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Choosing between Evernote and OneNote

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series Evernote Overview

I have been living with Evernote and OneNote for quite some time. They are both very good at what they do but neither one fully supports my needs.

Here are some of my thoughts about choosing between Evernote and OneNote. The main reason I use both is that the note editor/note creation experience in OneNote is outstanding and that the automation features and unstructured information storage features/search features are very good in Evernote.

Editing notes

Evernote has one of the poorest featured editing environments I have ever seen outside a text editor. Sometimes when I paste some text with embedded formatting, I end up with such a poorly formatted note that I need to start over. It is impossible to edit the formatting apart from the most basic of html formats. Compared to OneNote, that has an extremely rich editing environment, Evernote feels 20 years to old. If I paste an image in an Evernote note I am unable to scale it to fit my screen or my note. If I paste it in to OneNote I can format and move it around as much as I want. From an editing perspective its like night and day and its is the main reason I still use OneNote to capture notes in meetings.

onenote editor

Image above: sample OneNote editor. very rich, even complains about me writing in English and not in Swedish

evernote editor

Image above: Evernotes editor with plenty of potential for improvement.

OneNote’s integration into the rest of the Office environment is very good. When I use Office I can directly create notes from appointments and have a very rich environment for note taking including links to attendees, agenda etc.

outlook onenote

You can even share notes as an event organizer.

meeting notes

There is an Outlook plugin for Evernote that made it easy to transfer information to Evernote but it was more for storing/archiving than for active work. And it doesn’t work with the current preview of Office 2013 so I cant use it at all at the moment.

The Evernote 3rd party integration to Google calendar etc are as poor as the general editing environment.

Tagging and searching

OneNote is a very structured storage container for notes. You create notebooks, in them you create sections and in them you create pages. You can create page hierarchies for more complex scenarios, but they are always stored in their hierarchies. very good for storing highly ordered information such as managing project notes etc. You can create and work with tags integrated in the notes in a very advanced way but its not as easy to use them to find diverse information as it is in Evernote.

my saved searches

Image Above: Saved searches in Evernote.

Evernote has very limited structured options. You create notebooks that can be placed in one level of stacks. In the Notebook you store your notes. No hierarchies to be found. Evernote organizes content by search and by tags. By saving searches you create your own view of your information. Since I like to store lists and to-do’s etc. in separate items I find it easier for me to find and manipulate my information in Evernote at the moment. A nice touch is that my saved searches from my PC appears in the mobile app as well.

Finding information on my phone

I currently use an HTC One X mobile phone and with Evernote I can create links to custom saved searches directly to Icons I can have on my start screen. This means I can tap one icon and find all my current to-do’s for work without even starting the application. I can also search all my information as I  please, including OCR’d text from .pdf’s or scanned documents. OneNotes mobile application doesn’t support search at all so you really need to have your information structured to find it. (To be fair, OneNote supports OCR at the client so you can search at your PC. Evernote will OCR in the cloud so you can also find information that has been added through services).

evernote in android

Above: Screenshot of my mobile Evernote list collection (Android). direct access to the family grocery list as well as my to do list at home and at work.

Both applications have the same basic and poor editing environment in their mobile apps. Both apps lets me check to-do check boxes directly in the note without going into edit mode. very useful for checking of the family grocery list in the store. (And both apps support sharing notes so that the family can collaborate on the list from any PC/phone before I go to the store)

If you are a widget type of person, note that there are widgets for Evernote but not for OneNote .

Online options

There are quite a few options to integrate online services with Evernote (such as Wappwolf and IFTTT). I still haven’t found a single one that works with OneNote. This might improve in the future with Windows 8 and Office 2013, but then again, who knows what will happen tomorrow.

In general, both applications will store my information in the cloud and make it available everywhere, in applications, mobile apps and through a web browser interface.

Non-Issues for me

Price

They both cost money, I need the Premium version of Evernote that charges by the month and I need the OneNote application that you purchase as part of Office. I noticed that the new Android Evernote app also costs SEK40 ($6’ish) if you want to use it with more than 500 notes. Either way I don’t mind paying for what I need and use.

Mobile apps

Both OneNote and Evernote now support Android. They both work ok and I get access to all my notes. They also both work on Windows Phone 7 and iPhone so when I change phones it shouldn’t matter. The only issue I have is with the OneNote implementation that I wrote about above in regards to finding your stuff. This issue is more on how you store and process your information and how well the app supports your needs.

