Microsoft

Achieve the full value of Microsoft OneNote by making it a habit

Managing your life and keeping track of important information is easy if you just make OneNote a habit.

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote has become the crown jewel of Microsoft Office, as far as I'm concerned. The core applications -- Word, Excel, and PowerPoint -- still form the backbone of the Office suite, but OneNote is a multi-role utility player that just makes life easier... assuming you use it. To get value from OneNote, you have to make a habit of using it first.

I've "used" OneNote for years, off and on. I've periodically switched from OneNote to Evernote, and back again -- sometimes stopping off to try out some other more obscure note-taking and organizational tool. Over the past year or two, though, Microsoft has extended the reach of OneNote -- making it a virtually ubiquitous cross-platform tool -- and refined some of the features and capabilities to make it indispensable.

Make it a habit

Even as a OneNote user, I still find myself reaching for an old-fashioned journal to take notes. I have four different notebooks -- the kind with paper where you actually record notes and thoughts using a writing implement like a pen -- sitting within arm's reach in my office. When I conduct interviews, or get product briefings from vendors, I write in a journal out of habit. It's just the way I've always done it.

Recently, though, I wanted to reference some of the notes I had taken during a briefing with a vendor while getting some work done at home, but the notebook was still at my office. That was the day I made a conscious decision to abandon the traditional paper notebook and form a new habit of relying on OneNote.

Taking notes in OneNote instead of on paper just makes sense on a number of levels. First, I can generally type faster than I can write, and the resulting text is always legible -- which is something I can't necessarily say of the rapidly scrawled text I write with a pen. Second, the information I record is synced to OneDrive and is instantly available on my iPhone, iPad, Android tablet, MacBook Air, or from the web on virtually any device. It serves both as a convenience (so I don't have to drive to my office to get my notes) and as an automatic backup (so that even if my Surface Pro 3 is lost or stolen, or I accidentally run over my iPad, the information is still safe in the cloud).

Expand your horizons

Once you make OneNote a habit, you should dig a little deeper to explore just how powerful OneNote really is. It's easy to just make bulleted lists or add checkboxes to create a To-Do list, but OneNote is capable of much more than that.

A recent post on Microsoft's Office Blogs site talked about how some school districts are making the most of OneNote. The post talks about one institution -- Cary Academy in North Carolina -- that has embraced OneNote as a way to create digital textbooks that enable the school to keep curriculum updated frequently and cut costs at the same time. "The administration adopted OneNote because it felt intuitive for students and teachers. With OneNote, the technology fades into the background so students can focus on their lessons, not on learning how to use the tool."

You can attach files, clip web pages, and insert photos, or record audio or video directly from within OneNote. One of the coolest features is that you can record audio of a presentation while taking notes in OneNote, and OneNote will automatically sync your typed notes to the exact point in the audio recording. It is awesome for double-checking what exactly your note was in reference to or for being able to just make notes that act sort of as "bookmarks" to remind you about parts of the audio you want to go back and listen to more closely.

Microsoft has given OneNote a starring role with the new Surface Pro 3. The digitizer pen has a purple button that automatically opens OneNote, even if the Surface Pro 3 is locked. You can easily record important information at the push of a button.

If you're not using OneNote, you should give it a try. If you are using OneNote but just for managing your grocery list, you should spend a little time exploring some of the other features and capabilities. If you want to be more efficient and effective, try making OneNote a habit and using it by default.

Do you use OneNote in your organization? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

About

Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He...

9 comments
rollandl
rollandl

where do you find these textbooks or maybe a guide on how to make one and share it?

mjacquet
mjacquet

Yes it is brilliant tool BUT....

I've been starting using it a couple a months ago (why not before ? I don't know) on my laptop and my windowsphone. Features are great on both and sync is really working smoothly BUT.

The problem is that you CANNOT protect sections with a password on the phone and, worse, sections created on the laptop with a password cannot be accessed from the windowsphone (they are not synchronized in the first place and there is no password interface). Too bad, if you have to handle confidential data...

Ssgi_edavis
Ssgi_edavis

I have used OneNote since it was introduced. It's an amazing tool. I use it on Windows, iOS and Android platforms and store my notebooks on One Drive. On a personal basis I use it for planning trips and home projects, lists of all kinds of things and idea capturing. For business I use it at every meeting with staff and Clients, business planning, employee reviews, and numerous other things. The more I use it, the more I learn. I agree that it needs to become a habit. But, that's easy once you start to see what it can do.

J.Man
J.Man

I have used OneNote for about 3 years now in multiple areas of our business, mostly as a daily log of activity and project manager where I can keep all correspondence, drawings, tasks, contacts, etc. for each project, in one place.  My best discovery is that it can be used collaboratively; I setup a notebook on a shared drive for a whole department to use for their daily/weekly tasks.  No need to save because it automatic, and all users can be updating the same notebook, the same page, at the same TIME and everything syncs up live.

fatglenn
fatglenn

I've been tempted to use it a few times.  But, each time it makes itself the default printer when I unplug my laptop's printer, and I have to change the default back to what I want it to be, I disable it again.

IT_supoort
IT_supoort

I've been using OneNote for over a year in my job.  Keep finding more and  more ways to use it and realize it certainly has become habit.  One of the ah-ha moments and most used now is when I have a meeting with someone (setup through Outlook) I'll use the embedded Meeting Notes feature.  This will allow me to jot notes before the meeting at anytime.  The notes then are stored for easy reference and I'll remember all questions, points and suggestions to make the meeting more productive.


Regarding OneNote for iPad since it is cloud based, once everything is synced, I can see my notes from any of my iPad.  Not only that but I''m able to see the notebooks from my android phone, work computer, home computer, iPad.  


OneNote has made life organized!

andrewmccann
andrewmccann

What has Microsoft done in regards to search within OneNote? Does it compare with Evernote yet in its ability to find text within images, documents, handwriting, etc? For me, that is the killer app inside Evernote. I agree that OneNote's note taking layout is by far superior to EN. I would love to have One place to store it all. I just need to be able to find it.

the_tech_mule
the_tech_mule

I've been a long time Evernote user. As a user of multiple platforms (Mac, iOS and Windows), I've always rejected OneNote as being Windows-centric whereas Evernote has been everywhere I need it. It looks like that is changing with the release of OneNote for OS X and iPad.


How capable are these version in comparison to the Windows version?

vimalmoh
vimalmoh

@andrewmccann I'm a new comer to OneNote, but I really like what I see. Regarding the ability to find text within images, documents, handwriting, etc, OneNote does that, and pretty well too.

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