In Pictures: Evernote Touch vs. Microsoft OneNote

Which apps works better on Windows 8 touchscreens?

  • The recently released Evernote Touch and Microsoft OneNote apps for Windows 8 function as front-ends for cloud services that sync your notes to the web. We decided to analyze the differences between them, and to look at which works best on a Windows 8 device with a touchscreen?

  • Evernote Touch’s home screen is laid out in a manner similar to the Windows 8 Start Screen. You create a note by tapping one of three tiles in the first column. The second column lists shortcuts you’ve created to access your notes or notebooks. The third shows a log of your recent activity on Evernote. It’s not until you swipe further right to the fourth column that you see tile shortcuts to your notes, and in another column the notebooks which contain these notes. The tile of a note is a thumbnail showing a snippet of text in the note and any image that is embedded on it.

  • OneNote arranges things on its home screen across four columns, but doesn’t depict your notes as thumbnails. The first column lists your notebooks. Clicking a notebook opens in the second column a list of “sections” that it contains; click a section heading and a list of the notes (which are called “pages” in OneNote) that you’ve placed under that section appear in the third column. Clicking the heading of an individual note/page then shows the page itself in the fourth column.

  • To edit your notes in Evernote Touch, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to pull up a basic looking toolbar. It contains buttons to change the color, font, size and style of text, and the formatting of their layout.

  • OneNote implements a radial menu UI for its editing tool that Microsoft developed to make their suite of Office brand applications (which includes OneNote) easier to use on a touchscreen. We found it preferable to Evernote’s editing tool. For example, when you double-tap on a word, highlighting it, a circle with the letter “A” inside appears near it. Tap this and a circular tool pops open from the encircled “A” which has buttons to change the text (color, font, size and style) and its formatting. This GUI is also used throughout OneNote to let you perform other tasks, such as copying-and-pasting, and adding elements (images or tables) to a page.

  • Evernote Touch lets you change the look of the text: color, font, size, bold, italics, underline and strikethrough. The alignment of text can be set left, center or right, or formatted into a bulleted or numbered list, and you can increase or decrease paragraph indention.

  • OneNote gives you these same options, and some more: highlighting, subscript, superscript, and you can designate text to be a to-do item. In OneNote, text can also be tagged as a contact, phone number or street address, or as “critical,” “important” or “question” to help make searching your notes more convenient. Evernote Touch doesn’t have this function. The background color of a note/page in either app cannot be changed, but OneNote lets you display a page with college-ruled horizontal lines or as a grid.

  • The version of Evernote Touch we tested doesn’t let you add an image to a note after you’ve created it. You have to tap the second or third tile shortcut in the first column on the home screen in order to embed an image onto a note, by capturing a photo with your Windows 8 device’s camera, or attaching an image file from your device.

  • By contrast, in OneNote, you are free to embed an image onto a page whenever you want, whether by using your device’s camera or attaching an image file.

  • In Evernote Touch, you can attach audio or video from your Windows 8 device to a note by tapping the third tile in the first column of the home screen. Or, you can record an audio clip through your mic -- but not use its camera to record video. There isn’t an embedded player program on the note itself that will play back either media: when you tap on the audio or video file, a separate audio or video player app will launch. Also, you cannot take a note you’ve already created and then attach audio, video or other files to it.

  • In OneNote, you cannot attach audio or video -- or any kind of file whatsoever -- to a page.

  • In Evernote Touch, each note is restricted in size to 25MB including any files or media you attach to it. A paid Evernote Premium account bumps this up to 100MB. The free user account allows you to upload 60MB every month, while premium grants a 1GB-per-month limit. (Premium costs $5 per month or $45 for an annual subscription.)

  • OneNote’s cloud syncing uses Microsoft’s SkyDrive service, which allows 2GB as the maximum a notebook file can be, with no limit on the amount of data you can upload.

  • In Evernote Touch and OneNote, you can share a note/page through email. Recipients can view but not edit your note/page. In Evernote Touch, you can also share a notebook as a link with anyone. Although a Premium account allows you and the recipient to collaborate, this function was not available in the version of Evernote Touch we tested.

  • In OneNote, you can generate a link to a notebook, section, or page. But when we tested this, such links wouldn’t open in a web browser unless we were signed in to SkyDrive with the same account used to create notes in the OneNote app. Otherwise, an error page said that the link was deleted, expired or we didn’t have the permission to view it. Looking throughout the OneNote app for Windows 8, we couldn’t find a way to set permissions to let others open these links.

  • The app that we liked the most on a Windows 8 device with a touchscreen was OneNote, due to its radial menus, and versatility for letting you edit and add elements to your pages. It misses two things, though: the ability to attach files (audio, video or other kinds) to your pages, and there didn’t appear to be any direct means from within the app to share your notes with others to collaborate. Evernote Touch and OneNote will both meet your basic note-taking needs on a Windows 8 touchscreen device, but both come off as works-in-progress that we hope to see more features added in upcoming updates.

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