How do you use OneNote?

Although we have several different ways to collect information about how OneNote is used, I am always interested to hear how people use it. And this forum provides an opportunity for a dialog that our other data collection systems don’t really provide. So, let’s hear it. How do you use OneNote? How is your notebook organized? What do you do with it? Would you prefer a different type of organization, or even a different concept for OneNote besides a tabbed notebook?

As a starter, I’ll go first. I use OneNote for the following activities:

  1. Internet research – drag/drop or copy paste web page content into OneNote. I do this for personal reasons e.g. shopping, to compare prices or specs or models of something I want to buy – DVD player, car, lighting systems, window blinds, etc. Other things are just stuff I don’t want to forget – passwords, how to make my TiVo skip 30sec, how long does breast milk keep, etc. I also use it for work, where I collect snippets of things I read from email or the web to keep little scrapbooks about different topics (each scrapbook is a section). This is about 40-50% of what I use OneNote for, and mostly this is on a desktop PC (at home or work)

  2. Blogging – I keep my blog entries (past, present, future) in a blog section of OneNote (one entry per page), where I work on them over time. I am not the type of blogger who puts two sentences up every few hours – I am more like a columnist, keeping many different story ideas percolating until one is ready, or more usually I get excited about one and finish it, as I am doing with this one right now. (about 10% of usage). This is on my desktop PC at home.

  3. Idea scrapbook. This is a little different from web research, although I often include a snippet with the idea or thought I want to keep. I just put the idea into OneNote. This sort of thing goes into an “Inbox” section (described in a moment) since I don’t have a category/section for them when I write them. (about 10%). I do this on all machines (I have a tablet as well)

  4. Meeting notes: my dirty secret is that I am a terribly lazy note taker – so I only write down the occasional fact or action item from meetings. For a long period last year I would do a lot of demos of pre-release OneNote (internally or externally), and if I saw a bug, I’d quickly jot the bug down (typed or written), and flag it with the note flag “bug”. Later I would pull up the note flag summary for “bug”, and enter these bugs into our tracking database, then check off the “bug” flag as “done” (i.e. moved to database). I also occasionally video record some meetings (e.g. focus groups) that I go to so others on my team can see what they were like and listen to the audio if they want. This is all on my tablet, although I usually use that as a laptop since I don’t like my handwriting, and typing is faster. About 10-20%, changes with project “season”.

  5. Review notes other send me. I receive notes via email attachment, and also in our group we have many OneNote sections stored on file shares, in shared folders, and SharePoint doc libraries. Other people on the team are periodically adding research, thoughts, etc to these sections, which include OneNote usage scenarios, feature design thoughts, usage data, etc. (about 20%). This is on my desktop.

So overall, I use OneNote on my desktop about 80-90% of the time, and on my tablet 10-20%. Because I am lazy, I also rely heavily on others who use OneNote and send me notes from meetings/brainstorming sessions I attend (or did not attend)

My notebook looks basically like this:

Inbox (section where most stuff goes when I first write it, to be categorized within a week or too when I get around to it)

Side notes (section where my side notes go – to be categorized within a week or too when I get around to it)

Work (folder)

Word (folder)

Status meeting (section for recurring meeting notes)

Analysts (section for notes on what industry analysts have said about Word)

Word archive (folder with old sections from Word2003 project)

Publisher (folder holding sections related to the Publisher team)


OneNote (folder holding sections related to the OneNote team)

Scenarios (shared folder on a server holding many sections authored by team members collaborating on defining user scenarios)

SQM data (shared folder holding sections that contain research from the service quality monitor/customer experience improvement program, etc

RAP (shared folder holding many sections relating to the customers in our rapid adoption program, and what issues they are facing)

OneNote ideas (section with random ideas for OneNote features that I’ve had)

Analysts (section for notes on what industry analysts have said about OneNote)


OneNote Archive (folder that holds old sections from the first release or others sections that I don’t need to see these days)

Text Services (folder)


People (section with pages that hold things I need to raise with my direct reports or others when I meet with them)


Personal (folder)

Blog (section for past and future blog entries)

House (section to hold shopping research, punch list for remodel, etc.)

Seiko (shared section via my personal web site with my wife’s two machines, work and home, and my three machines – two work, one home)


Notes emailed to Me (folder that OneNote creates to hold random stuff I get emailed)

Other notes I’ve Seen (folder OneNote creates to hold random stuff I open off of file shares, etc)


Stuff I don’t like about my organization and the experience of using it:

  1. My inbox section keeps filling up with scraps of info that have no category, but it seems lame to clean it out and put them in a “random facts” section, so it just grows and grows.

  2. I can’t easily see more than one page at a time – sort of like if I had to have all the papers on my desk in a pile at all times even when I was using them (FYI, although I am not a hard-core “paperless” guy, I actually have NO paper on my desk – I never print stuff and I throw out anything I get on paper because I never refer to it later- too hard/I’m too lazy to organize for retrieval)

  3. I can’t have items show up in two places at once without duplicating them.

  4. Can’t link between items.

Hmm, I could go on but I want to hear what you folks have to say.

Comments (95)

  1. Mica says:

    I have a OneNote book to keep track of software serial numbers.

  2. Jerome says:

    it’s nice you use OneNote effectively, since you mentioned you have desktop and portable tablet, do you synchronize them?

  3. I don’t synchronize them the way you might think. At work, I share my desktop notebook folder and have offline folders enabled for my tablet, so I can see my desktop’s notebook on my tablet, and work on it too. When I get back on the network (if I was ever off), then it syncs back. For my home machine, I don’t "sync" so much as have a couple of sections that I keep on my web site and have opened on my work and home desktops (I also have these open on my tablet, but I never really access them from there). One thing we want to do in the future is make syncing more transparent, but between a USB dongle, offline folders, and shared web location I am doing Ok enough (some people also use 3rd party syncing utilities)

  4. MikeWo says:

    I use OneNote for the following:

    Work: To take meeting notes, research notes on bugs, feature ideas, or design concepts. The flagging capability is great for making a summary page for my action items for a meeting, or lists of things I need to research, etc.

    Personal: I use OneNote to do research while studying for certifications, looking into products, etc. I also use OneNote as a type of recipe box and store various recipes in it sorted by type(sections). Another personal use is for travel arrangement notes or plans.

    At my last job OneNote was just coming out and there were a few of us that picked it up. It started big there when I was leaving and I really got some mileage on the sending and sharing of notes files; however, at my current job I’m the only one that uses it (of course, I’m the only one with a tablet too). I think I’m missing out on the great collaboration capabilities of the application.

    I agree wih Chirs that this product REALLY needs to be able to link notes together. Something as simple as a type of anchor link would be great for inter-note links. I think this is one of my greatest beefs about OneNote.

    Oh, and a few drawing tools would be nice….nothing spectacular or anything. I’m specifically thinking about a few tools that would could draw a straight line, circle, etc. Mostly the straight line would be nice.


    I have it installed on my Tablet and on my desktop at home. I would say that 95% of my usage is on my Tablet. The notebooks are shared between the two machines using Offline folders. I have several sections at the top level of the hierarchy, and then three sub folders. The sub folders are IT, Work, Persoinal. In the IT section are mostly things I’ve grabbed off the internet, from email mailing lists, RSS feeds, etc. relating to IT stuff. The personal section has sections for note taking on purchases, stuff about our website, etc. The work section has different sections for each project. I attend a lot of meetings and conference calls, so I take notes during these, usually in ink. I also collect things (copy and paste) related to these projects, or type things in. I use the flags quite a bit. I haven’t yet tried to use audio or video recording (I’m using the SP1 preview.)

  6. Ryan says:

    I would definitely like to see some type of zoom or multipage feature. I sometimes use One Note for basic class or database designs, to flush out ideas floating in my head. I like to keep these in One Note so I don’t have a million scraps of paper when I go into meetings. I often hit a place where I feel like I’m looking through a magnifying glass of a small section of a diagram with no way to see the bigger picture or have a larger area to work in.

    Also, I know from your previous posts Inking isn’t 100% where you’d like it to be, but there are definitely issues working with drawn diagrams. I tend to try not to move anything in those cases, since pieces of boxes and such will get mangled.

  7. TristanK says:

    At work, most days, when researching, on my desktop (I don’t have a tablet).

    I love the pasting-from-IE support, and I think the customers I work with appreciate the consistency of presentation when pasting a Note into an email.

    I also tend to use it to compose blog entries (if I plan them at all), before copy-pasting them into .Text via Notepad to strip the Office Formatting.

    I was hoping to find an API I could use (preferably from C#) to enable posting direct from a OneNote region; if it’s there, I can’t find it. Next version? 🙂

  8. anakashian says:

    I don’t use OneNote because the demo version I downloaded could not activate itself through my company’s fire wall ;_;

  9. Anil Dash says:

    We all use OneNote to take notes during meetings, and I use it instead of the plain text files I tend to have littered across my desktop, but we’re *desperate* for OneNote to support one of the weblog APIs so it can post to Movable Type and let us blog notes as we take them.

  10. Travis Illig says:

    I use OneNote mostly for meeting note taking. Only real problem I’ve had is that the page tabs along the right aren’t big enough to show more than about 12 characters, so if you have several pages with similar titles, you’re hosed. It would be nice to be able to expand those (at least temporarily) to see the complete page titles, and/or display the date the page was created/last modified in the tab.

  11. I use OneNote for customer engagements. I have tabs for each customer, project, and then I drill down into deliverables.

    I also use OneNote for creative writing. It seems to work perfectly for breaking up and organizing my stories so that I can jump around to different sections easily.

    The one thing I would like to see changed is from a strict dimensional approach to a more hyper-dimensional approach similar to how wiki’s function. I’d like to be able to select a word or sentence and "Create Topic Page" based on that selection. I’d prefer not to use the camel case paradigm from the wiki. In OneNote, this should be an explicitly action.

    If the hyperlinking functionality were added, OneNote would probably become my primary work tool.

  12. Adam Young says:

    Overall, OneNote is now an app I really couldn’t live without! I have two OneNote notebooks, one for technical notes which I have on my work laptop, and a personal one on my home laptop. I keep these completely separate, although it would be cool to be able to synchronise the two in some seamless way. I generally like the way OneNote works, but it would be good if the hierarchical view of the notebook structure was more "integral", and allowed you to view / navigate through pages and subpages. Also, if you could apply a text label to subpages that would be good – if you have a lot of notes on a particular subject, I tend to group related ideas and have a subpage for each, and at the moment this makes it hard to locate things because all of the subpages are blank. I primarily use OneNote as an electronic scrapbook, and use the Publish feature a lot, so perhaps a fancy full-screen "print preview" feature, a bit like Word’s new Reading mode, would allow me to navigate through my notes a little easier… Also, automatically republishing my notes to my chosen location whenever I make changes in OneNote would be good…

  13. Michel Lopez says:

    Cool piece of software.

    But, useless until a release comes out, supporting use & sync with PocketPC.

