Collaboration made easy with SkyDrive and OneNote

Access, edit, and review your stored OneNote Notebooks simultaneously with collaborators, or independently from any desktop PC.

Now that we've discussed the basics of using Microsoft OneNote for Windows let's move on to the OneNote Web app that is part of Microsoft's SkyDrive suite.

Using SkyDrive, you can access, edit, and review your stored OneNote Notebooks simultaneously with collaborators, or independently from any desktop PC and some mobile web browsers, virtually anywhere.

You can access SkyDrive at Those with existing Microsoft online accounts should already have a SkyDrive. Those without will need to create an account. For this article, we'll limit ourselves to discussion of the SkyDrive OneNote features.


When you first log in, you'll see the SkyDrive main view. A bar across the top has a SkyDrive Home button with a down arrow, and a Create button (also with a down arrow) and an Upload button. On the right side of this menu bar is a messenger icon, a settings icon, and your login information.

On the left side you have a Search field. Beneath these are menus for Files, Recent docs, Shared, Groups, and PCs. Near the bottom of this field your remaining space is displayed, as well as menus for your Recycle bin, Manage storage, and Get SkyDrive Apps.

In the main Workspace you'll see a title named "Files" with your SkyDrive name next to it. (Figure A) This navigation field changes to reflect where you are in your SkyDrive. On the right side of this title bar you can manage your sort and folder view options.

Figure A

Beneath this is your view of your actual files. The default view is a Modern-UI tile style view of the folder that is optimized to touch-screen devices. By clicking the folder view options above, you can quickly change to a traditional folder view (Figure B), which will probably be easier to use if you're using a mouse and pointer interface.

Figure B

Click the Create button to list options to create a Folder or Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document, or a OneNote notebook or Excel survey. (Figure C)

Figure C

When using OneNote to share and collaborate on SkyDrive, all shared Notebooks must be in folders and the folder and file must both be shared with recipients. The first thing to do is create a folder and give it a descriptive name. Click Create, click folder, and name the folder. (Figure D) Click the folder to enter it, and you'll see a note in the workspace directing you to create or upload files. The easiest way to upload a OneNote document is as I described in the section titled "Share" in my previous OneNote article.

Figure D

I prefer the power and interface of the native app to create documents, but I think managing shared permissions is easier on SkyDrive. Whichever you prefer, understanding how both work together is critical to effectively managing shared OneNote notebooks.

In SkyDrive the presentation of your files and folders can be confusing at first. In the folder view, to share a folder in the web app, click the box next to the folder image and name. From the top menu you can then select "Sharing" or click on the dash in the column titled "Sharing". Either will bring up a request to send an email to invite participants. (Figure E)

Figure E

Enter an address, a personal message, and select if they can edit. For security, select, "Require everyone who access this to sign in" and click Share. (Figure F)

Figure F

With the folder shared, now click it to locate the OneNote document you've uploaded. You must repeat the process here to also share the document with the same recipients you invited in the previous step. If you share a notebook with a recipient at this level but they do not have share access to the folder the document is in, they will not be able to access the notebook.

Once you've drilled down into the folder where your document resides, the web app isn't very intuitive about navigation. There is no back or forward arrow, and using the browser navigation buttons will cause erratic behavior. Instead, to get back up a level, you'll notice the navigation field now displays your SkyDrive name with the current folder grayed out. Simply click on any level above your current folder to jump to that folder. (Figure G)

Figure G

OneNote Web app

The OneNote web app works like a simplified version of the native app. Like the Native App you have Notebooks, Tabbed Sections, and Pages, but they are not displayed in a format consistent with the native app. Instead the left column displays the Tabbed Sections and Pages. (Figure H)

Figure H

Right-click in the left column to bring up the dialog to create a new page or section. You can also hover your pointer over the label for any Tabbed Section and a + icon will appear. Clicking the plus will add a new Untitled Page to that section. Right click on any Tabbed Section and a pop up menu will appear with the options Rename, Delete, Section Color, New Page, and New Section. (Figures I and J)

Figure I

Figure J

Right click on a Page and the options are Delete, New Page, Increase Indent, Decrease Indent, Show Versions and Copy Link to this Page. (Figures K and L)

Figure K

Figure L

When you create a blank page, you'll see a flashing cursor above a grey line with the date beneath it. This is your page title. Title your page and hit <Enter> and your cursor will move to the main page body. (Figure M)

Figure M

Here you can enter text. If you tab and start a line with an asterisk, that line will be bulleted and when you hit enter the next line will be tabbed and bulleted too. If you tab that line again, it will be sub-bulleted.

Right clicking on a line of text brings up a menu that includes formatting, font and color, as well as a ToDo box and list of other tags. (Figure N)

Figure N


Despite being a powerful and flexible web-based and free alternative to OneNote Native (Which comes as part of Office), it lacks some features of the full app. You cannot right click and send email and attachments into a page using the web app. You also cannot embed documents other than pictures, clip art or links into a page. You can download documents embedded using the native app and open them in a local native app, but you can't double click to launch the app in that native app. You also cannot open password protected sections in the web app. Formatting of documents created in the web app may also appear wrong in the native app or the reverse. (Figure O)

Figure O

Bottom line

Despite these limitations, if you've implemented the suggestions in my previous article, you can access, edit and review your SkyDrive stored OneNote Notebooks simultaneously with collaborators, or independently from any desktop PC and some mobile web browsers, virtually anywhere. Collaborators also only need access to the web app in order to review and edit.

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Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

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