Productivity War: Evernote vs. OneNote. New World vs. Old

productivity apps

I’m a huge fan of productivity tools and I use different apps to arrange my daily activities, collect information, write down my ongoing thoughts and manage my action items.

When it comes to working with my own teams – I had the chance to test many alternatives like Google Tasks, Asana, Remember the milk, Any.Do, Producteev, Trello, Basecamp, they are all great, some of them are amazing, and yet, I ended up designing my own tool on top of ClickMobile, a product I’m leading at ClickSoftware.
To make a long story short – ClickMobile is a mobile application development platform that allows enterprise organizations to rapidly develop their own mobile apps, with a strong focus on back-end integration, reliable data synchronization, flexible forms, offline capabilities, amazing cross-device support (agnostic, responsive), knowledge collaboration and more. The ClickMobile product is highly optimized for field service use and less for engineering activities, but with all of the flexibility it holds I figured I better be “drinking my own champagne” than using other apps.

And still there’s this thing I needed. My personal notepad. A quick & dirty to-do list. A notebook.  
This little paper replacement you want to carry with you anywhere you go.


From OneNote to EverNote

Before SoMoClo (social mobile cloud), I used to use Microsoft’s OneNote. For many years it was my number one tool for notes taking, managing to-do lists, saving screen captures, arranging my customer visits information, storing my technology notes, code snippets and more.

It was unbeatable.

And then came mobility… and just like that… OneNote was a dead product to me.

The minute I had to synchronize my data between few devices (where few means bigger than 1) it was over. Microsoft, like in many other aspects of mobility, was (understatement ahead:) “slow” to react to my emerging needs, and instead of a powerful sync I ended up facing conflicts, disconnections and data losses.

Then came cloud. Real cloud.

I switched to Evernote.

True, Evernote never had the same richness like OneNote. The notes were limited (at first), and the functionality was basic. But Evernote represents all the amazing things that happened in the software industry in the past 6-7 years: it is (by design) lightning fast, works across all devices (including PC and Mac), completely cloud-based, easy to join, connect, install, and most importantly – Evernote was designed for users like me who constantly switch from one device to another, using phones, tablets, laptops, desktops. Those notes are always in sync.

Evernote and the era of BYOA

For a few years I’ve been a huge fan of Evernote. Promoting this app everywhere I go, not only in terms of the app itself but also due to the underlying platform that is used by a few more apps built on top of it. It’s fascinating to see how such a basic thing like notes taking can evolve into the giant Evernote became.

Evernote is one of the biggest ambassadors of today’s BYOA (bring your own apps) trend which is becoming even more significant than BYOD. When Gartner analysts talk about Shadow IT they talk about the likes of Dropbox, Asana and EverNote. Those products were born as a result of a growing need to have decent consumer-style productivity apps, and today they are quickly penetrating the enterprise because they are easy to use, fun, and cost nothing to implement. This process is fascinating and slowly reshapes the role of IT in those organizations from bringing in new software to accepting software brought by the employees.

In a world of Shadow IT and BYOA, I ended up having all my data managed by cloud-based apps such as Dropbox, Pocket, Feedly and EverNote. Without them I am unable to function. They are all installed on any gadget I come across, be it a new iPad or a Windows Phone.

Microsoft’s Comeback

Recently I gave OneNote another try. After all, Microsoft is making a huge effort to remain relevant in this fascinating SoMoClo game with the releases of, OneDrive and other goodies.
You can feel the difference between older Microsoft tools and the ones that were released in the past 3-4 years. They are changing. Even their annoying error messages are replaced with a friendlier: “something went wrong…”

I decided to give OneNote another (last) try and I must admit I was very impressed.


Microsoft maintained the rich functionality and made the mobile version of OneNote simple to use, cross platform (that iPad app s gorgeous!), well designed, and above all – useful and reliable with regards to data sync between multiple devices.

While Evernote is currently evolving into becoming bigger, stronger, and a bit heavier (first examples can be seen by the latest updates which actually took the UX backward and added complexity) – Microsoft made OneNote simpler, faster, cleaner, nicer…

Surprisingly enough, I’m now back with OneNote. I still have Evernote installed everywhere I go, but it’s mostly for my older stuff. Talk about a twist in the tale…

What’s next?

We are living in a world of mobile, cloud, and IT consumerization. People vote with their feet and employees are people. We want software that is simple to use, easy to learn, and works exactly how we expect it to work.
If the giants can’t provide such software – they will be replaced with others.

There are almost 1 millions apps in Apple’s AppStore. Thousands of them are productivity apps.

Microsoft is making a very interesting move by making tools like OneNote free and available across all devices. Gone are the days where it was enough to support only Windows. Microsoft understands that and is acting more like Evernote by making the software accessible to everyone. Microsoft understands that selling to the IT departments can only be good to some extent, and if we, the end users (and employees) will not like what we see we will simply replace it with something else.

Ask Evernote.