On this site every week I try to write about an area of OneNote that highlights the versatility and flexibility of the programme to adapt to the needs of individual users. If you need to take notes, file information, build a field notebook or diary, or manage passwords or recipes, OneNote has got you. Typing or digital inking? It’s all good. Work across devices and need a universal solution that is compatible with your devices? Not a problem. This week I’m taking that to the logical conclusion by highlighting some of the great devices out there currently that you might want to consider to run OneNote.
Across an average day I use Windows at work, Mac at home, iPhone in my pocket, Android and Kindle around the house. OneNote works on them all, and my life is easier for being able to manage my notebooks from wherever I am at the time. I need to reach for a different device if I want to input text by typing, ink a diagram or drawing, snapshot a picture, scan a document or dictate a voice note to text, but it all synchronises across the lot and allows me to leverage the best features of all my devices rather than having to compromise on how I use OneNote.
Maybe you are tied to a PC in the Office but love your iPhone, or your employer dictates it’s Macs and you love your Chromebook at home. Whatever the case, OneNote will work across them. Let’s take a look at some of the features you can access by considering the devices available.
Windows is the native home of OneNote, so it makes sense that it is most integrated into this platform. OneNote on windows is seamless experience, with notifications optionally as part of the windows notifications, and the sync performing most consistently and
Laptop: Apple MacBook Air
The One Note adaptation to MacOS matches the layout of the windows10 version of OneNote. In this way it remains almost as fully featured, but currently without the latest layout of sections and section groups. This cross platform sync allows you to live in OneNote on Mac or share your notebooks across the two platforms. You also benefit from the multi-touch gestures of MacOS and what many prefer in the Mac user interface. Using both daily I have to say there are times when I find the more minimal look of OneNote on MacOS easier to work with.
Of the Macs available, I think the MacbBook Air is an excellent price point compared to the Pro if you need a reliable laptop experience without the jump in price, that can still be a daily workhorse. Unless you need the big graphics and memory power to edit large video , the MacBook Air is ideal.
Desktop: Apple Mac Mini
As above, OneNote on Mac is delightful, if with a MacOS makeover. If you need a desktop I can’t recommend enough you look at the Mac Mini. I have the M1 and it serves admirably for everything from writing to video editing. Mine runs a pair of 4k monitors for me and this allows me to chose outside the Apple hardware for value, but on the OS I love. The newer M2 is more than powerful enough for most people’s use. OneNote on this setup is a dream, as I can keep notebooks fullscreen with menus open to navigate easily, or dock a smaller notebook area to the side of a screen using the Tiles app to simplify that process.
Tablet: Microsoft Surface
Right now I think it is hard to beat the quality of Microsoft’s own surface range for a portable Windows device. Their surface pro is comparably spec’d to a solid laptop, and the surface Go takes the size down enough to be a comparable price to iPad. The ability to connect a keyboard on the go, as well as the touch screen and digital inking via Surface Pen makes this a great choice for note taking via keyboard or written notes straight into OneNote. I find this ideal for work meetings as I can wirelessly project via the Microsoft Display Adaptor to any screen with HDMI, and then annotate notes and draw diagrams within the meetings. The surface pen also works as a PowerPoint advancer – a nice touch.
The iPad really is still the iconic tablet device for good reason. I love my Microsoft Surface for many things, but the instant on nature of iPad coupled with the iPadOS itself is more beautiful to use than anything else I’ve found. If you make it your main workhorse device then an iPad pro is worth considering, but again for general browsing, shopping, watching and reading the standard iPad is very capable and much more cost effective. I love eh flexibility with OneNote here. I can sit on the settee in the evening, and use the Apple Pencil to handwrite ideas and notes, sketch and mind map without it feeling like a chore, and if I really want to type beyond the onscreen keyboard, I can get out my Logitech Keyboard case (much better value than the Apple keyboard for iPad) and have a near laptop experience as well. If I’m going away for a weekend, it’s a tough choice between my iPad and my Surface Go, as the features and form factor are now so similar.
OneNote is also available on Kindle Fire. I can’t say I’d buy one for that, but as with other platforms, it is great that when I’m using a device for its primarily design purpose (as in reading) I can copy and paste, screenshot and annotate from what I am reading into the OneNote app to sync back to my primary OneNote devices.
Smartphones (Android & iOS)
OneNote on your smartphone is incredible now. I always chose a higher storage version when choosing my phone so that I can synchronise a good number of notebooks to it without worrying about storage. It is very reassuring to know I have my family, finance, domestic, work and any other notebooks I need wherever I am, and that I can get to that data even when out of range as it will be stored locally. The quality of camera and microphone in modern smartphones means that I can take snapshots, scans and screen grabs straight into OneNote using that higher spec facility. When I couple this with the quick notes tool I find the functionality of OneNote in my daily life is greatly improved by using the OneNote app for mobile. For me this is an iPhone, but for my family who aren’t so Apple obsessed, I have found Google’s Pixel Series to be an excellent Apple equivalent.
Interactive Whiteboards (e.g., Microsoft Surface Hub)
OneNote is made for collaboration, be that synched between personal devices or on a big screen. Business tools like the Microsoft Surface Hub are an amazing way to experience OneNote. If you have never used one I encourage you to find an example and try it out. Akin to a giant surface Pro, the Surface hub allow multiple users to annotate and contribute at the same time, including from other locations via the built in PC running a Hub specific Teams call version. The Surface hub takes the digital whiteboard idea to a new level to make it the medium for virtual and physical team meetings. Not a cheap solution, but once you have used it you may well decide its simplicity to work on makes it worth consideration.
The OneNote browser version is a great alternative to installing the app on your device. It works in any modern browser and allows you to access your notebooks when logged into a device you do not regularly use, or a small capacity device where you don’t want to use space caching the notebooks locally. Well worth opening this version and seeing just how much functionality the browser app gives you.
View the OneNote App Page on Microsoft.com
Making Your Choice
Ultimately, choosing the right device is a very personal decision as no two people use OneNote quite the same way across their life, work and hobbies. Above I have outlined the current great choices available, and how OneNote works across them all. I find a range of tools allow me to use OneNote wherever I am and without delaying and losing ideas. I look forward to seeing what you think are the great options in the comments.