OneNote Web App, cloud sync of notes, and Ribbon Hero for OneNote

Three great things are newly available.

The first is that the web version of OneNote is now available to the public. Here's the official blog post. This is something I've been waiting a long time for, and it nicely solves a few problems:

  • When you want to use OneNote's multi-user collaboration capabilities with a friend who doesn't have OneNote, that's not an issue. Either or both of you can use the web app or the rich client, see each other's edits as they're made and generally get down to work with no hassle. Of course you can work with a large group of friends as well - you're not limited to two. Great for class projects, or virtual teams at work.
  • If you need to check your notes for a piece of info and don't have your PC handy, you can access all your notes (the ones stored in Skydrive) via a browser on a friend's PC or some phones (via the browser).

The second great thing is related, but may be subtle and lost in all the discussion of the web app. As great as the idea of a web app is, the full "rich client" version of OneNote 2010 is a far better experience for extended work. But one thing has been hard to make work for many people until now: keeping notes in sync across more than one PC. For example, I have notebooks I need to use on two work PCs (one laptop, one desktop), as well as my home PC. I also share a notebook with my wife and she has two PCs. Before Skydrive, keeping these notebooks up to date across all these machines needed a service such as Live Mesh or Live Sync. But these solutions don’t work well if you modify files in two locations when not connected to the internet, and other glitches.

With Skydrive, you just place the notebooks on SkyDrive, open them from every machine, and you are done. You get the full feature set and ease of use of the "rich" OneNote application, plus offline access (work literally everywhere including airplanes and "the cabin"), plus automatic syncing of changes made by multiple users across machines, *without* any of the glitches that can arise when using a sync service. It just works. This is the same benefit users of OneNote inside organizations with file shares or SharePoint servers have always had, but now Skydrive provides the "anywhere" access.

Third, (and with this I get to tie together my old job and my new job), Office Labs has just released an update to the Ribbon Hero game which adds support for OneNote 2007 and 2010. So if you feel that Office (and especially OneNote!)  must have a lot of capability that you don’t have the time or inclination to discover and learn, try playing Ribbon Hero and have fun picking up some "wow-that's-so-useful-I-didn't-know-it-could-do-that" sort of tips - in just a few minutes. Note for 2010 beta users: Ribbon Hero works with the beta versions of Word/Excel/PowerPoint 2010, but with the final code coming on the market now and a free 2010 trial download available, we decided to make the new OneNote support work only with the final version of OneNote 2010. So ditch the beta and get the free trial!

Comments (28)

  1. Mike Walsh says:

    While I had sync problems with different client PCs connected at different times to a copy of OneNote (2007) on a server, I have never had sync problems since I moved my OneNote notebook to a (mini) USB drive. and that applies to a mix of OneNote 2010 and 2007 clients.

    The only snag compared to SkyDrive is

    –  don't lose or mislay the USB drive (so use a slightly bigger model in a bright color!)

    Both solutions have the same problem that the files need to be in 2007 format if there is any possibility of OneNote 2007 being used as a client. Solve that and I might move to SkyDrive but not before, because now i can sync a client to the latest version *without* Internet access.

  2. Chris says:

    Do you know if there are any plans to have a browser add-on or scriptlet to allow cliping from web pages to the OneNote web app?

  3. Jed says:

    Seriously – is there no way to insert a file (doc, pdf, etc) or take a screen shot/web clipping in the online version of OneNote??  I have been waiting for YEARS for this to be made available so I could finally get rid of Evernote – but without that functionality, the software is virtually useless.  Do the developers not pay attention to how people actually use the software AT ALL?  I don't need a different version of Word, which is what OneNote Online basically is at this point.

  4. kasnj says:

    I was excited to see that OneNote was now a web app, but that quickly turned to disappointment as most of my favorite functionality isn't there – esp the pen tools! I hope this is a temporary issue.

  5. Douglas says:

    Adding to the not-quite-Evernote sentiment. : (

  6. Jeff says:

    The web app is a step forward, but it's sad that the *iPhone* has a better OneNote application than Windows Mobile does!

    When the Apple developer community is beating Microsoft at Microsoft's own game, you know that the future of Windows Mobile is pretty grim.

