Note Taking – Evernote vs. OneNote

In my current job I have to take a lot of notes.  Even in my personal life I have to take a lot of notes so I have decided to use two applications to do so.  They are pretty similar but at the same time very different.  I’ll start with Evernote which I discovered through my friend at work.

Evernote is an online notebook that can sync with your computer, the web, and your phone (available for iPhone and Windows Mobile).  This thing is super cool because it syncs everything at once so that you can see the changes in all 3 places.  It is especially good for the web for snipping web pages or other things of that sort but where I find it most powerful is when you’re using it with your phones camera.  I have a Treo and my wife has an iPhone.  My camera pales in comparison to hers so my camera shots aren’t as good.  If there is a product I want to buy that I see in a store but don’t want to buy it right now, I can snap a picture, stick it in Evernote and add some text of what it is and why I want it.  A couple minutes later I can see it on the web and on my desktop at home.  Neat huh??  It even has software that will recognize words in the pictures you take so you can search for keywords and the picture will be displayed.  Tagging is also allowed for better organization and all that jazz.  I recently used it a lot in Hawaii taking pictures of food I would probably want to eat again.

There are some limitations like how much you can upload with a free account.  Even though its encrypted and all that, there are still a lot of things that I wouldn’t put in Evernote that are personal and that I don’t want people to read just in case they attack the “cloud”.  You can encrypt text if you want but not the whole thing unless you select all the text.  It’s not as free form as OneNote but I’ll get into that later (it’s more like using Word)  For things that aren’t really sensitive or that important, Evernote is how I manage my life (although I do use Notes as well and sync that to Outlook at home but I might start moving away from that unless its something I need to archive for years and years.

Method number 2 is using Microsoft OneNote to take notes.  This is a bit more secure than Evernote in my mind but you’re tied to a particular computer.  There are sharing abilities but only in a corporate setting.  I use OneNote for complex notes that I’m taking at home or at the office and I don’t want anyone to see them.  I find this method the most private but the upside is that I can sync it with my Treo if need be.  I like that its free form text and that I can also draw on it (you can draw in Evernote too).  If I had a tablet PC that would be totally ideal for me to make diagrams and such and send them to co-workers or something.  I do like how it integrates with all the Microsoft office apps and that you can tag things as To Do items, important, etc.  So in that way its more business focused which is how I use it most of the time.

There isn’t support for taking snapshots with my phone and then sticking it in OneNote as far as I can tell so thats one limitation and its not synced to the web either so I can see it on any computer.  But I think thats the security of this program.  It’s pretty self contained and I don’t have to worry about someone looking at my stuff and its hard to steal unless you come over to my house and take my desktop away from me.  I am trying to use it more in my day to day life at home but I normally fall back on Evernote since most of what I’m doing isn’t all that important.

So I guess that brings me back to the beginning, which one is better?  Well both are pretty good for what they are.  I would say for your non sensitive stuff that you want to access anywhere on the go, Evernote is the way to go.  If you’re more in the business realm and need to keep things nice and secure on your computer so prying eyes can’t see it unless you email it to them then OneNote is by far the better option.

Hmm well thats the rant for today.  I’m really really liking this WordPress thing!


2 thoughts on “Note Taking – Evernote vs. OneNote

  1. I know I am writing this a few months after your post, but I would like to point out that OneNote syncing is very much possible, even in non-corporate settings. You can do this by installing Dropbox ( on multiple computers, placing your OneNote notebooks into the My Dropbox folder, and letting it sync between computers (just be sure to tell OneNote that the notebook is shared on a network, and it’ll keep track of changes for you). It works seamlessly, even between different versions of OneNote, as long as the computers have OneNote installed on them.

  2. Hello: Actually, I’ve been sync’ing my OneNote (and all other documents) via Windows Live Mesh since 2008. As Jasmine mentions, dropbox and other things can sync it across several machines. But that’s so 2007…

    The new Office 2010 version of OneNote directly integrations with the web. What’s more appealing to me is that you can access it without having OneNote installed – or even office really (Office online is free).

    Evernote sounds cool that you can snap pictures and have it integrated. I might look into that, with the new API programming abilities of 2010’s version (I’m a dev). Good idea.

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