Value of notes and how I use OneNote

I was just sitting in a TechEd session for an overview of the Office 2007 client apps (well yesterday afternoon). I was super excited to see the presenter mention OneNote. He actually introduced OneNote by asking people if they used the app or not and surprisingly about 40% of the hands went up, people were using OneNote! I couldn't believe it, I always hear about people using OneNote, but it was great to see so many hands come up and also just walking through the asiles I would see what people were doing on their laptops and about 50% of the time I saw OneNote people typing and people writing with Tablets. It was great!


That got me thinking about something that I have talk with my coworker, Olya, about. It was all about notes and what people value out of them. When you go up to someone and you ask them about their notes they will typically think about those little sticky notes that they leave around, or small lists of things to do. When you tell people that you can use a piece of software to do this people will not always see the value of that. They think that their current system works well. And for some people it does, think about it you write something on some paper you might find it later, or tie a string around your finger as a reminder. But how many times do you end up re-writing those thoughts? How many random things do you lose in a day because you don't capture it better?


I can tell you that before I started using OneNote I would have lists and lists on random pieces of paper. Then when doing my laundry I would find these lists in my pants pockets. I would end up collecting them and then rewriting a new list of the items I hadn't completed. Let me tell you, I wish I had a better system in university. I did value those notes and I am sure that I should have used something like Outlook/OneNote to keep track of our tasks.


So again when you talk with people about notes they might think that they are very important. However if you ask them about these todo lists and other items that they write down and then ask people how often they lose that information then you start to click with people. I know personally that was the biggest value of these notes: keeping track of the stuff in my life and also the random thoughts that I had. For example after a quick conservation when Olya and I talked about notes I made a quick note, in OneNote, to blog about it. Now for some people they should use Outlook because that is better suited for them. I typically use Outlook for a lot of these things, but in general I prefer to use OneNote.


I believe now we are getting somewhere, people do find value for notes and for the 'things' in their life. OneNote is a great place to store those things and to find it later on. But you can actually make more of a point with people if you start asking them more about research projects. Now this might sound like something very big and complex but it really isn't. We do this all of the time: buying a house, going on vacation and travel planning, getting a new digital camera, etc. (Funny how they are almost always financial/consumer decisions...maybe some people do it when they are researching on or Craigslist, but I digress). When you are collecting information you are stuck printing out webpages and bookmarking websites. Then later you have to find them later on. It isn't as easy as having one place with all of your notes. When you start talking to people about this it really becomes more valuable. We all have this type of information we are trying to keep track of and OneNote is a perfect place for this.


I think we need to be careful when we say OneNote is just for notes, it really is about storing all of the information in your life.

¬ I would like to talk about how I use OneNote. I love side notes/unfiled notes to keep track of my random ideas. So whenever something comes up, either a thought or an action item or someone coming into my office to ask me about something I create a new side note (Win-N). I just hit Win-N and then I have a new window where I jot down ideas. I write down what was discussed or something I need to do. Typically if there are action items I will flag/tag the note (Ctrl-1, or Ctrl-2). This will give me a visual indicator of what was important on the page.


Creating side notes in and of itself is a great thing, it is just like those lists that I used to create on paper. The real value becomes that I look through my lists later on. At certain times in the day I will look through my side notes and see what it is that I have to do. Typically I will cross things out (Ctrl+-) or I will delete the whole page if I don't need the note (Ctrl-Shift-A). Usually I will do this at the end of the day when thing die down and I have more time. I will go through my side notes and create a todo lists. Once I have these todo lists then I will have my work items for the rest of the night or the next morning.


I also keep other items in OneNote: account numbers for my banks and my login IDs as well as reference numbers and order numbers. Now I also have other notebooks and sections that I keep in OneNote, I just use my side notes as my main entry point into OneNote and then I file them away from unfiled notes into other sections. I am sure at some point I will write about the other ways that I use OneNote.


Now if I were to say to you: do you find your notes valuable how would you reply? Would you want to use some piece of software like OneNote? (and if you reading this it means that you probably already are using OneNote, so what grabbed you in the past?)

Comments (5)

  1. Cynthia says:

    I have never used OneNote.  I am looking to see how other people use it to see if it would be beneficial to me or our staff.

  2. Rebecca says:

    Same as Cynthia, I have never used it and don't really know why it exists. In fact I found this page becuase I had typed into google, "What's the point of OneNote". No offence, I still don't really get it; I guess I need someone to sit down with me someday and show me exactly how to use it/what it's used for. I mean, you say you use it to make notes, to replace the ones you find in your laundry. Those notes for me are either to do lists or shopping lists and I can hardly take my laptop to the grocery store and tick off my items! In any case, my to do lists are written eithe ron a physical notepad or Windows notepad. Which brings me to another query, what's the point of Wordpad?! Either use Word or Notepad!! I just don't get it.

  3. Tracey says:

    Ha!  I got here the same way as Rebecca: googled "what is the point of onenote."  Like Rebecca, I still haven't found the point.  Sounds like it's just one more place to write things down, which means one more place I have to look for them.  :^P

  4. Dave Raeburn says:

    One note is just another thorn in the side of the average Microsoft user.  Its pretty useless – the whole point of notes, is that they are an alternative to electronic media.

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