The OneNote alternative

I’ve been trying out Microsoft Office 2007 for quite some time now and I should say that like most of the restaurants I’ve been to, they are still putting premium on how they present their ‘food’. Functionality and ease of use are still subjective for me (matter of preference or getting used to the functions, icon placements, etc.?) plus the Excel 2007 that can’t multiply is a really big blow to Microsoft reliability (but didn’t we expect that?). But there is One program that, after discovering it, I don’t think I could part ways with pretty soon: MS OneNote.

This preppy nice little program lets you do lots of thing. And it follows no rules! It’s free-form writing enables you to jot ideas, append them to things you’ve written somewhere, categorize them in tabs and pages in your virtual notebook, and pack several notebooks in your ‘backpack’! It’s a wonderful experience writing blogs, scratch/draft reports, creative brainstorming and working with lots of stuff at the same time — which I do most of the time.

I don’t usually focus on one task at a time. I work in little bits so I don’t get bored to death doing work while blogging. At times though, there are things that require my full attention. But using OneNote makes this an ‘enjoyable’ task with all the color and options and ‘customizability’ power it offers. I’m not restricted by Word’s top-down typing. I can jab key words beside a paragraph in OneNote, highlight it, mark/tag it, search for it quickly and easily, come back to it, write a few lines and then move on to the next bright idea that just popped up in my head and write on the other notebook i have! (whew!) It may seem to be a long task but it is actually exciting and enjoyable, this jumping from one idea to the other. I am having fun with this!

my evernoteHowever, being a Microsoft product, this ‘joy’ comes at a steep price. The search for the alternative is on! And EverNote is pitted to be OneNote’s open source alternative. Good point: FREE! Don’t we all love free stuff? πŸ™‚

Tried it for about one week now and it does basic stuff: take down notes and categorize them, put them in categories (you can assign icons to your categories! cute!) but the difference is that it’s a bit restrictive much like a wordprocessor with a top-down, chronological approach. It isn’t free-form writing. Stuff you write is in one long scroll of virtual paper. Backtracking would require you to search for it through the date you wrote it. That may be a plus or minus for you, depending on which method you prefer. Also, the loading time is quite fast (well, maybe because I have few notes on it for now). System resources, I think it just has a tiny advantage over OneNote. And since it’s not a Microsoft product, dragging and dropping from MS Office apps is a bit of a lost cause… specially with tables. THAT one I definitely need in writing reports.

So right now, I haven’t made a final decision yet. I mean the functions present in both programs are the things that I need for work and play. I’m having fun with OneNote but am I really missing out on something with not exploring EverNote yet? I’m also looking forward to OpenNote, the next open source project meant to have a lot of the functionalities of (if not exactly the same as) OneNote.


12 thoughts on “The OneNote alternative

  1. Hi! I’m considering getting OneNote, so this article’s been very helpful. Thank-you!

    Before I make any purchases though, I was just wondering if, in the meantime, you have any new or changed thoughts on Evernote? Also, have you had any chance to use OpenNote, and if so, how was it?


  2. I just visited the EverNote website, and as far as I can see it’s not free and definitely not open source (unless you regard “free trial” as “free”, but that would make OpenNote free as well).

    OTOH, EverNote is cheap, at $15 to $40 depending on version/combination.

    i think it’s EverNote Plus that’s not free. πŸ™‚ and as for opensource, that may be my mistake. i think i have often mistaken freeware as opensource (since the opposite is often the same)… thanks for the comment!

  3. Once I learned how to use OneNote, I fell in love with it.
    But I also really like using Zoho Notebook and I didn’t really get into Evernote.

    Zoho and Evernote are both web-based which is great as long as you have Internet access. But what if you don’t?

    I love the colors in OneNote (shallow I know, but it’s a selling point) and I really dig how you can easily clip content right off the web and insert right into your OneNotes. You can add images and content to Zoho, but it often requires an extra step or two. With OneNote, it’s instant. I can do mad, crazy amounts of research with OneNote.

    Plus, OneNote let’s you have more levels in its tabbed system, whereas Zoho only lets you have a Notebook (1) and then indivdual pages (2).

    I use OneNote and keep all my files on a large USB stick. That way, I can move between my home computer and college computers with ease.

    If OneNote had a web-based backup system that synced all your documents, it would be perfect. Until then, my USB stick will have to do.

  4. I have discovered OneNote about a year ago, when I was working on a new web developing project.
    The project was demanding for research and collecting information from many resources.
    OneNote was the perfect solution for us.

    Today we use only OneNote for our web developing projects and research.

    Thank you for the interesting post.
    Happy to learn new things every day.


    • Will OneNote work as a discussion board allowing more than one person to add material (notes, Word, XLS, pdf etc) and be able to add to a Word or other file in a three dimensional way?

      As far as I know, it will be able to make multiple people work on a singel “notebook” or project on it. And since it’s from Microsoft, you can work with MS Office apps with your OneNote. But for the “3-dimensional” addition of Word documents, i’m not sure what you mean by it. 3-way? 3-D Object? hmmm…

  5. I cannot find my purchased installation of the Ultimate Steal Office which includes OneNote and because the doenload expired after 30 days. I will have to rebuy it again? I am dealing with software not hardware. I will not loose Softeare advantages over commercial interests.

  6. As for me I like to organize notes in the way connected with mind map method. So I have been watching for free alternative for OneNote or Mind Manager. And recently I have found very simple free programm Pinoteo and I use it for creating notes and different diagramms and tables.

  7. I use OneNote as the basis for my GTD approach. The only downfall to my set up is that I don’t have a WinMob phone/pda (I run a BB Curve), so there’s no way to manage OneNote remotely. I can do it sort of indirectly via Outlook, but it still requires an extra step to copy whatever I enter back into OneNote.

    EverNote — I keep trying to like it…but it just seems too clumsy for me…or vice versa, I guess.

    For MindMapping — I use FreeMind and it’s great…and free!

  8. I’m a planner/organizer junkie; I get a rush from trying different products, whether they’re on my PPC, PC, paper, whatever. The problem is that I’m fickle and usually tire of the shiny new toy within a week at best, even on the rare occasion when I’ve shelled out good money for it (I’m looking at you, GoBinder). I’ve tried EverNote, including the Windows Mobile version to supplement, and I was tired of it almost immediately. OneNote is the ONLY organizer that has ever gotten any sort of commitment from me. I had been using a live Linux OS after my Windows hard drive died, and I was so excited when I realized that my new computer (a gift) had OneNote on it. I had my buddy back! I played with it all that night, and ever since. I actually get more crap done when it’s in my OneNote notebooks (don’t ask me why, but I’m not complaining). I dare say I’d even purchase this program if it came down to such a drastic move.

  9. Somehow I can’t dig these note-taking apps. Maybe because I’m used to using plain text editors plus file system browsers a lot, since long before note-taking apps appeared.

  10. You can get OneNote standalone for about $70.00 and it is a good program and easy to use. I used it in Office 2010 beta til it expired. The professional office suite is about $500.00. That is why I started looking for an alternative.

    Don’t get me wrong I would buy the Office 2010 Pro suite or Mondo if I could afford it.

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