OneNote for Windows has a better future after some reverse-course announcements from Microsoft. OneNote desktop program gets extended life and a promotion. The desktop and app versions merging into a single codebase. We’ll also explain the strange case of two OneNote for Windows.
The announcements amount to a 180° reversal of past poor, short-sighted management decisions. These recent changes are very welcome, but should not have been necessary. Microsoft is putting a gloss over it, boasting “On being customer obsessed’ as if that’s something new or worthy of praise. Shouldn’t all businesses be focused on customers?
The future of OneNote for Windows still isn’t entirely clear, but it seems that the full featured desktop version is back! It’s even got a new feature, albeit just the Dark Mode already in other Office programs.
OneNote for Windows until 2023
Back in April 2018 Microsoft announced the end of OneNote 2016 for Windows, the desktop app. The program would get no new features, only security fixes
Now Microsoft is back-pedalling on that.
Mainstream support is now available until 10 October 2023. Extended support continues for another two years. Microsoft says this aligns with Office 2019 support dates, but doesn’t mention that Office 2019 support was deliberately shortened to 7 years from the supposedly ‘fixed’ 10 year support policy.
More importantly, OneNote 2016 is back in the mainstream product bundles. From March 2020, it will be included in downloads of desktop programs for Office 365 and Office 2019.
It’s in keeping with last year’s decision by Microsoft to sideline Word, Excel and PowerPoint UWP apps in favour of the full featured Office desktop programs we’ve been using for years.
OneNote confusion continues
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean Windows desktop program will be the main OneNote platform.
A Microsoft Product Manager says “There will still be a Desktop and separate Windows 10 app”. Why have two different programs for the same platform?
Most likely Microsoft is unwilling to publicly admit that their Modern app strategy has failed. Instead of admitting what’s obvious to their customers, Redmond pretends the apps are OK while taking another development path.
It’s a shame OneNote fans can’t get a firm commitment from Microsoft to provide a full featured OneNote program that runs on Microsoft’s own operating system.
Merging code bases
At the Ignite conference, Microsoft announced that the OneNote desktop and Windows app versions would be retooled to work from a common codebase. The Windows desktop program will be merged with the main OneNote codebase for Windows app, Apple and Android.
That’s important because it suggests that however OneNote for Windows develops, it should be fully featured desktop program not a regression to a lesser state.
Whenever Microsoft boasts about merging or common codebases, it begs the question “Why were they split in the first place?”. The answer is inevitably a short-sighted decision to meet immediate needs rather than the medium or long term expectations of customers.
As any developer knows, saying you’ll merge divergent code is easy to announce but a lot harder to do.
Watch this space ….
Two OneNote for Windows
A quick review for those of us who don’t live or die by the various incarnations of OneNote. It’s been messy ….
OneNote for Windows
Originally there was OneNote for Windows. A traditional Windows program that eventually was included with Office suites.
The most recent version is OneNote 2016, shown here with the new Dark Mode.
There’s no ‘OneNote 2019’ or even ‘OneNote 365’, at least not so far. Microsoft lists OneNote in Office 2019 and Office 365 bundles, but it’s really OneNote 2016 for Windows. That’s a bit cheeky because OneNote 2016 is available free here.
OneNote 2016 is the most fully featured version of OneNote. Like Word, Excel and PowerPoint desktop apps, OneNote desktop was the ‘best of breed’ compared to other incarnations like Windows App, Mac, Apple, Android or web.
One major advantage of OneNote 2016 was the ability to save notebooks locally.
OneNote 2016 runs on Windows 10, 8 and 7.
This is the ‘OneNote’ that’s being brought back from the grave.
OneNote app for Windows 10
OneNote app is the ‘modern’ or UWP app that’s available from the Microsoft Store. It only runs on Windows 10 and forces all notebooks to cloud storage.
It has a lot less features than OneNote 2016 for Windows.
When Microsoft announced the eventual end of OneNote 2016 desktop, they said the app version would get some features from the desktop version. Few customers believed them and there was no noticeable improvement in the OneNote app over the next 18 months.
That’s where OneNote customers stood until a few days ago.
- A full featured OneNote desktop program but with no new development and a ‘definite’ close date.
- Or an app with less features and limited to Windows 10 users.