Microsoft Paves Road to OneNote for Evernote Users

The battle of the note-taking apps is heating up. Microsoft attempts to lure Evernote users over to OneNote with a new data-import tool.

Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft has released a new tool that makes it easier for users of the popular Evernote note-taking app to switch to OneNote.

Once a part of the paid Office productivity software suite, Microsoft spun out OneNote as a free mobile app for iPhone in early 2011. Although OneNote remains part of the Office product portfolio, today it is available as a stand-alone app for Apple iOS, Android, Mac and, of course, Windows. OneNote is also available as a browser-based Web application.

Evernote, meanwhile, emerged as one of the most popular productivity apps for iOS and Android, challenging Microsoft. As of this writing, OneNote and Evernote are practically running neck-and-neck in Apple's App Store, ranking 35th and 39th in the free productivity app category, respectively.

Microsoft's new software tool may help the Redmond, Wash., software giant increase its lead by luring users away from Evernote.

"The OneNote Importer tool (for Windows initially) migrates all of your Evernote content into OneNote, giving you the opportunity to switch to OneNote and have all your notes in one place, on all your devices," Vijay Sharma, senior product manager for Microsoft OneNote, said in a March 11 announcement. "We will deliver the Importer tool for Mac in the coming months."

Microsoft has good reason to try and entice mobile users away from its rivals.

This year, enterprise mobile app adoption is poised to gain critical mass, according to IT market research firm IDC.

Although OneNote is a free app, it integrates with other paid Office products, including Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

The app requires a PC running Windows 7 or above. Microsoft recommends that users have Evernote for Windows installed and configured to access their Evernote accounts to speed up the data migration. Despite the PC-centric process, the notes will then sync to all mobile devices running OneNote.

Although both platforms offer similar functionality, Evernote locks some features behind a paywall, according the OneNote Importer download page. For example, offline access on mobile devices, saving emails as notes requires paid Plus or Premium Evernote subscriptions. Digitizing business cards is available only on Premium plans. Digital inking on a free-form canvas—a mix of text, images, documents and media files—is wholly unsupported on Evernote, claims Microsoft.

Making the economic argument, Sharma notes that for a little more money than it costs to subscribe to Evernote's top plan, users can buy Office 365. "Evernote Premium ($49.99 per year) is more than 70 percent of the cost of Office 365 Personal ($69.99 per year), which includes all the apps you know and love, plus 1TB of storage."

Although they may be competitors, Microsoft and Evernote see eye-to-eye in one respect: data privacy.

On March 3, Evernote joined Microsoft and 13 other influential tech companies, including Amazon and Google, in filing a friend-of-the-court brief backing Apple in the San Bernardino iPhone case. "Requiring Apple to write code that would result in breaking the iPhone's encryption to aid a single investigation may not seem egregious in and of itself, but once done, all iPhones would become vulnerable to exposure," blogged Evernote CEO Chris O'Neill.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...