OneNote: Alternative To EverNote 2

by JL Beeken on 6-22-2011

EverNote 2.2I think years from now people will still be talking about EverNote 2 as one of the best programs ever built. And I have harped on about the sheer genius of it. So, this might come as a shock.

I’ve switched from EverNote 2 to OneNote, something I never could have imagined doing in a million years. I started using EverNote as a beta-tester when it was barely a speck in the womb about a million years ago. I feel like I gave birth to it myself. Then the child grew into a teenager (Version 3) and went horribly wrong.

It could be my personal installation of Windows7 that’s been corrupted over time. Or it could be a recent update, but the clipboard has stopped working for EverNote 2. Cut, copy, paste, no go. The Compatibility Troubleshooter says it’s incompatible and it’s not changing its mind. Occasionally it works, if I shut the program down and reopen it, but mostly it doesn’t and that’s a deal breaker.

So I spent a few hours the other night, with a crushing weight on my heart, dragging and dropping my remaining 160 notes from EverNote 2 to OneNote. I thought I hated this software but I don’t. I actually like it!

Because it also handles images and URLs easily, it’s the closest program I’ve seen to EverNote 2. The organization is different but it’s close enough.

Notebooks are like categories in EverNote 2.
Sections are sub-categories.
Sections can be organized into Section Groups.
Pages are sub-sub-categories or ‘notes’ that can also be further subdivided.

That’s the basics and once your eyes adjust to those differences, it’s full steam ahead.

There’s a third-party clipper button called Clip to OneNote that works with Firefox and Thunderbird. Or, natively, notes you copy and paste by clicking the icon in the taskbar go into Unfiled notes (like Uncategorized in EverNote 2) for later organization. The icon also houses a screenshot button – Windows+S.

Inside OneNote, notebooks and sections can be viewed with one click from the sidebar. Navigation is simple. Search is brilliant. You can search everything or you can search by notebooks, sections, section groups or tags. Text in images is also searchable.

Various toolbars can be quickly turned on and off. There are writing tools, outlining tools, integration with Outlook, formatting tools, tags.  I use the 2007 version so I can’t speak for the improvements or regressions in 2010. What I’ve read about the 2010 version is that there are more syncing options so it can be accessed from any computer on the web. And there’s also a mobile version and a mobile app.

MS OneNote

OneNote can be used in pen mode. Notes can be dragged around on the screen to re-arrange them. You can create and share templates. Password protect sections. Use drawing tools on images. You can hyperlink between pages and notebooks, something not possible in EverNote 2. You can insert and work with tables, something also missing from EverNote 2. Depending on your blog platform, (self-hosted WordPress is not one of them in the 2007 version) you can create a blog post in OneNote and have it automatically published to your blog through MS Word.

What initially turned me off OneNote was too many options. Fifteen different pen colors made me tired. But they’re only there if you need them. For instance if you were in a live meeting – yes! you can do that too – each participant could be identified by their pen color.

At this point I give OneNote a thumbs up.

I still use EverNote 2 for my email as I’ve done for years. I send email to EverNote 2 using the clipper button in Thunderbird. (Unlike Firefox 4 the EverNote 2 clipper button in Thunderbird still works.) It’s easy to collect emails in chronological order, categorize them, then select a list and print to PDF one email per page. Printing multiple pages in that way can also be done in OneNote so I’m just hanging on. When I finally let go, EverNote 2 will go to software heaven, never to return.

Does software get all light and happy when it goes to heaven? Does it hang out with other software and say things like, “Hey, man, I used to really be something.” I am so going to miss that EverNote 2 icon on my taskbar.

OneNote notebooks are automatically saved to a default location but that can be changed. I keep mine in a Dropbox folder so I can access them from my other computer.

Unlike the completely re-arranged EverNote 4OneNote is a one-time purchase. At least until the upgrades of everything around it send it into oblivion but that takes quite awhile.

OneNote came with my purchase of Microsoft Home Office 2007 but can be bought separately from Amazon for about $40. Or the 2010 version for about $70.

ActionOutline: Alternative to OneNote

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol 6-22-2011 at 8:44 PM

I wish you the best. I have been using OneNote on my HP tablet computer (Vista) for almost 3 years, the computer was flaking out, freezing, shutting down email and such, so hubby decided to buy me a new laptop, a Toshiba (Win 7).

