Evernote and OneNote are the two diametrically opposed kings of the digital note-taking world. Evernote is the plucky startup that launched back in 2008 (and is now a multinational corporation), while OneNote is Microsoft’s baby and has been around since 2003.
Despite their age, the two apps truly began to shine when cloud computing exploded, allowing them to go cross-platform, seamlessly letting you jot things down on whatever devices you like. But you’re only ever really going to need one in your life, so here’s our comparison to help you decide which is best for you.
Value for Money
Things between Evernote and OneNote were pretty tight in the value-for-money department until June 2016. Both had excellent free versions and good-value premium versions with a slew of extra features, but then Evernote made, in my mind, a mistake by restricting the basic free version to just two devices, which pretty much negates the whole “cross-platform” spiel, as many of us have more than two devices these days. OneNote’s free version continues to be available across multiple devices, giving it a serious edge on this front.
If you’re familiar with Microsoft’s tab-based approach to its Office suite, then you’ll feel right at home with OneNote’s bright and friendly tab interface. Evernote’s looks a bit severe in comparison, though you can easily argue that you don’t need a fuscia-coloured theme when taking notes.
I like how OneNote has a menu showing all your notebooks that you can click/swipe in using the hamburger menu icon at the top left, while by default seeing all the pages you have within a given notebook in the left pane is a useful view. With that said, Evernote fights back by giving you a lot more value for your right-clicks, allowing you to easily export, print, duplicate, tag and share notes or entire notebooks.
On balance, this one’s probably a stalemate, with my personal preference towards OneNote’s bolder presentation not feeling significant enough to unequivocally recommend it over Evernote.
This is where both notebook apps really differentiate, and depending on what kind of features you prioritize, could help you decide whether to go for one or the other. One of my favorite features in OneNote is the fact that you have a lot more freedom to scribble and draw anywhere on the page, which is particularly useful if you have a stylus and want to draw mindmaps and more loosely-creative stuff. It also notably has an integrated dictionary and thesaurus.
Evernote’s crowning feature, in my opinion, is its web clipper, which allows you to annotate and doodle on internet clippings before you save them. OneNote’s is simplistic by comparison. You can also record audio in Evernote, which you can’t do in the free version of OneNote. It’s well integrated with Google Drive so you can quickly throw things to and from the cloud service as you please.
Once again it’s a matter of what you prioritize, though perhaps Evernote has the edge here in terms of pure note-taking options, while OneNote will better serve those few people who have a pen attachment or stylus for their devices.
Conclusion – OneNote Wins
For the most part, these surprisingly distinct apps both have their share of unique features that make them worth looking at. In the end, what really clinches the “Best Note-Taking App” award for OneNote for me is the fact that it doesn’t feel like the free version locks off features quite as egregiously as Evernote’s recently imposed restrictions. Where OneNote has opened up feature-wise over the years, Evernote has locked even something so basic as being able to use it on multiple devices behind a paywall.
Perhaps this is partly to the financial power of Microsoft, where Evernote is a company that’s much more dependent on monetizing its app. Whatever the case, it seems that Microsoft has approached OneNote in a very consumer-friendly manner, and that deserves recognition.
Do also note that Evernote and OneNote are not the only note-taking apps around. There are plenty of similar apps that either have their own unique features or are simply a free clone of Evernote or OneNote.