Nothing beats the freedom of paper when it comes to taking notes. Well, for a Mac user that was. Which is why the release of OneNote on the Mac App Store today is so exciting. After 10 years of Windows exclusivity, the Microsoft notebook app is now available for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Windows Phone. And did I mention it’s free?
A OneNote notebook is basically a blank canvas. Unlike traditional word processors, a page in OneNote is like a piece of paper. You can write anywhere or everywhere, rather than in some restrictive slab of text, and it doesn’t limit you to any page size. Think of it like a blank webpage. You can choose what goes where, how it looks, and then save it all to the cloud. The app also offers some super-useful ways to organise these pages into Tabs and also Subpages, creating a truly digital notebook experience. And as well as that, it’s also very happy to boast it’s to-do list function, which is especially cool. For me, I’m excited by OneNote because it’s the digital mind-map I’ve always wanted.
Visually, the app is similar to the Windows version of OneNote, even including the ribbon interface and a Metro-UI styled icon. Windows users will also get the app free today, meaning the service is now a true competitor to other note-taking software with phone apps, tablet apps, and now free desktop apps. Some features will be more limited, including no SharePoint support, version history, and Outlook integration, but Microsoft will likely introduce a premium option in the future, possibly even to Office 365 subscribers as part of Office.
Alongside the release of the Mac app, Microsoft also announced new APIs for OneNote, bringing it further in-line with Evernote. Launching with Microsoft’s own Web Clipper, an extension for Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, as well as the ability to email a link to your notebook, they’re taking the battle seriously. Feedly, IFTTT, News360, Weave, JotNot, and Genius Scan are already on-board as partners too, as well as printer manufacturers Brother and Epson.
And to round out the OneNote news, Microsoft is also launching a Windows Phone app called Office Lens, which will let you take a photo of a document, business card, or even a whiteboard, and send it directly to OneNote. They’re also going to include OCR recognition, attempting to convert some of these images into raw text.
As a person not usually interested by Microsoft’s approach to technology, OneNote really does excite me. It’s an app that’s so simple, and yet nobody else is doing it. Hopefully we hear more info on Office for Mac 2014, which is also coming this year.