A Comparison of OneNote vs. Evernote on the Microsoft Surface (RT)

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Evernote Overview

A follow up on the post on Evernote vs. OneNote for Android. This post looks at the note creation features of the Microsoft OneNote 2013 RT that is included in the Microsoft Surface RT tablet and the Evernote app that is available from the Microsoft Store.

The OneNote app that is included with the Surface has about the same feature set as the normal Desktop version of the Office 2013 suite. It runs in desktop mode on the tablet and has all the desktop like interactions and features of the Office 2013 for RT apps.

Evernote is a Microsoft Store App that runs in the ‘Modern UI Style’ (formerly known as Metro) which means either full screen mode or Snap mode where one app is snapped to one edge of the screen. In snap mode it is easy to take notes at the same time as another app is open and visible.

Finding existing notes in Evernote uses the same search functions as all Windows Store Apps, by opening the charms menu there is a search option for Evernote and all other Apps available. Compared to the search options in the Desktop app and the Android app this is quite a poor experience. It is not possible to save searches to create dynamic lists of posts and it is not possible to save the search as a short cut anywhere.

Creating notes in OneNote

The interface in OneNote is very similar to the Windows Office 2013 Desktop Application.

onenote_screenshot

The App runs in window mode and can be resized and moved at will.

Created of notes can include any formatting and object supported. it is easy to insert screenshots with the clipping tool etc.

Creating notes in Evernote

The Evernote note creation experience is of the less is more variant.

evernote_note_Creation_screenshot

There is only plain text input and the only extra options is to choose the notebook the note should be in and the tags to associate with the note.

Snap mode

It is possible to put the note creation interface on either edge of the screen using Snap and use the rest of the screen for another App.

evernote_view_snap

Snap example, use part of the screen for Internet Explorer and part of the screen for Evernote note.

Search for notes in Evernote

The normal view when opening Evernote includes squares of all recent notes.

surface_evernote_notes_view

The opportunity to change view is somewhat limited. by opening the menu options, it is possible to change view based on notebooks and tags and it is possible to change sort order.

evernote_options_on_views

It is also possible to zoom out and view navigation based on months.

evernote_view_monthly

If you are interested in purchasing a Microsoft Surface RT tablet you should probably read this post (Three days in the life of a once and former Microsoft Surface RT user) from ZDNet first…

And then this (5 big things that baffle me about Microsoft Surface RT) ZDNet post

Automation: Using Evernote to store your life

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Evernote Overview

I am a big fan of Evernote and Microsoft OneNote. I have been using both for quite some time now and I have been automating several things to Evernote.

For more information on how to choose between Evernote and OneNote see this post.

Evernote have several features for automation built in and you can use it directly with several other applications and web services. Here are a few ones I found noteworthy:

click.to

click.to sends copied information directly to Evernote and more. You can use Evernotes normal global hot key shortcut to paste the clipboard to Evernote (Ctrl+Alt+V) but using click.to and configuring Evernote as a Satellite action makes it a more visual option. Also, click.to can send your clipboard contents to several other applications directly, such as your search engine, Google Translate etc.

click.to sample

Image: Choosing copy brings up the click.to menu.

Auto Import Folder

Evernote has an auto import feature where you can designate folders as a pickup points for your files. You define it under Tools, Import Folders. I have a specific folder for import that also deletes the source file once it has been imported. I have placed the folder in my favorites list in explorer so that I can drag and drop files directly into Evernote without problem. I move the files I don’t want to save to Dropbox and copy files I want to retain at other locations.

Since Evernote doesn’t have a printer driver (OneNote does and it works very well) I can print a .pdf file from any application to this folder and have it in Evernote directly without to much fuss.

import folders

Image: Setting Import Folders in Evernote

auto import folder

Image: Part of explorer with Evernote Auto Import folder in favorites.

Send from Snagit

Snagit from TechSmith is a great way to make screen captures. I highly recommend it if you need to make any form of screen capturing on a more regular basis.

Once you have made your capture you can use the Share Tab in Snagit Editor to send your screen capture directly to quite a few applications, including Evernote and OneNote (and Facebook, Twitter, Word, PowerPoint, FogBugz etc…).

Automation from Dropbox with Wappwolf

Wappwolf is a Dropbox automator. It can do loads of stuff to your files in Dropbox such as convert your recently purchased e-book to Amazon format and send it to your Kindle for reading. Or you can use it to store information from Dropbox to Evernote.

You can choose to give Wappwolf access to your whole Dropbox system or you can choose to limit it to an application specific folder in your Apps folder.

