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Microsoft moving on from OneNote 2016 to focus on OneNote for Windows 10

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

Microsoft currently maintains two distinct versions of OneNote on Windows, but that's about to change later this year. "Beginning with the launch of Office 2019 later this year, OneNote for Windows 10 will replace OneNote 2016 as the default OneNote experience for both Office 365 and Office 2019," Microsoft announced today{.nofollow}

Microsoft has put a lot of effort into bringing the OneNote for Windows 10 app up to par with OneNote 2016 since its release, so it's not entirely surprising to see the company is looking to shift its focus to maintaining a single version of the app. For those who prefer the OneNote 2016 experience, the app will still remain available. However, it won't receive any new feature updates going forward. "OneNote 2016 is optionally available for anyone with Office 365 or Office 2019, but it will no longer be installed by default," Microsoft says. "If you currently use OneNote 2016, you won't notice any changes when you update to Office 2019." OneNote 2016 will continue to receive security updates and bug fixes through the end of the Office 2016 support cycle (opens in new tab).

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In a bid to tempt OneNote 2016 users to make the switch, Microsoft highlights OneNote for Windows 10's better reliability, performance, and battery life, along with a number of features not available in OneNote 2016 such as ink effects. Some new features are also coming soon to OneNote for Windows 10, each of which has been highly requested and should go a long way toward patching up any holes left in the jump from OneNote 2016. Here's a look:

  • Insert and search for tags: OneNote 2016's popular tags feature is coming to OneNote for Windows 10! Soon you'll be able to insert, create, and search for custom tags, making it easy to mark key information and find it later.
  • View and edit files: See live previews of Office files in OneNote, work together on attached documents, and save space in your notebooks with cloud files. You'll get all the benefits of saving a file on OneDrive with the context and convenience of an attachment or preview on a OneNote page.
  • Additional Class Notebook features: The full slate of Class Notebook features available in the add-on for OneNote 2016 will be available in OneNote for Windows 10 this summer. Best of all, you no longer need to install a separate add-in—it's all built-in!

A new sync engine is also in the works, with the goal of making any changes you make on one device appear much faster on another.

Ahead of the transition, if you have any lingering feature requests you want to see in OneNote for Windows 10, Microsoft is soliciting feedback via the Feedback Hub (opens in new tab).

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to daniel.thorp-lancaster@futurenet.com.