The current night mare is that we are obviously too thick in the skull to get the files transferred from one computer to the other and actually make the files functional.

We have spent a few hours tonight stressfully playing (not sure playing is a good descriptive word, SIGHH) with it, we now have several computers all messed up and nothing works. It is late, it is time to turn off these monsters and call it a night, only hubby is so stinking irritated I am not sure he will sleep. SIGHH

I think the program is just too smart for me. I used to love it, and it is super for screen shots, but, now that I rely on it for so much else and cannot get this transfer done I am ready to kick it to the street.

Yep, OneNote is smarter than I. SIGH

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JL 6-22-2011 at 9:02 PM

Uh-oh. Looks like I came at a bad time. Are you trying to use OneNote with MS Office 2010 which may be in a starter edition on your new computer? It might be a good idea to uninstall that. If that also has a version of OneNote that could be mixing things up or just the fact that it’s Office 2010.

Something to note. OneNote 2010 uses a different file format than 2007 and when you upgrade you cannot go back. If you’ve already crossed that river, you’d better have backups.

Install whatever version of MS Office or OneNote you had on your old computer. Go to Options and set the right file-paths to your OneNote notebooks. Something like that.

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Carol 6-22-2011 at 9:09 PM

MS Office 2010 trial version was present, was uninstalled before any other programs were ever installed.

We did install the same version of OneNote to the new computer as was on the old one. Same disc, etc.

I’ll look at the file paths, which I suspect is part of the problem.

I still love my computer, right??? SIGH

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JL 6-22-2011 at 9:11 PM

The file-paths are under Tools/Options/Save. Click on each file-path and the Modify button.

Changing file-paths in OneNote

Severe irritation is not the best mindset to bring to computers. They’re machines and they don’t care. Reckless damage is all the same to them. It won’t keep them awake at night.

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Susan Petersen 6-24-2011 at 4:39 AM

I’ve been using OneNote for several years and love love love it for all types of note taking, screen captures, PDF printing, you name it. I would not be without it.

It also comes packaged with Microsoft office home edition.

Thanks for the tip about changing the default location to a Dropbox folder! Plan to take care of that immediately!

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Geoff Coupe 6-24-2011 at 11:38 AM

Heavens – this sounds akin to a change in religion. I’ve never tried EverNote, but I have dallied now and again with OneNote. I could see the possibilities, but it has never blossomed into true love. Perhaps I need to try harder.

I well remember back in the mists of time absolutely relying on a program called Polaris Packrat for all my snippets of info. Then came a new version, replete with numerous bugs, and it was time to wave goodbye…

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JL 6-24-2011 at 12:58 PM

Polaris Packrat … now you really are showing your age.

A religious change sounds about it. I used to say if there was no EverNote 2 I would stop using computers. OK, I lied because life has to go on but it feels (and I’m trying not to think about it every minute of the day, in fact, I had stopped thinking about it until you brought it up again by leaving a comment) like someone close just died and I’m not quite accepting that yet but it would comfort me to think that they had gone off to a better place in the sky.

Meanwhile, in the midst of my grief, I am finding that OneNote can do everything that EN2 could plus a few other tricks so it’s not a bad trade-off. I can go into a religious swoon about anything that keeps my notes and does it well.

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Lucas 12-10-2011 at 3:25 PM

What about automatic assigning (tagging) to a category based on containing specific keywords. The one and nearly only reason why I (still) use EV2. This very powerful function I can’t find anywhere!

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JL 12-10-2011 at 8:01 PM

Agreed. I didn’t leave EN2 because I wanted to. I guess the alternative in other software is searching for the word you want across all your notes. You can still put notes under a specific category in OneNote. You just can’t drag and drop a category onto a note as you can in EN2.

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Lucas 12-11-2011 at 12:55 AM

Still I don’t understand why you had to leave EV2. I use EV2 at my Win7 64bit laptop without a problem. It didn’t work with my Office 2010 64bit, so I have installed the 32bit version and all the EV2 power is functional again. Including the add-in for IE9 through the Extra menu and also the Right-click menu to save a snippet or the complete page. Also in Outlook 2010 EV2 works without a problem, so I’m still a proud user of EV2. In the meanwhile other manager understand the power of EV2 to and start using it now themselves. EV could have made money if they didn’t stop EV2, all because of the automatic tagging. Thanx for keeping EV2 up!!

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