Evernote vs OneNote

Chapter 3: Look & Feel

[Last Updated: March 18, 2021]

Evernote vs OneNote - Look & Feel

Chapter 3: Look & Feel

Aesthetics are a significant factor to consider when choosing a Personal Productivity Platform. The more enjoyable the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), the more likely you are to invest enough of yourself into to a PPP to get maximum benefit.   In this chapter, we compare how Evernote and OneNote look and feel in the following areas:

  • Organization
  • The Note-taking Experience
  • Collaboration
  • Mobile vs. Desktop vs. Web

Evernote and OneNote have significantly different approaches in these areas, so read carefully to see which matches your needs and style.


What it is & why it Matters

Note-taking apps without organizational features would be equivalent to junk drawers. Both Evernote and OneNote attack this challenge differently, but each has its unique features to help you keep your notes neat and organized.


How Evernote & OneNote compare

Both Evernote and OneNote use the metaphor of a notebook structure.  OneNote divides notebooks into sections where each section can have multiple pages. Evernote, on the other hand, saves notes in a notebook then aggregates these notebooks into “stacks.”   Evernote also incorporates “tags” and a very robust search syntax to find what you’re looking for.  OneNote focuses more on hierarchical categorization than its search capabilities.

You can see examples of how each uses their organizational features below.


Evernote Tagging

Tagging is one of the most effective categorization features utilized by most productivity tools. Evernote is no exception when it comes to using tags to organize notes. 

Tags in Evernote allow you to attach keywords to notes so that they can easily filter or browse your notes in this way. A single note can contain multiple tags usable across notebooks and stacks. You can use tags in Evernote to associate notes with memories, locations, and other categories. 

OneNote also supports the use of tags, but their purpose and use is a bit different. OneNote’s tags associate an item within the note, while Evernote’s tags associate with the note itself.  The process of applying tags is also a bit different. OneNote requires you to create and edit the tags separately before assigning them to each notebook which requires more effort but may be easier to track.  

OneNote Tagging


Evernote Search

Both Evernote and OneNote have features that assist you to search for notes and easily navigate between notebooks.

Evernote’s search is one of its standout features. You can do a simple search or apply a powerful search syntax by date, location, tag, media type and much more.  Evernote also allows you to save searches for future use. Evernote can also search for text within an image so that you can extend your search to your handwritten notes.

OneNote’s search feature is not as powerful as Evernote’s, but it does achieve almost the same results. In addition to searching text within images, you can also copy text from an image to your clipboard and paste it directly within a page.


Evernote Reminders

Evernote’s Reminder feature allows you to set a reminder on a note. Your reminders appear at the top of your list of notes so that they are always visible. Evernote supports email alerts for your reminders where you can set your reminder to be sent to your email.

OneNote did not have anything close to a reminder feature until Microsoft introduced it to the 2016 version. The current reminder feature involves flagging tasks and linking them to Outlook. The tasks with reminders are highlighted and sent to your Outlook email.  Like tags, OneNote’s reminders are associated with items within the note while Evernote’s are associated with the note itself.

Section Winner & Why

Evernote wins in the Organization because it supports modern standards of tagging and searching.  When you settle on a Personal Productivity Platform, you will have notes for every area of your life.  Evernote best supports the flexibility to organize everything from business projects to recipes. The powerful search syntax and saved searches show the benefits of small touches.  Although OneNote contains many of the organizational features found in Evernote, they do not feel optimized for use as a PPP.

The Note-taking Experience

What it is & why it Matters

The note-taking experience is how you interact with the app whether it is on mobile, desktop, or web client. If you adopt either Evernote or OneNote as your Personal Productivity Platform, you’ll be spending lots of time in the user interface, so how it “feels” and how it meets your needs is crucial.

How Evernote & OneNote Compare

User Interface

Evernote's Redesign

Evernote has recently aligned the look & feel of its note editor across all platforms seeking a clean, modern design (Fall 2020). Previously, Evernote used a different editor for each platform. These differences created confusion for users and more work for the company.  Developing a single, uniform codebase creates a seamless experience for the user with greater reliability and consistency.