65 Comments
  • I wonder how this is going to affect the OneNote Classroom add in.
  • Does the third bullet in the article address that concern? "Additional Class Notebook features: The full slate of Class Notebook features available in the add-on for OneNote 2016 will be available in OneNote for Windows 10 this summer. Best of all, you no longer need to install a separate add-in—it's all built-in!"
  • Just checked my OneNote and a lot (if not all, don't know that) of the Classroom tools are already available in the OneNote app...
  • They need Outlook button to save an email msg into Onenote.
    Also, isn’t nested folders only available in 2016?
  • When you say nested folders, do you mean sub-pages? If yes, when you right click on any page or subpage, you can choose "Make subpage".
  • Not sure what you mean by nested folders, are you talking about having different subsections within a notebook? Or having like subpages? Either way you can do both in the UWP version.
  • This is a good example of how a UWP can be as powerful as a traditional app, but also shows how long of a process it is to accomplish.
  • It's long because they are trying to match the UWP version to the decades old win32 version, but if you're making something from scratch you wouldn't have to like wait for it to match parity with an already existing program before releasing it.
  • OneNote isn't decades old, maybe one. And it still shouldn't be this complex, since the important apps everybody wants to see I'm the store are old too.
  • Should've written "decade(s)" and clarified that I've been using it since 2008, but I'm fairly sure it existed before that but not sure when it first started. But my point is still the same. I don't get why you say it "shouldn't be this complex"? I guess what other older apps in the store are you comparing this to, and what makes these other older programs that were converted to UWP show that OneNote shouldn't take this long or be this complicated?
  • OneNote came out in November 2003, that is the better part of two decades ago.
  • Does surface dial work with this? I thought I heard and noticed, that they dropped the radial dial some time ago.
  • Excuse me but, even for a lowly rube, such as myself, "on par" still means equal. I hardly call the UWP OneNote Windows 10 app anything close to being on par with OneNote 2016. This would be a huge downgrade for any user of the Office product.
  • Really? I have pretty much switched over to the UWP version and I've been using OneNote since 2008. I know it's not completely one to one in terms of parity right now but what are other major things missing?
  • Thats what he said : "on par" means equal. You dont have to justify by telling what features you use coz different people have different priority. Therefore, in order to ditch a perfectly working app, subsititute must have one to one feature parity which Microsoft can never provide, not a single product. Thats why all their consumer facing products never took off or are on declining user engagement. But some people never learn from their mistakes.
  • I know what he said, that's why I said "I know it's not completely one to one in terms of parity right now..." I'm not dismissing that he may frequently use features that aren't built into the UWP version yet. I am being curious as a long-time OneNote user, what are the other things he considers major ENOUGH that he can't switch over. When I finally switched over, I didn't go down the list of features one-by-one to make sure everything is there, I would just try to use the UWP version as I normally do and see if I run into any problems or barriers. In the beginning there were some bigger things missing for me so I didn't use it full time, but at this point for me there is enough there that I don't have to use the desktop version. The other thing about complete parity is that they can't continue to develop the desktop and UWP version at the same time if you expect the UWP version to catch up to the desktop version, they need to eventually stop on the desktop version and completely focus on the UWP version. From my personal use case, they have enough of features moved over that I don't mind that they stopped developing the desktop version. Plus, it's not like they're taking away the desktop version, just stopping with adding new things.
  • That's a lame excuse that they can't develop both at the same time. Btw no one is aking them to develop 2016 version further. All I am saying is they could have at least ported over all the features to uwp first and then decided to dump. Why is that people have to go back and use a inferior product leaving aside a completely working app? With Microsoft it's always the customer who has to compromise.
  • History, (real) Sharing, Review, Outlook integration (actually Office integration). Huge issues for users that use those features. Not small features by any account. I personally only have touched OneNote UWP once in a while over the time and just looked to make sure I hadn't missed anything that may have been updated. And yes it has improved greatly but, not nearly equivalent to being equal with features. But, when you say on par it means look we made the same features in each. Just a cursory search will show it is not close to being on par. Even the tabs (similar layout minus the major ones I mentioned above) have areas/features that are not in the UWP version. Just look and compare the Insert tabs. There is quite a bit of functionality missing there alone.
  • Part of my response to you is in my response to @aerosidnic. But yes not everything is there yet. I was just more curious what are the things that you may use frequently that isn't there yet. It's never going to be on-par if they continue to develop the desktop version and UWP at the same time. I think it makes some sense that when the UWP version is far enough, they can stop adding new things to the desktop version and just focus on the UWP. Plus, like the articles states, they're not taking away the desktop version - you can still continue to use it even in future office releases.
  • This scared the bejesus outta me. Then I launched the Windows 10 version and tried a couple of the more obscure features, like napkin math and previous page versions, and sure enough, they're there. That said, I still find the 2016 version a bit more intuitive. Every few months I try the Windows 10 App, because there are certain things it actually does better. But there was always something that sent me back to 2016. It may no longer be an issue as the constant parade of updates may have brought along most, if not all, of the things I love about OneNote. Hmm...maybe this isn't the end of my world after all. Okay, I'm backing away from the window sill now...
  • When the UWP version of OneNote was newer I tried it and still used the desktop version primarily, but it has come a long way since then. I think when you say you feel the desktop version is more intuitive I feel like you're saying it's just more familiar. It didn't take me too much time to adjust to the UWP version.
  • Agreed. Inking is far far better for me on Desktop.
  • That's a shame, the UWP version of OneNote is simply awful compared to the Office 2016 version. I really hope they don't go through with this, not until UWP OneNote is indistinguishable from Office OneNote.
  • Seems there are differing opinions on this.
  • It's not called opinion, its a fact. Opinion is when there are different methods of doing same thing but when it lacks a feature, it's just a fact. Period.
  • It is an opinion, I switched over a year ago and have not looked back. I use it for stockroom management, procedure management and OneNote Classroom for my lab classes with my students in chemistry, organic chemistry, and microbiology.
  • It worked for you doesn't mean that moving over to a inferior product will work for everyone. All I am saying is that it's lafking feature wise which is a fact. For someone it still might work as long as it fullfils their need but not everyone.
