OneNote versus Evernote
July 25, 2012 2:11 PM   Subscribe

The last OneNote vs Evernote question on AskMe was over two years ago and I know a lot has changed. (more)

I have used both in the past and ended up going back to - paper! Now, I wish I had stuck with one or the other. The ability to search for notes is only one of the many reasons why.

I have researched this question and I'm more confused than ever. So, I am specifically asking MeFites who have experience with both and have an opinion one way or another. Evernote or OneNote and why?

Thanks, as always, in advance.
posted by Gerard Sorme to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Evernote - everywhere - not tied up to one computer

OneNote the opposite - still very rich and useful
posted by daveg02 at 2:41 PM on July 25, 2012

Best answer: The main difference as I see it are:

I've used OneNote 2007 extensively and still do for specific taks, but Evernote i my choice for general note-taking.

For an organized set of notes (in my case a lab log book), OneNote's hierarhical arrangement is nice. It's less great when you want to just jot down a phone number or something in the moment. I feel some sort of resistance to creating a whole page for that, and you cannot see the content of many such small pages at once. With everything stored online, Evernote is good for this, since you can take a note from your phone or pad or any of the computers you use. Maybe you can do that in OneNote 2010 too? In any case, it works quite well in Evernote.

Evernote is a bit too happy about advanced formatting for my taste - I easily end up with a mishmash of fonts and colors by accident. The iPhone app is a bit slow, and unless you are careful, the syncing can sometimes overwrite a note if you edit it on two different devices. It's overall very useful though, both to have access to existing notes and to be able to make new ones on the fly.
posted by springload at 2:42 PM on July 25, 2012

I agree with just about everything springload said.

I too just now switched away from handwritten notes. After using both, I found that Evernote best fit my need. Most of my notes are subject related more than hierarchical. For example, notes on phone calls I've made, notes on thoughts related to values I want in a president and so forth.

So to sum it all up, if you want hierarchy, OneNote is the go to. If you want just plain 'ol notes, then Evernote is best. Also, I have Kindle Fire and Evernote syncs to it beautifully. I've not used OneNote in a long time, so I can't say how well it does there.
posted by magnoliasouth at 3:09 PM on July 25, 2012

Another Evernote user. I use it for the strength of its android app with it's single keypress widgets to open various types of note. Press button - speak into phone - press button again - note recorded, instantly uploaded and available from any platform. Same thing for text notes, photos etc.
posted by merocet at 3:15 PM on July 25, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the thoughts. My question may have been premature. I should probably wait to see what OneNote 2013 brings. Some claim it will change the game in notetaking apps. They are going to have two versions - one for regular keyboard/mouse computers and another for touch, with new apps for PC, Surface, iOS and Android. OneNote has very good reviews on the 2013 Preview, so maybe I asked too early. Comparing the 2010 version versus Evernote may not be fair. If I would have realized about the new version I probably would have waited. PCWorld Review Also, apparently you can now use OneNote online with their SkyDrive webapp.

I've just downloaded the Office 2013 preview, so I can more adequately compare the two.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 3:46 PM on July 25, 2012

OneNote became a real pain on my iPhone. The syncing took too long and I ended up with a lot of those "could not sync" errors. Evernote has worked better.
posted by lakeroon at 4:27 PM on July 25, 2012

Am in the same situation - have OneNote 2007, want to start saving notes online, but my work just issued me a MacBook for some projects.

No equivalent on the Mac, so it's Evernote for me.

For those with tons of OneNote files for shared environs, no way to export either into a Mac format, which I found short-sighted. (Office 12 for Mac? No one knows.)
posted by scooterdog at 4:44 PM on July 25, 2012

Response by poster: Lakeroon, I hear you. That's why I think I want to wait before committing now. The synching and online use has to improve for OneNote or I'll definitely be going with Evernote.

