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Microsoft releases OneNote as first Office app for iPad

Previously available only for the iPhone, Microsoft's OneNote mobile app has been updated to support the iPad.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Microsoft's versatile note-taking app OneNote is the first Office software to make its debut on the iPad.

Already out there as an iPhone app, the latest 1.3 update to OneNote, released yesterday, optimizes it for the tablet's bigger screen real estate.

Though it's part of certain versions of Microsoft Office, OneNote is probably the least understood application in the midst of Word, Excel, Outlook, and Access.

In the desktop version, it's basically a note taker and to-do list, but one designed to capture free-form notes and ideas as text, images, tables, bullet points, and other types of content. You can also link to or embed video and audio clips and draw illustrations in what are called notebooks.

You can easily move each piece of content around the screen to organize it. OneNote can also tie in with Outlook, so you can e-mail information and link meeting notes and to-do items between the two applications.

The iOS version of OneNote for the both the iPhone and iPad is more limited.

With the OneNote iOS app, you can type notes, create bullet and checkbox lists, and insert photos from the photo library or by snapping a new picture.

You can create multiple notebooks and easily organize them. You can also e-mail a notebook. But you can't insert objects other than photos or move and manipulate your content the way you can on the desktop version.

Still, OneNote for iOS can come in handy for viewing notebooks created on your desktop. OneNote's desktop version lets you save each notebook on the Web through your SkyDrive account. Your iPad or iPhone will then automatically retrieve new and updated content by syncing with SkyDrive in the background.

From there, you can open any synced notebook to view it on your tablet or phone. Your notebooks don't retain their original layout on the mobile devices, but you can easily read them and make changes to the text (though not to the images).

As described in a Microsoft blog, the new version of OneNote supports both the iPad and iPad 2, is available in different languages, and syncs over a Wi-Fi connection.

Microsoft is reportedly prepping a mobile version of its Office suite for the iPad, according to sources, though the company hasn't confirmed those reports.

As Microsoft's first effort porting an Office app to the iPad, OneNote is a promising idea, but the current version feels incomplete, especially compared with its desktop counterpart. I'd like Microsoft to enhance the app in the next round to give it at least a few of the features that distinguish the desktop version.

The basic free app lets you create and store up to 500 individual notes. Those who need more will have to shell out $4.99 for unlimited use on the iPhone and $14.99 for unlimited use on the iPad.