OneNote Missing Features

Published: | Updated: | by Julian Knight Reading time ~10 min.
📖 Kb | 📎 Microsoft, Software | 🔖 microsoft, office, onenote, windows store, uwp

Microsoft have announced the deprecation of the desktop version of OneNote. They claim that the Windows Store version is as good or better. But it really isn’t! Here I try to list the missing features. I will update this post as things change.

Office 2019 (due for release late 2018) will no longer contain a desktop version of OneNote. Microsoft are telling everyone to move over to the Windows Store version (AKA “OneNote for Windows 10”), also seen in this blog post by William Devereux.

Microsoft claim that OneNote for Windows 10 is the only one now getting development other than fixes & that it is already “better” than the desktop version in “many” areas.

OneNote 2016 (the full desktop version) will continue to be available separately but will stop receiving any updates in 2020.

You can also keep track of what has been updated in OneNote for Windows 10 in the What’s New post.

However, there is a LOT missing from OneNote for Windows 10 - I’ve compiled this list in order to track what is missing and whether anything is done about it.

The marketing post by Microsoft “What’s the difference between OneNote and OneNote 2016?” gives Microsoft’s official view on which is best.

I’ve tried to be accurate but if you see anything wrong or anything missing, please leave a comment below.

Tell Microsoft what you want! 🔗︎

If you want Microsoft to fix some of these missing features:

They do generally listen. They don’t always do what you want of course!

Missing Features 🔗︎

  • Revision History
    • No page versions view Finally found this hidden under the RMB menu in the page list. Very poor UX though, to be fair, this option is in the same place in ON 2016. It’s just that isn’t the only place, it is also on the Ribbon.
    • No recent edits view
    • No recycle bin view - to allow recovery of accidentally deleted items Yes, this is present, just well hidden again. RMB over the notebook in the notebook list - which is probably normally hidden for you as it ends up taking up too much horizontal space.
  • UI/General Usability
    • No Insert Date/Time/Date & Time You can, in fact, insert date and time. But don’t bother looking for something simple if you aren’t using a keyboard, it is only available via a keyboard shortcut. Insert Date = Alt+Shift+D, Insert Time = Alt+Shift+T, Insert Date & Time = Alt+Shift+F. Really not very helpful for mobile/tablet users!
    • No symbol insert (Coming soon)
    • No page templates - no way to create a boilerplate template - e.g. for meetings
    • No custom ribbon or quick access toolbar - giving quick access to tools relevant to users workflows
    • No way to change paste option after pasting
    • No quick way to flip between notebooks without taking up half the screen. You have to click back to get to the list then select. On desktop, you can quickly switch between notebooks using a pop-over. The only alternative is perhaps to create separate tiles pinned to the start menu and then have multiple notebooks open at the same time.
    • Inefficient use of screen space - all navigation is forced to the left-hand side of the screen. On desktop, notebooks can be in a drop-down and tabs go across the top, this is a lot more efficient.
    • No way to change paragraph and line spacing - I find that the default text layout has too little white-space, especially between paragraphs. This makes large blocks of text difficult to read unless you manually include empty lines - which, in turn is not helpful if you later paste into other tools.
    • No “Record Video” feature
    • No control over audio recording quality
    • No internal control over audio recording device selection - can only use the Windows default
    • Uncertain whether recognise text in recordings is available or working
    • No ability to move navigation sidebars to other side
    • No floating new page button for note list so no way to create a new page in a chosen location without using the mouse/long-touch - which also changes the page
    • No way to turn off or correct auto capitalisation - immensely annoying when using OneNote for keeping technical notes (e.g. Programming). UPDATE: OK, not quite true, you can turn it on/off in settings but you can’t turn it off temporarily - for a single instance - like you can in the desktop. (thanks to Albin, see the comments)
    • Fewer size options for drawing pens
    • Only limited example equations for insert
    • Even less ability to automate than before
    • No way to set the language for text - you have to change the input keyboard to the language you want before typing, a terrible experience for multi-lingual use. UPDATE: Also not quite true, you can select some text and right/long click then you get an option to change it. (again, thanks to Albin)
    • No way to translate text (Coming soon)
  • Integration

    • No integration with Outlook or other Office applications - you can only integrate with Outlook.com or O365 so if you have a different Exchange email service as your default, there is no integration.
    • No Outlook task integration - I know some people use this extensively so that they get reminders in Outlook for expiring task dates
    • Why does meeting integration to outlook.com/O365 require me to log in again? I’m already logged in.
    • No integration with Office(?)
    • No office autocorrect.
    • No grammar checks
    • No access to custom spell-check dictionaries
    • No Thesaurus
    • No docked note taking with linked notes
    • No Very limited addins/extensions - not even from the Office Store

      Albin points out in the comments that this is not quite true. There is a version of the GEM addin for ON UWP. It is US$18 which may be too steep for some but it does add one or two useful things such as inserting a horizontal line and coloured code syntax. Mostly seems to make up for some of the issues listed here though. Uses a Windows menu overlay.

