How to get OneNote for Mac and alternatives

If you’re frustrated by the limited functionality of the official OneNote for Mac available from the Mac App Store here we show you alternatives and another way to get OneNote on your Mac. The official Microsoft OneNote for Mac requires a Microsoft OneDrive account because annoyingly, you can’t save and upload .one files on your Mac – you must import and upload them to Microsoft OneDrive. There are also several other features missing from OneNote on Windows. First we look at the best paid and free equivalents to OneNote on Mac, then we show you a workaround to get a more fully functional OneNote on your Mac that does work with local files without even downloading the official version.

OneNote for Mac alternatives

If OneNote or the workaround detailed further down in this article doesn’t meet your needs, there are some excellent alternatives. First we will look at paid and then free alternatives. You can download a free trial of some of them where available.

There are many paid alternatives and this is the most comprehensive list you will find. Many of the these Mac alternatives feature the same functionality as MS OneNote but in a far better OS X style interface. Costs vary from as little as $19.99 up to almost $100. Things to look out for when selecting which one to choose are what they can handle i.e. videos, audio, notes etc, whether they save data in the original format or their own proprietary format and how much they charge for updates (most do). All of them except Outline and Growly Notes have free trials.

OmniOutliner Pro ($69.99. Free Trial. OS X 10.4.8+)

OmniOutliner Pro is one of the oldest note taking type apps for Mac and although it’s a bit dated and lacks features compared to some of the above, it’s still very good for simple note taking tasks. It’s extremely useful for managing lists, ideas and doing brainstorming. There’s no doubt that OmniOutliner Pro is a bit expensive for what it is nowadays. OmniOutliner Pro also supports older Macs running OS X 10.4.

omnioutliner pro mac

Scrivener ($45.00. Free Trial. OS X 10.7+. Scrivener for OS X 10.4/10.5 available)

Scrivener is a very popular note taking app. Although Scrivener is more of a writer’s tool, it doubles up very well as a note taking app. It’s particularly good at classifying documents in folder. Many professional writers and bloggers rely on Scrivener to organize their thoughts and creativity although it’s also suitable for technical writers as well. You can sync your documents and ideas with Dropbox and it’s also got a handy full-screen mode so that you can focus on your writing without any distractions. It doesn’t have the overall power of OneNote but for writers, it’s a superb tool.

scrivener mac

Growly Notes ($4.99 Mac App Store. OS X 10.7.3+)

Growly Notes is used to be probably the most popular free alternative on a Mac but now costs $4.99. Growly Notes can open OneNote documents but only if you export them to .doc or .rtf format first. You can cut and paste just about anything and color coordinate your posts very easily. Although the default interface doesn’t look great on OS X, you can switch it to a more Mac like look by switching from “Fun” to “Serious” in the Preferences menu. It also doesn’t integrate into other Microsoft products such as Outlook and there’s no syncing on iPad version. The developer of Growly Notes used to work for Microsoft and has done an excellent job of retaining all the functionality of Microsoft OneNote but in an easy to use and very reasonably priced app.

growly notes mac

Outline ($39.99 Mac App Store. OS X 10.8+)

Outline was originally a OneNote reader for Mac but version 2.0 now allows you to both open and edit OneNote notebooks on Mac. OutLine can open .one (section files), .onepkg (OneNote notebook packages) and .onetoc2 (notebook table of contents) files.

outline mac

However, it should be noted that the editor is very basic and doesn’t compare to the power of OneNote on Windows. It allows basic adding of headings, font changes and editing of text but not much more:

onenote for mac - outline editorThere’s no way to drag and drop pages for example, it doesn’t use the fonts on your Mac by default and there are many other limitations and quirks which mean it doesn’t quite measure up. Some users have also found that the new version of Outline is extremely unstable and crashes a lot (although the developers claim they have a solution for this if you contact them directly). There’s no syncing either although the developers claim they will add SkyDrive syncing soon too. Outline for Mac is still a work in progress but one of the closest solutions yet to a real OneNote for Mac alternative. Outline for Mac originally cost $19.99 but since the addition of the editor, it’s now $39.99 and only works on Mountain Lion OS X 10.8+.

