A month ago, my teammate (and esteemed colleague) Woody Walton did an excellent post on OneNote 2010 – if you haven’t read it, I definitely give it a “must read” and you should go back and read it right now, do not pass “Go” and do not collect $200 <grin> (probably showing my age if you have never played Monopoly).  One of the key points Woody makes is that OneNote is now pervasive across ALL the Office suites, and that, as a result, it is very likely, as a partner and technology advisor, you’ll be getting questions about it, and even if no questions, it now represents a value add (read selling point) for every suite, so you are doing yourself a disservice on several levels if you aren’t (and don’t get yourself) ramped up on it.  I’ve been doing a series of Office 2010 Launch events for our OEM partners over the last month and I always ask how many use OneNote, and unfortunately the number tends to be below 50%, so I’m going to post this to encourage you, if you are in that “lower” 50% (non-users) that you start leveraging OneNote.  Interestingly, like myself, a long-time OneNote user, when i asked those who did use OneNote if they would give it up for any other app, I’d almost always get a resounding NO!  This is one app that if you take the time to get to know it, it will definitely become one of the key productivity tools in your arsenal – and a key selling point for making money off Office 2010 (and hopefully Windows 7 too).

Woody listed a lot of the new features and functionality of OneNote 2010, so I’m not going to re-invent that wheel, but rather I thought I’d give you some insight into how it’s become such an indispensible tool for me.  If you’re already a OneNote guru you might at least hit the bold face below to see if you’re leveraging all the same things i do.

One of the key things I do on a daily basis is collect information (of all types, predominantly around Microsoft product technical and sales information, but also travel, hobby, personal, and non-product work info as well).   This information comes in all shapes, sizes, and formats (e.g. some web page copy/paste, some documents, some emails, some pics/graphics, some webcast or other online audio/video info, just to name a few).  I’m guessing many of you collect a serious amount of info too.  Historically, I would have to save the emails in Outlook, cut/past web stuff into Word docs and then save in the file system, and also save other docs such as PPTs, etc. to file repositories.  Of course, Vista/Win7 search is “way better” than previous/other OSes, but fundamentally, with all that info spread out around the file system it was not always easy to find all the info I knew I had saved/stored.  Plus, when I did copy/paste, I didn’t always remember to include the source so that was a limitation as well.  And, if I wanted to share that disparate info with a teammate or partner, well, that was sometimes a major challenge when it incorporated a bunch of different info types.

Sooo…  here’s some of the key ways OneNote really amps up my productivity. 

All of that distributed info can be stored and very efficiently searched in OneNote.  I can save entire docs, emails, web pages (or even screen cuts) directly to OneNote and I can record audio/video synchronized with the corresponding note (I typically use the built-in mic in my laptop and have it record my speakerphone output) and make notes as i listen/watch and those notes are synched to the place in the recording where I took the note. 

If you’re using Outlook 2010, you should have a Send to OneNote icon right on your ribbon for one-click action (or use the new quick steps). 

Of course, if it’s a file just drag-drop it into OneNote and you’ll have the following options for storing it.

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And, if you’re copy/pasting info from a web page, boy do I have some good news for you.  I’m guessing a lot of you already know about Snipping Tool (if you’ve read my blogs), BUT did you know you can short cut that process if you want to copy into OneNote?  All you have to do is hit the <Windows-S> key combo and Snipping Tools opens and when you make your copy it’ll automatically open OneNote and ask you where you want to store that info.  Btw, this feature was around before, but it’s significantly improved in Office 2010, in that before it would always put the screenshot in the Unfiled Notes folder, now it will let you pick where you want to store, this is a great improvement.  Think about how you get info off a webpage and into some form of searchable storage and compare that to the 3-4 keystroke option I’ve just told you and hopefully you’ll see enough of a productivity and efficiency boost right there to incent you to get into OneNote.  Oh, and did I mention that after you’ve saved the screenshot in OneNote you can literally “copy text from picture” to make it easy to then import into another document, table, or whatever format you want OR that you can also make the text in the image searchable (see shot below).  I hope you’re starting to get a sense that you need to explore OneNote if you don’t already use it.

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So now, I’ve got my email data, file-based data, screenshots data, pics, or whatever all saved in one repository that really makes searching a breeze.  For instance here’s what the search looks like for Office web apps in my OneNote.  And, btw, OneNote search has been significantly enhanced in 2010 as well – for starters it’s now adaptive and gives results as you type and you can see how it segments the results now (see below) for better clarity and definition.  Of course, as I click any one of the search results, it will show me that page so I can efficiently look at a number of results in a short period of time with minimal key strokes.  And I could limit to specific notebooks, and also sort by date – it really makes it easy to find information.

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Of course, if I then want to share any or all of that info, I can easily send or share just that page or an entire notebook – wow, this is way more efficient that I could ever do before.  Also, OneNote is built for collaboration, so I when I share notebooks, I can take advantage of multiple author input and even co-authoring (inputting at same time).  This is so much better than normal, old-school file sharing.

Btw, I mentioned saving email earlier, here’s what it does when I send an email to OneNote…it keeps track of sender, dates, and all the email contents. 

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Now, let me go back to something else I alluded to earlier, the ability to record audio and take advantage of synchronized notes… this is a page where I recorded a webcast Woody did on Office 2010.  Finding it is as simple as searching for Woody, then suppose I wanted to review what he said about Broadcasting PowerPoint, all I have to do is click on that note, and then click the Play icon to the left and it will automatically start the replay of the audio from that point – I’m guessing a lot of folks would still have to go out and search for the original webcast, then try to find the location by working in some media player or live meeting playback mode.  And, of course, this can work for any call (on speaker), not just webcasts but hopefully you get the idea now.

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Another feature I find handy for ad-hoc stuff is to use the <Windows-N> key combo to launch a “side note”; this is similar to using the <Windows-sticky[note]> command to call up an on-the-fly sticky note (I believe this is Windows 7 only, but don’t have Vista running anymore to check) but of course with a SideNote I get much more robust UI and “searchability”.  Btw, SideNotes are not new and as I recall you even have to reconfigure OneNote default to run the regular OneNote from the notification bar instead of defaulting to SideNotes, which I recommend. 

Woody’s post mentioned some of the new features like Linked Notes which I haven’t tried yet but I”m anxious to have the opportunity to explore it.   Some of the new features that I like include: Ribbon UI now in OneNote, much improved search (which I highlighted earlier), enhanced sharing options and information (e.g. Recent Edits, Find Author, etc), and the ever popular Paste Preview.

Before I finish up, I thought I’d show you my Navigation Bar so you can see how I organize my TECH info, although with the improved search the organization is not key, and in case you’re thinking that storage might be an issue, all the .one files that make up TECH at this point only use up 200 mb (of course, if you do store a lot of docs that figure could go higher – I tend to just store the links to the docs which you saw above).

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I’m hoping this was interesting for you and also helps you with some thoughts on some of the ways OneNote can not only help you be more productive, but I’m sure that once you use it, you, like me, will become an evangelist of it’s capabilities to improve your computing life and that in turn will help you convince more customers of the increased value they’ll now get in all the Office suites.

Cheers,

Ron

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