OneNote vs. Notability: Which Note-Taking Tool is Better?

Officially announced in 2002, OneNote was designed differently from its sister applications Excel and Word. OneNote offered distinctive features for people to freely build their preferred note-taking systems.

At the turn of the new decade and when Apple’s iPad first launched in 2010, digital canvas Notability arrived in the note-taking apps space. The app became the go-to for students taking notes in the classroom.

Both apps are packed with features to help you get the most value from your notes, but will the investment of your time and money be worth it?

If you’ve been going back and forth between Microsoft OneNote and Notability, we put together the ultimate guide to their features and pricing to help you decide the best note-taking app for you!

Let’s get started!

What is OneNote?

OneNote is a powerhouse of unique features to supercharge your experience. Here are some of the features we hand-picked for this article:

OneNote Hierarchy

Your Office 365 account offers a default notebook with optional sections and pages you can customize with just a few clicks. Name the notebooks based on your topic or idea. Then the sections can act like chapters with organized items on various pages.  

Picture OneNote’s notebook as your physical book with chapters and pages. And creating a new one is a breeze!

OneNote Custom Tags

It’s common for items with similar properties to lead separate lives in different sections or pages. How can you group them, so they talk with one another?

Grab OneNote’s tags to make that happen.

The app also allows you to tailor and add as many tags as you need. The benefits? You’ll be able to classify, contextualize, and identify specific items in several notebooks, pages, or sections!

OneNote Sticky Notes

If this feature is missing from your OneNote app, you can install it from the Microsoft Store for free!

It’s even better on mobile phones for people always on the go. Simply jot down your note, and it will instantly synchronize to your PC, laptop, or other devices.

OneNote OCR 

OneNote also comes with Optical Character Recognition (OCR), a game-changer that allows you to extract and read editable texts in an image. You can copy the text from your image, paste it into a text-based program (like MS Word), and edit it.

Want to copy-paste just a few texts without the hassle of converting all images to editable texts? You can search them with a few clicks. 

OneNote Immersive Reader

OneNote understands that the digital space can quickly overwhelm you with distractions. That’s why they introduced an immersive reader for focused readership.

The feature declutters your screen so you’re concentrating on text only. You can also adjust space, backdrop color, font, and text size options. 

If you have audio recordings from meetings or lectures, one of the exciting functions of OneNote is converting speech to text so you’ll stay present and focused in the room!

OneNote Pricing

Microsoft offers OneNote free of charge!

But there’s a catch: To unlock premium features and enjoy extended storage in OneDrive, you need to subscribe to Microsoft 365. 

The good news? Each plan has a 1-month free subscription to test drive.

  • Microsoft 365 Family ($99.99/year or $9.99/month)
    • 5 total seats
    • 6TB total cloud storage
    • Compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac
  • Microsoft 365 Personal ($69.99/year or $6.99/month)
    • 1 person only
    • 1 TB of cloud storage
    • Compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac

Check out these OneNote alternatives!

What is Notability?

Notability is a simple note-taking and PDF annotation app that serves users who prefer using the Apple Pencil to draw and mark-up documents. Let’s dive deeper into some of its key features:

Notability New Notebooks

Create a notebook from scratch or use a community template from the Notability gallery! You can tweak the template’s page color, grid spacing, orientation, and more. 

And if you’re not completely satisfied with the template, you can build and save your own for future work.

With Notability’s mobile responsiveness, you can start your creation on a laptop and wrap it up using a tablet. But some users complain of synching hitches, so tread carefully.

Bonus: AI note taking tools!

Notability Writing Tools

Choose from a plethora of pens to turn your thoughts into words or drawings: Fountain, ballpoint, dotted, and dashed. And if you have a specific color aesthetic, you’re able to add up to 64 custom colors to your Notability palette!

You can always revisit a crucial point in your notes with the highlighter. And the eraser help keep things perfect.

Run out of space? No worry! Insert tiny notes using the zoom feature. 

And a lasso tool is another great addition that empowers you to get creative: Change your content style, duplicate objects, resize the notes, group selections, and more!

