Friday, 12 October 2012

Microsoft OneNote – Why haven’t I discovered this before?

One of the bugbears of researching online is the inability to easily store information for rapid retrieval. I tried simply adding internet shortcuts to my browser – but the list simply got out of hand, I tried the e-version of those little sticky notes, but they weren’t really that flexible, I’ve even tried writing things down – but in truth I prefer writing for catching my thoughts, not recording randomly accessed detailed information.

And then I discovered OneNote! Not sure how – I’ve had it since I installed Office 2010 – but never really thought about it until in an idle moment I clicked on the icon, and the potential for ordering my rather messy life suddenly struck me. So what is it?

In brief terms it seems like magic. Open it and you get a blank page that you can paste things into, write on, even draw on. It automatically saves these things as you go so you don’t even have to worry about the save key! But it gets better. You can organise the pages into sections, the sections into chapters (or section groups as Microsoft prefers to call them) and the section groups into Notebooks. If you don’t get it right first time you can move them around – even copy pages and sections to new Notebooks. It’s a quickly accessible and easily reconfigured filing system sitting neatly on the bottom right of my screen.

Beyond the basics it does a host of other useful things:

  • If you sign up for Microsoft's SkyDrive you can save your Notebook there by default – so it’s accessible from any computer with OneNote installed. Surprise, surprise I now have a version on my laptop. It synchronises automatically on opening and as you work.
  • It installs itself as a printer on your system, so any document you can print can be stored as a page in the relevant Notebook – e-mails from tutors, forum posts, webpages – whatever.
  • You can write anywhere on the page – unlike Word or similar – so you can make notes and doodles over your images if that’s what you want.
  • You can cut and paste, or drag and drop from documents and folders. And do character recognition on image documents.
  • You can add tags to pages to make searching easy.
  • You can put a OneNote app on your phone and send images to it from your camera phone – instant field notes.
  • You can capture screen clips (from Google Earth for example) and audio/video files from your webcam.
  • You can e-mail pages – as e-mails or as attachments and you can send pages to a blog.
  • You can output Notebooks, sections or pages as pdf files, word documents and several other file types meaning you can provide them to your tutor in their preferred format, and add them to your learning log or blog as you see fit.

I’m sure there are more but you get the picture. I now have a Landscape Notebook handily divided into Section Groups by assignment, with additional section groups for key material (assessment criteria and reading lists for example), photographers I’m researching (it makes recording webpages and the like so much easier) and areas that interest me such as road photography and the seasonal symbolism in Japanese paintings and haiku. And most handy of all it’s available on all my computers so I can make better use of the time I have to spend in those business hotels.

If it’s installed on your computer and you’ve not tried it I can only say “Give it a go!” You might be surprised just how useful it is. I’ve even used it to pull together all the online booking forms and confirmations for my trip to the Tate in a couple of months.

1 comment:

  1. Read it—and going to look at it! Thanks for taking the time on the forum to point me here!