Evernote vs OneNote

Chapter 2: Platform Foundations

[Last Updated: March 18, 2021]

Evernote vs OneNote - Platform Foundations

Chapter 2: Platform Foundations

Choosing Evernote or OneNote as your Personal Productivity Platform should be the beginning of a long-term relationship.  For that relationship to be successful, you’ll need some understanding of the underlying service that supports the software.   In this chapter, we’re going to look at how Evernote and OneNote compare in the following attributes:

  • Storage Capacity
  • Speed & Reliability
  • Privacy & Security
  • Pricing
  • Support
  • Future of the Platform

As you compare Evernote and OneNote in the following sections, think of the attributes that will mean most to you and your overall productivity. 

Storage Capacity

What it is & Why it is Important

Personal Productivity apps typically have either overall storage limits or limits per time period.  You don't want to worry about storage limits when you find a PDF you want to save or some image related to your new project?  Once you're wise enough to realize your brain has faulty storage, you'll want a Productivity Platform that matches your storage needs.   Users with lots of images, files and PDFs will have different needs than someone primarily focused on storing ideas as text.

How Evernote & OneNote Compare

Evernote uses a tiered model on its size limitations that varies based on your plan type with the Basic plan being free.

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Total notes in account




Individual note size 




Upload size per month




OneNote uses a different model for storage.  Since it uses your hard drive for storage, there is technically no limit.  If there is free space on your device, you can keep uploading notes. However, if you want to backup your notes to OneDrive (which we strongly recommend), you get 5GB of storage free.  For $2/mo. you can get 100GB of storage and for $7/mo. you get 1 terabyte (TB) of storage.  Office 365 subscribers also get cloud storage at the 1TB level. 

Section Winner & Why

We are considering this section a tie, not because both apps offer the same storage capacity, but because both offer ample storage for most users’ needs. Any differences only apply depending on your usage.  If you're using Evernote or OneNote as a PPP, we'd expect you to blow past either Evernote's free tier or OneNote's 5GB Personal OneDrive limits.  The cost of storage is going down over time, so we'd advise you not obsess over this cost unless you're extremely price sensitive.

Speed & Reliability

What it is & why it Matters

The speed and reliability of a Personal Productivity Platform is an essential factor to consider before making your choice. A Productivity Platform is meant to increase your effectiveness by offering you a seamless channel to record and finetune your ideas in real time. If your preferred platform cannot provide adequate  speed and reliability, then it’s pointless to use it.

How Evernote & OneNote Compare

We'll be very honest.  Both OneNote and Evernote work fine for most users, but both have a history of complaints related to lagging and sync.  Although Evernote's recent redesign provided a unified experience across platforms, for many it's introduced lagging and sync issues as well.  We believe most of these issues are temporary with new the software. Still, many users have chosen to remain on older versions while the kinks are worked out.

OneNote users on the Microsoft user forum have reportedly experienced some lag on OneNote 2016 when accessing password protected sections. They also indicate issues during syncing. On the web client, users have also complained of unresponsive and lagging browser tabs.  Though none of the aggrieved users termed OneNote unreliable, they believe that Microsoft can do better to make OneNote more user-friendly.

Eventually you'll connect your PPP to other services like TaskClone, so the speed and reliability of those connections is important.  Operating TaskClone gives us a bit of inside information in this area and we’ve also confirmed our perception with public reports. Evernote’s API was initially built for internal use by the Evernote team.  As a result, it has always been faster and more fully featured than most.  

OneNote built it’s API later and has changed its structure repeatedly over time.  While OneNote is improving with each iteration, slowness, incompleteness and bugs have been a periodic issue.

Section Winner & Why

Evernote narrowly wins this section. While OneNote users have been experiencing lagging on OneNote 2016 for years, Evernote users largely don’t experience lagging and slow syncing.  That said, we must note that Evernote is still working on some kinks from its recent front-end overhaul, including some that impact syncing.

Privacy & Security

What it is & why it Matters

We live in a world where digital security seems like an oxymoron.  That said, if you’re putting personal information or your business' crown jewels into it, you want a platform that gives you the peace of mind about privacy.

