Evernote & OneNote Logos on phone

What Type of Digital Notebook User Are You? (Part 4 of a Series)

In the final part of our series comparing OneNote and Evernote, we look at which program is best for you based on the strengths of each program. Below we also have links to many other resources you can use to learn even more about the programs and to see different opinions. So here are a few questions for you.

Do You Use Microsoft Office?

You don’t have to use Microsoft Office in order to use OneNote, online or as an installed application on your device or computer. But, if you do use Microsoft Office, you already have OneNote included. OneNote is more compatible with the Office interface, using tool ribbons and similar tool icons. There is also better integration between Outlook (the installed application) and OneNote. (However, since I do not use Outlook, I could not test this.)

You can also use Evernote along with Microsoft Office, though, if its more advanced features make it a better choice for your information storage.

Do You Take Classroom Notes?

OneNote is clearly the better choice if you are taking notes in a classroom or a boardroom. It’s use of templates and drawing tools, the math tools, and ease of use make it the more flexible note-taking tool (especially if your laptop or device has a touch screen and stylus). OneNote’s writing tools are, in my opinion, more in tune with the needs of a writer than Evernote, but not by a wide margin.

The phone and tablet versions of both Evernote and OneNote have camera tools for all the devices I’ve seen. This is good for taking quick shots of blackboards, whiteboards and projection screens.

If you do most of your writing, data storing and web clipping in Android or iOS devices, you may find very different features and workflows than in the desktop versions of OneNote and Evernote. Microsoft also offers the Office Lens app for iPhone, Android and Windows phones.

Do You Research on the Web?

If your research and learning takes you to the Web instead of the classroom, Evernote’s web clipping options, with social media and other sharing tools, give it a clear, almost overwhelming advantage over OneNote.

Do You Work in an Office?

Evernote for Business may be the better option for system-wide use of Evernote for workgroups and small to medium businesses, especially those that don’t use Microsoft SharePoint. (Workgroup use is well beyond the scope of this review, though.)

However, if your office is already standardized around Microsoft Office and SharePoint, OneNote would probably be the better choice unless you have need for Evernote’s advanced search and tagging and sharing.

If you are an employee of a larger business, though, this choice is probably already made for you.

Are You Looking at Short-Term or Long-Term Use?

In my opinion, OneNote’s more intuitive ease-of-use make it better for occasional use or specific projects. If you only occasionally use an application to store research or keep records, OneNote has a small advantage over Evernote.

But, as people begin using digital storage more for home and office projects, for workgroups and families, for travel, for keeping track of email and office expenses and tax records, you may find yourself with an ever-growing amount of data to keep track of. After a while, you may find OneNote’s more limited search tools and reliance on folders to be restrictive.

Evernote’s use of searchable tags (which are NOT the same as OneNote’s tags), makes it much easier to search your notes and consolidate your data into fewer folders. Evernote also allows you to use many more filters to sort through your information. Using these filters, however, has a learning curve. See How to use Evernote’s advanced search syntax to learn how to use them.

So, as your digital notebook expands beyond a couple of semesters into years or even decades, you will probably appreciate Evernote’s more advanced search capabilities over time.

What Learning Curve are You Comfortable With?

Whether or not you use Microsoft Office, OneNote has a clean, intuitive design with its notebook metaphor.

But Evernote’s interface is not that much harder to learn. As you begin to use Evernote’s advanced features for web clipping, search, tagging and sharing, you will have to invest some time into learning how to use these features. There are real rewards associated with that investment.

There are plenty of books and videos and blog posts about using either OneNote or Evernote. In a very unscientific sampling, it appears that there are more writers writing about using Evernote than OneNote. Both have Dummies books, however, and both have books about using David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) and many other niche uses, too. Obviously, writers see an active audience using each program.

Do You Need Plugins and Integration with Other Apps?

Evernote traditionally has had a wider range of plugins and integrated with a wider number of web and hardware services than OneNote, especially if you work outside the Microsoft universe. Microsoft has been catching up, often integrating with many of the same tools as Evernote, but still has fewer partners. Microsoft’s unique tools involve integration with Office and a few other automation tools.

If you use Salesforce, scanners (including business card scanners) and Google apps (including Gmail and Calendar) rather than Microsoft Office, Evernote may have some advantages over OneNote. But you should try out both notebooks to see which works better for the way you work.

