We have more information to remember than ever before.
Fortunately, we have more tools to help us remember things than ever before, too––but choosing a note-taking tool isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Most note-taking apps do the same things:
- Save and organize digital notes
- Search saved notes, clippings, and files
- Sync across multiple devices
Evernote and Microsoft OneNote both do all these things and more. Both tools let you save typed or handwritten notes, organize your notes into individual notebooks, and clip images, paragraphs of text, and even entire web pages as clippings for later viewing.
What’s interesting about both Evernote and OneNote is that, unlike email, document apps, or even instant messaging tools, note-taking apps aren’t often a core part of most work environments. You don’t necessarily need Evernote or OneNote the way you literally need email. They might not be essential, but they are useful.
But which of these tools is better?
Below, we’ve examined Evernote and OneNote in depth to see which note-taking tool reigns supreme. We looked at several individual categories, and we’ve made our recommendation toward the end of the post.
On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be much difference between Evernote and OneNote. Look a little closer, though, and the differences start to become more obvious. Let’s look at how the two apps compare.
Organization: Winner = Draw
Both Evernote and OneNote rely on the notebook convention to describe how the two tools manage file organization.
Evernote organizes items into Notebook Stacks > Notebooks > Notes. OneNote uses a similar convention of Notebooks > Sections > Pages.
In addition to their central notebook conventions, both Evernote and OneNote also feature tag systems. Evernote’s tags function similarly to tags in WordPress. You can add a tag to any note and search by tags to find thematically relevant notes.
OneNote’s tags work very differently. They’re a lot more interactive and can be used for lots of different things. For example, you can add Reminder tags to a note to be reminded at specific dates and times. OneNote comes with more than 20 preset tags, from To-Do items and Client Requests to Music to Listen to and Book to Read. There’s even a Password tag.
Unlike Evernote, which limits tag placement to the Notes level, OneNote tags can be applied to any organizational element. Any Notebooks, Sections, or Pages in OneNote can have tags applied to them. You can add multiple tags to multiple elements on a page. For example, you could add a Contact tag to an image of a business card you uploaded after a meeting, a Reminder tag to follow up with that person at a specific date and time, and a Client Request tag to the action items you need to prepare for that meeting.
One of the biggest problems with Evernote is that the program itself can become sluggish once you reach a certain number of notebooks. Another major issue is that quick notes aren’t categorized by default, meaning that if you use Evernote to make lots of quick little notes, your file system in Evernote can quickly become a mess of Untitled Notes. For a tool that’s supposed to help us make sense of the information in our lives, this can be frustratingly counterintuitive.
I wouldn’t say tags in Evernote are “better” than tags in OneNote or vice-versa. It all depends on which system feels right to you and aligns with what you want from the tool.
Storage: Winner = OneNote
If you intend to use Evernote or OneNote simply to record your thoughts, storage isn’t that important. Individual text notes are tiny in terms of file size. So you don’t need to worry as much about running out of space.
If you intend to save a lot of documents and files, though, storage becomes a lot more important.
In terms of storage, Evernote is quite permissive but does have some hard restrictions:
- Evernote freemium accounts can have a maximum of 100,000 notes with a file-size restriction of 25MB per note. Premium subscribers can upload or capture notes up to 100MB in size.
- Evernote limits users to a maximum of 250 notebooks synced across a user’s account.
- Evernote restricts users to a maximum of 10,000 tags.
- Evernote allows users to save up to 100 searches.
- Evernote freemium accounts are limited to just 60MB of uploaded data per month, premium users to 10GB, and business users to 20GB.
Evernote’s maximum number of notes, notebooks, and tags is fairly generous. But the 60MB upload limit is very harsh. Even casual users are likely to run up against this restriction pretty quickly, especially when working with larger files such as high-resolution images.
Evernote retired its Plus tier in April 2018, which had a 1GB upload restriction. This forces users to choose between the limitations of the Free plan or 10GB of storage in the Premium plan. There’s no longer any middle ground between these two extremes––a 5GB limit would have been a solid compromise for many users.
OneNote handles storage completely differently:
- OneNote’s storage limits are connected directly to a user’s Microsoft OneDrive account; there are no restrictions on how many individual notes a OneNote user can save.
- OneNote Basic accounts offer individual uploaded file size restrictions of 25MB. Both Premium and Business subscribers are limited to uploads of up to 200MB per file––twice the size of Evernote’s maximum file size.
- OneNote’s free mobile version restricts users to 500 synced notes before prompting users to upgrade.
- Although the maximum file size you can upload to OneDrive is 15GB, the maximum file size you can upload to OneNote is 2GB.
The biggest problem with Evernote in terms of storage is the lack of a middle option. It’s either 60MB a month or 10GB a month. This makes sense for Evernote––Evernote’s harsh upload limits on its Basic plan are a powerful motivation to upgrade––but it doesn’t make sense for users.