Microsoft kills OneNote for Windows


In an entirely predictable move, Microsoft is dropping the full OneNote desktop program from their lineup.

OneNote 2016 for Windows, the traditional Windows program is being killed.  It’ll be a slow death but it’ll still be dead.

OneNote 2016 for Windows will be supported with security patches until October 2025 but will get no new features.

Instead, users will be expected to use the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app, OneNote for Windows 10, despite shortcomings in the app version.

OneNote desktop vs app

Microsoft has a web page about the differences between OneNote 2016 and OneNote for Windows 10, though most of the page is a promotion of the latter.

Scroll down the page to see their list of features only available in one product or the other.  We copied both lists below from Microsoft.

The illusion of democracy

Microsoft is offering customers the illusion of democracy when it comes to choosing which remaining OneNote desktop features are moved to the OneNote app.

Customers are invited to visit UserVoice to say what OneNote desktop features they want kept in the app.  It’s a chance for users to express their opinion but there’s no guarantee that Microsoft will listen, let alone do anything.  If something is too expensive to develop or goes against Microsoft’s corporate needs, then it won’t be done.

Windows 10 only

Microsoft has deliberately skipped around the big disadvantage of killing OneNote 2016 desktop.

OneNote for Windows app is for Windows 10 only.  If you have Windows 8 or 7, you can’t move to the OneNote app unless you also switch to the latest Windows.

Online only

OneNote 2016 supports notebooks saved only on your computer with no cloud storage.

OneNote apps don’t allow that choice. All notebooks have to be saved to OneDrive, whether you like it or not. That poses a privacy and security concern.

OneNote Notebook Sections can be password protected but many users would prefer to keep their private notes entirely private by keeping them off the Internet.

Microsoft’s lists of Onenote desktop vs app

Below are Microsoft’s lists of features only available in either OneNote desktop program or the OneNote app.

Features currently available only in OneNote 2016

While the new OneNote app is the best experience for Windows users, you might need to continue using OneNote 2016 for the time being if your work or school relies on any of these features:

  • Create Outlook Tasks in your notes
  • Pin your favorite commands to the Quick Access Toolbar
  • Apply a template to pages to maintain a specific look or layout
  • Record video
  • Link your notes to webpages in Internet Explorer and Office files
  • Store notebooks on your local hard drive instead of in the cloud, including backups
  • Support for third-party COM add-ins

Features available only in OneNote for Windows 10

OneNote for Windows 10 has an increasing number of features that are not available in OneNote 2016, including:

  • Move across devices and platforms with ease, thanks to a new look designed for simplicity, consistency, and accessibility on Windows 10, Mac, iOS, Android, and Web
  • Quickly access your notes with a faster and more reliable sync engine (coming soon!)
  • Mark key information and find it later with tags and tag search. Tags you create will now roam with you to any device you have, and OneNote will even show you tags other people have used in a shared notebook (coming soon!)
  • See live previews of Office files in OneNote, work together on attached documents, and save space in your notebooks with cloud files (coming soon!)
  • Easily share notes with any app using the Share button
  • Ensure your notes are more accessible with the improved Accessibility Checker, designed to catch many commonly found issues based on the WCAG standard and user feedback
  • View all your notes sorted by when you last updated them
  • Check the Notification Center to see what’s changed in your open and recent notebooks
  • See who’s working with you in a shared notebook and jump straight to the page they’re on
  • Improve reading comprehension with Immersive Reader
  • Use Researcher to find relevant quotes, citable sources, and images to start your outline
  • Write or type an equation, and OneNote will help you graph or solve it step-by-step with the Ink Math Assistant
  • Customize your favorite pens and sync them across OneNote, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on your Windows PCs and iOS devices
  • Use pencil ink to draw or sketch (requires the free Windows 10 Anniversary Update)
  • Jazz up your notes and annotations with new ink colors like rainbow, galaxy, gold, and more
  • Convert handwritten ink to typed text with retained color and style formatting
  • Got a new Surface Pen? Tilt it to add shading to drawings in OneNote, just like with a real pencil
  • Transform your drawings into shapes automatically
  • Draw straight lines and measure distance on touch screens with the virtual ruler
  • Use your device’s camera to capture documents, whiteboards, receipts, and more right into OneNote
  • Quickly find ribbon and menu commands and related Help content with Tell Me search
  • Replay your handwriting forward and backward to hide and reveal content, to provide step-by-step instructions, or to better understand the flow of others’ thoughts
  • Maximize drawing space by hiding the page list and ribbon
  • Pin your favorite pages to the Start menu for easy access
  • Click the button on a digital pen to open OneNote, even when your device is locked
  • Write on a web page in Microsoft Edge and save your annotations to OneNote
  • Tell Cortana to take a note for you with your voice