Microsoft OneNote is the hidden treasure in the Office suite, the program that might be a serious boost to your productivity but is too often overlooked.
Take another look. Your notes in OneNote are available everywhere, and the experience is even more seamless with recent updates to the iOS and Android apps – and OneNote can be used for free in so many places that it has become one of the truly universal apps.
I’ll repeat the overview for people who are not yet familiar with OneNote, then tell you about some of the recent updates.
Microsoft OneNote collects information on the fly from any source you can imagine, and helps you find it again later when you need it. That’s any information. OneNote can hold your grocery list as easily as your research or trial preparation. It keeps anything you want to put into it – scraps of information, web links, photos, videos, files, drawings, whatever. You can keep things organized or create a freeform jumble and search for things later (everything is immediately searchable). You can share notebooks easily. The more you use it, the more useful it becomes.
Everything about OneNote has been designed with elegance and forethought. If you copy a sentence from a web site and paste it into OneNote, it will include a link to the original page automatically. If you right-click on a web page in Internet Explorer, you can send the page to OneNote with a single click. Click on the OneNote button in the ribbon bar for an Outlook appointment and you’ll be taken to a OneNote page where you can record meeting notes – and the page will be permanently linked so you can go back and forth between it and Outlook. (More information here about OneNote and Outlook.) You can drop pictures into OneNote; it has a full palette of drawing tools for doodling; you can record an audio note in OneNote and it will transcribe your words.
OneNote is designed for its notebooks to be stored online in Microsoft’s Skydrive service. When you link to your online OneNote notebooks from different computers or mobile devices, the program syncs everything instantly and seamlessly.
Microsoft OneNote is included with every edition of Microsoft Office. It deserves time spent learning how to use it. Click here for some quick videos that will help you get started, and spend a few minutes looking around the Microsoft OneNote web site. As you might expect, the invaluable Lynda.com site has a variety of OneNote tutorials.
Make sure you know the credentials for your Microsoft account. OneNote will store your notebooks in your Skydrive folders and sync them with all the devices connected to your account. (OneNote is being updated to store notebooks online in Skydrive Pro as well, for Office 365 businesses using Sharepoint.)
Whether it’s a to-do list or a detailed collection of technical notes (I use OneNote for both), your notes are available everywhere. It is free to use OneNote; once you have a free Microsoft account, it can be used in a web browser or with a free app, or you already have it because it came with Office.
Here are the details, including a few new things.
COMPUTER OneNote is included with every version of Office 2010 and Office 2013. If you’re running Word or Outlook, you almost certainly also have OneNote installed.
WINDOWS RT TABLET If you have a Surface RT tablet, the desktop version of OneNote is included along with Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
WINDOWS 8 METRO There is also a Metro version of OneNote for Windows 8 and Windows RT – the same notes presented fullscreen with finger-friendly controls. If you also have the desktop version that comes with Office, you can use whichever one is more comfortable, or switch between them – OneNote syncs changes almost immediately.
The OneNote app can be downloaded for free from the Microsoft Store for any computer or tablet running Windows 8 or Windows RT.
WINDOWS PHONE 8 Windows phones include mobile versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote.
iPAD, iPHONE, and ANDROID The OneNote apps for other devices were updated last week with new features and functionality and an improved design. Here’s some information about the iOS update, and here’s the Android update.
These updates give your notes the same look across all the platforms, with the same fonts on all platforms and new formatting tools. There are new options to search your notes easily.
Most importantly, though, the OneNote apps are now free on all those devices. At one time Microsoft charged for the iOS or Android app if you had a large number of notes. That restriction has been lifted and you can use OneNote on your iPad, iPhone or Android device for free.
WEB APP Your free Microsoft account gives you free access to 7Gb of storage space on Skydrive and free use of Office Web Apps, including the OneNote web app. OneNote looks great in a web browser. In fact, it looks a lot like the desktop program and the apps. Microsoft is working hard to make the look and feel of its programs be consistent across platforms. Log into http://skydrive.live.com and you can access your OneNote notebooks from an Internet browser on any device, anywhere, any time.
OneNote is a killer app. Its proponents love it. We want to shake people and make them wake up and realize how brilliant it is. Make the effort to understand it! It will repay the investment.