Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote

Products I Love, Technology

This post is part of the series The Best Tools and Techniques for Winning at Business and Life

Microsoft OneNote is a really great application, and it seems to be getting better with each release.  In the last year it seems Microsoft has felt the pressure from competing products like Evernote with lower barriers to entry.  This has really been great for consumers, and it has allowed a really useful tool to see more publicity as a result.  Although Evernote is also, a really great tool, we’ll cover that in another post.


OneNote has a really fabulous user interface.  It’s set up to be useful right out of the gate.  On top of the notes area you can see all your Sections and Section Groups, providing easy access to unrelated notes.  This makes it really easy to switch gears to a new subject, group of people, or project.  Groups of notes related to your present topic are found along the side of the notes area.  This makes easy to revisit, revise, and review information in all areas of the subject you’re working on.   You can quickly slip to another research bite or update a note.

The notes themselves allow graphical markup, such as lines, boxes, ovals, and freehand drawing and highlighting.  It’s really just a great way to take and update digital notes.


Meeting Notes

Great tool for recording meeting notes.  There’s no question that writing things down on paper is a great way to remember information (insert a link to the study), but a tool like OneNote really excels at quickly capturing and disseminating notes and todos.  You can share your notes with others, or simply use them to link back and forth with the Outlook mail client.  This is a really great way to keep track of what was said in that one-on-one meeting you had six weeks ago.


Embedded Content

One great thing about OneNote is that I can keep track of all aspects of a project in one place.  I can have loose notes from project meetings, Visio diagrams, and Excel early draft spreadsheets I’m working on.  All of this rich data can be stored in once place and linked to from my Calendar in Outlook. Todos can become Tasks in Outlook, and if I need to share information, I can email part or all of my notes with the click of a button.


IFTTT, Mobile, and Free

If you’re using OneNote on your OneDrive account, you can use IFTTT to help you collect new content, share, and more.  The application runs on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, and best of all, it’s recently been made free.


Where OneNote Falls Short

Even without this great feature from its cousin, MIcrosoft Word, OneNote shines.

In using OneNote over the last several years, I’ve found little about the application that can be improved upon – with two exceptions:

  1. Sharing the notes themselves is a bit cumbersome. Microsoft could really take a — ahem — note, from Dropbox in this arena.  Sharing notes in OneNote can sometimes fail or be sluggish.  The workaround is simple: if your meeting requires notes that have been shared with you, prepare a few minutes early and make sure the sync has worked properly.  It works nearly every time, but for those rare occasions when something is going wrong, you’ll be glad you spent the extra few minutes to prepare
  2. Image effects.  OneNote is such a useful tool, and is especially useful for creating documentation.  It would be just great if Microsoft would give us the same powerful effects found in Word.

If you have EVER considered making notes digitally, OneNote is a great choice.  I encourage you to give it a try.  It’s powerful, flexible, and free of charge.

Clonezilla is my ugly friend

Clonezilla is my ugly friend


Of all the tools in my bag of tricks Clonezilla is one of the ugliest. It’s minimalist, Linux-ey, LaTex-ey, and not that friendly. But time and time again I find myself using it to pull myself out of jams.

Today I am installing a new computer for a VIP who was able to live without the machine for a day. After taking tons of notes and preparing myself for a clean install, circumstances forced me into imaging the existing installation of the OS onto the drive from the new machine.

I used Clonezilla’s partition-to-image feature to make a backup of the OS my colleagues at the office had prepared for me yesterday (so if something went wrong I wouldn’t need to repeat the out-of-box experience). Then made an image of the source drive just to be safe, and restored the image of the source HD to a partition on the new drive.

All in all this nightmare job is shaping up to be not so horrible, thanks to the hideous beast that is Clonezilla.



Simple DIY: Start Your Own Blog


This is the first of two articles on how to set up a personal blog quickly and easily. This method employs Google’s Blogspot service, which is free to start up and is EXTREMELY simple for beginners. Blogspot is also very versatile, and is used by some very spiffy bloggers. Ok, you’re sold, right? Let’s get you blogging…

NOTE: you can click the images for a larger version.

If you don’t have one, get a Google account (AKA gmail address)

Name your blog and get an address. This is tricky. Because Google has made this so very simple for us, there are a lot of us who have already signed up. Some of us seem to think alike and choose the same names for our poetic outlets. Keep trying, you’ll find a name no one has chosen, like BULLFROG SONG!

I was amazed that no one had chosen that name already. How lucky i was, and how unfortunate for the next person who wants to use that name, only to find that i have squandered it on this How-to post on an unrelated blog. My apologies to posterity. Next, choose a theme. You can change this later, so it’s not all that important at this point.

No, you didn’t miss anything… it’s really that easy. You’re a published blogger, ready to wow the world with your words.

Just a bit of tweaking now to get things set juuuuust right. Pick your theme and color scheme…

…and your layout…

… and maybe start work on your first post. The screenshot below is pretty busy, but here’s what’s happening. Clockwise from the top left, we have clicked “POSTING” and then typed a title for the post.
Then we’ve entered some text.
Then we clicked to add a picture. We just happened to have one for the occasion.
We browsed on our computer to find the picture.
We selected said picture and clicked all the appropriate OK buttons in reverse…

…stopping at the last one to accept the terms and conditions we never read in the first place.

Now that our fingers are worn to the nubs from all that clicking we have as our reward the sweet justice of seeing our picture on the internet. …

… that, and this awesome confirmation message from our friends at Google.

At long last we can pull up our site and see the fruits of our labor. A bullfrog song for all to see and love and follow.