Peter Lu / 10.27.2023Home / Encrypted notes

Google Keep vs. OneNote—main differences explained

This Google Keep vs. OneNote comparison reviews two popular note-taking tools. Explore features, usability, and security to choose the right platform for you.
Whether you need to jot down ideas on the go, summarize meetings, or make a rough draft of your next email, note-taking apps can be a valuable part of your workflow. Capable solutions can do much more than the above, allowing you to collaborate on entire projects with your team.As Google and Microsoft are among the industry leaders when it comes to online workspaces, it’s natural for their solutions to come to mind first when you’re exploring different platforms. This Google Keep vs. OneNote comparison will show you how both providers approach note-taking and which solution might be better for you.You’ll also discover an alternative worth considering if you’re looking to move away from Big Tech solutions and protect your data.
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Microsoft OneNote vs. Google Keep—key similarities and differences

OneNote and Google Keep are available within their respective online workplaces—Google Workspace and Microsoft 365.Still, you can use them as standalone platforms through web apps and dedicated mobile apps. OneNote has a slight advantage of offering dedicated Windows and Mac apps, which aren’t available with Google Keep.Both options let you perform basic note-taking tasks like adding text and images, similar to other popular tools like Evernote and Notion and their alternative solutions. Despite the same overall use, though, there are notable differences between these platforms, so we’ll compare them across the following factors:
  1. User interface and ease of use
  2. Rich text editing and media
  3. Note organization
  4. Mobile-friendliness
  5. Security

User interface and ease of use

Looking at Keep vs. OneNote interfaces, Google’s productivity apps are generally considered more visually appealing than Microsoft’s, the latter focusing more on feature availability than esthetic appeal. Google Keep is no different—you get a clean interface with notes displayed as widgets in the main window.
Source: Google Keep screenshotYou can compose a new note using the bar placed above the existing ones, and you’ll see options to add an image or checklist. When you hover over a note, you can access additional options, such as:
  • Pinning the note
  • Setting reminders
  • Sharing the note
All the features are laid out intuitively enough to ensure that users new to note-taking tools can navigate the interface without confusion. Such accessibility may not be available with OneNote, which has an entirely different layout.Unlike Google Keep, OneNote features a multi-layer interface with three levels:
  1. Notebooks
  2. Sections
  3. Pages
Each page is a canvas for your notes, which you group into sections comprising a notebook. The layout might take some getting used to, but advanced users might appreciate it due to its robust organization (which will be covered later in this article).The main screen resembles Microsoft's other tools like Word and Excel. You can see various tool options in tabs and ribbons above the note, making for a more cluttered interface compared to Google Keep.
Source: OneNote ScreenshotEven though interface appeal largely depends on personal preferences, Google Keep objectively looks more modern than OneNote, so it could be a better option if you are a visual person.

Rich text editing and media

OneNote is undoubtedly superior to Google Keep when it comes to different elements you can add to notes, as shown in the following table:
ElementOneNoteGoogle Keep
PDF printouts
File attachments
This media diversity makes Microsoft’s solution more suitable for creating comprehensive, dynamic notes. It also lets you draw freely, so it’s essentially a whiteboard you can use for various purposes besides basic note-taking.Google Keep has a similar feature, though it doesn’t work on all browsers, so you should use Chrome to ensure it’s enabled.Text formatting is also far better in OneNote. You can bold, italicize, and underline text much like you can in Word, while Google Keep’s web version doesn’t have these options. They’re only available in the Android app, which is quite limiting.OneNote also allows you to import meeting details directly from the Outlook calendar. Go to Insert > Meeting Details, select a specific meeting, and the platform will automatically add details such as:
  • Time
  • Place
  • Attendees
Another notable benefit is the ability to add hyperlinks, which isn’t available in Google alternative to OneNote. You can only add naked links, which is inconvenient and might clutter your note if you need to include several of them.Overall, OneNote’s text and media editing features surely compensate for a slightly busier interface. If you’re looking for an advanced note-taking platform, it will most likely suit you more than Google Keep.

Note organization

In OneNote, notes are organized into sections and notebooks by default. This categorization makes it easy to get a bird’s-eye view of important notes but limits customization. Each note/page must belong to a section and its notebook, which might be unnecessary if you don’t need an entire category for some of them.You can move notes between sections and notebooks, so the initial categorization isn’t set in stone. From the main window, you can right-click a note in the Sections column and then go to Move/Copy to change the location.Comparing Google notes vs. OneNote organization, Google gives you a bit more control. By default, the app centralizes all your notes on the main screen, and you can use several features to sort them.The first one is labels, which work similarly to Gmail’s equivalent feature. You can assign labels that act as folders and display them in the left-hand menu.
Source: Google Keep screenshotGoogle Keep also lets you set colors and backgrounds of your notes, which you can associate with different categories for a clear overview. Lastly, you can pin notes to the top of the screen to make the most useful ones easily accessible.Overall, both platforms offer enough organization features for average users, so you’ll most likely be able to keep your notes neat without too much effort.


