The interface shares the familiar menus-and-toolbars motif common among Microsoft's business applications--a comforting layout for longtime Microsoft Office users. However, OneNote isn't just a glorified word processor; for example, you can type notes anywhere on the OneNote page--top, middle, bottom, wherever. A gray box called a word container appears around a group of notes, letting you drag that segment anywhere across the page--handy for rearranging thoughts entered hastily during a meeting. In this regard, OneNote is more flexible than EverNote, where you start typing at the top of the page and work your way down.
But modern note-taking involves more than typed text. OneNote also lets you pull content from numerous sources: an Excel worksheet, a Word document, even a photo or a chart from a Web site for later export. If you're familiar with WindowsÂ’ drag-and-drop tools, data compilation with OneNote is a snap; simply drag content from your Internet browser into OneNote, for example. Online researchers will love that OneNote automatically posts a link to the source page of any data culled from the Web. (EverNote does this, too.)
OneNote uses colored tabs called Sections to organize notes into a virtual three-ring binder. This approach is handy for large projects but a bit cumbersome for basic browsing. We prefer EverNoteÂ’s presentation: a continuous sheet of paper with a time-stamped box for each dayÂ’s notes and quick indexing for rapid searches. EverNoteÂ’s interface is also much easier to navigate. Then again, note-taking is highly subjective, and some users may prefer OneNoteÂ’s three-ring binder motif instead.Priced at $99 (or $50 for students), OneNote 2003 is expensive for a utility that--let's face it--you may consider superfluous, especially considering that competitor EverNote makes most of the same, basic features available for free.
Then again, OneNote offers some features not found in EverNote--a spelling checker, for instance. Like its counterpart in Microsoft Word, the spelling checker inserts squiggly red lines under likely misspelled words and lists potential corrections via a right-click menu. One might argue that notes don't need letter-perfect spelling, but then again, they do if you plan to share them with a workgroup.
OneNote also lets you add audio and video clips to notes; EverNote doesnÂ’t. For example, simply click the Record icon in OneNoteÂ’s upper-right corner, select Record Audio Only (for voice notes), and continue typing while adding voice comments to your document. Of course, youÂ’ll need a video camera, an external microphone, or a built-in mic to use these feature. We found the audio- and video-recording tools easy to use, if a bit superfluous. In most cases, it was easier to type additional comments rather than record video or voice notes.
We like the Note Flags feature, which lets you assign icons (To Do, Important, Question) to individual notes. By flagging notes, you remind yourself to act on them later. Think of Note Flags as the virtual equivalent of sticky notes.In general, Microsoft technical assistance is good, but its support package for OneNote isn't as generous as we'd like. YouÂ’re allowed one free support query by e-mail or phone; after that, each help request costs $35. By comparison, EverNote users get free (if very slow) e-mail support, but no phone support.
The bargain alternative to paid support is the Microsoft Community Newsgroup for OneNote users, accessible via the companyÂ’s support site. We found that most help requests received a reply from one or more experienced users within a day.