There are dozens of note taking applications to choose from but there are two applications that dominate the space. The two top note taking applications are Microsoft’s OneNote and Evernote.

Why do I use OneNote?

I was an Evernote user for years until I accepted a position in a corporate enterprise environment and discovered that I couldn’t use Evernote behind the corporate firewall.

At first I was frustrated because I don’t like using Outlook to organize my work (client orders, activities and service requests) but then I remembered that OneNote was similar to Evernote. I asked if I could use OneNote (as it was part of MS Office) and they gave me the green light.

As I started using OneNote I realized that it was way better (for me) than Evernote and I’ve never looked back. I still have my Evernote account and use it from time to time but my primary note application is OneNote.

I use OneNote for both personal and work projects and I wrote another article about about how to use Microsoft OneNote to help produce your podcast.

What do I like about OneNote?

The reason I’m only including only 10 items on this list is because I want there to be unanswered questions in “10 Reason Why I Love #OneNote” because then readers will demand “10 Reasons Why I Love OneNote part 2”. At least that is my plan… let me know if it works.

10 Good Reasons for using (or switching to) #OneNote

1. OneNote is completely free.

If you pay for Evernote you could save yourself $30 to $60 per year by switching to OneNote. Or if you are paying for Evernote Premium you could cancel and spend that money on an Office 365 personal subscription for about the same price and get all the other MS Office Apps included.

2. It is available across almost all platforms.

Whether your using a Windows PC or MAC computer, iOS or Android phone or tablet, Windows Phone or Surface Device and a Chrome Book  or web browser you will have access to your OneNote notes.

Like Evernote, OneNote is truly platform agnostic and allows you to access your content from any device.

3. Hand Writing Support

You can write directly onto a touch screen PC such as the Microsoft Surface or Lenovo Yoga.  The text is searchable within OneNote. This is a great option for note taking in meetings and seminars. Sometimes it is considered rude to sit there with your laptop open in a business meeting. Even though you are taking notes it appears like you are not paying attention to the presenter.

With OneNote on a tablet PC you can write as if on a paper notebook without the risk of ever losing your notes.

You could use the Livescribe pen to take notes and send them directly from the pen to  OneNote. I don’t use a Livescribe pen but this is a really cool option.

4. OneNote can be your second brain

When comparing OneNote and Evernote, some people call Evernote the digital filing cabinet and OneNote the digital notebook. This is a good analogy when referring to the way OneNote and Evernote organize your content but the truth is that both apps function as notebooks and filing cabinets. Evernote is a little stronger as filing cabinet with its robust tagging system and OneNote is definitely the better notebook with more page formatting options.

OneNote allows you to save ideas, thoughts, web pages, voice recordings, videos, pictures, diagrams, infographics, whiteboard  photos, documents and more in a reliable place. You will never lose anything you need again if you store it in OneNote. And once you have your ideas and projects stored in a safe place you don’t have to keep them in your active brain. This eliminates the open loops that Robert Allan refers to in his best selling book, Getting Things Done.

There are ways of customizing your OneNote (or Evernote ) experience to use it as a GTD or Secret Weapon system.

5. OneNote is searchable

OneNote’s tagging system is different from Evernotes.

You don’t have to use tags at all in OneNote as ALL your content in OneNote is searchable. Having said that it is a good idea to use tags and to use a structure in OneNote that makes sense and helps you to find your content.

With OneNote you can be as organized or disorganized as you like. Either way you will be able to search by keyword or look up your pages using tags. But if you organize your content with a structure that makes sense then you can more easily find what your looking for later.

OneNote is made up of Notebooks, Section Groups, Sections, Pages, Nested Pages, tags and keywords.  You can search all your notebooks, just one notebook, just one section within a notebook. Over time you will accumulate a lot of content in your OneNote and searching by keyword can be overwhelming. This is why if you have your Notebooks and Sections well organized you will be able to narrow down your search. And if you use tags effectively you will also have no trouble finding your data.

Tags are different in OneNote and are not as robust as Evernotes tagging system. In Evernote you can have multiple tags per page and narrow down your searching for multiple tags at once. It doesn’t work quite the same way in OneNote although there is a OneNote extension that adds this tag functionality to the desktop version of OneNote.

OneNote can search text, audio, video, images and tags.

If you have an image with a word in it OneNote will recognize the word in the image.

If you record a voice note inside OneNote those words are searchable as well.

6. Pages in OneNote are awesome.

OneNote pages can be formatted and laid out however you want. If you like to dump information on a page and move it around as you work then go for it. If you prefer to keep everything neat and organized you can do that too.

As you work in a OneNote page you don’t ever have to worry about saving your work. OneNote automatically saves everything as you go.

7. Office Integration

Although OneNote is bundled with Microsoft Office, you don’t need to buy Office to get OneNote. Simply download it for free and start using it. But if you do have Microsoft Office then you will benefit from OneNote’s Office Integration. You can embed Excel Spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, assign outlook tasks and appointments and more.

8. Collaboration

You can share pages on OneNote to anyone and the user doesn’t need to have OneNote installed. The page will be viewed via a weblink.

You can also add people to collaborate on pages just like you can with a Google Doc. This is a very powerful feature of OneNote.

9. Drag and drop any file into OneNote

You can add any file into OneNote simply by dragging and dropping it into a page. If you drop a PDF into the page, for example, OneNote will ask you if you want to add the file or a print out. If you add the file it will add PDF Icon with the name of the file attached which you can open any time. If you add the printout it will actually add the full PDF Document into the page.

I use this feature every day to add client orders into OneNote. Then I have all the information I need for that particular order and can access it from any device.

10. Linked Notes

If you are using Internet Explorer (not yet with MS Edge) you can take notes with OneNote Docked to Desktop and it will attach links to the website you are referencing.

As you go from site to site and take your notes, OneNote adds the links to each paragraph in the page. Then when you are reviewing your notes you will easily be able to get back to the source website automatically. This is very useful.

Linked Notes will also work with Word, PowerPoint and other OneNote documents so you can easily get back to your source material later.

Another awesome OneNote feature is the Linked Audio Note feature. If you are recording audio in OneNote and taking notes on the same page as you record, then OneNote will tag the recording as you type or write.

If you want to listen to a segment of the recording later just tap the link in front of the note you made during that part of the recording. OneNote will jump to that portion of the audio file and play it from there.

How cool is that?

And there are even more features in OneNote that I use but I’ll have to write about those another time.


Do you use OneNote? Let me know what your favorite features are in the comments below!

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this information useful.

Andrew McGivern
Andrew McGivern

Andrew McGivern helps businesses do things better, faster and with fewer errors using existing technology. How does he do this?