Many years ago I discovered the world of note taking software and I’ve been addicted to them ever since. The good ones help me keep my thoughts organized and out of my head. When I try to hold them all in my head, they bounce around in there and make it hard to focus. When I try loose leaf paper, I often lose track of those random notes. Enter note taking software to the rescue.
After trying out dozens of different software programs, it has boiled down to two note taking programs — Evernote vs OneNote. And they are very different. It is actually quite surprising how different they are. Since they serve quite different functions, I still use both — one more than the other. How do they stack up?
Evernote vs OneNote:
- There is a free option that will be good enough for many people.
- Lightning fast search. Searches as you type, instead of having to press enter. This is highly preferable.
- Good for loose, relatively unconnected ideas that you want to be able to access easily in the future.
- Great for keeping a journal. It can never be lost, it automatically date and time stamps entries, and if this is all you want to use it for, it will be free.
- Great for web or email clippings. There’s a convenient hot key set (win-A) you can use to add highlighted text/pics/whatever to Evernote.
- Flawless syncing across multiple computers and/or mobile devices. They’ve been syncing for so long, that they have it down pat. I never have issues with this.
- More structure to notes. This is the main reason I use OneNote more than Evernote. I like a hierarchical structure to my notes. OneNote has up to 5 levels and Evernote has up to 3 levels. Each level is an order of magnitude higher in organizational structure.
- It synergizes with Microsoft Office Suite better. For example, if you have an email in Outlook and you want to send to OneNote, there is a convenient button that does it quickly and easily.
- More powerful desktop software than EverNote. It tends to do non-search things faster. It usually takes less time to load.
- Upfront one-time only cost. It is not cheap, but you only have to pay once.
- Not very structured, so it is sometimes difficult to find notes. Basically you’ve got just notebooks and tags as a way to organize.
- The premium version is a monthly or yearly subscription instead of an upfront cost. However, it is only $3.75/month if you pay for it yearly. This is a bargain for the time saving and convenience value they provide me.
- No free option. To use OneNote legally, you must buy it.
- Not as mobile as EverNote. It is not as good at syncing over multiple computers as Evernote. It takes a smidge of fidgeting to get it working. However, once you get it working, it should be fine.
They both are good at different things. There is no reason you cannot use both. I use both.
I use Evernote for web clippings and keeping a journal. It has a quick and convenient hot-key set for clipping. With journaling, it automatically keeps track of the date and time and is easy to find again.
I use OneNote to hold my “knowledge database.” Important things for work or home or whatever, I keep in different notebooks. It then syncs between my work computer and home computer.
I recommend paying for both. The price is small for the value you get. I’ve tried out the paid Evernote and I like it, but not everyone needs to get it if you’re going to use it sparingly or you are frugal.
There is another option to OneNote that is free, but not as powerful and doesn’t have syncing capabilities (which is huge for me). I would use it if I didn’t already have OneNote and couldn’t afford to buy it. It is called Keynote. You can get the original version (now unsupported) or the updated version by someone else. I would probably go with the 2nd one.