More OneNote 12 Goodness

I thought I would discuss a few new capabilities of "OneNote 12" that I think many current users are dying to see appear. Certainly each of these has appeared many times in our newsgroups and in our suggestion lists in the OneNote community site. Remember that "OneNote 12" is a codename, and we use 12 because we share code with Office and Office is on version "12". Of course this is by no means an exhaustive list - there's plenty more to come!

Tables are a no-brainer feature for OneNote 12. We support creating them the typical ways (like Word). You can also paste tables from the web, Word, Excel, etc into OneNote and they will remain tables (yay!). Our tables are not super-fancy though, so too much cell merging or fancy gradient backgrounds will get you in trouble - we don’t support that stuff.

One thing that is new in OneNote with respect to tables however is our focus on rapid note taking with the keyboard. Anyone familiar with OneNote should know that we take keyboard-only usage (no mouse, no pen) very seriously. We have a huge pile of keyboard shortcuts (See Help/Keyboard shortcuts). We also felt that people needed to be able to create tables "on-the-fly". So here's how that works.

If you are trying to rapidly capture notes and you reach a point where you want to put some information in a grid, with Word or a typical text editor you need to grab the mouse and use the menus to insert a table (or use a lot of shortcuts to pull up a dialog and insert some values like #rows and #columns). You also have to think about how many columns and rows you need before you get going capturing the data. This all gets in the way if you are in the heat of note taking.

In OneNote 12, tables are a snap to make with the keyboard. Let's say you want to make a comparison table of goals and how well they are met by "Plan A" and "Plan B". You might start with the title of the columns, hitting TAB after the first title:

Goal <TAB>

At the moment you hit TAB, OneNote will create a simple table with one row and two columns, with your typed text in the first column and your insertion point in the second column, like this:

Now, type the next column title "plan A" and TAB to get a third column. Again type a title and hit ENTER to finish the row. This also defines the number of columns in the table. You end up with a table like this:

Now you can type the first goal and how each plan scores, using TAB to move between the cells as you would in Word or Excel. When you hit the last column, TAB adds another row as in Word. To finish, just hit ENTER a couple of times and we wrap up the table for you:

Pretty nifty, eh? You can also see that as text was typed OneNote automatically resized the column sensibly. We'll balance the columns for you as you add content so that you always end up with a "reasonable" table, which of course you can tweak in the usual ways if you prefer something else. All this in the name of just capturing the information using a keyboard and not messing with the UI when you are in a hurry.

Embedding Documents
You can now place documents on a page of notes as icons. These are the real documents in original format. You can double click to edit them, make changes and save, which saves the changes back into OneNote. And they move with the page if you move the page inside OneNote to another Section or Notebook. They also get packaged up with the page if you email it. It's pretty handy to keep several documents related to a project on a page or a set of pages in a section, and make annotations around them about things you still need to work on. This also makes it easy to email a "project" to colleagues - a section full of annotations, documents, notes, etc. Much more useful than just the documents themselves. When the recipient gets the "project" as a single OneNote file, they can just open it and the project is added to their notes. From there they can move it to any notebook they desire if they want to keep it.

Drag and Drop
I mentioned briefly elsewhere that we have implemented the most asked for feature in OneNote: drag and drop of pages and sections! Although in OneNote 2003 it is possible to drag pages up or down in the list on the right to reorder them, it is a little tricky (you need to click and drag the page left or right out of the "stack" first, then up or down. In OneNote 12, this is just a simple click and drag to move it where you want. You can also drag it onto the tab for a different section or folder and we'll automatically switch to that section (or open that folder) and let you choose a place to drop the page. Likewise you can re-order sections this way too. Since we now allow more than one notebook (see Owen's new blog where he talks about that), you can also drag pages or sections or folders to other notebooks, and rearrange notebooks themselves this way. All pretty much what you'd expect - and it rocks all the same.

Subpages get their own titles
We get asked for this one a lot. We have finally switched the design of subpages away from "continuation pages" that share the same title as their "master" page to being regular pages that happen to be "underneath" the master page. This may seem small but we sure got a lot of requests for it. Actually it was the very first thing we did in the OneNote 12 project.

