onenote vs. notability: which one is better note-taking tool ?

BY Mark Howell18 July 202310 MINS READ
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Have you ever found yourself drowning in a sea of digital notes, frantically searching for that one key piece of information you jotted down weeks ago? We've all been there. It's a frustration that, thanks to innovative tools such as Microsoft's OneNote and Ginger Lab's Notability, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. As more people realize the power of digitized note-taking, the Notability vs OneNote debate is heating up. But which platform truly outshines the other?

The quest to crown the ultimate note-taking tool is akin to choosing between chocolate and vanilla ice cream—both flavors are delicious in their own right, yet, personal preferences will always prevail. It's a similar story with Notability and OneNote, each boasting unique features that can sweeten your note-taking experience based on your individual needs. However, finding the right fit can often feel like a daunting task. Fear not, as we're about to dive deep into a comprehensive comparison to help you make an informed decision. Buckle up!

OneNote: An In-Depth Look

An Overview of OneNote

Imagine being able to store all your thoughts, research, and ideas in one organized place. Picture a digital notebook that allows you to create sections and pages just like a physical binder. That's what OneNote offers. It's a powerhouse of a tool that blends simplicity with rich functionality.

Whether you're a seasoned note-taker or just starting, OneNote offers a user-friendly experience. Its intuitive interface makes it easy to create notebooks for various aspects of your life or projects. From planning your next vacation to organizing your business ideas, OneNote has got you covered.

The Prowess of OneNote's Features

Seamless Integration

One of OneNote's strong suits is its ability to integrate seamlessly with other Microsoft apps. This is incredibly useful for those already living in the Microsoft ecosystem. With a few clicks, you can sync your Outlook calendar, embed Excel spreadsheets, or pull in PowerPoint presentations. Imagine the convenience of accessing your emails, appointments, or financial data within your notes, wouldn't that be a game-changer?

Collaborative Capabilities

Working on a group project? No worries. OneNote allows multiple users to work on the same note simultaneously, making it a valuable asset for team collaborations. Just share your notebook, and your teammates can add their thoughts, making brainstorming a breeze. It's the digital equivalent of gathering around a table with a large piece of paper and everyone jotting down their ideas.

OneNote's Noteworthy Advantages

OneNote's freeform canvas gives users the freedom to type, write, or draw anywhere on the page. This feature, paired with its infinite canvas, accommodates for different types of note-takers. From meticulous organizers to messy scribblers, OneNote caters to all. Plus, with its powerful search functionality, you'll never lose a note again. Type in a keyword, and OneNote will find it, even from hand-written notes. It's like having a personal assistant that never forgets.

Notability: A Closer Examination

Understanding Notability

Enter Notability, a versatile note-taking app that takes a different approach. Whereas OneNote is about broad versatility, Notability shines with its focus on simplicity and ease-of-use. Think of it as a canvas ready to be painted with your thoughts, ideas, and notes, minus the complexity.

Notability may have a more minimalist approach compared to OneNote, but don't let that fool you. Its elegance lies in its simplicity, offering just enough features to make note-taking enjoyable without overwhelming you with options. From digital note-takers to students, to creatives, Notability is a match for anyone craving a straightforward, easy-to-use note-taking experience.

Unpacking Notability's Features

Annotating with Ease

When it comes to note-taking, sometimes typing just doesn't cut it. This is where Notability's annotation features come into play. With a few taps, you can doodle, sketch, or write in your own handwriting. Not to mention, its highlighter tool lets you mark important text with ease. Imagine the possibility of taking notes during a lecture and being able to underline, highlight, or add side notes just as you would on a physical paper.

Seamless Audio Recording

One of Notability's standout features is its audio recording functionality. During a lecture or meeting, hit record, and Notability will sync your notes with the audio. Later, tap on a note, and it will play back what was said at the moment you wrote it. It's like having a rewind button for life's important moments.

The Allure of Notability's Benefits

For those seeking a more traditional note-taking experience, Notability's approach to organizing notes will feel familiar. It employs a hierarchical organization with dividers and subjects, much like traditional binders and folders. Additionally, its easy-to-use interface paired with smooth handwriting and drawing capabilities make Notability a beloved tool for many.

OneNote vs Notability: The Showdown

Comparing User Experience

When it comes to user experience, both OneNote and Notability offer a polished, user-friendly interface. However, their approaches differ. OneNote embraces a more feature-rich environment, providing a plethora of tools and options that cater to a wide range of note-taking styles. You're free to type, write, draw, or clip anywhere on an infinite canvas, making OneNote an excellent choice for brainstormers and creative thinkers.

On the other hand, Notability takes a more minimalist approach. It provides a clean, distraction-free interface that many find more comfortable to navigate. If you're someone who enjoys the feel of writing and sketching out notes, you might appreciate Notability's exceptional handwriting experience.

