I moved all my OneNote notes to Apple Notes

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I have been using OneNote since the days of Windows Phone 8.0 but since migrating to iPhone I have come to realize after all these years that I was wasting my time with this app.

OneNote on iOS is extremely slow and cumbersome to use. It takes 3-4 seconds just to open the app (on my iPhone SE), when all I want to do is to create a quick note or quickly look up my patient file number of the hospital I frequently go to, etc.

Then there are other problems, like the app always asking to sign in again, and searching inside notes no longer working in Spotlight Search of iOS (searching from Home screen).

But the biggest problem is not supporting background syncing. Once on my iPad’s OneNote I made some notes of book titles I wanted to check at the library, but on reaching there I found the notes had not synced to my iPhone’s OneNote, and I had to go back home just to get them synced! (You have to open the app for syncing to start).

That’s when I started to seriously consider the native Notes app in iOS, and decided to copy all my notes from OneNote to Notes, and create any new notes there.

Here’s how I’ve found Notes compared to OneNote:

– Simple and uncluttered interface.

– Notes open much faster.

– Faster and seamless background syncing across devices (even on icloud.com!)

– Extremely well integrated into iOS and macOS (whereas in OneNote the only integration with Windows 10 is you can create a quick note from the Action Center).

– Allows creating notes directly from the Control Center, including scanning documents (OneNote has to rely on widgets to do this).

– Never fails to appear in Spotlight Search (whereas in Windows 10, Cortana can’t even search inside OneNote notes).

– Allows locking notes with TouchID.

– Notes are more accessible and easier to read, especially on smaller screens.

To be sure, Notes has its own shortcomings (not being able to create subfolders in the iOS app, not being able to change font size or color) and has much less features than OneNote (no text recognition inside scanned documents, not solving math equations, no handwriting to text, and biggest of all, not being cross-platform), but superiority of OneNote in these areas is not enough to justify using it instead of Notes, at least on Apple devices.

Perhaps the same could be said of Google Keep for users of Android devices?

Comments (13)

13 responses to “I moved all my OneNote notes to Apple Notes”

  1. Paul Thurrott

    I've tried Google Keep (Notes) repeatedly but just can't wrap my head around the user interface, at least on mobile. (The recently restyled web version isn't horrible.) But I've never found OneNote lacking in any way, at least for the way I use it, which is to mostly write notes on the PC, and access them infrequently on mobile. I guess it depends on your needs.


    More generally, I don't like locking myself into a one-way ecosystem like Apple's.

  2. jprestig

    I use Notes on iOS quite a bit, but it's mostly just to jot things down quickly. For more important and organized notes, I use OneNote. With OneNote I have a great app on desktop as well, but with iOS Notes I'd have to use icloud.com on desktop, which is terrible.


    Keep isn't bad as a list keeper, but for notes I found it lacking. My wife and I used to have a bunch of shared lists through Keep but we recently purchased an Echo and moved our lists to Alexa.



  3. simmonm

    I've been on a similar experiment. Have you considered Markdown?

    1) It vendor neutral format makes it portable across OSes, i.e. you can find an app of your liking for your system of choice

    2) It's open format allows you to easily backup your data.


    I like 1Writer for iOS, and I am sure most here are familiar with Markdown Pad on Windows.

    • skborders

      In reply to simmonm:

      I don't really understand mark down. I could be wrong but it sounds like taking notes in an outline format. Why would I need a special app for that?

      • curtisspendlove

        In reply to skborders:

        Markdown is (somewhat oddly) just a markup syntax.


        It is meant to remain human readable, but also be parsed by simple apps/scripts to format a bit more nicely.


        A lot of my technical notes are just a set of Markdown files that are under git version control and pushed to Github (which provides a clean enhanced viewer for Markdown files).


        So you definitely don’t *need* a special app, but a good editor can help with formatting and a good viewer can just make things a bit prettier.

  4. skborders

    I like notes on iOS it is simple and it syncs across devices. Now I think you can add folders. So for taking notes at a seminar with multiple sessions, I can make a note for each discourse and put them in a folder to keep them all together. I don't feel it is better than OneNote, but it is simpler and easier for me. I would use OneNote if handwriting to text was more elegant but since it is not, I continue to use iOS notes.

  5. Bats

    As a Google/Android user, Keep is my go-to app for all my personal notes. As for OneNote, I use it for work. I use it for meetings as a digital notebook so I don't have to type all the time. Typing can be too noisy when you are in a meeting or sometimes (in my case) deposition. 


    OneNote is good, but it's not for everyone. It is an app that not only focuses on note-taking, but organization of those notes as well. Therefore the UI can look confusing to alot of people, especially older ones and those who are not exactly tech saavy. However, for me, that's work. When I am away from work, I use Google Keep. My personal notes consist of alot of image notes, taken from my camera. It also consists of a lot of copy and paste notes that I find on the web (desktop and mobile). I also do a lot voice recordings and handrwritten notes, by finger. Using Google Keep is super-fast and super-accessible, for me. 


    I am not a huge fan of mixed ecosystems, but the reality is one can have no choice in the matter, especially when it comes to work. However, I do feel that one can create for themselves a closed core digital ecosystem. One that works with other important applications so all your data can move seamlessly. To do that, you have to choose an "Ecosystem Provider" and stick with it. For me, I only see 2.5 out there. Apple and Google are the main ones, because they can offer an inclusive array of products and services that gel with each other. Microsoft is the "0.5", because they products and services are more about work and the xbox....and that's pretty much it. In your case, it seems to be with Apple. I would just stick to Apple Notes. After all, you use it on your iPhone and then on your iPad. If you were to upgrade both devices, it's a pretty good certainity that your data will already be on the device. Any shortcomings with Apple Notes, make an adjustment to with it to include Apple's other products. Keep all your data/information as close together as you can under one company. Apple Notes is not going anywhere, because it's an essential part to the whole Apple ecosystem, as is iLife, iWork, iCloud, etc... The App is not going anywhere.

  6. Daekar

    I use most of the features that OneNote allows on both Windows and Android, I couldn't really go to something simpler without giving up a lot. Kind of stinks that the iOS client doesn't do background sync though.

  7. dcdevito

    I switched from OneNote to Keep (and Google Docs for the larger ones) and find the overall experience to he faster and more convenient.

  8. 2ilent8cho

    I keep all my personal notes in the Apple Notes and my work documentation on OneNote. On my Mac and iPad i love the look of OneNote but that is where it ends , i prefer Apple Notes for the reasons you have stated. The constant signing in on anything Office 365 based, not just OneNote drives our users mad and my self when i complained to Microsoft their excuse was very weak they claim it needs to be sure we are licensed , how about it checks if we are licensed then signs us out if not. Infuriating when you need to quickly make a note and OneNote says please sign in.


    Just wish the Apple Notes had a few more options like colours for the notes, but at least its lightweight, fast, and reliable.

  9. Vladimir Carli

    the requests of all office 365 apps to sign in so frequently are really obnoxious. Each time I'm on a flight I find word and powerpoint to be unusable for this reason and it's infuriating. It always happens on the ipad which is LTE and always connected. Why doesn't microsoft make their licensing checks in the background? If you don't open the apps for a while and then open them when you are offline you are usually doomed, which is absurd because it's a paid product and it should not leave you out because needs to check if you paid or not...

    V.

  10. lordbaal1

    Some people just want something simple, and One Note is not simple.

    I would use notepad over one note.

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