Google Keep vs. OneNote (2021)

Last updated: 14 Mar 2021

Google Keep vs OneNote
Google Keep vs. OneNote

OneNote is a note-taking service from Microsoft, while Google Keep, also called Keep Notes, is the Google version of OneNote. The purpose is the same, but many features make them different. How do Google Keep and OneNote differ? To find out, the blog post covers Google Keep vs. OneNote (2021).

Quick comparison

FeatureGoogle KeepMicrosoft OneNote
PlatformsAndroid, iOS, Chrome, PWA, and WebAndroid, iOS, PC, Chrome, PWA, and Web
Text editingSimple text editingRick text editing on desktop and web
A few rich editing tools on mobile
Draw✔ (separate space)✔ (on content allowed)
Search (within notes)
No. of widgets on Android25
WebsiteGoogle KeepMicrosoft OneNote
Quick comparison

PC

Interface

Google Keep and OneNote - Web
Google Keep and OneNote – Web

Google Keep does not come as a desktop application to use Keep web as the desktop app. Google Keep web offers a plain interface with an option to enable the dark mode.

All the notes are on the main screen with an input field and a search bar on the top. As there is no desktop app, a user can access the notes by going to https://keep.google.com/.

Besides the web, you can also download the Chrome extension and app and write notes on the go. Furthermore, alongside the text, a user can create images, notes and draw with the mouse or pen. Keep places all the pinned notes on the top.

OneNote is a multi-level app that offers notebooks, sections, and pages where pages are notes. OneNote web has a few options missing compared to the OneNote desktop. Users can access their notes online by visiting https://www.onenote.com/.

The app has a unique feature of saving text, images, drawing etc., in components that allow them to overlap. One of the Office apps has the standard navigation bar on the top, separating text, drawing, and importing tools.

Related: Asana vs. Notion (2021)

Editing and tools

The most prominent part of Google Keep vs. OneNote is the features and tools. Google Keep desktop offers these tools:

  1. Simple text
  2. Pictures (local)
  3. Draw
  4. Links
  5. Text indent
  6. Checkboxes (to-Do)
  7. Reminders
  8. Text labels
  9. Shopping list (automatically suggests items as you type. See an example image).

Google Keep has a reminder feature. The downside is it only allows one reminder per note at a time. Other than that, you can set labels (tags) to certain notes to distinguish between notes. Of course, labels can be searched.

Goole Keep does not offer rich text editing tools on both desktop and mobile devices.

The desktop version of OneNote all below tools:

FontsFont sizeText bold
ItalicsUnderlineText colour
HighlightTo-DoTags
TablesFile uploadPictures (web & computer)
LinksAudioMeeting details
SymbolsHeading (1 to 6)Citation
CodeQuotesText indent
Draw (pen, pencil, highlighter)ShapesLists
OneNote desktop tools

Other than the above, some other features of the OneNote desktop app are:

  1. Assistant
  2. Password protection
  3. Dictate.

OneNote Assistant is an AI-based tool that can do basic tasks such as paste text and text, create a to-do list, etc.

The sections can be password protected on the desktop, while if a section is password protected, it is requested to input the password on all the platforms.

The dictate tool is another AI-based tool to help in converting speech to text. A user must speak for the AI to transcribe.

Review: The desktop battle goes to OneNote. Google Keep is still new, and the software’s simplicity makes it unique, but not enough to overcome OneNote.

Also consider reading: Samsung Notes vs. OneNote

Learn to use Google Keep? Google Keep Full Tutorial

Mobile

Video

Before we continue reading, let’s take a look at the Google Keep vs. OneNote video. This covers the basic functionalities on mobile.

Interface

Google Keep vs OneNote - Notes Types
Google Keep vs OneNote – Notes Types

Google Keep offers an easy to navigate interface. We get notes, left menu, sort, search, and an add a new note button at the bottom. The mobile app also offers a dark theme that follows the phone’s theme, but you can manually enable it in the settings menu.

A few other settings include reminder timing (morning, afternoon, and night) and link previewing options.

OneNote mobile comes with lists of notebooks, sections, and pages. The sticky notes (mobile only) and the search option are alongside the notebooks. The app also comes with the dark theme, which checks the mobile theme and applies it automatically, but you can change it in the settings.

Tools

Google Keep mobile and desktop versions offer the same functionalities. OneNote mobile, on the contrary, does not come with the assistant, password protection, dictate, and some rich editing tools such as inserting tables, headings etc.

