Sim­plenote vs OneNote: Which Note-Tak­ing App Is Bet­ter for You

Gaurav Bidasaria

Microsoft OneNote is one of the oldest note-taking apps. Most of us grew up using Windows, and OneNote was the obvious choice. It comes packed with several useful features. At times you are just looking for a simple note-taking app to jot down your thoughts quickly. Simplenote also offers that and more.

Simplenote vs One Note

1. User Interface

Simplenote comes with a clean UI where you won't even see a toolbar at the top. Simplenote doesn't need a formatting toolbar as it supports markdown syntax. There is just a sidebar where you can view all your notes and a search bar at the top. There are a few options on the right to manage the note in question.

Simplenote vs One Note 1

OneNote UI, on the other hand, is a little busy but still pretty easy to use. There are a lot of formatting options that we will explore below. OneNote follows a hierarchy system where you can create notes under sections which are then saved under NoteBooks. Just like a physical diary.

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Both apps allow hiding the sidebar to provide a distraction-free writing experience.

2. Where Simplenote Shines

Simplenote is light, quick, and easy to use. A fast way to do a braindump or write an entire essay using markdown. It's clutter-free and a boon for writers who like working with markdown syntax.

Simplenote vs One Note 3

You can format anyway and everything in Simplenote as you do in OneNote. The only difference is how it is done.

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Just hit the preview button to see the result in real-time. Enabling the dark mode with the sidebar hidden under Focus Mode helps in the writing process.

Simplenote was designed with a clear purpose, objective, and audience in mind — it succeeds at achieving it beautifully.

3. Where OneNote Shines

OneNote takes a different approach. There is a full-fledged toolbar where you can format text, create tables, manage fonts, and a lot more. It has its perks. Like you can highlight text in different colors or choose from several icons/tags to denote importance instead of just using a checkbox as in Simplenote.

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OneNote can record notes in different formats like text, audio, images, and handwriting and drawing. There are separate toolbars with even more options for drawing.

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OneNote will solve simple and complex mathematical equations for you automatically. Just input the formula with numbers in the correct format and press = to get results. There is a dedicated Equation menu with complex formulas ready to use.

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OneNote is versatile, and that's why it is popular among note-takers who simply want more from their note app.

4. What Else They Have to Offer

Both Simplenote and OneNote support distraction-free writing and dark mode. Simplenote has a History button where you can view older versions of note and restore the same if need be.

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OneNote has a Recent edits tab where you can view notes that were recently edited by you or team/family members. You cannot restore an older version of note in OneNote though.

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While OneNote has a better note management system using notebooks, sections, and tags, Simplenote only offers tags. Both have a powerful search function. OneNote integrates deeply with other Microsoft apps. You can create/edit sticky notes on OneNote mobile app and work with it on the Windows 10 desktop standalone app. There are plans to integrate Teams and To-Do app in 2020. There is no support for third-party apps on either.

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You can even translate entire pages or notes inside OneNote with the click of a button.

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Finally, you can share and collaborate on notes in both OneNote and Simplenote.

5. Platform and Pricing

Simplenote is open-source and completely free with no ads or strings attached. It is available on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. There is also a web app.

OneNote is available on all four platforms except Linux right now. It comes in two flavors right now, and they are both free. The Office 365 subscription offers a Researcher feature for OneNote that will let you search Bing for quotes, references, and other materials right inside OneNote.

Simplicity vs. Versatility

The choice between Simplenote and OneNote is that of simplicity and versatility. Whether you want a quick and easy way to write and take notes or be creative and take notes in a variety of formats with plenty of options. There is a note-taking app for everyone out there. Test drive both and pick the one that suits you best.

Next up: Impressed with just how much OneNote can do? Check out this in-depth comparison between OneNote and Notion to learn how much more Notion can handle for you.


The above article may contain affiliate links which help support Guiding Tech. However, it does not affect our editorial integrity. The content remains unbiased and authentic.

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A C.A. by profession and a tech enthusiast by passion, Gaurav loves tinkering with new tech and gadgets. He used to build WordPress websites but gave it all up to develop little iOS games instead. Finally, he dropped out of college in the final year. He has over 5 years of experience as a writer covering Android, iOS, and Windows platforms and writes how-to guides, comparisons, listicles, and explainers for B2B and B2C apps and services. He currently divides his time between Guiding Tech and Tech Wiser.