Archive for November, 2009


I have to admit it, but I  love Top 10 Lists. Today, I found a Top 8  list – which is only a little  less appealing than 10! So, here is Donovan Lange’s Top 8 list of Reasons to use OneNote.

Let’s see if we can make it a Top 20 list (much better than 10 even) – so share your reasons in the comments section.

1. OneNote allows me to put all of my little bits of information into a single place, organize them how I like, and always be able to find them instantly.

  • There’s a ton of information that doesn’t naturally have a good home otherwise.  Like the URLs I find when researching a topic, or the notes that I take during meetings.  Sure, I could use text files and notepad or post-it notes; but I’d have to create my own method for filing them into folders, navigate to the correct file to open them when I want to read them again, make sure I remember to hit Save (and give it a filename) before my laptop battery runs out and I lose my content, etc.  It really doesn’t scale when you have a lot of data.

2. It’s page surface allows me to outline, brainstorm, and collect rich forms of data better than any other tool out there.

  • Specifically, the ability to click anywhere on the page and just drag-drop any line of text to anywhere else on the page means that I can use this for random brainstorming and when writing out document outlines/drafts.  Things that don’t have linear or well-known structures.
  • Plus, there’s a million features built into the application that allows me to embed non-textual forms of information.  So I can use screen clippings (via the Windows + S key) to take a picture of something currently on my screen, or embed a full document via the included OneNote Printer or the Insert Menu, and then annotate on top of that information.  And I can find it again, since we’ll OCR the text within the pictures.
  • Even without a tablet PC, the drawing shapes and click anywhere to type means that I can create simple diagrams without having to load up Visio.  With a tablet, I can draw directly on a page, and use a pen when I’m in a meeting where typing may be viewed as distracting.
  • It works with audio as well.  We record the audio for all of our spec reviews using the built-in laptop microphone.  Any notes typed during the meeting will be synchronized into the audio timeline for later review.  And OneNote will search the speech in the audio file as well.

3. It’s really good at capturing information quickly.

  • Sometimes I need to get information written down as quickly as possible.  I don’t want to worry about making space in my word document, I can just click anywhere on the page and type.
  • Ditto for inserting tables.  Just hit tab!
  • I can launch a side-note window (which is a lot like a post-it note) from the system tray and grab down that phone number that someone just spouted off while I’m on the phone.
  • I can paste web content from a web page and it automatically includes the URL the content came from.  Huge time-saver.
  • I can apply metadata (flags) to my information or create Outlook Task items “in situ” along with the rest of the context that gives that task meaning.
  • I’m no longer restricted to keeping a single task list in Outlook.  When I’m in a meeting, or estimating a feature in OneNote I can tag a line as an Outlook Task, and it’ll create an Outlook Task for me, which is automatically kept in sync as I mark it completed, etc.  As a result, all of my ToDo items can live in the place where they’re most appropriate (like in the middle of my meeting notes, or in my shared notebook with you on a page of house projects) and yet have them rolled up appropriately in either OneNote or Outlook.

4. Outlook Integration, Outlook Integration, Outlook Integration.

  • In addition to task sync’ing, I find that there’s a ton of information that gets sent to me in email, which should live in OneNote instead.  (As email is more of a dynamic source of changing data, vs. an authored knowledge base.)  I can send an email to OneNote directly from Outlook 2007 via a single toolbar button click.  For someone who tries to keep their inbox nearly empty, being able to store messages like “how to access the internal newsgroups” (for instance) in a Notebook feels much cleaner than keeping them in my inbox
  • In addition, I can also take notes about meetings (and have it find my previous meeting notes for a recurring meeting) or keep information about people from my Contact List / GAL in OneNote directly from the Outlook meeting and contact windows.  The link between the two stays present regardless of how that gets filed in my Notebooks.

5. My stuff is available everywhere.

  • I can’t emphasize how much this rocks.  My OneNote notebook is available at work, at home, on my phone (using OneNote mobile) and on my laptop.  All I did was point OneNote at a file share or Sharepoint Site, and OneNote takes care of the rest.  Plus, it synchronizes embedded documents as well, so I don’t have to use Sharepoint to upload a document or email it to myself.  I just drag-drop it right onto the OneNote page, and voila it’s everywhere I need it!  No sync’ing, no file locking, nothing.  It just works.
  • Moreover, it works when I’m offline.  Even those embedded documents… when I pick up my laptop and go to a conference room in another building, I can still keep typing, regardless of whether or not I’ve got wireless.  Go on vacation to the beach, and make changes to my notebook.  Whenever it comes online, it all merges back in without any user interaction.