    • No “Insert Excel Spreadsheet” or “Insert (Visio) Diagram”. UPDATE: According to Albin, this is coming in a future release.

    • No way to access notebooks on local or network drives

    • No way to export notes - e.g. to a .one file - even the Surface Hub lets you do this.

    • No way to share just a page or a section, only the whole notebook

  • Tags

    • No custom “tags” (on roadmap?)
    • No text style tags
    • No “Find Tags” feature
    • No “Create Summary” feature, allowing tagged paragraphs from different pages/notebooks to be pulled together on a single page.
  • Search

    • Much more limited search view - no visibility of “recent” nor of the difference between search terms in titles vs page

      So it seems that the search results do differentiate between results in the title from the body. You wouldn’t be able to know this without reading the help though since the difference is that a search term found in a title is highlighted in bold+purple. Hmm, very intuitive - not.

    • No pop-over - results limited to same width as current sidebar so a lot less usable unless you change the width - which you then want to change back afterwards

    • No control over searching AV for words - can it even be done?

    • You cannot search closed notebooks - I suppose this is because it now only supports OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online for storage.

    • No search and replace. To be fair, this is a failing of ON 2016 as well.

  • Tables

    • No convert to excel for tables
    • No way to include/exclude heading row for table sort
    • No way to create a table with a specified number of rows/columns (by number)
    • No way to hide the borders of a table (Coming soon)
  • Security

    • No notebook local backups
    • No control over cache file location
    • No page password protection Eventually found this under the RMB menu for a section. Poor discoverability.

Other Questions 🔗︎

  • Does spellcheck use the Office custom dictionary? I’m guessing not.
  • Will “Send to OneNote” integration with Windows File Explorer be retained?
  • Will “Send to OneNote” integration with Outlook be retained? (The only way to get text and attachments into OneNote)

Other Issues 🔗︎

  • Drag and drop from Outlook is SLOW, have to keep the mouse over OneNote with the LMB pressed for an appreciable amount of time

What do we get that is “Better”? 🔗︎

  • May start faster on many systems.
  • Insert an image from your PC’s webcam - use the intelligence of MS Lens to improve document and whiteboard captures.
  • More colours for the pens - pen colours may be retained when converting to text.
  • A ruler.
  • Marginally better touch/pen handling.
  • Dictation.
  • Stickers(!)
  • Pin to start - you can pin Notebooks, Sections and Pages to the start menu. You can also have a transparent start menu entry. Note that “recent” entries in the jump list don’t work properly on the UWP version and not at all on the desktop version.
  • Uses system “share” capability to more easily share notes to other apps and share info from other apps to OneNote.
  • Built-in accessibility checker - be kinder to colleagues with accessibility issues.
  • Use the Immersive Reader for focused reading and improved comprehension.
  • Some simple equations can be charted or “solved”. You aren’t always given an option to chart however - such as for the desktop app’s example “A=πr^2” equation. Make sure you use “x” and “y” as variables to get round this limitation.
  • Use the pen to take a note even if the PC is locked.
  • Use the Edge browser to ink over a web page and save to OneNote.
  • Use Cortana to add a note.
  • “Better” sync engine is “coming soon” - though honestly, we may have to take MS’s word for that at the moment. The current sync engine seems to be the best one MS have in my view. However, it does start to struggle on mobile devices if your notebook gets too large, especially with embedded files.

Updates 🔗︎

2018-07-31:

  • Updated the “better” list following the comment from @DragosStefan. Also added further entries to that list based on the Microsoft blog posts.
  • Cross referenced to MS Power User blog post.

2018-07-26:

  • Many thanks to Albin LABELLE who has provided some really useful updates. Do check out his OneNote blog, especially his Closing the Gap post, he is keeping an eye on changes there. He also has some great OneNote tweets.

  • Twitter link from OneNote Central

  • Twitter question from @msonenote

2018-07-21:

  • Many thanks to Kjell for the comments via Disqus. I’ve updated the entries for the Recycle Bin and Insert date/time.

2018-07-19:


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