Evernote vs. OneNote, Free vs. Paid, What’s a Genealogist to Do?

(UPDATED May 22, 2020.) Is your head swirling with questions such as Evernote vs. OneNote? Or are you wondering about free vs. paid accounts? These are common questions and I have some uncommon, but very effective, solutions for you! Here’s an email I received recently from a Genealogy Gems Premium member on just these questions and the solutions I dished up to answer them.

Evernote vs. Onenote Free vs. paid

Sherri’s Dilemma and Questions

Sherri wrote in with a question I frequently receive:

“I have been a very satisfied Genealogy Gems Premium member for a few years now. Given the recent limitations on the free version of Evernote only to be used on two devices, how does OneNote compare to Evernote?

I use Evernote on my desktop PC, my laptop, my iPad, and my iPhone. Now, I have to choose which two devices to use it on (to stay with the free version.)

Sometimes I use my laptop and sometimes I use my iPad when I am out. Other times, I might be somewhere unexpectedly and only have my iPhone with me. And of course, most of my computing is done at home on my desktop PC so I must have it loaded there. What a dilemma!

Since I am on a limited fixed income, I can’t afford to pay to add devices for my notes. Luckily for me, I have only begun to get “addicted” to using Evernote and only have 224 notes so far. If I need to transfer to another application, it would be much easier to do it now rather than later.”

A short while later I received this follow up email from Sherri:

“Hi, Lisa. Me again.

I do listen to you, but sometimes I panic and scream for help before calming down and remembering your advice. LOL

I took your advice and searched YouTube for “Onenote vs Evernote.” I found a couple of very good videos by dottotech. His comparison videos are “Evernote vs OneNote – 5 Key Differences” and “Evernote vs OneNote Follow Up Q&A – ADT 28.” I was hoping he would compare the free version of Evernote with the free version of OneNote. He made a big deal out of the searching capabilities of Evernote over OneNote, but the new basic Evernote doesn’t search text in PDFs or in Office docs (per Evernote’s feature comparison). Also, you really have to rely on having really good tags [to find what you are looking for.]

The new Basic plan only OCRs text in images. That being the case, it seems the searching on text capabilities are better in OneNote, but the tag feature in Evernote makes it more robust. Too bad OnNote doesn’t have tags or keywords or something to categorize the notes. It does, however, have the ability for more notebooks and sub-notebooks than Evernote does and lets you organize like you would paper. That would be an attractive feature for many.

He did give me a good idea in his video. He suggested we keep the Evernote app on our mobile devices and use Evernote in the browser on our PCs and laptops. That just might work for me, but I don’t like Evernote’s user interface on the browser. I don’t know if I can work with it that way.

My biggest concern with OneNote, however, is that it uses OneDrive for the cloud syncing part. I received an email from Microsoft that on August 10 [2016], my free OneDrive storage will be reduced from 30 GB to 5 GB!

I spent a lot of time reducing my used storage to 4.4 GB. The biggest thing I use it for is to store the media files that my RootsMagic file links to so that I will have them available from my laptop or iPad. I also keep my RootsMagic family file in Dropbox so that the RM app will always have the most current data, rather than having to remember to copy it to Dropbox after each use.”

Evernote vs. OneNote

I totally feel your pain and understand your dilemma. In the last decade of tech in particular, the “freemium” model has been used by many online services (websites and apps). The intent is to get folks to try their service, and hopefully love it, so they will want to pay for richer features. After several years, the pressure is on to pay back investors and sometimes just simply stay afloat. It is then that the right to change the terms gets invoked. You cited two great examples: Evernote and OneDrive.

As a small business owner myself, I can appreciate the need to stay afloat so that you can continue to provide quality services to people who need them. That’s why, with my top favorites in tech, I take the plunge and pay for the upgrade in service if I possibly can. I figure that I’m helping them to keep doing what they are doing and I will reap the benefits. But, we all have our economic limits and sometimes we have to get more creative in order to continue using the services.

