Microsoft

Microsoft continues its push to make OneNote everyone's default app

Microsoft announced a number of new features and enhancements that extend the capabilities of OneNote for iOS and Mac OS X users.

OneNote

OneNote is the crown jewel of Microsoft Office, and it's the poster-child for Microsoft's strategy of embracing all platforms. Microsoft has been rolling out new versions and expanding the capabilities of existing versions of OneNote for months, including a slew of new features for iOS and Mac OS X users.

Mary Jo Foley reported on the announcement from Microsoft and shared a list of the new and enhanced features for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac versions of OneNote. The changes don't raise the bar or add anything groundbreaking for OneNote in general, but they do bring the iOS and Mac OneNote experience more in line with the native Windows and Windows Phone experience. In other words, the new features Microsoft unveiled help to ensure a more consistent experience for all users, regardless of which platform or device they choose.

As an avid user of OneNote, and someone who uses it across a multitude of platforms and devices, I'm excited about the new features. I love OneNote, and I appreciate that it's available on different platforms and devices, but the gap in capabilities from one version to the next can be confusing and frustrating at times.

There are obvious limitations in some scenarios -- you can do things on a full-size PC that might not be practical on a smartphone. There are also reasons Microsoft may reserve certain advanced features for paid Office 365 customers as an added value rather than incorporating them into every version of OneNote. However, most of the functionality of OneNote should exist across all versions, and it should work the same way.

That is a crucial element of Microsoft's new direction, and it will be a key factor in Microsoft's success moving forward. There is a shift underway to move from the client / server, Windows-centric world to the new mobile first, cloud first world where businesses and consumers alike use an array of operating systems and devices but continue to use Microsoft tools no matter where or how they are getting things done.

Microsoft's goal used to be simply to drive sales of the Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office productivity suite. It was a symbiotic relationship where each was a "carrot" for the other. If you wanted to use Microsoft Office, you would use the Windows operating system -- and if you used the Windows operating system, you would choose the Office productivity suite.

That goal has changed. The new goal is to ensure that businesses and consumers continue to rely on Microsoft tools, regardless of whether they choose a Windows PC or not. OneNote is a great ambassador for that goal, because the application is exceptionally flexible and useful.

The ubiquitous availability of OneNote means that anyone and everyone can use it -- and if they do, they'll hopefully get tied in to the broader Microsoft ecosystem as well. If people embrace OneNote, then perhaps they'll also start to depend on OneDrive. If they truly rely on OneNote, then perhaps they'll have an incentive to subscribe to Office 365 to unlock access to some of the premium features.

If you're an iPhone, iPad, or Mac user who uses OneNote, then you'll appreciate the new features and capabilities. Even if you're not, though, this news is still exciting, because it illustrates how Microsoft has positioned OneNote as the default app people need. It also shows how Microsoft is using OneNote to expand the horizons and embrace the new mobile first / cloud first paradigm.

Is OneNote your default note-taking app? Why or why not? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

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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...

12 comments
brianj25us
brianj25us

I use One Note daily, and have used One Drive since its incarnation. I use it on my Android phone, an iPad, and my Windows PC. It was an invaluable tool for this weeks startup conference which included numerous sessions throughout each day. Text notes, sketches, pix of presentation slides, presenters, and office tours, all captured painlessly and organized on a page. I've shared session note pages via email to others. Syncing between devices via One Drive has never failed me; not all session venues had wifi, but sync occurred the next time I had access. Each iteration has added additional capabilities. I am pleased with its evolution and find it an indispensable tool.

I wasn't the only attendee using One Note and found several mutual admirers to trade tricks and tips with.

ianberg1
ianberg1

I use OneNote Mobile on the fly on my cellphone but I don't rely on it because Personal (Web) notebook preferred by Windows Phone has failed me. Instead I have a different default .onenote and it hasn't failed me. But as a result I do not rely on OneNote at all.  

What the ...!
What the ...!

I know, anecdotes are not data but are data points,...


I had a conference to attend and thought I'd give OneNote a shot at organizing my necessary "stuff".  This consisted of various emails, .pdf files, Word and Excel Doc.s, and some .jpeg files.  All proceeded well for the lead up to my departure.  I even "shared" the OneNote notebook (via OneDrive) with co-workers to allow their feedback for the last week before leaving.  Then on the next to last day before the conference, OneNote decided to lose its "sync" to the OneDrive version and I also was unable to recover to the latest local version.  All was not lost as I knew where all the data had come from and had done most of the work of assembling the data over a short time frame.  I didn't have time to go through all the steps to recreate the last days work but I did, in parallel to creating the notebook, make a copy of everything to a pen drive.  I could access the local notebook but only a previous version, so...


