Break up with OneNote

Dear OneNote, I love you but I think we should see other people

My love affair with OneNote started in 2002 when I got my hands on a beta of this amazing new product that would become part of Office 2003. It was fast, lightweight and made it easy to organize everything from meeting notes, brainstorming, todo lists and, well… my life. In a world of slow and complicated desktop software OneNote was a shining beacon of what the best desktop software could become. And as a newly anointed Getting Things Done acolyte I embraced OneNote with somewhat of a religious fervor.

And OneNote kept getting better – the team released features (yes features!) with a service pack. I can still recall the glee at finally being able to title sub pages – it’s the little things… The team listened to requests and complaints with an empathy I’ve never seen from anyone at Microsoft before, and even as my honeymoon period with OneNote ended my love for the product deepened.

OneNote always seemed ahead of the curve. It embraced sharing long before Google Docs, it synchronized data seamlessly across PCs and eschewed complicated SharePoint integration for the simplicity of files in a shared folder. While at Microsoft I was even blessed enough to work on the OneNote web app.
But the other day I realized I hadn’t opened OneNote for a while. It wasn’t just the bulging notebook full of years of notes and actions that was keeping me away either – OneNote had lost some of it’s magic. It hadn’t kept up with what I needed it for. This has become starkly evident as I plan a trip taking just my iPad, not my laptop.
So, my love, it’s with a heavy heart that I must tell you, “It’s not working anymore. I’ve found someone else.”

Frustrations with OneNote

OneNote, I feel as though you don’t care about me like you used to.
  • No iPad app – The iPhone app was a nice gesture, but I’ve moved on to the iPad and a magnified iPhone app just doesn’t cut it.
  • No Android support – Almost half of all smartphones are Android, really, what are you waiting for?
Really, I could stop there, because those are the main reasons I’ve left OneNote – all the others are complaints and grumbles that any good relationship has.
  • The Ribbon – You took away what made OneNote special by making it another bland enterprise app, and ate up a good portion of my screen real estate. Your once shining feature of tags is but a shadow of it’s former self, hidden within the ribbon
  • Slowing down in your old age – You’re still faster than your Office brethren, but you now have a loading splash screen when you start up
  • Vertical Text for Notebooks – This was cool in the 2000s, but it’s 2011 now.
  • Collaboration, where art thou? – I had my first magical collaboration experience in OneNote, but my last magical experience was in Google Docs. The new commenting system in Google Docs is light years ahead, and makes it possible to collaborate together through partially formed thoughts to a finished document. If I’m not using OneNote for collaboration, and can’t use it on my mobile devices, when should I use it?
  • Blogs, what are those? – Much of my writing these days is for the eventual purpose of posting to a blog. OneNote doesn’t do a great job preserving formatting when I manually transfer it to WordPress. So much so that I’d rather write it in the WordPress editor than use OneNote

Moving to Evernote

It’s pretty clear that Evernote is not as polished as OneNote, but I’ve paid for a year’s premium subscription because it gives me what I need and I’ve discovered a few unexpected gems
  • iPad and Android apps – Yes! Thank you.
  • Sort notes by date created – This is surprisingly awesome. I’m not quite sure how I can go back to a system that doesn’t allow this
  • Really simple checkboxes – The kind that are easy to use on my phone. I think this gets my todo list out of Google Docs (and all the other task services I’ve tried)
  • Word count built in – Really useful. I get grumpy when I have to hunt down plugins, and then reinstall them on every new PC I use.
  • Near perfect paste into WordPress – Apart from the lack of h tags, the paste was surprisingly perfect. I’ve found my blog drafting tool
OneNote, we’ve had a good run. I’ll be spending some time with you to move out my things. I’ll sort through the memories, and keep those that still hold meaning. I hope you find someone that is right for you.