How do you use OneNote?
November 18, 2007 6:28 PM   Subscribe

How do you use OneNote?

They are installing OneNote on our new computers at work (and eventually, I think, I'll have a tablet PC to use with it. Yay!).

I have heard a lot of people say nice things about the software, but I'm a bit confused about how to integrate it into my everyday life. Do you use it? How? Was it pretty intuitive? Is there a website that had useful info for you? (I googled around, but it's hard for me to tell what might be helpful before using the software). Thanks!
posted by dpx.mfx to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
It's very intuitive and I love it. It's hard to answer your questions because I don't know what specifically you are using it for. I use it to take notes and it works great for that. It's great for to-do lists, lists in general, stuff like storing passwords, personal info (make sure you password-protect)

You can use it as a virtual sticky note, even. Just open it, click to the unfiled notes section, and write something down. One of my favorite features is that there's no save feature. It automatically saves everything you do the second you do it, so when you're done you just close without having to worry about whether or not you saved it.

Sorry that's not very helpful, if you have a more specific question I can see if I can help you.
posted by Autarky at 6:33 PM on November 18, 2007

Response by poster: What I meant by that first question is "how do YOU use OneNote" not "how do you use OneNote" in an instructional sense. I'm really just looking for ideas on how I might use it -- I guess the question is better written as "for what do you use onenote?

Well, I guess I'm not sure WHAT I want to use it for. I have a lot of files. I use a lot of paper. I process a TON of information every day. I make a lot of phone calls and I read a lot of memos/topical information.

Autarky - passwords is a great idea especially given the increasing number of them that I have. And to-do lists. Thanks!
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:39 PM on November 18, 2007

There's a onenote blog by chris pratley who was one of the developers. You can find other onenote blogs by googling for tablet pc software.

I use it daily and find it indispensible. But also its not my only information manager/note taker (i shuffle between different software and use all of them simultaneously, for example I also have "evernote" as well as "surfulater", both of which I also use on a daily basis).

So how do I use Onenote? Well, each one of these programs that I use have their strengths and weaknesses, as does Onenote. Evernote is great for random and largely unstructured notes. Surfulater is great for highly-structured and organized notes (its the closest thing to a three paned traditional information keeper, out of these three products). Onenote on the other hand isnt that great at structure but its great as a "mind dump" program, with its huge pages and easy tagging, highlighting, etc. So thats what i use it for - quick dumps of information that later on I will go back and pull into documents, presentations, calenders, or whatever. Its the "first stop' for most of the information I deal with. Which is pretty much how Onenote was designed to be used.

I should also add that I use onenote one a regular desktop (not a tablet) and have been using it that way for years. I dont miss any of the tablet functions; its perfectly useful one a regular desktop or laptop.
posted by jak68 at 6:45 PM on November 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

To amplify what autarky said, "a very large virtual sticky note with folders" is certainly one way to think of Onenote.

Since I'm a grad student I mostly use onenote to gather bits of information from my research into one program, or to initially write up thoughts. All this goes into onenote. From there later on I pull those bits of information into the word processor or wherever they are going.

also, onenote integrates VERY well with outlook (single clicks to send any outlook item to any onenote page) and with IE7 ('send to onenote' is handy when you're looking at a webpage you want to save).
posted by jak68 at 6:49 PM on November 18, 2007

I use it, and I separate my notes by project -- well by work or personal first, and then by project. Under both work and personal there is a "catchall" tab where I put stuff that doesn't fit anywhere yet, or whatever. I use it on a laptop. I find it's way better than taking notes on paper for me because I can type way, way faster and more legibly (ha!) than I can write. AND I can stream-of-consciousness things like (wtf?) next to stuff I have a question about (or I can actually type out a fast question, but for general confusion or needed clarity, I just use wtf).
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:50 PM on November 18, 2007

I no longer have a desktop full of .txt files saved for random notes, writings, or quotes. I have a nice, neat notebook.
posted by Jairus at 7:18 PM on November 18, 2007

Be promiscuous with your use of tags. Other programs use the term to refer to words; OneNote's "tags" are what other programs might call "flags". They are little icons that you can attach to any line of text with any note. You can create or modify them as you wish. Once you create a few and then choose the "Show all tagged notes" menu item, you will see why this is a boon to productivity.

Another very useful tool is the Clipper. It lets you clip an image from any other Windows program and store it in OneNote.
posted by yclipse at 7:22 PM on November 18, 2007

Like others said, you no longer have txt files scattering your workplace. Everything has one place to go into. In particular, ON 2007 allows you to print directly to one note, so I do this all the time to save web pages (receipts, blogs, recipes). The best thing is, then it's all searchable.

Understand that it is not supposed to be a word processor. But if you have been using Word to take notes before, I think you will be impressed at how much more useful a proper note program is.
posted by Brian James at 7:39 PM on November 18, 2007

I use OneNote a lot at work, as a way to pull together all the random info I need to hang onto or refer to--things like e-mails and meeting minutes and reports and notes from conversations with my boss and potentially useful info found while reading stuff online and whatever. IMO, success with OneNote depends on two things: your important info needs to be in electronic format (e-mail or Word docs or PDFs or webpages or whatever--it is, of course, possible to scan paper documents and store the results in OneNote, but that seems like a real hassle); and you need to be reasonably conscientious about moving this stuff into OneNote and (as noted above) tagging or otherwise organizing it appropriately.