Notability Sticky Notes and Stickers

Digital stickers are making waves in the note-taking world. And Notability doesn’t disappoint here. It offers numerous stickers to tell a story your way!

Free stickers are up for grabs in the gallery if you aren’t given to art. But this feature work only with handwritten items, not text or images. 

Notability OCR

Notability, too, doesn’t want to lag in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology. The app can identify text in images and convert handwritten words into texts in 22 languages. If there’s any error in the handwritten notes, Notability can help you fix it before the conversion.

For those who fill their notebooks with math equations, Notability can convert equations into scalable and high-quality images using the OCR feature. Resizing, rotating, or wrapping text around the images is easy.

Mathematics and Chemistry have rules. Notability’s OCR also has rules regarding conversions of equations. But they aren’t hard to follow!

Notability Pricing

Notability also has a 100% free plan. 

But the premium plan is your better option if you want to unlock the full power of the app.

  • Free
    • PDF import and annotation
    • Gallery and templates
    • Custom Stickers
    • Presentation Mode
    • Various sharing and export options, and more
  • Plus (price varies by region)
    • Handwriting conversion and search
    • Unlimited edits and notes
    • iCloud Sync
    • Math Conversion
    • Yearly planners and journals, and more

Check out these Notability alternatives!

Notability vs. OneNote Features Compared

OneNote vs. Notability: Pricing

You want a cutting-edge note-taking app that doesn’t break the bank. So, which app is budget-friendly? 


You can download and use the OneNote app for free.

However, the free plan gives you only 60MB of storage space and basic features. Also, you can sync notes across only two devices. 

Want to get premium features such as sharing options and stickers? The Microsoft 365 subscription costs $6.99/month.


A free Notability plan can kick off your note-taking journey. But the free version of Notability limits the amount of editing you can make.

Notability Plus offers incredibly rich features such as hand-crafted stickers, math conversion, and handwriting recognition. Also, you can write as much as you wish.

Depending on which region you live in, the app price will vary.

OneNote vs. Notability: Ease of use and accessibility

You want a no-clutter app that helps you write and do more without hassles. Let’s find out who wins here.


Microsoft’s note-taking app brings your organization game to a new level. Separate notebooks, sections, and pages can help you create a powerful workbook. 

This app is also a cross-platform asset, allowing you to continue your experience on iOS, Android, and Windows devices. 

But it seems the app’s user experience could use some improvement. You can easily get lost in its forest of features if you’re new to the Microsoft ecosystem.


Notability’s intuitive layout with powerful sketching tools is what attracts most people to this app.

But there’s an entire audience of digital note-takers who can’t access this app because it’s offered through Apple’s App Store only. If you’re interested in Notability as a team collaboration tool, you’ll have to ensure they’re Apple users to download this app.

OneNote vs. Notability: Key writing and editing tools

Uninterrupted writing keeps the ideas flowing. Here’s how the two giants rival each other.


You might not enjoy seamless control over the OneNote eraser. That makes erasing a clumsy affair.

But the app makes up for this limitation by having a brilliant and smooth highlighter. You don’t contend with messy shades. 

OneNote also comes with an extra finger for your writing and drawing tasks. We’re talking about stylus support. 

It also has an OCR functionality that turns your handwriting into text. However, the handwriting isn’t as robust and clear as Notability’s, despite the latest update.


When it comes to the eraser, Notability leaves OneNote in the dust. You can change its size and erase your text by pixel, ensuring your work isn’t a mess.

But the highlighter is another story. The overlaps can leave an ugly mark and discourage you from reading your notes. 

Regarding stylus support, it’s a tie here. 

How about handwriting and OCR? Notability takes home the trophy again. You’ll love revisiting your gracefully handwritten notes in the future. 

OneNote vs Notability on Reddit

We took to Reddit to see where people land on the OneNote vs Notability debate. When you search OneNote vs Notability on Reddit, many users seem to prefer Notability’s audio recording and editing features:

“Audio recordings, speed when moving/editing handwritten notes, printing/pagination was such a PITA from OneNote. I feel like Notability has better stock paper/backgrounds.”

