Google Notebook, OneNote and Zoho Notebook – First Impressions

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am currently a dialy OneNote user.

Now keeping in mind that I am most familiar using OneNote, I am going to try and perform a realistic comparison of the functionalities of Google Notebook, Microsoft Office OneNote and Zoho Notebook.

One immediate difference between the applications is Google Notebook and Zoho Notebook are hosted, Web-based services while OneNote is an application that typically is installed on the client.

First Impressions

Google Notebook

Google Notebook Screenshot – After I added help content, and an additional note

  • Color Scheme – Light blue – personally I like it. No current method for changing the color scheme.
  • Interface – Clean and simple like the Google search interface we know and love.
  • Links to create and manage Notebooks in the Left Hand Notebooks area.
  • Topics / Content are the main portion of the screen.
  • Create new notes, and format content using buttons above the Notes area.
  • A Tools drop-down menu allows notes and notebook management such as printing, deleting, exporting and renaming.
  • Audio and video content cannot be added to notes.
  • Accessing Help – No direct help on the Google Notebook page. To access help use the Google Accounts page > Click Help > In the Search Help Center text field enter Google Notebook > Click Search > Click Looking Looking for help with Google Notebook? > click Google Notebook FAQs. It takes 5 steps to access help from the Google Accounts page.
  • I found the 3 page Google Notebook tour lacking, and not very helpful in getting me started.
  • When I am first using a program I want help to be easy to access. The first note I created was a copy of the Google Notebook FAQ so I could easily refer to the content. I will admit that this program was so easy to use, I was able to use the program without help very quicly.

OneNote  –

OneNote Opening Screenshot – with Getting Started wtih OneNote content displayed

  • Color Scheme – Integrates with with Windows Desktop – personally I like it. Ability to add new sections and notebooks with varying colors.
  • Interface – Inline with other Microsoft Office Applications.
  • Tool Menus on Top, Tool Bars underneath, Topics are in main window in middle of application.
  • Use the icons on the Tool Bars for quick access to functionality. Tool Bars can be customized to reflect the options the user uses most frequently.
  • Use the drop-down Tool Menus for additional options.
  • Notebooks and Sections are outlined in the left hand Notebooks area. This area can be collapsed to display additional content area.
  • Sections are displayed under the Tool Bar menus.  Sections are used to organize topic pages.
  • Audio and video content can be added to notes.
  • Accessing Help – Extensive 12 topic Getting Started notebook. Accessing help displays a wide range of help topics from both local and web based sources.

Zoho Notebook –

Zoho Notebook Screenshot – I was unable to find any written help content, so I just added my first blog post as content

  • Color Scheme – Light green – personally I don’t like it. No current method for changing the color scheme.
  • Interface – Left hand Navigation area – Add Content – Notebooks, Pages, Navigate Books
  • A variety of content can be added – text, images, audio, video
  • Note – I was unable to successfully save an embedded video.
  • Main area is the topic area.
  • On a blank page content is added in a sticky note fashion.
  • A writer page must be saved before a new page is selected.
  • Accessing Help – YouTube Demo Video, good getting started video, but I was unable to locate any written help.

Final Notes:

OneNote has an advantage, as it has been around since 2003, and Google Notebook and Zoho Notebook are new products.

Google Notebook has a very straightforward interface and would be good for creating text oriented content. Collecting content from the web was easy, simply highlighting content, right clicking and selecting Note This (Google Notebook).

Zoho Notebook I found to be a little buggy (it is still a beta product). Highlighting and right clicking content, did not always achieve consistent results to add content to a page. I could highlight and copy content from a page, but I would have to <Ctrl>-V to paste the content into a page, right mouse click paste was not always affective.

Another issue associated wtih Google Notebook, and Zoho Notebook is Internet connectivity must be available to access the applications. Also I see a security issue adding content in development using these web-based tools.

My initial impression is that I will continue to use OneNote as my day to day content aggregator. Keep in mind, it did take me 3 starts to actually start using the product. I think that Google Notebook and Zoho Notebook show promise.  Zoho seems to have a lot more functionality than than Google, but at this time I found Google to be faster and more stable.

One more important note at this point is that Google Notebook and Zoho Notebook are both free to use – the cost is that someone behind the scenes will have access to your data.

I will continue to use these 3 products, and I will devote further posts to testing functionality between the 3 products to see how each fairs.

Update – Elsa Wenzel had a similar exeperience with Zoho Notebook here – Zoho Notebook ate my Homework.


28 Responses to “Google Notebook, OneNote and Zoho Notebook – First Impressions”

  1. Rob Says:

    I, too, found it strange that finding help on how to use Google Notebook wass so difficult. But while reading your post, I discovered that in the “tools” dropdown on the Firefox Google Notebook extension, one of the options is “help” which takes you to the FAQ page you mentioned. Why this options is not on the general Google Notebook “tools” dropdown is a bit of a mystery.

    I look forward to the ability to include images even if the actual images had to reside on another server.

    Finally, I really like Google’s options is the ability to share your notes. Does OneNote have that capability?

  2. Thomas Says:

    Rob – good job sluething on how to locate help. That is a much easier method for accessing the FAQ page. It is interesting that I don’t see it mentioned anywhere on how to access this FAQ / Help.

    Speaking of pasting images – OneNote has the very cool ability of text recognition in pictures. You right-click an image, and then select, Copy Text from Picture. Text in pictures is also included in any text searches of your Notebook.

