Microsoft and Google offer lightweight yet capable word processing software (OneNote and Google Docs). However, not everyone wants a full text editor like Microsoft Word and Apple Pages. That’s why some Microsoft and Google productivity suite apps have overlapping features — OneNote and Google Docs, respectively.
Some users may just want to take basic notes, write business letters, prepare a resume and share it with others.
OneNote and Docs are closely related to the parent company’s ecosystem. In terms of basic functions, both programs share many similarities and also differ in different aspects. Choosing one over the other can be confusing depending on your needs and usage pattern.
You could object that Google Docs is a complete word processor, but it does all the things OneNote can do. Your focus should be on co-working and editing.
In this post, we will compare Microsoft OneNote to Google Docs on multiple fronts. The comparison will be based on user interface, notes organization, templates, features, backup, sharing, price, and more. Let’s move on.
Availability on common platforms
Microsoft OneNote is available on every possible platform. There is native app support for iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. The app is also available as an online web version.
Google Docs also offers native apps for iOS and Android. It is a web-based tool for desktop systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.
User interface and notes organization
If you have used Microsoft Office applications before, you will feel right at home with Microsoft OneNote. The app uses a classic bar at the top to access the functionality. You can switch between menu tabs to use the functions. It sticks to the proven formula, and I love it.
Microsoft OneNote uses the traditional physical notes approach to organizing notes. You can create a notebook, add sections in it, and add pages within a section. The best ones compared to the tag system offered by Evernote and Bear.
In terms of customization, you can color a notebook, sections, and move pages within it. Google Docs is also similar to Microsoft Word with all the editing options at the top and functionality behind the top menus.
Google does not provide any way to organize documents here. You can only move documents to folders that are saved to Google Drive.
One can only change the color of the folders from the Google Drive app.
Microsoft used to offer built-in template support for the OneNote desktop app. The company has abandoned its development in favor of the original Windows 10 app.
The native app does not support built-in forms. You will have to search for third-party templates from the web. Also, if you rely on templates a lot, I’d advise you to consider Microsoft Word.
Google Docs wins this round. The program offers a variety of templates. Whether you are a student/teacher, restaurant owner, running a business, or just want to make a resume, Google Docs has something for everyone.
There are three ways to get started with a form in Google Docs. You can either use a built-in form, search from the web, or create a template in Google Docs and save it for future use.
Each of the word processing software is full of useful functions.
OneNote and Docs provide basic editing options such as the ability to change text size and color, text, image and video alignment, and a web link add-on.
Microsoft is targeting creative people, students, and artists here. OneNote added mathematical formulas. You can even use a pen to take notes and do math equations.
OneNote also allows you to draw anything with the built-in drawing tools like pen and brush with different intensities.
You can add stickers, emojis, highlight words, and even password protection sections of a notebook.
I will advise you to master OneNote keyboard shortcuts to use these functions on the go.
Google Docs takes a more traditional approach. You can perform all the actions one can do in a proper word processing software like Microsoft Word and Apple Pages.
Some of the functionality includes page break, paragraph alignment, superior Google spelling and grammar check, and integration with other Google apps like Calendar, Keep, and To Do.
It is more suitable for long writing.
Real-time sharing and collaboration is one of the areas where Google Docs really shines. You can send a view only, a comment only, or a link with full editing functionality to others. One can invite others through their Google ID to make edits in a document.
Collaborators can leave comments on any section of the document to express their opinion.
Seamless collaboration and real-time editing have been (and still are) key reasons why Google G Suite has grown in popularity in the education sector. It’s come to a point where students are using Google Docs as a messaging app (no kidding, seriously).
OneNote lets you send a page as a PDF using a standard share menu. You can also share an entire notebook with others. I’ve seen many student groups use it to keep class notes, assignments, meetings, and exam schedules up to date.
Other author’s edits are shown as little name credentials at the end of the notes section. My only problem with OneNote is that you can’t share a section of the notebook. You can just share a page or share an entire notebook.
Backup and price
OneNote relies on OneDrive from Microsoft to back up your data. The new created notebook is automatically synced and stored in OneDrive. The service is completely free to use with 5GB of storage. After that, you will have to pay for the additional OneDrive data for storing notes.
Every Google Document is saved to your Google Drive account by default. Google offers 15 GB of Drive storage space. Fortunately, G Suite documents don’t count toward your Drive storage, which means you can add an unlimited number of Google Docs for free.
Which one should you use
It all boils down to your preferences and usage habits in word processing software. OneNote and Google Docs are both free and available globally.
OneNote provides better organization and editing functionality instantly. Google Docs is ahead in terms of template support and real-time collaboration.