Circus Ponies NoteBook (Mac App Store $59.99. Free Trial with registration. OS X 10.6.6+)

It may have an unusual name but Circus Ponies NoteBook (now more simply known as “Notebook”) is another popular alternative. Circus Ponies Notebook even offers a few more features than Microsoft OneNote and their Evernote v Circus Ponies NoteBook comparison table shows:

circus ponies notebook mac

However, it should be noted that the license only allows you to install it on one Mac and you have to pay for the Circus Ponies NoteBook iPad app separately ($29.99). Circus Ponies NoteBook is very fast but the interface does look a bit outdated nowadays. It’s also not the easiest app to learn – Circus Ponies NoteBook takes a while to get to grips with although there are plenty of online video tutorials.

circus ponies notebook screenshot

DEVONThink Pro ($79.95. Free Trial. OS X 10.6.8+)

DEVONThink Pro is a highly polished alternative that’s aimed squarely at professionals. DEVONThink Pro can capture from almost any source and it’s incredibly powerful at allowing you to organize it in almost any way possible once you’ve got your data. You can also sync your data via Dropbox or with your own server. You can use DEVONThink Pro on more than one Mac, if the Macs are being used by the same person. The Pro version offers several advantages over the Personal version, integration with apps such as iCal, Reminder and OmniFocus being some of the most useful. It’s not exactly the easiest app to use for beginners but for those that use it regularly swear by it and despite the cost, feel you get what you pay for in note taking apps for Mac.

devonthink pro mac

Curio ($99.99. Free Trial. OS X 10.7.4+ OS X 10.5 version available)

Curio is one of the most expensive but also one of the slickest and most powerful alternatives on Mac. Like DevonTHINK Pro, Curio is powerful enough for you to go completely paperless if you’re running an office and its ability to handle PDFs in particular is outstanding. Curio very much embraces the brainstorming principle and is excellent for organizing thoughts, brainstorming mood mapping and mind mapping. One the downside,at just under $100, it is expensive compared to other paid alternatives on Mac and updates also be quite expensive.

curio for mac

Journler ($34.95. OS X 10.6+. Journler for OS X 10.4/10.5 version available)

Journler is a diary/note taking and organizational tool in one. It’s simple, easy to use and allows you to import and clip just about anything. The developer abandoned it a few years ago and made the source code freely available but then recently returned to continue development of it. There is therefore some confusion as to whether it is free or not but if you make more than 30 entries, you will be prompted to buy a license. However, the developer has very limited resources and time meaning you may not receive much support if you have technical problems.

journler mac

MacJournal ($39.95. Free Trial. OS X 10.6.8+)

MacJournal started as a simple diary app but has now expanded to become more like a note-taking application. MacJournal is extremely slick – the interface is excellent and you can cut and paste almost anything with it. MacJournal is really well organized and also has a version for iPad and iPhone. Major updates are not too usually too expensive either – the last one cost $19.95 and added tons of new functionality.

macjournal mac
SOHO Notes ($39.95. Free Trial. OS X 10.5.8+)

SOHO Notes is another extremely elegant and easy to use note taking app. It can store everything from text to video and is suitable for individuals or those working in teams. You can also sync data with iPhone and iPad although be aware that the developer usually charges for every single update. The interface is one of the best looking out there although it can sometimes be slow at handling data.

soho notes mac

Together ($39.99. Free Trial. OS X 10.8+)

Together is another elegant alternative. Together is very well organized. Together is powerful at organizing notes allowing you to add tags, comments and other annotations. You can also add simple tables into your notes. More recently, iCloud syncing has been added. The downside is that Together only works with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or above.

together mac

EagleFiler ($40.00. Free Trial. OS X 10.4+)

EagleFiler started more like a document organizer rather than a note taking app although it has been extended to include many of the features of OneNote. EagleFiler still excels when it comes to document organization allowing you to drag, drop and organize PDFs with ease. However, it still feels more like a file manager than a fully fledged note taking tool. There is also no syncing and no iPad app. If you feel that your Macs way of organizing documents isn’t good enough, EagleFiler is worth trying.