  7. Mike Walsh: yes using a USB stick was a sharing/syncing scenario we made sure worked in 2007, but it is only going to be effective for a single user, and as you note, you have to be careful to bring it with you and never lose it (although losing the USB stick does not lose your notes – they are still cached on every machine. and forgetting to bring it once in awhile doesngt cause a problem – the sync and merge happens when ever you actually plug it in. That said, just storign the note boks on Skydrive is so much simpler – but 2007 doesn't sync to Skydrive.

    Chris: I'm no longer on the team so I can't say, but this is obviously just a first release so they're working to add improvements.

    Jed: "virtually useless"? if you say so. I find it pretty useful to be able to see all my notes in 100% fidelity, and to do multi-user editing through the web app. The web app is "v.1" so it doesn't have every feature of the Windows product – in fact it works best as a companion to the Windows version, not a replacement.

    kasnj: it's a v.1, but duplicating all the functionalty of the windows version is pretty difficult inside a browser, if not impossible in some cases. That said, they're already working on improvements so stay tuned.

    Jeff: you're coming something 3yrs old with something brand new. Wait until the new OneNote Mobile is available!

    I suspect no one commenting here has used OneNote 2010 with Skydrive yet – that's my favorite part!

  8. Mike Walsh says:

    (although losing the USB stick does not lose your notes – they are still cached on every machine. and forgetting to bring it once in awhile doesngt cause a problem – the sync and merge happens when ever you actually plug it in.)

    A follow-up to this. I assumed that if I did lose the USB stick I could go to one of those PCs where the OneNote files were still in cache; shove in a new empty USB stick and populate it from the cache.

    I tried that when I had once mislaid the USB drive with them on and I gave up before getting it to work. Should it work?

    >  you have to be careful to bring it with you

    Not really. You can go merrily on updating Machine A (say the one at work); bring the USB stick that you've been using at home to work once a week/month and press Sync. Works fine. There's no need to bring it with you all the time provided your second (third) location has an already installed and sync'd copy of OneNote 2007 or 2010 (in 2007 format).

    > 2007 doesn't sync to Skydrive.

    In that case, no prizes for guessing which I think is the better solution. I want to sync everywhere not just on my own machines.


  9. George says:

    Just got Office 2010 today, and upgraded to OneNote 2010. Sync quite a large notebook file (250mb) to Windows Live/SkyDrive.

    Issues with syncing. Sometimes pauses, Error Codes 0x800701F4. Never can get the "remote notebooks" up to date. Otherwise very excited with potential to use and update my notebooks if I don't have my laptop with me. Hoping this sync issue will be sorted out soon!

  10. Jed says:


    Let me clarify my comments, which were needlessly harsh, I admit.  That said, the hope for OneNote was that I would be able to access and modify the same notes I have on my work laptop on my home machines, which are Macs.  Until MS releases OneNote for Mac (which I understand is still not in the plans for the next Mac release), I was hopeful that I would at least be able to manage my notes in the web app.  My point is that, at this time, the web app is basically a Word editor and OneNote viewer.  By far the most important aspect of OneNote for me and my users is the ability to easily attach files to a notebook, to which we can then make notes.  Leaving that functionality out does, in fact, make the web app 'virtually useless' for us.

  11. Tom says:

    I have searched and searched, but since i'm new to OneNote, i still can't figure this out.

    I have OneNote 2010.  I set it up on the first computer and shared everyting with SkyDrive.  The syncing seems to work very well.  However, when i installed OneNote on my second comptuer, i can't figure out how to make it recognize the shared folders i put on SkyDrive.  I am singed in on the second computer using the exact same username and password.   Microsoft's help isn't very helpful.  Any suggestions?

  12. David says:

    Great start.  How do I search a notebook?

  13. Mike Walsh says:

    > i can't figure out how to make it recognize the shared folders i put on SkyDrive.


    It should be possible through something like File + Open  ("something like" because the work machine has OneNote 2007 so I'm guessing here that OneNote 2010 is similar) and then specifying the SkyDrive Notebook.

    If you are doing that and it isn't working, can you give more details of what you have tried so far and what happened when you did each one.

  14. Tom, go to, open each shared notebook, then click "open in onenote". you can do that on each machine you need to sync to. After that the syncing is automatic behind the scenes.