    Or, a cheap "trade in" for swapping PDA to Tablet PC? -:)

    By the way my CrossPad with Radio Frequency Pen is still working well. ( )

  14. Darron says:

    I essentially use OneNote as a design notebook and Internet research scrapbook. I used the new import API to create a toolbar for IE, IE2OneNote (following the public naming convention) that, among other things, allows me to copy selected text without having to change program focus. I find that my usage peaks after the initial concept stage where pen and paper still rule.

  15. Marc Orchant says:

    OneNote is nearly indispensable for me. One use that hasn’t been touched on (I do a lot of the same things you do Chris as well as other commenters to this post) is pop open a Side Note whenever I’m on the phone or watching web-based presentations (training, webinars, etc.) The Side Note feature is often overlooked but for me is an outstanding way to remind myself not to be "lazy" when I’m in a note-taking environment.

    So for me, the default Side Notes tab (where these new notes get dumped) is my "OneNote Inbox). I check that tab at least once a day, add titles, and move the notes to the appropriate category.

    My only big gripes about OneNote are that it does not have Word Count or Find & Change! C’mon… how hard can it be to add these basis text processing tools?

  16. Miss Julie says:

    I like to think I think for a living. That being said, with truth in advertising, I don’t make a living by thinking. When OneNote was first announced, I knew the the terrific potential it held — certainly in my imagination. I was waiting for the second generation of tablet PC’s to evolve before biting the bullet and getting started.

    As it turns out, I love the tablet PC, but I don’t really use OneNote to do my deep thinking. By deep thinking I mean when I am really struggling with something, some concept that is not at all clear in my head, and I make hundreds of scratchy notes — sometimes on one page, sometimes on many pages. It is like the chicken scratch that is waiting for the egg to evolve.

    This I do in a program I have found called GoBinder. And I can enumerate the characteristics in GoBinder that makes it my choice:

    1. I can print to GoBinder. So I print out the articles I want to read, leaving myself plenty of margin for my notes.

    2. GoBinder doesn’t have these "containers." OK, I suspect that it does, but they are much more transparent than they are in OneNote. (When I first started using OneNote, I set it to where the containers would show — and then they started driving me nuts. I was focusing more on the containers then I was focusing on what I was trying to think about.)

    GoBinder is written by the same folks who did the Franklin Covey tablet planner.

    Where OneNote shines is in my intermediate thinking. (My thinking rarely gets beyond the intermediate stage.) When thoughts are finally beginning to "coalesce," I put them into OneNote. But, I do not scribble them into OneNote (writing in OneNote makes me nervous) — I dictate them into OneNote since I like the tablet in the tablet mode.

    I have been a long-term user of Dragon NaturallySpeaking, so I use that rather than trying to learn and retrain the Microsoft speech recognition engine. Dragon NaturallySpeaking is supposed to be compatible with all Microsoft Office programs — however, it does have a raft of idiosyncrasies when correcting in OneNote. I suspect there are dramatic differences in how text is inputted between Word and OneNote.

    Even with these idiosyncrasies, OneNote is where I want to keep all of my intermediate thinking, and build on it. I trust OneNote more than I do GoBinder — which has crashed on me and eaten files along with it. In OneNote is a much more capable program in general.

    I love the searching capability of OneNote. I like the ability to demarcate with flags. I like the way things are displayed — with the folders and the notes. I can find things, and I can build on thinking quite easily.

    I also like the way that OneNote captures other resources — like web pages or pictures.

    And, when I do do that Opus Magnum, I’ll be sure to post an announcement at this site.

    Otherwise, thank you for the tremendous amount of thinking and hard work that has gone into the creation of OneNote. I would not want to do without it.

  17. Philip Wheat says:

    If you’re using the SP1 Beta, there’s a new feature where you can share and publish your OneNote pages.

    I use it for my reference store and to keep track of documents I’m working on before I ship them to others. It’s very nice to be able to keep the information off machine and still be able to access it.

    Also look at for a nice use.

  18. I don’t have a tablet, yet :(. So I use OneNote on my desktop to keep track of temporary items (like to keep track of time spent on different work tasks, and take notes to remind me to discuss on my next meeting).

    I use Outlook’s notes for longer-lasting data.

  19. Tejas Patel says:

    OK, here is what I use it for:-

    Research:- I do online research for many things, and instead of bookmarking it, I copy the necessary bit and pieces from websites and copy it to OneNote (in this way I also get the link of the page from where I copied the Note). I have a section for this.

    Work:- Although I use Outlook’s To do list or reminders, I create a to do list using the inbuilt templates.

    For taking notes

    Personal:- I maintain a list of things I have to get done in my household, which bills are to be paid.

    Studies:- Taking notes while I do my studies.

    Blog:- If I am making a long article or a article based on some research, than I put it into OneNote first, although I hate that I cannot create hyperlinks straight from OneNote (did I miss something?), so don’t really prefer this method.

    Also, I have a section which has to blog section in it.

    Taking Snapshot:- I use it to take snapshots of the desktop images and send it to somebody or use it for other purposes.

  20. Jeff Hanley says:

    Side Notes – my ‘Inbox’ or scratch folder for thought and data capture.

    Meetings – In addition to my own meeting notes, I receive email summaries and ‘minutes’ of other meetings for later reference and referal.

    Sys Ref – these are various pieces of reference data I have collected related to my work here in the human spaceflight program. Many are documents I’ve imported using the "Document as Picture" feature.

    Projects –

    Subfolders for Webtool ideas, Exploration Vision notes, Lessons Learned, and other internal projects in which I am participating or leading.

    Office Internal –

    Subfolders for internal team notes, logs, general notes to keep, phone+pager list.

    Personal –

    Used the Onenote defaults for General, Travel, Scrapbook, Shopping, Journal, etc… lightly used since my Tablet is mostly a work machine.

    I sampled Onenote when it first came out but did not invest myself in using it due to some of its limitations – mostly in the area of getting things INTO Onenote… when SP1 came out, I decided to seriously try it and have been pleased with the direction it is heading… despite it still having some substantial limitations. I look forward to the day when it has true OLE connectivity to the other elements of Office so that notes would have all the primary functionality of Word (tables would really be nice), you can import documents directly into Onenote (not just as images or pictures) and have all that text completely searchable, and bind it more closely to Outlook since so much ‘content’ comes in the form of email. I greatly anticipate the ‘powertoys’ folks have been developing such as the IE2Onenote or Outlook2Onenote plugins that will make porting something into Onenote much easier. Have been using the PP2Onenote app to import powerpoint slides in both images and text containers, which is an improvement but still not quite the same as being able to "bind" PP charts into the binder and be able to search and sort, etc.

    I have recently seen press reports on some "Onenote" like features included in the new version of Word for the Mac… this basically seems to give "Onenote" functionality to Word instead of "Word" functionality to Onenote… can we expect similar functionality in the next version of Word for the PC?

  21. Ryan: OneNote does have Zoom – it is on the standard toolbar as a edit combo-box dropdown. Also try ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+HYPHEN for zoom out, use ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+PLUS SIGN for zoom in.

    Travis: in the Sp1 preview, you can resize the page tabs (put your mouse on the edge of the page and click-drag left/right)

    Adam: in SP1 preview, you can get labels onto subpages – we now use the first text on the subpage as its title.

    Michel, in the Sp1 preview, you can do a "one way sync" with a PocketPC. Your notes are copied into a section in OneNote called "copied from PocketPC". This will always show the notes you have on the PPC after you sync the device. You can move or change these items once they are in OneNote. there is no syncing from OneNote to the device.

    Miss Julie, in the SP1 preview, you can insert documents into OneNote if they are MS office formats. Otherwise you can print to the Microsoft Office Document Imaging Writer if you have office2003. Then insert the resulting multipage TIFF using the Insert Document feature. To get around some of the inking things in OneNote, try setting your pen to always be interpreted as a drawing – there is a button for this on the drawing and writing tools (in RTM or SP1 preview, you’ll need to click the QuickCustomize arrow at the end of the toolbar and add it.)

    The features people have mentioned are all pretty high on our list so take heart.

    Jeff Hanley: the Mac team didn’t feel they could support a Mac version of OneNote, so they took a subset of OneNote features (and only ones that work at the page level, not section or notebook, since Word has no concept of those) and put what they could into Word. Word will never be able to do the kinds of things OneNote does already, (e.g. real-time sharing of pages), so you won’t see duplication of OneNote features in WinWord – OneNote is a code base we designed to give us years of exciting new capabilities.

  22. Colin Walker says:

    OneNote (SR1 preview) has been indispensible in the last week as I have been predominantly using it to plan training notes for a Outlook 2003 course that I had to provide this week. Inking is far more intuitive for this purpose than typing.

    The most useful features I’ve made the most use of are (in reverse order) drag/drop from IE and emails and Screen Clipping. Screen Clipping makes writing technical training notes an absolute joy – just being able to instantly clip specific dialogs or sections of menus etc. is wonderful.

    I tend not to attend meetings so use OneNote more as an information gathering tool and virtual whiteboard to get ideas down as they come to me. Most of my use is on the Tablet when sat on the train commuting to and from work.

  23. htmc says:

    I don’t use OneNote, because I’m afraid of it.

    I’m afraid of it because:

    a) I can’t open OneNote files in any program except OneNote. I can’t even view them in notepad to try to extract the data if I’m desperate. This isn’t helpful, especially when important information is locked away in those files. This unpleasant fact has caused me a great deal of angst and is the primary reason why I’m not using OneNote any more. Additionally, OneNote only gives me the option to save my data as mhtml files (at least, that’s what I recall; I don’t have it installed anymore). mhtml files are really handy for collaboration, since they can’t be edited and only seem to work on Windows. I admire the rationale behind the decision to allow exporting from one unusable format to another unusable format. At least copy and paste sort of works.

    b) I don’t understand it. I’m not yet fully comfortable with the auto-save thing. It seems to be doing a good job of preserving my data, but Microsoft’s past software releases have left me with a deep-seated neurosis about saving files often. When I can’t satisfy this urge, I get nervous. I also don’t know how OneNote will handle a crash — will my information be preserved? Where? How?

    c) OneNote doesn’t really use the ‘file’ paradigm that Word and Excel and most other programs use. I know there are OneNote files hiding in my ‘my documents’ folder, but control over these files isn’t explicit in the program. It bugs me, even though it shouldn’t. I guess I can understand why OneNote works like this.

    d) I can’t view OneNote files on my PocketPC, although I hear this will be addressed in the service pack, or something. This is very important for me and for many people I’ve spoken with.

    It really bothers me that OneNote makes me sound like a rabid Slashdot reader. I don’t really care about file formats and open standards and the like, but I find myself forced to agree with them. This is disappointing.

  24. Jeff Hanley says:

    Thanks, Chris, for the feedback on future WinWord plans.

