Closing the Gap !

With the latest version, OneNote UWP is much closer than ever to OneNote desktop, in terms of features !

With the recent release of the “new” OneNote for W10 (version 17.8269) AND the numerous improvements brought to this version in the last couple of months, many users wonder which version is now the best, and whether an UWP Office App can actually replace its desktop counterpart.

This question is particularly sensible, because the OneNote development team has clearly stated that their priority is the App version in one hand (and they have been very busy at enhancing it, indeed !), and not a single improvement to the desktop version has surfaced for years on the other hand.

Also, I have been told that whereas most of Office programs are available in the Windows store in their Win32 version, OneNote is only available in its UWP version. This means that users of Office 10 S (or owners of the new Surface Laptop) will have no other choice than OneNote UWP.

Sure, OneNote UWP has evolved so much lately, that one may believe that the desktop version is now useless. Thus I thought it would be interesting to compare both Windows version (OneNote 2016 vs OneNote for W10), having a look at their respective distinctive features.

This benchmark is by no means exhaustive, and since there are additions to the “App” version every day, you should expect that things get out of date rather quickly…

Core Features benchmark
Comparing OneNote for W10 (version 17.8269) with OneNote 2016. Cells coloured shows changes in version 17.8471.
Other features

As you can see in the above table, there is still a significant gap.

But considering that more than 50 improvements / features have been added since August 2015, the gap has narrowed, and feature parity appears within reach (except Office’ specifics).

There are even few exclusive features in OneNote UWP (equation solver and plotter, replay, rainbow ink and researcher) to address specific customers needs (students ?).

Nevertheless, what makes Office programs’ success : namely their tight integration, their customizable interface aimed at demanding users, and the ability to plug new features, through add-ins… are still lagging behind.

One the other hand, what makes the appeal of UWP Apps, namely their simplicity (compare to desktop programs), may be jeopardized : Will all the upcoming improvements further clutter the User Interface (adding too many buttons in the Tab / Ribbon, or options in the contextual menus), and make OneNote for W10 less easy, intuitive or fun to use ?

The comparison below illustrates how the contextual menus of OneNote for W10 may become less effective than their counterpart in OneNote desktop :

Note the icons in OneNote’ desktop” contextual menu, which help to find the right option.

Obviously, besides a strict comparison of features, user interface ergonomic (both in its default mode, and with customization options), day-to-day ease of use, and reliability matters (especially Synchronization, as far as OneNote is concerned !).

Read my comprehensive one week test drive to make your own decision, and feel free to share your thought !




Update : as for “Class Notebook”, I cannot tell if there is a feature parity, since I cannot use it. A comment from a teacher will be appreciated !

Update 1/7/2017 : completed the feature comparison with Shape to form (exclusive to OneNote UWP), and customization of pages (page title, page date & time, page size). Precision on “replacement” text (see this blog post for details).

Researcher is “only” available for English, French, German, Italian & Spanish, in OneNote UWP

Update 5/7/2017 : added “insert new page” on top feature in the customization section : there are not many customization options in OneNote UWP, so this one is worth mentioning !

Update 30/08/2017 : August’ update brings some improvements : it’s now possible to highlight in 40 colours, just like OneNote 2016, and to insert online pictures. Added Equation on the OneNote 2016 side (I forgot it). Added a comparison of a drop down menu (when right clicking on Page) to show that OneNote UWP is no longer neater than OneNote desktop, in some areas.

Update 06/09/2017 : Splitting the large benchmark table into two categories : “core features” and “others”. Also removed the “Notebook password protect”, which I wrongly believed was available in OneNote desktop (nope !).

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