A first look at Microsoft OneNote on the iPhone

[Author’s note: This blog post has been updated with late-breaking information which appears near the end of this post.]

Since I began looking at Microsoft Office 2010 Beta feedback last year, the one question so many of you asked perhaps more than any other was “When will you release a OneNote app for the iPhone?” I’m happy to say that the time has come.

First, check out the official announcement by Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Office Product Management Group. Then head over to the iTunes App Store to download OneNote Mobile for iPhone. It works on any iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4.2 or later, and it’s free for a limited time.

With OneNote Mobile, you can create and view notes and lists right on your iPhone. Your notes can be synced with your Windows Live SkyDrive account so you can access, edit, and share them from virtually anywhere. (Don’t have a SkyDrive account yet? Sign up here — it’s free!) You can also use OneNote Mobile for iPhone to view and edit any of the notes that you’ve created on your computer and synced to your SkyDrive account.

While the OneNote Mobile app naturally doesn’t have all of the functionality of the full OneNote 2010 desktop application for your computer, it’s optimized for your iPhone’s display and lets you handle the basics with ease.

Use OneNote Mobile to create shopping lists and to-do lists, prepare for a trip or project, and take class or meeting notes without lugging around your laptop. OneNote Mobile is also great for collecting ideas and tracking project notes, capturing ad hoc information about stuff you need to deal with at home or at work, as well as tracking activities, wish lists, gift lists — anything you can think of.

Install OneNote Mobile on your iPhone

  1. On your iPhone, tap the App Store button on the home screen.
  2. In the App Store, search for OneNote, and then install the OneNote Mobile for iPhone app.

If you’re having trouble searching, click here to find OneNote Mobile on iTunes.

Start OneNote Mobile for the first time

  1. Start the app by tapping the OneNote icon on your iPhone.

  2. The first time you run OneNote Mobile, this sign-in screen appears:

    If you already have a Windows Live ID — for example, if you already use Windows Live SkyDrive to store files and photos, or if you have a Hotmail e-mail account, an MSN account, an Xbox Live account, a Zune pass, or if you use Windows Live Messenger — enter your Windows Live ID (e-mail address) and your password and then tap Sign In.
    If you don’t yet have an account or want to create a new one just for your mobile notes, tap Get a Windows Live ID.

Now that OneNote Mobile for iPhone is installed and you’re signed in, you can create notes and lists wherever you are and either keep them on your phone or sync them to your desktop computer or laptop when you return to your computer at home, at school, or at work. Because SkyDrive seamlessly manages your files, you’ll always have all of your notes and information at your fingertips without having to manually copy any files back and forth.

Create a quick note

  1. On the navigation bar at the bottom of the OneNote Mobile screen, click Quick Note.
  2. A notes page appears, on which you can jot down your notes:

    As shown in this screenshot, while you are in typing mode on any notes page, you can do the following:
    •  Tap the page header to give the page a title. To finish, tap Return, or tap the page area.
    •  Tap the List icon to create a bulleted list.
    •  Tap the Tag icon to apply a To Do note tag to text. Tap the checkbox to mark the item as completed.
    •  Tap the Camera icon to take or insert a picture and place it on the page.
    •  Tap the Keyboard icon to hide the keyboard and show the navigation bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

As with the full version of OneNote 2010 on your computer, there’s no need to save your notes or changes you make. OneNote automatically and continuously saves your work so you never lose a thing.

Manually sync your mobile notes with SkyDrive

OneNote Mobile for iPhone will periodically attempt to sync your notes to your Windows Live SkyDrive account, but you can force a manual sync if you want to.

  1. On the navigation bar at the bottom of the OneNote Mobile screen, tap Settings.
  2. In the Settings screen that opens, tap Sync Now.

    When the sync has been successfully completed, the Last updated date/time stamp underneath the Sync Now button will be refreshed.

Screenshot gallery

Here are a few more screenshots of the OneNote Mobile for iPhone app to whet your appetite. Remember — it’s only free for a limited time, so don’t delay and grab the free app today!



Feedback and technical support

The OneNote team has been working hard on this first release of OneNote Mobile for iPhone. Please leave a comment below to let us know how you like this version and share with us any suggestions that you may have for improving it!

If you’re attempting to sync your notes to SkyDrive and are running into any problems, first check for any sync errors that may appear on the Settings screen (shown above).

For OneNote Mobile for iPhone technical support, tap Settings on the navigation bar at the bottom of the app screen, and then tap Technical Support for further instructions.

Troubleshooting Login Errors

UPDATE 01/18 – 12:50 PM PST:  OneNote Program Manager Daniel Escapa confirms that due to the overwhelming response to the OneNote Mobile app release today, we have received reports from some customers who are experiencing an error when they attempt to login. Specifically, you may encounter the following error message: “Loading list of notebooks failed. (400).” The underlying cause is an intermittent issue due to the overwhelming interest in the app.

The current workaround is to keep attempting to sign in. Once you get past this error, OneNote Mobile will sync without any problem. The OneNote team is actively investigating the issue and believes to have identified the cause. An update for the app is in the works. Please check back for further developments as they become available. We apologize for any inconvenience and sincerely thank you for your patience and interest in OneNote Mobile.

UPDATE 01/19 – 4:30 PM PST:  I’ve heard from several of you, stating that after yesterday’s “400” error hiccups with the login server, you were able to login and begin using the app. If any of you out there still have trouble with this issue, please continue trying. We haven’t stopped testing since yesterday and will keep you up to date. Please keep posting your feedback about the app here and remember to check the Microsoft Answers tech support forum if you have specific issues with the app’s performance. We’re listening on those channels, too! Thank you!

UPDATE 01/21 – 9:30 PM PST:  I’m pleased to confirm that we have fixed the login issue (“400” error) and released an update to OneNote Mobile for iPhone. To download version 1.0.1, please read below.

UPDATE 01/26 – 11:30 AM PST:  We’ve just released a free user’s guide for the OneNote Mobile for iPhone app. Click here for more information!

UPDATE 02/03 – 12:00 PM PST:  We’ve released an update to OneNote Mobile for iPhone. To download version 1.0.2, please read below. This update resolves login and sync issues that you may have encountered with version 1.0.1.

Free version 1.0.2 update now available

A free update to OneNote Mobile for iPhone version 1.0.2 is now available through the iTunes App Store. If you previously installed OneNote Mobile for iPhone version 1.0 (or the version 1.0.1 patch), simply tap the App Store icon on your iPhone and then tap Updates. When the new version appears in the Updates list, tap the OneNote icon, tap the UPDATE button, and then tap INSTALL to install the new version:


If you’re seeing any remaining login or sync issues, please visit the Microsoft Answers forum for free technical support from the development team.

A note about international availability

As you can tell from the comment thread below, we’ve received numerous inquiries from customers in other countries, asking why the iPhone app is currently only available in the United States. Please take a moment to review our new FAQ over on the Microsoft Answers forum to learn more about international plans for the OneNote Mobile for iPhone app. As previously mentioned, we really appreciate and continue to listen to all of your feedback, so please keep the conversation going. Thank you!

— Michael C. Oldenburg