    Just to append my original input above, I have also been using SP1 on my desktop as well as my tablet… where, actually, I am getting just as much use out of it. As recently as yesterday, I have used Onenote as a ‘container’ for collaboration meetings where we are reviewing charts and info together as a team, where I have Onenote projected up on the screen and can log actions and significant comments for all to see.

    In the control center here at JSC, I have also tested using Onenote in a couple of different ways to keep log notes while on console supporting the International Space Station. One of these tests included connecting our voice keyset audio to my tablet and taking log notes while recording the voice loop traffic – allowing me to go back during significant events and replay the audio associated with a certain log entry (very cool). The primary limitations of Onenote in this application were the lack of support for tables, and limitations on timetagging of entries… SP1 adds the ‘Insert date and time’ feature, but the format of the time is not programmable or selectable – and in our business we reference all of our work to GMT in a DOY/HH:MM:SS format. I did find a third party app, however, called "Sticky Keys" that does give me this flexibility and works well with Onenote.

  25. Jeff Hanley says:

    And one additional comment, relating to sync’ing… since I am using SP1 on multiple PC’s, I carry my notebook around with me on a USB Flash drive. This works ok for now. I have tried to point Onenote to the flash drive for my notebook in the Options, but it won’t allow that since its a ‘removable media’ or some such reason. So every time I want to open my notebook I have to first copy the latest version from my USB key to "My Documents", then update my notebook, then copy it back when I’m done. What would be useful is some kind of utility that basically ‘mirror’s’ a USB key content automatically when it is plugged in, allows Onenote to reference it in the "Open and Save" settings, and syncs the mirror with the USB key every time the key is plugged in.

  26. I use OneNote throughout the day to:

    (1) outline papers and books;

    (2) to-do lists and brainstorming;

    (3) collecting info for later perusal.

    I do not use Side Notes, however.

  27. Tim Willoughby says:

    Use OneNote Favourites instead of IE Favourites, can store a context (which of course is searchable..) nothing worse that storing a favourite and then forgetting where you stored it.. and worse still – why you stored it!

  28. Chris Maddocks says:

    I use OneNote exclusively for school-related note-taking, in lecture and out.

    I’d say 80% of my usage is on my tablet (handwritten), and 20% on my desktop.

    I tried the audio recording feature, but in a large lecture hall an integrated mic is pretty useless. Using Office Document Imaging, I scan in diagrams from my textbooks and insert these into the notes — a few steps could be removed from this process, but the idea is great.

    However, I’ve recently gone back to Windows Journal for lecture situations. The killer feature which OneNote is lacking is the print driver that Julie mentions: I can print a document directly into Journal (or GoBinder) and then ink it up. As you mention, Chris, OneNote can "Insert Document as Picture", but it’s that last phrase that kills me: because it’s an image, I can’t search through the document!

    Being able to search through the documents I insert is a high priority for me. It would be akin to you printing an entire webpage into OneNote, Chris, instead of just pasting snippets — say if you’re reading an online journal article or book review.

    The other thing that Journal does nicely is the templates / background images. I can select any JPG as a background image for my notepad (with varying degrees of transperancy), and some of the preloaded ones include sheet music (great for music majors ;)) and calendars. Might be out of the paradigm of OneNote, but I like the Journal feature nonetheless.

    Thanks for your blog!

  29. Chris Pratley has another excellent column on his blog about OneNote. How do you use OneNote? How do you use OneNote? Although we have several different ways to collect information about how OneNote is used, I am always interested to

  30. I just started using OneNote this week for a new project. I do a lot of Internet research on the software industry so I use it practically exclusively for this purpose. But just slipped into also using it to throw in some un-research related brainstorming ideas as well.

    Now I *really* like your blog post idea – I too am working on several simultaneous posts at one time and found that’s too just frustrating to manage more than 2-3 at a time in Typepad.

    I had a question, if let’s say I convince the VP of Marketing to use OneNote, what is the best way to merge our independent research efforts into one OneNote file…I am having trouble figuring out how to do that…it doesn’t necessarily need to be real-time collaborative but a way to consolidate all the data collected among 2-3 folks would be useful.

  31. htmc: re your points:

    a) I understand where you are coming from on this – we use the format we have because it enables certain things (e.g. super-fast incremental save, super-robust file anti-corruption tech, etc). Exposing your content in other formats e.g. XML is a goal for the future. BTW, MTHML is just HTML wrapped into a single file. We chose it because unlike HTML, it is easy to mail to someone else who does not have OneNote but probably has IE or Word or another app that can handle MHTML. Try doing that with a collection of HTML files and pictures – pretty messy and hard to succeed at. It is viewable in at least IE and Word without modifiaction, but you can also open it in notepad or any HTML editor and see the contents. SP1 adds the ability to save files as Word *.doc, which is viewable cross platform (or so many people tell me :-))

    b) just get used to it. Many people have your reaction for the first week or two, then they wonder why they have to keep hitting Ctrl-S in other programs – OneNote does it for you.

    c) Actually, we were trying to innovate on the file concept on purpose, so that you don’t have to remember where you stored things, and what they are called, and constantly open and close them. OneNote uses files for sections, and you can open or close these if you wish (I wouldn’t bother), as well as move them around in the filesystem outside of OneNote. Next time you start OneNote, it will recognize the new config and adjust the notebook display. How is this not using files like Word/Excel?

    d) the service pack adds the ability to see notes you take/record on your pocketPC or SmartPhone in OneNote, but not the reverse. That is a much harder problem and fortunately not as commonly asked for as the other direction.


  32. Jeff Hanley: First, can I just say it is so cool that OneNote is somehow connected to the space station. Now my life is complete 🙂

    Insert Date and time uses the "short date format you specify in the date and time control panel – try changing it there. You would have to switch your system to GMT to get that to be the time zone used though I think.

    Your sync request is very common and we have some ideas around that. Have you tried saving just individual sections to the USB drive (rather than the entire notebook) – we allow that, and then they are available whenever the USB drive is plugged in (as long as it uses the same drive letter.)

    Chris Maddocks: the SP1 preview allows you to set an image as a background to make stationery, for example. Also, check out the OneNote music stationery on Help/Microsoft Office Online). Searching inserted docs – yup had to cut that for the Sp1 sadly…

    Evelyn: the easiest way to collaborate with your colleagues is to use File/Share with others (in Sp1 preview). Pick a file share or SharePoint location to move the section to. Now tell the others where this is, and have them open it. Now the section appears in all three of your notebooks. Have the others move their pages into the shared section (or cut/paste the pages). Done. Be aware that you can’t work on this section at exactly the same time as the others (that requires the real-time feature), but it works great for research that you each do on your own at different times of the day.

  33. Sam Smith says:

    As a writer I am always wanting to jot down notes in a completely disorganised way. I use it to put down a thought or an idea, be it a source of humor I might want to try and fit in somewhere at some stage, a plot idea, etc.

  34. Xipe says:

    I’ve just started using it (promted from reading this post), so I don’t know how well it will work for me yet.

    What I do feel it is lacking though is networked support, or am I missing features here? For something like this to be _truly_ useful for me I should be able to access my OneNote database from anywhere — home, work, when travelling, at friend’s places.

    I’m sure I’ll find uses for it anyways — as I’m probably in just the right demographics (read my blog post at — but just being able to access it from afar would be so great (a total seller for me).

  35. Scott Messinger says:

    I use OneNote to organize thoughts for papers and to keep minutes of meetings. However, I would like to use OneNote for hand notetaking in class. I’m anxiously awaiting for the ink support to achieve the usability of Journal *(namely the lasso tool and the page after page feature elaborated on below) And I have a seemingly very, very small tweak, I wish I could specify a smaller size for the ink in OneNote. Is that something that could be easily added? Now, even on the smallest setting, the pen is just too big.

    Also, I would really, really appreciate being able to view my pages one directly after another–as you can in Word and Journal. While I enjoy the page tab concept, while taking notes, I don’t want to have to create a new page tab during the middle of a meeting. I want a new page automatically created for me. Now, I just keeping typing on one page tab until I’m done. When I go to print out my notes, I don’t know where the page breaks will be. In essence, I would like the page tabs to link to part of a longer OneNote page. Is that making any sense? If it is, is that a practical, feasible request that might be implemented? Or is that outside the realm of the OneNote paradigm? Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable using OneNote if I always have to stop my work to create a new page tab. And then to view my notes, keep clicking/tapping tabs on the right to see stuff–it makes it impossible to view information at the bottom of one page and at the top of another page at the same time. Thanks so much for posting a blog. I find it quite cool to be able to dialogue with the programers behind the programs that shape my working life.

  36. Xipe: I store some of my note sections on my personal web site, then open those directly (just type in the URL to File/Open Section) from other machines. Those sections are then accessible from each of my machines; however they are not accessible offline.

    Scott: if you are using SP1 preview, after selecting a pen, go back to the pen dropdown and choose "customize current pen". You can type whatever pen thickness you want. The default for "thin" is 0.35mm – you can type any number in there – try .15mm. BTW, if the pen size really is too big at .35mm, it may be that you have zoom set to 200%, or your screen res is too low (e.g. 800×600 on a 12" screen). Be sure you are seeing the "thin" pen they way it was intended before you go making it thinner. Otherwise when you print it might be too thin!

    For creating new pages one below the other, you have to have the page size set to "automatic" in page setup . This is the default – since we assumed people would be like you and want to just type without creating new pages most of the time. If you change this and choose a specific page size (e.g. letter), you only get one sheet per page tab. Automatic pages are infinite in length and breadth, so as you type, they add white space, although as you say you will not know exactly where the page breaks will be if you were to print the notes (many people never print). Providing a print layout view like a word processor wasn’t high on the priority list for 2003 since most people have Word for doing great presentation of their typed text. OneNote is focused on notes, not formatting and presentation, but we’ll consider it for next time. You can also click the little button just below the scrollbar to add 2/3 of a screen worth of white space if you want extra room quickly. (or just arrow key down)

    BTW, a neat trick to browse all your notes sort of like flipping pages is to click on the first page in the stack, and drag the mouse downward while holding the mouse button down – we call this "riffling". You get to see all the pages in your notebook this way, so you can recognize something visually rather than just by title.

    Also, some keyboard shortcuts (from Help/Keyboard shortcuts)

    CTRL+N: new page

    CTRL+SHIFT+N: new subpage

  37. Chris:

    I’ve got a little more detail in an entry in my blog at, but here is a summary…

    I have 2 functions that might be a little different than what you conveyed– 1) a ad-hoc MHT web page builder, and 2) an "e-Wallet" (see my blog for a better explanation).

    Also, here are a few of my "future wishes"…

    – a better way to display the folder and section tabs, so I can orient myself to where I am in my organizational hierarchy.

    – the ability to link to containers on other pages

    – password protected containers and/or pages


    – I recently tried to plan a weekend getaway for my wife and I to Canmore… I used ink to write Canmore, but the dictionary/recognizer ALWAYS interpreted it as "Can More" no matter what I tried— so needless to say search never found my ink when I looked for Canmore.