One of the first things to consider when choosing between Evernote and OneNote is each company’s focus. Evernote is in the business of cloud note-taking. It’s all they do, and all of their resources are invested in the Evernote product. By comparison, OneNote is just one small program under the massive Microsoft umbrella. Cloud note-taking is not their core business. So on the score of company focus, Evernote comes out ahead. 

The next thing to consider is whether or not your are a very heavy user of Microsoft products such as Word, Excel, and other programs. If you use these heavily in your research and work, then you might want to go with OneNote since it is built to coordinate with those products. If not, then again Evernote would be my choice, particularly if I already had my notes in Evernote.  The good news is that in everyday use, you typically can’t go wrong with either. 

You touched on something that differentiates Evernote from OneNote. Evernote limits how much you can upload each month (free=60MB, Premium=10GB), but there is unlimited storage. OneNote is connected to OneDrive with a free limit of 5GB total storage. Currently, you can get 50GB for around $2/month. (Of course plans can change, so check their websites for the most current pricing and limits.)  I believe it may also be possible to connect OneNote to another storage service if you so desire. So, the way that you create notes could help you with the decision. A heavy note-taker would probably be better off with Evernote Premium with tons of monthly uploads and no storage limits. However, a lighter note-taker would probably save money with OneNote and the free storage of OneDrive. Check the current storage offering by Microsoft and OneNote here

Free vs. Paid

If after careful consideration you decide to throw all your notes into the Evernote basket, then there is a decision to make: free vs. paid, and if paid, which plan? I bit the bullet and bought the Premium service which falls price-wise between free and Business. I want Evernote to stay around and considering how important my genealogy research notes and all the other notes in my life are, $7.99 a month seems like a bargain. With the Premium service, you get unlimited devices and your monthly upload soars from 60 MB to 10 GB. You just bought yourself a lot less stress and a lot more freedom to research genealogy.

If you feel it’s in your best interest to stay with the free version of Evernote, then I’ve got some creative solutions for you:

Creative Solution #1: 

I suggest in my lectures that you can use your two allowed devices for those you use most often. For me, that would be my desktop computer and my phone. For you, it may be your phone and your laptop.

Remember, you can always use the website app at www.evernote.com in any web browser, both on a computer or mobile device, to access your notes. It does not count toward your device allowance. Like you, I prefer the desktop software and app over the website version, but it does do the job.

Use Evernote for Genealogy Computer file

We’ve got you covered on Evernote for Genealogy

Creative Solution #2:

If you have a tablet and a phone you may be tempted to make them your two free devices and then use the web version of Evernote on your home computer. However, while you may carry your tablet with you much of the time, you probably always carry your phone with you. With a two device limit, having both of your mobile devices be the primary devices using the app is pretty redundant and unnecessary. Instead, consider having your phone (which you always carry,) and your home computer or laptop (which you likely use a lot) be your primary devices.

If you don’t want to use your browser on your tablet, I have a solution for you straight out of my book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Smartphone and Tablet for Family History Research. You can use the free Chrome Remote Desktop to remotely access and use your home computer from your tablet and smartphone. Get it here for Android, and here for Apple devices.

How to set up Chrome Remote Desktop access:

  1. Start on the computer that you are going to access remotely.
  2. Open the Chrome browser.
  3. Go to https://remotedesktop.google.com/ 
  4. Click the Get Started button and follow the instructions. 
  5. Leave your computer one and connected to the internet. It’s OK if your computer goes to sleep when you’re not using it. When you remotely access it, it will “wake up.”
  6. After setting it up on your computer, download the Chrome Remote Desktop app on your tablet or phone from the app store.
  7. Connect the app to your home computer following the Chrome Remote Desktop instructions. (Your tablet will need to be connected to the internet for it to work.)

Now when you want to use the Evernote software on your home computer, you can gain remote access to it on your tablet using Chrome Remote Desktop. You’ll be able to do everything you want to do on the Evernote software from your tablet. You will also be able to access all of those notes later on your phone or through your tablet’s browser with evernote.com.

