Microsoft OneNote vs. Evernote (Part 1)

In the last month I’ve been playing around with Evernote and OneNote, two different note-taking programs.  I am a note-taking fanatic – between school, genealogy, church, and all of the other gazillion things I am involved in, I need to be able to take detailed notes quickly and easily.

A year or two ago, I played around with Evernote but just didn’t fall in love with it.  I was attracted to Evernote because I’ve seen so many blog posts written about it; how easy it is to use, very mobile, syncs with the web – the list of cool features was pretty long.  So I tried it.  But I didn’t fall in love.  I felt that the interface wasn’t as intuitive as I would have liked and I got confused a few times.  After a few weeks, I gave up and moved on.  If I had had a smart phone like a Blackberry or iPhone, I probably wouldn’t have given up so quickly because the fact that you can edit and view your files from your mobile devices is pretty amazing and crucial if you are a constantly-on-the-go sort of a person.  But the mobile access thing just isn’t as important to a non-smart-phone-carrying person like me.

When school started last semester, I realized I had to find a better way to keep my notes organized.  The majority of my professors wanted to fit a bazillion concepts into one lecture and did so by speaking a thousand miles a second.  Half way through the lecture, my hand was tired and my handwriting was nearly impossible to read.  So I started looking at different note-taking programs for the semester.  Since I had just installed Microsoft Office 2007, I decided to check out Microsoft OneNote.

I fell in love.  You can easily create different notebooks with sections (just like a binder with tabbed dividers) and then put notes into sections.  I created one notebook for the semester and sections for each of my classes.  Depending on the class, I created a new note for each class meeting or for each major topic.  Come term paper time, it was super easy to put all of  my notes on a certain topic together by just searching all of my notes for a particular key word or phrase.  I loved how I could download handouts and “print” them to my notebooks.  I could then use the highlighter feature to make my cursor into a highlighter and highlight any important features.  Or I could make my cursor a pen to circle things, draw lines to similar concepts, etc.  I could recreate any drawings my professors made on the board by using the pen feature.  It was awesome.

But what do my class notes have anything to do with genealogy?  Well I do pretty much the exact same things with my class notes that I do with my class notes.  I need the ability to…

  • “Print” stuff from websites and put it in my notebook with my other notes.  I could easily “print” my family group sheets, pedigree charts, website search results, etc to my notebook by selecting “Microsoft OneNote” as my printer.
  • Highlight & Draw Stuff.  When I’m on the research binge, I need to be able to highlight certain things or draw out my thoughts.  If I printed out a map to my notebook, then I could highlight important places or draw lines to connect different places.
  • Organize Similar to my Paper Notebooks: While I haven’t been using my paper notebooks too often, I do love the way I have them organized.  I need a program that can mimic my paper organizational system by giving each surname a divider/section and each paper fits within a section.
Do you use note-taking software?  Which software do you use?  What features are your biggest priority?
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18 responses to “Microsoft OneNote vs. Evernote (Part 1)

  1. Could you please explain what you mean by using OneNote as your ‘printer’? I use OneNote too but I must have missed that option.

  2. Good comparison, Elyse. I’m an Evernote girl, myself, but I like the way you have your OneNote notebooks organized. I haven’t really organized my Evernote that way, but I may give it a try.

    • Tonia – you really can’t use Evernote to organize the OneNote does. It doesn’t have tabs and sections for notebooks like OneNote does. Evernote is strictly a bunch of notebooks and notes. No other sub-sections.

  3. I bought a new computer and the new Office program. I knew it had One Nore on it but never used it. Now I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the heads up on One Note.

    I am also interested on how to use One Note as the printer.

  4. Thanks for the comparison. I have also used Evernote, but just cannot seem to embrace it. I’m looking forward to trying One Note.

  5. I am a big fan of Onenote also and have been using it for class work for over a year now. I tried evernote also but really didn’t like it. Just recently it has dawned on me to use it for my genealogy notes also. Now I am playing around with it to see how I want to organize my notes the best. I’m interested to read part II. Thanks

  6. I truly love OneNote. I have notebooks for personal, genealogy, my business and my society. I find it very easy to use but that may be because I have used MS Office for years. Several years ago, I tried Evernote and did not, as you said, fall in love with it.
    OneNote integrates well with everything I might copy or print from: Outlook, Internet Explorer, Office, etc.

    I recently acquired a smart phone and have been looking at Evernote again because it does have the appeal of taking it with you. Also my recipe software allows me to send a shopping list to Evernote, which will then sync to Evernote on my phone. I can then shop from my phone.

