OneNote is dead. Long live OneNote.

If you are a OneNote user you’ve likely heard the news that Microsoft has decided to stop adding new features to the Windows 32 version of OneNote. Ongoing development will be focused on the UWP version of OneNote for Windows.  Now those people who have tried both and are dedicated OneNote desktop users will tell you this is a terrible thing with much gnashing of teeth. I’m here to say that there is a silver lining to this tale and a light at the end of the tunnel that doesn’t happen to be an oncoming train.  To understand though you need to take a closer look at what a UWP app is and how it differs from a desktop application.

UWP in a nutshell

UWP stands for Universal Windows Platform. The basic idea is to create applications that will run on any Windows based device regardless of form factor. Keep in mind this doesn’t impact mobile devices such as Android and iOS. Nor does this directly impact the web versions of Windows applications. The primary impact is how new features are implemented in the UWP version and what the user experience is like.

Emotions running high

There are mixed feelings about the loss of the Windows 32 user experience and the notebook design metaphor being left behind for a more modern look and feel. The consensus concern I’ve heard from the users I’ve polled is the concern that the UWP version is not feature equivalent to the desktop version. Many of the capabilities you’ll find on the desktop (including some of my personal favorites) just aren’t there in the UWP version. So does this doom the future of OneNote? Hardly.

Mistakes were made.

Microsoft jumped the gun in sharing the end of life of OneNote 2016. Yes, I know they’re announcing Office 2019 and that OneNote on the desktop isn’t going to be included as part of the package. Yes, I’m aware of the consternation that causes the OneNote user community. That being said, holding off on the end of life notice until the UWP version was more feature equivalent would have minimized the backlash.

We want it all

UWP means updates can come fast and furious rather than waiting for software installation packages on the desktop. The plan Microsoft has shared so far is to roll out new features over the summer to push the capabilities of the UWP version closer to that of the desktop. They have even gone so far as to ask the user community what features are most important to work on in the UWP version. I for one like the outreach to the user community but as we all know there will always be those who want every feature duplicated from one version to the next.  Honestly that’s not realistic.

Next steps

So where does OneNote go next? With the change in management, the change in platform strategy, and the growth of the tool in the education markets, up is the only direction OneNote is headed. We’ll see it continue to spread and become an even more integral part of the Office 365 environment. Only time will tell as to how successful the UWP strategy is for OneNote, but in the mean time we still have the desktop and UWP versions to meet our OneNote needs.