Evernote vs OneNote for Mac users – Mac OneNote is buggy, plus there are cross-device search problems

Now that there is an Evernote to OneNote importer for the Mac, the idea of using just OneNote was appealing. While I find Evernote useful for “all sorts of misc data” it is a poor tool for note taking, or anything you want to use for presentations or which requires formatting – such as the class notes I use every Sunday. I’ve been using OneNote for that instead and find it great for editing. And the support is good. I had an editing issue and Microsoft support helped me out right away.

Also, a one-year personal subscription to Office 365 is $69.99, the same as a one-year Evernote professional subscription. Onenote by itself is free even without a subscription, but the subscription also includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage. The free version of OneNote also includes several features only available to paid Evernote users.

Anyway, I tried it, but unfortunately it didn’t work out as well as I thought it would.

Importing from Evernote and initial searching issues

After importing about 2,000 notes from Evernote to OneNote on my Mac it was difficult to find notes on my Mac and iPhone. For example, I was looking for one note titled “Filemaker info” on my Mac. It didn’t come up in search, but I finally found buried in a section called “Pages 1201Plus” that the importer automatically created. Why did the importer need to create all those sections in my notebook? I was perfectly happy without them. (There is no “merge sections” feature either).

It turns out you need to “open” each notebook one-by-one, which is very cumbersome, to get it to sync on any device, including your Mac. After doing that search works ok, but unlike Evernote, OneNote does not automatically search on the server from iOS devices.


Crashing Mac OneNote Client

The Mac client is also too buggy to be used now, so I’ll give up for the time being. Certain imported notes which open fine in (1) Evernote, (2) onenote.com and (3) iPhone OneNote cause the Mac OneNote client to crash. I can’t even delete them without OneNote crashing. Even pasting manually from Evernote to a new note caused Mac OneNote to crash. Two Support tech people tried to help and couldn’t.

Searching on my iPhone

Also, searching on iOS devices doesn’t search the server contents, unlike Evernote. So search doesn’t work well across devices.

It’s disappointing, because there are many things I like about OneNote as well, such as the better formatting and the better structure.

But if it crashes and doesn’t search the server from all my devices then it isn’t really usable right now.

I’ll continue to use Evernote for now as my “main repository of all my bits of data” and use OneNote just for preparing some class notes, because of the better formatting.


Tech note: Microsoft OneNote from the view of a long-time Evernote user

I’ve been comparing Evernote with OneNote for the first time, since I started the new Office 2016, and had some observations.

The latest OneNote for Mac (a free app) is interesting, but also frustrating in many cases. It lags behind the Windows version. It even lags behind the iPad version! For example, there is no draw feature, while the iPad and Windows version let you annotate and add more things.

Also, even though OneNote has these nice “containers” you can move around, and generally much better formatting and image views than Evernote, you can’t do simple things on the Mac, such as shift containers down to make space, which you can do in the Windows version.

If I want to draw something I can do it in OneNote on my iPad and then see it sync in the note I’m editing on my Mac, but still… I think there is some way to do draw annotations in Evernote but I’ve never gotten it to work.

One advantage of OneNote for iOS is that you can keep all your synced notes offline for free, while that is a premium feature of Evernote. And there are no upload limits. On the other hand, I am a premium user of Evernote, so that makes no difference for me. The OneNote “copy text from a picture” feature is cool. It would be nice if Evernote added that.

There is also no really good way of importing your notes from Evernote to OneNote on the Mac. There is a 3rd party solution for this for Windows called “evernote2onenote”. I tried it and it works, but then the syncing of the imported notes doesn’t work well after that, so I was unable to view the imported notes on my Mac or in iOS. Or even online in OneDrive. So I gave up on that. Evernote has never had any syncing problems. On the other hand, I’ve never tried importing 1,800 notes to Evernote before.

I’m not sure what to use OneNote for. It seems perhaps better than EverNote for things like preparing class notes to project to a group because of the containers, better formatting, and the ability to resize images. It doesn’t have a true “presentation mode” like Evernote does, but the actual formatting of the notes is nicer.  I would really love to see better formatting in Evernote. In Evernote you can’t even use tabs to align columns, which has always been a nuisance. In OneNote, tabs automatically create tables, which is nice.

But I’m not sure OneNote can replace Evernote as my catch-all free-form database, where I keep thousands of scraps of info I don’t want to keep in my head.

And it would be good if the Mac version of OneNote could catch up feature-wise with the Windows and iPad versions.