IPad is a handy note-taking tool for the classroom and boardroom. And while Apple’s own Notes app is more than equipped to handle any text you may send it, it lacks some revolutionary features to keep you coming back.
The last company I expected to brag 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 much better than the Notes app 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 is something intimate about seeing your own handwriting on a piece of paper, or in this case, a screen.
With OneNote for iPad, you can take notes or circle and highlight important information, just like you would on a piece of paper. With options to change the type and color of the marker, you can get as many notes as you want. Not to mention, the doodles you inevitably end up drawing in the margins will look better than ever.
All jokes aside, the ability to take notes without pressing a keyboard is a valuable feature that OneNote excels at. The iPhone version of OneNote doesn’t have this feature, but it makes sense given the small screen size, you wouldn’t really be able to see what you’re writing with your hand.
Everything is searchable
The Notes app offers a search box to find information hidden in a document, just like OneNote. But where OneNote beats Notes is that a search also sorts your handwritten notes, thanks to handwriting recognition.
The only downside is that you need to have a data connection on your iOS device for OneNote to do its magic to decipher your handwriting. As long as you have a data connection, your notes are fully searchable within minutes.
It even supports chicken stripes – I have horrible calligraphy and OneNote was able to easily identify my handwriting after processing my notes.
You can add documents, files and images
OneNote doesn’t stick to the proven single-line text format. If you want to put a bulleted list in the middle of your screen, with a photo next to it, go for it.
Additionally, you can add photos and attachments from external sources like OneDrive, Dropbox, and even iCloud Drive. These attachments are then part of the page, with the potential to be manipulated and used however you see fit.
While we would all like to use Apple products exclusively, this is not always possible. With OneNote, no matter what platform you use, your notes are there.
Using your Microsoft account, OneNote will sync your notebooks and pages in the cloud, regardless of what platform you are using. And OneNote is on everyone: 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 directly from OneNote.
Organize everything in notebooks
Instead of forcing you to manage an endless list of documents like Notes does, OneNote offers 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 the content within a category. This makes it even easier to sift through and sort.
It’s just better
Microsoft has done a tremendous job bringing OneNote to Apple products (among others). With frequent updates and feature additions, its clear OneNote has the advantage of Apple’s Notes. The five features named above only scratch the surface of OneNote’s comprehensive capabilities.
For example, the Mac application recently acquired the ability to record voice notes. Hopefully this feature will be integrated into OneNote for iOS soon.
While there is something to be said for the simplistic approach Apple has taken with Notes, sometimes it’s just not enough.