6. It allows me to collaborate with others.

  • Word track-changes?  Sharepoint edit locks?  Yuck.  OneNote is a breeze by comparison.  Think of it like a Wiki on crack.  Everyone just opens up the same Notebook (or Section or page) and just types away.  It’s magic.
  • For those without OneNote, I can create PDFs of my pages, or send a page as an email with a single click.  The person on the other end of that email doesn’t even need OneNote to view my stuff.

7. I can store sensitive information and password protect it.

  • I generally use this for my personal notebook, but I find it invaluable to store my Credit Card numbers, Bank Account Information, Website Passwords, Frequent Flyer accounts, etc. all in a section that I then password protect.  Because the bits stored on disk are encrypted, I can access that file from a server and not worry about the security of the server, across the network, etc.

8. I can automate repetitive things.

  • I keep a work journal, and find that it’s really convenient to create a stationary (templates) page which is applied automatically to all new pages created in my Journal section.  It’s such a simple idea, but saves me a ton of time.
  • Not to mention all the cool add-ins that power-users have created that extends the functionality of OneNote.

Read Full Post »

Here is another great OneNote demo. It shows a Microsoft executive’s own best practices for using OneNote as an information repository and management tool. You will see a wide range of functionality in action including setting up action items, screen clippings,  tags (see yesterday’s post) and integration with outlook.

It’s well worth checking out!

Read Full Post »

Ok, so I didn’t have to bribe, beg, borrow or steal to get this breaking information about what we can expect in OneNote 2010.

Dave Rasmussen from the OneNote team posted this yesterday:

Be sure to tell us which new features you are the most excited about in the comments area below. Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on the full version.

OneNote 2010 Investments Overview

1. Universal Access

We repeatedly hear that access to your notes and the ability to take them anywhere is very important, whether you’re at work, home or on the go. OneNote 2007 already provides offline availability and seamless sync, and a basic OneNote application for Windows Mobile. But we knew that was just the beginning. With OneNote 2010 we’ve added:

  • Sync to Cloud (Windows Live): Your notebooks sync and are available anywhere from any machine. Of course this is in addition to all the existing ways you can sync notebooks (file shares, SharePoint, USB drives etc.)
  • OneNote Web App: You can access and edit your entire notebook from a browser. Even on a machine that doesn’t have OneNote installed.
  • OneNote Mobile: A more complete OneNote version for Windows Mobile phones. Syncs whole notebooks. Syncs directly to the cloud. No need to tether your device. Richer editing support.

Note: The above are not yet available in the Tech Preview unfortunately. We’re still finishing some integration work for sync to Windows Live.

2. Sharing and Collaboration

With OneNote 2007 we pioneered simultaneous multi-user editing of notebooks. OneNote 2007 auto-magically merges the edits, even simultaneous edits on the same page. This is valuable for single users (you can edit on desktop and laptop and not have one machine lock the file), but it’s even more valuable for  teams sharing a notebook for plans, ideas, meetings and so on. Or perhaps a family notebook shared with your significant other. We’ve heard lots of positive feedback about this, and  it has completely transformed the way many teams work and collaborate. We’ve also heard about many families that use it for sharing home renovation plans, gardening info, recipes, wedding planning and so on.

In OneNote 2010 we’ve added a number of features to make the experience of sharing with others more productive and intuitive. These include:

  • What’s new (aka Unread) highlighting: New content that someone else added or changed since you last looked at a page is highlighted so you can see what’s new on that page. Also, the notebook name, section tabs and page tabs are shown in bold so you can quickly navigate to pages with new content.
  • Author indicator: Content written by anyone other than you has a small color coded bar to the right with their initials. At a glance you can tell who wrote something.
  • Versioning: Quickly show past versions of any given page, who wrote it and when, with changes relative to previous versions highlighted.
  • Fast sync on same page: When multiple people are working on the same page we speed up the sync of that page so you can see other peoples edits in near real time.
  • We also added capabilities to be able to quickly search for recently added content (last day, week, month etc.) or get an overview of what given people changed on what days.
  • Merge two sections: This feature is more of a detail but it fits here. Sometimes people share notebooks using Live Mesh or Dropbox or other file sharing solutions. And you can end up with two forked copies of a section if you happened to make changes on two machines at once (you can read earlier posts for context, but OneNote cannot auto-magically merge simultaneous edits when working on these systems that copy files around underneath OneNote). So we’ve added the ability to manually merge any two sections if you ever get into this situation. Just tell OneNote which two sections you want merged and OneNote will take care of it.

