Nebo vs OneNote

Editing in Nebo

 

Last update : 14/10/2017

Last summer, MyScript® released its note taking app Nebo for IOS and Windows 10, introducing truly innovative features and intuitive gestures for digital ink.

I readily assessed it and commented on a blog post in French. After almost a year of sporadic use, I updated my original blog post on the occasion of a major software update and made it available in English. Here it is !

My baseline will be OneNote UWP. As you will discover in this review, both softwares have a great deal in common, but also a different approach.

1. Tutorial

Nebo opens on a 8 pages tutorial’ notebook, which gives some clues about its user interface, and its specific note taking’ gestures.

OneNote used to have one, in its desktop version. Not anymore in the UWP version.

1 point for Nebo.

2. OCR

With OneNote, you may write with a keyboard or a digital pencil ; Nebo – on the other hand – is dedicated to digital ink : let’s compare their skills at converting ink :

Nebo recognize your ink while you write, contextually, using a neural network according to the language you have selected.

Nebo recognizes perfectly my writing. Converting with a mere tap-tap on the screen is blowing !

 

Note : the preview may be disabled in settings, if you find it annoying. But, it may be useful to allow you to correct the words, whenever necessary, by selecting the right one proposed by Nebo on the upper line’ suggestion.

 

Nebo’s technology has several benefits : it is able to change the first word of a sentence according to a subsequent word in the sentence. Here is an example :

“I know who you are = Je sais qui tu es” : When “sais” (“know” in English) is written (badly, on purpose for this test), Nebo recognizes “suis” (“am”). As soon as the next word is written (“qui” in French stands for “who”), it corrects the former and changes the “suis” into “sais” which makes more sense in this sentence (“I know who you are”).

 

Also, when you resize a text block, your ink automatically adjusts :

Nebo : adjusts word wrap dynamically

 

On the other hand,  Nebo won’t be able to recognize text within an imported image, or a picture (because it relies on a digital “signal”, not OCR, strictly speaking).

Also, I believe that you could have problems if you were to mix text in several languages within the same note : as mentioned later on this blog post, you need to specify the language you intend to use when you create a notebook (and you can’t change it later on…).

Now, let’s have a look at OneNote :

OneNote recognizes well my writing, but it’s sometimes buggy !

 

The bug captured above was absolutely not intended, but it shows that OneNote’ OCR is sometimes buggy.

1 point for Nebo.

 

3. Text editing

3.1 Correcting

 

With Nebo, everything is intuitive : strike out or scratch, skip a line or remove a word wrap.

Note : You may also erase in Nebo with the eraser of your Surface pen.

 

Editer OneNote.gif
With OneNote, after you erase a word, you have to juggle with the lasso to move around the text, and arrange enough space.

Note : You may also strike out a word in OneNote (desktop only) : simply reactivate this feature in Settings. See my blog post about this feature.

 

1 point for Nebo.

 

3.2 Formatting

Once your ink has been converted into text, you can’t to modify its color (nor its font size) within Nebo. Actually, you have to export it to word to finalize the formatting.

1 point for OneNote.

 

 3.3 Titles, sub-titles…

Nebo : formatting is easy.

 

With Nebo’s specific gestures, you can perform two broad kinds of formatting :

  • Titles : for that purpose, leave an empty line between your title, and the text beneath :
LIRE AUSSI  New in Nebo 1.4

Underline twice will create a top level title

Underline once will create a second level title

  • Format :

Frame will highlight (in yellow) a word or paragraph

Underline will convert in bold.

 

1 point for Nebo.

 

4. Search

Search is no more limited to the current page in Nebo since version 1.6 ; but OneNote is much more efficient as far as Search in concerned.

1 point for OneNote (a decisive one, as far as I am concerned…)

 

5. Diagrams

This is one of the distinguishing features of Nebo : interactive diagrams.

You should really have a look at MyScript®’ amazing demo to understand why it is so powerful.

Diagram (or flowchart) is a most desired feature by OneNote fans :  Nebo provides an excellent example of how digital ink helps creating diagrams with a seamless experience !

1 point for Nebo !

