• Why there isn’t just one OneNote

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    ISSUE 19.24 • 2022-06-13 ONENOTE By Mary Branscombe OneNote started out on Windows, and it’s been a sleeper success — but getting the full set of feat
    [See the full post at: Why there isn’t just one OneNote]

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    • #2453039

      Thank you for your superb article, Mary.

      I have been using OneNote for more than a decade and love it. I couldn’t function without it. However, sometimes I think that my love for OneNote is in spite of what MS has created rather than because of what MS has created.

      All of the things that don’t work well together, which you have discussed in your article, can make OneNote very frustrating. When they announced that OneNote 2016 (which is what I used) would be permanently frozen, and only Windows 10 OneNote would continue to be updated, I was fit to be tied. When they reversed their decision, I was happy, but I thought to myself, “this is so typical of MS.” Deciding something one day, and then reversing course the next day, doesn’t give customers much confidence in a corporation.

      I found your description of their decision to merge the code base at the end of your article very interesting. Based on past experience, my sense is that there is only a 50/50 chance that MS will actually complete this mission. Sticking with an idea for 2 days, much less two or more years is not something MS is good at.

      I would very much welcome additional articles about OneNote, if you decide to write them. I would love to see an article about lesser known OneNote features.

      Thank you very much for your excellent article, Mary.

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      • #2453115

        very glad you liked the piece! and yes, there will be more coming from me.

        I’ve been frustrated myself over the years because I am a huge OneNote fan and I have hounded the OneNote team about features, support, the installation issues and the future – which means I can say, hand on heart, that the folks who build OneNote really do care, but don’t get all of the resources they’d need to build everything we want. It’s worth reading through Chris Pratley’s blog (which I link to) and watching the 2019 Ben Hodes session from Ignite 2019 (which I’m looking for a link to but was at and kept a transcript from) to understand how they try to make decisions. I’ll talk more about the codebase merge in the next piece!



    • #2453084

      Thank you Mary,
      The article explains a lot. One issue I’ve had with OneNote is there isn’t a clear way to import from Evernote. I tried using OneNote several times but have too much info in Evernote to abandon that app without a clear import option.

    • #2453100

      Because of the disarray of OneNote products and incompatibility I have stuck with Evernote for years.

    • #2453159

      i find that I have onenote on my all programs menu. Do i have it or is it a click and pay to own thingy??


      Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
    • #2453216

      I have had OneNote as part of my MS Office suites since Office 2007. In that time, I have opened OneNote a grand total of maybe two times.

      The first time was out of curiosity. I had heard about it and wanted to see what it could be used for. I saw an interface that lacked any discernible organization, explanation, or reason for being. After clicking around the interface for several minutes trying to figure out the purpose of and use cases for this application, my reaction was, “What would I ever use this for???”

      Perplexed, i even visited a website or two dedicated to OneNote. All these sites did was to lay out things that I could do with it, but I never did find a discussion of how this was better than doing things any other way.

      After a couple of new generations of Office, I took another look at OneNote in the hope that the developers had in the interim made a case within the UI for using this application. They had not: its purpose and function was no clearer to me this time than it had been the first time.

      I have not opened OneNote again since then.


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    • #2453217

      I gave up using OneNote  when it required me to be connected to the internet to see and/or download my notebooks.  I want to sync a complete copy of a notebook to my android phone or tablet for traveling and using offline.  The last I tried it, I just got a few pages at a time.  Am I missing something?  In any case, I enjoyed the article.

      • #2453978

        you have to keep your notes in OneDrive to see them on Android (or anywhere except Windows) but once you’ve synced them to your phone you can absolutely see them when you’re offline, and create new notes that will sync to the cloud when you get back online. the very first version of OneNote on Android had a fair few limitations, but I have two very large OneNote notebooks on my Surface Duo (and it works on other Android devices too).

