There’s nothing worse than not being able to read your own handwriting. Whether it’s project requirements, class notes or a list of brilliant ideas you’ve jotted down, losing your scribblings forever because you have the penmanship of a seven-year-old (or a doctor) hurts.
Happily, for those of us cursed with chicken-scratch syndrome, we’ve come a long way from reliance on post-it notes and cocktail napkins. The era of the cloud note-taking app is upon us, and it’s more than a little notable.
Being the types to dwell with our heads in the cloud, we previously went in search of the best note-taking apps available. One of our more surprising findings was that, while there are several options out there, only two have the features and flexibility to streamline and strengthen your note-taking needs: Evernote and OneNote.
In this article, we’ve decided to see if we can’t make a final determination which of the two is the better all-around solution by comparing them head to head. If you’d like a closer look, don’t forget to check out our separate Evernote review and OneNote review, too.
Evernote or OneNote: Choosing the Best Note-Taking App
OneNote has been around longer, having first been released in 2003, but Evernote has historically generated more online buzz as a capable note-taking tool. That, in turn, has led to an impressive 200 million Evernote users as of late 2017.
However, the narrative seems to be changing as Microsoft has continued to improve its product, and now offers several features you won’t get with Evernote (more on those later).
There’s no question, though, that Evernote and OneNote are easily the two best note-taking apps unless you’re just looking for a simple app to record voice memos and compile grocery lists. If that’s your need, you’ll be much better off with Google Keep (read our Google Keep review).
There are many things that make Evernote and OneNote so literally noteworthy, but for us, it all starts with organization and flexibility. The ability to create notebooks to contain your notes is something you won’t find with, for example, Box Notes (read our Box Notes review).
There are many more features to mention, which we’ll get to below as we break down both notes solutions through five rounds: cost and capacity, organization features, note formatting, collaboration and security.
Cost and Capacity
Up first, we’re going to compare the subscription costs of each tool, as well as take a look at what kind of storage capacity, note size and bandwidth limits are attached to those costs.
Evernote has a free plan available but imposes some caps that will become an issue for very active users. The most restrictive of those is a bandwidth of 60MB per month.
While that likely won’t pose a problem for those just looking for a private journaling solution, if you’re a student or make regular use of the Evernote web clipper, you might need to pony up some dough. Other limits of the free plan include a two-device sync limit and a 25MB note size.
The good news for those for whom such limits become an issue is that Evernote isn’t really that expensive. Evernote Plus is just $3.99 a month if you go month-to-month and $34.99 if you sign up for a year in advance.
1-year plan $ 2.92/ month
$34.99 billed every year
Save 27 %
1-year plan $ 5.83/ month
$69.99 billed every year
Save 27 %
With Evernote Plus, you get a monthly upload cap of 1GB, a max note size of 200MB and unlimited synced devices. If that’s not enough bandwidth, Evernote Premium ups you to 10GB per month for $7.99 per month or $69.99 annually.
Evernote doesn’t impose any restrictions on storage space, no matter the subscription. Technically, the company bills itself as “unlimited.” Even more technically, with bandwidth caps, that claim isn’t actually true. Additionally, whether you upgrade or not, you can only have a maximum of 250 notebooks at any time.
The costs themselves were actually increased substantially (relatively speaking) in 2016, but we still think Evernote is a good deal for all that you’re getting. Let’s see, however, if it’s a better deal than OneNote.
The cost of OneNote is actually integrated with Microsoft’s cloud storage service, OneDrive. OneDrive itself is a reasonably strong product, ranked among the best cloud storage options today (use our chart to compare online storage solutions).
The result of that integration is that notes created using OneNote share space with other files you upload to OneDrive, including Microsoft Office documents, photos and videos. That means you need to be a little more diligent about how you manage OneNote than you do with Evernote, although there are no monthly bandwidth caps to work around, at least.
