Why do I have two OneNote apps on my Windows 10 tablet or PC?

Have you heard of OneNote, the note-taking service from Microsoft? Did you try one of the OneNote apps, on your Windows computer, iPad tablet, Android smartphone, or other similar devices? If you are a OneNote user, on your Windows 10 computer, you will notice that there is something strange going on: there are not one, but two OneNote apps installed. One of them is called OneNote, and the other is called OneNote 2016. They are different in some respects and also the same, in others. In this article, we will explain everything that is important to know about OneNote and why there are two apps on your Windows 10 computer. Read on and decide which to use and which to remove:

What is OneNote?

OneNote is a tool developed by Microsoft for the purpose of helping you create and keep notes. The notes you gather in OneNote can contain anything from typed text to handwritten text, drawings, images, web links, audio and video, screenshots and so on.

The user’s notes are stored on pages, which are organized in sections and notebooks. Each page can be as large as you want and the data inside is saved automatically by the application. Unlike Microsoft Word or other similar office apps, OneNote does not format the data you save in your notes, meaning that you can type, write, draw or insert any other kind of supported content, anywhere in a note. There’s no required layout, alignment or positioning required for the information stored in OneNote.

OneNote was first announced by Microsoft on November 17, 2012. Since then, OneNote has gone through many updates and changes. The major iterations of OneNote correspond to the main versions of the Microsoft Office suite. There were OneNote 2003, OneNote 2007, OneNote 2010, OneNote 2013, and the latest of them is OneNote 2016, which was released on September 22, 2015.

The most recent versions of OneNote save, sync and backup the notes you take in the cloud, with the help of the OneDrive service. That means that the notes are always available on all the platforms and devices you use OneNote apps. Even if you are offline when you take a note, when your device gets access to the internet, the notes are automatically synced with the cloud.

In other words, because OneNote uses the cloud and there are apps for every important operating system to date, you can create and access your notes on any devices you use. You can, for instance, create a note on your Windows 10 desktop PC, check it on your iPad tablet while you relax on your couch, and complete the to-do list with groceries to buy on your Android smartphone, in the supermarket.

On what devices and operating systems is OneNote available?

OneNote is available as part of Microsoft Office or as a standalone app, on a multitude of devices with different operating systems. You can use OneNote on any device that runs on one of the following operating systems: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. There’s even an online version of OneNote, which you can access from any web browser, here: OneNote.

Why there are two different versions of OneNote on my Windows 10 device?

If you happen to use Windows 10 and you are perplexed by the fact that you see two different versions of OneNote on your device, here’s why you have them:

By default, Windows 10 comes with a OneNote app that’s pre-installed. It is a universal app that’s developed by Microsoft and distributed through the Windows Store.

If you are also a subscriber to Office 365, or if you have bought Microsoft Office 2016 and installed it on your computer or device, then you also have another OneNote 2016 app installed. OneNote 2016 is the premium desktop client for OneNote. It is a client that offers more features and is more complex than the universal app version or any of the other OneNote apps for Android, iOS or macOS.

Additionally, OneNote 2016 is also available to download from the OneNote official website. If you got it from there and installed it on your Windows 10 computer, which already had the OneNote from Windows Store pre-installed, you probably have two OneNote apps now.

In the end, the answer to the question is that you have two different OneNote apps on your Windows 10 computer or device because you installed Microsoft Office 2016, Office 365 or simply OneNote 2016 for desktop.

What are the main differences between the OneNote app and OneNote 2016?

The first and most noticeable difference between the OneNote app from the Windows Store and the OneNote desktop app from the Office suite is that they have different tiles. The OneNote app has a live tile that can be resized up to a wide dimension on your Start Menu. The OneNote client from Office does not a have a tile, but a simple shortcut which can have only a small or a medium size on the Start Menu.

The OneNote app gets updates and new features often because they are easily distributed by Microsoft through the Windows Store. On the other hand, the OneNote 2016 client from the Microsoft Office suite or the Office 365 service, gets updated a lot less often so people who prefer things that don’t change overnight might prefer it.

Although what the OneNote app and the OneNote 2016 desktop app offer is very similar, there are some differences between them and knowing which they are can help you choose which app to use.

Which are the features that are available only in the OneNote app from the Windows Store?

Here are the most important features that are now available in the OneNote app but which are not available in OneNote 2016:

  • You can view all your notes sorted by when you last updated them
  • You can preview notes without opening the page on which they are found
  • Drawings can be transformed automatically into shapes
  • You can see when someone uses a notebook you shared
  • You can share individual pages from a notebook
  • When you write or type an equation, OneNote can use the Ink Math Assistant to help you solve it
  • You can ask Cortana to take a note
  • You can increase the writing/drawing space by hiding the page list and the ribbon menu
  • You can view emoji ideograms and smilies in all their original colors
  • You can use pencil ink to draw inside a note, but only if you use Windows 10 Anniversary Update
  • You can use new ink colors such as rainbow, galaxy, gold, and others
  • You can use the camera on your device to capture not only photos but also documents and whiteboards directly into OneNote
  • You can take a web note in Microsoft Edge and save it directly to OneNote

Which are the features that are available only in the OneNote 2016 desktop app from Microsoft Office 2016 or Office 365?

Here are the most important features that are available only in the OneNote 2016 desktop client from Office but which are not available in the OneNote universal app:

  • You can insert an Excel spreadsheet into the notes you make
  • The tasks you create in OneNote 2016 sync with Outlook
  • You can convert handwriting into text
  • You can highlight what you write when you playback an audio recording
  • You can add complex equations by using the equation editor
  • You can create and use tags for the notes you take
  • You can use templates for the notes you take
  • You can store your notebooks and back up notes locally, not in the cloud

NOTE: One of our readers (thank you Ron!) pointed out the fact that there are another two things people miss in newer versions of OneNote. The latest OneNote app, as well as the latest OneNote 2016 no longer offer the option to insert scanned images. However, you can achieve the same result if you use the Windows Fax and Scan desktop program or the Windows Scan app from the Windows Store. If you want, you can find more information here: How can I Insert scanned images into OneNote 2016 for Windows?.

Which OneNote should you keep and use?

Both the OneNote app from the Windows Store and the OneNote 2016 desktop client from the Office suite do mostly the same things. However, as we have seen earlier, there are some differences between them.

The OneNote universal app is already found in Windows 10, and it is entirely free. The OneNote 2016 client is available in the Office suite, and that means that you have it because you have installed Microsoft Office 2016 or Office 365. Both suites, require a payment. However, few users know that the OneNote 2016 desktop client can be downloaded and installed for free, separately from the Office suite, from here: Download OneNote.

If you already have the Office suite installed, then choosing to use the OneNote 2016 client is ultimately a matter of personality and needs. If you are a traditional user who likes things to stay the same and only use new features after they have already been verified by others, you should probably choose OneNote 2016 and ditch the OneNote app from the Store. Also, if you need business oriented features like the integration with Excel and Outlook, then OneNote 2016 is the way to go.

If you prefer having access to all the latest features available, the OneNote app is better for you. Microsoft updates the OneNote universal app more often than it updates OneNote 2016.

Which Windows 10 OneNote app you prefer?

Now that you know why you have two OneNote apps on your Windows 10 computer, and what is different between them, try them out and let us know which app you prefer and why. We are very curious to read your opinion.