Hands-on with Microsoft’s OneNote for OS X


Credit: Microsoft

About a year ago, I wrote about OneNote for iOS when it was released. In my review, I mentioned there was still no OS X client. Finally, that is no longer the case.

Microsoft has finally released OneNote for OS X. I’ve really been looking forward to this, so read on for my thoughts after the first day of use.

How I took notes before OneNote

I loved OneNote for iOS, but because I use my Mac at work for taking notes and the OneNote website was blocked at work, using OneNote’s web app wasn’t a feasible solution for me. Evernote has fallen out of favor for me on the Mac since the method I used to take outline notes wasn’t working in Evernote. So, I ended up just using Pages.

This still wasn’t an ideal solution since Pages’ handling of outlined notes is only marginally better than Evernote. Having my notes in the Cloud was very important to me, and Pages let me get my notes on my Mac and iPad. I just kept a separate document for each project I’m on. I was getting disillusioned though, and actually was recently thinking of trying OmniOutliner. This was because using Pages just felt a kludge, and I found previous versions of Pages to be a little better at dealing with indented notes.

How I actually take the notes is pretty simple. I have one file per project, and then just a header for the date the meeting occurs and the purpose of the meeting. Very few of my notes do not originate in a meeting. For action items, I had a piece of shorthand that any sentence beginning with “***” meant it was an action item. It was very clumsy, but got the job done.

crump-Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 7.02.06 PM

OneNote to the rescue

Last week, when the rumors of OneNotes’ imminent arrival started to break, I was skeptical. It seems we are often treated with rumors of Microsoft releasing this or that and I’ve given up on getting excited. On Monday, the day finally arrived and I eagerly tore off the wrapping, err, downloaded the app.

My first impressions weren’t exactly favorable. It took a long time to load — long enough I thought it had crashed. It eventually loaded, but it still takes a bit to load on my 2011 15″ MacBook Pro running 10.9.2. Once it loaded, I signed in with my Microsoft account and got access to my notes from a year ago. The good news is, I found some notes I had forgotten about, but were relevant to a project I’m working on now. There is no bad news.

What I was very happy with was how quickly OneNote felt comfortable for me to use. I finally had a central repository for notes, and instead of needing to create separate documents for each project’s notes, I could just add a page to the Work notebook. That way, I could quickly hop between different projects.

Monday was a day that was full of meetings for me and OneNote did a great job of helping me take my notes. What I loved was the integration between the Mac and iOS versions. If I had the same note open on two devices, it updated them both without any sync errors or drama. This was great news since I often take photos of whiteboards with my iPhone. Now, I can just open up the note on my iPhone, snap the picture, and it will show up on my Mac screen in a few seconds.

Another thing I like is how easy it is to create to-do items within the note. That will eliminate the need for my shorthand action items flag.

crump-Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 7.24.25 PM

How I will use OneNote going forward

I have no problems using OneNote for my long-form notes. While Microsoft has released a clipper for browsers, I probably won’t use it. I don’t generally gather information from the web into my notes. When I was in school taking notes for papers, I would have used the clipper so I’m glad it’s there.

If you need to take a lot of notes on your Mac, OneNote is a great tool. Best of all, it’s free.



My issue with OneNote for Mac is that I cannot specify (like I can do on my PC) on which folder my files are stored. On my PC I have save my OneNote notebooks on Dropbox – but now can’t access them. Outline works better than OneNote at the moment. Hope this will be improved.


My office is Window 8, so edit on OneNote is a breeze. And I carry around my IOS devices with no updating from what I do. My OSX is in my resident, so when ever anything come to mind, I start editing.
Only thing when I wish to update my schedule which I’m using Excel Schedule Planner. I can’t edit on my OSX or either on my OneDrive. So somehow is not to perfection yet.


You also can’t send documents to OneNote for Mac. If you use the “me@onenote.com” it includes it as an attachment to a note…but guess what…OneNote can’t open it on a Mac.

If this is what Office for iPad will be like, M$ will have a disaster on their hands..


I had heard many great things about One Note, but since I am an exclusive MAC user, I couldn’t try it out, so I was glad to see it come out for both IOS and Mavericks BUT!

I don’t have any kind of Windows accounts. I tried to sign in, but it doesn’t allow you to register via the app. You have to already have an account through a Windows-based program.

How do I get signed it without one?


This is a ‘mini-version’. The list of sections that appears on the left in Windows, now is just a long line of tabs across the top. You have to scroll left and right… very poor navigation in a large notebook. You can not delete notebooks. The ‘move’ option is missing so you can not rearrange things or move sections to different books. You are restricted to using OneDrive for syncing – cannot use notebooks stored in a DropBox folder. All in all, the work-alikes are more compatible at this stage of development.


This first release is a dumbed-down version. The list of sections is a long row of tabs across the top that you have to scroll. You cannot move things – the move command is not there. You can create notebooks but you cannot delete them. You MUST use OneDrive to keep things in sync – the option of using DropBox is not workable. They hopefully will improve this in the next release but it is more limited than the Mac work-a-likes (Outline+ and others).

Rann Xeroxx

I use both Windows and OSX and although I am not a defender of the ribbon, I would not tout the OSX UI as some sorta gold standard. Finder alone is rather bad.

Shawn Joseph

I used OneNote for years on Windows, but when I moved to Mac several years ago I was forced to move to Evernote. Now that OneNote is finally available for the Mac (I really didn’t think that would EVER happen) I’m seriously considering moving back. I’ve always liked being able to click anywhere on the page and begin typing.

Comments are closed.