Search is indexed and instantaneous. Now everything in all your notebooks is indexed and can be found instantly, no matter how much stuff you have. We use the Windows Desktop search engine that is being shipped in Vista (but we also use it on Windows XP). Our search was always pretty fast, but this is faster and doesn’t slow down with the size of the notebook. We also can search remote notebooks (located on servers) instantly. We're still working on search stuff right now, so you may see more goodies in this space before we ship.

As I mentioned, there's plenty more to talk about, so stay tuned.

Comments (36)

  1. B.J. says:

    All the updates sound great Chris! I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on OneNote 12 as soon as it hits the shelves.

    I was just wondering though, is there going to be any more support in OneNote 12 for printing notes in a more fixed/standard format?

    Apologies for the ambiguity of the last statement, but it’s hard phrasing my exact problem. At the moment it’s pretty awkward in OneNote trying to print your notes without having everything resized differently. The "Scale Content to Paper Width" print option does wonders fitting everything on to paper, but because it uses a variable resize percentage, each page gets resized differently. The end-result is a set of hardcopy notes looking very disorganized because each page has a different font size.

    I understand that part of the problem is the automatic, seamless and expandable paper size – both a feature and problem of the existing OneNote. I was just curious if you boys (and girls?) in the OneNote team had any ingenious solutions to the problem.

  2. filburt1 says:

    I’ve been hoping for embedding documents into OneNote pages for a while. Thanks for adding it.

  3. Richard says:

    One thing I would like to see… the ability to shared configuration (notably the set of flags I’ve set up) from one machine to another. Currently the only route is manual, recreating the same configuration, but this is error prone (especiually if the two systems are a distance apart!).

  4. dave t says:

    Yaay! Use OneNote every day for university and for keeping stuff such as blog entries etc. Tables? Yes! Document links? Yes!

    Signed up ages ago for the beta – when is it due? Thanks for your hard work on this excellent programme so far.

  5. Sounds like some great things are coming our way. I’m glad Microsoft has continued to invest in OneNote.

  6. Michael Janisch says:

    One feature I really really miss:

    an Add-in for creating mindmaps in a simple way. I use Mindmanager for this, but this is a funtionality that I expect from Onenote.

  7. Don says:

    First, I’d like to congratulate you on a great product. Both at work and at home, I’ve come to depend on OneNote as my primary method of organizing data.

    One feature I’d like to see (and I’m sure others have requested it also) is the ability to hyperlink between note page. For instance, I’m working on several projects at work and for each project I have a tab and a set of pages containing meeting notes, to do lists, diagrams, relevant papers, etc… I discover that some of the work I’ve done on one project is applicable to another. Now, I don’t want to move the pages from the original project into the new project because they are still applicable to the original project. I don’t want to copy them either, since that would leave me with two copies that I need to keep in sync. Ideally, I should be able to just create a "See Also" link on a page and have OneNote jump to the referenced note pages when I click the link. I could also see this feature useful for creating "Table of Contents" note pages that are just collections of links to pages from throughout the notebook (or notebooks?).

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

  8. Lon Wong says:

    Hello Chris, thanks for sharing your onenotes insights. I was wondering if there will be some type of auto-archiving feature in the next release of onenote? This would be really useful for heavy users.

    Also, will, and if so when, will public beta’s be available? and is there a timeline for the official release as well?


  9. Andy Lin says:

    Tables and embedded documents rock!

  10. Jeff Fisher says:

    Fantastic job on a great product – one which my business depends upon!

    Question – the inevitable OneNote beta – will it be available via MSDN and when? How do we get into that beta?

  11. Can we ink tables?

    i used loads for my chemistry a level. i suppose i’ll be using loads for my computing degree too

  12. dbf says:

    Document embedding. This is definitely starting to sound interesting. I would like know if "Linking" as opposed to "Embedding" will also be supported. This feature will be useless for me if OneNote needs to interferere with the location of the original document which is usually shared with other applications. Why embed the document when all you really need most of the time is an up-to-date rendering of the actual object, which I think is why OLE technology was invented? (e.g. Table, graphic, plot, etc.)

