Microsoft OneNote for Smartphones


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Smartphone applications that allow you to take notes and sync them to the cloud are all the rage right now. The latest introduction is Microsoft’s OneNote, which has been announced with a large amount of hype.

The app, however, does not live up to the hype and needs improvements before lawyers should use it.

How it works

The app is currently free for the iPhone (limited time only) and is also available for smartphones that run Windows Mobile. The app is a companion to Microsoft OneNote for your desktop, and OneNote online (available through your SkyDrive).

The app itself works pretty well. You can take notes, add titles to the notes, add checkboxes (and checkmarks), and insert bullet points and pictures. Each note also has a time stamp. You can also organize notes into different notebooks, which is pretty neat.

As a self-contained app for taking notes on a smartphone, I like it.

You may not be able to access your notes on other devices

The upside is that OneNote will sync with your SkyDrive and OneNote for your desktop. OneNote for your desktop, however is only available as part of Microsoft Office.

SkyDrive accounts are free, but there is little utility in being able to access your notes through the web, in my mind. I would much rather use Nebulous Notes, which allows me to stick notes directly into any folder in my Dropbox account.

Even if you want to access your notes through OneNote on your desktop or through your Skydrive, there are issues with the syncing feature. There does not appear to be a push sync (instant sync). Microsoft just says it syncs periodically. You can manually sync your notes, but that is rather annoying.

The other problem I had is that my notes did not all sync. One note only appears on my phone, even after three manual syncs. That is a deal breaker. If it cannot properly sync, the app has little utility.

If Microsoft makes OneNote for desktop available for free and can fix the sync issue, the app is worth checking out. As of right now, however, the sync issue limits the utility of the app.


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  • I keep using mobile me and it keeps failing with a message “unable to sync due to inconsistent data” this is consistent with all the other syncing failure over the years, I’m covinced God is telling us all to just wing it.

  • It makes sense that Microsoft moved this app to the iPhone. Too bad they can’t offer OneNote for free. I think they’re shooting themselves in the foot by selling it, especially considering how late they entered the market of apps for smartphones!

  • I absolutely love OneNote. I used in undergrad and intend to use it for law school, too. As a paralegal, I used it in our office as a trial notebook. The organizational features such as sorting by tabs, etc. make accessing the desired item pretty quick. Its just too bad there seems to be some glitches. Perhaps developers will work out the kinks. Nevertheless, thanks Randall for the insightful posting!

  • I actually liked the app by itself, but the sync issues are a deal breaker for me.

  • Since OneNote isn’t available for Mac, your conclusion seems justified for Mac users. But I’ve been playing with OneNote on today, and it’s pretty sweet note-taking software. I prefer Evernote, but I think OneNote would be a much better option for keeping track of client-related notes.

    So for people who use OneNote, either locally or on, the ability to extend functionality to smartphones is awesome.

    • Regardless of Mac/PC, I would say that failing to sync every note is a big problem.