Evernote and OneNote users explain why their app is better

Loyal Evernote and Microsoft OneNote users share reasons why they choose one note-taking app over the other and shine a light on each option's strengths and weaknesses.

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5 reasons to pick OneNote over Evernote 

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1) OneNote ease of use and organization

"I find OneNote to be way easier to use and a lot more intuitive than Evernote," says Melanie Lajeunesse, CEO of Friendly Reminders. "I like the way OneNote is set up with the notebooks and tabs and pages within those tabs. My brain works that way so I can really easily figure out how to organize my notes. I never really understood Evernote's organization system. It shows all your notes at the same time in those squares; it just doesn't make sense to me."

2) Sharing notes via OneNote is free

OneNote is a free download (though that wasn't always the case), and it lets people share files with other OneNote users at no charge. (However, if a company pays for Microsoft SharePoint or uses OneNote as part of a paid Office 365 subscription, OneNote sharing isn't truly "free.")

Evernote also has a free version, but Evernote Plus ($25 a year) or Evernote Premium ($50 a year) memberships are required to share notes.

3) OneNote's free offline access

"I'm using OneNote for many reasons, but the main one is that unlike Evernote, you can use OneNote without an Internet connection for free," says Yuval Aharon, owner of Rated Radar Detector. Aharon says he sometimes travels to areas where there's no Internet access, which makes OneNote more valuable to him. (OneNote offline access is free, but Evernote users must subscribe to Plus or Premium plans for offline access.)

4) OneNote 'free-form canvas'

OneNote's "free-form canvas" structure makes it easy to move text and images around, and mix handwritten annotations with typed notes. Evernote's structure, by comparison, is more restrictive.

"I recently switched from Evernote to OneNote because Evernote doesn't allow typed notes to be positioned in a way where they can be mixed with inked notes," says Ravi Sakaria, president and CEO of VoicePulse Inc., who has used both Evernote and OneNote extensively.

"I often use a pen and tablet to sketch and handwrite ideas," he says. "And when I'm at my desktop computer, I need to easily add thoughts via the keyboard. In Evernote, those two things (the typed notes and the inked notes) are separate. In OneNote, I can easily drag and drop either one and position typed notes freely on a page."

5) OneNote comes preinstalled on Windows Phone

Chad Reid, director of communications at JotForm, says OneNote came preinstalled on his Windows Phone, he "really loved the feel of it and started using it regularly — from grocery shopping to remembering names." And Reid continued to use OneNote after he switched to an iPhone.

Evernote, OneNote both worth a try before you decide 

There's a lot to like about both programs, but they also have drawbacks. Evernote fan Loda says the service's proprietary format is worrisome, for example. "I can export my Evernote database, but what if the software fails or the company goes out of business? I'd like a way to export my data in a more universal format."

(Evernote lets you export all your notes as Evernote XML (.enex) files, which preserve "all your note contents and tags," according to the company. You can also export notes to HTML files, though the option is sometimes buggy, depending on your OS. OneNote lets you export individual notes as PDFs.)

Others complain that Evernote, unlike OneNote, doesn't work well with the Microsoft Office ecosystem. And OneNote, unlike Evernote, requires a separate mobile app (Microsoft Office Lens) to scan documents and images with a smartphone.

Ultimately, if you're undecided on a note-taking app, it's a good idea to try both Evernote and OneNote before you commit, because moving files between the two services isn't easy. Spend a few days with each app to get a sense of the different interfaces, and use them on mobile devices, as well as laptops. Alternative apps, including Google Keep, Apple Notes, and specialty software, such as Notability (iOS-only), are also worth a look.

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