 

6. Maths

Nebo : perfect recognition of equation’ symbols

 

OneNote UWP : ink to Math works well, and offer other options (solving, plotting) when applicable.

 

1 point for OneNote

 

7. Calculation

Nebo also does simple calculation, like OneNote (see my blog post “Math in a napkin”).

This is activated by default, and may be disabled in the following settings  :

Parameters for Maths
Options for Maths blocks

 

Deuce

 

8. Solving

The word “Solving” confused me at first, because I thought I would find an equation solver, as in OneNote for W10 (see this other blog post about it).

Since I was not having much success using “x” as the unknown term, I tried with a “?” :

The result is odd, with x (?) worth 1.167 or 4.75 !!!

 

1 point for OneNote

 

9. Picture & Image

One great advantage of Nebo lies in annotating pictures : even if you resize or move a picture, your annotation will follow the picture.

See the red annotation, sticking to the picture during resizing : cool !

 

1 point for Nebo.

 

10. User interface

 

Nebo' User Interface
The main elements of the User Interface : simple & effective !

 

 

Nebo‘s User Interface is very similar to OneNote for W10’ one :

  • a list of notebook (and/or pages) on the left (collapsible clicking ≡ )
  • a “hamburger” (the   OneNote for W10 used to have) which toggle between the notebook list, and the list of notes (with thumbnail/preview)
  • a “Cancel” and “Revert” button, on the upper right corner
  • two level menu (ribbon and tab)
  • containers (block) : a familiar concept to OneNote users (see this other blog post on this topic), but not limited to text : anything (equation, picture, image, sketch, diagram, and text) fits in a container in Nebo.

A side note on text’ block :

In OneNote, everything fits in a note container, except ink. Notwithstanding this difference, both softwares make use of containers in the same fashion :

Nebo : note the symbol in the upper left corner indicating the nature of the block (text in this case) and the command in the upper right corner (…) with contextual options.

 

Container OneNote
OneNote : a similar concept. The command in the upper edge (…) let you choose among contextual options.

 

 

 

 

 

There is a structural difference though : in Nebo, a notebook is set for a specific language, for example FR-FR for my test notebook, or EN-US for the Tutorial notebook (written in American English) : this is important for the text recognition, and must be specified when you create the notebook.

1 point for Nebo, which uses a familiar UI !

11. Page formatting

 

 

Nebo offer less freedom than in OneNote, where note’ containers may have any size, eventually overlapping, and may be moved anywhere.

Also, Nebo’ pages have fixed width, and unlimited length, and you can’t zoom in/out.

1 point for OneNote

12. Sharing

Once you are done in Nebo, you may export your notes through Word, HTML or “Text” (the latter allowing to share by mail, using Windows 10 Mail App).

Unfortunately, there are many shortcomings :

  • one page at a time can be exported !
  • impossible to export in .pdf format (except in the IPad version) nor print

 

Also, the option “Export to text” will only export text blocks ! This is a pity, because this option uses the share feature of Windows 10, which could be used to export a note to… OneNote !!! (see my other blog post). As soon as Nebo will be able to export more than text (interactive diagrams for instance), this option will be really useful !

1 point for OneNote.

 

Conclusion

As a conclusion, I strongly suggest that you see by yourself : the UI is great, neat and user friendly. Nebo cannot be compared to OneNote, because it focus exclusively on ink (where it makes wonders).

Of course, there are much less features than in OneNote, but Nebo / MyScript® ‘ team deserves credit for having invented some intuitive gestures for digital ink and interactive diagrams.

Nevertheless, I can’t figure out how Nebo could be used as a standalone note-taking app : you need Word to finalise your text, and formatting your document.

 

 

Links :

  • [English] Kurt Söser ‘review 12/8/2016
  • [English] PCworld ‘review 12/8/2016
  • [English] CNET ‘review (great video) 18/8/2016
  • [English] Forbes ‘review 14/11/2016
  • [French] MyScript® Interactive Ink ‘web site, with a great video.
  • [French] Nebo’ web site, also great.
  • [French] MyScript®’ web site with Web démo (you can assess text, equation and shape recognition online… no need to install anything !).  Great site !
  • [French] Nebo tested on iPad, by Cuk.ch 9/9/2016

 

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