Introduction to OneNote 2013
OneNote is perhaps less well known than the mainstream heavyweights of the Office suite, but those who use it regularly know what a powerful workplace tool it can be. In some ways OneNote 2013 is a minor improvement to an already excellent piece of software, yet in others it offers a dramatically new approach to note-taking, synchronisation and organisation.
It still does everything it's long been known for: it can record audio while you take notes, save and index everything you jot down as you go, and synchronise the results with the cloud. But now there are a few new features to play with...
Most notably, OneNote 2013 comes in either a standard desktop version or a dedicated Windows 8 app (OneNote MX), so those using a Windows 8 tablet can make full use of touch controls built specifically for handheld devices. The app supports finger-based zooming, panning and scrolling, an excellent radial menu for quickly selecting options with a thumb, and notes can be scrawled with either a finger or a stylus.
With this in mind, OneNote's handwriting recognition has been tweaked so it now automatically indexes recognised words as you write, so you can search without converted the ink to text. Touch controls are present in the desktop version too, albeit to a lesser extent, and it's this combination of usage modes that makes OneNote the ideal companion for life at a desk and on the road.
The overall interface has been revamped with the same clean and fresh look as the rest of the Office suite, so you can concentrate on your notes rather than the page furniture. The Ribbon has plenty of helpful tools, but it's possible to automatically hide it to give a full-page view for easier note-taking.
There's also been a shift in the layout, with different notebooks now listed in a dropdown menu at the top of the screen rather than in a sidebar, but otherwise it will be familiar to existing OneNote users.
Microsoft has worked hard to make it even simpler to add content to OneNote and share it with others. The improved Send To OneNote tool can gather documents, entire web pages, links, screen clippings or your own Quick Notes, and everything you add is automatically stored and filed as part of your notebook.
Embedded files - including sound recordings, pictures and video clips - are also stored within the notebook, and you can embed Excel spreadsheets and Visio diagrams and see a preview of the contents right there next to your notes. When you update the Excel file, the preview in OneNote will update too. You can also create basic tables of your own within OneNote, and it supports cell shading, header rows and data moving and sorting - or you can simply convert a table into an Excel spreadsheet and edit it there if you need more advanced power.
Naturally, it will store whatever scribbled ramblings you produce yourself, so if the notes aren't meant for other eyes you can be as careful and neat or as rushed and messy as it takes to get your passing thoughts down on the page. OneNote can store the original sketches and scrawls or convert what it can into searchable text.
At the heart of OneNote's appeal lies its extensive synchronisation and sharing abilities. Everything you clip, gather and store within your notebooks can be automatically mirrored to SkyDrive or SharePoint, or to your company's team site. You can use Instant Search to recall anything you've ever worked on, and you can share notebooks in a variety of formats if others don't have OneNote on their computers.
You can view and edit notebooks from any browser and on any iOS, Android or Symbian device using the Office Web Apps, and OneNote supports concurrent editing so you and your colleagues can log in to the same notebook during a meeting and all view and edit the notes at once. OneNote's integrated identity profiles come into play here, as you can see who's collaborating on a document at any point, search for edits by a particular author, or simply view all recent edits when you join a shared notebook. Plus, it will remember where you were last in the notebook and take you directly to that location when you log in from a different device.
If you're viewing or editing OneNote notebooks on a Windows Phone, even more power is on offer. It becomes much closer to the experience of using OneNote on a tablet or touchscreen laptop, except that you don't have such a large keyboard to play with!
OneNote often goes under the radar with users, but it's a tool that's quick to learn and difficult to do without once you become a convert. This latest version, with its support for pretty much any modern device in the workplace, makes it easier than ever to integrate it into your routine. OneNote 2013 is an essential organiser and timesaver for the individual, and a convenient and simple solution for teamworking, whether local or online.