Saturday, August 2, 2014

Three reasons why handwriting on OneNote Mobile is better than the rest

imageimageIf you’re part of the OneNote Android Beta testing you know that the latest version added ink/handwriting to the app. Although handwriting is new to OneNote mobile, it’s been a part of OneNote and Windows for a loooong time, tho we’ll save that topic for a different post. Better late than never for OneNote, but here’s why this late-coming feature is worth using, and is better than the other options you might have for handwritten notes.



  • Disclaimer #1: “…better than the rest…” – okay, I’m really only talking about 2 other options because they’re what I’ve been previously using – EverNote (via Skitch) and Samsung Galaxy stylus applications (specifically Action Memos). Tho, I’m pretty confident my 3 reasons will probably apply to other options as well.
  • Disclaimer #2: This post really isn’t for anyone drawing their notes with their fingers. Although I suppose my three reasons could still have value for you, I’m thinking primarily about people using a stylus or capacitive pen or some kind of instrument for precise handwritting on their device.
  • Disclaimer #3: This is important to me primarily because I’m addicted to OneNote, and because I’m a Surface Pro 1 & 3 owner. This feature brings another cross-platform integration point into my Surface Pro life, but my 3 reasons certainly apply to all, whether you own a Pro or not.

What’s Good About the Rest?

  • EverNote has been working hard on integrating handwriting, including annotations to images and PDFs. Their implementation took a leap forward with their acquisition of Skitch. And to be honest, it’s not bad. Before OneNote handwriting in Android, I was using it for about 35% of my phone handwriting on my Galaxy Note 3, and 100% on my phone before I had a stylus.
  • The Samsung Galaxy phones have the S-Pen and related handwriting note apps. Now that I have a Note 3, I’ve been using them for about 70% of my hand-notes, and then exporting them to OneNote or EverNote as images. It’s decent, but Sharing and integration with other apps is so-so or non-existent.

So out with it – What Three Things make OneNote Handwriting on Mobile so great?

  • The Never-ending Page
    • EverNote makes you hit a button to add a new page to your hand notes, and when you do the page is disjoined from the previous, and only goes downward.
    • I’m not aware of any feature in the Samsung Galaxy apps for increasing your page size in any kind of significant way.
    • OneNote has always been an never-ending page application.  I can keep writing as far to the right, or as far down, as I want. I can even magically add space to the left later on, pushing my hand notes or any other items across the page. I would not have blamed OneNote for not adding this feature to a mobile phone app, but I was pleasantly surprised to see it works there just like it does on the desktop app! See a future post on why an infinite page size is such a big deal, tho you mind-mappers can probably guess.
  • Search in OneNote – Did you know that OneNote can search your HANDWRITING to find words? And has been doing so for YEARS? Uh, yeah, the future is now. : ) So I can write my quick notes on my phone, knowing that they’re synced to my cloud-based notebooks, and I can later do a search to find what I’m looking for, instead of looking through pages of handwriting the way I do with [uuggghhh] real-world paper notebooks. Is there anyone else out there doing this?
  • Annotating Images & Screenshots – This third reason is powerful because of the first 2 reasons – I can swipe my hand across my phone to grab a screenshot (thanx Galaxy Note 3), then Share it to OneNote. From there I can start annotating with an infinite page and knowing my annotations are searchable!

What else am I missing – are there even more reasons why I should be giddy about this new Beta feature?


  1. Hi Ricardo,

    Great write-up. If you could tag your OneNote-related posts accordingly, I can more easily pull them in into the daily OneNote News Radar.

    I'm also noticing that your post has this sentence
    "So out with it – What Two Things make OneNote Handwriting on Mobile so great?"
    Did you initially intend to just mention two reasons?

    Marjolein Hoekstra (@OneNoteC / @CleverClogs)

  2. Of course you have more freedom when you draw something und in typing i prefer a keyboard. It is a lot faster and my handwriting doesnt look so good.
    Andre from telco-tec

  3. Can you take a picture and/or video when working in OneNote on the Note 3, without leaving OneNote?

  4. you've done really excellent job! thanks a lot for sharing!!

    digital signature certificate