    – Note Flag limit– I’m curious how the development team settled on 9?

    Keep up the great work!


  38. htmc says:

    Thank you for addressing my concerns, and for running a blog in general. The insights you provide and the attention you give to your customers through this forum are greatly appreciated.

    After reading your comments, I reinstalled OneNote and gave it another shot. Overlooking my earlier concerns, it’s an impressive program. It’s well thought out and designed, and it has tremendous potential.

    As a student, one of the applications I have found for OneNote is to annotate documents. Since I use it on a conventional (ie. non-tablet) computer, I can’t use ink to mark up the document, but I find the combination of note flags and the summary features to be very compelling. I’ve dropped websites or OCR-ed text into OneNote and gone through it, tagging important bits using the flags and then pulling up a summary which I can then use to study from. It’s great.

    Unfortunately, I can’t apply note flags to sentences or strings within a larger body of text. The flag will apply to the entire paragraph of text. This may be appropriate when applying the ‘to do’ flag, but when I’m trying to mark a sentence as being a definition, it’s not so useful. Is there a technical reason that makes it infeasible to apply flags to portions of paragraphs only? Is this something that could be changed in future versions?

    Otherwise, I’m a bigger fan of OneNote than I was a week ago. Thanks!

  39. Michael, I suggest you get the SP1 preview and give it a try. It has two of your requests solved already. You can now have 25 note flags, and you can password protect sections. BTW, we settled on 9 originally because the shortcut keys are Ctrl 1-9, and 9 seemed like enough. We got a lot of feedback to increase the limit, so we did in Sp1, but there aren’t convenient shortcut keys for 10-25. For the "Canmore" issue, OneNote just uses the handwriting recognition of the Tablet PC, so look into how to add words to the system – then they will work in OneNote.

    htmc: yes, there is a technical limitation in the first version that links note flags to "paragraphs", since we were focusing on notes, not essays (we’re not a word processor). Maybe in the future we will enable flagging selections.

  40. KC Lemson says:

    I have a few main sections:

    #1: Meetings

    * Each subpage is a separate meeting I’ve had recently

    #2: Release Management

    * Partner relationships

    * Open issues

    * Long-term problems to solve

    #3: 1 on 1s

    * Each sub-page is titled with the date of my 1:1 with my manager

    #4: Interviews

    * There’s a sub-page for each candidate I’ve interviewed recently.

    #5: SQM

    * I’m also working on SQM, and I keep miscellaneous notes related to what we’re doing, business questions we’re collecting, meetings with other products about it, etc.

    #6: Cabinet

    * There is a monthly meeting from which I want to persist my notes (and don’t want them to get lost in my ‘meetings’ section), so I keep them here.

    #7: To Blog

    * Different categories of things to blog, one category per sub-page ("Outlook", "software development", etc). All just a laundry list of the things I’ll eventually get around to writing up. I use this in conjunction with a folder in outlook… if I get an email with something in it that’s a good idea to blog, I just move the email to that folder. Otherwise I’ll jot it down in onenote. When I’m looking for something to blog, i’ll scan the folder and onenote.

    Looking back on this, I realized I’m not really much of a power user. I think what would help me become one is a ‘tip of the day’, didn’t Word used to have that? I subscribe to a mailing list run by one of the MVPs with onenote tips and I use that – bit by bit I learn about features and how to use them, then I fit them into my workflow.

    I use both ink & type, although lately I’ve been favoring typing since I can fit more on a single page at a time. I love that it indexes my ink for searching though, so amazing.

    I only have two real complaints… #1 no way to draw tables (or even copy them in from the clipboard, from an excel spreadsheet or web page for example), #2 the character length on the subpages. I wish I could choose the width of those tabs, because I often want to title my pages with more descriptive names, and I am OK with it taking up real estate.

    It must be fun to work on a product that nearly everyone pretty much adores 🙂

  41. KC: I just wish more people knew about it so they could adore it 🙂

    BTW, my tip for you is to drag the right edge of the page to make the tabs wider so you can see more of the label (only in Sp1). Also, if you have Sp1, be sure to check out the "Helpful tips" notebook section. This has about 20 tips in it.

  42. Michel says:

    > Michel, in the Sp1 preview, you can do a "one way sync" with a PocketPC

    That is THE real bad move/choise from this comming SP1(?) version

    (the ? is because of the lack of french SP1 version… and of course "If you have a Multilingual User Interface (MUI) Pack installed on your computer, we recommend that you do not install the OneNote 2003 SP1 Preview" What were you thinking in building that ?)

    The lack of integration with the Outlook/exchange regular notes is the feature that make this product a not corporate selection.. Think about it!

    More generaly the office 2003 team has completly missed "non english language features" from early stages.

    But also clearly forgot the synchronisation/evolution of the features/versions of all the pocket versions of those office/ppc products !

    Maybe have to wait for 2005 version….

  43. Michel, the Sp1 preview is a "preview" – the real SP1 (due in about a month) will be released in French as well. I am confused about your comment that "more generally the Office2003 team has missed non-English features". Normally we do not release a preview of service packs at all – in this case we wanted people to have a chance to comment on what still needed improvement.

    Regarding the integration with Outlook/Exchange regular notes, can you describe what you would like to see exactly? Also, could you elaborate on the synchronization/evolution of "all the PocketPC versions…"? I’m afraid I am unclear on what you expect.

  44. Michel says:

    > the real SP1 (due in about a month) will be released in French as well

    OK, but currently all the pre-version of "soon to come" products/fix/preview are only released in english language. Some are in German/japanese. At last they should all be released fully supporting MUI, so that overseas could also be part of some "evaluation/qualitfication project" at real early stages.

    My point is that cutting down in the eg french (but also true for many others languages) preview/beta BEFORE release just doesn’t make any users having good input/view about those technical roadmap. Some days it will be difficult to explain why every non english market will have a 2 years time difference as compare with US version sofware. Not forgeting the very high number of office 97 or office 2000 users still live here…

    For example, here in France, because of the non french Beta XP SP2, corporate evaluations will, at best, start by this end of this year.

    Then evaluation for office 2003 SP1 will start next year at best!

    I really think this his NOT a good move in a country/market where the level of desktop migration to XP is the among the worst.

    Not forgetting that all the marketing public buz are cleary currently going to the Longhorn direction, I really think that a lot of big users will one more time take the risk to skip release.

    Feature definition/evaluation can not be a US only way of thinking, it has also to be real in others countries. Being closed beta or almost open preview does not change that.

    >integration with Outlook/Exchange regular notes

    When you start talking with corporate users, you simply discover that the problem is about the simple notes features that was already build inside Exchange/outlook. Those users are not sure, a "new" office application was needed. But because the features level of onenote is interrsting, they always endup asking why has not it been an evolution of the outlook/exchange note (sub)system? In a this kind of environment it is about backup, users right/ security, less managment cost … and also viewers….

    > synchronization/evolution of "all the PocketPC versions

    Simple example Pocket Outlook is quite old now but nobody has yet started to build some kind of features evolutions to keep the functionnality "some how" in sync with what is happening in the desktop office evolutions.

    In this area OneNote and Infopath are the best examples, not PDA support at initial release, how was it possible to forget those "mobility" needs, not even any simple viewer, or direct Exchange publication/integration, regulars attachments can not replace "in place readable".

  45. Well, Longhorn is a much bigger deal than a OneNote Sp1 preview – I agree with you there. But bear in mind there are always tradeoffs. A "beta" of anything is done to try to catch problems. Adding additional languages to a beta does not help find too many additional problems, so we pick representative languages like Japanese and German – these are the largest markets in language groups that have similar technical issues. Yes, we could also do French, but that wouldn’t find too many additional problems beyond what German provides, and in any case the Italians and Spanish and Swedish and so on would then ask where the preview is in their language – you have to draw the line somewhere unless doing all languages is really the goal. But we know that the additional feedback for each additional language is very low, so we balanced our need for feedback with our desire to get the actual shipping patch out to everyone.

    Your point about evaluation is a good one, provided there is a significant time delay between the beta and the final release. In OneNote’s case, doing a French or MUI version would have added complexity and therefore additional time to our schedule, resulting in the actual final SP1 for all languages taking even longer. Would you rather have a French preview in May and final French SP1 code in Sept, or an English-only preview in April and a final French SP1 in July? We only have about 10 weeks from preview to final – that’s not really significant in terms of evaluations, so getting you the final code in your language earliest seemed best.

    Integration with Outlook/Exchange – yes that is a common question. Of course, the storage requirements for the simple text notes in Outlook are far smaller than what OneNote stores, with text/ink/images/audio/video. Allowing end-users to store GBs of personal data in Exchange is not really feasible for most companies. But the desire is real, so we’re looking at potential solutions – this was beyond the scope of our first release.

    PocketPC versions of apps – this is an example where it is a matter of priorities. Microsoft doesn’t have infinite resources, and work is done only when there is a return on investment. You’ll see refreshed versions of Pocket Office apps, but not as often as you’ll see them for the much larger desktop market. Doing OneNote for PPC is a fine idea, but realistically some things have to come before others – they can’t all be done at once. We did add syncing with the existing PPC notetaking tool in SP1.

  46. I’ve been struggling a lot about OneNote since I bought it.

    My first need, what drove me to OneNote, was a quest for the good tool to do my journaling. I like writing, but I don’t have much time to write. 100 wpm on a keyboard is a good incentive to write on a computer instead of on paper, especialy if you’re concerned like me about the time it takes to write. I tried many tools but never wanted to stick to anyone of them. They’re all little tools that you don’t know if they’ll continue to be supported and to evolve in the next years, and that don’t do all that you’d like them to do. I also wanted my journal entries to sync to (but not necessarily from) my PPC. Finally, I discovered a new phobia : closed or not popular file formats without good exportability options.

    My first happy finding was Franklin Covey PlanPlus 3.0 for Outlook. Not only could I organize my note-taking (which is more than journaling), I could also get a better hold on my life’s organization! But only half of it was working for me since it was always crashing…! It didn’t sync my notes to PPC, though, but when I found this caveat I had kind of lessened on that requirement since I had found nothing good enough on that regard. (One tool was doing it but the files would get corrupted in the way of doing it!)

    When I discovered that Tablet Planner 3 could be run on WinXp without a Tablet PC (that’s why the newest version is now called Plan Plus 4 for Windows), I was really happy. I tried it and bought it. It was really good, but I didn’t like the poor export features and closed file format. I also didn’t like the unoptimized database way of holding data. I also really didn’t like how clumsy it was – the UI is so user(or paper)-friendly that you can’t select three notes to move them to a different folder! You have to do three drag and drops… I hated the fact that I couldn’t print a list of the titles of my notes in a folder. And they never replied to my comments. Now, I don’t even want to try the new version – I know it won’t be good enough for me.

