Microsoft merging modern features into OneNote 2016 (Updated)

OneNote Surface Laptop
OneNote Surface Laptop (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft is preparing to merge modern features and code with its OneNote 2016 desktop app.
  • Features like @mentions, To Do integration, and Microsoft Search are in the pipeline.
  • The news comes after Microsoft revealed this week that OneNote 2016 will get extended support, along with a dark mode.

Microsoft gave OneNote 2016 a stay of execution earlier this week, revealing that it is extending support for the app to October of 2023. As it turns out, Microsoft has bigger plans for the OneNote desktop app, however. In an Ignite 2019 session today, Microsoft laid out plans for merging modern code and features back into the OneNote 2016 desktop app, which is a pivot in focus to begin operating under one codebase.

When it announced extended support for OneNote 2016, Microsoft said that a dark mode is also coming to the app. Beyond that, however, Microsoft plans to bring more modern features like @mentions and integration with Microsoft Search to the desktop app. There are also plans to integrate Microsoft To Do, which has already come to apps and services like Outlook and Microsoft Launcher on Android.

Notably, Microsoft previously continued to push the OneNote Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app over its traditional desktop counterpart as part of the Office suite. As part of this pivot, Microsoft is also shifting back to OneNote 2016 as the default version of the app that will be deployed and installed with Microsoft 365 subscriptions.

"We also want to make deployment and installation easier for organizations and individuals, so for Windows users, starting in March 2020, when you deploy or install Office 365 subscriptions that include the Office desktop apps or Office 2019, the OneNote desktop app will be installed by default alongside Word, Excel, and PowerPoint," Microsoft said in a blog post this week.

Where that leaves the UWP app is unclear, but we'll presumably see Microsoft flesh out its vision for OneNote in the coming months.

Updated November 7, 2019: A Microsoft engineer clarified the team's path in a Reddit post, stating the following:

Three years ago, we forked our code to work independently on 2016. We separated OneNote 2016 from our shared code base (the libraries that support android, UWP, IOS, Mac etc). Today, with our new strategy, we are taking that old branch that we deviated from, and bringing it back to accelerate our process shipping in all platforms.This doesn't mean we are stopping to support clients, or merging clients. Win 10 is alive, Office OneNote is alive.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl