01 May

OneNote versions compared

Which versions of OneNote exist? Which OneNote version is installed on your computer? For which other operating systems is OneNote available? And what are the main differences between the OneNote app for Windows 10 and the popular desktop version OneNote 2016?

Microsoft wants to offer OneNote for all major devices and operating systems. This is the only way users can access their digital notes from anywhere. However, beginners can be confused because of the multitude of apps – each with their own special features. Even experienced users often wonder which OneNote version actually offers which possibilities.

In this blog post, I will give you an overview of all available OneNote versions for PC, Mac, tablet and smartphone.

OneNote for Windows

Microsoft Windows is the most popular operating system in the world. I assume that most computer users work with Windows. For Windows, there are various ways to use OneNote – especially the app for Windows 10. According to Microsoft, it will be the standard version of OneNote in Office 2019 / Office 365.

OneNote app for Windows 10

You may have already discovered the OneNote icon as a purple tile in the start menu. In Windows 10, the OneNote app is preinstalled. It’s just labelled “OneNote” – unlike the desktop version (see below).

OneNote live tile in Windows 10 start menu

The OneNote app is optimized for touch and pen control. That means: All panels and buttons are big enough to be hit with a finger or a digital stylus. That’s why the OneNote app is also easy to use on tablet PCs like the Surface Pro.

OneNote app for Windows 10

The app works perfectly together with OneDrive. It has access to your notebooks in the cloud. Thanks to synchronization, you can use all the content offline if you do not have an internet connection.

The developers add new features regularly. Thanks to the Windows Store, the OneNote app gets all updates automatically.

OneNote 2016 for Windows

OneNote 2016 will be the last desktop version of OneNote. It is still usable and receives security updates. It will not get any new features – in favor of the OneNote app for Windows 10 (see above). As a beginner, you should directly start using the app.

For longtime OneNote users, the desktop version remains their first choice for now. It currently offers more features than the app. You can save notebooks not only in the cloud, but also locally, for example on the hard disk or a network drive (NAS).

OneNote 2016 - desktop version from Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows

Since 2003, the desktop version has been a part of Microsoft Office, the popular software suite. However, it has never been as popular as other programs like Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. The start menu can show you whether you have OneNote 2016 installed on your computer. Press the Windows key and type “onenote” on your keyboard.

Two versions of OneNote in start menu of Windows 10

The title of the desktop version includes the year, “OneNote 2016” in this case. The entry “OneNote” without any addition stands for the OneNote app for Windows 10 as mentioned above.

OneNote for OS X (Mac)

Microsoft also offers its Office Suite for Apple computers. Since 2014, OneNote is available for the Mac. The latest version for OS X is available as a free download in the Mac App Store.

Like the app for Windows 10, OneNote for OS X can only handle notebooks stored in the cloud. Mac users complain about the lack of some features on the internet. After all, OneNote is fully operational for OS X.

OneNote for smartphone and tablet

Your digital notebooks should be available anytime – no matter where and on which device. This concept is only possible thanks to the OneNote apps. They are available for most of the mobile operating systems for free.

OneNote app for Android

Android is Google‘s mobile operating system and currently installed on most smartphones worldwide. So, it is no surprise that Microsoft offers its services for Android as well. The OneNote app works on Android smartphones and Android tablets. It looks very similar to the app for Windows 10.

OneNote app for Android

There are some features that the developers have built exclusively for the Android version. This includes, for example, the “OneNote badge”. This little icon hooks into other apps to interact with OneNote from there.

“OneNote for Android” can be downloaded for free via smartphone or tablet from the Google Play Store.

OneNote app for iOS

You can also use OneNote on the iPhone, the iPad and – with restrictions – on the Apple Watch. Microsoft keeps the appearance of the apps as consistent as possible – except for the typical arrangement of icons and functional elements in iOS. The developers also do their best to integrate popular features such as handwriting recognition.

You can use iTunes to get the OneNote app for iPhone and iPad. Please note that you only have access to OneNote notebooks stored in the cloud.

OneNote app for Windows 10 Mobile

To complete the overview, we may not forget Microsoft‘s very own mobile operating system here. On Windows Phones or smartphones with Windows 10 Mobile, OneNote is preinstalled and cannot not be removed. From a technical point of view, this version of the OneNote app is quite the same as the app for Windows 10. It just adapts to the display.

Even though smartphones with Windows 10 Mobile barely play a role in the market, the OneNote app still receives regular updates and works almost smoothly.

OneNote Online

At last, I would like to introduce you to OneNote Online. Thanks to OneNote Online, you can access your digital notebooks via any Internet browser. Of course, you need to save your notebook in the cloud for this. Sign in with your Microsoft account on the official website (http://www.onenote.com/). Then you can open one of your available notebooks.

The look and feel of the web interface is very similar to the OneNote apps. Most of the content editing features are at the same place as in the other versions of OneNote. You will find your way around quickly.

OneNote Online in Google Chrome

You can start the online interface when you need to use a device without an installed version of OneNote. With OneNote Online, you can access your digital notes when you sit in front of a foreign computer, for example at work, at university, with friends or on vacation at the hotel PC.

Please do not forget to log out and close the browser after online access!

And: OneNote Online can be an alternative for Linux users. For Linux and other operating systems, there is no official OneNote app … yet?

Which version of OneNote do you use the most? Which app do you prefer? And which feature do you miss on your device? I look forward to your comments below!