    Jed: I understand. The Windows (rich) client is far more capable than the web verison. It will be awhile (if ever) that all the capabilities of the Windows version get to the web – some just can't be done in a browser. As for a Mac version – you're not the only one!

    Mike Walsh: yes, I'm glad you like the USB trick – we worked hard on getting that to be as seamless as possible in 2007, including the case where sync is delayed by not brignign the USB stick for awhile as you mention. That said, with 2010 clients everywhere (which i have), it is just easier to have everything in Skydrive since there's no delay in sync from me forgetting a USB drive. If you do ever lose the USB drive, you can rght click on the notebook, go to "properties", and change its location to the new USB drive. The cached notebook will then repopulate onto that new drive, and the old one will not be synced to anymore (OneNote carefully distinguishes between USB drives based on their internal ID, so it doesn't just use the drive letter "E:" or whatever since you don't want it to sync to every USB drive you plug in). if you do not intend to upgrade from 2007, Skydrive does not add a lot to OneNote – you shoud stick with your current solution.

    David, Search is not in the initial release. No comment on future updates, sorry.

    George: I am looking into your sync issue.

  15. Stephen says:

    Please add a browser plugin to "Send to OneNote" on SkyDrive. That is really the only missing "must have" feature that I see. That functionality is at the core of how I use OneNote to organize the documents, pages, scraps that I find.

  16. Mark says:

    I'm trying to access some OneNote web-saved (to skydrive) notebooks from two Android browsers with no luck. I can't seem to open the notebook and see its text.  When I click on the notebook it wants to download it and of course there is no native OneNote for android.  Same is true for the stock browser and dolphin.

    Note: I'd love to edit OneNote documents on my mobile browser but at minimum I want to VIEW them.

    Is there a requirement for mobile browsers to view Skydrive OneNote notebooks that I am unaware of?  Any solutions or workarounds on the horizon?

    thanks,  –Mark.

    ps.  as an alternate. I've searched for some way to auto-publish or auto 'backup' select onenote pages sections or notebooks into a more universal format such as PDF or HTML to a web location but there doesn't seem to be anything.  might be a good add in..

  17. Scoobie says:

    I'm facing the same problem as mark but on iPhone. Can you access skydrive onenote folders from any mobile browsers? Chris your post seems to suggest you can.

    What do you mean by "some phones" can access it – that's pretty vague

  18. For those looking for more info on web aps, including mobile device use, here are some links:…/using-office-web-apps-in-windows-live-HA101231889.aspx…/use-office-web-apps-on-your-cell-phone-HA010389583.aspx

    And Ina Fried's article for those who want to play at unsupported scenarios:

    In general, I think for iPhone/iPad (Safari 4) and WinMo with IE7 the level of support is currently "view Word and PPT", and that editing of files through the web apps on these mobile devices is not yet working (editing uses more javascript than viewing, which is likely why this is true). Note: sort of working is not the same as "working" which is why Ina's hack is not recommended.

    As always, remember these have only been live a couple of weeks – work has already started on improving them.

  19. Scoobie says:


    Thanks for the links.

    having experimented for a couple of hours my conclusion is skydrive onenote folder don't work with the iPhone

    by selecting pc viewing mode on the site you can see your folder names but I was unable to get it to open a folder or to view or edit. I just got a continuous "loading" circle that never ends.  

  20. Wayne Hoggett says:

    I just can't seem to work out how to move my existing OneNote Notebooks up to SkyDrive. You'd think it would be pretty easy, but I can't seem to find a way to do this without re-creating them all in the WebApp – Which I imagine could be pretty painful.

  21. Matt says:

    Stephen: Hear, hear! "Send to OneNote" (and "Search") are must-haves.

    Chris: I understand that this is a first release, so I expected that there would be improvements needed. I did expect, however, to get a full version of the program (especially considering there were beta versions of the others). As you stated above, it could be useful to be able to see my notebooks online and edit the text, but those options are not why people buy OneNote. I agree with Jed above that, until a few must-have features (for me, "search" is most notable) are available in the web app, the web app is virtually useless to me.

    I just feel lied to that MS built up the release of this web app so much, not bothering to mention the lack of all but the most basic features until after people had bought it.

    "No comment" on the implementation of the search feature worries me very much, but I am hopeful that SUBSTANTIVE improvements will be made quickly.

    All that said, I do appreciate your time in answering questions here.