    OneNote does have the ability to share notes, and email note pages. There are a couple of steps so I will write up a post about how to do this.

  3. Arvind Says:

    Nice & comprehensive post comparing the three, Thomas! We also read your comments in Robert Scoble’s blog. A big thanks 🙂

    We got a lot of feedback about the release and we are fixing a few things like making the Firefox extension more usable, having more skins, auto-save, search etc. Keep using Zoho Notebook as it continues to evolve like the other Zoho apps.

  4. Thomas Says:

    Arvind – thanks for the compliment.
    Although I am a Microsoft employee and an extensive user of OneNote, I did my best to give a fair and unbiased assessement of each application.
    Zoho has been gracious and appreciative about accepting feedback.
    I look forward to seeing the features that Zoho Notebook implements as it gets closer to Release.
    The competition is good, and it will make all applications in the space much better. I will be watching.

  5. Positive Press for Zoho and Sun Microsystems « Thomas - Technical Blogger Says:

    […] is a group that is working on Internet-based applications. I wrote up my first impressions of using Zoho Notebook compared to some other […]

  6. Arvind Says:

    Thanks for the reply, Thomas. Competition is good indeed!

  7. Carol Says:

    I found that OneNote is not searchable unless you are inside the application. I hate that! Even Windows Desktop search won’t reveal the contents of the notes in OneNote. Why?

    Google notebook does not have the OneNote feature that allows you to make a task or calendar item. Google Notebook currently has no date feature, why?

    I use both for now because both lack some features that make it possible to rely on just one.

  8. Thomas Says:

    Carol – I have OneNote open most of my day so it never occurred to me to try and search the application while it wasn’t running.

    I just did a test and Windows Desktop Search did give me results from OneNote – I got the topic of the page, with a little OneNote icon next to it – clicking on the topic opens OneNote and displays the information – what version of OneNote are you running?

    At this time, Google Notebook doesn’t have a lot of functionality, but it does run very quickly. The ability to copy content from the web into your notebook works well.

    If you are looking for a web-based application that has more features than Google Notebook, you might want to try Zoho Notebook – that application is web-based and pretty feature rich.

  9. Tiyo Says:

    I think I am not lucky enough because each time I try to start OneNote 2007, I get this message “OneNote is unable to start, either you have not sufficient memory or you don’t have the permission to write some cache files…” But I am the system administrator…

  10. Thomas Says:

    Tiyo – Sorry to hear that you are having problems with OneNote. My first suggestion would be to try and uninstall OneNote and then reinstall, it is possible your install was corrupted.
    It this does not help let me know I will try to help you troubleshoot this error.

  11. Dale Says:

    My girlfriend is having that same problem with onenote not starting, so if you figure it out, please let me know what’s going on.

  12. Thomas Says:

    Dale – Sorry to hear that you are having problems also. As I suggested to Tiyo, try uninstalling and reinstalling OneNote to see if that fixes the problems your girlfriend is having.

  13. Jim Robbins Says:

    I also have trouble previewing the OneNote page in Desktop Search. Like you, the search results show the notebook and section, and I can double-click to open OneNote on the correct page. However, there is no preview like there is for other Microsoft content like Outlook or other Office files. It’s almost like the iFilter control for OneNote only returns text for indexing and doesn’t support a formatted display for previewing the files. I find that odd since OneNote can export a page to HTML.

  14. Lois Says:

    I am having trouble getting my Onenote Mobile to sync with my Smartphone. I am getting the getting started page from my Smartphone to sync to my dsktp, but thenew nebooks aren’t going theother direction. Ideas?

  15. Thomas Says:

    Lois – I am happy to help if I can. I have sent you an email to clarify the issues you are having.

  16. Carol Says:

    Since I was here, I bought a laptop with Office 2007 installed. Even with Vista’s search, previewing the text of a page in OneNote 2007 just doesn’t happen.

    I like the web based apps, like Google. However, I think my “best case” scenario would be a desktop client that can be synced to a web app.


  17. Garrett Says:

    @Carol: You can actually sync onenote with the web, unfortunately you need something like a sharepoint server to sync against. The shared notebooks can use a variety of things for storage locations from what i can tell. However to get the sharepoint ones, you of course need a sharepoint system and/or account which not everyone has access too. It would be great if you could store onenote notebooks on a windows live account and sync against it.

    note: looking at onenote 2k7 basically any cloud storage can be used as a storage location for a onenote file set. These do all still work off line however, and can by sync’d with that target w/e you get a chance.

  18. Benjaloo Says:

    thanks for the comparison–very interesting. What I want from a notebook app:
    -ability to work from any computer (web app, e..g. Zoho, Google, or ability to run OneNote from a USB drive or network drive/webhost–and/or a Mac or Linux version–no way that’s happening, right?)
    -ability to work offline (need Google Gears ready Zoho or Google-possibly happening in the future)
    -ability to export data in an easy to use format for safety/backup (.mht which is export format used by Zoho is hard to use and hard to extract data from)

    -I’d love something that would satisfy these critieria. Zoho is the closest to perfect, but needs offline access and better export format.

  19. Matt Says:

    Have you checked out Springnote? You might be interested in the usages of this services.

  20. Rustynails Says:

    Good review. Is anyone else having problems with searching text that is entered into OneNote through “Send to OneNote”? They are images/pdf’s that I brought in through the print command. The image is set as “Make text in image searchable”. Yet the text in the image isn’t searchable. I haven’t been able to find anything regarding what might be going on. Any ideas?

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