[German]Microsoft is making a U-turn when it comes to OneNote integration in Microsoft Office. While OneNote 2016 was kicked out of Office a year ago, this application has now been integrated back into Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Office 2019.
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OneNote 2016 in a few words
Microsoft OneNote is a notebook application developed as a 32-bit Win32 application since 2003. I don’t know exactly, when OneNote became part of Microsoft Office as a Win32 application. But in my books about Microsoft Office 2007 OneNote is already mentioned.
(Start menu with two OneNote apps, Source: Microsoft)
OneNote is also available on macOS, Android and iOS. Since mid-2014 OneNote can be used free of charge on all platforms. There are two variants of the application (see also the screenshot of the start menu above):
- The classic desktop Win32 application OneNote 2016, which was released in September 2015 and has a wide range of functions.
- And there is the Windows 10 OneNote app from the Microsoft store, which, according to Microsoft’s will, should set the tone in the future.
The OneNote app for Windows 10 was once planned as a killer application (see Microsoft: ‘OneNote app will be better than Win32 application’). But the app was delivered with a poor feature set (my impression) and never got pushed. It was just a lean replacement for the OneNote 2016 Win32 application.
OneNote 2016: Declared as dead and buried
In my German blog post Microsoft Office 2019 kommt ohne OneNote I had reported in April 2018 about the latest plans of Microsoft regarding OneNote. Basis was this article (now outdated) from Microsoft, where they wrote:
Beginning with the launch of Office 2019 later this year, OneNote for Windows 10 will replace OneNote 2016 as the default OneNote experience for both Office 365 and Office 2019.
As a reason for choosing OneNote for Windows 10, Microsoft stated that the app has improved performance and reliability and is supported by a brand new sync engine (which they will also offer for Web, Mac, iOS and Android). The auto update mechanism of the Microsoft Store was also praised. These dreams have now come to an end
(OneNote, Source: Microsoft)
After all, the desktop Win32 version of OneNote 2016 should still be available to interested users for two years free of charge. But Microsoft did not want to develop OneNote 2016 any further.
OneNote desktop application is back in Office 365/2019
Now comes the big U-turn. I have become aware of this, as I read an article from German blogger Martin Gauss. Martin writes at Dr. Windows in this article that OneNote 2016 has been removed in 2019 from the installation package of Office 365. Users then had to install the OneNote app for Windows 10 from the store to work with notes.
Install Onenote Office 365
In November 2019 Microsoft informed us that they would continue to support OneNote 2016 until 2025. While setting up a new PC with Windows 10 and Microsoft Office 365 (keyword Microsoft 365) Martin Geuß noticed that OneNote 2016 was suddenly part of it. Martin writes that ‘3 weeks before’ during a new installation of Office 365 he had not seen this.
While writing this article I took a look at the German Wikipedia about OneNote. There you can find the information that OneNote 2016 is ‘since March 2020’ again part of Office 365/Microsoft 365. The source is this Microsoft article, which states the following:
Starting in March 2020, when you install Office 365 or Office 2019, the OneNote desktop app will be installed alongside the Word, PowerPoint, and Excel desktop apps.
I think that many users appreciate it. Or how do you see it?
Microsoft: ‘OneNote app will be better than Win32 application’
OneNote: Microsoft reveals future plans
Support until 2025 for OneNote 2016
Office 2019 general availability (October 2, 2018)
Microsoft is making big changes to OneNote for Windows: The Win32 desktop app will no longer be included in Microsoft Office. Instead, OneNote for Windows 10, the UWP app, will be included in both Office 365 and Office 2019. OneNote for Mac, Android, iOS, and the web are unaffected.
The move shouldn’t be a huge surprise for those paying close attention to OneNote’s development. Back in February 2015, Microsoft made OneNote for Windows completely free by removing all feature restrictions. This untethering of OneNote from Office meant users could download OneNote 2013 for Windows 7 and Windows 8 without having to pay for Office 2013.
OneNote 2016 came and went without much fanfare, as Microsoft focused its efforts on the free app, the latest version of which is OneNote for Windows 10. Indeed, Microsoft added many of the top features from OneNote 2016 to the Windows 10 version, and also kept many of the updates exclusively for the latter, including intuitive inking, built-in intelligence, and improved accessibility. Then late last year, in the Office 2019 announcement, OneNote was not mentioned alongside Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
At the time, Microsoft described Office 2019 as bringing “new user and IT capabilities for customers who aren’t yet ready for the cloud.” Given OneNote’s dependence on the cloud, and the fact that Office is a paid product while OneNote is free, the move to decouple the two was some three years in the making.
To be clear, OneNote is still included in Office. By making it available as a free download in February 2015, and now killing off the Win32 desktop version, Microsoft hinted and today confirmed that OneNote can stand on its own.
Microsoft will no longer update the OneNote 2016 app with new features. Support, bug fixes, and security updates will continue throughout the Office 2016 lifecycle — mainstream support for OneNote 2016 ends in October 2020 and extended support ends in October 2025. That said, OneNote 2016 will be optionally available for anyone with Office 365 or Office 2019; it simply will not be installed by default.
OneNote for Windows 10
This also means Microsoft doesn’t have to keep up development of two apps, since OneNote for Windows 10 will get all the attention, including any that would have inevitably gone to OneNote 2019. Microsoft has long struggled to explain the differences between the two apps, even creating a support page specifically addressing the question “What’s the difference between OneNote and OneNote 2016?”
There’s another side benefit to this change for Microsoft: Users will have another incentive to get Windows 10.
For this and other reasons, some still prefer OneNote 2016.
Here is Microsoft’s explanation today as to why OneNote for Windows 10 is superior:
Why OneNote for Windows 10? The app has improved performance and reliability, and it’s powered by a brand new sync engine (which we’re also bringing to web, Mac, iOS, and Android). You don’t need to worry about being on the latest version since it’s always up-to-date via the Microsoft Store, and it lets us deliver updates faster than ever before. In fact, over the last year and a half we’ve added more than 100 of your favorite OneNote 2016 features based on your feedback.
And still, there are OneNote 2016 features that aren’t in OneNote for Windows 10. Microsoft is asking users to help prioritize what to port over by submitting suggestions in Windows 10’s Feedback Hub.
Microsoft also made a point today to show off new features coming to OneNote for Windows 10. The following three “top-requested features” will be arriving “in the coming months”:
- Insert and search for tags: OneNote 2016’s tags feature is coming to OneNote for Windows 10, letting users insert, create, and search for custom tags. Tags you create will now roam with you to across your devices, and OneNote will even show you tags other people have used in a shared notebook so you don’t have to recreate them yourself.
- View and edit files: See live previews of Office files in OneNote, work together on attached documents, and save space in your notebooks with cloud files. Microsoft describes this as “the benefits of saving a file on OneDrive with the context and convenience of an attachment or preview on a OneNote page.”
- Additional Class Notebook features: The full slate of Class Notebook features available in the add-on for OneNote 2016 will be built into OneNote for Windows 10.
Microsoft didn’t give a timeframe for these additions other than “this summer.” Expect these updates to thus roll out by mid-September.