There’s a high chance you’ll frequently access your note-taking app from your phone, so a well-optimized app is paramount. From this perspective, differences between Google Keep and OneNote boil down to nuances and personal preferences, as both apps boast a solid design and intuitive features.When you open OneNote, you’ll see your notebooks alongside two additional options at the bottom of the screen—search and Sticky Notes, which have a dedicated tab and don’t belong to notebooks.Tap a notebook to open it, and you can create new sections and pages by tapping the + sign in the upper-right corner.
Source: OneNote iOS app screenshotThe Google Keep app has a similar layout to the web version—you’ll see all your notes on the main screen and can tap the hamburger icon in the upper-left corner to access different labels.Besides creating a note by tapping the + sign, there are four other quick actions:
  1. Creating a checklist
  2. Drawing
  3. Recording a voice note
  4. Adding a note with an image
Source: Google Keep iOS screenshotThe main downside of the Google Keep app is the aforementioned limited availability of text formatting. The feature is available exclusively on the Android app, so you can’t format text on an iPhone.


All note-taking apps should implement adequate protection measures and keep your data safe. Unfortunately, both Google Keep and OneNote disappoint when it comes to security.OneNote is slightly more secure because it lets you password-protect sections of your notebooks, which you can’t do with Google Keep. Still, this isn’t enough to compensate for a major flaw present with both platforms—a lack of strong encryption.People often talk about encryption in the context of email security, not realizing its importance for file protection when keeping data in the cloud. In a nutshell, encryption turns data into ciphertext, making it unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have a decryption key. Ideally, only you and the people you share notes with should be able to read their contents.This isn’t the case with Microsoft and Google’s solutions, as they both employ two encryption measures:
Encryption measureWhat it does
Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocolProtects data in transit (e.g., when you’re sharing a file or uploading it to the cloud)
AES-256 algorithmSafeguards data while it’s resting on the provider’s servers
As secure as these measures may seem, they don’t offer enough protection. TLS is vulnerable to various types of cyberattacks, which means hackers can intercept data traveling between servers. Worse yet, the decryption keys are in the ownership of the app provider (Microsoft and Google, in this case), which means they can decipher and read your notes.To enjoy complete privacy, you need a secure note-taking app with end-to-end encryption (E2EE), which gives you full control over your data by ensuring only you can access decryption keys. If this sounds appealing, you should consider an alternative—Skiff Pages is superior to both OneNote and Google Keep.
Combine security and feature varietySkiff Pages offers endless customization options and a secure collaboration environment
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Skiff Pages—secure collaboration made easy

Skiff Pages is an end-to-end encrypted note-taking platform that uses advanced security measures to ensure no unauthorized parties can read your notes.The contents and key metadata of each document are protected using a symmetric key, which is shared among collaborators.Each user also has a unique pair of asymmetric keys consisting of:
  • A public key—Encrypts the symmetric key, which means that every user has a unique encrypted copy of it
  • A private key—Used to decrypt the symmetric key and stored on the user’s device, ensuring nobody but them can see the file’s contents
Only encrypted files are stored on Skiff’s servers, and the provider doesn’t have access to the decryption keys, so not even their team can access your notes.You can leverage invite-based collaboration to control access to your notes and ensure others can contribute to the document in a secure environment. All document changes are made in real-time and communicated through Web Sockets, ensuring complete privacy.

Feature-rich and easy-to-use

Skiff Pages lets you create comprehensive notes as the rich text editor offers extensive formatting options. You can add numerous elements to your documents, most notably:
  • Code blocks
  • Tables
  • Dividers
  • Lists (regular and to-do lists)
If you don’t want to format your documents from scratch, choose a template from a list of ten different categories. You can embed virtually any media type, from images and videos to MP3 files and PDFs.Skiff Pages lets you create subpages within parent pages for easy note organization. Your notes will have a clear structure to ensure ideas are connected intuitively.You will find the platform’s features and commands in a clean, modern user interface that lets you get the most out of this tool, even if you haven’t used a robust note-taking app before.The app comes with many helpful extras that contribute to a secure and enjoyable user experience, such as:
  • Sharing, unsharing, and expiring access
  • Link sharing
  • File and folder importing from Google Docs, Word, and other platforms through instant migration
  • Version history viewing and restoration
  • Password protection of documents, files, and folders
  • Watermarks
  • Fast text search
Considering the above features, Skiff Pages isn’t only an alternative to Google Keep and OneNote but also to full-fledged document-editing tools like Google Docs and Word. You can read Skiff’s whitepaper to learn more about the platform’s functionalities and security.

Expand your workflow with Skiff’s E2EE product suite

If you want to share and store your documents securely while ensuring your projects stay on track, Skiff can help with three additional end-to-end encrypted products:
  1. Skiff Mail
  2. Skiff Drive
  3. Skiff Calendar
The following table provides a short overview of each platform:
Skiff MailSend end-to-end encrypted emails unreadable to everyone but the recipient. Skiff Mail comes with various useful features like email aliases, custom domains, and crypto wallet integrations
Skiff DriveSecurely store your notes and files of any type with 10 GB of end-to-end encrypted storage. You can also leverage Skiff’s integration with InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) to store files in a decentralized environment
Skiff CalendarStay on top of your tasks and import events from Skiff Mail automatically. Skiff Calendar comes with a built-in video conferencing tool that enables easier collaboration
All Skiff platforms have dedicated iOS, Android, and macOS apps, and you can access them on Windows through most browsers.

Get started with Skiff Pages for free

All mentioned features of Skiff Pages are available with a free account, as are all of Skiff’s end-to-end encrypted products. To create an E2EE workplace, follow three steps:
  1. Visit the signup page
  2. Choose your username and password
  3. Explore Skiff Pages and the rest of the secure ecosystem
The free plan is robust enough for an average user, but if you want up to 2 TB of end-to-end encrypted storage, unlimited collaborators, and other useful features, you can upgrade to one of Skiff’s affordable paid plans, starting at only $3 per month.

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