Related: Slite vs. Notion

Widgets

Google keep and Microsoft OneNote Widgets
Google keep and Microsoft OneNote Widgets

On Android, both offer widgets. Google Keep offers two types of widgets. A user can write instant notes using the quick capture widget, while the note list widget is for seeing the notes on the home screen. It comes with multiple options, including all notes, pinned notes, reminders, and user-created text labels.

OneNote comes with five widgets in total. A user can create notes, start an audio recording, start with a text note, start with a photo note, and open the recent notes.

Sharing

Regarding sharing and collaboration, I would say Google Keep is the winner. Google Keep web and mobile apps come with the same sharing features, whereas OneNote does not. With Keep, you can add people to collaborate, send a copy of the note via other apps, and convert and edit notes in Google Docs.

OneNote desktop offers to share notes with the view and edit permissions, while the mobile app only supports sending the note in plain text and PDF format.

Other features

Google KeepMicrosoft OneNote
Offers an option to pin the notes to the topOffers an ink mode and enables the drawing mode when the stylus is close on Note devices
OneNote badge option adds a floating badge to open
OneNote anywhere Provides an option to control the synchronisation by disabling the files and image sync
Other features

Review: Unlike desktop comparison, the mobile comparison was solid. Overall, OneNote gets this mobile round as well.

People also like: Samsung Notes vs. Google Keep

Which one is for you?

The answer to this question relies on the platform you will be using. If you want to stick with the mobile, both will do the job, but if you want to work on desktop/web and mobile, then OneNote is the tool to select.

Links

Wrap up

Google Keep vs. OneNote covered important features. I hope the information was helpful. Please let me know your thoughts about both down below so we can discuss more.

29 thoughts on “Google Keep vs. OneNote (2021)”

  1. I think these two have vastly different design philosophies. Google Keep is a deliberately simplistic note app with reminder functionality. OneNote is a children of Word and more involved than Keep.
    You can easily get the hang of both Keep and OneNote, but I’ll go for Keep, been using it daily for a long while.

  2. I was a big fan of KEEP using it for years on my Samsung android. I switched to Google Pixel3. Today I discovered years of my notes were suddenly gone. I have no idea why or how. Update??? Who knows. Utterly disastrous for me. Google moves stuff to the cloud routinely with or without my permission. But it only stores KEEP notes for seven days. If you buy a new Google phone and the retailer moves all your files to the cloud, you might be in serious trouble if you don’t pay very close attention.

  3. I prefer Keep on android mobile for speed and simplicity, but OneNote on desktop for many reasons.
    However although I can copy and paste TEXT from Keep to OneNote, copying FROM oneNote results as an image which cannot be edited in Keep or am I missing something.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out. On the mobile phone, the text pastes fine, but on the web, Google Keep saves an image. That’s strange and confusing at the same time. Even if you copy the note to Google Docs, you find an image.

    2. I believe this has a lot to do with ASP x-transfer of text. Additionally, Windows does not just copy “plain” text, as it copies all formating as it seems it. You need a third party app (text scrubber) if you want plain text or change setting in the registry to make it permanent.

  4. I love using OneNote for my personal notes for a variety of uses. I love the notebook layout. I was actually hoping that Keep had a similar setup as I was hoping to have my students use it to keep a digital notebook during distance learning. My school is heavy on G Suite and Keep seemed like a possibility. I am not sure if it is what I need for my students’ purposes.

  5. Nice info. Thank you for sharing.

    Fast forward to 2020, a note-taking app that resembles Google Keep Notes, Microsoft Sticky Notes has also been embedded together in the OneNote app. Yes, the exact same Sticky Notes that’s shipped together with Windows 10. That said, both are loved for their simplicity and cross-platform availability.

  6. I can download my google keep for backup. Now, I want to import that data to my different google account, it is not allowed.
    If I change my google account, my old google keep data will be gone away. It is fixed in one place only. I like apple note.

  7. When copying and pasting from OneNote to avoid it pasting text as an image use Ctrl+Shift+V, and it will paste as plain text. This applies to pasting in any application.

    1. That’s actually a good idea. I did know that ctrl+shift+v pastes the text without the formatting, but it never occurred to me to check in this situation. Thanks for the tip.

