Evernote vs OneNote

Chapter 5: Making a Choice

[Last Updated: March 18, 2021]

Chapter 5: Making a Choice

After four chapters of comparing Evernote and OneNote, we declare a winner.  Our choice is based on the priorities we've highlighted and we provide a few questions to ask yourself in case your priorities are different.  We also briefly cover a few of the best competitors to Evernote and OneNote as a window into what's available.

  • Our Winner
  • Choosing for yourself
  • Competitors & Alternatives

Our Winner

While both Evernote and OneNote thrive as Personal Productivity Platforms, Evernote is more tailored to that use case and has built a better ecosystem around it.  Except for those who are more comfortable in the Microsoft ecosystem, we recommend Evernote.

As a PPP, Evernote is more than the sum of its parts.  Evernote itself focuses on the baseline capabilities of being a great PPP; flexible information capture and quick retrieval.  Whether you are doing project management, saving child videos or doing web research, Evernote is well suited to capture, store, share and retrieve your information. 

To complete the productivity process, Evernote integrates with many more calendars, task apps and other 3rd party tools to serve its role as the base of a larger system for taking effective action.  Getting information in is great, but getting it out and making it useful often involves other tools. 

Additionally, Evernote thrives in both business and personal use cases which is necessary to assist you in all aspects of life.  Likewise It works similarly on every device making it a better universal companion or second brain.  

Lastly, the robust community of productivity enthusiasts Evernote has cultivated ensures endless insight in how to best use the product to become more effective.  This same community pushes Evernote itself to improve. 

Choosing for yourself

While we've determined Evernote is the right choice for most, choosing your own Personal Productivity Platform could be overwhelming given the vast number of note-taking apps available. Although a potential PPP’s feature list and pricing can be a great place to start, I hope this comparison guide shows that you’ll need to dig deeper to find a companion worthy to be labeled, your second brain.

Let’s look at some key questions to consider when hunting for the best PPP:

How do you think?

Knowing your thought process is the first step in choosing the best PPP. Does your brain interpret data as a map of objects, or does it slice it and place things in categories? Maybe your mind tends to organize information in a linear sequential manner or tabular format. Now compare that to how different note-taking or other productivity apps organize information. The idea is to identify a PPP that aligns with how your brain gathers, interprets, and organizes information. That way, you won’t have a hard time putting down your ideas in the app or accessing them later.

What information do you need most?

Most note-taking apps are equipped with an array of organizational elements to help you organize information. It could be tags, emoticons, labels, color codes, tables, or lists. They also store different types of information in different ways.  It’s imperative to identify the information you'll store and how you'll easily organize that information before settling on a PPP.  If you need audio notes or do lots of drawing, that could easily sway your choice.

Which PPP features matter to you?

A PPP’s feature list is obviously one of the common determinants for most people on whether they choose a particular app. Therefore, when selecting a PPP, it’s essential that you identify the features that you'll use most and write them down. Mostly, the kind of notes you take and their use can help you identify the features that are indispensable to you. It could be markdown editing, syncing across devices, cloud syncing, notes backup, web clipping or user interface. Once you list your preferred features, it’s easy to compare the available productivity apps using their features, but be aware your productivity needs will evolve as you do.

What are your usage environments?

Choosing the right PPP for your "ecosystem" can save you many compatibility issues in the future.

  • Are you an Apple, Microsoft, Google or Linux person? Do you use them all
  • Are you online all the time or do you need to use your PPP offline frequently
  • Do you require a robust mobile app or are you at your desk 90% of the time
  • Do you plan to use your app on Desktop, Web, or Mobile

Don't assume you'll limit yourself to your current usage environments forever unless you and your collaborators have been consistent over time.  We see many people feel stuck with a decision that seemed right in years past.

How complex or simple do you want your PPP?

App complexity is a critical criterion when choosing a PPP. A bare-bone note-taking app is guaranteed to leave you feeling underwhelmed if you prefer a feature-rich complex app that allows you maximum flexibility and customization.  Likewise, a sophisticated app will likely leave your head spinning if you prefer a simplicity and a distraction-free setup. Defining your preferred level of app complexity before-hand will help you choose the right PPP for you.

What’s your budget?

Pricing is always a consideration, but we don't want you to be pennywise and pound foolish.  If a PPP makes you more efficient, it's likely worth the few cups of coffee it costs.  If in doubt, try our free Time is Money Calculator to see for sure.  Frankly, except for students, exchange rate issues and those on extremely tight budgets, the investment in a good PPP should always pay off.

Where are you in your journey?

Productivity and effectiveness are a journey.  We all evolve, but over time we gain productivity habits and workflows that stick.  Therefore, if your habits have been sustained for years, it will be easier to feel confident in choosing a PPP custom-matched to your workflows.  However, if you're still evolving rapidly, it might make sense to choose a PPP that has features you don't yet need, but could anticipate.  

Competitors & Alternatives

As Evernote and OneNote continue as heavyweights in personal productivity, there are many newcomers at all levels.  While we believe the longevity and future of Evernote and OneNote make them ideal as PPPs, if you're more adventurous and looking for something different, there are no shortage of options.

As players in this space come and go, we expect this list to evolve, but these are currently notable alternatives to Evernote and OneNote.

Standard notes

Founded in 2016, Standard Notes is a free and open source note taking app that focuses on privacy as its core selling point. It’s compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and even has a browser version.

