Why I Still Use Onenote and Why It Is Awesome

I have written a lot about my note-taking adventures on this blog. I have tried just about every note-taking application known to men… known to me at least.

I have written a lot about my note-taking adventures on this blog. I have tried just about every note-taking application known to men… known to me at least.

My Problem With Plain Text

While I have been drawn to plain text-based applications because I like the idea of simplicity. In reality that only works for me with some types of notes e.g. notes like to-do lists and code snippets. I make all kinds of notes and as soon as you try to make anything but simple text notes it becomes time-consuming to make the note and that the problem. It is not that you can’t make complex notes using plain text it just takes a lot of time compared to making the same note in OneNote. And the thing is that making the simple notes takes the same amount of time as making them in plain text. That is the issue I have with taking notes in plain text. You can read more about my thoughts on the plain text here

My Problem With OneNote

The issue I have is also one of the things I really like about OneNote and that is the tight integration with “the cloud”. The fact that the second your data has been pushed to “the cloud” it is no longer your data. In the case of OneNote it syncs to Microsoft OneDrive and the second the data lands on Microsoft’s server Microsoft owns the data. That is pretty scary if you ask me and that makes me somewhat uncomfortable. However, convenience “the cloud” is just so…. well nice and easy. And when you are busy with well… life it is what takes the least amount of effort that gets used. That is why even though I find it a bit scary I do use OneNote and I do sync it to “the cloud”. You can read more about my issues with OneNote here

If Only It Was Open Source

What I really want is an open-source version of OneNote or something like OneNote that is open source. Why you might ask. Well for one I am afraid that Microsoft someday decides that one has to have some special version of office or whatever that would make it ridiculously expensive, decide that they are done with it, and stops developing it or change it to something unusable to me. Second if OneNote was open source I am sure there would be multiple ways to set up syncing and not just One(drive) way. Maybe even the option to not sync your notes. Only the Windows Win32 version of OneNote is able to save notes locally every other version forces you to sync to “the cloud”. If it was open source there would be a choice.

Should there someday be an open-source note-taking application that reveals the features of OneNote I will be the first to try it.  God knows, I have tried every other note-taking application out there.

That being said, I have used OneNote for about 10 years and it has only gotten better. Not only has the Windows version of OneNote gotten better. There is now a version for the Web, iOS, Android, Mac OS, and browser plugins for all major browsers. The browser plugin makes dumping information into OneNote super fast. It makes it so easy and fast to just save the information for later and move on.

There is a lot of reasons why the OneNote work-flow works so well for me. However, here are a few of the highlights.

  1. I like the way notes are organized. It just makes sense to me and is so much better than anything else I have tried.
  2. Every Note is one big canvas. Almost like a digital whiteboard. Text, images, videos, drawings, and so on can be placed where ever you want on the page.
  3. Super good and fast search that even searches text in images and PDFs. It can do this because it has OCR built-in.
  4. Good mobile phone applications. While I rarely use the OneNote app on my iPhone for viewing notes, I constantly use it to scan information into OneNote.
  5. Print to page. Instead of just attaching a file like a PDF. It is possible to print it to the note. I use this feature all the time.

I depend heavily on my notes and I have a ton of information In OneNote. So much so that I had to get an Office 365 home subscription when all my free credit storage expired some time ago. Just to get more OneDrive storage. A bit annoying but since I also use OneDrive for document and photo storage and with Office 365 also comes the full suite of Microsoft Office applications which I also use a lot so I guess is alright.


I only think there are plugins available for the Windows Win32 version on OneNote. That makes sense since that version has been around a lot longer than the rest.

The plugins that I have used are.

OneNote Gem adds a lot of nice features to OneNote. Among these are syntax highlighting for code snippets. I use OneNote for code snippets. Sadly OneNote does not have support for syntax highlighting by default.

Onetastic adds a lot small scripts you can run on your notes. You can make you own scripts or download pre-made scripts.

Final Thoughts

As long as OneNote keeps being so awesome and works so well for me and as long as there is no good alternative. I will stick with it. Unless that changes I promise that this will be the last note-taking blog post for a very long time.