Evernote uses a three-column user interface on the desktop app which makes it easy to switch between notes and notebooks. The column on the left is your navigation panel. It lets you have a quick overview of your notebooks, notes, tags, and shortcuts.

The middle column is your notebook list. All your notebooks will appear here, either as a list, or as widgets, depending on your Evernote settings. The column on the right is where you view your notes when you click on a notebook in the middle column. This column is where you work on your notebook, whether it’s editing, attaching files, or simply reading your notes.

If you don’t like the three-column layout, you can change it up to a one-column and double-row layout. The navigation panel remains the same but instead of having two other columns, you now have two separately navigable rows.

Evernote User Interface (new)

One of the major changes Evernote made to their UI was unifying their front end and launching a uniform editor. According to the Evernote development team, most users wanted to access their notes across different devices. With the all new editor, you can work on any of your devices without losing access to some features or having different user experience across devices.

OneNote's Logical Structure

OneNote's user interface provides a straightforward structure which adheres to the “notebook” metaphor.  When you open OneNote, you get a notebook divided into sections that are distinguished as colored tabs at the top of the notebook.

Inside the sections you create pages, which is where you do your actual note-taking. The sections allow you to arrange your notes according to the subject, date, or any other preferred category. For example, if you want to create notes about your staff, you can create a separate section for each staff member to allow for easier access.

OneNote User Interface

Each page within a section also has its own tab.  One of the unique features in OneNote’s user interface is the Quick Access Bar at the top. The Quick Access Bar acts as quick access to settings and can be customized by adding or removing any actions that you would like to carry out within OneNote.

Basic Note-taking

Evernote notes open to a blank window with the cursor in the top left for you to begin typing.  Text and other items are placed in the note in the typical top-left to bottom-right structure as with most word processing software.

OneNote Freeform Formatting

OneNote allows for more creative note-taking with their “floating paragraphs” feature which enables you to move paragraphs freely around your page. The floating paragraph feature can be turned off by users who prefer conventional line-by-line layout for their notes. OneNote also provides its users with the ability to record video and audio, embed a spreadsheet, scan documents, and review edits made by others.

Formatting Options

Evernote users can now enjoy improved formatting tools, thanks to the series of updates in late 2020. You can now activate auto-formatting on your notes as you type by applying shortcuts. Whether you want to create an ordered or unordered list, a checklist, a table, add an emoji, you name it, Evernote has a shortcut for it. You can also deactivate some of the auto-formatting shortcuts or the entire auto-formatting feature altogether.

Microsoft did not leave any stone unturned when it comes to OneNote’s formatting features. Again, being the maker of Microsoft Word pays off.  OneNote enables its users to create and edit page layouts to fit the different formats of notes available. OneNote goes further to offer its users the option to customize page title fonts and the text background colors. The extensive customization capability in OneNote results in a rich experience for users who enjoy customizing their notes to make them easier to identify and read.


Note templates increase efficiency and should be an important feature for any PPP.  In Evernote, users can choose from several pre-made templates or create their own from their notes. Evernote’s pre-made templates come grouped according to their functionality. There are templates for everything ranging from schoolwork, creative writing, business, and many more.

Creating templates from existing notes is a premium and above feature.  Your saved templates will appear in the order they were created or updated. Currently, Evernote doesn’t offer an option to reorder or sort your saved templates.

OneNote offers its users a variety of customizable templates and also decorative page backgrounds. You can either choose from thousands of templates available or create a custom one yourself. Just like Evernote, OneNote categorizes templates, but offers you the option to conduct a more targeted search on the search bar at the top of the template collection page.  If you are looking to create something more personalized, you can customize the templates in OneNote template collection or create a template from scratch.