3. Better ways to Organize and Find your Notes

Capturing, organizing and finding your information has always been at the heart of what OneNote does. We’ve made several enhancements in this core area. Some of these will be more understandable once we have detailed blog posts with screenshots.

  • Section and page tab improvements: making notebook navigation work better with a larger number of sections and pages, easier to create new sections, better page tab hierarchy visualization, collapse sub page groups, just drag left and right to create sub pages and organize your pages, insert new pages directly anywhere in your page tabs.
  • Fast “word wheel” search for navigation: the goal of this is to make search a super-fast way to get to your regularly used notes. Historically search has been more of a “last resort” feature when you couldn’t find something. We’ve completely revamped this experience so it is now designed to make it the fastest way to get to any page including pages you visit regularly like your To Do list.
  • Wiki linking: you can easily create a link to an existing page or to a new page for a topic. You can do this by just typing the Wiki link syntax (e.g. just type [[The Page Title I Want]] ), or use our new page search experience from within the link dialog. This enables you to easily create Wiki like notebooks with lots of cross links across pages.
  • Quick filing: there are many ways to send content to OneNote (Print to OneNote, send mails from Outlook, send pages from Internet Explorer and so on). Our new Quick Filing experience pops up to let you pick where in your notebook you want to send it. It remembers the last places you sent things. You can search in Quick Filing to find a specific section or page if you want it somewhere else.

4. Research and taking notes linked to documents, web pages

OneNote is often used as a companion while researching topics and collecting information (e.g. a market analysis study, a class paper, a home renovation, a car purchase and so on). This often involves looking at web pages or documents and taking notes. You could also be reviewing a document or class lecture slides and taking notes as you’re looking through them. We’ve enhanced a number of things to make this experience better.

  • Docked OneNote: you can dock OneNote to the side of your screen. It docks alongside other windows (e.g. browser, Word, PowerPoint). OneNote minimizes UI and just shows the notes page alongside your document/browser.
  • Linked Note Taking: while in this mode, OneNote automatically links the notes you take to what you’re looking at – the web page URL, the selection point in Word, the current slide in PowerPoint. Later in OneNote you can hover on that link and you’ll see a thumbnail preview of the original document, you can click on it and it will open and take you back to what you were looking at when you wrote the note.
  • Auto text wrapping: this goes well with Docked OneNote but is useful in other cases too. OneNote now wraps text outlines to fit the windows size if there is only one outline on the page. This makes it easy to see all your notes even when OneNote is docked to a relatively narrow window on the side.
  • IRM protected printouts: this is mainly for enterprise and training scenarios. The idea is that companies can distribute things like product manuals or class notes in OneNote that are protected intellectual property. The recipient can view these in OneNote and take their own personal notes on top of these materials and beside them. If for some reason the materials were viewed by an unauthorized person they would not see any of the protected material.
  • 64 bit print driver: Yes, OneNote 2010 has a new native print driver that fully supports 64 bit. It’s based on the XPS technology from Windows. It also has other virtues like better rendering quality when scaled.

5. Editing improvements

There are a number of basic editing improvements in OneNote. Below are some more prominent ones.

  • Basic styles: OneNote 2010 adds very basic styles like Heading 1,2,3. This does not have the power of Words styling features. OneNote is not designed for that level of document formatting. But it does give you a way to quickly have your meeting notes have a little structure.
  • Bullets improvements: this is a simple one but oft requested. First level bullets now indent from previous text.
  • Equations: OneNote 2010 now supports the ability to add math equations. Great for students or people who need to input math into their notebooks. OneNote will also support the ability to recognize hand written math equations and convert them when running on Windows 7.
  • Translation tooltips: OneNote can now show you a tooltip with a translation into your native language when your mouse hovers over a foreign language word. Great for language students, or if you’re working in a bi-lingual situation and need help understanding a word in a shared notebook or that you clipped from the web.