Both OneNote and Evernote can be used with automation tools like IFTTT (If This, Then That) and Zapier. The OneNote plugin, Onetastic, also offers a degree of automation not found in Evernote, yet. If either OneNote or Evernote could create its own simple macro tools, that could give it a distinct advantage.

Once again, OneNote’s integration with the rest of Microsoft Office is nothing to sneeze at, but it is quite possible to use Evernote, too, depending on the level of integration you require with other Office apps.

How Important is Price?


The need to save a buck is one of the reasons I started Frugal Guidance 2 and this blog has promoted free and cheap software for years. What’s economical for one person might not be for another, though.

Many novice users consider price as a primary consideration when starting to use either OneNote or Evernote. I believe that, as time passes, other considerations, like search, sharing, compatibility and web clipping, become more important. Your needs will change over time, too.

Currently, OneNote is a free and stand-alone application. Microsoft made it possible for non-Office users to download and use OneNote a couple of years ago when it decided to compete more effectively with Evernote. Before that, though, Microsoft offered OneNote for free only to Microsoft Office users. There’s no guarantee that Microsoft won’t return to the pay to play model for OneNote in the future, particularly if it manages to drive Evernote out of business.

With many other revenue streams, though, Microsoft can easily subsidize OneNote for as long as it decides it needs to. If a lot of new, free OneNote users eventually subscribe to Office 365, a free OneNote will be cost effective for them.

Evernote, however, has only one product to use for a revenue stream and it is not realistic to expect the company to subsidize free users’ access to all the features of the program over a long period of time. I used the free version of Evernote for many years, but now I’m an Evernote Premium user (with the help of a promotional discount). If you use Evernote daily or nearly so, you may decide that the cost of Premium is reasonable.

If you believe there should be an alternative to Microsoft’s offerings in the digital notebook field with advanced tagging, search and clipping then it may be to your advantage to invest in Evernote to help it continue to compete with Microsoft.

But if you want to try the free version of either program to see if it meets your requirements: no harm, no foul.

As happens often in life, the best choice for your needs is not necessarily the cheapest choice.

Does it Make Sense to Use Both?

Of course, you can decide to use the advantages of each program and use both OneNote and Evernote. If you do decide to use both, it will be helpful to decide which program you might use for different purposes. For example, you could use OneNote for recipes and personal information, and Evernote for shared notebooks and broadcasting info more publicly. (Or you might decide to reverse those uses.) You might decide to write off the cost of Evernote Premium as a business expense and use OneNote for your personal use.

I would warn against overlapping data collection of similar topics between the two programs for the simple reason that it is then hard to remember which program you kept a particular nugget of information in. You could end up going back and forth between programs in a frustrating series of searches unless you actually share links between the programs. Another possibility is to use one of the automation tools listed above to automatically duplicate any note you add in one program into the other. I’m not convinced that’s a great idea, but you could decide on a notebook by notebook basis.

Learning both programs is also a good way to figure out which one works better with your personal workflow and digital needs.

My Workflow for this Series of Posts

For this particular writing project, I decided to experiment with OneNote’s writing tools and full-screen editing to create the drafts of these articles. Historically, though, much of the data I used was saved in Evernote or in previous articles already published on Frugal Guidance 2, or just in my own head.

However, after drafting each article, I copied the draft into a text editor (NotePad++ or Brackets) to enter and edit the HTML, then copied that into WordPress, uploading and adding the graphics there. What this means is that I could probably have just as easily done the drafting in Evernote. My current choice of OneNote was based more on aesthetics and writing tools than actual workflow or search. If I was writing for print instead of the web, it would probably have made more sense for me to use LibreOffice or Microsoft Word and their advanced formatting to publish on paper or as a PDF, or even as an ebook.

I do intend to continue to use Evernote Premium, and during the course of researching and writing this series I learned much more about using Evernote and its advanced tools than about OneNote. For a long-term user of Evernote, that’s saying something.

For more information about using both programs, see below and check out my other writing articles in the Blogging & Writing tab of Frugal Guidance 2.

As always, please leave your own comments, tips, ideas and reactions in the comments area, below.

Lots More Info about OneNote and Evernote

Other Parts of This Series on Frugal Guidance 2

OneNote and Evernote: Which is Best for You? Part 1 of this series.

OneNote and Evernote Compared, Part 2.

Comparing OneNote and Evernote Web Clippers, Part 3 of the series.

