mobile. There's a lot of scrolling you have to do to see an entire note when you open a note you created on desktop via your phone. 

I can't put my finger on why but jotting down notes on mobile isn't as intuitive or easy. Hard to explain why but there's just something that feels harder about it. I think it goes back to that canvas experience on OneNote - it just doesn't feel as right on mobile. I bet it's great on a tablet though (something I've yet to try). 

Wrapping Up

I really do like OneNote and will continue using it, at least as long as I'm at North Highland. In short: 

OneNote:

  • A better pure note taking app than Evernote
  • Drawing is a better experience
  • Embedding documents is a huge win
  • Works well if you work in a Microsoft-heavy environment

Evernote

  • Better search experience
  • Mobile note taking experience is better
  • While it's not as good for text notes, it's way better for just clipping articles

I really do like OneNote better. If you are a lifelong Evernote user and are thinking about switching, there's a handy transition video here:

 

How about you? Have you transitioned away from Evernote for something different?