How Evernote & OneNote Compare

App Security

According to their security overview page, Evernote has a security team whose task is flagging and reporting suspicious activities on your Evernote account. They also scrutinize the app regularly for vulnerabilities. Evernote never stores passwords in plain text, but instead, it saves them in Password-Based Key Derivation Function 2 (PBKDF2). Evernote also provides a 2-step verification procedure and limits the number of failed login attempts both per-account and per-IP address to thwart password-guessing attacks.

OneNote enforces app security by requiring users to sign in using Azure Active Directory (AD) for enterprise apps or Microsoft Account for consumer apps. Azure AD accesses enterprise notebooks on Office 365 while Microsoft account accesses consumer notebooks on OneDrive.

File-level Security

Evernote encrypts files in transit and decrypts them when they reach their servers. This method won’t protect you if the government subpoenas Evernote, but it does protect against hacking attempts. You can also password-protect sensitive text within your notes using Evernote’s desktop client. You can do this by highlighting the text, right-clicking and selecting Encrypt Selected Text. It is important to note that Evernote does not store passwords generated to encrypt text so losing the encryption password would mean losing the encrypted text.

OneNote provides security to users by allowing them to assign security passwords to entire notebook sections. Simply right-click on the section and select Password Protect This Section. OneNote does not allow password protection of entire notebooks, so users have to be content with protecting sections instead.

App Security

Encryption Capabilities

There are two different ways that Evernote encrypts data; Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption which encrypts files in transit, and 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) which encrypts your password protected text. Evernote uses a method called Password-Based Key Derivation Function 2 (PBKDF2) to derive your AES key from the passphrase that you enter when locking a section of text on your notebook.

OneNote uses 128-bit AES encryption which is approved for secret level classified material to secure your notes. OneNote also applies the same encryption to any section that you password protect. Like Evernote, OneNote does not store the passwords so it would be impossible to recover a section after a lost password.

Cloud Storage Security

Evernote integrates with Google Cloud to provide its users with cloud storage services for their notes. On Google's Cloud, your notes are encrypted at several levels using HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS). Google Cloud also secures your files using 256-bit Transport Layer Security (TLS) when they are in transit between Google data centers. In addition to encryption, 2-step verification ensures against password hacks.

OneNote uses OneDrive as its default cloud storage. Files in transit from OneNote to OneDrive are secured using SSL/TLS encryption while data at rest on OneDrive is encrypted using per-file encryption and BitLocker disk-level encryption. OneDrive also secures your account using 2-step verification, but you can also use biometric verification by logging in with facial recognition and fingerprint scanning if you are running Windows 10 and your device supports it.

Section Winner

While nothing is 100% secure, both these Productivity Platforms have heavily invested in ensuring their users enjoy top-notch security.  For this, we see this section as a tie.


What it is & why it Matters

Let me first say that a Personal Productivity Platform is an investment in your personal effectiveness.  If one of these platforms helps you become more effective than the other, don’t let the price get in your way.  That said, you don’t want to pay more unless it’s justified.

How Evernote & OneNote Compare

Evernote classifies its users into three tiers; Basic, Premium, and Business.  They have a full comparison on their website, but we hit the highlights here.

Evernote Basic

The basic plan is free, so users are not obliged to pay any subscription fees. Although basic users do not get access to Evernote’s advanced features such as PDF annotations and business card scanning, they can still enjoy great features like searching for text in images, clipping web pages and pictures, locking the app with a passcode, and sharing notes with friends and colleagues. The basic plan also limits syncing to two devices and comes with a storage limit of 60 MB per month.

Evernote Premium

Evernote Premium costs $7.99 / month. Evernote Premium users enjoy all the features found in Evernote Basic plus additional functionalities such as scanning and digitizing business cards, annotating PDFs, presenting notes in one click, customer support via live chat, and 10 GB monthly upload limit.

Evernote Business

Evernote Business costs $14.99 / user / month. Evernote Business adds business features such as secure shared workspaces, centralized account administration and a 20GB monthly upload limit (2GB per user).

OneNote, on the other hand, is free for all users. OneNote users get to enjoy all the features that OneNote has to offer at no cost. If you choose to store your notes on OneDrive (recommended), you will pay for storage above the 5GB limit, but additional storage is just $2/mo.  Office 365 subscribers have 15GB of storage included in their subscription.

Section Winner & Why

At free, OneNote is the clear winner in this section.  Of course, Microsoft gets to offer this because OneNote is part of their broader Office 365 ecosystem.  While free, don’t forget there is a cost if you want to store more than 5GB of data online.  

