Technology and Innovation Consultant


Switching from OneNote to Apple Notes

In this post I will share how I was able to migrate from OneNote to Apple Notes. It’s a fairly tedious process, but it’s doable with a little bit of effort and time!

How to migrate from OneNote to Apple Notes

In summary, the process has three major steps.

  1. Use Evernote to import notes from OneNote, one section at a time
  2. Export Evernote .enex files for each previous OneNote section. (In Evernote the equivalent is a “notebook”)
  3. Import .enex files in Apple Notes

Yes, we’re actually using a third tool, Evernote, to make this happen. Unfortunately OneNote doesn’t provide a viable export option that you can use with Apple Notes. However, Evernote has a built in tool to migrate files from OneNote. And since Evernote is more flexible in its export process, you can actually use it to convert your OneNote notes to a format (.enex) that Apple Notes can import.

Post Mortem after the Migration

Here are some lessons learned after migrated to Apple Notes.

The Good

  • Syncing between devices is faster and more reliable
  • Apple Notes strikes a great blend between simplicity and useful features. It’s not cluttered.
  • Drawing tools are better
  • Dark mode implementation is better
  • 2021 update: Apple Notes now supports #tags which is great for more advanced organization

The Bad (or Annoying)

  • No back/forward buttons to navigate between notes
  • Search is somewhat limited. I wish Apple Notes had smart folders so I could quickly find things like the most recently edited notes across all folders.
  • There’s no way to link between different notes

Overall, the move to Apple Notes has been a good one. For me, having a simplified interface and reliable syncing between my Apple devices is key. I don’t miss all the extra bells and whistles of OneNote.

My Journey from Evernote to OneNote to Apple Notes

My journey with digital note-taking has been a storied one. The first note-taking tool I ever committed to was Evernote back in 2009. Evernote captured the lion share of the note-taking market for several years. It was red hot and became ubiquitous for note-taking.

By 2014 I had written over 1,500 notes in Evernote. But then something happened. Evernote was starting to lag behind competition. They also launched a paid service, but the offering wasn’t compelling enough for me to pay. Then, innovation at Evernote seemed to just … stop. The product felt stagnant. I couldn’t reconcile how monetizing their app didn’t result in any meaningful enhancements for users. Evernote lost their way.

Then in 2015 Microsoft began offering OneNote for free (PC, Mac and mobile). A shot at Evernote? Probably yeah. They saw an opportunity while Evernote struggled. I’ve never been a Microsoft fanboy. But around this timeframe under Satya Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft was changing and evolving (and continues to) in ways that had great benefits for consumers. Making OneNote free was one of those changes.

So I decided to migrate from Evernote to OneNote. I went all in and didn’t look back. Migrating my notes over to OneNote was actually pretty darn smooth. In a couple of hours I was up and running.

Fast forward to 2020. After using OneNote for a few years I realized two things that ultimately led me to search for (another!) a replacement.

  1. Too many features can distract you from taking good notes. OneNote is great if you like tons and tons of features and flexibility. But if you’re looking for simplicity, then it’s probably not for you.
  2. Syncing was always a bit wonky and writing notes on my iPhone was never smooth. The note syncing was inconsistent and slow. My OneNote file was stored in OneDrive and I always found it strange (and frustrating) when my notes would not sync quickly with my laptop. And the mobile experience on iPhone has issues with editing. The fonts would change mid note (what?!). There was keyboard incompatibility, especially with swipe. Weird things like that. These issues interfered enough with my workflow to make me consider alternatives… again.

If you’re considering migrating to Apple Notes Ihope you find this helpful! The process, while a little cumbersome, really isn’t that bad. Good luck!

21 responses

  1. I personally am stuck in a lalaland between having notes across Evernote, Google Keep, and old Onenote archives from various jobs.

  2. I’m looking for switch to joplin or standard notes for universality and open standards (I use linux, windows, and haiku). Can they import enex files?

  3. Ray Robinson Avatar
    Ray Robinson

    I may be a little late to this, but I’m also trying to migrate away from OneNote. I’m running Evernote v. 10.38.3 on a Windows VM.

    When I try to import, Evernote doesn’t show an option for OneNote files. Only for Evernote export files, text files and “All files.” When I point it at a OneNote file, it just pulls it into Evernote as a a native OneNote file with no conversion.

    Has the OneNote export option been deprecated from Evernote?

    1. Ray Robinson Avatar
      Ray Robinson

      Update: I’ve got it working now. You have to have old versions of both Evernote and OneNote to make it work.
      Which is ridiculous, but there you go. Both of these products are easy to dislike.

