6-17 2024

New: OneNote App Will Move Local Notebooks to the Cloud

The March update enables the OneNote app for Windows 10 to transfer locally saved notebook files to OneDrive. This may be bad news for many users.

It sounds like just another nice feature for the OneNote app of Windows 10. But there might be serious consequences. As Microsoft now announced, the March update of OneNote for Windows 10 will include the option to move locally stored notebooks to the cloud. This does not mean that you will be able to open and edit notebook folders with .ONE files in the app like you can in the “full” MS Office OneNote 2016. It’s only about transferring them to OneDrive or OneDrive for Business and then open them from there. So this is basically a file converting and uploading feature.

Since the new version hasn’t arrived on my devices yet (Insiders only – America first), I couldn’t actually test the converter yet, but that should not be necessary. The process is simple and well described by a few screenshots on the Microsoft support page:

The notebook list now also includes locally saved (On this computer) notebooks… (Image: Microsoft)


…but won’t open them to for editing and just offers to transfer them to OneDrive. (Image: Microsoft)

Now, why is Microsoft doing this? If you are using locally stored notebooks at all, you naturally own OneNote 2016 (or a predecessor) from the Office package and can perform this conversion by using File Share. There’s only one plausible reason I can think of:

I always assumed that Microsoft is planning to abandon the W32-versions of OneNote (e. g. OneNote 2016) completely and replace it with the Windows 10 UWP app. In addition, there is the uncertainty caused by the first official announcement of Office 2019. The modules like Excel, Word or PowerPoint are listed there, but OneNote is missing.

Prepared to Kill

The one question that always puzzled me: If Microsoft actually abandons the Windows Desktop OneNote versions completely, what about all the (mostly business) users who have stored notebooks locally or on a network drive? You can’t simply block their access all of a sudden, possibly after an Office update, without risking a serious rebellion. It seems to me that with this new function of the app Microsoft has now given the answer: Just transfer your notebooks to OneDrive or OneDrive for Business. That way you aren’t locked out of your notes.

Of course, they are well aware that security policies prevent many companies from storing internal data in a public cloud service. But it looks like Microsoft will just shrug their shoulders on that. Collateral damage. Cloud first, mobile first. While there might be a possibility that on-premise SharePoint servers could be added as a target of the transfer feature in the future, I highly doubt that this will get implemented.

So far Microsoft has not officially commented on the future of OneNote 2016 or OneNote 2019. All this is just another speculation of mine. But the signs could not get any clearer. This feature mainly looks like nothing else than the preparation to kill the desktop versions of OneNote.

There already is a method to import single .ONE files into the app to manually transfer them to a cloud-based notebook. Instructions are to be found in this article. This option still makes sense for single .ONE (section) files that are not part of a complete OneNote notebook folder structure.


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  1. I am a teacher and I use OneNote in all my classes. It’s a great program.
    It is a very big issue if Microsoft does not make a desktop version of OneNote (Include OneNote in Office 2019).
    The app version of OneNote (included in Windows 10) can in no way replace the desktop version.

  2. Stefan Wischner

    I several possible scenarios (again, I am just guessing here). But if I would have to bet my money on one of them it would be something like this:
    OneNote 2016 will remain untouched, there will just be no OneNote 2019. No clue though, what happens to OneNote 2016 after you update to Office 2019. Either it stays there or you have to get the free version of OneNote 2016.
    But in any case I doubt that there will be functional updates and developments for OneNote 2016 (or 2019) anymore. The focus is clearly on the Windows 10 app. The good news (for you as a teacher, not so for a lot of other users) is: I also believe that the OneNote development will emphasise even more on educational use cases than it already does.

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