Making sense of the versions of OneNote

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Author:  Colette Fuller, TELT

Did you know that there are multiple versions of OneNote? It’s quite likely you will be using the ‘desktop’ version of OneNote as this includes the most features, but there is a new/alternative option that you might like to try.

This blog post aims to make sense of what’s available on your Surface device and offer a few tips to make things easier if you do start to use a different version.

The first one is the ‘desktop version’ – you can access this on either the university network or a mobile device like a Surface Pro. It’s a well-established app and has been part of Microsoft Office since 2003!

OneNote 2016 is available from the start menu. It displays your list of notebooks down the left-hand side of the screen, section tabs across the top of the page, and individual pages down the right-hand side. It hasn’t had many new updates for a while however it is still the most popular version and many people feel they can’t live without it – me included!

Last year Microsoft announced that Office 2019 was on its way. It was a surprise to hear that as part of the updates to Microsoft Office, OneNote wouldn’t be getting any new features or be updated any further. Instead Microsoft were putting all their efforts into the newer app: OneNote for Windows 10.

OneNote for Windows 10 – Spot the difference?

Can you see a difference between the two OneNote logos? You probably can but you’d have to look quite hard:

The logos are where the obvious similarities stop. The notebooks, sections and pages in OneNote for Windows 10 are located on the left-hand side of the screen:

This is also how OneNote looks in the online version. It can take a little time to get used to the different layout.

If you’d like to try it out, OneNote for Windows 10 can be installed from the Microsoft Store. You will notice some changes immediately, for example, the History and Review menus are missing:

OneNote for Windows 10 isn’t going away. It is here to stay. Microsoft aren’t ‘taking away’ OneNote 2016, it is still available for use until 2025.

However, it is worth exploring OneNote for Windows 10. It might feel completely out of your comfort zone at first, and it does take some getting used to. However, you might be surprised and enjoy some of the new features! Some of my favourite features include:

  • Dictation – Just dictate directly onto your page
  • View all your notes sorted by when you last updated them
  • ClassNotebook is built in and wont require you to continually update
  • Ruler, ink to shape and a customisable ‘pencil case’ are all great features.

This is just a flavour – there’s lots more to explore, and with a host of new features coming our way later this year, it’s exciting times for OneNote!

My tips for getting to grips with OneNote for Windows 10:

  • There’s nothing stopping you using both versions i.e. Old and new.
  • Definitely get your notebooks in the same order on both. You can drag them to reposition them. Choose the newer version as your main app, and try and stick with it! It does get easier!
  • Only go to OneNote 2016 when there is a feature you cant access. The notebooks all sync so you will be able to move between the two easily.

You may be a convert before you know it!

For further reading do have a look at the following pages and OneNote frequently post news and updates via Twitter. It is also well worth checking out the vast range of inclusive features included in OneNote:

The best version of OneNote on Windows – Office 365 Blog

What’s the difference between OneNote and OneNote 2016

OneNote updates for the new year

Learning tools updates for the new year


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