  8. Matthew Christian

    My team at work wants to migrate from OneNote to Google Keep. We can save a OneNote notebook on a shared network drive and all team members can collaborate on all the notebook’s content. Keep, though, only allows you to share ONE individual note, list, or drawing at a time. It’s grueling to share a whole knowledgebase of notes one by one until they’re all shared. If anyone knows how to easily share ALL Keep notes, lists, and drawings please let me know. I couldn’t find anything about it in the help.

  9. Some updates to this.
    Google Keep no longer has a desktop app. “I really prefer the desktop experience, but that is just my opinion”
    Microsoft now has a new version of notes called Onenote for Windows 10 that is free and part of Windows10. It does seem to sync with the Office version.
    There is a version for Mac OSX.
    Which one is better I think will really be up to the user. Right now I am leaning toward Onenote.

  10. The big advantage for me is that google Keep remains fast in searching youre notes no meter how many notes you have. Compared with microsoft n otes that becomes horrible slow. Amd Evernote thT nust stops werking. I have 11K notes in google keep, most of them with a picture.

      1. I wondered about this myself….search access, speed and accuracy. Just getting back into using these platforms and it seems no one has yet to combine the key elements together. I am surprised Note mobile doesn’t allow dictate. Getting info into the platform was always a favorite benefit of Evernote, from the mobile app to the chrome plugin. However, I found the search feature atrocious…spoiled by Google, whom never seem to get UX. And then I’m afraid they will cancel the service when it suits them. UGH.
        Oh well, thanks for the forum to vent. Sounds like keep would be better than saving web pages to Google Drive (achieves the search functionality), but then i have to PDF OCR into word to edit, prepare for public consumption.

        Onwards…

  11. Is there a way to export from OneNote and import that data into Keep?? I have about 8 years of notes that I need to migrate into Keep.

  12. Gregory Winters

    What is missing from this article is a good, long dissertation on the massive reliability issues associated with cloud-based data management. I am not experienced with Google Keep, but I am a power user of OneNote and I can tell you that the latter is a certifiable disaster in re to trustworthiness. Microsoft has architected OneNote with a bewildering array of proprietary file formats – all inimical to Backup/Restore and Import/Export. In typical fashion, Microsoft rushed a feature-laden application to market, then has used customers as guinea pigs to iron out problems, and all you have to do is Google all this to see how prevalent these issues still are after all these years.

    The latest disaster (among many) is that OneNote somehow has “forgotten” updates that I’ve made to embedded Excel spreadsheets – poof! Gone. Message from Microsoft? Copy everything out of OneNote and create my own backup copies – virtually negating the notion of OneNote as a reliable gold source of my data.

    Cloud-based computing – as noted in the article – consistently short-shrifts UI/UX in favor of using smartphones, toys which have been designed for kids to text each other and take selfies. The elephant in the room is – of course – the requirement to consistently be connected to a reliable, high-speed network, which remains to this day a Gates/Jobs pipe dream.

    As mentioned, I’m not experienced with Google Keep, but I have many war stories with Google Drive, and they’re not pretty. Endless looping of the interface, extremely poor uploading performance, maddening failures with Windows File Explorer integration, etc. – all forcing me to drop this endeavor.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks very much for the words, Gregory. Both companies have ups and downs. Technology and software are never perfect. But, as a user of OneNote, I know that the app is going downhill. They are not focusing on the right features. Instead, they are adding features that are not in use. And they don’t test those features. They let customers try and run into many bugs first. The same thing happens with their “Your Phone Companion” and “Microsoft Editor” apps.

  13. Gregory Winters

    There is no imperative that systems are “perfect” – however, the ‘imperfections’ should be instrumented. Data management principles have never changed: availability, reliability, validity. Regardless of all the new dog & pony features, any application that portends to be associated with user data must conform to these principles – but they rarely do. For OneNote to “forget” four months of Excel data, this shows that the integrity of data is completely ignored by Microsoft. For OneNote to have such a convoluted Backup/Restore system, this demonstrates a wholesale lack of understanding of fundamental UI/UX user requirements. For OneNote to have such breathtakingly limited data management features in the handheld app version, this reveals the child/toy bias present in most “apps”.

  14. Reminds me why I (with a cloud backup) used my 5GB ext HD with X1 search. Talk about old school. But it worked. Then cloud storage came along, Dropbox, Drive and various note taking tools…. ugh.

    Thanks for the information. So given that OneNote is going downhill, I guess it means we live with what we have until somebody figures it out or OneNote improves.

    Very much appreciated this dialogue. Thank you guys!

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