Microsoft Demotes OneNote 2016, Moves Forward with Modern OneNote

Posted on April 18, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Office, Office 365 with 83 Comments

Microsoft Demotes OneNote 2016, Moves Forward with Modern OneNote

Confused why Microsoft is maintaining two different versions of OneNote on Windows? Well, that’s about to end.

“Beginning with the launch of Office 2019 later this year, OneNote for Windows 10 will replace OneNote 2016 as the default OneNote experience for both Office 365 and Office 2019,” a new post by the OneNote teams notes. “We’re no longer adding new features to OneNote 2016.”

While some OneNote power users may decry this change, the reality is that OneNote for Windows 10 has improved in leaps and bounds. And it shares the same modern UX found in OneNote on Mac, Android, and iOS. OneNote 2016, by comparison, uses the old-fashioned, legacy UX found on Microsoft’s traditional Office applications.

That said, old-timers and power users who prefer to keep using OneNote 2016 can, of course, keep doing so for the foreseeable future.

“OneNote 2016 will still be there if you need it,” Microsoft explains. “OneNote 2016 is optionally available for anyone with Office 365 or Office 2019, but it will no longer be installed by default. If you currently use OneNote 2016, you won’t notice any changes when you update to Office 2019. We’ll continue to offer support, bug fixes, and security updates for OneNote 2016 for the duration of the Office 2016 support lifecycle, which runs through October 2020 for mainstream support and October 2025 for extended support.”

But Microsoft is hoping you will switch, of course. And it is addressing complaints that OneNote for Windows 10 doesn’t provide the full OneNote 2016 feature-set. And highlighting a few features that are present in OneNote for Windows 10, but not in OneNote 2016.

For example, OneNote for Windows 10 provides a better inking experience than its desktop-based sibling, with unique features such as ink effects, dramatically improved ink-to-text, Researcher, a notification center, and deep integration with Windows 10.

Additionally, OneNote for Windows 10—like OneNote for Mac, iOS, Android, and web—now features a much-improved sync engine so you can sync more quickly and reliably across your devices.

Finally, OneNote for Windows 10 offers better performance, reliability, and battery life than OneNote 2016, Microsoft says.

And they’re not done improving it, of course. Microsoft says that it will soon add the following features to OneNote for Windows 10, closing the functional gap with Office 2016:

Tags support. The popular tags feature from OneNote 2016 is coming to OneNote for Windows 10 “later this summer,” Microsoft says. You will be able to insert, create, and search for custom tags, and tags you and others create will now roam with you across your devices.

Live preview of Office files. OneNote for Windows 10 will soon support the ability to view and edit Office files in notes. This will let you collaborate on attached documents, and save space in your notebooks by linking to cloud-based documents.

Improved Class Notebooks. Microsoft says that “the full slate” of Class Notebook features that are currently available in OneNote 2016 (via an add-in) will be available in OneNote for Windows 10 “this summer.” And it will just be native to the app and not require users to install a separate add-in.

If you’re not seeing a OneNote 2016 feature you need, Microsoft recommends contacting it via the Windows 10 Feedback Hub. The OneNote team says that it will continue listening to user feedback and incorporating it into its future plans for the apps.

 

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Comments (84)

84 responses to “Microsoft Demotes OneNote 2016, Moves Forward with Modern OneNote”

  1. RossNWirth

    Must have Outlook integration - Meeting Notes = HUGE

  2. Ron Diaz

    You would have thought that MS learned from the Wunderlist debacle. Obviously not. I guess you just can’t fix stupid....

  3. rmlounsbury

    This is fine by me since I didn't really starting using the OneNote platform until the UWP app came out for Windows 10. I always felt the 2016 and previous versions of OneNote where unnecessarily heavy and bogged down use overall. So a touch first lighter UI is better IMO.


    I would have to guess that OneNote will be the testing ground for Office as a PWA as Microsoft continues that push as well. This would be fantastic in my opinion to have the same app and experience across devices all leveraging the same PWA code base.

    • wright_is

      In reply to rmlounsbury:

      If you had said UWP, I would have been with you. There is already a cut-down web version, but if you are going to transition to Office to UWP or PWA, it needs to be feature complete. PWA will also be a harder sell in business, where many companies like to keep things "under their control" and PWA has the ring of Cloud, which is still an automatic kill switch for new products in many companies.

      Whether PWA can run locally, without sending data to the web / cloud is irrelevant, it has the word "Web" in the name and that is enough to frighten off many businesses.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to rmlounsbury:

      The moment MSFT is foolish enough to make either Excel or Access PWAs is when Google wins. I'm not sure MSFT could make Word into a PWA either. As OneNote goes, so goes at most PowerPoint.

