OneNote is one of the oldest note-taking apps on the web. Microsoft kept users happy with this notebook-style app before other robust solutions like Evernote and to-do list apps like Google Tasks or Microsoft To Do existed. Dropbox Paper is the latest in a long line of apps to grace this niche, only intensifying the competition.

OneNote is known for being a digital notebook that deeply integrates with Microsoft's Office 365 suite of applications. It can handle just about any file type, can do simple math calculations in notes (no one else does), and comes with one of the best in class OCR technologies.

Dropbox Paper decided to take a different approach. In the absence of desktop apps for Windows and Mac, it wants to win hearts with a minimalist design with a robust feature set.

We decided to compare these apps to find out how they compare to each other.

1. Write it down

To start with the most basic function of a note-taking app, OneNote will let you create notebooks. Inside each notepad there are sections for creating text, audio, and picture notes. These notes are also searchable and you can also attach links and videos to the notes.

Dropbox Paper vs. One Note 1

A fan of the stylus or just your finger? You can be creative and draw your heart. Finally, you can add tags to group similar notes across multiple notebooks. Useful when you have hundreds of notes.

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Dropbox Paper is not ideal as a digital notebook. It takes a sheet from Google Drive and creates folders where you can create subfolders and notes (documents in the language of Dropbox). It's not the best way to create notes because it takes longer to go back and forth. Also, no way to get an overview of the hierarchy, which makes you lose track of what is graded and what isn't. No beacons either.

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Dropbox Paper also supports text, image, audio, and video, but there's no way to draw. Maybe in a future update? OneNote can also take voice notes which aren't available in Paper.

2. Formatting Options

OneNote takes the lead when it comes to formatting options. The ribbon-style interface is packed with options like bold , italic , and underline. There are many font types and colors to choose from and quickly highlight the important parts. Other options include bullets, numbers and checklists, indentation, and font styles.

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Explore the Insert tab if you want to create tables, audio/video notes, add emojis or different file types like audio and images.

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Finally, there is the Draw tab which reminds me of the simplicity of Paint. Limited but sufficient for a note app where you can choose colors, pen thickness, highlighting and marquee usage.

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Dropbox, following its minimalist strategy, completely removes the ribbon-style menu. A small menu with limited options will appear only when you select a piece of text. Why? To keep the UI clean and simpler. Why show it off when you don't need it.

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There are a limited number of formatting options available, such as bold, heading, highlighting, bullets and checklists, and links. A few others like underline and italic can be enabled using keyboard shortcuts.

Where Dropbox differs is in its ability to handle file types. It's mind-boggling. You can add and play live videos, audios, and even image galleries from pretty much any site you can think of right in the document without leaving the interface.

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For example, you can enjoy YouTube, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Imgur, snippets with syntax, Spotify, etc. This makes Dropbox suitable for creatives who need to work with different file types and create rich media documents using multiple services.

3. Work, share and collaborate

Once you are done taking notes and formatting them as desired, you may need to share them with your peers for additional feedback. You can share entire notebooks or individual notes in OneNote by clicking the Share button in the upper right corner.

Just enter the recipient's email ID and they can edit the note in their copy of OneNote. The Permissions option indicates whether the recipient can only view or can also edit and whether they will need a Microsoft account to do so.

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OneNote will let you share notes but lacks advanced options like permissions. Paper will allow you to share documents with peers where you can decide whether they can only view, comment on and share the document or whether they can also edit it. If it's an open document, anyone with a link can access it. But if this is not the case, only those who have an invitation link will be able to do so.

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To do this, you'll need to change the sharing settings first, then send an invite as shown above.

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Paper, like Dropbox's cloud storage platform, will keep a history of all the changes you've made to the document. Version history can be especially useful when you're collaborating on a single document and someone makes a mistake or unnecessary change.

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OneNote also keeps a history of all changes made to a note, so you know what happened while you were gone.

4. Uncommon Features

OneNote can perform simple math calculations like addition, multiplication, and division right in the notes. Good for those who use it to budget or keep tabs on travel expenses.

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Paper comes with a few sample templates for meetings and presentations, but if you're creative, you can create custom templates for repeated use.

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OneNote has an advanced OCR feature where you can scan images and turn them into notes. Possible use cases include business cards, display and message boards, and classroom or meeting boards. Also useful when traveling.

OneNote also comes with a built-in thesaurus and translation tools for those who may use it for writing purposes.

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OneNote integrates tightly with the Office suite, which is why you can also convert and send notes to PDF and Word formats. The PDF format is convenient for sharing notes.

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Finally, where OneNote is available on all platforms, including Android and iOS, popular browser add-ons/extensions, for Windows and Mac. On the other hand, Paper is only available for browsers, and there are no browser extensions, which means there is no way to cut web pages.

Note that Paper is not part of the Dropbox cloud platform and is completely free with unlimited storage. OneNote, if not part of the Office 365 suite, offers up to 5 GB of storage only.

Take note of the differences

Let me make it easy for you. If you need a digital notebook that integrates deeply with the Microsoft Office suite of apps, complete with formatting options and tags, then OneNote is pretty cool. Also useful in case you need to record voice and video notes.

If collaborating with peers, think business and enterprise solutions, is your priority, and you need something less flashy with third-party app support, go with Dropbox Paper .