  • "the UWP version of OneNote is simply awful compared to the Office 2016 version" This is an opinion. Saying something is lacking features is not the same as saying something is "simply awful."
  • It's awful because it simply lacks features which is a fact. Let's not justify their incompetencies.
  • It's still an opinion, like my opinion, I'm not sure which one I prefer, functionality wise, both do all I need, and to be honest, I keep thinking should I uninstall one and stick to the other, but never got round to it. I am surprised they've had 2 versions for so long, you'd have thought the underlying code could have easily been migrated to the UWP version realtively easy, just leaving the front end to be implemented. This article has made me think I should go off and investigate the features that make someone prefer the 2016 version, maybe there's something fantastic I've been missing :-)
  • I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I actually prefer the OneNote win10 version. I have been a heavy OneNote user for at least 5 years and made the official switch about six months ago. One big reason is that I have high hopes for Andromeda, UWP and responsive apps. I am trying to use the UWP version of as many apps as I can. They are more light weight, don't carry as much "baggage", are easier to update and honestly, they are the future.
  • I use the 2016 version on my desktop and the UWP app on my Surface 3. For some reason it feels more touch friendly compared to the 2016 version.
  • "for some reason" -- i think because it was designed with touch as a primary input method :)
  • I've used both versions and for my purposes they are close enough. The one thing that has bothered me has been cosmetic differences and things like creating notes from an outlook meeting look slightly different between the two.
  • Finally consistency! Good move, Microsoft. Was waiting for this since forever. Now replace all other legacy crap as well. OneNote is an excellent start, now proceed with Outlook... (I know this is a hard one but still)
  • Oh this is a concern. I'm heavily invested in OneNote. The UWP app ==! The Office 2016 programme. Office 2019 is out at the out of the year, yes? They have a *lot* of work to do....
  • Does the UWP version have the same Outlook integration to pull in all meeting details as well as to create tasks in Outlook?
  • Yes it does. But not sure about creating tasks part of it
  • Tasks will probably be integrated into To-Do, which already integrates with Outlook 2016
  • One feature that I would really like to see in the UWP version is offline/network notebooks. I use this with for work because we aren't on O365 and it's critical.
  • They need to do this with Skype too. How many damn Skype's do we need. One for all please.
  • If I'm not wrong we're getting Teams instead of Skype for business. And about regular Skype... I'm not sure..
  • Lol even Microsoft is also not sure what they want to do with regular Skype.
  • Please add a calculator in OneNote, available on top of every screen, and locked into place so that it doesn't disappear as the regular calculator does when taping any window. Either that, or make the default Windows calculator lockable with the push of a button.
  • I hope so too cuz u've been wanting a lockable calculator for a while. Lol
  • You can snap any app, but I want it to float, not snap, in this particular case.
  • All MS has to do is add a lock tab to the top of the app which will make that app maintain precedence over any app that is opened. If an app is locked it will stay at the top layer until it is unlocked, or another app is locked. Only one app would be able to be locked at a time, or it would defeat the purpose... If another app is opened while an app is locked it will be opened directly under the app that is locked. Of course, all minimize/resize features would still apply to the locked apps. In some cases the OS may need to unlock apps on it's own; cases IDK of yet, but I can only assume that would be the case, with so many variables at play.
    This would be especially useful with an Andromeda device, where I will be using it as my main financial planner.
  • I use one note probably on a daily basis. But probably as more of a basic user. Mainly just writing down things copy and pasting stuff etc. But I definitely preferred the UWP over the desktop app anyway.
  • Bring on the gloom and doom predictions. Personally I use OneNote quite a bit and most times I choose the W10 version
  • Use OneNote about 2-3 times a week and just noticed myself that the UWP version is the one I prefer over the Win32 version. That said... I hope this is NOT a test route for other Office 365 products. Win32 is still a cool platform. I don't think its something MS needs to be ashamed of AT ALL. It's Win32 games in particular that differentiate Windows from weak watered down OS' like Android. Don't get me wrong, UWP is also pretty bloody cool, in its own way. But as a COMPLEMENT to Win32 and... PWA for that matter.
  • Win32 will be on the way out though so they're going to need to convert everything at some point
  • Let's hope this is just the beginning and that the rest of the legacy Office apps will all permanently migrate some day. I'm especially looking at you, Outlook.
  • I use OneNote in my professional career and the biggest piece I will miss is incorporating outlook tasks with OneNote. As far as I know, you can't create outlook tasks in OneNote Mobile. I'll leave my opinion in user voice!
  • but but uwp sucks, bla bla bla...even MS doesn't believe in it /s
  • I had about 1300 Entries in OneNote but i switched back to Google Keep. Keep is always in sync. OneNote never was in sync with different devices. The same amount of entries took 2.7GB with Onenote (not only in the cloud, but also on the device!!) With Google Keep, it takes only 247MB on my device (i guess for preview thumbnails).
  • How about first having OneNote uwp feature parity and then move on. Typical Microsoft. And it will take them ages to get all those OneNote 2016 features over to OneNote uwp.
  • TOTALLY AGREE with this statement!
  • I used the UWP app throughout my two term organic chemistry course this year and all the classroom management features were there.. Plus the UWP has a great ink to shape feature that helps in chemistry
  • And just to confirm that this new OneNote for Windows 10 is going to be the OneNote available on Android devices?? Now that I've moved across to an Android smartphone (under much duress), it would be typical if OneNote on Android isn't going to be compatible until 'changes are made - soon™ '.
  • What do you mean by OneNote on android being made "compatible"? I mean can access and edit the same notebooks connected to my Microsoft account on both PC and my android phone. Or are you referring to something else?
  • What!? No! This is insane! UWP OneNote is still incredibly inferior and does not support offline .one files!
  • Then keep using the OneNote 2016 version if it still better suits you. It's not going away. They're just focusing development on the UWP one going forward.
  • Read the news release and was anything but enthused because I've preferred the desktop version for a long time. I did try the app again yesterday, and notebooks hosted on SharePoint 2013 team sites crashed when I tried to open them from recent notebooks.
  • Then keep using the OneNote 2016 version if it still better suits you. It's not going away. They're just focusing development on the UWP one going forward.
  • With several thousand pages in multiple books, subpages etc I find 2016 far far superior, I even use add-ins from Onetastic which further increases productivity. I don't mind changing to UWP if it sorted the basics such as page templates out. I also like to drag and drop pages from one notebook section into others, with 2016 its easy as I can have multiple notebooks open and see the sections in each one, in UWP I can only see the one at a time, the design and layout are really bad.