The OneNote app itself is free. You can download it in the Microsoft Store for Windows 10, and there are versions available for MacOS, iOS and Android, too. Additionally, Microsoft will currently give you 5GB of storage just for signing up for OneDrive. While that doesn’t rank among the best free cloud storage offers, it’s something.
If you need more space for your notes, you’ll need to purchase a OneDrive plan. Microsoft has a 50GB option for just $1.99 per month, but the better deal is it’s $6.99 1TB plan, which also grants you access to Office 365, arguably the best office suite available.
|OneDrive Basic 5GB|
|Microsoft 365 Personal|
1-year plan $ 5.83/ month
$69.99 billed every year
Save 17 %
|Microsoft 365 Family|
1-year plan $ 8.33/ month
$99.99 billed every year
Save 17 %
|OneDrive for Business Plan 1|
1-year plan $ 5.00/ month
$60.00 billed every year
|OneDrive for Business Plan 2|
1-year plan $ 10.00/ month
$120.00 billed every year
| Microsoft 365 Business Standard|
1-year plan $ 12.50/ month
$150.00 billed every year
Save 17 %
If you’re a student, you can actually get Office 365 for free, too, which is one of the reasons we think OneNote is the best note-taking app overall for students. You can read more about that offer here.
Round One Thoughts
Our first go at picking one notebook over the other doesn’t make for an easy decision. Both services offer good value even though that value plays out a bit differently. Evernote, for example, gives you unlimited storage, even on its free plan, but with monthly bandwidths, you’ll never be able to take full advantage of that.
OneNote, meanwhile, doesn’t have bandwidth limits but does have a storage cap, and shares cloud storage space with other OneDrive files, too. Even if you don’t plan on using OneDrive for anything but OneNote storage, that 5GB may disappear faster than you’d like.
On the other hand, a 1TB OneDrive plan only costs $6.99 a month and you get a bunch of other useful tools with it. Evernote Plus is three dollars less per month, however, and surpassing a 1GB monthly bandwidth is harder than you’d think.
If you need a cloud storage tool, too, and you like OneDrive, OneNote is probably going to be more cost-effective. For those who already have cloud storage, for example with Dropbox or pCloud, and for those that don’t care for Microsoft Office, Evernote provides more value.
Since we’re specifically looking at note-taking apps in this article, we’re giving the slight edge to Evernote. We don’t blame you if you disagree, however.
More than value, one of the areas that set both Evernote and OneNote ahead of every other note-taking app available today is how well-designed they are for organizing thoughts and research. Round two takes a closer look.
Central to Evernote’s approach to keeping work organized is the use of notebooks. You can create individual notebooks for your personal diary, classes, projects, book ideas or anything else.
The only limit, as mentioned earlier, is that you can only have up to 250 notebooks altogether, which is kind of a bummer if we’re being honest. Each notebook can, however, hold as many notes as you need.
While Evernote’s layout is straightforward, reminding us a bit of Outlook, once you’ve created dozens of notebooks and hundreds of notes, it could all get pretty difficult to sort through. For those occasions, Evernote has two solutions: search and tags.
The search feature works like you’d think: type the string you want to look for and algorithms will go to work for you finding relevant notes. You can either search specific notebooks or your entire Evernote account.
Tags may be even more useful. A tag lets you sort related notes using custom identifiers. For example, you can create a tag called “recipes” and apply it to any note containing a recipe. You can also search for notes containing a combination of tags, such as “cloudwards” and “web hosting.”
Another organization feature of Evernote that we love is its web-clipper add-on, which works as a save button for the internet, useful for gathering research or capturing articles you like to read later.
You can clip a full page, just the article text or a simplified version of the article. You can also take a screenshot or just bookmark the page with a link. However you decide to clip it, Evernote will let you pick which notebook you want to store the clipping in, plus add tags and remarks at the same time.
Evernote also lets you save important emails by forwarding them to a unique Evernote email address that every user receives.
