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OneNote addresses two needs we all have with our computers, and does so better than competitors.

It gives you a place to save and store a vast miscellany of data, and it then gives you the tools to subsequently find the information you've saved.

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Microsoft OneNote 2010 part 2 :  In Use

Versatile, easy to use, and invaluable

Store, save, and subsequently search and retrieve all the information in your life through Microsoft OneNote.

Part two of a two part review of Microsoft OneNote - please see part one for the first part of this review.



One of the biggest potential uses of a computer - the ability to store and sort and search through information - has generally been handicapped by the inability of a computer to work with a mix of different types of information, all bundled together.

This simple seeming capability is actually very difficult to create, programmatically.

So perhaps it is not surprising there have been no programs offering a truly flexible and convenient solution to this need - at least, no such programs until recently.

Microsoft's updated OneNote software is the excellent solution to this requirement that we can all use and benefit from.

It is a great program of great value to almost every computer user.  Best of all, there is a 60 day free trial available so you can try it for yourself before deciding if you want to purchase it or not.

....continued from Part One

If you directly landed on this page from a search engine, you might find it helpful to start off by reading the first part of this two part article.

Sharing OneNote via SkyDrive

One of the interesting features of OneNote is the ability to have your OneNote files reside on Microsoft's free SkyDrive feature.

SkyDrive is the name Microsoft gives to its internet cloud service - you can store files there and then access them from pretty much anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.

Using Microsoft's free SkyDrive online or 'cloud' storage service, you can have multiple files, each of up to 100 MB (and in total no more than 25GB) online and shareable.  Amazingly, Microsoft does not charge for this service (well, being as how it is an adjunct/enhancement to other Microsoft products which they do sell, it makes commercial sense nonetheless).

Not only can you place copies of your files on SkyDrive for you to access, yourself, elsewhere; there are a couple of other valuable things that SkyDrive allows as well.

The first of these is that you can allow other people to access your SkyDrive OneNote files.  You can decide, file by file, who can access them.  You can also decide who can only view your files, and who is allowed to not just view but also edit and change your files.

The second of these is that you don't even need OneNote to be able to open and edit your files when you are away from your home computer.  A web based application - the OneNote Web app, part of the Office Web apps suite, enables you to access and work on your files through a web browser, and you can do most things through the browser interface that you could do directly through OneNote.

So you can not only access your own files from anywhere, on any computer, but you can also allow other people to do the same, without requiring them to have to go out and buy a copy of OneNote.

This is amazing.  A few years ago it would have seemed impossible, and now it is a practical reality.  Well, almost a practical reality.  There are some unavoidable limitations - if you have a very large OneNote file, then it will take a measurable amount of time to open it via the internet as compared to opening it from your local computer.

But once a OneNote file has been opened, working on it is fast and interactive (because only the changed data is being updated, not the entire file).

Using OneNote

When you first are confronted by OneNote, it may seem like an overwhelmingly complex piece of software.  But this perception is erroneous - it is actually a very simple piece of software.  The only hard part is deciding what to use it for.

Once you've decided on what you want to store, what could be simpler than cutting and pasting from other programs into OneNote?  If you want to add something that can't be cut/pasted, you can take a screen shot of it instead.  So everything you can display on your screen, you can add to your OneNote file.

Sometimes you'll choose to add new tabs or pages for a better layout and split of information, and that's very simple too.

Finding the information subsequently is also completely simple and easy.

An analogy between spreadsheets and OneNote is partially valid.  It could be said, in most cases with Excel, actually using the program is relatively simple, the only hard thing is deciding what to use it for.  The same with OneNote; once you've determined a use for it, implementing OneNote for that purpose is quick and simple.  Indeed, the actual operation of OneNote is a million times simpler than the operation of Excel (okay, so that is an exaggeration, but only a little!).  OneNote's functions are enormously simpler and easier to learn than those offered in Excel.

You will quickly find that the more you use OneNote, the more you think of new ways to use OneNote in more parts of your business and your personal life.

