If you’re frustrated by Microsoft OneNote for Mac, we’ve taken a look at the very best note taking software for Mac which make great alternatives to OneNote for Mac.
The Mac version of OneNote in Microsoft Office For Mac and Microsoft 365 isn’t as complete as the PC version with several features missing compared to Windows.
Although it is improving slowly with the ability to dictate on Mac now added to it, the Mac versions still isn’t as good as the Windows version.
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.
The best way to get round this is to run Windows on a Mac using Parallels and install the Windows version of OneNote.
Parallels also allows you run Windows on M1 and M2 Macs too so that you can install the Windows version of OneNote on Apple Silicon Macs too.
However, if you don’t want to install the Windows version of OneNote and you’ve had enough of the limitations in the Mac version of OneNote, we’ve taken a look at the best note taking software for Mac to replace OneNote.
The note management apps here also make the perfect complement to paperless office solutions on your Mac if you want to create a digital office and go paperless.
- OneNote Alternatives: Things To Consider
- 1. DEVONthink
- 2. OmniOutliner Pro
- 3. Scrivener
- 4. Growly Notes
- 5. Outline
- 6. Curio
- 7. MacJournal
- 8. SOHO Notes
- 9. Together (now Keep It)
- 10. EagleFiler
- 11. YoJimbo
- 12. MagicalPad
- 13. Alternote
- 14. Evernote
- 15. Google Keep
- 16. Zotero
- Discontinued Note Taking Apps For Mac
- How To Import Local OneNote Files From Your Mac
OneNote Alternatives: Things To Consider
Things to look out for when considering which of the above alternatives to OneNote 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.
- What are the search features like? Does it allow you to easily find notes you have made by keywords for example.
- Does it work on the latest versions of macOS including Ventura and Monterey.
- Do you need support for dictating notes on a Mac.
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Here then are the best note taking apps for Mac of 2023 in order of ranking.
DEVONthink is a highly polished OneNote alternative that’s not only an amazing note taking tool but a brilliant document organizer.
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.
It uses the incredibly accurate ABBYY Finereader PDF For Mac OCR engine to perform OCR scanning of notes so that you can search everything by keyword. It also uses artificial intelligence that learns from the way you file documents to automatically tag them for you and organize your files instantly.
You can 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.
You can try DEVONthink free for 150 hours before you have to upgrade.
2. OmniOutliner Pro
OmniOutliner Pro is one of the most established and powerful note taking 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.
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 macOS style interface and long awaited zoom support although long term users will be quite disappointed with the lack of progress made from previous versions.
You can try OmniOutliner for free and if you want a slick and seriously powerful note taking and organizational tool, OmniOutliner Pro is still hard to beat.
Scrivener is a very popular note taking app. Although Scrivener is more of a word processing software, it’s an excellent note taking and project management tool.
Scrivener 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. If you’re on an older version of OS X, there’s also a legacy version of Scrivener for OS X 10.4-10.5.
You can currently get 50% off Scrivener for a limited period.
4. Growly Notes
Growly Notes is one of the most popular free OneNote alternatives on a Mac.
The developer 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, free note taking 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 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.
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.
On 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. There’s also a legacy version for OS X 10.5.
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.
8. SOHO Notes
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.
9. Together (now Keep It)
Together is another very slick and well designed alternative to OneNote on Mac although has now changed name to “Keep It”. 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 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 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.
Alternote is a new alternative to to OneNote on Mac, which looks extremely smooth, is lightweight and very easy to use. At $6.99, it’s also one of the cheapest equivalents to OneNote for Mac.
Alternote is however designed for Evernote users as it integrates with Evernote to provide a cleaner, slicker frontend to Evernote. Alternote is ideal for note taking, recording ideas, brainstorming, memories, feelings etc.
Alternote doesn’t actually store anything on it’s own servers – it simply links up with Evernote via your Evernote login to provide a slicker, OS X front end to Evernote.
Be warned that you should backup your Evernote files before linking it to Alternote as it may modify them and there’s no way to roll back changes.
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. Evernote for OS X 10.5.8 is also still available.
15. Google Keep
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.
Zotero for Mac is a free and easy-to-use open source note clipping tool that helps you collect, organize, cite and share research.
Zotero is unique because it can automatically “detect” research published on the web based on preset searched you have set for it to look for.
For example, if something is published on JSTOR, you need a preprint from arXiv.org or a news story from the New York Times, Zotero will automatically detect and retrieve it into your notes collection.
Zotero features all the other standard features you can sort items into collections and tag them with keywords. Or create saved searches that automatically fill with relevant materials as you work.
For easy citation for sources, Zotero can also instantly creates references and bibliographies in the best word processing software including Word, LibreOffice, Google Docs.
For those that need to collaborate on data with colleagues or students, you can add web clippings and notes to the same account and sync them so you can access them in any browser.
Discontinued Note Taking Apps For Mac
NoteBook (formerly Circus Ponies Notebook) used to be a popular note taking tool for Mac but as of January 2016 is no longer available. The developer Circus Ponies Software no longer exists.
The same goes for Journler which was another popular note taking application for Mac but the source code is still available on Github for open source development.
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.
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.
How did you import in the Mac version? It’s all cloud based and doesn’t appear to load or save local files.
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?
Claudio, You can’t upload the .one files from your Mac hard drive to OneNote for Mac. You must upload the .one file to your Microsoft OneDrive account and access it from there.
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.
Thanx a lot!
For anyone who hasn’t seen it, the Microsoft team behind OneNote have released a “Les Miserables parody” of the story of OneNote.