If you’re frustrated by the limited official OneNote on Mac, we’ve taken a look at the very best free and paid OneNote alternatives for Mac. The Mac version of OneNote isn’t as complete as the PC version with several features missing compared to Windows. Most annoyingly of all, it requires a Microsoft OneDrive account to use because you can’t save and upload OneNote files directly from your Mac. If you’ve had enough of these limitations, fear not because we’ve looked at the best OneNote equivalents for Mac both free and paid applications. And if you simply can’t live without OneNote, we also show you a workaround to get a more fully functional OneNote on your Mac that does work with local files.
Best OneNote Alternatives For Mac
If you just want to import and save OneNote files on your Mac, scroll down to follow our tutorial. If on the other hand you want to know what are the best free and paid alternatives to OneNote on Mac, read on.
First we start with the best paid alternatives. Many of the these Mac alternatives feature the same functionality as MS OneNote but in a more tailored 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 types of files can it handle i.e. can they import videos, audio, notes, PDFs etc?
- Can it save data in the original format or it’s own proprietary format? Original format is better because it makes it easier to take your data with you, if you ever move to a different app.
- How reliable is it at saving data? Some note taking apps on Mac can be temperamental when it comes to saving data – make sure you can rely on the one you’re using especially if you’re dealing with important files and data.
- Does the developer charge for updates? Developers often charge for updates to productivity apps and this can add up over the life of an app.
- Does it sync with iOS? Most of these OneNote alternatives sync with at least iPads, and some iPhones but some still don’t.
OmniOutliner Pro ($99.99 Mac App Store. OS X 10.9+. OmniOutliner Standard Version $49.99 Mac App Store)
OmniOutliner Pro is one of the oldest note taking type apps for Mac and a very powerful tool for brainstorming, note taking and organizing ideas. It’s from the same makers as OmniGraffle which is one of the most popular alternatives to Visio for Mac although it’s nowhere near as popular. OmniOutliner supports everything you’d expect from a serious OneNote alternative such as syncing with the OmniOutliner for iPad, attachment support, audio recording, template editing and exporting to text, HTML, Pages etc. The Standard version of OmniOutliner is half the price but the Pro version offers advanced features such as limitless columns, the ability to collapse rows that you’re not editing, more styling control options, AppleScript support to automate complex tasks and the ability to export to Microsoft Word. Unlike OneNote however, it lacks keyboard shortcut support and exporting to Word and other formats doesn’t maintain formatting very well. It also doesn’t feature many decent default templates although you can create your own. Most recently, OmniOutliner for Mac finally got an update in the form of a much slicker OS X style interface and long awaited zoom support although long term users will be quite disappointed with the lack of progress made from previous versions. There’s no doubt that OmniOutliner Pro is a bit expensive for what it is nowadays and before parting with your cash, we highly recommend trying the OmniOutliner 14 Day Free Trial. But if you want a slick and seriously powerful note taking and organizational tool, OmniOutliner Pro has a lot to offer.
Scrivener ($44.99 Mac App Store. OS X 10.6.6+. 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’s an excellent note taking and project management tool. Scivener is particularly good at classifying documents in folders and many professional writers and bloggers rely on Scrivener to organize their thoughts and creativity although it’s also suitable for technical writers as well. Scrivener uses a retro cork board way of organizing notes but it’s surprisingly effective when you get used to it. 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. On the downside, there are also several features missing such as support for Markdown, Smart Lists and AppleScrip. You may also need to spend quite a bit of time using the Scrivener Knowledge Base at first in order to understand exactly how Scrivener works. On the whole, if you’re a writer struggling with organizing everything in Word or Pages, Scrivener makes life much easier. It doesn’t have the overall power of OneNote or some of the other organizational tools featured here but for writers of all kinds, it’s a superb tool.
Growly Notes ($4.99 Mac App Store. OS X 10.7.3+)
Growly Notes used to be the most popular free OneNote alternative on a Mac but now costs a modest $4.99. 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 certainly doesn’t have the refined interface OmniOutliner but is still a very complete tool considering the price. You can cut and paste just about anything into Growly Notes including PDFs, video and audio and organize them by color coordinating your posts very easily. Growly Notes allows you to open OneNote documents although you must export them to .doc or .rtf format first. 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 with an iPad version yet although you can sync between Macs if you want to collaborate with another user. For students or managers with a lot of information to collect and organize quickly, Growly Notes is an excellent alternative to OneNote on Mac.
Outline ($39.99 Mac App Store. OS X 10.8+)
Outline was originally the first OneNote reader for Mac but now that OneNote is available for Mac, it’s not quite as popular anymore. However, it has evolved into a notetaking app in it’s own right and still 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. The rendering of OneNote documents is impressive with most of the formatting perfectly preserved and it can also sync with OneNote for Mac and OneNote for iPad via Microsoft OneDrive. The look of Outline is like that of a real notebook book with pages and tabs to help you navigate with the idea of creating the closest thing to a paper notebook experience as possible. Originally the editor was very basic but it now allows you to type pretty much anywhere you want, change headings, fonts etc.
There are some limitations to Outline however. There’s no way to drag and drop pages for example, it doesn’t use the fonts on your Mac by default and it can be a bit buggy and unresponsive sometimes. There also isn’t much you can do in Outline that you can’t do in the OneNote web app other than work offline and sync changes with OneDrive later. However, it’s a very well designed and good looking application that makes working with OneNote a more pleasant experience on your Mac. When Outline for Mac was just a reader it originally cost $19.99 but since the addition of the editor, it’s now $39.99 and works on Mountain Lion OS X 10.8+. There’s also Outline for iPad for $11.99 which syncs with the Mac version.
