The iPad is a convenient note-taking tool for the classroom and boardroom alike. And while Apple’s own Notes app is more than equipped to handle any text you can throw at it, it lacks any breakthrough features to keep you coming back.
The last company I ever expected to boast about having a better iOS app than Apple is Microsoft, but that’s exactly what I’m about to do. Microsoft’s OneNote app is vastly better than the Notes app that comes installed on your iPhone and iPad. There, I said it.
How is it better? Glad you asked.
All it takes is a finger (or stylus)
There’s something intimate about seeing your own handwriting on a piece of paper, or in this case, a screen.
With OneNote for iPad, you can jot down notes, or circle and highlight important bits of information, as you would on a piece of paper. With options to change the marker type and color, you can get as fancy with notes as you’d like. Not to mention, the doodles you inevitably end up drawing in the margins will look better than ever.
All jokes aside, the ability to jot down notes without tapping away on a keyboard is a valuable feature OneNote excels at. The iPhone version of OneNote lacks this feature, but that makes sense given the smaller screen size—you wouldn’t really be able to see what you’re writing with your hand in the way.
It’s all searchable
The Notes app offers a search field to find information tucked away into a document, as does OneNote. But where OneNote pulls ahead of Notes is that a search also sorts through your handwritten notes, thanks to handwriting recognition.
The only downside is you need to have a data connection on your iOS device in order for OneNote to do its magic of deciphering your handwriting. So long as you have a data connection, your notes are fully searchable within a few minutes.
It even supports chicken scratches—I have horrible penmanship, and OneNote was able to easily identify my writing after my notes were processed.
You can add documents, files, and pictures
OneNote doesn’t stick to the tried and true single line format of text. If you want to place a bullet point list in the middle of your screen, with a photo next to it, go right ahead.
Additionally, you can add photos and attachments from outside sources such as OneDrive, Dropbox, and even iCloud Drive. Those attachments then become part of the page, with the potential to be manipulated and used as you see fit.
While we would all love to exclusively use Apple products, it’s not always possible. With OneNote, it doesn’t matter what platform you find yourself using, your notes are there.
Using your Microsoft account, OneNote will sync your notebooks and pages across the cloud regardless of the platform your using. And OneNote is on all of them: Android, Windows, OS X, Chrome, Kindle tablets, and the web.
When you want to share a page, you can either share a link or export it as a PDF and email it from directly within OneNote.
Organize everything in notebooks
Instead of forcing you to manage a neverending list of documents, as Notes does, OneNote provides the option to create notebooks. For example, you can have one for work, school, your personal life, and maybe even a daydream notebook.
You can then add pages to each notebook, further organizing content within a category. This makes it even easier to sift and sort through.
It’s just better
Microsoft has done a tremendous job with bringing OneNote to Apple products (amongst others). With frequent updates and feature additions, its clear OneNote has the advantage of Apple’s Notes. The five features named above only begin to scratch the surface of OneNote’s full capabilities.
For example, the Mac app recently gained the ability to record voice notes—hopefully we’ll see that feature brought to OneNote for iOS soon.
While there’s something to be said about the simplistic approach Apple has taken with Notes, sometimes it’s just not enough.
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Based in beautiful Colorado, Jason Cipriani is a freelance writer who contributes to, Greenbot, IGN, TechRadar, ZDNet and CNET.