25 January 2022
Ditch the Pen and Paper and Get Better Organised with OneNote
Just as with people, we click with some apps from the moment we download them, loving every new feature we discover. Other, equally worthy, apps may sit unnoticed on our devices, their attractions overlooked as we go about our busy lives. OneNote falls into the latter category for many, in spite of some knockout additions. Perhaps with a fresh look, you may reacquaint your relationship and learn to love OneNote like we do.
What is OneNote?
Put simply, OneNote is a digital notebook. Much like the paper-based notebook you may once have relied on, it is a place to collect thoughts and ideas on every topic that crosses your mind. Unlike the old-school paper version, though, it is stored in the cloud. It effortlessly syncs between computer, phone, and tablet, you can share chosen content with colleagues or classmates, and collaborate in real time.
Part of the beauty of OneNote is that you can capture anything you like. You can type notes, draw diagrams, add photos, and video, and even insert other documents like PDFs or spreadsheets from Excel. Users can organise everything into different notebooks, and choose which they share, and who they are shared with. For example, I may share a OneNote notebook about a project with our team, or learnings from a security event with our security specialists. I even plan these blogs using OneNote, so that I can record and organise my ideas whenever inspiration strikes.
Not only is OneNote already included with the Microsoft 365 subscription you currently pay for, it also benefits from the enormous storage capacity already at your disposal.
What About Features?
One of the great things is that you can have as many notebooks as you like, and it is a good idea to separate notebooks into different projects, companies, or departments, so you only share the relevant sections rather than your full notebook. Once you have established notebooks, you can share them with anyone who has an email address, in a view only or edit format, and they don’t even need a Microsoft 365 subscription.
Perhaps my favourite feature is that everything in OneNote is searchable, even handwritten notes, or specific words and phrases in audio and video content. This makes it especially handy when you want to refer to something that was said during a lengthy meeting, and you don’t want to sit through the entire thing again.
Notebooks can be stored in OneDrive Personal, OneDrive for Business, even in SharePoint. You can also store notebooks on your own device but that rather defeats the purpose of cloud tools. Once you have established the main notebook, you can set it up to suit your way of working – for example, I have created sections for different team members, clients, suppliers, training notes, and my own personal and business goals.
It is, perhaps, for meetings that OneNote shows its value best. I can record, set agendas, and check off task lists, hand write notes with a stylus pen or use a keyboard, and sort it all any way I like. I can share those tasks in real time during a meeting with my team, so that while I chat with a client, they can be in the office, working on creating an outcome before the meeting ends.
Of course, how you use it will depend on your needs.
An electrician might use a camera to photograph site details, add in notes and diagrams, and share it with the office so that they can work on a quote while he is still on site. A teacher might collaborate with multiple groups on a team projects that extend beyond the classroom, and foster group work while managing remote schooling. Whatever you can dream up, OneNote is the ideal companion to make it work better.