If you’re frustrated by the limited functionality of the official OneNote for Mac available from the Mac App Store here we show you another way to get OneNote on your Mac and alternatives to it. 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 so here 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. Then we also look at the best paid and free equivalents to OneNote on Mac.
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:
- Go to your SkyDrive account. If you have a Hotmail e-mail address, you can use the same login details. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to sign-up with Microsoft Live first to get a SkyDrive account.
- 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.
- To add it to your Mac Dock so that’s easily accessible in the future in OS X, you need to download and install Fluid for Mac.
- Run Fluid for Mac and when prompted, paste in the URL of the OneNote page you have open. It should be something like this link.
You 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.
When you’ve added the icon, the Fluid box should look like this:
Then just click Create.
- If installed successfully, you should see this:
- You should now have the icon in your Dock which you can click-on anytime you want to use OneNote on your Mac.
OneNote for Mac alternatives
If the above solution doesn’t meet your needs, or you don’t like the Mac version of OneNote for Mac, there are some excellent alternatives. First we will look at free alternatives and then commercial equivalents. You can download a free trial of most of them by clicking on their names.
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 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.
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.
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 which you can download by clicking on the names.
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.
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.
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:
There’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 ($49.95. Free Trial with registration. OS X 10.5.8+)
It may have an unusual name but Circus Ponies 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 in the comments below.