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Evernote v. OneNote: Which is the Note Bene?

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

When I was a wee lad in law school, Evernote did not exist. There was, however, OneNote, which comes with Microsoft Office.

I was smitten. Whereas Word was clunky for taking random notes and scribbles, OneNote was like taking notes on a digital paper. There were audio clips, sketch tools, old-fashioned typing, and best of all: brilliant OCR (the tech term for turning words from a picture or PDF into editable text.)

Then I left law school, and OneNote, behind.

Last month, we did a review of Evernote and fell truly, madly, deeply in love. It took notes, synced them between all devices, and did it all for free. There were extensions or apps for everything - from saving web pages to drawing sketches on my tablet. It was almost perfect.


All of those notes you make and pictures you take are uploaded to the cloud and transferred to your devices automatically -- but there is a cap on data transfer for free users.

Obviously, this could create a problem if you are relying on it for business purposes. Having the sync die mid-month when you need it most would be problematic. Then again, if you are using it for business, you could always fork over a few bucks for the paid version.

Being an impoverished (read: cheap) individual, I sought something similar, yet free. I re-stumbled upon OneNote, which in my absence, had developed mobile apps and the same syncing features as Evernote. When I left, it was confined to one PC. When I returned, it was like Evernote, but less awesome.

So Evernote v. OneNote, let’s do it:

The Mobile App

The Android app, while super-basic, does exactly what one would expect. You can take notes. You can add pictures to your notes. That's about it.

You can't create notebooks, add audio clips, or do sketches. It's about as basic as a note-taking app could possibly be -- but it's free and sync seems to be unlimited. If you aren't the audio-clip type, and don't mind organizing your notes into notebooks when you get back to the office, it will serve you well.

The problem is, Evernote's mobile app spanks it. It does audio clips. It allow you to organize notebooks. There are also a number of standalone apps (like Penultimate, Skitch, etc.) that sync with Evernote and add even more functionality.

If OneNote Mobile is oatmeal, Evernote Mobile and the related apps are a brunch buffet with Eggs Benedict. And mimosas.

The Desktop App

When it comes to the desktop app, however, there isn't much of a difference. The feature set is about the same.

The difference? Microsoft OneNote's PC app isn't free. It's $70 as a standalone app, or more if you buy the full Microsoft Office suite. Granted, if you already own Microsoft Office for you law firm needs (that's most people), it's already included in all of the 2013 versions (Student, Office, Professional, etc.). Evernote is free - for everyone, on every device.

The Verdict

Evernote wins - hands down.

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