    A couple of days before buying TP, I heard about OneNote on some blogs. I was enthusiastic about it but I didn’t understand it worked on WinXP not on a Tablet PC (sorry, I know you are not happy with that). When I discovered that this app, too, was usable on my computer, I downloaded it. I enjoyed it really more than TP. Copy-pasting is much better. I missed the print-to-TP feature, which allowed thereafter to search keywords even in what had been printed to TP. Other than that, OneNote really outbeats TP. I’m so sorry of having paid almost 150 canadian $ for TP…

    I use OneNote for journaling, for keeping interesting blogs I read and for keeping my own blog posts. I also have a folder for the notes I keep when I read books. Finally, I brainstorm in it. Had I a Tablet PC (Oh, dream, sweet dream…), I would use it in all my professional and other meetings.

    Now, my problem is that I didn’t use OneNote much since I bought it in April (I run the SP1 preview since it’s out). Yes, I may have something like 100 entries in it. But here’s my problems with it. Count them as votes, since you must have already thought or heard about them :

    – I definitely want better ways than copy-pasting or using Ms Doc Image Writer and Inserting Doc as Image. These two features need me to switch applications to complete them, and I consider that a context change is unacceptable. I know that the powertoys XX2OneNote are what I want and need. I’ve heard about IE2OneNote, too, which would be so good for me if I weren’t using Avant Browser in order to be able tab-browse. It would make me consider getting back to IE alone, though, since IE is getting better in XP SP2 (at least about popups)… (A hint for IE2OneNote : its toys must be accessible via a right-click on web content so we can use them from any browser.) You know what? I never read about it, but you must have thought about it : I’d like some tool that runs at the same time as the OneNote tray icon and that adds system shortcuts to "Copy-paste selection to a new Side Note – CTRL-ALT-X" and "Copy-paste selection at last edit location in the open note – CTRL-ALT-C" from any running application. That would be nice!

    – For me, when I want to write or copy something into OneNote, it demands a lot of work. I need to decide where I will put my note : in which folder and in what section. If I want to delay this decision, I can write a Side Note, but still, I know I’ll be faced with the same problem. I’d like two things. First, a nicer UI on that regard that would allow me to just select where it will get classified. No Move To…, just something as easy as selecting from a tree view (not even drag and dropping, please!). Second, instead of that tree view (and folder-section categorization) I’m introducing, I’d want simple categories, so I can select multiple categories for any entry. Those categories could still be organized in a tree manner, so that I can read all entries about all my projects in any order (chronological, by title,…) or all entries about one specific projet. Now, I know that this could not be pleasant for some people who like the fact they can open & close sections as easily as in Word. They’d say that, since categories are introduced, all entries will need to get stored in one database file, so they’d lose all those advantages. Well, maybe it could be possible to have one file for each category, and if an entry belongs to more than one, it would be written in all the category files it’s related to. Next would be needed some synchronization mechanisms, I know… But that is precisely what I would like the most. You write everything that is new in the same way as using Side Notes, and then assign categorie(s) to what you’ve written. You can then view your entries organised by any manner you want. Of course, password protections would apply to categories instead of to sections. In fact, the only real additions I’m asking for are the UI changes for a better UX, and the possibility of duplicating notes between sections by assigning them to multiple sections (and the underlying synchronization), which could be called categories instead of sections but which is still pretty much the same. By the way, folders could be kept.

    Sorry for my poor writing style. I think it’s in part because of the fact that I’m only supposed to be writing a comment to your post. By the way, I say you hello from Quebec City. I would so much like Microsoft to be Canadian, so that I could be an evangelist for some Ms product! People who know me know how much I can transmit my passions (and much better in French!). I’m almost born for that. And I could participate in Microsoft contests, which are only for the US when I step on them…

  47. Daniel,

    Thanks for the detailed thoughts. In general your ideas on categories mirror some of the thinking we have done. I can’t say we would do exactly what you have described, but we’re not too far apart. Making it really easy to add stuff to OneNote from wherever you are is another big goal.

    BTW, several other Canadians work on the OneNote team, and two of them are from Quebec, like me.

  48. Michel says:

    > we know that the additional feedback for each additional language is very low

    This creates a funky/crazy circle.

    Foreign languages are late or not in the beta schedules.

    Then foreign feedbacks are bad.

    But when you submit a feedback it seems to be "too late".

    goto …

    > MUI version would have added complexity

    My point about the Longhorn wave was indeed about MUI. At last (having asked for this kind of technology since early stages of OS/2…) it seems that it should become reality starting with 2005 generation of systems and also applications. So I was "dreaming" of having real MUI support already inside current apps/dev like this one.

    > Integration with Outlook/Exchange ../.. But the desire is real, so we’re looking at potential solutions – this was beyond the scope of our first release

    Sorry for that, but for me this should have been the #1 needed evolution.

    > You’ll see refreshed versions of Pocket Office apps, but not as often as you’ll see them for the much larger desktop market.

    That is a big problem, especially now that mobility seems to be the direction where more and more corporations are pushed to.

    > Doing OneNote for PPC is a fine idea

    Maybe also a real need.

    Tanks a lot, for time and for all your answers.


  49. Michel,

    I didn’t say the feedback from foreign languages was bad, just rarely unique. A large majority of the feedback we get from non-English users is the same as what we get from English users. Sometimes there are differences (especially in Asia), but in Europe the differences are few and do not justify creating more than one or two European language versions of a beta or preview.

    MUI support is alive and well in OneNote and LongHorn. That we didn’t delay the project in order to make an MUI for the preview to a service pack does not reflect on that. After all, it is a *preview* to a *service pack* of a relatively small application – not mission critical yet.

    Integration with Outlook notes/Exchange: #1 for you, but not for many others. Don’t misunderstand, all features are attractive – our challenge was to pick a core set that would appeal to a large group of potential customers and also solve enough problems for them that they would see value. This particular one didn’t make the cut for the first release. I have written earlier in my blog about why OneNote does not have any specific feature:

  50. marco says:

    I use ON as a replacement for the zillions of txt files I scatter on my desktop to take notes.

    I use it to store snippets of code, and other things.

    I’d like very much to be able of placing a password on some notes, but i can’t.

  51. I think it would be awesome if I could right-click on a note tab and select "Show in system tray". Then, when I right-click on the OneNote icon in the system tray, any of the tabs that I have selected this option for would display in a list of "quick access" notes. I often find myself wanting to get at information in a specific note quickly.

  52. Szajd says:


    Maybe it’ll sound wierd:

    I am a 15 year old student from Hungary, so I don’t have a notebook or a Tablet PC, but I use my desktop PC to write in the notes I’ve taken on my lessons onto paper. This serves two things:

    1. When written again, one can learn the stuff more easily.

    2. And I even have my notes on my computer in organized in a very efficient way, in a very efficient program, where all information is searchable, printable, whatever.

    So I use it for a kind of after-note-taking. The only very important feature to me was some kind of separator within sections. Now I have my notebook like having the folder for school notes, and in there, there are the sections for each subject (e.g. history, geography) (and some folders inside to archive the older ones): so I’d need a separator because in the history section I have the notes for each lesson, one on a page, but groups of lessons belong to a bigger category. For example: the pages "War of Peloponesos", "Greek Gods" and lots of more would belong to the big "GREECE" group, and after that I’d need something, to separate it from "ROME". I don’t find page groups useful for this task. If you have another idea, tell me.

  53. Brandon Potter says:

    I am so disappointed that OneNote does not learn how I think and then program itself to work in the same way I do.

    That, and when I hold a piece of paper up to the monitor, it doesn’t copy it down into my notes. Maybe the white out is getting in the way. 😉

    No, really, OneNote is the best and most flexible organizational tool I have used to date. It comes pretty close to what I think a computer is capable of doing as far as storing freeform thinking & notes.

    Folder: Development Controls

    This is where I keep screenshots of all of the cool WinForms and ASP.NET (sections) components that I come across, and the URL’s of their creators’ web sites so I can find them again.

    Folder: Projects

    Under this, I have folders for each project I’m working on, and I store anything from project contact notes to meetings to screen captures of performance results.

    Folder: Personal

    You name it, it’s probably under this one.

    The only trouble I have had with OneNote is naming folders and pages. Kind of in the same way that I have trouble coming up with names for classes in an application (don’t want it to be too generic, but don’t want it to be too long, and want to be able to remember it……..), but this is a personal problem. 😉

    I would love to see some sample configurations and walkthrus for synchronizing (er… sharing the folder with notes) with multiple PCs. With some extra cash, a tablet PC, and some help from Verizon, I eventually want to have my OneNote in my car, VPN’d into work, displaying the pages that the support guys send me from back at the office, the WAVs of my voicemails, etc. And then I want it to make me dinner. So get programming! 😉

  54. Szajd: can you explain why groups don’t work to keep topics like Greece and Rome separate within a section?

    Brandon: maybe I will blog on the various ways to sync/share notes.

  55. Szajd says:

    Well, maybe you’re right. Actually the most important reason for that was that OneNote RTM couldn’t have titles for subpages. I understand that SP1 can (which is great, but I think it’s a bit strange to have a subpage’s title from the first line of the text – anyway).

    So, with SP1 this is OK with group pages (although I’ll need to reorganize the whole thing).

    Oh, and one thing: I don’t know who was the one who put a Drum Music Notation stationery on Office Online, but he/she should be canonized. 😀

  56. Szajd says:

    Oh, and there’s one more thing (I’m kind of like Columbo :)): The fact that you can’t flag only phrases, that’s baad. (See: 6/20/2004 9:39 PM htmc)

  57. Trevor Hill says:

    Ok, I’m just checking out onenote at this point, and haven’t used it too much yet, but here are my thoughts:

    I don’t get how the page grouping feature is supposed to work. I guess it’s just for sort of ‘extra’ pages on a similar topic, but it’s tough to figure out how I’d use this.

    You _have_ to let us tear off the highlighter menu. I can’t stand going through something and clicking like 3 times to highlight in a different color. I highlight in at least 3 colors when going through stuff most of the time. From what I’ve heard about the tags you have in onenote, these should be a tear-off palette too.

    On that point, please build in a feature to find and compile highlighted sections, both in MODI and onenote… My way to work is to highlight documents in different colors, then I want that compiled into a list by color, or a chronological list with some sort of tags for the different colors.

    Anyway, fundamentally, I’d like to get rid of my paper. I’m a former coder who’s in law school, and working in a law firm now. Everyone uses paper because the annotation facilities of all the easily available apps suck. Especially those of Acrobat. I’m elated to hear that the new version of MS document imaging has annotation, but in truth, I wish you’d just add the annotation capabilities of onenote to MODI, or add the OCR and reading capabilities of MODI to onenote.

    What I really want to do is scan docs, auto-deskew and OCR them like in MODI, _not_ convert to a word doc, but work on it as scanned OCR’d text (preserves formatting better), by annotating, highlighting, etc., and then finally compile my annotations with the selected text for notes on that doc.