This handy solution is going to solve your challenge with the size of RootsMagic genealogy database files. Since you can now access your computer remotely with your tablet, there’s no reason to keep the file on OneDrive! (But please do be sure that your computer is backed up! I recommend and use Backblaze. Click here for more info on that.) You can now work directly on your RootsMagic software even from your tablet or smartphone. Isn’t technology fabulous?

I hope these ideas help you make the decision that is right for you and right for your family history. My personal goal, and our goal here at Genealogy Gems, is to help you succeed in the pursuit of your family history!

Resources

Book: Mobile Genealogy by Lisa Louise Cooke available at the Genealogy Gems Store.

mobile genealogy book

Book by Lisa Louise Cooke

Video: Evernote for Genealogy: What It Is, & Why You Would Use It at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel.

Genealogy Gems Premium Video Classes by Lisa Louise Cooke:

Genealogy Gems - Family History Podcast and Website

Members have access to hundreds of videos, downloadable handouts, and exclusive podcast episodes.

All of these videos are available to Genealogy Gems Premium Members. Sign up and gain access here.

 

Episode 192


Genealogy Gems Podcast

Episode #192

with Lisa Louise Cooke

Genealogy Gems PodcastHighlights from this episode:

  • How to use Animoto, my favorite new tech tool for creating professional-looking slide shows and videos
  • New Genealogy Gems team member Amie Tennant shares insights as she prepares for professional certification
  • A listener shares a favorite genealogy database for finding recent relatives
  • A listener uses DNA to connect adoptive and biological relatives?who were closer than she thought
  • A segment from the Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with author Helen Simonson on The Summer Before the War
  • News from Dropbox and a new initiative to capture the family histories of remote, indigenous populations

 

NEWS: Dropbox Improvement
New on Dropbox: Now when you share Dropbox content with someone, shared links will stay active even if you move or rename the file or folder.

Dropbox file-sharing tip: “If you ever want to unshare something you’ve already sent out (like to remove access to a sensitive document), it’s easy to disable an active link.” Just sign in to dropbox.com. “Click the link icon next to the file or folder, and click ‘remove link’ in the top right corner of the box that appears. You can also remove the link by visiting dropbox.com/links and clicking ‘x’ next to the file or folder.”

How to share folders on Dropbox

 

NEWS: MyHeritage and Tribal Quest

NEWS: New Premium Video

New Premium Video Getting Started with Genetic GenealogyGetting Started in Genetic Genealogy: a new video available to Genealogy Gems Premium website members by Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard

Genealogy Gems Premium website membership: Click here to learn more

Click here to watch a free video preview

 

MAILBOX: Russ Recommends the U.S. Public Records Index

Genealogy Gems MailboxRuss blogs at https://worthy2be.wordpress.com/

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 181: What to use while waiting for the 1950 census

Russ recommends the “U.S., Public Record Index, 1950-1993, Volume 1 and 2.”

“Volume 1 is far more interesting with more data. A search will return a Name AND Birth date, along with more than one ADDRESS, Zip Code and sometimes phone numbers.”

Ancestry’s description of its online database for Volume 1 says original data comes from public records spanning all 50 states, such as voter registration lists, public record filings, historical residential records and other household database listings.

US Public Records Index

Thoughts about using the U.S. Public Records Index (some of these points come from the FamilySearch wiki):

Not everyone who lived in the U.S. appears in the index, and you’re more likely to find birth information for those born between 1900 and 1990. What you’ll find is primarily where someone lived, and often when they lived there.

It’s rarely possible to positively identify a relative in this index, since there’s limited information and it spans the entire country for up to a half century, and you can’t follow up on the record it comes from because the index doesn’t say where individual records come from. As Russ says, this is a great resource to use in combination with other records. It’s a similar concept to the way you might consult uncited family trees: great hints to go on and follow up with further research into verifiable sources.

When you find more recent listings, you can sometimes find telephone numbers for living distant relatives. The Family History Made Easy podcast has a 2-episode series (episodes 14 and 15) about cold-calling techniques for reaching out to distant relatives you don’t know.