10 thoughts on “OneNote versions compared

  1. Pingback: OneNote versions compared | 365ForAll

  2. Pingback: OTR Links 05/03/2018 – doug — off the record

  3. I just downloaded OneNote for Mac. Have been trying to make a “To Do List.” I wish I could just make a Notebook entitled “To Do List”, but that doesn’t seem to work, since you have to create a Section, then a Page. Geez! Why does it have to be soooo complicated? So I create a section titled, “To Do”, then under “page” I name the page “To Do List”. This still baffles my mind. Anyhow, then I select the “To Do with the checkmark in from of it” I get a box (I don’t need a box), I can list various items I want to do, but absolutely nothing happens. There are no check boxes before each of my items, or anywhere, for that matter.

    So compared to a Word document that I can create a To Do List with boxes, I am wondering where is the simplicity in OneNote for making a To Do List?

    • @Nancy

      You’re trying cram a square peg into a round hole. You’re looking for something that is just a basic To-Do lapp, OneNote is a lot more than that. It’s a very powerful tool for organizing information – an entire digital filing cabinet in which you can create, manage & share many notebooks. While you can certainly create to do lists in it, that is only one tiny piece of the overall program, and not the primary use case it is designed to solve.

      OneNote is overkill for only making to do lists. It’s like using a filing cabinet full of binders and folders to create a single page to do list. Sure you *could* do that, but you’re using a tool that was built to do a lot more than that as it central focus. It baffles my mind why someone would try to do that when Microsoft offers a program literally named To Do. That app offers the simplicity you need, even Word is overkill. Use the right tool for the job!

      Note: This comment was written in OneNote for Android, then copied & pasted into a web browser.

  4. Does this mean – when my PC updates windows 10 that Onenote is also updated to latest version?

    • @Jim Wilson Yes & No. If you have installed OneNote for Windows, then it will be updated with the latest version thanks to the integration with the Store. If you have a version that was part of Office (OneNote 2016, 2013, etc.) it will not be updated.

      Note: This comment was written in OneNote for Android, then copied & pasted into a web browser.

  5. Hallo!

    Very nice pages!
    One question, how can I see which version of OneNote I am using ? (Earlier you could look in Help->About


  6. Nice article, and I agree with most of it; however, I have a personal bias against cloud storage, especially when it seems to be wonky. Until I know it works and is recoverable when it doesn’t, I’ll continue to back up, using spare hard drives. As for OneNote, specifically….

    I have been using OneNote 2016 for several years for notetaking and documentation; but only recently did I decide to start creating and tagging tasks. So, to test out ON’s tagging capability, I created a new notebook, Dear Diary.
    When working with Dear Diary, which was sync’d to OneDrive, I found that ‘Find Tags’ was not working correctly. Sometimes tags were missed; other times they were only partially missed. I also found that, though I was searching “this notebook”, the program was only finding tags on the highlighted page and the current page, even though I was asking for all tags “by Date” of the entire notebook. On the net I found reference to this problem and the solution was to delete and re-create the cache, then re-start OneNote, so that the program could re-establish linkages.

    So, I shut down OneNote and followed the steps for recreation of the cache. In my case, re-establishing the synchronization between my PC and OneDrive took about 10 minutes.
    When I went back into the program, and used “Find Tags”, I got the following results in the Tag Summary:
    1. “Group by Date” still only found “Today’s Notes” and “Yesterdays Notes” tags!? I’ve no idea what “Yesterdays Notes” means; I was on page October 25 but it was showing tags for October 26.
    2. “Group by Title” found all my tags for the month (I only started this notebook on October 25th and had 4 day pages. The tags were grouped by the Title of each page.
    3. “Group by Tag Name” missed tags.
    4. “Group by Section” found the tags for October (my Section), which made sense; I only had one section. However, when I added tag entries for August and September sections, these tags were not found.

    Fed up, I decided to create a new notebook and transfer all my pages to this new notebook, MyJournal, which was not connected to OneDrive. I then used “Find Tags”, as above and all my tags were correctly found, although the results for “Group by Date” and its entries still look very bizarre and make little sense.

    It’s pretty obvious that the syncing with OneDrive is problematic. How many years (decades?) will it take for Microsoft to resolve this problem? So, why would anyone convert to use the newer online UWP program (that still doesn’t have tagging capability) until this version can provide a workable solution? And yet, it’s the Tagging, To Do, and sharing functions that would make the online OneNote version indispensable for most businesses.

    Fortunately, I can live without these functions (I have other options). But it would have been “nice to have”.

  7. My clients ‘do not allow ‘their stuff’ to be stored in the open cloud’. I guess other options will be used because they ‘allow choices’ for designating what files will / will not be stored in the cloud.

  8. I am a new beginner at Onenote 2016 and switched from Evernote. I learned how to export my files out and import into Onenote. That was easy. But now am so confused as to what to do next? I located my files and “dragged & dropped” into the cloud for safe keeping. I have watched every tutorial that I could get my hands on. They all seem to say; create your first file and add to it. But I have pre-existing files and don’t know how to get them to my first file. In Evernote you have a notebook with several sub-notebooks to work with. In Onenote all of my notebooks imported individually. And they are everywhere. How can I pull them together to build a notebook? Also, I am confused as to where I should be working on my notebooks at? If I am using 2016 desktop, then why do I need to sign into Microsoft.com/notebooks? And why sign in at one drive.com if it’s already on my PC? I do need help! Thank you! Linda

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