OneNote Mobile vs. OneNote Mobile (Video)


Microsoft has made OneNote mobile clients available for both Apple’s iOS and of course it’s built into Windows Phone 7. There were also versions for Windows Mobile 6.x, but today we’ll just look at the iOS and Windows Phone 7 versions.

First off let’s look at the initial opening and organizing experience. After you sign in with your Windows Live ID, OneNote on iOS goes straight to your list of notebooks that already exist in your Live ID’s SkyDrive account. You can easily sync these to SkyDrive from your full OneNote 2010 Windows software or via the OneNote Web App. You can tap on a notebook and it will open all of the subsections and you can easily drill down to each note. There’s also always a “Quick note” button at the bottom as well as a quick note camera button. I like that there’s an easy way to see which notes you’ve recently opened. Deleting notes is a bit hidden. You have to slide your finger horizontally to reveal a delete button. You can’t rearrange the notes or reorganize them from here though.

Now on Windows Phone 7, since your phone is already associated with your Live ID, you would expect all of your SkyDrive synced OneNote notebooks to just appear in OneNote Mobile automatically. Unfortunately that’s not the case. You only get a default “Personal (Web)” notebook appearing at first. When you get to the “All” button in the Notebooks tab it will let you sync that one notebook to your Live SkyDrive account, but that’s it. In order to get your other OneNote notebooks to sync, it’s a similar process to what you have to do with OneNote on the desktop. You have to use your web browser to go into SkyDrive and then navigate to each OneNote notebook you’ve got up there, and tap the icon to initiate a download and set up the sync. After you do that, it all works great, and the advantage to that is that maybe you only want certain notebooks syncing to your device.

Next, let’s look at how synced notes compare. First up, I’ve created a test note on my Windows 7 Tablet PC. It’s got some embedded files, ink, a table, lists, to-do checkboxes, a video note, an audio note, a screen clipping, etc.

Now when that’s synced to Windows Phone 7, what happens? You’ve got the file attachments synced. The OneNote internal link doesn’t work, but the web link does. You’ve got tables, but no to-do checkboxes. The ink handwriting doesn’t come through, but video and audio notes do work. In terms of editing, we can add a picture, record a voice note, create numeric or bulleted lists, and type text.

On the iOS version of OneNote mobile we see quite a different story. No embedded files, no table… You do get checkboxes for task lists though! The numbered list doesn’t work, but bullets do. Hyperlinks, ink, video/audio notes all don’t work. Pictures do show, but equations and shape drawings don’t. In terms of editing, you can create bullet lists, checkboxes, insert pictures, and edit text.

We’re not sure why Microsoft is making different mobile apps of the same name so inconsistent in their feature sets and design, but feel free to sound off in the comments and let us know which one you think is better.

If you like this comparison, also check out Bing Mobile vs. Bing Mobile.

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for since they first appeared on the market in 2002. Read more about Adam Lein!