by James A. Martin

Free Microsoft OneNote for Android App Mostly Pleases

Feb 15, 20122 mins
Microsoft OfficeOffice SuitesSmall and Medium Business

Microsoft recently released a free Android version of its popular note-taking desktop software application OneNote. The new Android edition makes it easy to capture notes on the go, but some key features are missing.

Note-taking apps often have very loyal users. There are EverNote geeks, Things devotees, and Microsoft OneNote aficionados. If you fall firmly into the latter camp and use Android devices, you’ll want to listen up: your OneNote addiction can now follow you anywhere. However, if you’re not already a OneNote die-hard, this new app probably isn’t going to make you one.

On February 7, Microsoft released OneNote Mobile for Android devices (the current version is 14.0.4906.3000, which is what I tested). Mobile versions of OneNote have been available for iPhones and iPod touch, the iPad, and of course, Windows Phone smartphones. And all OneNote mobile apps are free.

OneNote Mobile for Android lets you create notes on the fly, and those notes can include photos, bulleted or numbered lists, and checkmark boxes. The notes automatically sync with Microsoft’s free SkyDrive cloud storage service, which requires a Windows Live ID. (If you don’t have a Windows Live ID, you can create one when you first use OneNote Mobile for Android.) You can opt to only sync your notes over a Wi-Fi connection to reduce your cellular data use, which is a nice feature.

OneNote Mobile for Android lets you create up to 500 notes for free. If you exceed that limit, you’ll need to upgrade to an unlimited OneNote plan via an in-app purchase of $5.

OneNote for Android does what it promises, but to my tastes the iPhone version’s interface is nicer. For example, OneNote on the iPhone puts the app’s menu icons at the bottom of the screen and labels each icon (such as Notebooks, Recents, and so on). OneNote for Android puts the menu icon at the top of the screen without labels. (I didn’t test OneNote on a Windows Phone.)


So why am I not giving OneNote for Android a ringing endorsement? The app doesn’t allow you to create new notebooks, you can’t format or highlight the text, and it lacks search. Also, images within notes were sometimes blurry; I had to click to open them for a clearer view (notice the image in the screen shot.)

For the most part, I prefer Catch, a free app that makes it super easy to create notes with pictures, text, or audio and to “hashtag” them for easy sorting. Catch is available for Android and iPhone/iPad.