After releasing its OneNote for iOS, Microsoft has released its note-taking app for Android. Like the iOS version, the Android app is free for the first 500 notes, after which you’ll need to make an in-app purchase for unlimited notes. Where the unlimited iOS app costs $14.99, the Android app costs only $4.99. In addition to the upgrade price, there are a few differences between the two versions, but overall the OneNote for Android is even more limited than the iOS app. Existing OneNote users with Android devices might welcome OneNote to the platform, but they’ll more likely hope future updates deliver added functionality.
Last month, I tested the OneNote iOS app on an iPad 2, and I am using OneNote Mobile for Android on the Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1. For starters, the Android app isn’t as good looking as it is on the iPad. On the iPad in landscape mode, OneNote features an attractive two-panel layout, complete with a spiral notebook theme. In the narrow right panel, you can navigate your various sections and notebooks, with your opened document displayed in the wider left panel. OneNote for Android features a single pane, whether you’re in landscape or portrait mode. Particularly when viewing in landscape, there is a lot of wasted space.
After logging in to your Windows Live account, the home screen displays your notebooks along the left side. The top menu bar lets you drill back up a level from your current view, although sometimes you will need to use the back arrow in the lower-left corner, which can confuse your navigation efforts. Three buttons sit in the right side of the top menu bar: one lets you view your recent documents, one lets you create a new note, and one lets you create a new note by taking a photo.
As with the iOS app, you can create notes, but not a new notebook or a section within a notebook. At least with the iOS app, you could create a note within a specific section or notebook, but with the Android app, all new notes are saved to the Unfiled Notes section of the Personal (Web) notebook. This means you’ll need to use OneNote on your PC or Mac to organize any notes created on your Android tablet.
Perhaps the biggest omission with OneNote for Android is the absence of Search. The iOS app features a basic keyboard search, but even that limited Search functionality is missing here. If you have hundreds of notes saved on OneNote, good luck tracking down an old one. And without support for tagging, you’re really in the woods if you are looking for a specific note and can’t remember where you filed it. Perhaps it is best that all notes created on OneNote for Android are saved to the Personal (Web) notebook.
As with the iOS app, OneNote for Android does not support inking or text formatting. This is a plain text note-taking app. One small feature with the Android app that you don’t get with the iOS app is the ability to create numbered lists. The iOS app supports only checkboxes and bulleted lists, both of which you’ll find here.
The Android app is also better at highlighting text. The iOS app doesn’t let you highlight more than one paragraph of text, but no such limitation is found on the Android app. In fact, there is an option to highlight the entire page. Just double tap on an area of text you’d like to highlight and you’ll be able to drag to green tabs to mark the beginning and end of your highlighted section. Cut, Copy, and Paste buttons along with a Select All button are available along the top of the document when you have a block of text highlighted.
OneNote for Android lets you add photos to notes, but not as elegantly as you can with the iOS app. When you insert a photo to a note, its size is enormous, stretching from one side of the screen to the other. There was no way that I found to resize photos, but if you close out of a note and reopen it, photos shrink to a more manageable and viewable size.
In the end, OneNote for Android’s support for numbered lists and superior highlighting don’t make up for a design that is less attractive and harder to navigate than the the iOS app. Plus, its lack of Search might be a deal breaker. Or at least cause to wait for an update, which one would hope would add such key functionality as Search.
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