    Also, when copying and pasting into onenote, there needs to be a feature to automatically copy and paste a citation/link as well, to the source doc. So many times you need to go back to the source…

    Thanks for listening.

  58. Trevor Hill says:

    Oh, BTW, you need to allow users to find and use their own flag icons from the web, e.g. animated gifs. There are loads of them out there for bulletin boards. I want to use those in onenote too…

    Also, how about allowing me to type "todo:" and automatically flag the box as a todo?

    How about having an appointment flag too, and being able to import appointments and todos easily into outlook?

    These are all things that would help me out…

    And one more KEY feature I need: give me some sticky arrows and lines to connect elements on the page. I want to click an arrow icon, and connect 2 boxes, like in visio, so they’ll stay connected when I drag them around. I don’t have a tablet, so I need a way of circling, boxing, and drawing lines easily, without freehand mouse drawing. Freehand mouse drawing is lame, because your lines all look so wavy and weird. How about some easy-to-use bezier lines too?


  59. Trevor Hill says:

    I have to say, after using it a bit more, your drawing tools are still pretty good with the mouse, even freehand. Seems like since they’re using beziers, they smooth the lines a lot better than pixel-based drawing apps. I’ll have to see how easy it is to do it on a touchpad on my laptop though.

    I notice that the palette of pens is the way I’d want it for highlighting, but the ‘highlighter’ is a separate feature. This should still be a tear-off, IMHO…

  60. Trevor, be sure to get the Sp1 preview (or wait a few weeks and get the final Sp1), since it has some features you will want.

    Page grouping: yes, the original design for subpages was "more paper", mainly for ink users who didn’t want to scroll. Now it is clear that what people want is a page grouping feature and don’t mind scrolling on individual pages. So in Sp1 we allow you to have titles for the subpages (we use the first text on the subpage). People use this grouping for many things that involve keeping related pages together.

    The ink highlighters are on the pen toolbar, so as you noted you can have these all available at once by showing the pen toolbar, or tearing it off the pen dropdown. The text highlighter does take two clicks rather than one to switch colors. Sorry – maybe next time.

    Note flags are also on their own toolbar (View/Toolbars), so you have one-click access to those. Personally, rather than typing "Todo:", I would just use the Ctrl-1 through Ctrl-9 shortcuts – much faster.

    Have you experimented with customizing note flags to see if they do what you need? You can flag various paragraphs with different flags and assign different colors of highlighting to the flags via customization. That way if you want to highlight in, say, pink, just Ctrl-4 or whatever you have customized, and you get the paragraph flagged as well as highlighted. Note that flags will highlight the whole paragraph, not just your selection. You can then use Note Flag Summary to get a roll-up of all the paragraphs you’ve flagged.

    Your workflow is an interesting case – we didn’t optimize for that in version 1, but we’re interested in that problem space for version 2. In the meantime, with Sp1 and Office 2003 you can print PDF documents via MODI as TIF files and insert those into OneNote as pictures which you can then highlight. For Word docs, just use Insert/Document as Pictures. Not quite what you want and a little clunky but it might work for you.

    Appointment flags and moving things to Outlook: you can do this in OneNote today (moving to Outlook requires SP1 of OneNote 2003 and 2003 version of Outlook)

    Can you explain why animated GIFs as flag icons will help you?

    Drawing tools – yes, we hear you!

  61. Thomas Shannon says:

    I’ve been using OneNote as a light weight project manager. I really don’t need the power of MS Project. It would be like shooting a fly with a bazooka.

    Breifly, OneNote functions for me as a free form outliner where relevant documents and data can be collected into project pages. Items are arranged in outline format, including todos, contacts, appointments, and links to filesystem documents.

    First, I’d like to congratulate you in the addition of SideNotes to the application. It make data collection much easier. It helps not to have to process information as I go and I’ve set aside time every morning to do this to data collected the previous day. Ideally, a shortcut key which automatically copies highlighted material to the sidenote window would be nice. This would eliminate the need to place the data in the window and it would also elimnate the need to keep the sidenote window on top. The functionality would be similar to that of the "shooter" in Ecco.

    Of absolutely critical importance in this regard is interoperability with Outlook. It isn’t enough to be able to store Outlook items on the filesystem underneath OneNote. Links to items within Outlook where its power can be used in conjunction with OneNote’s accessibility is crucial. In that regard, I’ve been embeding shortcuts to OL items into OL journal entries, then moving the entries to the filesystem through OneNote. The link in OneNote opens the journal item which still has the active embded shortcut. This isn’t the best work around. Ideally, anything I do to a item in OneNote would automatically be done to the same item in Outlook where my daily todo lists lie.

    I’m guessing you’ve heard enough about integration with email so I’ll leave that lie.

    I’ve been looking for an Ecco replacement since about 1999. This is getting close. I remember the first couple versions of Internet Explorer. That’s almost what this application feels like. The more I work with it, the more it feels like a baby monkey that’s getting ready to be an 800 pound gorilla.

    Good luck,

    Tom Shannon

  62. Trevor Hill says:

    Thanks for the comments…

    It won’t help me particularly to have the icons animated. I just want to be able to use any old icon I come across on the web, such as smileys or other question marks or exclamation points, whatever…

    I really like the program now that I’ve used it a bit more (SP1 preview). Your idea with customized tags may help, but it still won’t combine the OCR with onenote very well, unfortunately… Maybe I’ll be able to muddle through paperless with MODI and onenote together, but not the best.

    One thing I’ve noticed — the video support is great, but it’s barebones right now. I have a vaio TR2-AP with a built-in webcam, so this is sweet for me to video lectures and conferences as I see them, but I will also need a digital zoom control. Digital panning would also be a _really_ nice feature combined with digital zooming.

    I also noticed that if I draw a line clear across the notebook, it’s tough to select it again later to drag (move)… Maybe there’s some way to make this selection of ink a bit easier, so I don’t have to rubberband around quite the whole thing to select it…

    Overall, as I’m sure you know, this is going to be an awesome app.

  63. Trevor, when you say "digital zoom", do you realize that this doesn’t mean much with a webcam? The webcam image is only about 320×240 in the first place, and digital zoom doesn’t actually zoom – it just crops off some of the image and scales the rest up – it won’t get any more detailed. Is that really what you want? Digital panning is even worse – you can only pan so much within a 320×240 image after all. It is not the same as a 4MP digicam image, where you have so many pixels (often ~2400×1800) you can cruise around looking for the right set of 320×240 to show.

    BTW, you can adjust the video recording options in Tools/Options. Try different codecs to get a larger/better video image if you’re willing to use up more hard drive space.

  64. Trevor Hill says:

    Thanks, Chris…

    Yes, of course I know the score with digital zooming. It’s actually not that bad on my machine to zoom 25-50% with the built-in sony capture app. Of course it’s low res, but it’s better to see a low-res face than an ant giving a lecture… 😉

    You’re right though, maybe I’m overly optimistic with the panning. We need better webcams on laptops. 😉

    Another suggestion since I’ve been using onenote a bit more… I find it hard to select things to move sometimes when they’re bigger, i.e. they fill much of the window. I would love to have a ‘hand’ tool like in QuarkXPress and some other apps, to just let me move things around without worrying about editing them. I really think organizing/moving and editing are two different modes of working, and it would be nice if these were different modes. I also really like the XPress paradigm, in which you can hold shift/ctrl/etc to switch to the hand tool, zoom tool, and more…

  65. PeterK says:

    I use it primarily to take notes in meetings and concalls using my laptop. I usually use it with the recording feature on to help me recreate typed notes that get interupted and to replay sections to people that were not present.

    Hopefully this is not a felony. Could you get the microsoft lobbists to lobby for this to be okay? Video too though I have not the tools for that.


    I would like to be able to edit (chop the end, break into two) the wma files since sometimes forget to turn the recorder off. I would like to be able to speed up the playback.

    I would like to be able to remove the clicking of the keyboard and also enhance the audio quality by removing buzz, etc. For bettter sound quality easier, I’d like wireless blue tooth mic’s and desk phone and PC input so I don’t have to plug in my radioshack adapter to my wireless headset and turn it on.

    (Bluetooth eyeglasses please that capture sound and video just like my eyes and ears.)

    I have left it on as I walked around with my laptop on tours and found the sound quality okay. Helped with filling out/remembering details of a meeting.

    Action Items/weekly notes

    I would like a feature that helps manage action items better. During reccurring (weekly) meetings, action items are created using the notes flag checkbox.

    I am struggling with an efficient way to keep, update, and distribute my meeting notes as meeting minutes with action items.

    I usually send the notes as an email without the recording. Outlook 2003

    I typically cut the previous week’s notes and paste to a new page for week to week continuity. Seems like sometimes the auto date gets copied too – havenot figured out when it does and doesn’t.

    I think the Notes flags get duplicated which breaks them a bit.

    I lose the creation date of the action item when I cut and paste.

    I type updates below the action items until they are closed.

    I may be trying to get too much out of OneNote. It is great for the notes. I guess I need a more comprehensive action item tool.

    I would OneNote to be able to group action items these by the date created.

    I suppose that I could use the email as the snapshot and keep the onenote as the running minutes.

    notes flag seems great – I havve not used it to its fullest – mostly just quick checkboxes.

    It is hard to keep the meeting moving if I get too involved with clicks, etc.

    I miss the — shortcut from Word to create a line separator. I liked the –> arrow creater too.

    I still get messed up creating outlines/multi-indented lists and resort to indenting with a single additional space. Seems less useable than Word – atleast different enough that I have not got it down at speed yet.

    I like the tabs and the instant on/always saved feature.

    No one else here uses it yet so the shared notes are not happening but they sound good.

    I would like to use offline syncing but IT here uses somekind of snapshot backups that records the whole directory over and over again. They also moved network things once on me and caused my syncing to become hopelessly lost.

    Also have cut and pasted many screen shots from netmeetings (alt-printscreen in netmeeting, alt-tab to onenote, ctrl-V) to add notes and get the recording of the presentation. Can this happen automagically for me? – Some kind of netmeeting integration. Webex too?

    I’d love to try a tablet in work. It would be almost as good for me if I could draw on my laptops touchpad with an implement that was less blunt than my index finger and use it. Seems to me that would let me sketch enough. My handwritings pretty bad when I write at speed so typing is my preference.

    I was writing something and I tried using onenote "3×5 cards" to organize my thoughts but could only get one and found it hard to organize them.

    Outlining in word may be better for that? Dragging and reorganizing and seeing alot at once. Then again paper 3x5s on the floor is pretty good.

    Overall a great step forward. Thanks,


  66. PeterK, thanks for the ideas. Many of these we have had as well. To your specific points:

    1. you can sort note flags by date – we group like Outlook does: today, yesterday, last week, etc.

    2. outlines and multi-indented lists. I’m surprised you are finding this difficult. I’d like more details. I just use Tab and Shift-Tab to indent/outdent and it seems to work well.

