Catch-up Office 2010: OneNote

This is the forgotten Office application. It’s actually a great little application that hardly anyone uses. Most of the effort in OneNote 2010 focuses on integration with the other applications. OneNote is bundled with all of the Office 2010 suites apart from Office Starter and now has an online version in the form of the OneNote Web App.

OneNote is a general note-taking application: use it for minuting meetings, to-do lists, idea jotter. It’s probably most effective as a researcher’s note-taking hub.

Interface
The biggest cosmetic difference between this incarnation of OneNote and its predecessors is the The arrival of the standard Ribbon interface not only gives you the same ability across Office programs to apply formatting and styles to text and make your OneNote notebooks look more professional, it also makes it easier to find the functions such as tags. Previously a drop-down list, nearly everything up to 2007’s version got tagged as ‘Important.’ Now tags occupy pride of place on the Home Ribbon, you can collate tags and create a Summary Page, so rounding up all the tagged items, such as action points from a meeting is now very easy.

An improved notebook navigation bar provides tools to easily organize and jump between your notebooks, better visualize and expand page groups to improve note structure and placement, whilst Section tools make it easy to merge or copy notebook sections

Collaborative Notebooks
Belated features for OneNote include the introduction of the Ribbon interface and it’s now important enough to be rolled into the MS-Office Web Apps: as with Word and Excel, you can upload a notebook and then share it with friends and colleagues. Once you upload your notebooks to Microsoft’s SkyDrive or SharePoint, they become collaborative documents in which you and your nominated sharers can view and edit the notebook in the desktop or web-app OneNote 2010 according to the permissions you set. Microsoft has introduced page versioning to make this fool-proof.

Version Control
Automatic highlighting in OneNote 2010 provides a distinct view of changes. The new page versions feature provides version history by date and author and you can just click to restore previous versions. For shared notebooks, changes sync automatically when you are online.

Linked Notebooks
OneNote is a general note-taking application, probably most effective as a researcher’s note-taking hub. Microsoft has extended OneNote’s capability in this area by introducing Linked Notes: hit the Linked Notes icon in the Review tab in any Office app, you can create a new page in the docked OneNote window. Now, from within any of the other Office applications, Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents, appointments in Outlook, or a page in Internet Explorer (no support yet for other browsers), the notes you make in OneNote will be automatically linked to whatever page you are working on.

Any time you view a document or  presentation with Linked Notes activated, each note you make is tied to the page or slide you’re looking at, so you can jump straight to that point when you review your notes. Drag and drop text and pictures from Internet Explorer and those pages will be automatically linked in OneNote. This is integrated note-taking and book-marking that I don’t see anywhere else. It’s like being back in a wiki but so much easier.

Send-to OneNote
Right-click on a page in Internet Explorer, choose ‘Send to OneNote’ from the context menu, and that information lands in your Office 2010 notebook, complete with a link back to the original Web page. You can also send Word or PowerPoint documents by ‘printing’ them to OneNote: choose File, Print, and pick ‘Send to OneNote 2010’ as the printer.

There’s now a button in Outlook that will send a selected e-mail to your OneNote notebook.

If you choose Send-to to insert a link or Web page to OneNote when it’s not running, it automatically opens to accept it.

By default, OneNote is always available, minimized in the System Tray; clicking on the icon opens a miniature OneNote screen for a ‘Side Note’ which is automatically saved in your chosen notebook of choice when closed.

Docking
Microsoft has also introduced a Dock to Desktop mode in order to keep OneNote in view. This snaps the OneNote window to the bottom, top or side of the screen, so that it’s always visible, much like the taskbar. Windows treats the edge of the docked OneNote window as if it was the edge of the screen – you can’t drag other windows over it.

Equations
OneNote now handles mathematical equations, if you have the Math Input Panel in Windows 7 (supports pen-input on tablets). The Office Ribbon features an equation tab.

Failings

  • The Notebook Recycle Bin lets you browse and restore deleted pages, much like the Windows Recycle Bin, but it’s hidden away on the Share tab.
  • Insert works inconsistently. You can insert screen shots as pictures, but you can’t insert ‘live’ screen-shots from running applications in the same way you can in Word.
  • The Ribbon isn’t as good as in the other Office apps; Microsoft’s pre-made Ribbon tabs are rough around the edges, and Backstage view is so basic, the Print tab doesn’t even show a preview of pages.
  • OneNote on-line requires Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 or a Windows Live ID while OneNote Mobile is not included in the Office 2010 applications or suites.

Verdict
With better integration with the other Office apps, collaboration and co-authoring, OneNote is no longer the poor relation and is a genuinely useful component of the suite. AJS

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