NoteBook (Mac App Store $59.99. OS X 10.6.6+)
NoteBook (formerly known as Circus Ponies Notebook) is another popular OneNote alternative. NoteBook is packed with features and also even offers a few more than Microsoft OneNote as this Notebook v OneNote comparison table shows:
NoteBook makes it very easy to move notes around and annotate them. You can also sync notes although note that the license only allows you to install it on one Mac and you have to pay for the NoteBook iPad app separately ($4.99). NoteBook is very fast but the interface still looks a little bit dated despite recent updates. It’s also not the easiest app to learn – NoteBook takes a while to get to grips with although there are plenty of online video tutorials.
DEVONthink ($49.99 Mac App Store. OS X 10.9+)
DEVONthink is a highly polished OneNote 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. DEVONthink uses an intelligent system of tagging to organize your data so you can find documents and files instantly. You can also sync your data via Dropbox or with your own server and install DEVONthink on more than one Mac, if the Macs are being used by the same person. There is also a Pro version of DEVONthink which offers several advantages over the Personal version including 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 a powerful solution if you really want to go paper free in your office or home.
Curio ($99.99. Free Trial. OS X 10.9+ OS X 10.5 version available)
Curio is one of the most expensive but also one of the slickest and most powerful OneNote alternatives on Mac. Like DEVONthink, 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 is also excellent for organizing thoughts, brainstorming, mood mapping and mind mapping. One the downside, at just under $100, it is expensive and updates also be quite expensive but most of those who use it regularly think it’s well worth it if you want something more than just a note taking tool.
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. However, the developer now plans to abandon it for good and leave it to the open source community for further development so you may not receive much support in the event of technical problems. There is 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.
MacJournal ($39.99 Mac App Store. OS X 10.9+)
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. However, some users report it can be unreliable with saving data, especially with WordPress blog posts, so we can’t vouch for MacJournal’s reliability.
SOHO Notes ($39.95. OS X 10.5.8+)
SOHO Notes used to be a very good note taking app for Macs although unfortunately development of the Mac application seems to have stopped. As a result, OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is the last OS that it officially supports and many users report problems using it under OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher. The interface of SOHO Notes still looks great but it can sometimes be slow at handling data. SOHO Notes can store everything from text to video and you can also sync data with iPhone and iPad although be aware that the developer usually charges for every single update. In fact, it seems all development resources are now only being put into the iPad app which is called NoteLife and costs $4.99. In view of the lack of development of SOHO Notes, you’re probably better off going for one of the other apps featured here.
Together ($49.99 Mac App Store. OS X 10.8+)
Together is another very slick and well designed alternative to OneNote on Mac. Together is powerful at organizing notes allowing you to add tags, comments and other annotations. You can drag just about anything into Together and even create simple tables to add to your notes. You can sync notes via iCloud with the Together for iPad for $9.99. The downside is that despite regular updates, users report that Together still suffers from poor stability and even data loss at times. Our advice is to try the free trial of Together to see how reliable it is for you before purchasing the full version.
EagleFiler ($40.00. OS X 10.6.8+)
EagleFiler is more like a document organizer rather than a note taking app although its incredibly good at what it does – making it easier to manage and find documents, files and folders on your Mac. EagleFiler excels when it comes to document organization allowing you to drag, drop and organize PDFs with ease. One of the best features of EagleFiler is the fact that it preserves the original format of documents i.e. it doesn’t use it’s own propriety format to save files meaning it’s easier to use or export them for use in other apps. However, it doesn’t do note taking so you may still require OneNote or one of the alternatives featured here to compliment it. Syncing is also supported via services such as DropBox, Google Drive and iCloud. If you feel that your Macs way of organizing documents isn’t good enough though, EagleFiler is definitely worth trying.
YoJimbo ($30.00. OS X 10.6.8+)
YoJimbo is very similar to EagleFiler in that it focuses on organization of files and data rather than note taking. YoJimbo is powerful enough to store just about anything and you can sync data with YoJimbo for iPad although not via iCloud. YoJimbo uses it’s own syncing system which costs an extra $2.99 per month which obviously, can really add-up over time. YoJimbo 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. It doesn’t use folders though which some people might find a bit unintuitive until they get used to labels instead. You can download a free trial of YoJimbo for Mac to see what you think of it first.
MagicalPad aims to be a more user friendly, free form alternative to OneNote. MagicalPad is very flexible and most suitable for mindmapping, outlining, visual task management, note taking and brainstorming. If you want to use your notes for a presentation or simply like them to look good, there are lots of themes and styles to choose from too. MagicalPad is very free form compared to most of the apps featured here although there are limits to how you can take notes and write down information to prevent things getting too messy or crazy. You can also sync your notes with Dropbox which is useful if you’re working on the iPad version of MagicalPad and want to continue working on notes on your Mac. MagicalPad is a newcomer to the productivity scene on Mac and we highly advise downloading the free trial before purchasing as it won’t be to everyone’s liking.
Best Free OneNote Alternatives On Mac
There is really only one serious contender for the best free OneNote alternative on Mac – Evernote. Google also offers a basic note taking app called Google Keep but it’s very limited compared to OneNote. Here we take a closer look at them:
Evernote (Free. OS X 10.7.5+. 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 every bit as powerful as OneNote. Evernote is regularly updated but with these updates sometimes come 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. Most recently, Evernote for Mac has been updated with a revised Yosemite style interface which gives it a really clean feel on OS X.
Google Keep (Free. Web app)
Google Keep is Google’s basic answer to OneNote. There is no desktop app – it’s entirely web based such as other Google services like Gmail, Docs, Calendar 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 and simple sticky-note like solution.
How To Import Local OneNote Files From Your 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 (although 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’re frustrated by this, then the only other way to import OneNote files locally on a Mac 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 a fully functional OneNote 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.