Notes, OneNote and Org Mode

Posted on July 29, 2015 by Richard Goulter
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[Updated 2018-11; my understanding of org-mode has improved]


Roughly: A OneNote Notebook has Sections, and Pages within the section. Editing the notes in a page feels similar to editing a simple Word document.

Org Mode

Roughly: org-mode is a renowned organisation tool, which is built on top of Emacs.
org files are plaintext, with notes structured using a “heading”. In addition to marked-up content, each heading can have tags, key-value properties, and sub-headings associated with it.


org-mode is a much more sophisticated tool, with a much harder learning curve than org-mode. The added complexity provides a rich set of features for making use of notes in org-mode.

org-mode’s complexity can also be justified like this: - if you’re writing notes, maybe you want to add some tasks to do - if you have tasks to do, you might want to schedule this on a calendar - it’s also probable you’ll want to make notes from your appointments or tasks.

If you have the time to learn it, I’d recommend org-mode as the better tool, in cases: - notes don’t need multiple collaborators.
or all collaborators are willing to set up a way to sync the same set of notes. - you can spare some time to learn a few features of org-mode - your note-taking workflow doesn’t need PowerPoint-style visual note-taking, nor tablet-input.

OneNote and org-mode are both excellent tools. OneNote has a simpler set of features. Simpler means easier to use; but here it also means “more limited”.
If you’ve not used either, I’d start with OneNote and consider org-mode.

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