Microsoft to consolidate multiple OneNote for Windows apps into a single new version

With its coming new OneNote app for Windows 11, Microsoft is looking to clean up the mess it has created by offering multiple, different OneNote for Windows apps. Here's how officials plan to get there.

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Credit: Microsoft

As anyone who has tried to follow along with Microsoft's OneNote strategy knows, the company has made things complex offering more than just one OneNote app for Windows. It seems officials are intent on cleaning things up on the OneNote for Windows front during the next 12 months, according to an August 5 blog post.

OneNote on Windows will get a series of updates in the coming year that will include a visual refresh; new pen and inking features; a new navigational UI layout option that can be customized, and more, officials said. Microsoft is planning to unify the two different OneNote apps it supports right now on Windows -- the OneNote app installed with Office and the OneNote for Windows 10 app available in the Store -- and create a single OneNote app for Windows.

How Microsoft plans to get to a single, unified OneNote app for Windows 11 is, unsurprisingly, a bit complex. 

The OneNote app installed with Office is going to start getting new features and "key" existing features that are currently unique to OneNote for Windows 10 (the Store app). OneNote for Windows 10 users will get an in-app invitation at some point in the second half of 2022 to update to the new unified OneNote app.

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Officials said they are not making a new third OneNote app in addition to the existing two. Instead the current OneNote app will be getting some subset of features from OneNote for Windows 10 (along with other brand-new features). Officials noted that both of the existing OneNote apps will continue to run in Windows 11 and upgrading from Windows 10 to 11 won't affect users' existing OneNote apps.

Those who run Windows 11 from a clean install or on a new device won't have OneNote for Windows 10 installed by default. However, OneNote for Windows 10 still will be available to download for free from the Microsoft Store. Microsoft is advising those running the OneNote for Windows 10 app to update to the new, unified OneNote app by October 2025, as that is when both Windows 10 and OneNote for Windows 10 will reach end of support. Microsoft is advising users against uninstalling OneNote for Windows 10 today because officials are planning to provide "extra checks for the integrity of your notebooks before moving to a single app." Microsoft execs said all user notebooks that work today in either of the OneNote apps will continue to work in the updated unified OneNote app. 

Microsoft says it will continue to offer OneNote for macOS, iOS, Android and the Web and today's announcement of future direction has no impact on these customers; it's about the Windows versions of OneNote only.

Microsoft officials never mention "Project Reunion," which is key to Microsoft's plan to try to undo the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) -Win32 divide it created starting with Windows 8. But it does seem that Microsoft is working to phase out its own UWP apps by creating new versions, like it looks to be doing with the coming new Windows 11 snipping tool -- an update to the existing Windows snipping tool, plus some features from the Sketch & Snip tool -- that officials are teasing as of this week.