  4. Byron Adams

    Links Apps cannot be launched from the OneNote App.

    Links to folders and files cannot be opened from the OneNote App.

    This is something I do not think they will add.

  5. jhoff80

    Huge downgrade. They're taking a best-in-class application and replacing it with something that's more like Evernote-lite. It's like if they depreciated Excel 2016 and told everyone to switch over to the UWP version. That change would strip out a large portion of the functionality that makes Excel indispensable. Well, it's the same with OneNote - just that they think it's okay since nobody knows OneNote exists.


    Now, I agree with Paul's comment that OneNote UWP has improved by leaps and bounds. That's definitely true. But that's just because of how bad it was when it was first released. Regardless of the improvements, it comes nowhere close to what its big brother is capable of.

    • dontbe evil

      In reply to jhoff80:

      Can you tell me exactly why it's a downgrade? what can you do with desktop app that cannot do in the UWP?

      • jhoff80

        In reply to dontbe_evil:

        A million different things. Audio notes in OneNote 2016, for example, keep the context of what you're writing or typing at the time each word is said. You can then play back the audio at around the time you wrote something, or even search and play back the audio and watch as it highlights what you wrote when.


        Page templates are supposedly coming to UWP eventually, but right now you can't even set a default page size. This one doesn't affect me personally much but I know many people who want to print notes.


        Better tagging is supposedly something that's coming to UWP eventually, but right now you get a list of about 5 built-in tags instead of 2016's list of about 15 (and custom tagging support).


        Linked notes are gone. Because the security model of UWP means that apps are sandboxed, OneNote UWP has no context of what you're doing in another window, so you lose lots of context there.


        Meeting details are present in OneNote UWP, but that feature only works with Office 365, and not on-premises Exchange. So that cuts out a huge chunk of business users. (Despite the fact that there's a calendar API built-in to Windows 10, so you'd think it would be as simple as plugging in to Windows' own support). And there's no support for connecting to Outlook tasks.


        Video recording is not something I personally ever used but it's not present in UWP.


        Embedding from other Office apps (like an embedded Excel spreadsheet/charts) is again not possible due to the UWP security model.


        You can't disable things like "Show unread changes in notebook" in UWP... which is silly for single-user / not shared notebooks.


        There's not addins possible in UWP, so Onetastic support is gone.


        And me personally, I've not once had success in searching inked notes that were written in the UWP app. I have no desire to convert my handwriting to text, but searching inked notes is hugely important to me. Supposedly that's there, but it's never worked for me (unless I sync the changes from the UWP app to 2016, let 2016 index my notes, sync back to the cloud and down to the UWP version, and only then can I find the inked notes in the UWP version).


        I mean, I even prefer OneNote 2016's fullscreen UI, since it has the overlay button for switching between notebooks/pages and still has the quick access toolbar at the top for switching between pens... but admittedly that one is more of a preference than just missing features.


        And there's a bunch more examples in the source blog post from Microsoft. People are upset about things as simple as working with offline files that aren't in the cloud, to left-handed support (in 2016 you can relocate the UI to the right side of the page). There's tons and tons of functionality that they are just throwing out the window in making this switch.

    • rameshthanikodi

      In reply to jhoff80:

      you may disagree, but Evernote-lite is where OneNote should be. Remember, OneNote is on mobile

      • jhoff80

        In reply to FalseAgent:

        Why does that mean that the desktop app should be gimped and made into a bad mobile version too?


        I have no problem with there being a 'lite' version, just like I have no problem with there being a lite version of Word, PowerPoint, or Excel. But stopping all development on the powerful version in favor of the lite version is crazy. I mean, clearly the rest of the Office teams are given the resources to maintain both versions. Why should anything be different for the OneNote team?

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to FalseAgent:

        . . . Remember, OneNote is on mobile

        Excel is also on mobile, but MSFT fortunately hasn't gone completely insane and announced the mobile/UWP version will be all there's going to be in few years. Only desktop OneNote users who get to enjoy another MSFT BOHICA experience.

  6. red.radar

    So the real question... Since IOS, MACOS Android and web are all using this code base how much longer before all of office moves over to a UWP experience?


    Sort of like the idea of just using Office in a Web Browser could make serious gains in collaboration which is very important in the educaiton space. I get forced to used Google Docs just because I need real-time sync capabilities. I like to see this for all of Office.



    • lvthunder

      In reply to red.radar:

      If you are using Office 365 and your documents are stored in Microsoft's Cloud more then one person can edit the file at the same time. Is that what you mean by real-time sync. I think it works in Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.