    I wish MS would offer Onenote for the Android phones (and other smart phones). Well, I can dream…

  7. Elyse, thank you for sharing your experience with these two programs. JL and Claudia, I think Elyse is referring to a utility that comes with OneNote that is described here:

    • Thanks, Elyse, for the nudge to try OneNote again. But, Greta, I don’t see the OneNote listed as a print option. If it is not automatically showing up, I wonder how I can take advantage of the built-in printer driver. Would really be handy!


  8. Greta, I wonder if that print driver is only available in OneNote 2010? I’m still using 2007. I understand the concept and I went looking for it in my list of printers but it’s not there.

    Another thing I did find though is a clipper button extension for Firefox.
    It works the same as the EverNote one. Select text, photos, whatever and click the button. Content goes direct to an unfiled note or the page presently open in OneNote, depending on your settings.

    A similar button has also been created for Thunderbird although I’m not liking the way OneNote handles html email so will probably stay with EverNote 2 for that.

  9. There is a free OneNote app for iPhones/iPods available in the Apple App Store. I haven’t tried it yet–don’t use OneNote much–but wanted to let those who do use it know about the app.

  10. I am a huge OneNote fan! I love the feature “Insert – Screen Clipping” – easy way to quickly grab some information and OneNote automatically inserts the URL where you located it.

    Another OneNote feature I love is being able to convert text in a graphic to searchable text. It works like OCR, which is great.

    I loathe paper, so if I am printing something (such as a receipt for an online purchase), I “print to OneNote” – this works similarly as when using “Print to Adobe PDF.” I’m not wasting paper, but I have the information in my OneNote Notebook.

    Also use OneNote for planning, list making – anything you would do on paper.

    I’m in the process of moving my genealogy and other important files and photos to Dropbox. One that process is completed, I will be moving the default folder for my OneNote notebooks to my Dropbox folder – then my notes will be with me everywhere.

    I Love OneNote. Can you tell?

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  12. I’m a long time OneNote user. Yes the onenote printer is in the 2010 version. There may be an add on from MS for 2007, I know there was much discussion but don’t remember if it came to pass.

    When my son decided to enter medical school I said he would need information management in the worst way. Talk about piles of information and the relationships to each other. Medical school is on the top of the pile. OneNote has been awesome for him. Everything goes in there from all sources. Anything you put in, even screen grabs, become searchable and indexed. So in addition to your own organization structure (described in the comments above), you also get comprehensive indexing and instant access.

    My only gripe is the lack of mobile access on my Android phone. I’m trying MobileNoter for this, but it doesn’t click with me so far.

  13. I know I’m late reading this post, but it hit the nail on the head for me in terms of my own experience with Evernote and OneNote. Here I am a year or so later and reconsidering my initial decision to stick with OneNote. (for many of the reasons mentioned here).

    It prompted me to pose the question to others as well… Which do you prefer and why?

    You can see this more recent post here:

    Feel free to join in on the conversation.
    Brian Bouchard´s last blog post ..Tech Tuesday – OneNote vs. Evernote

  14. I too, must cast my vote for OneNote. Long time user but I occasionally get drawn back to Evernote to see their latest features… Hard to beat that it is FREE, but it just doesn’t have the well-thought out organizational capabilities.

    Oh, and for the mobile users envious of evernoters, there is a very nice MobleNoter that allows OneNote capabilites and synching on the Android and iPhone.

    Thanks for your review. It’s always nice to have your own feelings validated like this. :)

  15. Re; OneNote 2007 printer. It seems that it is not available on 64 bit versions of Windows 7. See the following Microsoft support document

    To capture webpages you can use Send to OneNote using Internet Explorer (32 bit version) or use a Clip to OneNote extension in Firefox – both work very well. This is also available for Google Chrome but I haven’t tested it.

  16. George,

    Your summer posting just showed up in one of the enewpaper articles. I am guessing from a twitter account.

    I started with OneNote, but didn’t get the hang of it. When EverNote came out, I have it a try. It works for me.

    If I find a Blog or a Website, in my genealogy research, I clip it to EverNote, and put it into the right “tab” in my Notebook. Just like you are doing. I can go back to it and work with it. It works, for me, far better then Book Marks. I never get back to them.

    I I have used it for Notes while attending a Webinar. Works great.

    But I will put it to the test at RootsTech this coming week. I have EverNote on a PC, that will stay home, a Mac that will be going to SLC, and the iPad which will be with me all the time. I have used the iPad for notes at another conference, but I am guessing that the real test will be next week.

    All that to say, I appreciate your comments and will keep them in mind if things dont work the way I have practiced them to work.

    One feature that I have used, is with EverNote on my Droid. My Dr. asked me a question. I said, hold on a second, and handed the answer to his question from the Droid.

    Thank you,

    Russ Worthington´s last blog post ..52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy–Free Offline Genealogy Tools

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