Alternative title: Don’t trust your prejudice. I have never been a fan of Microsoft. The people are great, certainly, and they seem to be more chill and better global citizens than Apple’s culture promotes, to be sure. But product-wise, call me Eve cause I am all about Apple.
That is why, in my quest for the perfect note-taking and collaborating app, I tried just about every app out there before even considering OneNote, even though I had come across it multiple times. Surely, I thought, nothing beautiful, fun, reliable, streamlined and intuitively efficient can come out of Microsoft?!?!
My closed mind led me to try several really nice, but ultimately useless, apps. I loved Paper53 – the drawing capabilities are gorgeous, and its notecard system and ability to annotate pictures are genius. But, I can’t search the content of my notes! I’m not going to scroll through a stack of notes 100-cards deep to find one obscure reminder I need for a complicated project. The sharing feature, or lack thereof, is also less than would be desired. At least, it’s no good for collaborating. There is no way to add another user to a stack, and notebooks can only be shared as PDF, Presentation, or Images. You can add your cards to a “stream,” which I think is the apps attempt at social or open-source-esque collaboration, but this is totally impractical for group work on projects. Not to mention the fact that your shared cards are available to the public, which isn’t quite ideal if you are planning, say, a whole bunch of fun and never-before-seen future blog posts. Sigh…if it weren’t for these two crucial factors, search and collab, I would have found my notes app soulmate.
Paper53 is like that gorgeous, romantic, artsy hunk who turns out to actually be kind of an idiot. Beautiful, sure, but not very mature. It’s a brilliant resource for an individual to sketching out ideas, and share them as basically finished products. If this sounds like what you need, yay! But tragically I had to put my tiny digital brush set away because it was definitely not functionally practical enough for me.
I’ll keep my comments brief on my next fated foray, with the adorable little Google Keep. What a fun app! Bright colors, weirdly fun default fonts…and the main page looks like you are scrolling through a bunch of sticky notes! You can also begin typing a note directly from the home page, rather than having to go though some multi-step “new page” ritual. However…you still can’t collaborate on large amounts of notes! You can “tag” notes, similar to how you can in Gmail, but there is no folder or notebook feature. Therefore, believe it or not, you can only share notes one. at. a time. ?!?! The only way to organize notes is to write one, then label it, but it still shows up on the home screen and you cannot share a whole tag with fellow collaborators. Why, Google Keep, why??? I can’t even imagine who that feature would be valuable for. If I’m making travel plans, or sharing a shopping list or chores with my family, or even the most mundane tasks like that, wouldn’t you want to share a whole category of notes rather than sending them to people one (!) by (!) one(!) ?!?! Oh, Google Keep. You fun and adorable nugget just too stuck in the status quo to help a quirk like me. Great app for keeping personal reminders, but just not creative collaboration.
At this point, I had hit rock bottom. How on earth would I ever find a way to jot down ideas and share them conveniently with a group of people???? (cue dramatic walking-in-the-rain montage). It was then, at my lowest point, I had no choice but to turn to the app I had discounted long ago. And immediately my first thought was, what the heck had I been thinking?! The moment I opened the OneNote website, I realized I had been an idiot for waiting so long. Not only does OneNote have every feature I’m looking for: easy to use and intuitive, photo/drawn and written notes, and group collaboration by folder, topic and more…BUT, it is also colorful, with nice fonts and rounded edges. The design of the app is incredibly interactive and somehow feels very empathetic and personal, unlike any Microsoft product I have ever interacted with before. The features for adding pages, renaming notebooks and topics, indenting bullet points and more are all that I could wish for from a heavy-duty desktop application, let alone an app. For the first time, I felt like I was using a Microsoft program that works by conforming to the way I think, not the other way around. On top of the incredibly enjoyable and, dare I say it about Microsoft, human-centered design, which is as happily un-Excel-like as possible, the app’s success is due in large part to its color scheme. It looks like Microsoft has finally realized how to make a recognizable aesthetic of their own, that relies not on white backgrounds and gray serifs (cough cough…copying Apple), or on garish Kindergarten colors like they tried for so many years, but on muted and sumptuous color families that feel efficiently adult. And I wish them the best.
All at once, my longing days were over. I had found the perfect app: brilliant and hardworking yet somehow still fun and easy on the eyes. And in the last place I expected to! Let this be a lesson to you, even if you don’t get the app: prejudice is a waste of time, and the most amazing things can come from the places you least expect them to.
Also, it has just now dawned on me that my first two analogies sound a lot like my last two boyfriends. Does that mean my third analogy is around the corner?! Oh, my Microsoft OneNote, when will I find you?? When will we share our intellectual but still fun lives together?!?! Will I be able to put my prejudice aside and love you for who you really are??????????????
Mmm. Well, until then, at least I’ll finally have a dang good notes app.