OneNote uses a simple notebook metaphor, allowing you to have any number of notebooks, tabs within each notebook and pages within each tab. But it’s not just for taking notes. OneNote has rich editing tools that let you format text, add pictures and tables to each page, attach files, draw illustrations and link to other OneNote pages.
OneNote can be accessed on a wide range of devices via a web app and Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service. It’s also available as apps for Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android and Chromebook. The mobile apps lack some of the advanced features of the Windows version, but they are still very useful – allowing you, for example, to take and insert photos and audio recordings into notes.
They also support “digital ink”, so your handwritten notes (ideally with a stylus for better accuracy) are searchable within the app.
A free OneNote companion app for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone, Office Lens is effectively a mobile scanner. Using your phone’s camera, it can scan receipts, other printed material and even text written on a whiteboard – capturing them into OneNote, making them searchable or even converting them into Word documents or PowerPoint slides. Office Lens can also scan business cards and turn them into contacts on your phone.
For those simply looking to take notes, OneNote does an excellent job. The desktop version will make audio recordings that align with your written (or typed) notes of meetings, much like the Livescribe smartpen, as covered in our June 2015 edition.
Evernote still holds an advantage, thanks to its large selection of third-party add-ons and its powerful Web Clipper browser plug-in for capturing web pages. However, OneNote’s ecosystem of add-ons is increasing, and it has some handy research tools of its own – including its improved OneNote Clipper plug-in, Feedly add-on that saves articles from the newsfeed service to OneNote and the option to email items to your OneNote pages. There’s even a WordPress plug-in that can publish OneNote pages on your blog.
Like the rest of Office 2016, the latest version of OneNote has improved collaborating tools. Teams can share OneNote notebooks and colleagues can add to, edit or annotate pages. You can quickly see who’s been working on a page and what changes they have made, and you can also create and share meeting notes from within Outlook appointments.
OneNote pages let you attach files from Word and other Office documents or include them as “printouts”. You can also embed Excel and Visio files, allowing you to edit or create new spreadsheets or diagrams from within OneNote, with any changes automatically reflected in the original Excel or Visio file.