      • red.radar

        In reply to lvthunder:


        I have used office 365 for collaboration but the performance was really slow and laggy, when I was in a meeting and working on a document with others. Sometimes sections would get locked out... updates and refreshes were slow and inconsistent... just a poor experience.. usually use google docs to rough out a paper or project and use word only as a publishing vehicle....

  7. mebby

    Interesting information since I use OneNote (both versions) every day. Definitely would rather have just one place to go but need/want the modern version to have the same (and better) functionality that the desktop version.

  8. LordPhantom

    I've never liked the onenote desktop app, so no loss really, other than I have started using the one note printer to send stuff into One Note. Any word on plans to provide an updated printer driver solution to send stuff into one note?

  9. NazmusLabs

    I rely on Oneonta 2016 to save and manage notebooks locally. The local management ability means that I can back up my OneDrive notebooks, which came in handy when my OneDrive version got corrupted. Also, it allows me to use different cloud storage options such as Dropbox rather than being stuck with OneDrive. Can the UWP app do that? Hmm?

  10. Trickyd

    Also noticed that the App version seems to use twice the memory of the Office version , so twice the memory for half the functionality! Probably partly accounted for by the app being 64bit and the office version 32-bit.

  11. Trickyd

    Been trying the cut down win 10 onenote and at first glance it looks ok but it has loads missing including most of the right click menu so no tasks and most styles etc, it also has sync issues around tabs if you rearrange in onenote 2016 they don't get picked up in the cut down version and vice versa its as if the cut down one has lost the concept of ordered tabs.


    All seems worryingly reminiscent of the Wunderlist / Todo debacle where you replace a great product with something so limited as to be no use - maybe Microsoft have a ton of Evernote shares and are trying to push us all in that direction!!

  12. DXtremeBob

    No Save and Backup???

  13. yaddamaster

    I've tried using the "modern" OneNote. I just tried again after this news. And it sucks.


    >> OneNote 2016, by comparison, uses the old-fashioned, legacy UX found on Microsoft’s traditional Office applications.


    In other words, eschew what works for crap. Functionality and missing features aside - I simply don't want my navigation on the left hand side. I just don't. And I certainly don't want it visible all the time and taking up more space than REAL OneNote.


    Let's analyze: So Pages are still displayed vertically - nothing has changed there. Fine - just give me the ability to put that on the right hand side where my eye naturally goes. I don't want it on the left.


    But having Sections displayed vertically on the left is just patently stupid. It's what you get when you do a usability study testing various features in isolation rather than over time as a unified whole. Of course people are going to initially think they want it on the left as that's the way the Western mind reads but when you want to get work done - that's not the way to actually get work done. I don't want it visible all the time and it takes up WAAAAY more screen real estate than a think strip displayed horizontally across the top.


    I'm surprised they haven't gone full stupid and turned everything into a hamburger menu.

  14. SvenJ

    “Beginning with the launch of Office 2019 later this year, OneNote for Windows 10 will replace OneNote 2016 as the default OneNote experience for both Office 365 and Office 2019,”

    Not sure why this is necessary. OneNote for Windows 10 has been in the OOB experience for Win 10 since inception and is freely available in the store. Why do they need to say it will be included with O365 and O2019? Will it no longer be 'included' in Windows, or be free?

    I get removing it from O365 or O2019 might be disconcerting to those that have always expected it, if it is not explicitly added there. I do wonder what will happen when someone goes to install O365 on their Win 7 machine? Will they just not get OneNote, or have to find it elsewhere in MSs download site?

  15. Inspector Gadget

    Microsoft continuing their brilliance at shooting themselves in the foot!

    Right up front for me is where are templates in the UWP App?

  16. ErichK

    I think I could get used to the "modern" OneNote pretty quickly.


    I'm already using it on my Mac mini, and the past couple of days I started using it on my 2-in-1 (which I'm typing on now), and I like it. Seems like it runs a little more efficiently than the standard Office version, and the interface is real nice IMO.


    Now to make the change on my main machine back home. Should be do-able.


    (On my Linux box at home, I use the web portal.)

  17. hrlngrv

    Does the UWP version support VBA? While I personally can't imagine much benefit to scripting OneNote, there may be some uses for that.

  18. sta

    Arrgg. This is the kind of thing that kills me about Microsoft: they take a product that is great, and then invest a lot of time and money making it worse, before losing their customer base and basically abandoning it.

    Zune music player -> XBOX music -> Groove.

    Skype -> Skype

    Windows Media Center -> XBOX One TV

    Messenger -> Skype?

    Wunderlist -> To Do (?!)

