OneNote Free vs. Paid: Which Version is Best for You?

OneNote is a popular note-taking and collaboration app, with millions of users worldwide leveraging its features for various note-taking needs.

The free version caters to basic requirements, while the paid version offers advanced tools.

Choosing between these versions requires aligning priorities with needs — start with the free version for simple tasks, then upgrade to the paid version if you require enhanced collaboration, integration, and productivity features.

The main difference is that OneNote Free is available at no cost, offering basic note-taking functionalities, while OneNote Paid requires a subscription fee for access to advanced features such as enhanced collaboration tools, expanded cloud storage, and integration with other Microsoft Office applications.

OneNote Free vs. Paid Plan: Key Features at a Glance

Let’s summarize the main features you get in either the free or paid versions of OneNote app:

FeatureOneNote FreeOneNote Paid
Note-Taking Capabilities✔️ Basic note-taking functionalities✔️ Advanced note-taking tools and features
Cloud Storage✔️ Limited cloud storage (e.g., OneDrive)✔️ Expanded cloud storage (e.g., OneDrive)
Collaboration Tools✔️ Basic collaboration features✔️ Enhanced collaboration and sharing options
Integration with Office❌ Limited integration with Office suite✔️ Seamless integration with Office applications
Templates and Customization❌ Limited templates and customization options✔️ Extensive template library and customization
Security Features✔️ Basic security measures✔️ Advanced security features and encryption
Customer Support✔️ Standard support options✔️ Priority support and dedicated assistance

Personal Note:

In my experience, OneNote Paid’s advanced features, such as seamless integration with Office applications and enhanced collaboration tools, have significantly boosted my productivity and streamlined my note-taking workflow.

What is OneNote Free and Who is it for?

OneNote Free is a basic note-taking app offered by Microsoft, suitable for individuals and students looking for a simple and free solution to organize their notes and ideas.

OneNote Free Pros:

  • Free to use for individuals and students.
  • User-friendly interface for easy note-taking.
  • Integration with Microsoft ecosystem (e.g., OneDrive).
  • Basic organization features to keep notes organized.
  • Accessible on multiple devices (desktop, web, mobile).
  • Standard support options available for assistance.


  • Limited features compared to paid version.
  • Minimal cloud storage allocation (e.g., OneDrive).
  • Lack of advanced collaboration tools for team projects.

What is OneNote Paid and Who is it for?

OneNote Paid is a premium version of Microsoft OneNote, designed for professionals, businesses, and power users seeking advanced note-taking features and productivity tools.

OneNote Paid Pros:

  • Advanced note-taking tools for professional use.
  • Extensive cloud storage capacity for storing notes and files.
  • Seamless integration with Office suite applications.
  • Enhanced collaboration features for team projects.
  • Priority customer support options for quick assistance.
  • Customizable templates and advanced organization features.


  • Requires a subscription fee for access to premium features.
  • May have features not relevant for all users, leading to potential underutilization.
  • Higher learning curve for new users due to the abundance of features and customization options.

Key Features of OneNote Paid that Wins Over OneNote Free

OneNote Paid, the premium version of Microsoft’s note-taking platform, offers a ton of advanced features and functionalities that set it apart from the free version.

Let’s delve into the six key features that make OneNote Paid a superior choice for users seeking enhanced productivity and organization:

1. Advanced Note-Taking Tools:

OneNote Paid provides users with a robust set of advanced note-taking tools, including the ability to insert audio and video recordings, embed files and documents, and create interactive checklists.

These features empower users to create rich and dynamic notes that go beyond simple text, allowing for more comprehensive and engaging content creation.

2. Enhanced Collaboration Features:

With OneNote Paid, collaboration becomes seamless and efficient.

Users can co-author notes in real-time, enabling multiple team members to work together on the same document simultaneously.

Additionally, advanced sharing options allow users to control access permissions, track changes, and provide feedback, facilitating smooth collaboration and communication among team members.

3. Seamless Integration with Office Suite:

OneNote plan plan seamlessly integrates with other Microsoft Office applications, such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

This integration enables users to easily transfer content between different Office documents, leverage familiar formatting tools, and streamline their workflow by accessing all their Office tools from within the OneNote interface.

4. Extensive Template Library:

OneNote Paid boasts an extensive library of customizable templates, ranging from meeting agendas and project plans to lesson plans and research papers.

These templates provide users with pre-designed layouts and structures tailored to specific use cases, saving time and effort in creating professional-looking notes and documents.

5. Increased Cloud Storage Capacity:

Unlike the limited cloud storage allocation offered in OneNote Free, OneNote Paid provides users with expanded cloud storage capacity, typically through Microsoft’s OneDrive service.

This allows users to store a larger volume of notes, files, and multimedia content in the cloud, ensuring accessibility and security across multiple devices.

6. Priority Customer Support:

Users of OneNote Paid enjoy priority access to customer support services, ensuring prompt assistance and resolution of any issues or inquiries they may encounter.

This dedicated support helps users maximize their productivity and address any technical or operational challenges they face while using the platform

Key Features of OneNote Free that Wins Over OneNote Paid

While OneNote Paid offers advanced features and enhanced productivity tools, OneNote Free plan caters to the needs of individuals and students looking for a simple and no-cost note-taking solution.

Here are six key features of OneNote Free that make it a compelling choice:

1. Free of Charge:

OneNote Free is available at no cost, making it accessible to anyone without the need for a subscription or payment.

This affordability factor makes it an attractive option for individuals and students on a tight budget.

2. Basic Note-Taking Functionalities:

OneNote Free provides essential note-taking functionalities, including text input, formatting options, and simple organization tools.