If you prefer to automate that function, both Zapier and IFTTT work with Evernote, letting you do things like send emails from certain individuals to a specific Evernote notebook. Many other recipes for both automation tools are available, too, like for syncing notes to Google Drive, tracking Facebook likes or creating a note when an iOS calendar is updated. Finally, you can attach files to notes, both uploaded locally and from Google Drive.
Overall, for those that take full advantage of Evernote’s organizational capabilities, the software can really do wonders for keeping your notes, research and ideas in order.
OneNote shares many of the same features as Evernote for organizing work, with notebooks for gathering related notes being the most important. Evernote actually takes things a step further: each notebook can also have multiple color-coded “sections” to subdivide projects even further.
Additionally, OneNote doesn’t impose any limits on how many notebooks you can create like Evernote does.
You can search for notes containing specific keywords by clicking the magnifying glass icon near the top-left corner of the OneNote software. You can restrict the search to a specific notebook section or notebook, or search all notebooks.
OneNote also has pre-defined tags for sorting related notes. However, these are limited to the point of being almost useless for serious note takers, having just six rather vague options available (e.g., “important,” “question,” “critical”).
While OneNote 2016 lets you create custom tags, the version of the app available in the Microsoft store does not, and Microsoft has decided to sunset OneNote 2016. Hopefully, Microsoft will fix this, but for now, it’s a limitation you’ll have to live with if you choose OneNote.
OneNote’s web clipper is less troublesome, even if it isn’t quite as nice as Evernote’s. You can clip full pages or articles, take screenshots and add notes to your clippings to remind yourself why you’ve saved them later on.
Like Evernote, you can also convert emails to notes by setting up an address for OneNote and a default notebook. Going forward, you can forward emails to that address for preservation.
OneNote also works with both Zapier and IFTTT, with similar recipes to what you’ll find with Evernote. Automatically piping important emails from Gmail to a notebook, saving iPhone screenshots and saving liked Tweets are just a few examples of what you can do.
Round Two Thoughts
Evernote and OneNote are the two best tools out there when it comes to organizing cloud-based notes. Also, there’s not much to set them apart from each other.
Two key advantages of OneNote over Evernote are that you can create unlimited notebooks and you can subdivide notebooks into sections. Evernote’s biggest advantage over OneNote, meanwhile, is letting you create custom tags. Also, it has a slightly better web clipper.
As with round one, there’s not much there to suggest that either tool has a real leg up over the other. However, we think the use of custom tags is more useful than notebook sections, and most people will probably be fine with the 250 notebook limit.
Once again, we’re going with Evernote, even though a strong argument could be made for OneNote.
In this third round of our head-to-head, we decided to take a look at note formatting features. As with organization, this is an area where many lesser note-taking apps, like Zoho’s product (read our Zoho Notebook review), fall short, but both Evernote and OneNote more or less excel.
Evernote has most of the same rich-text formatting options you’ll find in a modern word processor. These include dozens of different font types, different font sizes and options for bolding, italicizing and underlining text.
You can also create bulleted and number lists, as well as checkboxes, useful for making to-do lists. Evernote lets you create tables within notes, too. All of this is done from an editing ribbon found at the top of each note.
While there are many formatting options, notes in Evernote are fixed when it comes to layout. You can’t, for example, insert text anywhere on the page, such as around hand-drawn diagrams.
In fact, basic notes don’t actually have draw capabilities. To handwrite notes or sketch, you have to create a special “ink note.” These are useful for those using tablets, but we wish we could combine ink and text notes to create something more dynamic. Additionally, Evernote doesn’t have an ink-to-text conversion feature.
Evernote does have options for creating audio notes, as well as screenshot and webcam notes. Webcam notes, however, can only be used to take a snapshot, you can’t create video notes.
OneNote has all the formatting options you’d expect from a Microsoft Office product. You’ll find pretty much any font type you could want, you can change font sizes and colors, bold, underline and italicize text, and choose from various header options.
You can add lists, both bulleted and numbered, and checklists to track tasks. OneNote even has a format painter to quickly duplicate formatting.