The real beauty part of OneNote for me is how well it integrates with a Tablet PC, which is my preferred hardware for work purposes, since I do a lot of note-taking in meetings/conversations, and a lot of annotating of documents. The fact that it enables one to search for handwritten words or text strings is *golden* for me.

Also, in addition to Chris Pratley's blog mentioned above, I'd also recommend Daniel Escapa's blog, which has lots and LOTS of useful links relevant to your question.
posted by Kat Allison at 10:02 PM on November 18, 2007

Thanks for this question. I've often asked it myself.

So far the most prominent answer is:

I no longer have a desktop full of .txt files saved for random notes, writings, or quotes. I have a nice, neat notebook.

Which is fine and dandy, but I've heard such great things about onenote and if that's all people use if for then I'll just quit trying to see the benefits. There's tons of programs that can do that. That's nothing special.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 11:45 PM on November 18, 2007

There are tons of websites that can search the web. That's nothing special. Except Google kicks ass, and the others don't.

Same here: OneNote is some seriously impressive stuff. I'm using it despite my abhorrence to lock-in. It seems to take what's best about all the other information managers, combine them, and then add it's own brilliance. The 3d representation of the folder tree is inspired, and miles more intuitive than (physically impossible) nested folders.

I use it to hoover up clippings from web pages, to organise notes on essays I'm writing, and as a thought bin for scraps that come along but have no fixes home as yet.

The advantages it has for these things is in: a) tagging, b) cross-linking, c) the free-form formatting, especially mooching boxes beside each other and d) the system integration.
posted by bonaldi at 5:07 AM on November 19, 2007

The difference between OneNote and those tons of programs is that OneNote is a pleasure to use. It auto-saves, it auto-indexes for search, it's drag/drop and copy/paste functionality is miles ahead of anything else, it has simple, intuitive organizational markers, etc.

I've tried to use a lot of programs to do these things over the years, but OneNote is the only one that I've ended up still using after a month.
posted by Jairus at 5:07 AM on November 19, 2007

posted by Jairus at 5:08 AM on November 19, 2007

I use it for keeping notes about a project in one place. For example, brainstorm ideas, which turn into copy, which then get graphics, and maybe some price quotes.

I also use it a lot for shopping. I'll keep clippings of things I'm thinking about buying, or to compare between different pieces of luggage.

When I have an event I'm planning, I'll use it to manage to-do's, keep ideas about decorations to buy, I'll also use it to store research about the location of an event [maps to nearest Staples, Target, 99cents store].

I use it to plan trips and vacations. I'll research where to stay and what to do, and then build an itinerary.

I also keep my personal goal lists, etc.
posted by Mozzie at 12:09 PM on November 19, 2007

Much of the benefit for OneNote is using it with a tablet. I use it to take notes on it instead of a pad of paper. You add tags and to do's to make it more powerful. I rarely let it convert my own handwriting to text but could if needed.
If you work on multiple projects or customers, you'll appreciate the organization capabilities.
posted by rholly at 4:19 PM on November 19, 2007

Seconding all of the above. A couple of additional thoughts:

1. OneNote (or any note-taking app) is only as good as what you put into it. It's a note-taking program, so you actually have to use it - religiously. OneNote really shines when you start dumping everything into it. Leave it open in your taskbar at all times. Use the afore-mentioned extensions for IE, Outlook, etc to quickly send any little tidbit to it. Use the Screen Clippings feature. If you have a Windows Mobile device, synchronize your notes with it. There are plenty of avenues to get data into it - use them.

2. Back it up. When you use one application like OneNote to store everything, it's essential to have it backed up often. You don't truly realize how monumentally sickening it is to lose all of your notes and essential data until it's too late, so take my word for it.

Thankfully, backing OneNote is simple to do: By default, all your OneNote notebooks are stored in your My Documents\OneNote Notebooks folder. Just backup that folder using whatever method you prefer. Personally, I use PowerArchiver to automatically add the whole notebooks folder to a ZIP archive (along with my other essential files), then upload that archive to my webserver via secure FTP. Weekly CD backups are a good secondary as well.
posted by sprocket87 at 8:25 AM on November 20, 2007

Just to add to my first point above, about how OneNote shines when you start putting everything into it: Once you start getting ALL your thoughts, data, notes, tasks, to-dos, lists, etc into OneNote, it's an extremely impressive data source. It's incredibly convenient to do a simple search and find exactly what you want.

Things I especially like using OneNote for:

- Research. I'm an avid researcher and do a TON of research before making any purchases, etc. Create a new page/section for whatever you're researching and dump everything in there. Now you don't have to remember everything or go scour the web when you want to find out something. It's incredibly convenient and powerful.

- Lists. My favorite is my "Music to get" list, where I keep track of songs and artists that I've heard or read about recently but need to check out more thoroughly.

- Projects. I do photography as a side business and like to create a section for each event I'm shooting, like a wedding. Then all of my planning goes into pages/subpages and I can easily reference all the details and plans for the shoot.

Another nice feature of OneNote is templates: You can create a page template and apply it to new pages as you wish. This is nice for things like research, projects, etc where you'd like a consistent layout and you just fill in the blanks. I use templates for my wedding photography planning pages, for instance, with tables for all of the times, locations, etc. It's a big timesaver to use templates instead of recreating the page layout for each event.
posted by sprocket87 at 8:40 AM on November 20, 2007

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