Microsoft Journal vs. OneNote: Which App is Better? [2024]

This is my honest Microsoft Journal vs. OneNote comparison guide.

This matchup gets interesting because Microsoft Journal is no longer actively developed!

The main difference is that Microsoft Journal is primarily designed for digital inking and note-taking on Windows 11 and Surface devices, while OneNote offers broader cross-platform compatibility, extensive organization features, and robust collaboration capabilities, making it suitable for diverse note-taking needs across multiple devices and platforms.

Microsoft Journal vs OneNote: Key Features at a Glance

Let’s compare the key features side by side:

FeatureMicrosoft JournalOneNote
AvailabilityDiscontinued, support limitedActively developed and supported
Inking FocusHigh (for older touch devices)Excellent
OrganizationSimple file-basedRobust notebooks, sections, pages
FeaturesBasic drawing, handwriting-to-textWeb clipping, rich media, audio recording, more
Cross-Platform❌ (Windows only)✔️ (Windows, Mac, Web, Mobile)

What is Microsoft Journal and how does it work?

Microsoft Journal was designed for older Windows tablets and touchscreen computers. Think of it as a digital ink fanatic – superb pen recognition and tools for sketching and detailed handwriting. While discontinued, many people still seek it out due to its unique inking focus.

Pros of Microsoft Journal:

  • Fantastic inking feel (if you can find compatible hardware!)
  • Simple file-based system – no overwhelming features
  • Great for handwritten notes and drawings
  • May be still available through resellers/old product licenses

Cons of Microsoft Journal:

  • No longer supported or updated by Microsoft
  • Can be unreliable on new Windows versions
  • Very limited features compared to modern note-taking apps
  • No cross-platform availability, stuck on old Windows machines

What is OneNote and how does it work?

OneNote is a versatile digital notebook application developed by Microsoft, offering users a flexible platform for capturing, organizing, and sharing notes across various devices and platforms.

It features a rich set of tools for text, images, audio, and digital ink, allowing users to create comprehensive and multimedia-rich notes effortlessly.

OneNote is ideal for individuals, students, professionals, and teams who need a centralized and customizable solution for managing their notes, ideas, projects, and workflows.

Pros of OneNote:

  • Extensive organization capabilities with notebooks, sections, and pages.
  • Versatile note-taking tools, including text, images, audio recordings, and digital ink.
  • Seamless integration with Microsoft 365, Outlook, and third-party applications.
  • Real-time collaboration features, such as co-authoring and sharing notes with teammates.
  • Cross-platform compatibility, enabling access to notes on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android devices.

Cons of OneNote:

  • Steeper learning curve compared to simpler note-taking apps.
  • Limited free version features, with advanced functionalities requiring a Microsoft 365 subscription.
  • Interface can be overwhelming for new users.
  • Occasional synchronization issues across devices may occur.

Microsoft Journal vs. OneNote: Side-by-Side Comparison Guide

Here’s a detailed comparison of the key features of Microsoft Journal and OneNote:

1. Handwriting Experience:

  • Journal: Superb if you have compatible hardware (older touchscreens). Designed for natural drawing and inking.
  • OneNote: Fantastic in its own right. Smooth, responsive, and works on modern tablets/pens.
  • Verdict: Older Journal might have an edge on specific devices, but OneNote’s broader hardware compatibility and active development make it the winner.

2. Handwriting-to-Text Recognition:

  • Journal: Basic conversion ability
  • OneNote: More accurate and feature-rich (e.g., converting entire blocks, correcting).
  • Verdict: OneNote is the clear victor for those relying on converting handwritten notes into editable text.

3. Organizational Structure:

  • Journal: Simple file-based system. Each note is a separate file (.JNT).
  • OneNote: Notebooks, sections, and pages for hierarchical organization.
  • Verdict: OneNote wins if you have complex projects, while Journal could suffice for minimalist note-takers.

4. Drawing and Sketching Tools:

  • Journal: Solid selection of pens, highlighters, shapes, and a built-in ruler.
  • OneNote: Excellent inking tools, plus features like ink-to-shape for cleaning up sketches.
  • Verdict: Slight edge to OneNote due to extra features, but Journal is a worthy contender for artists.

5. Image Handling:

  • Journal: Basic image insertion/resizing
  • OneNote: Image cropping, annotations, optical character recognition (OCR) to find text within images.
  • Verdict: OneNote wins hands down, going far beyond just inserting images.