Within notes, you can insert links, pictures and audio notes. You can also add meeting information (location, time, invitees, etc) to notes directly from Outlook.
OneNote 2016, the version that is set for sunsetting, has many more formatting options than the OneNote app in the Microsoft Store. That includes video recording, useful for capturing lectures, screen clipping and various page templates (academic, business, planners, etc). As with the lack of custom tags, this is something we really hope Microsoft will fix.
Either version of OneNote is great for sketching, diagramming and taking handwritten notes, however. The OneNote app has a drawing toolbar, where you’ll find various pen and pencil options, shapes and other tools to create visuals.
There’s also an ink-to-text conversion option for those that like to handwrite notes but want a typed version of them later. This is useful for class notes, especially, as it’s generally accepted that writing facts down by hand helps commit them to memory.
In addition to excellent text formatting and drawing options, OneNote lets you layout your notes any way you want. By clicking on any area within a page, you can create a text box there to add your notes. The result is an experience that closely mimics an actual notebook page, which we especially like for blackboard copying.
Round Three Thoughts
OneNote is easily the most versatile note-taking app we’ve tested here at Cloudwards.net. As wonderful as Evernote is, it’s not nearly as flexible when it comes to layout. Additionally, you can add drawings to your text notes in OneNote, while with Evernote you have to create separate ink notes.
While the first two rounds fell narrowly in Evernote’s favor, round three is no contest for OneNote.
Up next, we’ll take a look at sharing notes with others and co-editing options.
For some users, notebook collaboration features won’t matter one bit. Notebooks are more often used for gathering personal thoughts, not for group work. However, the ability to share does have its uses, such as putting together group research or distributing meeting notes.
Evernote has a handful of features that support collaboration. Among them, you can share any notebook by right-clicking on it and selecting “share notebook.” Input the email addresses of those with whom you want to share your notebook and select the type of access permissions you want to grant them: view, edit or edit and invite.
You can also share individual notes if you don’t want to allow access to an entire notebook. Plus, you can generate note links, which will let anybody view a note in a browser. Or if you prefer, you can just email a note to someone straight from within the app.
Since collaborations can sometimes go the wrong way, Evernote lets you access a note’s history to view and rollback to previous versions in case of unwanted changes. Just click the info icon on the top-right side of the note and select “view history.”
Finally, Evernote has a handy chat feature that can be used to discuss notes. While not as feature-rich as a dedicated chat app like Slack, it’s still useful for quick communications built around specified notes and notebooks (read our best cloud storage for Slack article).
You can share any notebook in OneNote by clicking the share icon near the top-right side of the app, then inputting the email addresses of those with whom you want to share. View or edit permissions can be granted.
While you can’t share individual notebook sections or pages the same way, you can at least email the text within notes from the app (it opens Outlook to do so).
There’s no chat option like you get with Evernote and no option to comment on notes within the app. That absence of commenting is surprising and unfortunate since it’s available in Microsoft Word and a very useful feature there.
OneNote doesn’t give you the ability to view recent edits or rollback changes unless you’re using OneNote 2016, which has a special “history” tab. Once again, though, we have to point out that OneNote 2016 is being abandoned by Microsoft. Starting to wonder why?
Round Four Thoughts
Between Evernote and OneNote, it surprised us to find that Evernote has the more versatile collaboration features given Microsoft Office’s place in the business world. However, it’s pretty clear that Evernote does come out on top here, giving you the ability to not only share notebooks but notes too, as well a handy work chat feature.
Security and Privacy
Our final round will be used to measure the security of each note-taking app. Given that both Evernote and OneNote save notes to the cloud, that’s an important consideration. After all, you don’t want someone running off with your family’s secret recipe for chocolate cookies.
It may alarm some readers to learn that Evernote doesn’t maintain its own data centers but instead uses Google Cloud. Google hasn’t always demonstrated the best privacy practices, after all, as you can read about in our Google Drive review.
