When most people think of digital notetaking, they generally think of Evernote. In fact, a Sight article I wrote included Evernote and some of the things it can do. See my previous article here.

Founded in 2007, Evernote grew fast. Investors were throwing money at it and it made moves into hardware, teaming up with other companies to make products designed for their software. They started an online store for customers to purchase their products.

PICTURE: Paul Pasieczny/www.freeimages.com


OneNote quick look:
• Free;
• 5GB free cloud storage via Microsoft OneDrive;
• Multiple people can work on the same page at once;
• Keeps a history of page versions with the date and person who updated it;
• Notebook format with tabs and pages;
• Full search functionality;
• Extracts text out of images and includes it in search using Optical Character Recognition or OCR;
• Able to attach files;
• Integrates with Office;
• Able to share notebooks, password protect sections and email pages right out of OneNote;

Versions are available for Windows, Mac, Android, iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone, Chromebook and via a browser at https://www.onenote.com/.


For hints and tips, follow OneNote's Twitter account https://twitter.com/msonenote and blog https://blogs.office.com/onenote/.

But recently, Evernote has been scaling back its operations, shedding staff, backing out of hardware, closing down its store and various other apps like Evernote Food (see here). This has created a bit of unrest in regards to its future. After all, they hold an enormous amount of their customers' notes on their system.

However, If you have notes in Evernote and are concerned, there's an alternative. Microsoft's OneNote is free, in some cases can do more than Evernote. It's designed intuitively and upon opening, has a familiar interface based on notebooks.

You can create different notebooks for different topics. In those notebooks, you have tabs and in those tabs you have your pages.

For instance, I maintain a knowledgebase in OneNote at work. I have different notebooks for hardware, software, networking, and a number of others. In 'software', I have tabs for Adobe Acrobat, Windows, AutoCAD and so on. Under 'Windows', I'll have pages with fixes for various issues, how-to articles and license information. To share a page, I can click 'Email Page'. This will email the page exactly how it looks in OneNote.

All text on the pages is rich text, so your fonts can be different as can their colours. Notebooks can also be coloured for easy identification.

OneNote integrates with Microsoft Office, so its interface is a familiar one. But OneNote isn't constrained like Word. In OneNote, you can click on any part of the page and start typing.

Each page can hold files so you can use it to store things together, like a journal with photos. Or a description of company travel with expense receipts. Just drag a file onto the page and OneNote asks if you want to attach the file or insert a printout. Attaching a file does just that, while attaching a printout will attach the file and display its contents on the page as an image.

Another strength of OneNote is collaboration. At work, my OneNote is stored on a server. I've sent links to all my colleagues so they can view its information when they need. Not only that, they can update it as required. If two people are on the same page at the same time, and both are updating it, there's no message about conflicts, both will see each other's typing appear in front of them.

This will also work if OneNote is stored in Microsoft's OneDrive. Updates to documents happen instantly and if for any reason the network connection is lost, then the document will remain on the device until the connection is restored and sync will happen automatically.

The software keeps page revisions and can display when the page was updated and who updated it. It also shows changes made in those revisions so they can be reverted to if required.

There are also freehand drawing tools so that words can be circled and basic shapes can be drawn in different colours, with different fills. Although easy to do with a mouse, these tools come into their own on a touch screen device.

And some of the touch screen devices OneNote can run on are Microsoft's Surface, Apple's iPad, Samsung tablets and a range of other devices including smartphones. It's also available for Mac, Windows, Android devices, Apple devices, Amazon devices and Google's Chromebook. If you don't have one of those then you can sign in at www.onenote.com/ and all your notebooks will be available.

You can take photos of business cards, whiteboards, documents, anything really, and save it directly to OneNote using an app on your tablet or phone called Office Lens. OneNote will then scan the image and extract text and contact details which are available for searching within OneNote.

While all this may seem fine, moving to OneNote begs the question: What about all my notes in Evernote?

In response, Microsoft has created an application to import Evernote notes into OneNote.

To import your Evernote notes to OneNote you'll need to download the OneNote importer from here. Head here if you have any questions about the import.

Importing your notes doesn't remove them from Evernote, so you can return if you wish.

Once the import is completed, you can download OneNote from www.onenote.com/. As mentioned, it's free and couples with OneDrive for storing your data.

OneNote is ideal software for churches. You can store contact details, to-do lists, plan events - all kinds of things that need collaboration. Data can be stored in the in the cloud on a free 5GB Microsoft OneDrive account or a company file server. Either way, data is stored locally on the computer for speed and off the computer for safety. OneNote will sync it in the background.