OneNote - Features, Pricing, Alternatives, and More
Taking notes, brainstorming ideas, making lists, and saving articles from the web to read later— the act of collecting all these scraps of information can lead to a disorganized mess. We need somewhere to put all this stuff so that we can find it again when we need it. The best note-taking apps consolidate all your ideas, no matter what format they take, and make them searchable and shareable.
Microsoft OneNote is among the best options on the market. It's designed to keep all your information in one place and make it accessible to you no matter what device you have on hand, as it has apps for Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and the web.
To get started with OneNote, you need a Microsoft account, which can be any free account, such as an Outlook.com email account, or a paid account, such as Office 365 subscription. No matter what type of account you have, the feature set is the same in OneNote, a real perk considering some competing note-taking apps restrict features based on the tier of service you choose. With OneNote, the only difference between free and paid account is the amount of cloud storage included in OneDrive, 5GB and 1TB, respectively.
If you've used other Microsoft Office apps in the past, the basic layout of the app will be familiar, with many of the same menus appearing across the top. Before you begin creating notes, it helps to know about how you can organize them. OneNote uses Notebooks, which contain Sections, which contain Pages.
Each page in OneNote acts like a piece of paper. You can type on it, paste images or files into it, draw using sketching and paint tools, record an audio memo, or paste other information into it. You can click anywhere and start typing, then drag elements around to the part of the page you want.
One Note also has a web clipper, or browser plugin that lets you save the contents of web pages as a new page in your account. The web clipper gives you options for saving the entire page, a selection of text you choose, or just the main text and images while ignoring advertisements.
If you see something you need to remember when you're out and about, you can snap a picture using your mobile device and add the image to OneNote, too. If the image contains text, like a photo of sign showing business hours, OneNote runs optical character recognition (OCR) on it to make the text searchable. In the Windows and macOS versions of the app, OneNote allows you to right-click on an image and extract the text from an image to copy and use elsewhere.
OneNote also offers tags so that you can organize and flag notes for follow-up easily. For instance, if you're taking notes in a meeting and want to remember any tasks that were assigned, you can apply the To Do tag. While reviewing notes from a previous meeting, you might use tags such as Important or Discuss With Manager to visually call out pieces of information you don't want to overlook later. In the desktop version of the app, you can use the Find Tag feature to locate these notes at a later time—though unfortunately, you can't search for tags on mobile, and there's no way to sort notes with tags as you could with other notes app.
OneNote offers collaboration features as well. You can share specific pages, sections, or notebooks with teammates, then collaborate on them in real-time. Because the app syncs effortless, you don't have to worry about version control either. OneNote saves the most up-to-date content in real time. There's even a free-form note style so that you can collaboratively use the app as a digital whiteboard for brainstorming.
Because OneNote is a Microsoft product, it is no surprise that the app tightly integrates with other Microsoft software. When scheduling a meeting in Outlook, you can send a meeting agenda as part of a shared page to attendees. You can then use the same page to take notes from the meeting, and everyone will have access to the updated version.
It started out as just another app in the Office suite, but today OneNote works on iPad, iPhones, Android devices, Macs, Windows touch-enabled devices, and on practically any web-enabled device via its web app. If you're in the market for a new note-taking app, OneNote is a great option.
Do More With OneNote
- Create and save notes of all kinds: text, images, audio recordings, sketches, and more
- Clip pages from the web and automatically save them into your account
- Organize notes into pages, subpages, sections, and notebooks
- Search inside notebooks to find information
- Share pages and notebooks to collaborate with others
- Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and web apps available
- Free account includes all features and 5GB cloud storage
- 1TB storage upgrade with paid Microsoft Office accounts, starting at $6.99/month or $69.99/year