Microsoft OneNote

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.

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