Microsoft's new OneNote import tool makes it simple to switch from Evernote

Microsoft released a Windows tool that imports Evernote notes and folders into OneNote. The tool works well and could help convert some Evernote loyalist, but it has a few notable quirks.

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Image courtesy Steve Traynor

For longtime Evernote users, switching to a different note-taking app is kind of a big deal. Like switching from Windows to Mac, or Android to iOS, it can be done. But it's painful.

Microsoft this week made the switch from Evernote to OneNote easier when it released the new OneNote Importer tool. I downloaded and tested the utility, and it worked well, making my Evernote content available in OneNote anywhere I want it, including on my Mac computer, Windows tablet, and all of my iOS and Android mobile devices.

The tool preserved my Evernote notebooks nicely. After it imports tagged notes into OneNote, they're separated into tabbed sections within each notebook.

The tool has a setting that you can enable to preserve Evernote tags and use them as a way to organize content in OneNote. If you have Evernote notes with multiple tags, the tool only uses the first tag to determine where to place the notes. In other words, the tool doesn't create OneNote notes from single Evernote notes that are imported with multiple tags. You can also opt to simply import the notes themselves and not the notebooks.

However, there are a four important things Evernote users should know before using the new tool. 

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1. OneNote Importer tool is Windows-only

The OneNote import utility currently only works on PCs that run Windows 7 or newer. A Mac importer will be available "in the coming months," according to Microsoft. After the import is complete, you can access imported Evernote notes using OneNote on a Mac and other platforms.

2. Imported notes aren't available on devices until you download them

OneNote newbies may wonder where exactly all their imported Evernote notes are located when they use first Microsoft's note-taking software. You must manually download your Evernote notebooks from OneDrive to each device. To download notes in OneNote on my Surface tablet, I went to File > Open, where I saw a list of the imported Evernote notebooks listed under, "Open from OneDrive." I tapped to select the notebooks I wanted, and one by one the notebooks downloaded. I followed a similar process on my other devices without any issues.

It's also worth mentioning that you need a Microsoft account to store notes locally on devices.

3. OneNote doesn't always play nice with Evernote formatting

I noticed some formatting differences between Evernote and OneNote. For example, some articles from The Wall Street Journal that I clipped in Evernote and then imported into OneNote didn't look as true to their original format as the did in Evernote. These minor differences don't affect legibility, though; they just look different.

4. OneNote can't import everything in Evernote

According to Microsoft, its new tool will not import digital ink, encrypted text, background colors or reminders from Evernote to OneNote.

Reasons to check out OneNote

If you're curious about OneNote but haven't yet tried the service, and you have or can borrow a Windows computer, download the import tool and check it out.

Microsoft is dedicated to making OneNote an awesome tool, and it releases regular updates and enhancements. The interface will take time for some Evernote users to adjust to. However, OneNote's freeform canvas, which makes it easy to create multimedia notes with digital ink annotations, may alone be worth making the switch.

On a related note, Centrallo, another note-taking and data organizing service with mobile apps, recently released a similar Evernote import tool. However, Centrallo users are limited to importing 100 notes unless they pay for the premium service, which costs $5 a month. 

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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