So the planned segue into this topic in my previous post was buried way up near the top where I said I received a piece of e-mail with a link. That innocuous-sounding statement is glossing over a fair amount of technology. This is the link in question (slightly censored):
Ugly, huh? This is the crazy behind-the-scenes version of the link… by the time we ship it will look more like this:
The reason for showing you the behind-the-scenes version is mostly so you see the onenote:// at the beginning. This is the technical starting point for a bunch of cool work we did to enable you to link notes together, link into your notes from other applications, and point other people at notes you share with them.
To take a real-world example, recently I’ve been giving a lot of presentations on OneNote 12 to customers and these generally involve demonstrations of the product. A product demo is a little bit of performance art in the middle of your typical corporate day, and I enjoy them and try to do them well. Which means, to me, not being slick and practiced, but rather making it real – showing something that a makes someone say “wait a minute, I have that problem – you solved my problem!”
To that end, I make considerable use of my “Customer feedback” section while creating demo notes. That section contains all manner of customer information I’ve accumulated, among which are a few super-high-value pages containing e-mail threads, personal insights, and/or meeting notes where I really “got it” – understood the value of OneNote to a particular customer. These feed directly into my demos.
So when I’m sketching out a demo, I’m often basing it on other information in OneNote, and aching for some way to just stick in a link to that other note. In OneNote 2003, the best you could do – if you were quite clever – was to insert a file:// link to another section. Couldn’t get you to the exact page, was difficult to construct, broke if the other thing moved, etc.
In OneNote 12, when you right-click on a page tab, there’s a new menu command called “Copy Hyperlink to this Page”:
When you select this, OneNote builds a onenote:// hyperlink to the current page and puts it on the clipboard. Then you just navigate to the page where you want to insert the link, paste, and voila – OneNote inserts a nicely formatted friendly link (for example: Linking related notes together).
There are a bunch of technical reasons why it needs to be a onenote:// link, instead of the more common http:// or file:// links – most of which aren’t relevant to this discussion. The one that matters here is that this allows the link to point at a specific page, not just a specific section. (There are actually ways to do this with http:// links, but we couldn’t go that route for other reasons.) When you click on this link, it instantly jumps you to that page in your notes, scrolled to wherever you were the last time you looked at that page.
Now this is where it gets cool. First, this link works inside or outside of OneNote. You can paste it into a document, click on it, and bam! OneNote opens you to that page. You can even put it into e-mails and web pages – although this gets into a couple of details about sharing, which I’ll cover in a moment. Second, if the page that this link points to moves, no sweat – OneNote fill find it again. Third – this is my favorite part, and where the segue at the beginning will start to make sense – these links aren’t limited to pages. You can link to anything in OneNote.
Right-click on a section tab in OneNote:
A specific paragraph on a page (or a picture, or an attachment, or an audio recording):
You get the idea.
Now, if you’re working in a shared notebook, links can have extra value because they’re not just for your reference or convenience – they can call someone else’s attention to relevant information that they might otherwise miss. Plus, the ability to link all the way down to a paragraph means that it’s really easy to send someone a mail that says “here’s the exact thing I’m talking about: link” that will jump them directly to the exact location in the shared notebook.
Additionally, when you send someone a link that’s inside a shared notebook, if they don’t already have a button for that notebook on their navigation bar (in our parlance, if they don’t have that notebook open), then OneNote automatically opens it for them, which means that a button shows up on their navigation bar, the notebook is automatically cached for offline use, indexed for inclusion in searches, etc.
And that feeds into another scenario where we use these links, which is for inviting other people to shared notebooks. There’s a new Share menu in OneNote 12, and one of the choices on it is “Send Shared Notebook Link to Others…” which creates an e-mail containing a link to the shared notebook (we also do this for you automatically when you create a shared notebook). All you have to do is fill out the list of recipients and click send. When they receive that mail, all they have to do to “join” the notebook is click on the link. That’s it – one click and they’re in. (To be fair, I am glossing over the details here of permissions, but most people have an H: drive or shared server for the team’s use where the permissions are already set appropriately – so in most cases it will truly be this simple.)
And that’s linking in OneNote 12, in a not very small nutshell.