Does Evernote do the OCR and "read" handwritten notes as well as OneNote? I've seen that in action from a colleague and it's very impressive. Being able to search handwritten notes would be a big plus.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 4:56 PM on July 25, 2012

Evernote supposedly OCRs handwritten stuff, but I've thrown a lot of my comics notes in there and never seen any kind of transcription. It might just work for searching, I dunno, I never really search EN as I keep things pretty organized in there.

I've never used OneNote so I can't compare.
posted by egypturnash at 5:44 PM on July 25, 2012

Best answer: Onenote's parent/tree format is excellent for notes that also have structure- like notes on each chapter of a book, or notes on each subject for a class. It also works great for outlines and things. Unfortunately, the mobile onenote (for android, anyway) is lacking- they're still fixing the bugs, and last I used it, it had weird issues with being unable to name or move notes, could only edit existing ones or start an untitled note. It would also crash randomly on my tablet.

Evernote is really great at catching bits of miscellaneous, bits of information and making them searchable, you can also tag notes. The cross-platform Evernote for everthing- is really excellent, makes it easy to update and access it from any device or computer seamlessly, which was a big pro for me. I use Evernote to catch ideas and do some brainstorming. I also like that it works well to embed pictures, and I also hear you can embed handwriting and sketch on pictures, but I've never tried those features. Evernote also has excellent OCR and search.

And of course, Onenote costs $, and Evernote is free.
posted by Aliera at 7:37 PM on July 25, 2012

Best answer: It took me a while to get my brain switched into "Evernote-mode" but now it is indispensable to me. You can create a quasi-hierarchical structure for your notes by creating multiple notebooks and dragging them on top of each other to form Notebook Stacks. Stacks act just like folders, though you are limited to just a single level. (You can't nest stacks.) But I have stacks for Research, Classes, and so on. In my Research stack, I have individual Notebooks for each project I am working on or thinking about. I also use tags so I can also relate activities and topics between notes. I also created an !Inbox notebook (with the leading exclamation point to ensure it sorts at the top of any list) and set it as the default notebook in Evernote. This way, if I am in a hurry, I can create a note and type without having to think on the spot where to file the note. I just keep on top of my Inbox notebook and refile later when I have time.

And everyone is very impressed in meetings when I whip out my phone and take a snapshot of the whiteboard with Evernote and share it with them via email just moments later.
posted by at 2:13 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm in law school and I use OneNote 2007 for my class notes. It's perfect because I can set up a new notebook for each class and pages for the days, I just flows really well for that situation. Apparently, there is some rudimentary sharing/syncing ability but I don't need that for class notes (I use DropBox for online backup of school folders, including notes)

I use Evernote for every other kind of note taking I want to do. I am an Android phone user who owns an iPad, so the cross device syncing is great. I love the spontaneity of just creating a new note without having to decide where it is supposed to "go" -- in that way, it is a great replacement for the mini-moleskines that I used to carry everywhere. Being able to organize/tag after the fact if I want is nice also.

As far as handwriting OCR -- I've seen it try, and fail, but I don't have all that many handwritten notes in Evernote (just occasional snapshot notes of other people's handwriting).

If I had to use just one in my life, it would be Evernote hands down. If I was starting school over again and Evernote was as good as it is now, I probably wouldn't have even bothered with OneNote (especially if Office/OneNote wasn't provided as part of our school tuition)
posted by sparklemotion at 8:55 AM on July 26, 2012

Response by poster: One thing I take from this, and I hadn't even considered it before, is that I might not need to make a choice. It seems like several of you use both for different situations. I clearly see the use of Evernote for quick notes, snippets of information, etc. as being superior to OneNote. On the other hand, for serious research I think the hierarchical structure is a must-have for me. Using both (and I'm doing just that today with the 2013 OneNote preview and EN), I find they actually compliment each other quite nicely.

This discussion really helped - thanks again to all.

posted by Gerard Sorme at 12:05 PM on July 26, 2012

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