    3. your 3×5 card view is close to something we had planned but were not able to do in v.1. Maybe it will show up in the future. In the meantime, you can click and type your thoughts anywhere on a page, and move them around that way. Works for me.

  67. Zack says:

    First, the existence of this blog may make a Microsoft-believer out of me yet, thank you.

    Have you thought about a way of automatically creating a mind map as folders, sections, pages, and subpages are created, and then permitting subsequent relationships to be defined? This would be like combining Onenote with thebrain/mindmanager. It would ease navagation but, more importantly, permit access to information in multiple ways, rather than just linerarly. For [dumb] example, if my company has operations in multiple countries, I would like to access all info for a particular country, but also easily access all litigations, regardless of country.

  68. Zack, thnaks. yes we have thought of that. Drawing connections, and allowing a graph-like view rather than just a stack. We need to be careful to design this sort of thing in a way which most people can use though, so it is tricky. The tendency is to build something powerful and cool, but which appeals only to a few people – that is what we need to avoid.

  69. Zack says:

    Perhaps just having the ability to assign multiple relationships for purposes of navigation. That is, for example, a section tab would show up when navigating down two separate folder paths if you took certain steps to assign the relationship. That way you’d have a nonlinear database function that would await users of less experience/sophistication but would be available to more advanced users. This would be quite a powerful feature that would distinguish OneNote from your competition.

    I’m sure everyone has their wish list, so again thanks for keeping up this blog.

  70. Zack says:

    Oh, and one more thing. The audio recording/linking to text capability, along with the options regarding codec and delay playback, have to be the single most clever and helpful software development coming out of Microsoft in the last 5 years. It has quite literally completely changed the way I work, for the significantly better. My congratulations!

  71. Ebbet says:

    I use OneNote to take class notes, and record synch audio of the lecture.

    At the end of the semester, I copy the OneNote text to Word and edit the notes to make an outline for the class. This entails working in Word’s outline mode to clean up the notes, condense the material, clarify any questions left unresolved in class, add reading notes, etc.. I use Word for this step because I need better formatting controls — I use Word’s stylesheets, tables, etc. (I wish OneNote had styles tied to outlining levels, a la Word).

    OneNote’s audio recording & synchronized playback is the key feature for me — it’s incredibly useful to be able to listen to a section of a lecture if the accompanying notes turn out to be unclear, or missed certain details. I’d spent months taking notes in Word wishing for exactly this feature, before OneNote was released. Now that I have it, I can’t imagine being in class without it. (Now I just wish the mic — and I use an external one — didn’t pick up so much typing noise.)

    Anyhow, great program. Nice to see some real innovation coming out of MS.

  72. Ebbet says:

    Oh, yeah — forgot to tell you how I actually use OneNote.

    I set up a section for each class, and then within each section I create a page for each new topic covered in lecture. If a particular topic stretches over two days, I create a new subpage for each of the subsequent days.

    So, for my particular setup, it’d be nice if each subpage had its own date stamp, rather than inheriting the main page’s date stamp. (I don’t want to use multiple regular pages, because I want to be able to identify the first day of each topic in the tabs on the right.) Also, it would be nice if I could scroll vertically from a page to the ensuing subpages (e.g. like pages in Word or Acrobat docs), and could easily select all of the text on a page and the associated subpages (so I could copy it all to Word in one fell swoop).

    At the end of the semester, I close the entire notebook, and create a new one for the next. Or rather, I plan to — haven’t done it yet. I suppose I could use folders, but I’m not sure I see any advantage in that.

  73. Gary Nicol says:

    Having used OneNote for 2 or 3 weeks now, it seems that I’ve ended up with a similar structure to most people, i.e. a top-level split for work and personal, and then various sub-folders for logically grouped types of information. I don’t have any shared folders/notes though.

    I find the hierarchical folder structure is a great way to organise my notes contextually, and a big advantage over the paper notebook approach I’ve always used in the past. Having said that, I do really miss the ability to view my notes chronologically though. I often want to quickly locate something that I know I wrote say 2 days ago, but can’t immediately recall where I saved it.

    Before someone says it, I know there’s the page list task pane, or alternatively I could do a search. Whilst both of these methods do allow me to find something, I miss the ability to be able to flick back a couple of pages in my notebook. Neither of these methods really gives me that same sort of user experience.

    So I guess it would be nice if OneNote offered some sort of chronological view of my pages that I can browse through to find what I’m looking for.

  74. Gary, yes, I know what you mean – I’m interested in that feature as well. For 2003 of course, if you tend to take all your notes in one section at least initially (I do), it is easy to flick back a few pages since those pages get created in chronological order. I only file pages when I get around to it, and I have less need for the "flick back a few pages" that once the notes get 1-2 weeks old.

  75. Lisa says:

    Szajd: It is beyond cool that a 15-year-old from Hungary is quoting Columbo. 🙂


    A few things came to mind as I read through all this. Now if I’m off-the-mark in any really egregrious ways – I can’t actually use OneNote (Win98 *blush*), so I’m going by reading rather than doing.


    Chris, Daniel Jomphe, and possibly others mentioned this. Could it be handled through a relatively simple, though explicit, "shortcut"-type feature? That is, store the "real" item in one place (doesn’t matter where) and store "shortcuts" to that item in the other places where you want it filed. That would also solve the problem of synchronizing the copies that someone mentioned, assuming you don’t move the original. I sometimes do this with files in Windows Explorer folders as a workaround solution.



    The basic idea here would be to access most program functions through right-clicking anywhere on the screen rather than through normal toolbars. Perhaps Trevor Hill was getting at this when he mentioned "tear-off" menus? (I’m just an end user! I’ve never heard that term! :-)) This might also help with situations where the desire for efficient keyboard shortcuts imposes arbitrary limitations, like how many flags you can have, since right-clicking is IMO almost as fast (and much easier to learn/remember) than key combinations.

    And, in the hands of a delightfully creative person, this could possibly lead to an innovative and fresh UI design :-). At the very least it would increase the whitespace on the screen.

    Another way of thinking about it, in a "real-world model" way: remember those zippered vinyl pencil cases we used to carry around with us in school? Our "tools" were with us wherever we went, rather than having to be fetched from a central location.

    In a bit more detail:

    Containers of information are on the screen. We go to the one we want to work with, right-click it, and – instead of a normal context menu – something like a "toolblock" appears. A "toolblock" would simply be toolbar buttons arranged in a rectangle. Unlike a regular right-click menu, though, the toolblock would stay put on the screen until you closed it, so that you could complete a sequence of tasks.

    Possibly the toolblock could follow you to other containers on the page, or on other pages, until you close it. (Assuming, of course, that it would follow you in a sane manner and not get in the way.)

    Another variation might be to combine normal context menus with toolblocks. For example, you highlight some text, right click, and a context menu appears. Its options include "Display Toolblock" (always) and "Flags" (because of the context set up by highlighting the text.) Picking the "Flags" option could simply apply the n+1th flag to what you had highlighted, or it could open up a stay-put display of other flag options.



    Several people mentioned this. Perhaps some nifty animation could be used to simulate the act of picking something up to read it, which makes it appear larger. Such as: all our snippets of information are displayed as appropriately-shaped identifiable thumbnails. Hovering over one of them would cause it to enlarge to normal readable size, as if you picked it up from your desk to look at it. Moving away from that container would cause it to shrink back to thumbnail size, as if you had put it back down. (One problem might be if the animation and delay factors can’t be calibrated well enough, and moving the mouse or pen around made us dizzy!)


    Speaking of "appropriately-shaped" identifiable thumbnails: Since I’m still using Windows 98, I have the "OLE Scrap" feature. (I don’t know if subsequent Windows versions still have that.) I love it. (And OneNote fulfills my wish for "SuperScraps"!! :-))

    Anyway, one thing I enjoy about Scraps is that its shortcuts, instead of looking like every other boring shortcut, are scrap-shaped. Perhaps OneNote could do (is doing?) more with that.


    A minor theme running through this discussion that might be a problem (in the best possible way I guess 🙂 ) is that a noticeable number of people love it to the point that they’re already "living in it" (paraphrase.) The danger in that is, of course, that it’s harder to put boundaries on the application. Or perhaps more correctly, to get the users to accept the boundaries. OneNote could *easily*, in our imaginations, become a fabulous document-management-and-production app rather than a simpler note-taking app, since based on the comments such a product is desired but not available. The law office example, for one. But as Chris pointed out ("this was envisioned for lists, not essays" – paraphrase), what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

    Regardless, OneNote just might get me to upgrade to XP. It’s probably about time. P~~ 🙂

  76. Full-court Press for OneNote, with freebies at the Financial Analysts Conference. Gates, Poole and Steven Sinofsky talking it up bigtime. Press upbeat, users too (on the whole). More people need to see and be Evangelized on it however, but smooth sailing thus far. Playing with the early beta’s (I nearly gave up), but my how far it has come, it really firmed up.

    OneNote has that “personal” my-life concept about it, not like I get that flushed over Word or Excel, whereas OneNote data IS me. Takes on a whole differing dimension in terms of an emotional attachment to a piece of software. 🙂

    My additional wants: Real sync functionality, beyond Users that don’t have Intellimirror on a Server. And “mindmapping” or linking functionality, “export from” and more Ink support. Better IE/Outlook/Exchange support and some MS Project hooks (nice to have).

  77. Dr Dom Grima says:

    Well, I am a genetic research scientist at Oxford University and I’ve been using OneNote on my Tablet PC since May 2004. I’m still learning new ways of using it, but I’m settling on certain basic systems. The most important function for me is as a Lab journal. I have a seperate section for each month, with a fresh page per day. Each page is titled with the date (an automated feature/template to do this would be on my own personal wishlist)Initially I inked 90% of the time, but more recently I have started typing notes more frequently as I use the Tablet as a desktop replacement much of the time. This journal is a subfolder of my "Lab book" which also includes sections for protocols and overviews of the projects I am working on as well as other items which do not fit well into a chronological ordering system. Another useful feature for me would be a simple way to link between pages/sections within my labjournal, for example, to link a journal entry to a protocol.I also keep a separate ToDo/Task list as a section within my Lab journal for labwork specific tasks. Again, linking these tasks with journal entries on completion would prove hhelpful. Alternatively, being able to determine when a "Todo" flag was checked might help.What else…..? Well, I link to scanned technical documents for reagents and molecular tools when they arrive and collects scraps of web pages with relevant data. I use a number of online utilities for DNA sequence manipulation and being able to link directly to these within OneNote is great. OneNote semed to arrive just at a time when I was beginning to think quite deeply aboutthe way in which I needed to collectand organise my data. In conjnction with my Taung Tablet it is allowing me to work about 95% paper free!

  78. samkat says:

    The one thing I notice about structuring OneNote is this:

    You can have many folders and sections in your hierarchy! Too many for the OneNote UI experience!

    What I would like to see:

    For OneNote to ‘wrap’ the list of folders and sections that span across the top, into two or more rows as needed. Kinda like multiple tabs in a dialog options box, say Word’s?