eaglefiler mac

YoJimbo ($39.00. Free Trial. OS X 10.6.8+)

YoJimbo’s main strength is its simplicity and ease of use. It’s powerful enough to store just about anything and you can sync data with your iPad via iCloud although many users have experienced problems with syncing working properly. Unlike some apps, YoJimbo also stores your PDFs in the original format – it doesn’t create its own database format for them so that you can’t take your data elsewhere if you stop using it. There is no iPhone app however and no folders which some people might miss.

yojimbo mac

Best free OneNote alternatives on Mac

There is now only one main contender for free alternative on Mac – Evernote. Growly Notes used to be free but now charges a modest $4.99. Google also offer a basic note taking app called Google Keep. Here we take a closer look at them:

Evernote (Free. OS X 10.6+. Evernote for OS X 10.5.8 is also still available)

Evernote is probably the biggest heavyweight alternative to OneNote. Evernote is one of the most widely used notetaking apps for both Windows and Mac and is packed with features. It works on almost every platform including iPad, Android, Windows 8 Touch and BlackBerry. You can add attachments to Evernote although some users report it can’t handle big attachments as well as OneNote and it falls short in a few other areas too. However, Evernote syncs your information online with your Evernote account and is generally a bit more powerful than Growly Notes. It is regularly updated but with these updates sometimes cause functionality issues for Mac users. There have been some security issues too with hacks on the Evernote servers although these are usually fixed very quickly.

evernote mac

Google Keep (Free. Web app)

Google Keep is Google’s basic answer to OneNote. Note that there is no desktop app – it’s entirely web based such as services like Gmail, Docs etc. and all you need is a Google account to use it. Google Keep used to be called Notebook but it was given a revamp to make it more powerful. Google Keep is very easy to use and allows you to easily upload photos, files and add notes. While Google Keep doesn’t offer half as much power as Evernote or Growly Notes, it’s useful if you need a free more simple sticky-note like solution.

google keep mac

This is a comprehensive list of OneNote alternatives for Mac. However, if you think we’ve left one out, or have used any of the above, let us know.

How to get OneNote on Mac

For years, Microsoft never made OneNote part of the Microsoft Office for Mac or Office 365 for Mac suite. However, Microsoft finally released OneNote for Mac on March 17th 2014 (Note that OneNote for iPad and iPhone were already available for some time before the Mac version). But many users find the limited functionality and especially the inability to work with local files in the new official OneNote for Mac very frustrating. If you don’t want to download the Mac App Store version of OneNote, then the only other way to get it is by using the web version. By using a simple app called Fluid, you can integrate it into your Dock so that you can just click on the icon to launch it on your Mac. Some features will be missing, but it’s the next closest thing to having it on your Mac. Here’s how to do it:

  • onenote mac skydrive Go to Create in the top Menu Bar and select the option OneNote notebook. Give it a name and click Create. A OneNote document will open on your Mac.

onenote fluidYou can upload the official OneNote logo so that it appears in your Dock. Save this logo to your desktop by right clicking or CMD clicking on it and upload it to Fluid where it says Icon and select Other.

onenote logo

When you’ve added the icon, the Fluid box should look like this:

onenote fluid app

Then just click Create.

  • If installed successfully, you should see this:

fluid success mac

  • You should now have the icon in your Dock which you can click-on anytime you want to use OneNote on your Mac.

dock icon onenote

24 thoughts on “How to get OneNote for Mac and alternatives

  1. Pingback: Word for Mac free and paid alternatives | MacHow2MacHow2

  2. We are a small but fast growing concern. We need a “One Note solution” on Mac OS X ML/Mavs and iOS7. Because of operations in remote
    regions, we would prefer wireless sync between devices, not iCloud. USB sync will be preferred, though.

    Mac’s Notes is quite slick but also not even remotely comparably to MS OneNote.

    Does Evernote allow for this and how much will it cost to equip 5 users, each with iPhone 5/5S and Macbook Pro with Mountain Lion or Mavericks?

