by James A. Martin

6 things Evernote does that Microsoft OneNote can’t

Jul 15, 2015
Consumer ElectronicsMobile Apps

Evernote and Microsoft's OneNote are two top-notch options for your digital notebook needs, but both have unique strengths and weaknesses. Here's a detailed list of six ways Evernote outperforms OneNote.

Evernote OneNote
Credit: Thinkstock

Consumers tend to stick with what works for them. The more time and money they invest in a product or service, the less likely they are to venture out and try competing products. 

So it’s not surprising that once people pick Evernote or Microsoft OneNote as their repository of choice for digital scraps, doodlings and scanned documents, they usually stick with that choice. Once you have committed to one of these two popular products, it’s not easy to toggle between them or switch entirely.

About a year ago, I chose Evernote over OneNote, and I started amassing my own digital archive. At the time, Evernote’s Mac software was far superior to OneNote’s Mac app. However, Microsoft has continually upgraded OneNote for Mac and iOS, and today it’s a legitimate Evernote rival; if I were facing the Mac Evernote versus Mac OneNote decision today, it would be a different situation. 

To help you decide between these two excellent notebook tools, I’ve come up with six things Evernote does that OneNote can’t. Of course, this is only one side of the story. For the flip side, read “7 things OneNote does that Evernote can’t.”

1) Evernote’s third-party apps and devices

Evernote’s API helped make it the center of a thriving ecosystem of integrated third-party apps and hardware devices, including paper notebooks. Each individual tool makes Evernote an even more valuable service for growing your personal database.

Here are just a few examples of Evernote integration I use regularly:

  • Some articles I save to Instapaper are keepers, and the service’s Evernote integration makes it extremely easy to store them there, usually with few (if any) formatting gaffes. Instapaper recently updated its Evernote integration, and the company’s free service is probably all you need; if not, the Premium plan costs $3 a month.
  • FileThis is a fantastic freemium tool that automatically downloads bank, credit card, and other monthly statements and stores them in Evernote, Dropbox or Google Drive. The free FileThis plan lets you download statements from six different accounts, and its paid plans start at $2 per month.
  • Powerbot for Gmail lets you clip Gmail messages and store and tag them in your Evernote notebook of choice. You can also add comments and reminders. It costs $2 a month after a 30-day free trial. Evernote’s free “Web clipper” extension for Chrome, Safari and Opera also lets you send email to Evernote but it’s less robust than Powerbot.

I’m not saying that you can’t do some of these things with OneNote. There are IFTTT recipes, for example, that automatically send Instapaper articles to OneNote. And Powerbot for Gmail also clips email to OneNote. What I am saying, however, is that Evernote has hundreds of apps and devices that utilize its API; I found only 24 apps and devices that integrate with OneNote.

2) Evernote’s awesome ‘Web clipper’

Evernote and OneNote both offer browser extensions for “clipping” articles and other online content to your digital notebooks. But Evernote’s is more robust. For example, it lets you highlight portions of Web page text before clipping; add multiple tags and comments; and choose between clipping a full article (with all its contents), a simplified version, the full Web page, a bookmark or just a screenshot. Evernote’s Web clipper is available for Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer 7 and later, Firefox and Opera.

OneNote’s Clipper for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari has steadily improved, but it lags behind Evernote’s clipping options.

3) Effortless access to all Evernote notes 

All of your Evernote notes are accessible wherever you have Internet access, regardless of the computer or mobile device you use. As long as you’re signed into your account, you can search for and find any note.

OneNote takes a different approach. When you install it on a mobile device or computer, you may not see any of your notes. You have to manually open each notebook to access it using that device. (Once you open a notebook on a device, though, it remains accessible.)

Some might see this as a benefit — why clutter up your OneNote iPhone app with all your notes when you only need a subset? Me, I want full access to all my notes anytime, anywhere, without having to think about it.

It’s also worth mentioning that for offline access to Evernote notebooks, you need an Evernote Plus ($25 a year) or Evernote Premium ($50 per year) subscription. OneNote’s offline access is free.

4) Evernote notes in Google search results

Google searches are even more handy thanks to Evernote’s Web Clipper extensions. When you perform a keyword search in Google, your relevant Evernote notes show up in a box to the top right of the results. It’s a quick way to find what’s on the Web, as well as in your own notes. OneNote’s clipper extension doesn’t currently have a similar Google-search feature.

5) Evernote’s easy reminders

You can quickly add reminders to Evernote notes by clicking the service’s alarm clock icon. OneNote doesn’t let you add alerts to notes. Instead, you need to select text in your OneNote note, create an Outlook task and then add a reminder to that task in Outlook. Microsoft could add a reminder feature to OneNote at any time, of course, especially when you consider Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Wunderlist, a terrific to-do list app that has reminders.

6) Evernote notebooks as presentations

Evernote’s Presentation mode lets you easily turn notes into presentations. Evernote-based presentations aren’t quite as slick as PowerPoint or Keynote slide decks. However, the feature is useful for turning notes into rough drafts of presentations and then showing them to colleagues for feedback. Presentation mode requires an Evernote Premium ($50 per year) or Business ($12 per user, per month) plan.

Though OneNote doesn’t have a presentation mode, it has some features that let you give presentation using your OneNote notes. Check out Microsoft’s related blog post, “Using OneNote to present your ideas in meetings,” for more.

Again, this post only addresses Evernote’s strengths and OneNote’s weaknesses. For the other side of the story, read, “7 things OneNote does that Evernote can’t.”