OneNote and Evernote Series, on Frugal Guidance 2

OneNote Resources and Tutorials

See the OneNote website for featured plugins and hardware and software tools.

10 supremely useful Microsoft OneNote add-ins and tools by Derek Walter, Apr 18, 2016 on PCWorld.

The 7 Best OneNote Apps You Can Have for Free by Saikat Basu, June 16, 2016, on MakeUseOf.com.

The website OneNote Tips has, well, OneNote Tips, naturally. but it doesn’t appear to have been updated recently. Another specialized site is OneNote for teachers which includes both basics and specialized use of OneNote for teachers, students and administrators. There is also the OneNote in Education blog, sponsored by Microsoft.

10 Tips and Tricks That Will Make You a OneNote Ninja on BetterCloudMonitor.com, includes short videos for each of the 10 tips.

Another Ten Tips article for OneNote 10 Tips to Unlock the Potential of Microsoft OneNote by Adam Januszkiewicz, Nov. 4, 2014, actually has very little overlap with the previous ten tips.

OneNote and Evernote series on Frugal Guidance 2

Evernote Resources and Tutorials

The Evernote App Center features an extensive list of plugins, apps and hardware that work with Evernote.

Evernote’s own blog has a varied compendium of posts with news, tips, and how-to articles.

6 things Evernote does that Microsoft OneNote can’t by James A. Martin on CIO.

36 Tips Every Evernote User Must Know by Eric Griffith, July 16, 2016 on the PC Magazine website.

12 Evernote hacks and apps for power users also by James A. Martin on CIO.

James A. Martin must be a BIG Evernote fan, see also his slideshow 13 Evernote Tips for Businesspeople, of Feb. 12, 2015, again on CIO, for tips ranging from managing email to organizing a film shoot.

Zapier (which works with both OneNote and Evernote), offers Remember Everything with Evernote: 30+ of the Best Tips and Tricks by Melanie Pinola, June 16, 2016, on the Zapier website. Ms. Pinola is a frequent writer about Evernote and OneNote and tech elsewhere on the web, too.

10 Tricks to Make Yourself an Evernote Master by David Nield, 1/01/15, on Gizmodo.

The Juggling Writer website has a good beginner tutorial for writers and others on Evernote for Writers.

Lifehacker.com has long been an Evernote supporter. How to Use Evernote for Writing Fiction by Walter Glenn has an organizational guide for writers.

An Evernote Guide for Writers: 5 Ways to Use it for All Your Projects by Jessie Kwak, October 17, 2016, on The Write Life blog.

Other Comparisons of OneNote and Evernote

There are several in-depth comparisons of OneNote and Evernote. Some, like this one, mainly compare the desktop versions, others delve more deeply into the iOS and Android versions. Interestingly, although the facts are generally the same, they do not always agree about which is the better notebook, which shows how personal needs and preferences play a big part in the choice. So read on!

OneNote vs. Evernote: A personal take on two great note-taking apps by Preston Gralla, March 21, 2014, on ComputerWorld.com.

Evernote vs. OneNote: Which Note-Taking App Is Right for You? by Joel Lee, February 3, 2016 on MakeUseOf.com. Like most MUO articles, this one includes links to other articles and resources to learn more about using both Evernote and OneNote.

Note-Taking Showdown: Evernote vs. OneNote (2016 Edition) by Melanie Pinola, March 20, 2016 on Lifehacker.com. This article speaks more of the Android and iOS apps as well as the desktop ones, with links for more info.

Evernote vs Onenote Showdown: The Ultimate Note Taking Software Comparison by Rahul Dasgupta — Sept. 23, 2016 on Cloudwards.

Evernote vs OneNote: Battle of the note-taking apps by Carlos Vega, December 18, 2016, on DigitalTrends.com.

Evernote vs OneNote: Which is king of note taking? by Kat Orphanides and Aaron Lee Rene Millman, updated July 12, 2016. Another extended comparison of the two notebooks. Check the third page for updates made over the course of 2016.


Just because no other writers seem to do it, credit should be given to all the programmers and designers who developed both OneNote and Evernote. Thanks. They are both great, if imperfect, software solutions.

We must never forget that OneNote is a trademark of the Microsoft Corporation, and Evernote is a trademark of the Evernote Corporation.

The title image of footprints threading between the Evernote and OneNote logos on a phone is by the author, Andrew Brandt.

Frugal Guidance 2 - http://andybrandt531.com