What's the difference between OneNote and OneNote 2016?

If you’re using OneNote on a computer or device running Windows 10, you may have seen two similar-looking OneNote app icons on your Windows Start menu. This article explains the differences between the two apps to help you decide which version of OneNote is the best choice for you.


Your browser does not support video. Install Microsoft Silverlight, Adobe Flash Player, or Internet Explorer 9.


OneNote for Windows 10 (simply labeled “OneNote”) is pre-installed with Windows 10. This version runs only on Windows 10 and it’s the newest, most up-to-date and feature-rich version of OneNote on Windows.

OneNote 2016 (commonly referred to as the “desktop app”) comes with Microsoft Office and runs on Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7. This version looks similar to the other Office 2016 apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The OneNote 2016 desktop app is also available as a free download from www.onenote.com.

OneNote for Windows 10

Screenshot of OneNote for Windows 10

Note: If your OneNote app on Windows 10 doesn’t look quite like this, make sure you have the latest version. Click the Windows Start button, type Store, and then click the Store app in the results list. In the Store app, type OneNote into the Search box, click the OneNote app in the results list, and then click the Update button that appears next to the OneNote icon at the top of the page. When the button says Launch, you’re good to go!

OneNote 2016

Screenshot of OneNote 2016


Which version should you use? That mostly depends on the features you want — and where and how you use OneNote.

While OneNote 2016 has some legacy functionality that might be important if you use this version at your company or school, the newer OneNote for Windows 10 app has many innovative new features that you won’t find in the older desktop version.

In addition, OneNote for Windows 10 is regularly updated with the newest functionality, security, and Accessibility, and it’s the only Windows version that offers our customizable new interface which is 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.

Depending on your preference, you can use both Windows versions side-by-side for a while to see if you have a preference before switching to the one that best meets your needs — the choice is yours!


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


If you have both versions of OneNote on your Windows computer or device and you want to use both, you can designate either version to be your default app for opening OneNote-associated links and file associations. 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 to the 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, but you can pin the OneNote 2016 icon as well:

  1. Click the Windows Start button.

  2. Type OneNote 2016, right-click the OneNote 2016 icon when it appears, and then click Pin to Start.


To pin to the taskbar

  1. Click the Windows Start button.

  2. Type OneNote 2016, right-click the OneNote 2016 icon when it appears, and then click Pin to Start.

    Note: If you right-click the OneNote 2016 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.

    Repeat the previous steps if you want to also pin the OneNote (for Windows 10) app to the taskbar.


Features available only in OneNote for Windows 10

Features exclusive to the OneNote for Windows 10 app include the following:

  • 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

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

  • Preview your notes without having to open the page

  • Improve reading comprehension with Immersive Reader

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

  • Transform your drawings into shapes automatically

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

  • Share a single page instead of the entire notebook

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

  • Maximize drawing space by hiding the page list and Ribbon

  • Find what you’re looking for with TellMe

  • Windows 10 integration, including:

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

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

    – Quickly jump to a new page by selecting the Note button in the Action Center

    – Write on a webpage in Microsoft Edge and save your annotations to OneNote

    – Share notes with any app with the Share button

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

Features available only in OneNote 2016

While OneNote is great for all users, you might need to use OneNote 2016 if you rely on any of these features:

  • Some Office suite integration, including embedded Excel spreadsheets and Outlook tasks

  • Convert handwriting into text

  • Highlight what you wrote during audio recording playback

  • Use the equation editor to add complex equations to your notes

  • Categorize notes with custom tags and quickly find them later

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

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

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.

  • 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 app and your feedback helps influence what we’re working on next.

Expand your skills
Explore training
Get new features first
Join Office Insiders

Was this information helpful?

Thank you for your feedback!

Thank you for your feedback! It sounds like it might be helpful to connect you to one of our Office support agents.

×