    I am migrating from a Linux/Windows environment to Mac only. I sorely miss MS OneNote!

    iOS7 disappoints by not allowing Mac Notes to sync via iTunes – not via USB, not via Bluetooth and not via wifi. Also, between OSX ML and iOS7, it tells me that my iPhone 5 is an “unsupported device” when trying to pair via Bluetooth.

    Perhaps I should have stayed with Windows 8 and Companionlink and used a Lumia 1020 instead??

    How does Evernote sync? The information here is a bit overwhelming to a newcomer.

  3. Mac Outline recently added basic editing to the Mac version. While not at full equivalence OneNote it is now very functional. I Have a .onepkg file that I move back and forth. The combination of the updated Mac and iPad versions deserve a revisit of the review here.

    I use Scrivener for writing. It is more focused on writing drafts of novels or longer technical books while Outline/OneNote are more focused on collecting and useful assembly of related documents. I have not used Devonthink Pro but in reading about it, it seems more focused on collecting and relating and searching very large collections of documents, some of which might be related.

    Thank you for your review and I look forward to an update in a month or three when the new Scrivener for iPad arrives.

    Scribe with a Stylus

    • Thanks for the update. We’ve taken a look at the new editing feature added to Outline for Mac and revised the review accordingly. It’s about time the editing feature arrived although it’s still quite basic but hopefully it will improve. They’ve also increased the price of Outline significantly from $19.99 to $39.99 and it now only works on OS X 10.8+.

      We look forward to seeing the new Scrivener for iPad too.

  4. I am very sorry. I can copy and paste the link you gave me but after clicking ‘create’ I hear a bleb and nothing else happened.

  5. How can I import data from Windows OneNote in OneNote for Mac. Or better: the dat from the alternative program Growly Notes to OneNote for Mac?

    • In OneNote for Windows, simply go File – Save As and then save as a .one file and then import that into OneNote for Mac. With Growly Notes it isn’t so easy because it doesn’t recognize the .one format. You can only export in .doc and .rtf and then import that into OneNote for Mac.

        • Yes it’s a bit annoying. You have to upload your .one files to a Microsoft OneDrive account (which you get for free with any Hotmail or MSN account) and then sync OneNote for Mac with the OneDrive account and import them that way.

          • It doesn’t seem to work for me. I’ve copied the .one file but OneNote for Mac does not see it (nor does it OneNote for iPad).

            How do you succeeded in doing it?

  6. Thank you for the reply but I’ve already done it. Probably the only way to do it is sharing the notebook to skydrive with a Onenote 2010 for Windows.
    Unfortunately, I don’t have a license available to try. Nonetheless I need to access the content.
    Anyone?
    Thanx a lot!

  7. Right-clicking seems to be somehow magically disabled on your site. Is that even possible or am I imagining things? I’m trying to grab the OneNote icon, but can’t. Can you please email it to me? :)

    (I’m a 10.7/Lion user who refuses to upgrade, partly because iTunes 11 is an abomination, partly for other reasons. So I’d still like to be able to create the Fluid link in the dock as you describe.)

  8. I think you sell Eaglefiler short. It does sync, for example (I use Dropbox). Best of all, since it uses an open-file format, almost all files–except Mac-specific ones like OmniOutliner–can be opened using my PC laptop. So long as you don’t move files around, or rename them, they can be edited on a Dropbox-synced PC.

    Plus, the developer is more responsive to user requests than anyone I’ve ever seen.

    Agreed that it is not as good for taking notes as it is for organizing files, but organizing files is a big part of note-taking! (What’s more, its web clipper is much better than OneNote’s: It gives you a true pdf, or webarchive, not a screenshot. I don’t like the ‘Send to OneNote’ clipper integrated with IE on PC’s, either, as it loses formatting.)

    My latest workflow involves using Eaglefiler to keep everything in its place, and searchable. I do things like mark up pdf’s in it and store taped interviews. Then I use the (lame) OneNote for Mac to take notes from various documents.

    Not ideal, but pretty good.

Leave a Reply