Once you have given Wappwolf access, create an automation you need. In this case we want to upload the file to Evernote so we will choose the Any file area and specify “upload it to Evernote” and since we only want to store our file in Evernote we will also choose “Delete the original file” under Advanced.

wappwolf

This works very well for applications that aren’t on my desktop but that can save to Dropbox, such as my Android phone applications (if for some reason the share to Evernote feature doesn’t work) or other web services that can connect and deliver to to Dropbox but not to Evernote.

Side note:

For Swedish e-book readers with a Kindle the convert and send to Kindle is very useful. You can buy/download a Swedish e-book (unless its DRM/copy protected – then you would have to first remove the encryption since the normally used Adobe Digital Edition DRM format isn’t compatible with Kindle) and automatically transfer it to your Kindle.

Using IFTTT to archive your online stuff

IFTTT (If This Then That) is a very nice automation tool that can deliver directly to your Evernote notebooks.

You connect other services to Evernote and specify what should be saved and where.

ifttt sample recipe

I use IFTTT for several automations and a few of them are for Evernote:

I use it to:

  • Archive copies of my blog posts in Evernote (and also as .pdf files on Dropbox)
  • Save copies of all my Facebook updates in a notebook
  • Save copies of all my Tweets in a notebook
  • Save copies of all my LinkedIn updates in a notebook
  • Save copies of all my Foursquare check-ins in a notebook
  • Save logs of specific emails (from Google mail) automatically in a notebook (invoices, license information etc.)
  • Save all starred articles from Google Reader to Evernote

There are quite a few other useful applications of IFTTT but these are my current Evernote related ones.

Skipping mail in Sweden

The Swedish postal service manages mail for a lot of customers. The corporation will send the information it needs to send you to the postal service electronically and the postal service will print it and carry it to your mail box.

epostboxen

Since I will scan it anyway and put it into Evernote, I signed up for their e-mail postbox (ePostBoxen) (a SharePoint implementation btw =) ) where I can sign in and pick up the electronic copies of the mail instead. From there I can save it to Evernote directly. Someone should write an automation channel for IFTTT of Wappwolf etc for this service so that I can get it to where it should be without intervention.

Standard features not to forget

While I’m writing, here are some plain old standard features I like.

Send email to Evernote.

Your Evernote notebooks have an email address that you can use to send information directly to. Its very easy to use when sending mail, just add the evernote address as a BCC and it will be automatically stored. If you send a mail directly to Evernote, you can also specify notebooks, tags etc in the message header. Don’t use this when BCC’ing, it will be very confusing for your recipient).

You find you Evernote email address alongside your account information.

Using Google search to search your notebooks.

You can let Google/Bing search search your notebooks at the same time as you search the web in Chrome. Very easy to find already compiled information while searching as usual.

You find this information in the Evernote Web Clipper add on.

google search in evernote

Image: sample (in Swedish) of Evernote search integration in Chrome Google search

Scan directly to Evernote

I also use Evernote to store all my incoming papers. All normal scanners have the possibility to send the scanned result directly to an application and this works well with Evernote. I just put my papers in the scanner and press one button to get them into a notebook. If you want to get a scanner, make sure it has a proper paper feeder and can scan both sides of your document in one go.

A comparison of OneNote and Evernote for Android

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series Evernote Overview

This post compares the Android versions of OneNote and Evernote.

They are compared on a Swedish version of the HTC One X running Android 4.1.1

Version of Evernote app: 4.4.1

Version of OneNote app: 14.0.5602.300

Introduction to the apps

Both apps are available from Google Play for free. The Evernote one is available for both free and premium accounts and the standard differences between the account types are applicable for mobile apps (There are some differences such as pin code security and offline notebooks). The OneNote app is also free but requires an in app upgrade once you hit 500 notes.

Overview of user interface

Create a note overview:

Evernote

0-evernotecreatenote

Create a note in Evernote.

OneNote

0-onenotecreatenote

Create a note in OneNote

Creation process

The creation process is a bit different between the two platforms.

Evernote creates empty notes that you can enter text into. images etc. are attachments to the note and doesn’t show up inline in the note. In the note you can change text to bold, italics and underlined. you can add ordered and unordered lists and checkboxes. You can move the note to another notebook and you can add tags from the tags taxonomy with ease.

OneNote creates empty notes that you in the chosen notebook. it is not possible to move the note to another notebook in the app. it is not possible to add the various tags that are available in the desktop version. Images are added to the note inline so that it is easy to relate text to a specific image.

Android features

Evernote is a more evolved Android app. it has both several widgets and support for shortcuts and shares. OneNote only has the app and everything you can do is done within the app – interaction with the features of the Android operating system is an area of opportunities for improvement.