6. Touch support

With the rapidly increasing availability of touch enabled PCs and the enhanced touch experience in Windows 7, this was a natural thing for OneNote to support.

  • Finger panning and auto-switch: you can use your finger to scroll and pan around any page in OneNote. OneNote auto switches between pen, pan, and selection depending on your input device. So for example you can pan around a drawing with your left finger and draw with a tablet pen in your right hand. This makes for a very natural two handed interaction model.
  • Pinch zoom: we enabled pinch zooming within OneNote centered on the fingers.
  • Navigation controls improved for touch: we’ve made some small optimizations to make the UI easier to use with touch.

7. Fluent UI

OneNote now adopts the Fluent UI along with the other Office applications.

  • Ribbon: OneNote now has the Ribbon. We’ve designed this to optimize for the key OneNote scenarios and make them easier to use. This is also what enables us to more easily add features like math equation editing (the common controls for that use the Ribbon), and potential future features.
  • Office Backstage: This is new for Office 2010. OneNote will be taking advantage of it to make tasks like creating new notebooks, and new shared notebooks on the web easier (we’re still doing work on this).

Read Full Post »

If you have a lot of ‘stuff’ in OneNote Notebooks, you should definitely check out this OneNote Favorites powertoy. It works much like the IE favorites model.  You click the star icon with a green plus sign to add a page, section or notebook to the favorites list, and click the star to open the favorites list or navigate back to it.  Pretty simple!

This powertoy is a must have for any OneNote user, especially for somebody that has a bunch of different places they need to be quickly.

Here’s the basic UI to add a page to the favorites list:


Page is the default choice, but you can choose the section or notebook as well.

Once added, it looks like this when you open the favorites list:


This view is still modeled after the OneNote notebook structure.  You can also click the “List view” button near the bottom right to make it a little more “table-ish”:




In this InkShow guys from GottabeMobile.com go over all aspects of the powertoy.  Starting out with a look at the menu’s and functionality.  After that,  You’ll be taken through a demo of this powertoy to show it in action.



Read Full Post »

There has been a TON of interest on the site about sharing and synching notebooks. Here is another option using Sync from the Windows Live team.

Here’s how Derek Schauland from the Technically Speaking blog uses it. At the end, I’ve provided more info about Live Synch with the appropriate links.


Keeping my notebook for knowledgebase content updated all the time is the biggest reason for selecting OneNote as the platform.  I do not need to save, I can use the application across computers and share information with colleagues as needed.

Syncing across computers is the ticket

My new discovery, from the Live team, is Sync.  The application is installed on any computers you wish to share files between.  Then selected directories can be synced between these computers and the Sync service.

Where this gets handy is if I setup a sync’d folder and put a OneNote Notebook in the folder.  Set it to sync with the web and then anytime I am online, my notebook is backed up for use on any PC I have.

You can configure folders as personal, available only to you, or shared, seen by others you specify.  So if I had a team notebook, I would put it in a shared folder, publish the folder to those who I want to access the notebook, and start using it.

Yes other users (or computers) would need to have Sync installed on their computers, and to get it, a live account, but both are free and with the number of places wifi is available (there is a gas station near my house with free wireless Internet for customer – wow.. at the gas station?) there are really no places changes to the file cannot be shared.

As with any notebook, it will OneNote will store the notebook on your PC, so it will be seen as always in sync by OneNote.  Sync runs automatically (or on demand if you choose) and will sync changes to the web service anytime a connection is detected.

One more bonus…

Since OneNote keeps the file on your computer locally, sync does not require OneNote to be running to share the folder with the web.  In most cases you would need OneNote to be running to use the synchronization features.

I just discovered this today and will be using it for my own personal knowledge base notebook, things that will help me solve problems that may require a bit of digging, and will update this post if my opinions changes, but for now, it is the sweetest use of the Internet for an application I have seen yet.  Surely the next thing is right around the corner.


