From Evernote to OneNote and Back

After being an Evernote Premium user for three years, I was a little dismayed by the recent dramatic price increase for this elegant digital notebook. Moreover, the new device limitations for the freemium service (which I have occasionally used) seemed a little draconic. So, last month I took this opportunity to weigh my options and look for a new note taking app.


Evernote to OneNote
Montage by David Doherty. Source images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


Evernote does everything I need from a digital notebook including the ability to quickly create and edit notes, clip text from websites or emails, convert photos of documents into digital files with searchable text, and edit notes across all my devices (somehow, I have nine!) My new note taking app would need to match these actions, and my research across my favorite tech sites (notably Lifehacker) all pointed in one direction: Microsoft Office’s OneNote.


However, I had not used Office products for more than four years: after a decade or so of using Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote, I was tired of Microsoft’s clunky cloud backup service, the overly-complicated menus, and the somewhat messy UI. However, the recommendations for OneNote were glowing, and moreover it is free, so I took the leap. After downloading OneNote on several devices and using their note importing tool which was designed specifically to lure Evernote users like myself, I was ready for the switch to OneNote.


The import process was straightforward, and I was soon ready to access and edit my 1,279 Evernotes filed into 49 notebooks. However, in my use of OneNote over the past three weeks, I have been aware of small issues that I never had with Evernote. (Disclaimer: since ease-of-use was one of my primary criteria in selecting a note taking app, I spent limited time trying to fix the issues I came across in OneNote; I presume that most of these issues have work-arounds!)


  • Signing into to OneNote on a new device (iPad, iPhone etc.) is not sufficient to get started: you then need to connect to/ open individual Notebooks on each device. This process can be a little fiddly; signing in to Evernote on a new device instantly gives you access to all your notebooks.
  • Formatting is less slick on OneNote than OneNote particularly when copying and pasting text: pasted text in Evernote tends to stay close to the formatting of the original text. In OneNote, pasted text is sometimes re-formatted;
  • Opening OneNote is generally slower than Evernote particularly on the iPhone (on average, Evernote opened a second quicker than OneNote). Similarly, in my experience, Evernote’s web clipper is faster than OneNote’s;
  • The iPhone app for OneNote has a few quirks: when viewing a screenshot/ text pdf, touching the screen can bring up a large circle with a four-way arrow in the middle that can obscure text.
  • The web-clipper is less intuitive on OneNote than the Evernote clipper: I never did figure out how to clip pages, articles or text to a specific location on OneNote – everything had to be clipped to a web clips folder in a notebook I didn’t use and couldn’t see how to change. With the Evernote web clipper, it is a simple and easy process to clip to any notebook;
  • For my personal taste, Evernote’s UI is cleaner than OneNote’s. Evernote’s is also more customizable: it does not appear to be possible to change the purple header in OneNote. (The Evernote green is a much more soothing color!)
So, when I found the Evernote was offering its users a free month of Premium (I can only assume that the price hike has lost the company market share), I switched back with a new appreciation for Evernote’s clean design and pleasant user experience. When the month is up, I will need to evaluate whether I am willing to pay the $70/ year. More realistically, I am hoping that Evernote will offer a significant discount to bring the price down to a more palatable $50. With regard to my students, I’m not sure I can recommend that they switch from their familiar OneNote to Evernote until Evernote reverts to allowing free users to access their notes on all devices.