Other Reddit users noted that despite Notability’s audio recording abilities, there are major pros to using OneNote as well:

Organization is where OneNote reigns. I had an encyclopedia worth of information in OneNote, and I can still find just about anything I think of. Collapsable outlines are amazing.”

Notability vs. OneNote: Who Wins?

OneNote’s 3-tiered hierarchy structure allows you to craft folders iteratively. But its many features can throw you into a complicated journey.

Notability gives you dividers to enhance your organization. And the ease of use is where it outshines OneNote.

OneNote doesn’t discriminate against platforms, ensuring your note-taking experience continues across the devices you love. But Notability is only accessible to the Apple tribe. 

OneNote’s eraser isn’t brilliant, though its highlighter makes up for this irritation. On the contrary, Notability boasts a powerful eraser, though its highlighter is a letdown. 

Both apps come with cutting-edge stylus support and OCR. However, Notability’s handwriting feature topples OneNote’s.

So, back to the big question: Who wins?


Its advanced features, pocket-friendly prices, ease of use, and cross-platform puts it several steps ahead of OneNote.

But if you’re concerned about Notability’s drawbacks, we have a better solution for you—ClickUp!

Meet ClickUp: The Best Alternative to OneNote and Notability

ClickUp is an all-in-one productivity platform where teams come together to plan, organize, and collaborate on work using tasks, Docs, Chat, Goals, Whiteboards, and more. Easily customized with just a few clicks, ClickUp lets teams of all types and sizes deliver work more effectively, boosting productivity to new heights! 

Between throwaway notes to your most important work, ClickUp’s Free Forever Plan is packed with time-saving features:

ClickUp Docs

rich formatting and slash commands in clickup docs
ClickUp Docs allows rich formatting and Slash commands to work more efficiently

ClickUp Docs integrate with your projects and tasks so you can move through your knowledge base without any friction. And if you’re a fan of bi-directional linking, you love the Relationships ClickApp in Docs. Simply link to Docs and tasks from inside another Doc to help you cross-reference resources anywhere you need them!

Here are other great features in Docs:

  • Select a custom cover image from the gallery, your desktop, a link, or the Unsplash library
  • Turn on focus mode so you can concentrate on one block of text at a time
  • Assign threaded replies so action items never get lost
  • Create and access Templates from the right sidebar

Notepad by ClickUp

Create a task from any web browser with ClickUp's Chrome Extension
Download ClickUp’s Chrome Extension to access your Notepad, create a task, and more, from virtually anywhere on the web

Do you spend the majority of your time in your Chrome browser? You need Notepad by ClickUp! You’ll no longer have to flip between tabs and apps to take notes. The floating action buttons are there when you need them to capture a quick note or create a task!

Here’s what you can do with the ClickUp Chrome Extension:

  • /Slash commands: Format your note with headers, bold fonts, lists, and much more
  • Drag-and-drop: Add images, gifs, videos, and other files directly into your notes
  • Search: Search your notes by keywords found in the title or description of a note
  • Archive/Unarchive: Archive or unarchive your note
  • Convert: Convert your note to a task—or a Doc!

ClickUp Whiteboards

ClickUp Whiteboard Convert to Task Feature
Easily convert items within a ClickUp Whiteboard to tasks

If your note-taking style prefers visuals and blocks of objects placed strategically on a digital canvas, try ClickUp Whiteboards! Perfect for personal projects or shared meeting notes, Whiteboards bridge the gap between brainstorming and getting work done.

Here are other things you can do with Whiteboards:

  • Use /Slash Commands to format elements like banners, headings, highlights, and code blocks
  • Create a Whiteboard from scratch or use a pre-built template for your use case
  • Convert shapes, sticky notes, or text into a task
  • @mention people, tasks, and Docs

Organize All Your Digital Papers in ClickUp

It’s become a necessity to take notes for our personal and professional growth. Not only does it help improve our performance, but we allow more bandwidth in our minds for new knowledge.

OneNote and Notability rank among the best note-taking apps but they’re not for everyone. If what you really want is a productivity platform to power your note-taking, try ClickUp—it’s yours free forever!

Questions? Comments? Visit our Help Center for support.

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