While neither Evernote or OneNote purport to be a task manager, each allows you to create checklists to quickly identify things to do.  Making checklists is possible for both of these apps, the difference being mainly in the layout. Evernote supports checklists on both desktop and mobile. 

The recently redesigned  Evernote apps come with improved checklist capabilities and an additional checkbox feature. The difference between these two features is that while a checklist is a list of action items, a checkbox is a standalone box that can be added anywhere in the notes to mark a single action item. Both checklists and checkboxes are searchable on Evernote’s search filter, making it easy to retrieve notes that use this feature.

Making a checklist on OneNote is a little more complicated compared to Evernote. Though there are more steps to creating a checklist on OneNote as compared to Evernote, the layout is favorable to people who use Microsoft Word since they both look more or less the same.  OneNote also has a unique type of checkbox that syncs with Outlook tasks.  This type of checkbox is not available on mobile however.

Note Linking

Evernote nailed it when it comes to internal note linking. You can link new notes to existing notes in any notebook through clickable links. This feature makes it easy to access notes for referencing and documentation. Note-linking provides another flexible option to structure your notes however you like.  Some have used this feature to build entire courses that simply link each chapter and supporting material via internal link.

Evernote Note Linking

Taking advantage of integration with Microsoft Office, OneNote has taken note-linking a step further.  You can use the same method to link to a page, a paragraph or an external source (e.g. Word doc, Outlook email). Linking notes to web sources comes in handy especially when you are doing research writing.


Handwriting in your note-taker

In Evernote, you can add handwritten notes to your photos, PDFs and your existing notes using a stylus on mobile and tablets apps. Handwritten text is later searchable, but it is not converted to text and therefore cannot be copied and pasted elsewhere.

OneNote, on the other hand, allows users to use a stylus on any touch-capable device. On the Microsoft Surface, palm rejection technology ignores your palm resting on the screen which can make handwriting more comfortable. Like Evernote, OneNote lets you add handwritten notes to your existing notes and annotate pictures using the stylus. Unlike Evernote, OneNote can fully convert handwritten notes to text that can be copied and pasted like any other text in OneNote.


Evernote allows sketching on both its mobile and desktop versions. On mobile, use your finger or a stylus and on desktop, use the mouse or your finger if your computer has a touch screen.  

OneNote Drawing

OneNote supports extensive drawing controls and stylus use on tablet and desktop.  Drawing on OneNote is highly optimized for drawing with a mouse with features like highlighters and pens of varying thickness and colors, shapes, lines, arrows, graphs, and eraser. You can also draw using a stylus on Microsoft Surface and it will automatically reject input from your palm resting on the screen.

Docked Editing

Docked Editing

Docked editing is a feature that allows you to attach your note to the desktop screen while you have another app or web page open so that you can simultaneously view your note and the other application.  Unfortunately, Evernote does not support docked editing, but you can use third-party plugins to dock your notes.

OneNote, on the other hand, supports the docked editing feature. The docked editing feature comes in handy when researching on the web or when taking notes from a video. Users can dock their note to the desktop so that they don’t have to switch back and forth between the browser and the note.


Math and Calculations

OneNote Math Calculations

Note-taking apps have always had a challenge in incorporating math and calculations into their functionality and in this case, Evernote is not an exception.

Designed by the makers of Excel, it’s not surprising OneNote“excels” at incorporating mathematics and calculations into its functionality. For example, if you typed 1143/54, OneNote would give you the answer. You can use OneNote to calculate advanced equations and theorems. For the right user, this feature is a game-changer.


Section Winner & Why

On features alone, OneNote would win this section, but we're calling it a tie. Why? Our focus is the best Personal Productivity Platform and Evernote’s minimalist writing environment, improved templating and checklists shine in its role as a productivity tool.  Some users will prefer Evernote’s writing space while others will make extensive use of OneNote’s docked editing. As always, understand your use case when evaluating the software.