  • Privacy-focused.  Standard Notes is one of the most secure note-taking platforms in the market. All your notes are encrypted, meaning that only you can access them. No one else, not even the team at Standard Notes has access to your notes.
  • Mostly free.  You can get most of the functionality in the free version, but if you’re looking for extra flexibility, you can go with the extended version for less than $2/month. Choosing the extended version unlocks more themes, powerful editors, and automated backups.
  • Powerful search functionality.  Standard Notes allows users to create custom tags for their notes to make them easier to find. 
  • Note-by-note editor selection.  With Standard notes, you can choose the type of editor you want on a note-by-note basis, whether it’s rich text, markdown, or code editor.
  • Multiple-platform compatibility.  Standard Notes is compatible with all platforms.
  • Limited image functionality.  Standard Notes doesn’t let users host images in-app. You have to save your images somewhere else before saving them in the app.
  • Limited drag-and-drop functionality.  You can’t drag-drop-notes between tags or folders.

Nimbus Note

Nimbus Note is a cross-platform productivity app designed to keep your thoughts and ideas in one place where you can easily retrieve them.

  • World class support.  The first thing you notice with Nimbus is their excellent support. The Nimbus support team is quick to respond and even forwards issues to the engineering team so they can be solved asap.
  • 2-Step verification.  Nimbus Notes offers users an extra layer of security with its 2-step verification feature. Once this feature is activated, you’ll need a unique code sent to your phone to access your account.
  • Easy collaboration. Nimbus Notes allows users to create workspaces for their projects. You can create multiple workspaces for different teams so you can run several projects concurrently.
  • Doesn’t support sketching and annotation. Nimbus doesn’t have annotation and sketching capabilities.


Notion is a powerful productivity tool that combines the functionalities of a note-taking app and spreadsheets. The app has other collaboration capabilities and features other functions such as an integrated calculator and rich text editor.

  • All-in-one app. Notion places everything under one roof with an organized and uncluttered UI. Users don’t need to open several different tabs because they can easily find everything from notes to spreadsheets within the app.
  • Multi-platform availability. Notion is available on desktop, mobile and web, with a functionality to sync notes across platforms. Users can access their notes regardless of the platform they choose to use.
  • Free trial. Notion offers a free trial so users can experience premium features and make an informed decision when choosing a plan.
  • Limited free version. Notion has a free and a premium version. The free version, however, has very limited functionality and is really just a demo.
  • Unreliable notifications. Although Notion allows users to tag their teammates and assign them tasks, the tagged person doesn’t get the notification if they don’t have Notion running on their end. This might be inconvenient especially for urgent tasks.

Roam Research

Roam Research is a browser only note taking app that focuses on a different approach to note organization. You can link a note to another, eliminating the need for tags.

  • Encourages journaling. When you open the app, it’ll give you the option to make notes for that particular day. This feature is perfect for people who want to journal or keep daily records.
  • Powerful markdown support. The app is set up to help you hit the ground running. Once you open it, it immediately gives you an option to start writing.
  • Note-to-note linking. Roam allows you to link your notes to create a web of information or connect ideas, a powerful feature that’s not available in most of the other note-taking apps.
  • Easy visualization of connected notes. Roam has a graphics presentation of connected notes, making it easier to make connections between notes, unlike other apps.
  • No offline option. Roam is exclusively a browser-only note taking app that requires users to be connected to the internet to access their notes.
  • Relatively expensive. At $15 a month, Roam costs more than competitors with similar features.


Bear is an Apple-focused note-taking app that prides itself on a smooth writing experience and powerful markdown capabilities.

  • Flawless syncing. Although Bear is only available on MacOS and iOS, it allows users to sync their notes seamlessly across devices on iCloud.
  • Easy organization. Bear lets you tag your notes using “#” and “/” and link the notes to one another.
  • Robust markdown editor. Bear’s robust markdown editor allows you to format your notes in real time which is a productivity boost for keyboard power users.
  • Relatively inexpensive. Most of Bear’s features are free to use and for less than $2/month, you can get Bear Pro to unlock a dozen beautiful themes and powerful export options.
  • Apple-only. Bear is only available for MacOS and iOS. Windows, Android and Linux users need not apply.
  • No tab functionality. Bear doesn’t have an option to open multiple tabs, so you can only view one document at a time.

Apple Notes

Apple Notes is an iOS and MacOS exclusive note-taking app. The app offers solid organization and note-taking features seamlessly integrated with the Apple ecosystem.

  • 100% free. Apple Notes is completely free to use. Users get all the features without paying a dime.
  • Hierarchical folders. With Apple Notes, you can create hierarchical folders and nested lists, making it easier to organize and locate your notes and folders.
  • Cross-platform accessibility. Unlike some Apple-focused apps, you can access and edit your Apple Notes on your browser via iCloud.
  • Apple-only. You need to be committed to the Apple ecosystem to benefit. Windows, Android and Linux users need not apply.
  • No markdown editor. Apple Notes doesn’t support markdown editing.


Just like its name suggests, Simplenote is a simple productivity platform with an intuitive and clean user interface. It’s best suited for people seeking a simple keyboard-centric note-taking app with essential features such as notes, reminders, and to-do lists. 

  • Lightweight.  Simplenote takes up a very little storage space, making it fast and capable of use on older machines.
  • 100% Free.  We don't know how long it will last, but this full featured app is currently free to all.
  • Markdown editor. Simplenote's markdown editor allows you to format your notes in real time which is a productivity boost for keyboard power users.
  • Multiple-platform compatibility.  Simplenote is compatible with Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Web, and also has a native Linux app. 
  • Text only.  For free don't expect video, audio or complex media in notes.
  • Very limited note organization.  No folder, tags or other hierarchy to aid organization.

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