In my case, I like to keep files of story ideas for future articles I might want to write about in the future, and also keep files of background information on topics I might need to refer back to.

OneNote is excellent for such tasks.  As I browse around the web, it is very easy to cut and paste from web pages into OneNote files, and to add quick comments after phone calls or whatever else, and to supplement it with scans from newspapers articles and magazines.

There is one feature of OneNote I absolutely adore.  It auto-saves your work, as you do it.  You don't have to worry about a computer crash or an automatic reboot that causes you to lose your data.

OneNote for Travel Purposes

Microsoft provide a sample OneNote file to show how it can be used for researching and planning and documenting a trip.

As the sample file shows, you can first of all collect information on things such as hotels, special deals and offers, places to go, where to eat, what to do, and all that type of information.

Studies suggest that one of the most fun parts of any trip is the planning and preparation.  OneNote ensures this truly is fun.

Then, working through the collated information, you can put together an itinerary (also in OneNote, of course).  Next, you can use OneNote to record all your booking confirmations and other travel details.

This can be particularly useful in connection with storing the file on SkyDrive and being able to access it from any computer, anywhere, even if the computer doesn't have OneNote loaded on it.  If you find yourself in a problem with a lost reservation, you can (either yourself or even have the supplier do it) access the exact details of the reservation, including copies/scans/screen shots of emails or faxes) to show exactly what was reserved and confirmed, without needing to carry bulky files of printed out materials.  You could even do this from your phone (if it is an iPhone or Windows smartphone).

There's more.  You can also use OneNote to create To Do lists of things you need to do prior to your journey, and even a packing list of things to take, then you can check the items off, one by one, as you get them completed.

Hopefully you're traveling with a companion, so the two of you can share the OneNote file, and you can each individually add to the travel file and make comments and work together on researching and planning and selecting your itinerary, even if you're not physically together during this part of the proceedings.

You can share some or all of your travel plans prior to your journey with family and friends and colleagues - perhaps just your itinerary so they know where you are and how to contact you.

You can also create a trip diary, pasting into OneNote pictures, video clips, other souvenir images, your written impressions, maybe even spoken commentaries and audio clips.  You can share this 'real time' with family and friends while you're traveling, and of course complete it further upon your return.

OneNote's Evolution

OneNote first came out as part of Microsoft's Office 2003 suite of programs.  It was enhanced in the subsequent Office 2007 version, and then was upgraded further both in the initial Office 2010 release and then in the major service pack/update released in June 2011.

If, like me, you had looked at OneNote in one of its earlier releases and then forgot about it, you should have another look at it now.  The latest version is massively improved compared to its predecessors.

Some of the improvements of particular value include the ability to add simple spreadsheet functions into OneNote files, and a much improved layout and hierarchy of notes.

Talking about layout, there are better formatting features too, if you wish to make a 'pretty' appealing OneNote file, perhaps to impress clients or colleagues or bosses or whoever.

The search functions - an absolutely essential part of the program, of course - are now greatly improved.

And, adhering to the new 'cloud computing' paradigm that is pervading all aspects of computer usage, the program has now become completely 'cloud compatible' and works efficiently even if the data files reside primarily on a SkyDrive somewhere in the internet rather than on your local computer.

You can even access and work on your OneNote files via a Windows smartphone or an iOS device using OneNote Mobile for iPhone (but not yet on an Android or RIM/Blackberry device).

Competitors to OneNote

OneNote is far from the only note taking software product in the market today, but it is probably the best.

Here's a table of other products currently available, and as you can see, OneNote is the only product to score positive results in all the categories analyzed.


Microsoft OneNote is an amazingly flexible versatile program, giving you a whole new way to save and store and subsequently search and select information of all types, both on your computer and through the internet.

It is easy to use, and you'll quickly wonder how you ever managed without it.  Don't just take our word for it - you can download a 60 day free trial and see for yourself.


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Originally published 15 Jul 2011, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.



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