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OneNote vs. Evernote: A personal take on two great note-taking apps

Preston Gralla | March 24, 2014
Now that Microsoft has made OneNote free for consumers, can it compete with the well-known Evernote? Preston Gralla offers his take on both.

The Internet Explorer add-in for OneNote opens a small window that lets you browse to the specific notebook, section and page where you want the clip stored.

What happens next depends upon the browser you use. With Internet Explorer, a small window opens showing you all of your OneNote notebooks; you can then browse to the specific notebook, section and page where you want the clip stored. Select the location and the clip gets placed there.

On other browsers, though, no such window appears. Instead, the clip is sent to a Quick Notes notebook. From there, you'll have to move it or copy it somewhere else. I found it a kludgy annoyance.

There's an even bigger problem: You can't select only a section of the page to clip. The entire page gets sent as a single graphic image. So if you only want to clip a single paragraph, you're out of luck. And the clip is a graphic only, so that any links or media on the page don't work.

The differences among versions

It's in Windows where OneNote really shines, because that's where it has its full complement of note-creation tools. It's also where its heritage as an Office application is clearest, because it uses the Office Ribbon as a way to give you access to all of its features.

OneNote for Windows has six Ribbon tabs — Home, Insert, Draw, History, Review and View — each of which gives you access to plenty of features. So the Home Tab lets you format text, add tags, mark items as important and more. The Insert tab offers tools for inserting objects into your notes, including spreadsheets, pictures, audio and video you can record, equations and symbols.

The Drawing tab has the usual drawing tools, while History lets you collaborate with others, so that you can find other users' recent edits and comments, and so on. Review includes familiar Office features including a spell checker, a thesaurus and a translation tool. And View has plenty of ways to change the appearance of your notebooks and their pages, such as adding lines, changing their size, changing the colors and so on. Evernote has nothing approaching any of these sophisticated tools.

Each page you create is a blank slate that lets you add text, images, media and objects in a freeform way, moving them around and formatting them with ease. For those who want to spend the time, it can mean creating extremely rich pages. But if all you want is text, that's simple to do as well.

The iPad and Mac versions have the same basic look, feel and organization of the Windows version, although with not as many features. They have three tabs across the top, rather than six: Home, Insert and View.

 

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