Windows Live Sync is a free service designed to help you synchronize (The process of uploading and downloading information between two or more computers so that the information on each computer is identical.) files across all the computers you use, share files and photos with friends and colleagues, and remotely access your files from any other computer connected to the Internet. If you have more than one computer, you can create personal folders (A synchronized folder that you create for yourself. Files in a personal synchronized folder are not shared with other people and only the owner of the folder can access them. If you have more than one computer, you might create a personal synchronized folder to share files between them.) to synchronize files between them. You can also share files with friends or colleagues when you create or connect your computer to a shared folder (A synchronized folder that you have been invited to share, or a folder that you have invited others to share. Files in a shared synchronized folder are accessed and can be changed by more than one person. The owner must invite other people to use the folder in order for them to have permission to access it.) .

Sync software

You must install the Sync software from the Sync website, on every computer that you want to synchronize files on. You use the software to synchronize, share, and download files from a folder and to access the Sync website. The Sync software works in the background when you’re online and recognizes when files are changed, added to, or deleted from a synchronized folder. As you update files in a synchronized folder, Sync automatically updates files on the other online (The status of your computer. When you use Sync, the status of your computer is “online” when your computer is connected to the Internet and running the Sync software.) computers that synchronize with the folder.

Read Full Post »

f you haven’t already started using and creating OneNote templates, this this video is a must for you! You’ll realize that you don’t have to start from a blank page every time you attend a meeting where you have to take notes. When I first started using OneNote at The Agency, I would create a new page for each weekly meeting and start randomly writing stuff down. Not very smart and not very efficient. Seeing as how I am inherantly bone lazy and and about as organized as a drunk cheerleader, I soon cottoned onto the fact that I could download a meeting template from Office Online or create my own. That way, I was instantly transformed into a super-notetaking machine!

Watch the video now!

Here’s monster list of OneNote templates that you can download and start using right now.

Here, for example, is a link to a 2010 Calendar template that has room for notes. It’s never too early to start planning for next year, I guess!

1 think I’ll send this Home Improvement Journal template to my Dad – he’s about to start remodeling the kitchen. Guess, I won’t be having any home cooked meals when I visit for the foreseeable future. Frown

Read Full Post »

OneNote is easily the best note taking tool available. In this article from  NerdBusiness you’ll learn how to effectively use OneNote to organize your life’s information. Ideas, daily notes, business projects, clients & contacts and anything else worthy of typed notes on your screen.

Here goes:


At this point I assume you have evolved from an old school pen & notepad style of note taking. In fact, if you were like me the next step was to begin organizing your notes in Word documents. Using Word documents to organize notes certainly does work… you’ll soon notice however, that this method is just not practical for managing a large amount of notes on a variety of subjects.

Which is why OneNote is far superior . In a nutshell, OneNote is a word processor that allows you quick access to all of your separate documents (pages) from one simple interface. You can then organize pages in Notebooks, Sections, or Sub sections. Enabling you to have all your notes at the tip of your fingers. Working faster & taking notes more effectively.


Step 1: Get OneNote

OneNote is free to try for 60 days so you can download it right now directly from the Microsoft OneNote homepage. Thereafter the price tag is $99.95 so it certainly is a a good value if you intend to use OneNote how I explain.

Step 2: Use OneNote

OneNote is a rather simple program so getting started is easy. Remember, your objective in using OneNote is to simply take notes & organize them. Anybody can do this – but doing it effectively is another thing altogether. So here is a basic model I use for my own OneNote installation.

First, feel free to browse through the sample Notebooks Microsoft includes by default. You can keep them handy if you want, but eventually I recommend deleting this clutter by right clicking each Notebook menu and pressing “Close Notebook”.

Create a Notebook called Day Planner. Then within that Notebook, create a section called Daily Notes and Tasks.

The Difference Between Daily Notes & Organized Notes

Daily Notes are just that. Each day, our nerdly minds come across interesting things that we’ll want to take note of. Ideas, reminders, phone numbers, website links, to-dos, and other random thoughts that need to be typed as notes.

Regardless of what topic, type these kind of day to day thoughts into your newly created Daily Notes section.

You might be wondering, “if we’re organizing notes why not create separate sections to organize this information as we type? ”

Trust me – it’s easier to keep one page for daily notes. And then from these notes you can later extract and organize them into different notebooks & sections.