    Windows Home Server -> (let's just say WS2012E, while way more capable, was not right for WHS's SOHO audience )

    Windows Mobile (OK, not great from a UX perspective, but they took so flipping long to respond to iOS because they spent so long rewriting things onto a new code base that no end-user would care about.)


    And now OneNote? The UWP version is great for capturing quick notes on a tablet (like on my Surface). But is so de-featured that it is in no way comparable to the "real thing" on a desktop.


    I feel like I must have battered wife syndrome or something. I keep telling friends and neighbors about cool things they can already do in Windows, and then MSFT inevitably drives those things into the ground.



  19. dontbe evil

    but but UWP sucks, UI sucks, you cannot write proper apps like win32, they're not powerful, even MS doesn't believe in it... /s

  20. 7tereasa

    Whate her Mr. One note printer man!

  21. 7tereasa

    Hypocrit!! Don't use one note desktop app. Yet in unnamaginable critasism, you have nerve to use to use printer form. For a one note effect! The nerve!!

  22. 7tereasa

    You created this false true. Their was no Microsoft quirk!

  23. 7tereasa

    Yes, uwp supports vba!

  24. wright_is

    How about important features, like paste special?

    On a 34" display, features like Inking are pretty irrelevant, but there are some features of OneNote 2016 that I use a lot. I switch back and forth between both versions and the Windows version isn't bad, but until the missing features are there, it isn't a replacement for the 2016 version.

    I like where they are going with this. They need to do this, but they still need to ensure that it is "fit for purpose"; a lesson Apple learnt the hard way, when they castrated Final Cut, for example, and still expected professionals to use it. I hope that MS get the balance right, the transition period of 2 years should be enough for them to get it right, instead of announcing it as a fait accompli.

    Is this also the first glimpse of a strategy to finally move Office to UWP? Was OneNote the first experimental step, because it could benefit most from the pen features that UWP brought?

  25. John Craig

    yeah, I never did get why I had two versions on my machines. I just put it down to yet another Microsoft quirk

  26. atulmarathe

    Oh boy... every time I see titles like this, I get nervous that very soon Microsoft will announce the "great news" about how they've "partnered" with someone like ever note for an "even better" experience.

  27. pdmetze

    In business, Outlook task integration is extremely useful. I often take notes and mark them as Outlook task, just as I do with important E-Mails and immediately I have all my tasks nicely sorted in Outlook. That's not possible with OneNote.


    Microsoft starts over with their products again and again but always with only a subset of features. Even when they promise they will bring these features back, but it takes months to do so. Guess what, that means I don't have this feature for all these months, and that is a very long time in technology nowadays. I can't work with this unreliability.


    Just look how long it took them to get the current modern app to where it is today and now imagine how long it takes them to get to where they are with the desktop app. Same for Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams transition... Why always replace products with less features? Doesn't make sense...

  28. Rob_Wade

    I'm sorry, but I call BS anytime Microsoft says something "will still be there". They simply cannot be believed anymore. Not at all.

  29. André Kittler

    I'm sure that almost 1% of the user base is really happy to know that there is better inking experience, effects, and  ink-to-text.

    THATS whats we all want!! Worked GREAT for Windows 8, so lets never change the formula!

  30. nerocui

    I can see them do this to all Office in the future once they all have the same feature parity.

    • TheJoeFin

      In reply to nerocui:

      maybe, but they have been talking about how OneNote 2016 is not getting new features for years. Also the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint UWP apps are not getting the same level of attention OneNote UWP is. So maybe they'll end support for the Win32 Office apps for UWP versions, but I don't see it happening in the next 10 years.

  31. moogleassassin

    I've been an avid OneNote user for well over a decade and don't know what I'd do without it, that said its not without its problems and typical MS they just seem so trivial to resolve. Yet here we are with them pushing ahead and adding other "features" no-one gives a $%^£ about without fixing the day to day necessities...


    The biggest one for me is the lack of ability to create Tab groups in the Win10 version so can maintain basic organisation. without it, its a non-starter. I make myself to use the Win10 version day to day, but am also forced to keep notebooks also maintained to the Office2016 version as well just so I can hop in and create a TabGroup when needed.... daft.

  32. Tsang Man Fai

    To a certain extent I prefer OneNote to OneNote 2016.

    I like the cleaner, more touch-friendly interface and also ruler, ink to shape features.

    And most of the time OneNote loads faster.

    Unfortunately, recently when I was doing some inking on a notebook with many pages with graphics, OneNote almost freezed and finally I needed to temporarily switch to OneNote 2016.

    As a teacher, I have been encouraging my colleagues to use OneNote 2013/2016. Sadly some of them complained the interface is unecessarily complicated. I think I will recommend the UWP app only in the future despite it is still lack of some useful features.