    You description sounds to me like: OneNote now lets the user create a holographic time capsule image of his hard-drive and zip it in the OneNote file, so the recipient, for example, can understand the comments on this table and those few plots. Compound documents should be legible as such. Not a bunch of icons which open old snapshots of data (although I agree they do have their applications and are as important).

  13. Gustav says:

    Great new stuff.

    I would like to see a page (printed page) guide the same way Microsoft Journal (tablet pc)does it. This will help TREMENDOUSLY when you have to print the note.

  14. Nick Davis says:

    Chris, what upgrades are you making to the flags/tasks functionality of OneNote. I’d love to see better integration (two-way) between Outlook and OneNote. Any progress on this front?

  15. Wonko says:

    excellent, tables are really sorely needed!

    Would love to see wiki-style note creation and linking – is that likely for ON12?

  16. Richard says:

    WONDERFUL! If these updates made it in, I can’t wait to see what else did! All of these, ESPECIALLY the tables and document embedding, will make OneNote FAR FAR better. Chris – when will the public beta be opened and how do we sign up?


  17. Bart Van den Bosch says:

    I’d like to concur with Michael Janish: next to oneNote MindManager is the most important product to organise my work. I tend to use onenote for note taking (well…) but mindmanager to keep an overview of the structure of projects, running to do’s, etc.

    The mind mapping concept allows for faster overview but it is still a file based program. so if we would have mindmap creation as an addition to the more outliner oriented note parts of oneNote this would be great.

    Visio has some mindmapping capabilties but they are not nearly as useful/fast/ergonomic as in Mindmanager. Maybe Microsoft should buy MindJet? 🙂

    Another question on doc embedding: it seems that one will evolve into some alternative "filesystem" and give us a richer environment to organise our files. When I delete a page with embedded files will the files be cleaned up also? Now this is not the case when removing a link to a file that was added to OneNote (not linked).

  18. Tim Barrett says:

    This all sounds like great feedback! Any plans to create a OneNote Reader?

  19. Dan says:

    Chris – I want you to know that OneNote is awesome. As a Microsoft dev in another part of the company, it’s great to see some real innovation matched up with a high quality implementation. Kudos.

    Here’s my main feedback: integrate with Outlook. I’m in and out of Outlook all day, and I’d rather OneNote be there too. Replace the broken Notes and Tasks in Outlook with wrapped OneNote components.


  20. David Topps says:

    I agree with Lon Wong (and the many others who have previously requested)…still hoping fervently for hyperlinks to internal anchors within OneNote…didn’t see it mentioned so I hope it has not dropped off the radar. It would be even better if you could link to an internal bookmark/anchor from an external program (as you can with HTML or Word docs).

    One other thing that I would like to see is to have the power of Note Flags enhanced by the ability to attach scripting to a Flag so that it could trigger other actions…or maybe this could be done in some other way. One of the things that I would like this to be able to do is to generate Outlook Task items from the Priority 1, 2 and 3 flags. The Outlook item subject line would be taken from the OneNote text on that line…and in the Notes section of the Outlook Task, there would be a hyperlink inserted, pointing back to the OneNote note that originated it (ideally with the above mentioned internal bookmark in that .one note

  21. Mikewo says:

    Excellent features.

    What I would like to see (or maybe it’s already planned an I haven’t seen it yet?):

    1) Ability to export data from OneNote (I’m thinking the ability to get text out so I can automate an add-in to do my blog posting.

    2) Ability to have some "shapes" in OneNote, for drawing lines, boxes and circles.

    3) I second the request to be able to easily share Note Flag settings between machines.

    4) I thirty-second the requst for hyperlinking notes together, I have uses for this EVERY day.

    Keep up the good work. I use OneNote on a daily basis and look forward to see the new version.

  22. Timo Virkkala says:

    Two words: Equation Editor! I use OneNote in Math and Computer Science classes and frequently need to type in equations. With the keyboard shortcuts for superscript and subscript most equations come out nicely, but it’s a pain to fire up Word for more complicated equations and paste it from there, especially because it’s uneditable in OneNote after pasting.

  23. Weevil says:

    Great to see the Onenote maturation progressing so nicely, very happy with what I have seen so far.

