Microsoft OneNote might be the coolest application ever

July 8 2008

In the past couple weeks, I have done quite a bit more note taking vs coding. I have tried to play with software like MindMapper but what I need is a way to take notes, organize them, and work with them. I need it in a way I can type and outline fast. Nothing fancy or graphical. Up to a couple weeks ago, I did this either on paper (notepads and cards) or in my Notes journal. After playing with Microsoft OneNote a bit last year, I really pushed myself to use it the past month.

Woah. Talk about a change in productivity. I do not have a Tablet PC, so I am not using a pen to take Notes. Just typing ... which I am a pretty good typist.

The pure note taking part of OneNote is great. I can organize my notes in an outline format, just like I was creating an outline in Word or PowerPoint. I so wish Notes had this level of outlining support. But how I store those notes is the real power. The "Notepad" storage mechanism allows me to organize at the top level. I have one for Clients, Projects, and Personal. But the fact it works like tabs in Notes is what I love. The grouping of the sections, like Lotus Word Pro did, is even more powerful.

The clipping functionality is great. I can take a part of the screen as an image, a web page or section of text, and even audio and video. And store it all together. I am in note taking love!

I also love how you can tag or task anything in OneNote. I just wish I could send those tasks to Notes instead of Outlook. I hope to the API in OneNote 14 allows me to build some add-ins that allows that.

Another aspect of OneNote is that it is very customizable. Templates for both sections and Notebooks are all over the net. So are Power Toys and Add-ins that provide extra functionality.

If I was a student in school again, OneNote would be a dream for class notes and organization.

Anyone else using OneNote? Any thoughts about Note taking out there?

15 Responses to “Microsoft OneNote might be the coolest application ever”

  1. 1) Andy Broyles says:

    I have been using OneNote for quite sometime for exactly the reason you outline.

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  2. 2) Eric Mack says:

    John, One Note is an amazingly powerful program. One neat feature, among many, is the ability to take notes while recording the audio (or even video). Then, when you need to review your notes simply touch the word and the audio from that time will play. Or, click on audio and the notes you were taking at that time will appear.

    Many other features, such as person-person shared spaces, etc. My children did a podcast that Microsoft now uses for their dev team all about this feature.

    If you search my blog for OneNote, you will find many posts about OneNote that may be interesting to you.

    It was nice to meet you at ILUG. I'm sorry I never got the opportunity to talk to you about hosting & eProductivity (a Productivity tool for Notes)

    Anyway, here's a link to get you started

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    Happy to discuss.


  3. 3) Mick Moignard says:

    Remember Lotus Agenda? that was the best thing I've ever come across for note-taking and reorganising them afterwards.

  4. 4) Chris Blatnick says:

    Hey John,

    I used to be a prolific OneNote user, especially when I had my Tablet PC. It's a great program (and I was using the first version). The newer versions look even better. I also can highly recommend EverNote (similar feature set but even a little more functional in my opinion).

    My biggest problem is coming to terms with the different capture mechanisms I have. I use paper, MindManager, Lotus Notes, etc. To be honest, I've been skewing more toward paper since I started at IBM, since I don't like my laptop to be a barrier between me and my customers. This is what made the Tablet PC a dream...I could take notes in ink, leveraging the power of OneNote while keeping a "low profile".

    If we could only have one-click integration between Notes and OneNote...that would be fantastic!

  5. 5) John Head says:

    Mick, I did use Lotus Agenda ... and I think OneNote is even better

  6. 6) John Head says:

    Chris - I have checked out EverNote. While very cool that it runs on Windows, Mac, Web, and Mobile, it has some major flaws. And the flaws are at the heart of the program .. the editor. Where is high level bullets, outline numbering, underline, strike-thru, and highlight? All the clipping stuff is great, but I need a note taking software for meetings. I don't need software to organize everything. Maybe it is just me, but they have a long way to go.

    I am going to have another round of chats with the OneNote team. I talked with them last March when I was in Redmond but they are a lot farther along with Office 14.

  7. 7) Jess Stratton says:

    I used to use OneNote (and did love it), but grew tired of the fact that there was NO way to get rid of the icon in the system tray, or stop it from running in Task Manager. Useful, yes, but it has to be on *my* terms. :-)

    Now I am running about 95% mobile, and either use the notes on my Treo, or Google Notebook, which I LOVE.

  8. 8) John Head says:

    Jess, try right-clicking on the OneNote icon in the tray and clicking "remove OneNote Icon" ;)

  9. 9) Jess Stratton says:

    This was years ago that I got rid of it. I'm sure I was not the only one with that complaint and I'm sure they changed it by now. :-) Trust me, there was NO way to get rid of it. And I'm a compulsive reg hacker when it comes to stuff like that. By hook or by crook, the applications WILL obey! :-)

  10. 10) Jess Stratton says:

    BTW, please keep us up to date with how you are using it. I'm always interested in ways that people use productivity helpers like OneNote, or equivalent. I always have the feeling that I'm not using them as efficiently as I could be... and how to tie it in with apps like (Do I store it in Delicious, or Google Notebook? They both do similar things, but...) Things like that. So let us know. :-)

  11. 11) Andrew Pollack says:

    See, John -- You always do come around to agreeing with me. Sometimes it just takes nearly 5 years.

    September 2003 -

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  12. 12) John Head says:

    Andrew, I can tell you that I am 1000% sure that your article had zero impact on me. Nice try ;)

  13. 13) Andrew Pollack says:

    That's OK, John

    It's enough for me to know that you've realized after all how once again I was right. LOL.

  14. 14) Larry C says:

    One thing I love about OneNote is using it in a team setting. If you store the OneNote notebook on a file server (or Webdav repository) you can share the notebook among multiple people. OneNote will automatically sync the notebook so you can take it with you and work offline, and multiple people can even edit the same document at the same time. It will even catch and flag replication conflicts similar (in some ways, better than) Notes.

  15. 15) Andrew Hargreave says:

    I have a client who has a Sharepoint Office 2007 server running and my contact there stores our OneNote "file" there so that he and I sync whenever we're online. I just wish I could store it as easily in my Domino Client Tracking db <grin>

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