What's the difference between OneNote and OneNote 2016?

OneNote for Windows 10 (simply labeled “OneNote”) is the best and most up-to-date version of OneNote on Windows. It was designed to feel natural with any input method — from mouse and keyboard to pen and touch — and it contains numerous improvements for better performance, battery life, and reliability.

OneNote for Windows 10 also has a number of features that are not available in OneNote 2016 — including ink effects with a dramatically improved ink-to-text option, Researcher, a notification center, deep integration with Windows 10, and much more.

OneNote for Windows 10 comes pre-installed on every version of Windows 10, and it’s included in Office 365 and Office 2019.

By comparison, OneNote 2016 is the original Windows version of OneNote, which came with Office 2016 and earlier. It has some legacy functionality that might be important if you use this version at work or school, but OneNote 2016 is no longer being updated with new features.

Microsoft recommends using OneNote for Windows 10, but OneNote 2016 is still optionally available for anyone who needs it — especially if you have locally stored notebooks or are running an old version of Windows. (If you are still running Windows 7 or Windows 8, the recommended and most up-to-date OneNote experience on those versions is OneNote Online, the Web version of OneNote.)

OneNote for Windows 10

Screenshot of OneNote for Windows 10


OneNote for Windows 10 is used by millions of people across the globe. It is regularly updated with the newest functionality, security, and Accessibility improvements, and it’s the only Windows version of OneNote that offers our customizable new interface that’s now consistent with OneNote for Mac, iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android (phones and tablets) and OneNote Online (the Web version of OneNote) for a truly universal user experience.

While we’d love for you to start using OneNote for Windows 10 today, we know some of you might not be ready yet. Maybe your work or school relies on a feature that isn’t yet supported on Windows 10, or you don’t want to store your notebooks in the cloud. If so, you’re more than welcome to continue using OneNote 2016, but please note that it is no longer being updated with new features.


Screenshot of the Windows Start menu with OneNote and OneNote 2016.

OneNote for Windows 10 comes included with every edition of Windows 10, as well as Office 365 and Office 2019. However, OneNote 2016 is still optionally available for those who need it, and it can be used side-by-side with the newer Windows 10 app.

If you’re on Windows 10 and have Office 2016 or earlier, there’s a good chance you have both versions of OneNote installed on your computer. You can designate either version to be your default app for opening OneNote links and files. Learn how to change the default version of OneNote.

You can also choose to pin either (or both) app icons to the Windows taskbar and Start menu by following the steps below.

To pin to Start

  • The OneNote (for Windows 10) app icon is already pinned to the Windows 10 Start menu by default.

To pin to the taskbar

  1. Click the Windows Start button.

  2. Type onenote, right-click the OneNote (for Windows 10) app icon when it appears in the search results list, and then click Pin to taskbar.

    Note: If you right-click the OneNote icon in the alphabetical list of your installed apps instead of the search results list, you may need to first click More before clicking Pin to taskbar.

Features available only in OneNote for Windows 10

OneNote for Windows 10 has an increasing number of features that are not available in OneNote 2016, including:

  • Move across devices and platforms with ease, thanks to a new look designed for simplicity, consistency, and accessibility on Windows 10, Mac, iOS, Android, and Web

  • Quickly access your notes with a faster and more reliable sync engine (coming soon!)

  • Mark key information and find it later with tags and tag search. Tags you create will now roam with you to any device you have, and OneNote will even show you tags other people have used in a shared notebook (coming soon!)

  • See live previews of Office files in OneNote, work together on attached documents, and save space in your notebooks with cloud files (coming soon!)

  • Easily share notes with any app using the Share button

  • Ensure your notes are more accessible with the improved Accessibility Checker, designed to catch many commonly found issues based on the WCAG standard and user feedback

  • View all your notes sorted by when you last updated them

  • Check the Notification Center to see what’s changed in your open and recent notebooks

  • See who’s working with you in a shared notebook and jump straight to the page they’re on

  • Improve reading comprehension with Immersive Reader

  • Use Researcher to find relevant quotes, citable sources, and images to start your outline

  • Write or type an equation, and OneNote will help you graph or solve it step-by-step with the Ink Math Assistant

  • Customize your favorite pens and sync them across OneNote, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on your Windows PCs and iOS devices

  • Use pencil ink to draw or sketch (requires the free Windows 10 Anniversary Update)

  • Jazz up your notes and annotations with new ink colors like rainbow, galaxy, gold, and more

  • Convert handwritten ink to typed text with retained color and style formatting

  • Got a new Surface Pen? Tilt it to add shading to drawings in OneNote, just like with a real pencil

  • Transform your drawings into shapes automatically

  • Draw straight lines and measure distance on touch screens with the virtual ruler

  • Use your device’s camera to capture documents, whiteboards, receipts, and more right into OneNote

  • Quickly find ribbon and menu commands and related Help content with Tell Me search

  • Replay your handwriting forward and backward to hide and reveal content, to provide step-by-step instructions, or to better understand the flow of others’ thoughts

  • Maximize drawing space by hiding the page list and ribbon

  • Pin your favorite pages to the Start menu for easy access

  • Click the button on a digital pen to open OneNote, even when your device is locked

  • Write on a web page in Microsoft Edge and save your annotations to OneNote

  • Tell Cortana to take a note for you with your voice

Tip: For a chronological list of monthly feature additions and improvements, see What’s new in OneNote for Windows 10.

Features currently available only in OneNote 2016

While the new OneNote app is the best experience for Windows users, you might need to continue using OneNote 2016 for the time being if your work or school relies on any of these features:

  • Create Outlook Tasks in your notes

  • Pin your favorite commands to the Quick Access Toolbar

  • Apply a template to pages to maintain a specific look or layout

  • Record video

  • Link your notes to webpages in Internet Explorer and Office files

  • Store notebooks on your local hard drive instead of in the cloud, including backups

  • Support for third-party COM add-ins

Additional information

  • OneNote for Windows 10 is regularly updated, which means you can expect to see new and improved features every month. To see what’s recently been added and improved, see What’s new in OneNote for Windows 10.

  • OneNote 2016 is no longer being updated with new features. We will continue supporting the app with important bug fixes and security updates through the end of support for Office 2016, which runs until October 2020 for mainstream support and October 2025 for extended support.

  • Got a favorite feature in OneNote 2016 that you’d like to see in OneNote for Windows 10? Let us know on OneNote UserVoice. We’re constantly improving the Windows 10 app and your feedback helps to influence what we’re working on next.

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