Microsoft has now followed up the iOS version of its OneNote 2010 note-taking application with a release for Android, now available in the Android Marketplace. Like its other mobile siblings, including the Windows Phone version, OneNote Mobile for Android is a basic tool, without many of the features of its more complex desktop cousin.
Once downloaded and installed, getting started is easy. You'll need a Windows Live account if you want to synchronise your data with Microsoft's SkyDrive service. Once you're connected, you can synchronise existing notebooks you've created on the desktop or on another mobile device. Downloading a whole notebook is quick, especially over Wi-Fi (and if you have large notebooks and a capped data plan, you can configure OneNote Mobile to only use Wi-Fi for sync). Once downloaded it stays in sync, reflecting changes made elsewhere within a minute or so. Synchronised notes are available offline, so you're able to work on a airplane or an Underground train, re-syncing as soon as you get a mobile signal.
Notes are formatted cleanly, with a basic navigation bar at the top of a screen. You can quickly go up a level, see recent notes, or create new text or photo notes. In practice you're likely to be using photo notes rather than text notes, as it's easier to capture an idea for further annotation on a PC than to type on a smartphone screen. There's basic text formatting including tables, as well as support for lists. If you're creating a to-do list, you can also use checkboxes to quickly tick off items.
Like the iOS versions, Microsoft has a 'freemium' model for OneNote. The initial download is free for the first 500 notes. Once you've reached that limit you can carry on reading and syncing notes with a PC or another device, but if you want to create new notes or edit existing content on your device you'll need to pay for an in-app upgrade to the unlimited version. It's not expensive, just $4.99 (£3.16). OneNote Mobile for Android is intended for smartphones, so there's no tablet optimisation as in the iPad version; however, we found it ran just fine on an Android tablet — with no screen scaling issues, just a lot of white space!
OneNote remains one of Microsoft's best products, and one of its least-known. It's an example of just how well cloud and desktop can work together, and with the addition of mobile versions it's now even more effective. If you need a freeform note-taking tool, it's well worth the download — and the upgrade cost.