Microsoft has released its first iPhone app with ties to its Office application suite, OneNote Mobile for iPhone. The app, which Microsoft says is free “for a limited time,” lets users access, edit and create notes from the iPhone. These notes can are then synced over the cloud with the OneNote web app or OneNote for Office 2010.
OneNote is similar to note-sharing services like Evernote; the difference is OneNote is tied tightly to the Office ecosystem and its focus has largely been on the desktop rather than the cloud or on mobile devices.
We took some time to play with OneNote Mobile for iPhone [iTunes link] in conjunction with the OneNote Web App. This web app was introduced in June and is one way that Mac users (OneNote is not available on Mac OS X) and others can access OneNote 2010 notebooks or create and store their own cloud-based notes.
The app is attractive and usable. The user interface has taken some cues from some of our favorite organizational apps like Things and OmniFocus, and that’s a good thing.
As expected, note options are more limited than either OneNote 2010 or the OneNote Web App. Notes are entered in as plain text and because of the rich text limitations of iOS (for non-Apple developers anyway), some rich text formatted notes from the web or OneNote won’t show up correctly. Hyperlinks, for instance, are selectable as a URL but not highlighted.
You can embed photos from the camera roll or take a new photo from the camera itself, just like with Evernote. Unlike Evernote, OneNote Mobile doesn’t support audio notes at this time. We also couldn’t figure out how to rename tabs within the app.
For the most part, the app seems speedy with synching over the cloud. Our Internet connection was a tad slow so it was hard to judge, but it seemed to be in-line with the synching performance of Evernote or MobileMe.
The app by itself isn’t really enough to convert anyone over to using OneNote on the web or in Office 2010, so individuals already satisfied with services like Evernote aren’t going to be swayed away. However, this app has potential with existing OneNote users who were perhaps thinking about forgoing the desktop app in favor of something with a more robust mobile presence.
We also hope that OneNote Mobile is a sign that Microsoft will be bringing more readers and basic editors of its Office apps to the iPhone. The best way to keep individuals and businesses from jumping ship to a different product is to make accessing and editing documents as seamless as possible. It’s good to see Microsoft leveraging Sky Drive on the iPhone.