OneNote Has Entered the Building

And while I’m not showing it the back door, I’ll let it sit in the waiting room until it gets its act together. Color me disappointed.

I will not rush to put my brain in it. Phil Libin, you can relax. (But I hope Evernote is challenged by this competition to make good on its promise to fix its recent hiccups and stumbles. )

Yes, this new Mac version feels somewhat familiar to the OneNote I used to compile the hundred bits of Slow Road Home in 2005–back when OneNote was just a young pup.

I expected to be dazzled by how this unique bit of software has grown since then. I am not dazzled. It is a runt, as you’ll hear later.

I had hope but did not really expect MS to knock themselves out over a non-windows freebie. They didn’t.

OneNote for Mac has some uses, but I’m not sure it will get a permanent place on my OSX dock. I am writing this blog post in it because my keyboard doesn’t care where it puts text. And admittedly, I do like being able to create side by side blocks of text that represent revisions. OneNote will do that adequately.

I like shrink and expand outlines and OneNote will and Evernote will not do that. But Workflowy does it way better than either.

I love the potential of OneNote’s hierarchical organization that I built on for years before moving to the Mac for good. I do not love the Mac version in its present incarnation when I think about it in my workflow against Evernote and NValt and the other tools that have become known and trusted agents in my information management while Redmond chose to stay out of this market for long enough to become an “also ran” in this significant software niche.

I can hope for a constant stream of improvements–if MS is really serious about having its own Evernote-like notes app in the running. This offering makes me wonder seriously about their seriousness.

And I am not alone. The following is from PC Pro columnist Jon Honeyball,  offered here on OneNote for Mac’s first full day on many Mac computers, as well as its last on some of the same:

[su_quote]So Microsoft has launched OneNote for OS X. And it’s a dog. It’s a sad, miserable, runt of a thing.

Compare OneNote for Mac with OneNote for Windows. OneNote for Windows has the following menus: File, Home, Insert, Draw, History, Review, View, Layout. OneNote/Mac has Home, Insert, View. And sometimes Table.

If you insert a table, both have tools for inserting below, inserting above, deleting and so forth. OneNote for Windows has Data Sort and Convert to Excel Spreadsheet. OneNote for Mac doesn’t.

Go to the Insert menu: OneNote for Windows has 17 items, including Page Templates, Equation and Symbols. And Record Audio and Record Video.

OneNote for Mac has a mere four. Yes, four: Table, Picture, Date and Date & Time. That’s all you need to know.

This is a sham of a product that is fully worthy of its price tag of free. No-one would want to pay for such a miserable excuse for a product.

And, I fear, this is a preview of what we will get with Office for iOS: a feature-light product that is barely better than a preview tool. Can you hear the screams of protest as the Microsoft board tries to get the Office team to ship anything full-featured that isn’t Windows-centric?[/su_quote]

Will you switch to OneNote to replace one or more of the apps you currently use to order and retrieve information? If so, what do you think it does better? Will Microsoft bring the Mac version up to par with the Windows version soon? Ever?


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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I won’t be using it any time soon. I rather doubt MS will put a lot of time into it although there is always that possibility. Many Mac users have been begging a while. Have you ever peeked at Zoho? They have a nice office suite and a “OneNote” type app I use on and off, but it’s web-based and there is comfort in a local copy of one’s notes. Love their word processing program though. I’m experimenting with Growly Notes, but I like cross-platform so will stick with Evernote for now. I’ve used that since it was in beta and it’s got a large chunk of my brain in it, just not everything 😉

  2. I tinkered with Zoho but never fell in love. I have been using Growly Notes from the beginning and beta tested up to the current. Chris Mason, the developer, is very responsive. I wondered this morning if he wasn’t feeling more angst that the Evernote folks with this new runt of a contender for the “type anywhere” document creator.

  3. I have just – gasp! – switched FROM Mac TO PC!! As a result, I have just discovered OneNote and absolutely love it. So, sorry it doesn’t do its job that well on Mac. I hope they improve it for you!