    OneNote does not allow this, you need to click over to see more at the start / end of your list.

    This will assist in keeping information ‘visible’ to me at most times.

  79. Samkat: yes, I agree that the section tabs across the top do not work so well when youstart having a lot of the (definition of "a lot" depends on yoru screen res). What we recommend is to use folders when you start needign a lot of sections. Also, try to organize so that you can have more pages per section – look into using sub pages if you need divisions within the section.

    The solution to show two rows of tabs is one possible one, but a lot of people don’t like double rows of tabs because the tabs move from front to back and are hard to track. We’re looking at alternatives right now as a matter of fact.

  80. Jim Kay says:

    I create sections for projects, functions, activities, or other catigories as they occur to me.

    Then I use pages to add items.

    I’d really like a simple way to sort the pages alphabetically. I tend to get LOTS of pages and finding a particular page is a pain when I have to scroll around a lot.

  81. Treb Gatte says:

    I love this product!!! I’m a project manager by day and have folders for each project. Within each folder are sections for team meetings, client meetings, management meetings, etc. The audio record rocks and has already saved me twice this week.

    One feature I would like is something I have on my Palm using Datebk5. I think it would add value here. In DateBk5, I can add a todo to call someone, then link to the contact in the contact database where it returns the name, telephone number and one other field. If you tap it, it goes to the contact info.

    So, couldn’t the same thing be done with Outlook contacts and OneNote? I can right-click to insert a contact and then have the linking bring back information that I need to make the contact without looking it up. Just a thought.



  82. A discussion I had today reminded me of a design conundrum we went through with OneNote when we were…

  83. I see you use one note for blogging. I just wonder, is there a easy way to post what I write in one note to fex. a account. I’m wondering if I should purchase PerfectJournal (, but since I already have one note it looks like a waste of money and time to have 2 systems. Maybe I’m "forced" to abandon One Note if I start to gather my info in a new piece of software.

  84. Chris_Pratley says:

    Arne, I just copy/paste from OneNote to the blog tool’s text box. With OneNote 12’s new extensibilty, I expect a blogging tool is going to be one of the first powertoys written.

  85. Hermann Klinke says:

    I am planning to use OneNote for literally everything. It’ll be information management nirvana! I want to use it for internet research, task management (the GTD way) using flags, issue tracking using flags and contacts using flags and general brainstorming and note taking. The problems that I am facing are the (1) flags limit, (2) flags are not really customizable, (3) note summary does not support grouping combined flags, (4) the worst usability experience customizing flags. Let me elaborate:

    (1) Why is there a flag limit at all? Flags are in my opinion the most useful feature OneNote which makes it really flexible. If people wanna get crazy more than 25 flags, why don’t you let them?

    (2) I would like to use my own icons for flags and set my own shortcuts? Example: Import icons from the internet and set shortcuts like Ctrl+Shift+T.

    (3) There should be a way to group combined flags by all note flag names in the flag summary. Example: I flag something with "Task" using a checkbox as icon, then flag it with a "High Priority" (with exlamation mark as icon). There should be an option in the combobox "Group note flags by" with something like "Combined Note Flag Names" that would group the items that are flagged "Task" AND "High Priority" in ONE group. The title of that group could be "Task & High Priority".

    (4) Customizing flags is a real pain, because it’s completely unintuitive: There is no add and remove button (I guess because of the flag limit) and I should be able to reorder flags by drag and drop.

    If you implement (1) and (3) then we could use flags as categories to organize everything even more naturally. The human brain does not think hierarchic!

    These are MUST-HAVE feature requests. I’ll be really disappointed if you don’t implement them in the next version :-(.

    Other than that, OneNote is just incredible. It’s the one application that I was waiting my entire life for. It replaces so a lot of software and makes everything so easy!

    I can’t believe the stuff (searchable documents, images, audio and video) you do in the next version, it’s just amazing! Keep up the great work!

  86. Chris_Pratley says:

    Hermann: Thanks for the input on flags. These are great suggestions, and we have all of them on the books already in the "obvious" category :-). We can’t do everything in a single release though so these requests have to be balanced with all the other things that are MUST do that people have shared in this blog and in other forums. I hope to have some improvements to note flags for OneNote12. Thanks for the positive words!

  87. jwescott says:


    I am new to blogging forums and starting to get the hang of things.

    I am a law student in Alberta Canada and use ON daily but find that there are a few unmentioned things that would be nice to have looked at:

    1) Enhanced export to word for an entire section (multiple pages). That way note takers can add the formatting without a major cut and paste.

    2) ability to absolutely limit page width to standard letter for all new pages. This makes some printing and layout much easier.

    3) Ability to click on flags in the "cutomize note flag" side bar that opens and have it edit text like the toolbar buttons do. (For people with multiple flags, this way you can see the names of button with the same icons.)

    4) I can’t wait for forms

    5) Outline feature so that you can create a summary of the levels (and eventually print headings) in a TOC like word. This makes you able to create the first page of a section and give you easy reference through out that section.

    6) Ability to change the default bullet spacing for the first set of buttets so that it lines up without indenting too far left.

    But to date I love everything so far, I also own a PPC and will enjoy and potential that one note would give.

    8) ability to draw straight lines or arrows with the mouse.

    7) Lastly, better and more accurate pasting from word documents especially when hierarcy/builleting etc. is considered,

    Thats it thats all for now. Thanks for the cyber space….

  88. mitigationelf says:

    I was working hard this past summer, splurged and bought a tool that I now can not live without — my tablet PC. I already had been using the Franklin-Covey add-on to Outlook. It has a feature that I had not really used until I got my tablet called Power Notes. The problem is that Franklin Covey continually causes problems with the OS and Outlook. So I did not use the tool oftne. However, it was claimed that it was similar to One Note and the funcationality was easier. Having said that, and to move onto the topic of this thread, I am now using OneNote on my tablet. I am finding that this "stand alone" program (rather than being integrated and buried as part of an add-on) makes OneNote more usable than the FC Powernotes.

    I use my personal tablet at work — the onlyone who has one, and the only one using One Note (do you know that additional programs on my computer such as this will mess up the whole network!) But I digress……

    I make meeting agendas, take meeting notes, copy emails, track projects…. so far with OneNote (I have been using it about 2 weeks).

    Personally, I have a section for personal research, photos of family, humor (especially those silly little pass-along emails), ideas, notes on books I am reading… this too will grow.

    Now, I am having a hard time with the file structure. The fact that I can not drag-n-drop is really causing me consternation. Organizing my notebook becomes an hour long task. Part of it may be not understanging the file, subnote, note, ….. concept.

    Oh – one feature that Franklin Covey has all over OneNote is the pen selection. They have Ballpoint, felt tip, multiple sizes and shapes, can use about any color you want, preassure sensative on the strokes.

    I am in a learning curve right now, but tools seem difficult to find, changing the page lay out is a bit arduous (can’s see a thumbnail of the stationary), photos are difficult to work with – moving, resizing, having a hard time dragging and droppig from other programs to OneNote. Some of this may be due to the fact that I am only using my stylus to do these functions. But any other program I have used, the stylus has been as easy – or more easy – tan the mouse.

    Bottom line: love OneNote and what I can do with it, need to learn it better, need suggestions, want to learn what else I can do with it, drag-n-drop functionality (esp in the file structure) MUST be enhanced, pen features need to be more flexable.


  89. Chris_Pratley says:

    jwescott: to your Q’s:

    1. Select all the pages (select the first page, then Shift-click on the last page). Send to Word will send all the page concatenated.

    2. you can choose a fixed page size stationery and make that the default for new pages.

    3. well, there is a tooltip, but I see your issue.

    4. me too

    5. I think you can already do this (if I understand you correctly). Have you seen the outlining toolbar?

    6. you mean you want the bullets to line up with the left edge of the text above? It’sa tricky thing since that sort of makes thigns switch from outlinign to word processing, but its not an uncommon request.

    7 and 8: drawing tools are coming in 12, and we’re working on paste fidelity issues.

    mitigationelf: drag and drop to reorganize is coming in 12. As to pen customization, I think we have most/all those options – in the pen selection dropdown, choose "customize current pen". You can’ t see a thumbnail of the stationery, but at least you can flick through them at full size (maybe more useful than a thumbnail since you can read the text?). I’d love more details on what is hard about drag/drop into OneNote (and have you discovered View/Keep window on top?). Don’t forget Windows-S to screen clip which may obviate some drag-drop.

  90. Julie Rosenthal says:

    On an office server we are creating an InfoCenter of all the How To Do’s in our company.  The abiltiy to KEYWORD search items means that entires that cross more than one department can be "filed" in only one department’s sections and folders, yet can still be accessed  and "found" for reference by other departments when needed.

  91. Max deBruyn says:

    I use one-note as a sort of blog.

    I copy and paste stories and photos of interest for friends of mine who reside outside of Canada primarily and keep them up to speed about what’s happening back home.

    If you live in the States, Canada is a big white secret clan of eskimos who play hockey.

    In Europe there is some passing reference but mosdt of the time we are a remote albeit large geographic non-entity.

    Therefore it is important that someone keeps them up to speed.

    One note is magnificently easy for my daily newsletter.

    Just cut and paste and write a few columns with lots of choices for Font and Graphics.

  92. Elizabeth says:

    I use One Note for my hobby, writing fiction.

    I use sections more than folders, for example each story project would have its own section, with plot outlines, character profiles, research etc. It’s great to have it all easily accessible in one place. When I’m done with that story I can just move that section into my archive folder.

    The stories I write have characters that recur from one to the next, and I keep notes on them in a separate section, so it’s accessible with a click whichever story I’m working on. I have a similar folder with information about the "world" the stories are set in, that again I’d need to consult whichever current story I’m working on. I’ll also add to these sections as each story changes the character and world information, sometimes by copying pages from the story section before it’s archived.

    One Note is great for the editing process too. I make an outline of all the scenes and then rearrange scenes and decide on chapters and use note flags to mark the scenes that need particular attention and rewriting, or need fact checking or research for example.

    I keep a writing journal, which is a section, with a page per day. This gets closed and archived at the end of each month, and a blank one opened ready for the new month.

    Another section I have is story ideas, which in some cases are just one line, or might have a page with a few notes about the idea. When I’m ready to develop that idea I can just move that page into a new section ready to start planning.

    I tried a couple of ways to organise my notebook, but found I like sections best. Since I’ll only be working on one or two stories at once I have plenty of room for the sections I need to show without scrolling to the right. And I like to keep everything at the same level so I can quickly navigate around.

    Folders I mostly use for archiving and have them closed in the interface. But I keep them in the My Notebook folder, so I can very easily go in and open up something from the archive if I need to.

    Anyway, I know you asked this question long ago, but thought I’d share my experience. I don’t seem to hear much about people using ON for creative work, yet I’ve found it very useful.

  93. A discussion I had today reminded me of a design conundrum we went through with OneNote when we were