However, most of those concerns have to do with Google using consumer cloud data stored for Google Drive, Gmail and other Google services for marketing purposes. There’s no indication in Evernote’s privacy terms to suggest it permits Google to access the private thoughts of its user base.
In fact, Evernote itself claims to never look at user content unless given permission by you or compelled to by law enforcement. Your notes are also encrypted at rest using 256-bit AES, a protocol not known to be crackable.
Notes are encrypted in transit (i.e., over the internet), too, but encryption isn’t end-to-end by default. Upon arriving at the server facility, notes are decrypted for indexing before being encrypted again. This helps speed up retrieval later.
Interestingly, Evernote does offer private, end-to-end encryption, but limits it to highlighted text. You can set this yourself from within the app by selecting the text you want to encrypt, right-clicking on it and choosing “encrypt selected text.”
While we’d prefer the company extend private encryption to entire notebooks, it’s the only cloud notebook tool we know of to even go as far as it does. If you do require more security, Evernote is also one of two note-taking apps compatible with SafeRoom, a private encryption tool that will prevent anyone at Evernote from decrypting your notebooks, even under the authority of a warrant.
As a measure of security against someone cracking your Evernote password, you can also turn on two-factor authentication. This is a really important feature that far too many cloud services don’t offer, including some of the otherwise best online backup options.
With two-factor authentication on, even if someone steals or brute-force cracks your password, they likely won’t be able to use it, as Evernote will require an additional credential if it detects a login attempt from an unfamiliar computer. This credential is a security code that will be sent to your mobile device via text.
Notebooks and notes created using OneNote, as we mentioned earlier, are stored in your OneDrive cloud storage space. As such, we take a similar view of OneNote security as we do of OneDrive. That’s not an especially good thing.
Our biggest concern is that OneDrive doesn’t encrypt files at rest on the server unless you’re a business user. That leaves your notes open to easy pickings in the event of a breach.
You can password protect notebook sections directly from the client. However, that only prevents someone using your computer from reading that notebook’s contents. It doesn’t scramble files sent to the cloud.
The good news is that OneNote is the other cloud notebook supported by SafeRoom, so you can add zero-knowledge encryption to your notebooks that way. The product is downloadable from the Microsoft Store and costs $2.99, a price well worth paying if you intend to store confidential information in OneNote.
OneNote does protect files in transit using transport-layer security (TLS), too, so your files should be safe from online eavesdropping, though we still recommend using a VPN over public WiFi (read our best VPN guide for suggestions).
Like Evernote, OneNote provides a two-factor authentication feature, too, to protect your notebooks should your password be stolen or cracked.
Round Five Thoughts
With more and more cybersecurity threats popping up, choosing cloud services committed to protecting your data are more important ever. That’s why we often recommend zero-knowledge cloud storage services to our readers, such as Sync.com and pCloud.
While no cloud notebook provider that we know of offers full, native zero-knowledge protection, Evernote at least lets you privately encrypt highlighted text. It’s a bit of a pain to manage your security that way, but it’s something.
Microsoft, meanwhile, doesn’t even encrypt your notebooks server-side using a managed encryption process, unless you’re a business user.
Evernote took four of five rounds in our head-to-head, but the first two rounds (cost and organization features) were so close that it might as well have been two rounds to one.
Likely the most compelling reason to choose Evernote over OneNote comes down to security. OneNote, meanwhile, should appeal to those that need more freedom in how they create notes thanks to its drawing tools and more dynamic layout options.
The biggest reason to choose Evernote vs OneNote right now, however, is likely the impending abandonment of OneNote 2016. The Microsoft Store version of OneNote, which the company is going to keep, is missing important features you get with both OneNote 2016 and Evernote, including custom tags and versioning.
Final Winner: Evernote
For now, Evernote remains, in our eyes, the best note-taking app on the market. Care to weigh in? Drop us a note below, and thanks for reading.