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Massive Updates for Microsoft OneNote Across All Platforms

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Note-taking apps are a matter of personal taste. Some only want simple “Post-it” style notes and are ardent Google fans. For that, Keep is perfect.

Others want to incorporate snippets of web pages, audio clips, photos, and robustly-formatted text and charts. Those users, for the longest time, have been attached to Microsoft OneNote, though the bare mobile apps made many flee to upstart Evernote.

With this week’s massive updates across the OneNote line, that gap in mobile features has shrunk and the question of which app to use has become even more murky.

The Updates

Lets start with the biggest one: iPad. The previous app was about 25mb. The current app? 250mb. The update has made the app ten times bigger, though once you see it in action, you'll understand why.

It's on an iPad, but it looks almost as feature-robust as the desktop Windows client. You have tabbed notebooks, all the formatting you could ever wish for, and even a simplified menu system reminiscent of the desktop Office "Ribbon" UI.

If you have an iPad, this is a killer app worth trying.

Lacking an iPad? The iPhone and Android apps have been updated as well. Previously, one could create bulleted or regular text notes. That was about it. You couldn't even sort the notes into notebooks.

Well, from our few minutes with the Android app, it has added rich text formatting and highlighting (oddly hidden in a submenu, but it exists), audio clip and photo attachments, and a few other minor features. Unfortunately, you still can't create notebooks on-the-go, so organization is left for the desktop.

Speaking of leaving things for the desktop, the SkyDrive integration and sync is flawless. If you are a fan of SkyDrive (we are) and the Windows desktop version of Office (the industry standard), the integration and auto-sync is indescribably convenient.

The Failures

Are you a Mac user? You may have discovered, at some point, that OneNote doesn't exist for you. It still doesn't. Microsoft has released OneNote for Windows (desktop and mobile), Android, iPhone, and iPad, yet leaves Mac OS X users OneNote-less. If you are a Mac user, you'll want to go for Evernote.

Furthermore, if you are a heavy mobile user, the OneNote apps, while greatly improved, still aren't nearly as great as Evernote's alternatives, except the new iPad version. Evernote does notebook creation on-the-go, has its formatting options in plain sight, and has amazing functionality brought via extra apps, like Skitch, which allows you to mark-up photos, and Penultimate, which is great for hand-taken notes on an iPad (Android version is in development).

Unlike OneNote, nearly all of Evernote's apps and functions are cross-platform. You'll rarely pick up a device and bemoan a missing feature. 

And Finally ...

However, there is one area that OneNote wins: sync data caps. OneNote has no limit on synced data. Evernote caps free users at 60mb of sync. If your notes are laden with images and audio, hitting that cap is a near-certainty.

The new OneNote apps have closed the gap, and unlimited sync is great, but Evernote still has more, and more robust, features.

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