    Certainly another vote for Outlook integration here. Outlook’s notes should be a central pillar of that application but they are so chronically undeveloped they are next to useless.

    Onenote would be brilliant within the Outlook environment.

  24. barry griffin says:

    Interested in OneNote 12, having found the current OneNote really useful. One thing I would like to see in the new version is more text formatting options, particuarly a justify tab. ON is very useful for logging a days work and then archiving as PDF and hard copy; the layout would look 100% better if I could justify text, ect.

  25. Jason says:

    This feature would have been great last week in class doing Truth tables for boolean math. I was looking for it, but couldn’t find it. I guess it is coming. Yay!

  26. Joey barton says:

    I’m looking forward to next release of oneNote too!

    However, I find oneNote inferior to MindManager in terms of note taking and organizing it at the same time. MindManager gives you the structure as you type and it’s convenient to show the map to you back or to others

  27. Beta 1 of &quot;OneNote 12&quot; (and &quot;Office12&quot;) is now available for download for those people who are signed…

  28. John T says:

    Does ON 12 allow for auto sort of pages tabs?  It is useful to improve the ability to manually drag them around, but what about auto sort based on the text string of the tab title, or by date, if tab title is date based?

  29. Ian Goldsmid says:

    I am currently having problems with Instant Search on OneNote 2007 Beta 2. I have installed WDS 3.0 beta – and it works fine in Outlook 2007 Beta 2 – but doesn’t work at all in OneNote.

    I reverted back to the 2. something latest version of WDS Enterprise – and although OneNote complained – it now finds any search term entered.

    Ian Goldsmid

  30. prajval says:

    Hi Chris, congratulations on a great product release.. really like onenote 12, office 07 beta 2 is great, for that matter. Regarding tables in onenote, it was frustrating that there’s no way to manually resize columns, but I see in your blog that it resizes automatically. Is confusing to people who have used word tables.

    WDS 3.0 seems to crash often.. know its beta, but FYI..

    really like the greater number of symbols available and the outlook integration is nice.


  31. Dave Waters says:

    I am also having trouble with search in Onenote 2007 beta 2.  I tried to post to the connect site but it will not let me.

    Search works but when searching a PDF that was printed to Onenote it is EXTREMELY slow.  I have a ~100 page document inserted that takes 5-10 minutes to complete its search.  Hopefully this is a know issue and will be fixed.

    Also, it takes about 30 seconds to find all of my flags in the note flags summary as opposed to the instantaneous results in Onenote 2003.

  32. prajval: in 2003, you can resize "columns" – right click and choose the "resize previous column" command. Then use mouse to drag. Painful, which is why we have real tables in 2007.

    Dave Waters: there are lots of known issues with search in beta2. Yours might be caused by the indexing not being complete. Let Onenote run continuously for a couple of days and try again.

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  34. For a couple of days, searching my newly downloaded OneNote 2007 multiple notebooks using Windows desktop search 3 didn’t work for me at all.  I was able to search within the page I was in but not in multiple notebooks. I

    tried every combination of actions to fix this, for example, uninstalling WDS3, rebooting and reinstalling as well as repairing OneNote 2007.

    I did the following and it fixed things for me:-

    Control panel

    Indexing options


    Deselected all folders except my OneNote folders (I figured that I only wanted to index my OneNote folders – indexing my whole hard drive was unnecessary and too time-consuming and in any case, I use Yahoo desktop search for that)


    File types

    Scroll down to file type ".one"

    Select "Index Properties and File Contents" in the button selection area at the bottom


    I left indexing to run overnight.

    Result – full OneNote indexing now worked well and was extremely fast too!

    Prior to this procedure I had selected "Index Properties and File Contents" and thought that this selection applied globally to all file types.  Then I realised you have to make that selection for each specific file type.

    Hope this tip is useful


  35. Roman says:

    On the "Subpages get their own titles"

    Is there any way to pick and choose which style you want? The two frame view is very useful for me as a student, especially when taking notes and organizing everything by chapter. Top frame has title and overview and bottom frame has the notes. Is there any way in the new version to be able to choose the view that is currently present in oneNote 2003?

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