Remember though, if personal effectiveness is your goal, consider all the factors that matter to you most and don’t fixate on price.


What it is & why it Matters

Despite having talented developers, huge budgets, and pages of documentation, things tend to go wrong with both these platforms.  We run a software company that integrates with both Evernote and OneNote and we see this every week.  Quality customer support is critical to squeeze the most from these platforms over the long-term and have a seamless and successful experience.

How Evernote & OneNote Compare

Evernote classifies its support options according to its payments plans. Free users get what Evernote terms as self-support. It means that free users get help by posting their issues on Evernote community forums where other users or an Evernote employee responds with a solution. The only time that free users get direct support from Evernote support agents is when they have account access issues. Premium and Business users can access support via live chat and email,

OneNote users enjoy more support options compared to Evernote users. If you have an issue with your OneNote app, you can access support via a toll-free number, live chat, or by posting your problem on the Microsoft community forum where fellow OneNote users and Microsoft support staff can respond. All OneNote support options are available 24/7.

On paper, OneNote’s support structures are clearly superior.  However, in practice, it falls short of expectations.  First, community support and even agent support depend on responsiveness and quality of the support.  In the 12 years we’ve been watching the forums and lodging questions, this area has experienced lots of change, but overall Evernote’s community and agents have been more helpful. we've communicated with both via social media as well.  Of course, this is an area that can change quickly, so your experience may vary.


Section Winner & Why

While OneNote provides all its support options to all its users, we're assuming if you choose Evernote as your Personal Productivity Platform, you won’t limit yourself with their Free Plan.  Given current quality and responsiveness differences, We're calling this one a tie.

The Future of the Platform

What it is & why it Matters

Any Personal Productivity Platform worth its salt will keep adapting its features that add more value while maintaining focus on its core benefits and being easy to use.  This is not an easy balancing act as technology and customer demands evolve.  When you settle on a particular PPP, you’ll be investing significant time to master it, so longevity is critical.

How Evernote & OneNote Compare

Evernote's Redesign

After a significant bumpy period, Evernote committed to remake itself with a focus on it’s core mission.   The most recent fruits of these ongoing labors have been redesigned apps on all platforms.  For years, Evernote users have complained of persistent bugs and unique quirks on each platform.  For example, the iOS app had significant differences from the Windows app which made cross-platform use confusing for many.  This situation also made adding new features more challenging for Evernote which led to less innovation. 

Evernote turned the situation around when they started improving their platform throughout 2019 and 2020. By December 2020, Evernote had rolled out completely rebuilt and redesigned apps promising more stability, speed, and faster improvements. The rebuild allowed them to use more modern software and unify the UI across platforms.  While the redesign really was about Evernote’s foundation, they did add a few new features, including the ability to embed videos directly in your notes.

Other recent Evernote milestones include introducing Evernote Business, moving data storage to Google’s secure cloud, and integrating with Siri.

Evernote Business, provides a business library which makes collaboration more comfortable and secure. It centralizes everything so that when an employee leaves a company, they lose access to the company files.  Evernote Business also introduced Spaces, which allows users to share ideas and notes with their teams and streamline their workflow and productivity.

Microsoft's Journey with OneNote

In 2019, Microsoft announced their roadmap for OneNote. They announced and then backtracked on a number of things related to their Windows 10 app vs. Office 365 desktop app..  What became clear is that little was clear.

Keeping track of the inner workings of Evernote and OneNote for TaskClone has given us an additional perspective.  As a standalone company, Evernote lives or dies based on the customer experience with its service. Conversely, OneNote directly generates virtually no revenue for Microsoft and therefore its strategic importance changes more easily over time.  

OneNote has seen periods of intense focus and rapid improvement and then periods without much activity.  We’ve also seen first hand how highly talented engineers and project managers within Microsoft have been “promoted” away from OneNote, stalling progress for a period.  Evernote is not immune from this type of thing, but obviously has a more singular focus if not comparable resources.

Section Winner & Why

Despite the financial security of Microsoft, Evernote is the winner they have gone above and beyond to involve users in the app’s plans. The CEO himself took the time to address the Evernote community and assured them their feedback was incredibly valuable in helping the Evernote  improve.   Although OneNote has been releasing updates, it cannot beat Evernote’s current pace or its approach of including its community.

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