Closing the Gap !

With the latest version, OneNote UWP is much closer than ever to OneNote desktop, in terms of features !

Last update : 28/3/2018

With the recent release of the “new” OneNote for W10 (version 17.8269) AND the numerous improvements brought to this version in the last couple of months, many users wonder which version is now the best, and whether an UWP Office App can actually replace its desktop counterpart.

This question is particularly sensible, because the OneNote development team has clearly stated that their priority is the App version in one hand (and they have been very busy at enhancing it, indeed !), and not a single improvement to the desktop version has surfaced for years on the other hand.

Sure, OneNote UWP has evolved so much lately, that one may believe that the desktop version is now useless. Thus I thought it would be interesting to compare both Windows version (OneNote 2016 vs OneNote for W10), having a look at their respective distinctive features.

This benchmark is by no means exhaustive, and since there are additions to the “App” version every month, you should expect that things get out of date rather quickly…

As you can see in the above table, there is still a significant gap.

But considering that more than 50 improvements / features have been added since August 2015, the gap has narrowed, and feature parity appears within reach.

There are even few exclusive features in OneNote UWP (equation solver and plotter, replay, rainbow ink and researcher) to address specific customers needs (students ?).

Nevertheless, what makes Office programs’ success : namely their tight integration, their highly customizable interface aimed at demanding users, and the ability to plug new features through add-ins… are still lagging behind.

One the other hand, what makes the appeal of UWP Apps, namely their simplicity (compare to desktop programs), may be jeopardized : Will all the upcoming improvements further clutter the User Interface (adding too many buttons in the Tab / Ribbon, or options in the contextual menus), and make OneNote for W10 less easy, intuitive or fun to use ?

LIRE AUSSI  Experimental features goes mainstream !

The comparison below illustrates how the contextual menus of OneNote for W10 may become less effective than their counterpart in OneNote desktop :

Note the icons in OneNote desktop’ contextual menu, which help to locate the right option.

Obviously, besides a strict comparison of features, user interface ergonomics (both out of the box, and with customization options), day-to-day ease of use, and reliability matters (especially Synchronization, as far as OneNote is concerned !).

Read my comprehensive one week test drive to make your own decision, and feel free to share your thought !


Update 04/11/2017 : Some contextual menus are being enhanced with neat icons :









Update 27/03/2018 : No more “single page” sharing in OneNote UWP. It seems that sharing a page this way made the page public and even indexed on Google search, which was a concern… Table with “other features” was updated accordingly.

Update 28/03/2018 : Synchronization of custom pens is now available with version 17.9126.

Update 2 April 2018 : Also, after some experiment of the “ink to text” feature in OneNote UWP (see my blog post for a coverage of this feature, added in Sept. 2017) , I inserted some details about it in the “Core feature” table. Note that there are some incompatibilities : handwritten text in OneNote UWP can’t be “inked to text” in OneNote desktop. The opposite works.

Added Immersive reader, which I overlooked. 

Turn On/Off auto-capitalisation letter in UWP : added its counter part in Desktop.

Update 12/05/2018 : The challenge facing OneNote UWP is to increase “command density”, as mentionned by Office Desktop programs enjoy “high command density”, whereas their UWP counterparts, designed for touch primarily, have rather “low command density”.

High command density in OneNote 2016
Low command density in OneNote UWP


    • Yes. Apart from cloud-allergy, that’s a real issue because it doesn’t allow for a backup.
      But if you use OneNote desktop as well (and have your notebooks open there too), you can rely on the backup done by OneNote desktop, and enjoy the more modern UI of OneNote UWP (and its exclusive feature).

      Also, you may soon be able to get a backup directly from OneNote UWP, thanks to GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). See this blog post to know more about that new requirement steaming from the European commission :

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