Students and researchers now have a powerful tool available for free on the desktop. One of OneNote's standout features on a Windows-based tablet is the ability to convert handwriting to text while simultaneously recording audio, which is particularly useful in a business meeting or lecture. Its key features are rich multimedia scrapbooking and stylus/pen integration.
Responding to free online apps like Google Drive, iCloud and Evernote, in March 2014 Microsoft released a free OneNote version for Windows and Mac, adding to the iOS, Android and Windows Phone apps already available. Free downloads for all platforms are available at OneNote.com.
Requiring a Microsoft account (see signup.live.com to use any email address), OneNote allows you to store and share notes, audio, video, web clips and drawings using 15GB of free OneDrive online storage. A total 5GB can be added for referring 10 people plus 3GB if you back up phone photos. If you have bought an Office 365 subscription, you have 1000GB of storage.
OneNote enables categorization of richly formatted text, handwriting and media into searchable 'Notebook' collections, each with unlimited tabbed 'Sections' and unlimited 'Pages'. Any Notebook, Section or Page can be shared with or edited by someone using their Microsoft account.
Example 'Page' templates are found under Insert > Page Templates. On Windows, Windows Key + N sends anything to OneNote. You can also make a searchable copy of any document by outputting it through virtual OneNote 'printer' but this is not able to be edited.
On the free version for Windows and Mac, some advanced features are not included: SharePoint support, version history or Outlook integration; but they are available if you upgrade to the paid version.
The new release adds three new features: a OneNote Clipper for saving Web pages to OneNote, an email feature (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) for sending notes to OneNote and a Windows Phone or Windows 8 tablet can capture a document or whiteboard and convert to text using 'Office Lens', Microsoft's optical-character recognition (also built into all desktop OneNote versions).
If you do not have a Windows Phone or tablet, printed text recognition can also be accomplished using CamScanner (all mobile platforms), Google Drive app for Android, or check out Divvy Up on Windows Phone.