 

MAILBOX: Katie on Cold-calling and Adoption and DNA

Katie blogs her family history adventures at McKinnon Ancestry.

Click here to read a blog post with her story and see more pictures that go with it.

Gem - Katie

 

INTERVIEW: Amie Tennant

Amie Bowser TennantAmie Tennant is the newest member of the Genealogy Gems team. She contributes to the blog at www.genealogygems.com. She is also preparing to become a certified genealogist, which is a professional credential offered by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG).

What have you learned in the process of preparing for certification?

“I think the biggest thing I have learned is the meaning of true exhaustive research. We talk a lot about that in our genealogy standards, but essentially, it is looking EVERYWHERE for EVERYTHING that might shed light on your research question.”

Why do you want to become certified?

I want a way to determine how well I am doing. A measuring stick of sorts.

What is the process like?

The process is the same for everyone. Once you have decided to become certified, you apply to the BCG. They send you a packet of information and you are “on the clock.” The clock is up in one year unless you ask for an extension. The portfolio you create consists of:

  • Signing the Code of Ethics
  • Listing your development activities (like formal coursework or enrichment activities);
  • Transcribe, abstract, create a genealogy research question, analyze the data, and then write the research plan for a document that is supplied to you;
  • Do those same 5 things for a document of your choosing;
  • A research report prepared for another person.
  • A case study with conflicting, indirect or negative evidence;
  • A kinship determination project (a narrative genealogy that covers at least 3 generations)
  • There is a lot of great free content on the BCG website: articles, examples, and skill-building activities.

 

GEM: How to Create Family History Videos Quickly and Easily

Visit our page on how to create family history videos which includes video tutorials and inspirational examples.

 

Genealogy Gems Book ClubBOOK CLUB: Interview excerpt with Helen Simonson,
author of
The Summer Before the War

Helen Simonson

featured book

Get the hardcover

Get the Kindle ebook

Beatrice Nash is a bright, cosmopolitan young lady who has grown up traveling the world with her father. Now he’s gone, and she’s landed in the small village of East Sussex, England, where the locals aren’t entirely thrilled about engaging her as a female Latin instructor for their schoolchildren. She spends a summer fighting for her job, meeting a local cast of engaging eccentric characters (both gentry and gypsy) and trying not to fall for handsome Hugh. Then the Great War breaks out.

This novel follows Helen’s popular debut novel, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, which became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 21 languages. Genealogy Gems Premium website members can join us in June to hear our exclusive and fun interview with Helen Simonson.

 

GENEALOGY GEMS PODCAST PRODUCTION CREDITS:

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer

Sunny Morton, Contributing Editor

Vienna Thomas, Audio Editor

Additional content by Lacey Cooke, Amie Tennant

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

How to See Your Favorite People First on Facebook

Facebook favorite peopleNow you can choose whose Facebook activity shows up at the top of your news feed. We hope the Genealogy Gems Facebook page is on your See First list!

Facebook now has a new feature to allow you to select which friends and pages you want to see at the top of your news feed. Along with your close friends and relatives, we hope you’ll include the Genealogy Gems Facebook page on your See First list.

Here’s how to do it:

See First facebook cropped1. Go to the Facebook friend or fan page you want to add to your See First list.

2. Look for the “Following” (for friends) or “Liked” (for fan pages) button on that profile picture.

3. Click it, then select “See First.”

It’s that easy! You can choose up to 30 people to see first in your feed.

Why bother? In the past, even if you “Like” a fan page like our Genealogy Gems page, it didn’t necessarily show up in your feed. And it could be easy to miss posts from the people you care most about (especially if they don’t post very often). Now you won’t have to chance missing updates from your “besties,” kids or grandkids, or favorite online groups.

media_icon_like_400_wht_9163Add the Genealogy Gems Facebook page to your Facebook See First list,  and you won’t miss any of our gems. Like our recent scoop about the new Social Security Application index: we’ve heard from SO many of you (on and off Facebook) how helpful this new database is. It just takes a second. Will you try it now?

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