6. Web Clipping and Research Integration:

  • Journal: None
  • OneNote: Powerful web clipper, saving articles, web snippets directly into your notes.
  • Verdict: OneNote is essential for research-based workflows, Journal offers no tools in this department.

7. Cross-Platform Sync & Availability:

  • Journal: Stuck on Windows only, mainly compatible with old versions.
  • OneNote: Works seamlessly across Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and even as a web app.
  • Verdict: OneNote is the choice for anyone using multiple devices.

Use Cases for Microsoft Journal:

  • Owners of Older Touchscreen Devices: If you can’t get great inking performance with OneNote, Journal might be worth a try.
  • Diehard Fans of Simplicity: Its lack of bloat is nostalgic for some, but you sacrifice modern features.

Use Cases for OneNote:

1. Educational Use:

  • Lecture Notes: Students can use OneNote to take comprehensive notes during lectures, organizing them by subject or class for easy reference.
  • Research Organization: OneNote allows students to gather research materials, annotate articles, and compile references for papers and projects.
  • Group Collaboration: Students can collaborate on group projects by sharing OneNote notebooks, enabling real-time editing and feedback among team members.

2. Professional Use:

  • Meeting Management: Professionals can use OneNote to record meeting minutes, create action items, and track project progress, ensuring effective communication and accountability.
  • Project Planning: OneNote serves as a central hub for project planning, allowing teams to brainstorm ideas, outline project scopes, and allocate tasks efficiently.
  • Client Management: OneNote facilitates client meetings by providing a platform to jot down client preferences, track interactions, and store important documents, enhancing client relationship management.

Should I Use Microsoft Journal in 2024?

Honestly, unless you have very specific reasons (old hardware, nostalgia), OneNote is the superior choice. Compatibility issues and no support make Journal a risky prospect.

OneNote gives you most of the inking power with loads of extra modern features that are actively developed.

Absolutely! Here’s how I’d expand on the Microsoft Journal vs. OneNote comparison guide, following your provided structure.

Microsoft Journal VS. OneNote Pricing at a Glance

Here’s a breakdown of the pricing structure for both Microsoft Journal and OneNote:

PricingMicrosoft JournalOneNote
CostIncluded with Windows 11Free (Basic Version)
SubscriptionNot applicableMicrosoft 365 Subscription (Premium Features)
Free TrialNot applicableNot applicable
UpdatesIncludedIncluded
SupportCommunity SupportMicrosoft Support

In summary, Microsoft Journal comes included with Windows 11 at no additional cost, making it readily accessible to users of the operating system.

OneNote offers a free basic version, with advanced features available through a Microsoft 365 subscription. Both tools provide regular updates and support options to ensure a smooth user experience.

Factors to consider when choosing between Microsoft Journal and OneNote

Some important factors to keep in mind when choosing between these two note-taking apps:

1. Cross-Platform Compatibility:

One crucial factor is the availability of the tool across various devices and operating systems. While Microsoft Journal is limited to Windows 11 and Surface devices, OneNote offers cross-platform support for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. Consider your preferred devices and whether you need the flexibility to access your notes across multiple platforms seamlessly.

2. Organization Features:

Both tools offer organization features, but the depth and customization options vary. Microsoft Journal provides intuitive organization with customizable sections and pages, whereas OneNote offers extensive capabilities with notebooks, sections, and pages. Consider the level of organization you require and how each tool accommodates your workflow preferences.

3. Note-Taking Tools:

Evaluate the note-taking tools offered by each application. Microsoft Journal is tailored for digital inking with rich inking features optimized for digital pens and highlighters. In contrast, OneNote provides versatile note-taking tools, including text, images, audio recordings, and digital ink. Consider your primary note-taking preferences and whether the tool aligns with your needs.

4. Integration:

Consider how well each tool integrates with other software and services you use. Microsoft Journal seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Office Suite and Windows Ink Workspace, while OneNote offers integration with Microsoft 365, Outlook, and third-party applications. Assess the integration options available and how they enhance your overall productivity and workflow efficiency.

5. Collaboration Features:

Collaboration capabilities are essential for team productivity and communication. Microsoft Journal has limited collaboration features, whereas OneNote enables real-time co-authoring, sharing, and collaboration with Microsoft 365. Consider whether you require robust collaboration features for working with teammates or colleagues and how each tool supports collaborative workflows.

Is Microsoft Journal Relevant Today?

Ultimately, Microsoft Journal is fascinating as a piece of note-taking history, but OneNote is the far superior choice for most purposes.

It offers excellent handwriting capability, along with all the features, stability, and cross-platform access people demand in a note-taking tool today.

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