Microsoft launches free OneNote for Mac -- with some pieces missing

Free version of Microsoft's note-taking app is now available for Mac sans support for SharePoint and integration with Outlook

Microsoft's OneNote, the note-taking and Web-clipping app for multiple devices, is now available as a free-to-use product for Windows and -- for the first time -- the Macintosh.

Previously OneNote was only available in free-to-use versions for Windows 8, Windows Phone, and through Web browsers; users of Windows 7 or earlier had to buy a copy of Microsoft Office in order to use OneNote. This new release adds native platform versions for other editions of desktop Windows, as well as for iOS and Android.

The free versions will be missing a few features, though; there is no support for SharePoint and no integration with Outlook. To make use of those, users need to buy the version bundled with Office. The free version has no time limits or restrictions on file types, and it doesn't annoy users with ads.

However, the usage licensing for the free edition of OneNote, which it inherited from Microsoft Office, may drive business users crazy. The free version of OneNote has the same restrictions as the home/school edition of Microsoft Office, according to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, and it can't be used in a business or for "revenue-generating activity," as Microsoft's licensing for Office puts it.

Microsoft also announced that the service now gives third-party developers access to a new OneNote Service API, which allows apps to publish information directly into OneNote. Among the services available in OneNote's cloud service is functionality to save Web pages to OneNote, receive pages through email, and use Microsoft's "Office Lens" technology to convert images captured with a camera into documents via OCR. Several companies, including Brother, Epson, and Feedly, have already produced apps that connect with OneNote.

OneNote's been around in one form or another since 2002, but has remained somewhat in the shadow of competing products like Evernote. Despite Evernote's recent bug problems, it enjoys great success in businesses, in part because of its close integration with services like

Computerworld's Preston Gralla found that OneNote's tight integration with other Office apps, as well as the way it handled larger projects, made it worthwhile. But back in 2011, InfoWorld's Galen Gruman found the iOS version of OneNote to be lackluster compared to its Windows counterpart, much as Microsoft Office apps for the Mac have traditionally been.

In early 2013, Microsoft proclaimed its confidence in OneNote (along with Yammer and OneDrive, formerly SkyDrive) as a growth driver for Office. Much of that growth doesn't appear to be in the form of sales for the Office software suite, but rather for Office as a cloud-based service, something Microsoft has long suspected is the most viable future for Office.

This story, "Microsoft launches free OneNote for Mac -- with some pieces missing," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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