Analyzing Collaboration Features

In the realm of collaboration, OneNote definitely has an edge. The seamless integration with Microsoft Office suite allows multiple users to edit and collaborate in real-time. If you're often involved in group projects or work in a team, this feature can prove invaluable.

While Notability also allows for note-sharing, it falls short of OneNote's robust collaborative functionalities. However, if you're primarily a solo note-taker, or value the ease of use and annotation capabilities, Notability's simplicity might outweigh OneNote's collaborative edge.

Delving into Organization Capabilities

How these tools organize notes is another crucial aspect to consider. OneNote uses a notebook-tab-page hierarchy for organization, letting you arrange your notes just like a traditional binder. This flexible system works wonders for those who want to categorize their notes meticulously.

Notability, meanwhile, employs a simple, straightforward system of dividers and subjects akin to physical folders and binders. For those who desire a more traditional feel, or find OneNote's system a bit overwhelming, Notability's approach can be more appealing.

The Verdict: OneNote or Notability?

Ultimately, whether OneNote or Notability is the superior tool boils down to your individual needs, preferences, and the context in which you'll be using the app. If you're seeking a free, feature-rich platform with excellent collaboration capabilities, OneNote could be your ideal match.

Conversely, if you're willing to pay for a straightforward, intuitive note-taking app with exceptional annotation and audio recording features, Notability could be your go-to choice.

Remember, the best tool is the one that fits seamlessly into your workflow and enhances your productivity. There's no harm in giving both a shot to see which one works best for you. It's all about exploring and finding the tool that best complements your note-taking style.

To effectively navigate the increasingly digital landscape, tools like Edworking, an all-in-one remote work platform, become indispensable. Edworking offers robust features like task management, file sharing, and an integrated doc creation and collaboration tool modeled after Notion. Its platform fosters productivity and growth, similar to how Notability and OneNote enhance your note-taking efficiency. With Edworking, you can effortlessly manage tasks, collaborate on projects, and enhance team communication—all within a single platform. Embracing such innovative tools will undoubtedly set you up for success in the gig economy.


In a world where productivity is key, having the right note-taking tool can make all the difference. Whether you gravitate towards the comprehensive functionality of OneNote or the simplicity and elegance of Notability, both offer innovative ways to capture and organize your thoughts. It's your personal needs and preferences that will guide you towards the right tool.

Embracing digital tools like OneNote, Notability, or comprehensive platforms like Edworking can significantly enhance productivity, making note-taking, task management, or remote collaboration smoother than ever. So, dive in and explore these digital tools, because the right tool might just be the game-changer you've been looking for!


Can I access OneNote and Notability on all my devices?

Yes, both OneNote and Notability are compatible across multiple platforms. OneNote is available on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, offering a more comprehensive platform compatibility. Notability, on the other hand, is primarily an iOS app, but it has also been made available for macOS.

Are my notes safe and private in OneNote and Notability?

OneNote and Notability both offer robust security measures to ensure the privacy of your notes. OneNote, being a Microsoft product, employs enterprise-level security. Notability uses iCloud for storage, which adheres to Apple's stringent privacy standards. However, it's important to read and understand the privacy policies of each app before use.

Can I import and export notes in OneNote and Notability?

Both OneNote and Notability allow you to import and export notes. OneNote supports a variety of formats including .doc, .pdf, and .one (OneNote's format). Notability, meanwhile, enables users to import documents from cloud storage services and export notes as PDFs, RTFs, or Note files.

Do OneNote and Notability offer handwriting recognition?

OneNote offers robust handwriting recognition, which allows it to search for handwritten notes. Notability also supports handwriting but lacks an inbuilt handwriting recognition feature. However, it compensates for this with superior handwriting experience and neat organization of handwritten notes.

Are there any costs associated with using OneNote and Notability?

OneNote is completely free to use, and all its features are accessible without any charges. Notability, on the other hand, is a paid app. It offers a one-time purchase for iOS and macOS users. So, while OneNote wins on the cost front, Notability could offer value for money with its unique features.

Can I record audio while taking notes in OneNote and Notability?

While both OneNote and Notability allow for audio recording, Notability stands out with its unique audio-sync feature. It allows users to take notes while recording audio, and upon playback, highlights what you were writing at the time of the recording. OneNote allows audio recording but lacks this synchronization feature.

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About the Author: Mark Howell LinkedinMark Howell is a talented content writer for Edworking's blog, consistently producing high-quality articles on a daily basis. As a Sales Representative, he brings a unique perspective to his writing, providing valuable insights and actionable advice for readers in the education industry. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for sharing knowledge, Mark is an indispensable member of the Edworking team. His expertise in task management ensures that he is always on top of his assignments and meets strict deadlines. Furthermore, Mark's skills in project management enable him to collaborate effectively with colleagues, contributing to the team's overall success and growth. As a reliable and diligent professional, Mark Howell continues to elevate Edworking's blog and brand with his well-researched and engaging content.
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