While it may lack the advanced features of the paid version, it still offers the core functionalities needed for basic note-taking tasks.

3. Simple and Easy to Use:

With its user-friendly interface and straightforward design, OneNote Free is easy to navigate and use, even for those new to digital note-taking.

Its simplicity makes it an ideal choice for individuals who prefer a no-frills approach to note-taking.

4. Integration with Microsoft Ecosystem:

OneNote Free seamlessly integrates with other Microsoft applications and services, such as OneDrive and Office Online.

This integration allows users to sync their notes across multiple devices and access them from anywhere with an internet connection.

5. Standard Support Options:

While OneNote Free may not offer priority customer support like the paid version, it still provides standard support options, including online documentation, community forums, and help articles.

These resources can help users troubleshoot issues and find answers to their questions.

6. Suitable for Individuals and Students:

OneNote Free caters to the needs of individuals and students who require a basic note-taking solution for personal use or academic purposes.

Its affordability, simplicity, and integration with Microsoft’s ecosystem make it a popular choice among this demographic.

Use Cases for OneNote Free:

  1. Personal note-taking and organization.
  2. Collaborative projects among students or small groups.

What OneNote Free Can’t Be Used For: OneNote Free may not be suitable for businesses or professionals requiring advanced note-taking features and extensive collaboration options.

Use Cases for OneNote Paid:

  1. Professional note-taking and documentation.
  2. Team collaboration and project management.

What OneNote Paid Can’t Be Used For: OneNote Paid may not be suitable for individuals or casual users who do not require advanced note-taking features or are unwilling to pay for a subscription.

Pricing Summary:

  • OneNote Free: Available at no cost.
  • OneNote Paid: Subscription-based pricing model, with various plans and pricing tiers available.

Factors to Consider When Choosing A Version of OneNote for Note-taking Purposes

1. Required Features and Functionalities: Consider the specific features and functionalities essential for your note-taking needs.

Evaluate whether you require advanced tools such as audio recording, PDF annotation, or integration with other apps and services.

Determine whether the basic note-taking capabilities of OneNote Free suffice or if you need the advanced features offered by OneNote Paid for increased productivity and organization.

2. Budget Constraints: Take into account your budget limitations and financial resources when choosing between OneNote Free and OneNote Paid.

While OneNote Free is available at no cost, OneNote Paid requires a subscription fee for access to premium features and advanced functionalities.

Access whether the additional benefits of OneNote Paid justify the investment and align with your budgetary constraints.

3. Integration with Existing Tools and Platforms: Consider the compatibility and integration of OneNote with your existing tools and platforms.

Evaluate whether OneNote seamlessly integrates with other Microsoft applications and services, such as Office suite, OneDrive, and Outlook.

Determine how important it is for your note-taking solution to sync across multiple devices and integrate with your workflow and existing productivity tools.

4. Collaboration Needs: Assess your collaboration requirements and determine whether you need advanced collaboration features offered by OneNote Paid.

Consider factors such as real-time co-authoring, advanced sharing options, and integration with collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams.

Evaluate whether your note-taking tasks involve teamwork and collaboration with others, and if so, whether the collaboration capabilities of OneNote Free are sufficient or if you require the enhanced collaboration features of OneNote Paid.

5. Support and Maintenance Requirements: Evaluate your support and maintenance needs when choosing between OneNote Free and OneNote Paid.

Consider factors such as the availability of customer support options, frequency of software updates and patches, and level of technical assistance provided.

Determine whether you require priority customer support and dedicated assistance, which are typically offered with OneNote Paid, or if standard support options available with OneNote Free suffice for your needs.


Get answers to questions you might have about either versions of OneNote app.

Is OneNote Free or OneNote Paid better for students?

Both versions of OneNote offer useful features for students, but the choice depends on individual needs. OneNote Free provides basic note-taking functionalities without any cost, making it suitable for students on a budget.

However, OneNote Paid offers advanced tools like audio recording and enhanced collaboration features, which may benefit students working on group projects or research assignments.

Can I access my notes offline with OneNote Free?

Yes, both OneNote Free and OneNote Paid allow users to access their notes offline. Once you’ve synced your notebooks, you can view and edit them without an internet connection.

However, note that syncing changes to the cloud requires an internet connection.

Is OneNote Free suitable for professional use?

OneNote Free can be suitable for professionals who require basic note-taking capabilities.

However, professionals with more advanced needs, such as detailed organization, collaboration, and integration with other tools, may find the features of OneNote Paid more beneficial for their work.

Are there any limitations to the number of notes I can create with OneNote Free?

OneNote Free does not impose any specific limits on the number of notes you can create. However, note that there may be storage limitations based on available cloud storage space if you’re syncing your notes to OneDrive.

Can I upgrade from OneNote Free to OneNote Paid?

Yes, you can upgrade from OneNote Free to OneNote Paid by subscribing to Microsoft 365, which includes access to the premium features of OneNote Paid.

Your existing notes and data will seamlessly transition to the paid version upon upgrading, ensuring continuity in your note-taking experience.

Which version of OneNote is Better: Free or Paid?

The OneNote free plan serves as an excellent starting point for beginners, providing essential note-taking functionalities at no cost.

It offers a user-friendly interface and basic organization features, ideal for individuals dipping their toes into digital note-taking.

However, its limitations in advanced features and cloud storage may hinder the growth and scalability of users’ note-taking endeavors.

OneNote paid plan bridges this gap by offering advanced tools, expanded cloud storage, and seamless integration with Office applications, significantly enhancing productivity and collaboration capabilities for users.