Note to self, "No more OneNote for anything mission critical".

briesmith
briesmith

Massively, hopelessly, fantastically, ludicrously over-engineered.


A note taking app has to be as easy and as simple to use as reaching for any writing instrument that's to hand and any piece of paper and making a note. Anything else is a pudding that's over egged.


And OneNote is stupid; it doesn't even try and find out where you keep your stuff. It could look at email accounts, for example. It could check your social media activity. It could ask you a very simple question, "where do you want to keep your notes?" But it does none of these things so OneNote notebooks proliferate all over the place, basically on every device the app is installed, leading to frustrating confusion.


The existing Outlook Notes facility was all I needed if it could have been tied to my IMAP setup so the notes only existed in one place regardless of which device I created them on.


OneNote's not for me until:

a) creating a note is instant with no superfluous questions or options

b) it only ever creates one notebook

c) that notebook is automatically in the cloud (OneDrive, DropBox etc)

d) the cloud notebook is synced to devices I choose (to cater for when there is no internet).

MartinDay007
MartinDay007

Even though I would consider myself to be tech-savvy I have never got to grips or really understood what One Note is and despite understanding that it has been marketed as the poster-child for Microsoft's strategy of embracing all platforms I have never found a tutorial that properly demonstrates its potential and benefits.


I don't see many people using it so I can only assume that I am not alone. When it was first released every time I went to print something it would default to OneNote and despite trying to get to grips with it it always seemed to be nothing that was of any use.


I am sure if it was demonstrated to me properly I might discover what it is all about but at the moment it is consigned to the 'no-idea' pile. If anyone knows a good overview tutorial that has real-life examples do let me know.


As an aside Sharepoint is another Microsoft product that apart from "It will do anything you want it to do" I have been to seminars and come out none the wiser. The seminars always start off with "People often ask me what is Sharepoint" but two hours later I have just learnt that it was spawned by amalgamating two completely separate products. Version 2 was released that gave a single product feel, Version 3 then tried to resolved a lot of the problems in Version 2 and, at the time of the seminar, Version 3 was going to finally kick ass but at that time wasn't yet released. At which point I still couldn't see why I would use it and it's development history didn't inspire me with any confidence.  So once again if there is a tutorial out there that actually demonstrates how Sharepoint can resolve a real-life problem please share and point.

BobaFettismyuncle
BobaFettismyuncle

I love OneNote too--at work.  The limitations it's always had on mobile devies made it a laptop-only use.  I used Springpad (will miss you!) for personal--now using Evernote (it's aight).  


I would love for OneNote to be as robust and functional on my iOS devices as it is on my Win7 laptop.  


And yes, it's good to see Microsoft moving to make their offerings non-Windows specific.  Now if they can just build that Courier tablet...

Rann Xeroxx
Rann Xeroxx

@What the ...! Could happen with any cloud based app.  A more likely scenario is that you are saving notes to your local copy of your note app and the device fails/lost/stolen and your work is lost.  Same scenario with a cloud based service like OneNote and you simply pull out another device, even your phone, and your notes are all there.



CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"Note to self, 'No more OneNote for anything mission critical'."


I'd have gone with 'No more OneDRIVE for anything mission critical.' since it's the synch that failed on you, but I'm a OneNote lover.

vivalavisca
vivalavisca

@briesmith Have you ever used OneNote? It literally does all of those feature you want, well except for Dropbox. 

Rann Xeroxx
Rann Xeroxx

@briesmith It sounds like OneNote is not for you and you could get by with a very simple note taking app.  That does not mean "OneNote is stupid", that comment is stupid.  And as @isanel noted, it sounds like you have no idea how to use OneNote.

isanel
isanel

@briesmith


From your comments, it seems that you don't know how to use OneNote properly...

I have only one notebook, stored on OneDrive. I can access it from my work computer, my home computer, my Android phone and my IPAD.

For sure, there are functionality only available on Windows PC (like password protected tabs), but otherwise it's pretty straightforward across all platforms...


M

Rann Xeroxx
Rann Xeroxx

@BobaFettismyuncle Yes!  I would love that Courier tablet... maybe even make one out of a Surface Pro 3 with a e-Ink bottom and touch sensors like the touch cover.  That would allow you to make a touch interface with any pattern.  It would allow you to use your device as a low powered eReader in direct sunlight.  And they could make one with a more typical LED type screen.  Would not need to be as high res and have a digitizer.

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