Thursday, November 7, 2013

Paperless - Evernote or OneNote?

Having decided to move to paperless genealogical research, I’m trying to choose between the two main note-taking programs, Evernote and OneNote. Since I don’t know how to use either of them, I’m having lots of trouble deciding.  So I had to figure out just what I want to do with the program. Basically, I want to duplicate my existing paper and notebook method. I want a place to store bits of information and notes that I’m not yet ready to input into my family tree software. I want a holding place where I can analyze the data I’ve collected. I’ve been using Clooz to organize my documents and link them to my people, but I haven’t yet been able to find a method that works for me for analyzing the documents and writing down my ideas and thoughts about each document or potential research avenue.
So what do I want in a note-taking/notebook system?
  • Easy to learn and use
  • Good organization
  • portable - an app for my iPad
  • Searchable notes
  • Not too expensive

Evernote can sync across many devices, and the app seems to function almost fully like the desktop version. It also has a great add-on web-clipping tool for desktop that will automatically save items I clip from the web to Evernote. It has three levels of organization: stacks of notebooks, individual notebooks, and notes. Evernote relies on a tagging system for searching and there seems to be an unlimited amount of tags one can create. The program is free to use across all platforms, however if I want extra features like more storage and no ads, the cost is $45 per year.
OneNote is organized like a virtual notebook.  Each notebook can have a section, which can be divided into subsections, and then into pages. Hyperlinking notes to other notes, webpages, or notebooks are a nice feature. I don’t see a web-clipper, but digital images and audio files can be dragged into the notebook. OneNote also employs tags for easy searching, but supposedly has an instant search feature. Notes are automatically saved as I type and syncs to all devices if I sign in to SkyDrive. The app is free, but I learned that after 500 notes, you must pay $15 for the iPad version, which has limited functioning. OneNote 2013 is reasonably priced at $69.99 for standalone or it is included in the Microsoft Office Suite bundles.
I think the choice depends on style rather than features. I’m leaning toward OneNote because it mimics my own style of organization a little bit better. What do you think? Which program do you use and why? I’d love to hear how you use either program for genealogy.


  1. OneNote does have Screen Clipping - on OneNote, see the 'insert tab' - this allows you to capture the current online page (the last one you looked at) and pastes it in your OneNote; it also includes source information.
    Hopefully this helps.

    Carolyn Pointer of has done both Evernote and OneNote web tutorials that may help in making your decision.

    Welcome to blogging; I look forward to seeing more from you.

  2. Thank you for letting me know. After playing around with OneNote, I did find the screen capture--such a great tool! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Welcome Geneabloggers. I use OneNote and find it much closer to how I would actually organize paper notebooks. I just could not get used to Evernote. OneNote did give me fits with keeping synced using skydrive but I found another App called Outline + that works a lot better. It costs but i've found it worth it - something you may want to check out.

  4. Thanks for the tip, Christopher. I, too, found OneNote closer to my own organization style. I'll check out Outline+. Thanks for stopping by my blog.