Share feature

In Android a key feature is the possibility to send information from one app to another, just chose share from something and send it on to another app. For storing information this is a very important feature to support. Evernote has the possibility to share to a new note and OneNote doesn’t support the share feature at all.

sharefeaturescreenshot

Above: Able to share a tweet into an Evernote note…

Shortcuts

From a start page/panel on Android it is possible to add both widgets, applications and shortcuts. Evernote has very good support for shortcuts to notes and saved searches etc. From the Android add shortcut interface you can create a shortcut to an existing note but you can also create shortcuts from almost everywhere in the app. so if you have a specific view or a search that you want to have direct access to from a start panel you can create it and save it directly from the app.

evernotesearchandshortcuts

Above: Evernote search and a folder of lists as shortcuts to search results on a panel in Android.

 

evernotefolderofshortcuts

Above: Evernote folder with shortcuts to search results.

With the flexibility of shortcuts it is easier to work with a GTD approach of one note for each task/to do item. It is also easy to mix results so that you can have a specific shortcut to the list of groceries to be bought and a list of all items in the Actions Pending list for Now and At the office etc. You can even search out all notes in the Actions Pending book that have unchecked checkboxes so that you can be sure nothing gets away unchecked.

Widgets

The Evernote Widgets are available here at Google Play if you don’t have access to them.

Another key area of Android is widgets, application features that display directly on a start page/panel. Evernote has several different to choose between and use, including handy shortcuts to create new notes from audio capture and photos. OneNote has no support for widgets. Once you place a widget on a panel you have more customization options to suit your needs.

evernotewidgets

Above: Evernote Widgets in Android.

Cloud Storage

Both apps gives you the opportunity to store the information you write in the cloud. OneNote stores the information in a file on your SkyDrive. Evernote stores the information in an account database associated with your account. With the file approach of OneNote it is easy to delete, move, send the file etc. With the database and service approach of Evernote it is easy for external parties to create apps that you can use. No matter what app you use they both provide you with access to all the information stored in the cloud.

Storage space available is the same as for the Evernote accounts and OneNote. The difference is that Evernote is limited to a maximum upload per month (free: 60MB, premium: 1GB) and OneNote uses the storage space that you have on SkyDrive (Free 7GB start (down from 25GB), 20/50/100GB available for purchase).

OneNote 2013 compatibility: It says in the app information that it is compatible with OneNote 2010 but I have tested it with a OneNote 2013 workbook without any issues.

Offline Access

Evernote app has an offline access mode for premium accounts so that you can choose what notebooks should be available offline in Android.

OneNote files are synchronized and if they are opened in the app they should be available offline as long as they have been synched. The actual OneNote files are available through the SkyDrive app.

Compared to the Desktop Applications

OneNote is a very feature rich desktop application. Evernote is feature rich but a bit different on the desktop. On Android the roles are reversed, Evernote is the more feature rich app. Even basic feature such as bold text seems to be impossible in the OneNote app, whereas Evernote app has all the features expected from an Android app…

Additional Apps

Both Microsoft and Evernote have related apps available:

Microsoft / OneNote

  • OneNote
    The main app
  • SkyDrive
    remote access to files in the cloud
  • on{X}
    programming behavior’s on Android. One of my favorite apps.
  • Lync
    for communications, unfortunately still in the 2010 generation
  • Xbox SmartGlass
    works together with your Xbox, not very feature rich at the moment

Evernote / Evernote

Another observation on Evernote vs. OneNote

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Evernote Overview

While watching this video on the new Evernote 5:

What’s new in Evernote 5 for Mac, video on Youtube

I reflected on the absence of anything related to creating and maintaining your notes. Everything in the video is about managing information that is already available in a notebook.

I guess that this is the main difference between Evernote (tagline: remember everything) and OneNote (tagline: keep tabs on your life?). Evernote is for storing readymade stuff that’s static and OneNote is for creating and working with structured pages of information that is easy to change and rearrange etc.

My biggest problem with Evernote is that it is impossible to use the editor for anything more advanced than plain text. My biggest problem with OneNote is that it is not flexible enough when it comes to sending information to a notebook and searching and tagging information.

So, as before I find myself using both platforms, Evernote for scanning, automations, archiving etc. and OneNote for my creation and editing of notes from meetings etc.

This is a follow-up on my post on Choosing between Evernote and OneNote and on  Automation: Using Evernote to store your life.

More posts on Evernote here and on OneNote here