Common Sense Review
Updated July 2016

Microsoft OneNote

Mobile version of a note-taking giant, now built for flexible, collaborative work
Common Sense Rating 3
  • Create, edit, and organize notes into visually attractive notebooks.
  • Syncs with users' Microsoft accounts across devices.
  • Users can easily search notes for words and phrases.
  • Insert photos, hyperlinks, and tables into notes.
  • Tag content within notes to mark important information.
  • Navigation options offer three ways to access the same information, some of which can’t be edited.
Mobile app takes powerful note-taking tool's features on the go. Attractive colors and tabbed browsing make navigation easy.
The update time between devices can be uneven.
Bottom Line
Inelegant compared to some competitors, OneNote is a powerful (and free) tool for thinking and organization, and a no-brainer if you're in an Office 365 school.
Patricia Monticello Kievlan
Common Sense Reviewer
Foundation/Non-Profit Member
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Write with a stylus, clip from the web, capture audio: it's easy and appealing to create, search, organize, and review notes.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Powerful, flexible features alone won't get students organized, but improved tools for creation, sharing, and collaboration make this a great way to support good habits. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

With online videos and instructions for OneNote Class Notebook plus some well-placed in-app help text, it's pretty easy to access the tool's many features. Still, there's a lot here, which might feel overwhelming.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Consider making OneNote your go-to tool for students taking notes in class. Students might use the tool for day-to-day note-taking or for a research project where they're gathering information from a variety of sources and need to keep it organized. Encourage students to use the tool to clip and compile information for an upcoming project or excursion. This might also be a great tool for keeping track of notes and resources for project-based learning. Use the tagging features to tag related notes or content clipped from the web, and use the audio features to record interviews, conversations, or narrative feedback from teachers and group members. Shared notebooks and the Class Notebook add-on (for non-mobile) also allow OneNote to be used as a classroom management and collaboration tool.

Read More Read Less
What's It Like?

Microsoft OneNote has established itself as a major player among note-taking options -- free, full-featured and available on just about any platform. Since early 2015, its developers have increasingly fleshed out the tool's mobile versions to include most of the desktop versions's best features. Still, while the desktop OneNote version is great, the mobile version lags behind a bit. While it’s still possible to use the app for taking notes, it’s not possible to reorder the notes once they’re created, or to rename their parent notebooks. It’s still possible to search notes for content within notebooks, but the included tagging features don’t serve as searchable tags. No feature is available for recording audio while taking notes. Additionally, there's no easy way to import images or PDFs. That being said, Microsoft has created some great partnerships to support OneNote, including nice compatibility with the Apple Pencil and some stellar handwriting recognition features. 

Read More Read Less
Is It Good For Learning?

For its note-taking powers alone, OneNote could be a great tool for review and further study in preparation for quizzes and tests, especially since it syncs across devices. It's terrific to be able to switch from taking notes on a laptop or desktop computer and transition to reviewing what you'd created on your phone or your tablet. Plus, the mobile versions of this app increasingly feature the long-established strengths of the desktop original. The robust handwriting tools and the integrations with Paper by Fifty-Three and the Apple Pencil emphasize how much these developers thought about making the most of the devices people might use to fill their OneNote notebooks. Additionally, its increasingly robust handwriting tools and audio recording features make OneNote an increasingly viable alternative to other note-taking giants like Notability and Evernote. This flexible, user-friendly tool could be a great choice for middle school and high school students -- especially if your school uses Office 365 Education.

Read More Read Less

See how teachers are using Microsoft OneNote

Teacher Reviews

Write Your Own Review

Lesson Plans