  22. Wayne, go to File/Share, and it's all laid out for you. By choosing "web", your notebook will be moved to skydrive, and you can choose the exact location.

    Matt, I hear you. I would have to say though that MS didn't build up the web apps too much – the press and blogosphere built them up. They were not meant to be replacements for the full application – at least for now they are designed to offer features that are complementary to the fuill app (a place to store cloud notebooks, remote viewing, "lightweight" editing for people you want to collaborate with who don't have the full app). They are designed to be used in concert with the rich client. I can't say anything other than no comment because a) I don't know the team's plans, and b) I couldn't tell you if I did :-). And of course these web apps are free, which is hard to beat as a price.

  23. Chris Z says:

    I am having trouble syncing with SkyDrive as well. Here's the error:

    The Web server is reporting an internal error. If this persists, contact the server administrator. (Error code: 0x800701F4)

  24. Alan says:

    I have a PC desktop (XP Pro) and a PC laptop (Win 7), both with Office Home & Student 2007.  After copying desktop OneNote notebooks to external hard drive (or CD), I open it and verify that everything has copied properly and completely.  When I go to transfer from external h.d. to laptop, I get older version of my notebooks.  What's gong on?  How do I correct this problem?  Thanks.

  25. Colin says:

    This is a off topic for the current post but I hope you won't mind helping out with two quick questions since you're obviously so expert in OneNote?

    Background: I'm a mathematics teacher in Australia and I use OneNote extensively in my teaching via a tablet PC and a wireless projector. I regard it as one of my most useful programs! We currently use XP and Office 2007 but we're upgrading to Window 7 and Office 2010 next year. I'm experimenting with 2010 now.

    1. I do a lot of multiple pastes from applications such as graphing packages and resizing them all to the same (reduced) size is a pain. Is there any way to gain the ability that Word has of resizing to a percentage or to a pixel size? Rotating would be a bonus! I was really hoping to see that this would be one of the abilities added in 2010 but it seems not. 🙁

    2. In OneNote 2007 I routinely move the toolbar to the left of the screen so as to gain more vertical real estate (tablet PC remember!). The addition of the ribbon to Office 2010 makes this problem even more of an issue and I am unable to find a way to move the ribbon to the left OR to reduce the size of the icons. Given that this is incredibly easy with the taskbar in Windows 7 I wonder if I am missing something simple?


  26. For folks who had trouble syncing to Skydrive in June/July, I believe several issues were cleared up at the end of July and you should be syncing fine now. In particular, I think the 50MB per-file (section) limit has been removed.

    Alan: First, unless this is a one-time move, I don't recommend manually copying the files like that – the risk of overwriting is too great. If you're just trying to keep the laptop and desktop in sync, because you have 2007, you might take a look at my post on that topic:…/621692.aspx.  Now, if this is a one-time move, I suspect what's happenign is when yoyu open Onenot eon the laptop, it is pointign at the default set of empty notebooks. Close the notebooks you see, then open the ones you copied to the laptop. (File/File/Close and File Open>notebook)

    Colin: For your first question, there is no "pixel resize" capability, but for 2007 you can get this powertoy to rotate images:…/image-rotator-powertoy-for-onenote-2007.aspx. For 2010, the feature is built-in (right-click on image, rotate) – the 2007 powerty does not work with 2010 except on 2007-format notebooks.

    For your second question, you cannot move the ribbon to the side, but you have two good options:

    1. tap on the ribbon tab name that you are currently using. it will hide the ribbion. You can get it back by tapping on the tab name.

    2. even better, click on the "Full page view" icon in the upper left (on the quick-access toolbar), or on the view tab in the ribbon to clear most fo the clutter from the screen and give you plenty of room to write.

  27. Mr_Wong says:

    I use a Mac (with a WACOM tablet), OneNote is almost a killer app for teaching (almost, but I'm not switching platforms). My dream is that the Mac Office Team would come out for OneNote for the Mac, but an online version would be sweet too. NEED to be able to hand write notes on the screen!!!

    Can't Microsoft just buy and drop in the writing functionality?

    Still waiting  🙁   …  maybe in version 2  😉

  28. Hi Mr. Wong. I can't speak to your Mac question, but there *is* an on-line version of OneNote – that's what this post is about. It does not support displayng or capturing ink at the moment however…

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