I take a lot of notes all the time, as I find I remember things much better when I write them down.
There are notes on language learning, teaching, the books I read, webinars and courses I attend, recipes, gardening and crochet advice, and much more.
Several years ago, I invested in Evernote premium – it allowed me to attach slides and course documents to my notes, synchronise across multiple devices, even when not on my home network.
And, most importantly, I needed to be able to access my notes on my devices when there was no internet connection.
I moved all my recipes and teaching notes into it (this took a long time), and used Evernote every single day, when I was reading, cooking, studying, tracking to-do lists, writing, finding crochet inspiration, and more.
Considering the move to OneNote
In recent months (or years), it has felt like the Evernote interface and apps have stalled. Some features that would have really made it stand out, are still lacking.
- shared editing
- better checklist management
- flexible layouts
- resizable images
- video and audio annotation
- decent tables
I don’t use tags all that much, preferring to search for notes based on content. Evernote does tags really well.
Recently, my partner shifted to a Windows phone, and we needed a shared grocery app, surprisingly hard to find! The recommended solution was OneNote.
OneNote had been massively overhauled with decent clients on Windows and MacOS, and cross-platform apps, although I think Android is missing, but that’s not deal breaker for me.
The road testing of OneNote began.
Why OneNote is better for me
Shared notes with real-time editing
With a decent data connection, this has made shopping a breeze for me. At home, I update the master checklist of the shopping list with items that we need, and my partner checks them off as he goes through the store. It’s noted who changed a check box too.
Unfortunately, the app on the WindowsPhone that my partner uses is not stable, and doesn’t sync reliably.
As a language and writing coach, I can share homework tasks with students and they can edit in their answers, individually or as groups. Collaborative story writing is a lot of fun!
The iOS app is strangely nicer than the Windows phone app, displaying only those items unchecked is much more user-friendly than the entire list of checked and unchecked items.
OneNote is free
I hate subscription models. Call me a dinosaur, but I like paying once for a piece of software. If leaps and bounds are made to improve it, I’ll buy it again if I like the new features. But please no subscriptions!
There are some funky third-party tools available for OneNote, but they are often quite expensive.
Unfortunately, the space allocated to non-paid subscribers of OneDrive, where the notes are stored, has been decreased to 5GB since I first wrote this post. You can temporarily increase the amount available by linking your camera roll, and like Evernote, by referring new users to OneDrive (that is my referral link!)
I’m very visual, and like the ability to arrange a page of notes, with slides or images next to appropriate section, in readable dimensions. Being able to drop video or audio notes next to a relevant section in the text is also handy, especially for my teaching notes.
I can attach or embed documents received from students as homework to the side of the text – easy to see who submitted which homework task without breaking the flow of the notes. Plus tables are handled well – OneNote is like a lightweight Word.
Hierarchical book / folder layout for notes
I love the index and table of contents in books, so the multi-level organisation of notes inside a tab inside a notebook felt like coming home. I find this much more useful for managing a large collection of reference material and notes to later create a bibliography. If only it was around when I had done my university degree!
The dreadful migration from Evernote to OneNote
I found working with OneNote to be nicer, more in line with my visual and written style, faster, and free! So, I converted. But getting all of my content from Evernote to OneNote?
Hair tearing out time.
I tried a bunch of third-party tools and plug-ins, said to make migration a breeze. They all made a dreadful mess.
- incomplete notes
- random and impossibly altered formatting
- broken links
- random note order
- missing attachments
- attachments randomly converted to images
It was worse trying to do it on MacOS, as the OneNote MacOS client is not as feature-full as the Windows client.
Only solution? Cut + Paste
So, I stayed under Windows, cutting and pasting manually (without links or formatting). Plus, copying all attachments over.
It took me about a week of tedious, mind-numbing, finger-aching, eye-watering work to get my 500+ notes across in a semi-complete way.
Still haven’t gone through all of the notes and fixed the links between them.
I also haven’t fixed up my IfTTT scripts that automatically compiled starred recipes/blog posts from my news reader. It’s on my to-do list.
Things I’d love to see fixed in OneNote
- Links between notes don’t update when you move the note to another tab or notebook.
- A better web clipper.
- Import from Kindle notes.
- Actually, a good import from many formats.
- Links that update when notes are moved.
- Matching functionality between desktop/web clients and cross-platform apps.
- Collapsible nested pages.
Three months on – an update
The MacOs, Windows and iPhone apps are beautifully stable, and I’m enjoying switching between them. My deep-nesting tendencies have been flattened, and I find it’s easier to find where I’ve put things. You can now group sections under a ‘super’ section in the Mac client – I’m collecting completed courses and grouping lesson plans for teaching in these section groups.
Lists are fabulous on the iPhone version of OneNote. But the WindowsPhone app is catastrophic, with constant display and syncing problems. As a Windows program, the WindowsPhone app should be top of the line, but it’s appalling. This limits its usefulness as a cross-platform shopping list app in our household.
I have been moving my favourite recipes into it. My partner loves having them available on the nearest, most convenient device when he is cooking. The WinPhone app’s instability isn’t as much a problem, as the recipes don’t change, and thus don’t need to be synced.
My IfTTT scripts have still not been migrated – perhaps they’re not as important as I originally thought, as I don’t miss them.
I am extremely grumpy that Microsoft has decreased the size of OneDrive to 5GB for non-subscribers – where the notes are stored. This gets eaten up quickly if you include photos, attachments, and audio attachments. Introducing a service for free and then decreasing that service significantly, unless you pay for a subscription, feels deceptive and mean.
Extra wishes to add to my list above:
- a word count function.
- new notes should be created under the highlighted Page or Subpage, not at the end of the list of pages.
- a stable and functional WinPhone app.
Which note system is for you?
Do you love Evernote? Have to jumped to OneNote? Let me know in a Tweet!
Categories | WRITING
Tags | writing, teaching, learning, resources
11 Feb 2016