    • #2453798

      To Mary & Gary’s comments, I’m in full agreement and as proof, the last time I backed up OneNote to pdf, about 2 years ago, it was over 2k of typed pages.  If I should ever dissapear and whoever replaces me needs to know what / why things were done, OneNote is where you should go.

      Nicely done article Mary.

      Take care,

      IT Manager Geek

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    • #2454149

      “What would I ever use this for???”

      That has been my historical my reaction, too.

      And now I’m using it for day-to-day management of our newsletter, as well as for a common repository of information about the editorial side.

      Here’s a trivial example of the latter. We have thumbnail images of our staff and contributors. There is a process for creating them, as we need three different versions. I wrote up that process and stored it as a page in the editorial operations notebook. I wrote that about 15 months ago and I’m pretty sure nobody except me has looked at it. So why is it there if we aren’t collaborating?

      I could get hit by a truck. The next person will have documentation, not on my local PC or in my own personal nooks and crannies, but in a common repository accessible to those running this business.

      For personal use? I should probably use it more.

      Microsoft has done a poor job explaining OneNote, but that’s why we have Mary.

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      • #2454166

        Thanks, Will–that helps.

        Here’s a follow-up question based on the example you gave: It sounds like the greatest value in this case lies in the fact that the file is (or can be) shared in some kind of online fashion. But any file format can presumably be stored in the cloud for others to use. What’s the benefit of writing up the information in that file in OneNote specifically, as opposed to Word or some other content creation software?

        Bear in mind that my goal here is not to be negative about OneNote, but rather to probe and learn.


        • #2454188

          OneNote is like a free form document database, organized according to your choices. The organization levels are Notebooks (files), Sections (tabs), and pages (a free form document which can contain various data types). Pages are organized into tabs too. So easy to click your way to a page of data.

          OneNote Notebooks do not have to be shared if you are using the Office version of OneNote. (A single line in the incremental backup script does our file backup for OneNote.)

          Microsoft has much simpler implementations of “notes”: Sticky Notes and Outlook Notes.

          Windows 10 22H2 desktops & laptops on Dell, HP, ASUS; No servers, no domain.

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          • #2454206

            Thank you. I’m still curious to find a use case for OneNote–that is, something that can be done in OneNote that cannot be done as well or as easily (or at all) in another program.


            • #2454515

              “Find a use case for OneNote”, let me give it a shot, as I have answered similar questions from colleagues:

              • Free form note gathering tool that allows you to organize your thoughts in a manner that makes for easy review of past issues.
                • Case in point, have a “Hardware” section, with several pages (Issues, General, Wireless, etc.), with updates entered cronologically with most current at top including a date – time stamp and heading for each topic;
                • When running into a situation that I remember taking place but the lookup phrase is too common (word “backup” as an example) I go to the appropriate section and scroll down or use “Find on page”.
                • All Server Windows updates, any issues encountered, timing etc. are captured in OneNote.
              • If you want a table and not sure how it’ll look, OneNote’s table feature gives you the basic and a quick way to add columns / rows.  And if you keep it informal it stays in OneNote, want to publish it, copy to Word and format as required.
              • OneNote is always live on my various systems, as such I use it for quick spell check, math equation or typing in new thoughts.
              • This part requires MS365 account, though the sync feature / using either the web or app amongst multiple devices has been invaluable.
                • Great Disaster recovery notes as it syncs to your local hard drive.
              • Repository for all of my training notes (from IT to wood working), including taking screen shots of presentations and then using the OCR feature to formalize the trainer’s notes into editable content is another invaluable tool for I.
              • Finishing off, OneNote is your personal note taker and is great for brainstorming or storing any content that doesn’t require the effort or need for formal presentation.

              Take care,

              IT Manager Geek

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            • #2454574

              Thank you, that’s the best case for OneNote that I’ve seen!

              1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2454594

        I could get hit by a truck.

        Will Please please look both ways….🚛 .. 🚑


        Just because you don't know where you are going doesn't mean any road will get you there.
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