      1. Curator Avatar

        Totally agree that both are easy to dislike!

        Almost ready to go to a plain csv file but need images attached to note.

        Good luck

      2. When you say “old” version, what exactly to you mean? I have evernote 10.50.10 and onenote 16.68 on MacOS Ventura – which old versions do you recommend and from where?

  4. I had a nearly identical note-taking journey from Evernote to OneNote, and now trying to move over to Apple Notes to simplify my digital life. Good luck to anyone else who is trying to make the switch. It’s a doozy!

  5. I do like the new Apple Notes also, but one thing that makes me a little bit nervous is that Apple only updates this app by updating MacOS. If you are like me, stuck on Catalina or any version less then the very latest…then I will not be able to use the latest version of Apple Notes (including for example “tags”, and there is not even any guarantee that Apple Notes on Catalina will 100% work reliably with my iPad running IOS15.

    Using any kind of third party note taking app avoids the above problem completely. its unfortunate that OneNote is such a mess regarding OneDrive and syncing, I don’t trust that AT ALL. Its unfortunate that Evernote is too bloody expensive. So that’s where we are now….

  6. Thanks for sharing the method! I tried this today suing Evernote desktop version (Mac OS), but I’m not seeing an obvious way to import OneNote notebooks into Evernote. It sounds (from some internet research) like there used to be an option in Evernote to specifically import OneNote files, but I’m not seeing that in the Mac OS desktop version. Can you provide detailed instructions on importing OneNote into Evernote? Thanks again!

    1. Eric Clark Avatar
      Eric Clark

      That’s a good point JB. I did my migration using a PC.

  7. Mark Wilson Avatar
    Mark Wilson

    I think I am going to give this a go after reading your blog. OneNote is very frustrating and logging in, mixing up of personal and corporate accounts is very messy. A notes app needs to be really quick otherwise it is so annoying. I didn’t even realise that web access was possible and I thought it was surprisingly good!

    1. Eric Clark Avatar
      Eric Clark

      Cool! They’re definitely different experiences. Apple’s made some updates lately too, which are still keeping things simple, but giving some more control around organization of notes. Specifically the ability to #tag notes. Let me know how it goes!

  8. My biggest problem with Apple notes is that I use Windows on occasion. I am mostly on Mac’s but I work in IT so at time I have to RDP into a Windows desktop or server and need my notes on those systems.

    I can access Apple notes while on Windows computer from iCloud website but the experience is simply bad, just like iCloud email. Apple does not do web apps vey well.

    With OneNote I can access my notes with either native apps or via the web. Microsoft has MUCH better web apps.

    I recently switched from Safari to Edge for the same reason. That and UBlock works on Edge.

    1. Eric Clark Avatar
      Eric Clark

      Hey Larry, I agree the web version of Apple Notes isn’t good. I didn’t have a good experience with OneNote on the web either, but it was better than Apple Notes on the web. Thanks for sharing your experience and perspective. Hopefully it helps others as they consider which note taking app to use.

    2. Another option is Google Keep, however it is web only, it doesn’t support rich formatting, and the images you bring over from Evernote are at the end of the note, if you happen to have images within your notes.

      But it satisfies the quickness and rapid syncing, over the other solutions

  9. William Kolshorn Avatar
    William Kolshorn

    I tried copying a document from OneNote to Apple Notes directly and through Evernote, but no matter what I do I am unable to edit it or add to it. I guess I didn’t do something right. That’s one of the dangers of trying out multiple apps. If you get a lot of notes in one of them and then you want to change, it’s a nightmare. Any ideas on how to transfer a note that’s editable would be appreciated

  10. Wesehrt Avatar

    So hopeful this works! My journey parallels yours. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Eric Clark Avatar
      Eric Clark

      No problem! Let me know how it goes…

  11. Robert Avatar

    What if you just kept using both OneNote and Apple Notes? Or do you believe it is better to house all your notes in one platform? I also switched from Evernote to OneNote but somehow created a bunch of sections within notebooks that are now very cumbersome to work through. I mainly rely on the keyword search tool to find what I’m looking for. Thoughts? Thank you for this post.

    1. Eric Clark Avatar
      Eric Clark

      Generally I try to avoid using multiple products and consolidate where possible. Just mentally not having to think much about where and knowing all my notes are in one place is better for me. Everyone is different though and so if using both works for you more power to you! Searching in Apple Notes has improved a lot and I can find what I’m looking for quickly, even if I don’t have everything organized.

  12. Thanks – your experience is mine too – exactly the same frustrations – appreciate your suggestions – I’ll give it a try…

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