What it is & why it Matters

“A Personal Productivity Platform might be good for my productivity, but can I extend that productivity to my team?” If you’re in need of PPP, I already know you’re busy and you probably have projects that require collaboration, whether with a classmate, colleague or spouse. An ideal PPP allows you to work with other people on a project through secure sharing of notes, ideas, and notebooks to streamline workflow and increase productivity.

How Evernote & OneNote Compare

Evernote Collaboration

Evernote supports project collaboration by allowing users to share notes and other files. While Evernote allows users to share their notes and notebooks regardless of their Evernote plan, it does have some limits, depending on each plan.

On the Basic Plan, you can share notes and notebooks, but editing functionality is limited on the shared material. On the Premium Plan, you can share and edit shared material.  Evernote Business upgrades the sharing possibilities with Spaces, a dedicated space where teams can collaborate on projects, share ideas, and communicate seamlessly. Every member of a Space has access to everything in that Space, making it incredibly easy to collaborate on projects and keep a team in sync. 

OneNote Collaboration

OneNote also supports collaboration and note-sharing though it handles it very differently from Evernote. Since OneNote is free to use, the sharing and collaboration feature is available to all users. Something worth noting, however, is that you can’t share pages or sections of a notebook. You can only share an entire notebook. So, if a section needs sharing, it’s best to create a shared notebook and move it there.

OneNote also supports live sharing where you can invite team members to participate in editing a note or creating a new note in real time. The live sharing function requires that all participants are connected to the internet, and that your notebook is shared on OneDrive. Once shared, all handwritten and typed text will show up in real time, like having an over-the-shoulder view of the participant working from their computer.

As the initiator of a live sharing session, OneNote gives you the authority to invite participants and allocate them editorial control as you see fit. OneNote has the option of securing the live sharing section with a password to prevent unauthorized access.  For those who collaborate on meeting notes or similar real-time sharing, live-sharing is a very useful feature.

Section Winner & Why

Evernote wins in this section because it provides its users with more functionality and options when it comes to collaboration and note-sharing. Although the collaboration feature is only available in Evernote Business, it could certainly be worth the cost if it makes your team more productive.

For starters, Evernote allows you to centralize your information with Spaces. Evernote spaces provide a safe virtual workspace where teams can easily collaborate on projects in real time. You can even create a virtual bulletin board so that important tasks can be shown to your team first. If you have a big organization, you can leverage the Spaces Directory where other team members within your organization can discover and join your virtual workspace.

OneNote is free to use so you won’t be paying a dime to use their collaboration feature. The downside, however, is that the collaboration feature on OneNote comes with limited functionality. Collaboration on OneNote does not allow team members to pin items in the virtual workspace or collaborate using video chats. You also can’t share a section of a notebook so you have to create a separate sharable notebook and move anything that needs sharing into that notebook.

Mobile vs. Desktop vs. Web

What it is & why it Matters

When choosing a PPP, it is crucial to cross check the availability of the features you need on the platforms you’ll use. You do not want to choose a PPP that has a feature you’ll need, but it’s not available on the platform you regularly use. You can understand why putting every feature in a phone app might make it impossibly slow and yet you need to be productive wherever you are.

How Evernote & OneNote Compare







Sketching & Annotation


Sharing & Collaboration


Videos Attached

Audio Recording

As our comparison table shows, Evernote and OneNote offer most key features on all platforms, however Evernote goes a bit further in its mobile apps and neither offers some of their most robust features on the web.


Section Winner & Why

We see Evernote as the slight winner in this section. Evernote has managed to make every platform work for the people who use it by distributing the features evenly across all the platforms.  Microsoft OneNote has made great strides on mobile in recent years, but still feels desktop-centric.  Evernote got out to a significant lead and Microsoft has poured in resources to catch up and even pass Evernote in some areas. Still, Microsoft’s roots and focus in the corporate environment still show in a comparison of the two.

Anything Missing?

Let us know if something is missing in our comparison or something has changed.  We're committed to having the most comprehensive and updated comparison around.  Let us know