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Microsoft OneNote for beginners: Everything you need to know

Derek Walter | Feb. 23, 2015
Microsoft’s purple paper eater may just help restore your sanity when you’re fighting digital clutter.

Yes, even Chromebooks can use OneNote via the service's slick web interface. Just like with the Mac version, the web app isn't as powerful as the desktop software, but it does a decent job. 

I'm most happy to see you have visibility of who's signed in to a shared file. It's great for knowing who is pulling their weight on a group project. There's an "Open in OneNote" button if you're using Windows or OS X, which lets you view the note in the desktop software instead of the web app.

OneNote apps on iOS

Now that the massive iPhone 6 Plus is available, OneNote may be the perfect app for writing notes on the run or scribbling quick sketches with your finger or a stylus.

Like the Windows version, the iOS app connects to both consumer and enterprise accounts, so it's perfect for capturing those important meeting notes and saving hilarious Buzzfeed listicles.

Microsoft also built in support for the new Share extension for iOS 8. Use it to send items from Safari, email, or other apps right to OneNote. 

It's even on Android
Yes, Microsoft even supports OneNote on arch-rival Google's Android platform.

Microsoft took advantage of a key Android strength by creating numerous useful widgets. You can access a list of notes or open a specific command--like drawing or taking a picture--right from the Android home screen.

Beyond mere smartphone support, OneNote has even embraced Android Wear, so you can take notes by shouting them into your smartwatch, if that's your thing.

Where OneNote needs to improve
There's still some growing room for OneNote, especially if it wants to be more competitive with Evernote.

For one, it doesn't format web clips very well. If you like to save articles for offline or later use, Evernote does it better. OneNote doesn't have any options for stripping out ads or giving you a choice of where to save it, defaulting to the Quick Notes section.

I've also found the Android app is still rather buggy. Pen input and moving between sections in particular feel a little janky. Evernote is by no means bug-free, but Microsoft needs to apply more polish if it wants to win over Android users.

OneNote's future
OneNote has deep potential as a powerful, cross-platform tool if Microsoft can connect all the pieces. The surge of people migrating to phablets, tablets, and touchscreen laptops could only play to OneNote's favor.

But if Microsoft is truly to rule productivity, it needs OneNote to feel at home on every platform. That's no small task, but Microsoft's almost there--and it already rocks for everyday note-taking needs. Try it out!


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