  33. JacobTheDev

    This is interesting, for a while it seemed like Microsoft was moving away from their "modern" Windows 10 apps. I wonder if the ultimate goal is to deprecate the desktop version of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, too.


    I've been using the newer version of OneNote (what do they call it now, modern, store, UPW?) for a while now, and been liking it quite a bit. The other day I was typing in a note and happened to have the same note open on my phone. It was syncing almost as fast as I could type, I was pretty impressed.

  34. Simard57

    will this mean that OneNote on Windows 7 has not future path forward (not that it matters to Windows 10 users)

  35. Stooks

    Does the UWP version support Macro's yet? I have many GREAT OneNote macros from Onetastic (web site dedicated to making OneNote even better). As far as I can tell the UWP version does not have a sort notebook feature, nor does the full version but with some great Macro's it can happen.


    I have already begun moving my personal notes to Apple Notes. I am mostly on Apple OS devices and it has finally matured enough to have the features I need (notebooks/subnotebooks called folders) and it is 100x times faster to load and sync than any version of OneNote, especially on iOS. It can also sort folders/notes!

  36. offTheRecord

    I still use OneNote 2010 on most of my PCs. It works (and syncs) just fine and seems overall faster and smoother than OneNote 2016 (which I have on my desktop via the Office 2016 Pro HUP). I tried the "Modern App" version of OneNote some time ago and I recall not liking it (don't remember why). Looks like it's time to take another harder look.

  37. Garrett

    If the developers don't add the relatively new feature "Insert: Online Video" I'll probably stay with the OneNote 2016.

    SOLVED: just received feedback from a Microsoft developer that the feature is already in the app. His reply: "

    Yes! This works today. Simply paste a link to any supported online video and we'll automatically convert it on the page. There's no need to click a special button any more."

  38. bluvg

    "Better performance"--until they add back the missing features?


    How about GPO support? I have a feeling these things aren't even on their radar.

  39. Daekar

    Oh thank goodness. The two versions thing drove me nuts.

  40. gregsedwards

    I'm hopeful that eventually, they'll just have one version of each of the Office apps, and it will adapt features that make the most sense for your device. I much prefer the UI of the mobile apps but I do agree they're substantially lacking in power-user features. It'd be great if Excel behaved like the traditional Win32/64 app when I'm in desktop mode but behaved like the mobile app in tablet mode (or using the app on a mobile device or tablet). Maintaining two versions of the Office apps side-by-side on the same platform/device is confusing.

  41. TheJoeFin

    I thought this was old news? Microsoft has not updated OneNote 2016 for years. In their support forums they had said it is no getting feature updates. I guess the news today is the timetable.


    As an avid OneNote user it has been frustrating seeing the UWP app slowly gaining feature parity with the 2016 app, but even in 2018 the UWP app is not equivalent to the 2016 version. Little things like quick notes, plugins, Outlook Tasks, the ability to Email a page, page templates, docked windows, always on top, and more little things all over the place.


    I'd be much more excited about the UWP app if they actually added some big new features users have been wanting for years. Stuff like:

    • grouping ink and images
    • anchoring ink to images/documents
    • reminders by date, time, and location
    • comments, image crop functionality
    • sharing single pages
    • merge cells in tables
    • night mode
    • automatic table of contents pages
    • code formatting
    • Hashtagging for easy searching
    • integration with Microsoft To-Do
    • and so so so many more features.
    • SvenJ

      In reply to TheJoeFin: Are you talking about features that currently exist in OneNote 2016? I don't recognize a good number of those as being available. Maybe I just don't use OneNote to its full potential, though I am a heavy user and proponenet. I think feature parity, should be the first order of business if we are going to pare down to one application, before adding new stuff.
      As far as feature parity, the Feedback Hub is the best place to make your concerns heard. They do look at that for guidance on what are the pain points. Doesn't mean the biggest one will necessarily be done first, but it figures in the rack and stack.


  42. harmjr

    This scares me. I very much hope they will extend support for OneNote 2016 past 2020. 1.) The OneNote app just does not have all the tools a business wants. I am still pissed they took out the scanner capabilities it saved me hours of time. 2) Some people just cannot get the modern app visualization no matter what example the notebook structure. I hope they think about this before they kill the single best application that Microsoft has built since Excel.


    OneNote for Windows 10 ≠ OneNote 2016

  43. dcdevito

    I'm a OneNote junkie, it is hands down the most important app in my life, and this news saddens me greatly :(

  44. sumituniyal96

    i like it, its give me more advantage to create article to my website

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