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OneNote Will Be Discontinued, Evernote Will Follow Some Day - Switch to Something Much Better

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Microsoft has announced that OneNote 2016 will be discontinued in the future.

They want to have their users switch to a stripped-down version of OneNote which is called OneNote for Windows 10. Of course, Microsoft emphasizes that Windows 10 will be extended by some features OneNote 2016 offers and OneNote for Windows 10 does not.

However, there will be a migration cost for all users of OneNote 2016.

In 2014, I warned about using OneNote because it has a proprietary file format which results in a classic lock-in situation: German blog article. I personally would never invest time or resources in a tool where I know that I would end up with a loss of data as I mentioned with iPhoto on macOS.

Which is a pity, since I really do love the functions provided by OneNote 2016.

The danger I see is that with OneNote discontinued, people are moving to a different lock-in situation. OneNote for Windows 10 or Evernote are typical candidates. Besides the horrible privacy-implications of using a cloud service for personal knowledge solutions, I do have a proposal.

My Proposal

Since 2011, I am using a PIM solution that is easy to use, stores in simple text files which offer perfect future-proofness. This solution is extensible almost to infinity without losing its touch of being a lightweight tool.

It is called Org-mode and I blogged about it many times.

Yes, it is a solution where you have to invest in a learning curve instead in Dollars. This pays off in the long run, trust me.

Yes, it looks a bit ugly the first time but don't judge this book by its cover. It displays in-line images quite fine and, e.g., offers features to display and annotate PDF files in-line.

Yes, it runs on the Emacs platform which has some really bad and also false reputation. I tried to clarify those false presumptions.

Emacs showing an Org-mode buffer with some syntax examples

So if you are an open mind, at least a bit tech-savvy and want to solve problems once and for all, I urge you to invest some time to learn how to use Emacs and Org-mode. There are awesome screencasts, tutorials and a great manual out there. The org-mode community is the best software community there is. You get help and you are able to extend Org-mode yourself according to your personal requirements. Make the tool work for you instead of adapting yourself to a given and finite feature-set.

For a new user, Org-mode is really hard to grasp because there is no similar thing out there so far I know. Please don't try to put it in a box you already know. Because it's a totally different box.

You will learn that learning and using Org-mode is much less complicated than you had expected. For the basic features of Org-mode, you don't need more than handful of easy to remember keyboard shortcuts: TAB, arrow keys, Alt with the arrow keys, Ctrl-C Ctrl-C, Ctrl-Return and that's basically it.

Org-mode scales from simple todo-lists and personal wikis up to very impressive full-blown solutions for almost any IT-related problem there is. I work all day in Org-mode and it replaced many other tools including even MS Office or LibreOffice.

The only downside I see so far is the missing cooperative features (except when you know how to use git) and missing OCR for handwritten notes or scanned articles. The latter can be added by independent solutions.

Trust me: you are not going to regret it. No product discontinue news may surprise you, no missing menu item may limit you.

Of course, there are other nice solutions out there but Org-mode is what I have found for myself and I am very picky.

See also this discussion on reddit.

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