Particularly when you’re first starting with OneNote you don’t want to get in the habit of creating a whole plethora of different Notebooks & Sections. Because they’ll end up as clutter. My philosophy of note taking is that only key information actually justifies organization. And when you’re simply typing notes off the top of your head you are often not ready to determine if exactly what you are writing is relevant. That’s why it goes into the Daily Notes: so later you can cut & paste them into their appropriate sections if necessary.

Keeping a Task List

The “to do” list is certainly a fundamental type of note.

Maintaining a big list of tasks can be effective, but it can also be a burden. That is, if you allow yourself to become a slave to it. For my main Tasks section I keep it fairly general – having to do with mostly stuff outside business. For those important projects & clients – I’ll keep separate task lists specific to them.

OneNote isn’t particularly innovative when it comes to a task list (although it does integrate with Outlook’s Task system if you use that, which I do not) but it does have a simple checkbox feature. Let’s make a brief list now.

Type a brief list of tasks. One per each line. Then from the the “Tag” menu you can select “To Do” and the line you’re currently on will turn into a tidy little checkbox. Click inside the checkbox to control checked/unchecked.

This is about as far as it goes in terms of functionality – yet the visual cue certainly does go a long way.

Time for Business

Organizing information about your projects is crucial for staying on track. Nerds have complex projects on the go. Software apps, website networks, and other technical stuff which requires regular note taking. OneNote is a perfect home for this project related information.

Let’s start by creating a Notebook called Projects.

In my project Notebook pictured below, I’ve created a section for NerdBusiness.com. This section gives me an easy place to write down ideas about my blog Nerd Business. So when I’ve got a great idea about a new feature or an article I want to write – all I have to do is open OneNote and click this section to begin typing it.

As you can see I’ve setup the first page of my Nerd Business section to feature it’s own task list. If you have a number of projects on the go, having a unique task list for each one is a big advantage.

Just below the Tasks I’ve got a bold headline for Ideas. I like to classify each idea with a general name so it’s easy to remember for a possible future implementation.

Further down from Ideas, I’ve got another heading for the Log (not pictured). I generally like to keep a project log for documenting progress. So as I bounce around from several different projects throughout the work week I can easily jump back into a project after reviewing the latest status from the log. The log outlines my latest progress & what I was working on last so that I can easily pickup where I left off.

To further organize information for this project, I have created a number of additional pages. These are listed along the right hand side (pictured to the right). One of the pages here is called Content and the notes here are specifically for content related material, such as article ideas or drafts of new articles I intend to publish here on Nerd Business.

Clients & Contacts

As I’ve demonstrated, keeping a project log is a useful tactic – and the same can be said about keeping a log for your clients. What was said during that last phonecall ? What are some of the requirements you need to complete for this client? The information surrounding a client can get rather extensive – so OneNote fits the bill.

It can also be useful to have notes on just about anybody! A loved one, friends, or family – little notes such as birth dates or special reminders can go a long way.

So let’s create a new section called Contacts. In my example below (click to enlarge), I have created the Contacts Notebook and three seperate “Section Groups” to contain Clients, Prospects (people or businesses I am hopeful will become clients), and Providers (professionals & freelancers I collaborate with). Let’s take a look at my OneNote page for an imaginary prospect, Mike Duffield.

In this example, I’ve got a project lined up with my client. It’s just getting started, so the information is rather light. I’ve got a couple key objectives I want to keep near the top. His contact info is conveniently placed so I can quickly refer to his number when I’m about to make a call. Tasks and Ideas are also here. And I’ve even got a Q&A section for questions that I want to ask Mike next time I talk to him.

Any important client or prospect justifies having a simple page like this. There are indeed CRM (customer relationship management) software packages out there which are much more extensive, but personally I enjoy the simple flexibility of a big white open page to type on.

Being Organized is Efficient

Organizational efficiency is something that you need to work on as a skill in itself. And it’s something that you never stop doing. So while OneNote is a great solution for note taking, it’s not the end all solution. You still have to maintain an effective process for keeping your notes organized. Because after using it for an extended period of time with any regularity you’ll eventually experience the clutter factor.

So you’ve got to be aware of this as you type notes – and consciously organize them as best you can. In fact, I often allocate a big chunk of time each week specifically for organizing notes. As part of an effeciency FOCUS day, which is apart of an even broader strategy for being a well oiled business nerd. A strategy that I would like to reveal for you in an upcoming post. Subscribe to my feed or the newsletter to stay up dated.


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »