Sunday, June 21, 2009

Opinions on OneNote

Once you have OneNote installed on your system you will notice that it adds an additional OneNote button to a few Microsoft Applications. The first of these is the Internet Explorer browser, which appears like:

Now you can simply highlight the information you wish to record in OneNote and then press the ‘Send to OneNote’ button.

So what I’ve done here is highlight some text and image from a previous blog post in Internet Explorer and pressed the ‘Send to OneNote’ button in the toolbar of the browser.

As you can see above, that exact information has been placed on a new OneNote page that I can file into any notebook I desire. One of the handy things it does automatically as well is also record where the information came from (i.e. the source URL). This makes it exceptionally easy to refer to at a later stage if required.

OneNote also provides the ability to ‘clip’ exactly what is on any region of the screen, much like a standard print screen. In the example shown above I have clipped part of my screen (showing a number of running apps) as an image directly into OneNote. OneNote will automatically time stamp the screen clipping for you as well as making searchable any of the text that actually appears in the image. Yes, that’s right – OneNote does OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on the fly.

Apart from being able to simply type information into OneNote you can also tags. These allow you to categorize your information to make it easier to find later. Standard tags include things like: to do, important, question etc. You can even create your own tags. I’ll cover more about searching in OneNote in an upcoming post.

So there’s just a few reasons why I reckon OneNote is worth a look. As I have mentioned before you can download a trial version to get a better understanding yourself. If you do decided to buy a copy I think you’ll be surprised at how little OneNote actually costs, especially when you look at the benefits it can provide.

Ok, so OneNote is great but it does have a few drawbacks in my opinion including:

- No ‘reader’ program. This means you have to download and install the OneNote program before you can open OneNote notebooks. There are readers for other Microsoft Office products like Word and Excel, why isn’t there one for OneNote? How handy would it be to be able to send someone a notebook full of information that they could simply view? Please, oh please Microsoft a reader for OneNote!

- To obtain the best in collaboration OneNote needs to be back ended into a hosted SharePoint site for collaboration across the Internet. Admittedly, you can use Microsoft Office Live Workspace for free but wouldn’t it be nice if Microsoft could provide some space in the cloud for free? Microsoft has this facility via Skydrive for example, why can’t OneNote notebooks be stored there? (I’m still trying to work out whether this can in fact be done).

- Another similar product to OneNote that I use frequently is EverNote (which is free). One of the many handy things about EverNote is that it allows you to browse your notes via web page. You can even edit information in notes via this web page. I have found this invaluable when I’m out somewhere and I need a screen shot. I simply do a print screen, save it to a note in EverNote via the web and then when I return to my desk I simply sync my desktop EverNote with the web and I have the screen shot. Very handy!

I’ll go into more depth on EverNote in an upcoming blog post.
There are a few other minor annoyances I have with OneNote but these are the major three that annoy me constantly. Hopefully OneNote can learn from EverNote and add these few remaining features that would make OneNote a real killer app.