offering more than a OneNote wonder
by Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First
published in Business
14-20, 2004; issue 777 High Tech Office
Even if we're no longer in university, most of us have to take notes
now and again. And even if we have notebook computers, that often means
writing on scraps of paper and later trying to make sense of what we
wrote, deal with the issues and file the note away.
Last October Microsoft quietly released a product that promises to do
for note taking what word processors have done for writing. OneNote
describes itself as part of Microsoft Office, though it isn't included
in any of the various MS Office packages and runs quite happily on
Windows 2000 or XP systems that don't have Office installed.
With built-in support for digital ink, OneNote is being bundled with
Toshiba TabletPC models: these notebooks allow users to write or draw
directly on-screen. But it also offers keyboard and mouse input for the
rest of us, letting us enter text anywhere on a series of tabbed pages
mimicking a traditional notebook.
Unlike a traditional notebook, however, you can easily add graphics.
Nice feature: when you copy and paste an image from the Web, a link to
the Web page is automatically added. Not so nice: if you move the
picture around the page, the link is left behind. Also nice: if you
choose to insert a "screen clipping," the application momentarily
vanishes, letting you select a portion of the screen that is magically
copied to your OneNote page. Pictures can also be added from digital
cameras or scanners, and Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents can be
inserted into your notes.
OneNote plays nice with Microsoft Office components in other ways.
Meeting details can be imported from Outlook into OneNote, while
contact and calendar information can be sent from OneNote to Outlook.
Note pages can be sent to Word to be turned into finished documents.
And notes can be shared with other users, and can even be edited by
multiple users at the same time.
You can't do this in your paper notebook: click the microphone icon to
start recording, letting you save a recording of a meeting on the same
page as your notes. OneNote will automatically sync your notes with the
audio. Very slick.
The new OneNote Service Pack 1 (use its Help/Check for Updates menu to
get it), adds the ability to add video clips to your notes, along with
a series of interface improvements. Again, the video is synchronized
with your written notes. As well, with SP1 installed, OneNote users can
import notes and audio stored on a Pocket PC PDA or Smartphone. And
unlike a pen and paper notebook, you can move your notes around the
page, or to another section of the notebook. And you'll never run out
Unlike traditional applications (but more like using a Palm PDA) you
don't save files in OneNote. When it's shut down, OneNote automatically
saves your work as a series of files in a new My Notebook folder. You
organize your notes by creating new pages or new tabbed sections within
its virtual notebook. Restart OneNote and your notes are back in place.