• Why would you use OneNote at all?

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    ONENOTE By Mary Branscombe If you’ve never seen the point of a digital shoebox for notes, here are some ways of putting OneNote to use that could chan
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    • #2499884

      Funny this should be an article in today’s newsletter as I was looking at changing my Office programme to the latest version yesterday when I discovered it no longer has OneNote. I read that Microsoft are making big changes to it and it will eventually be offered as a stand alone App. I use it a lot and find it very useful. I thought I would try the version in their online store but had no end of trouble with it. Firstly it either wanted to use my Microsoft Account or an organisation account. I don’t have one of those. I really don’t like using my Microsoft account as there seems to be a problem that although it appears to recognise my email, it ties itself to my backup email instead. As this is on a purchased domain name that could disappear in the future I am not keen to continue using it. Also, it was able to import one of my OneNote notebooks it threw up an error when I tried to import my main one.

      This has put me off OneNote a bit…. that was until I started looking at the alternatives. I tried Evernote which has an inferior layout in my opinion. I really like how OneNote does things but if it’s going to be more difficult to even use it then I am not so sure. I dislike software that insists on storing your files in the cloud. I am happy to backup to the cloud but not have my main files there. It would mean no access to my notes without the Internet. The fact that my Microsoft account appears to be in some spiraling tangle with no easy way to fix it also puts me off.

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      • #2500016

        Chris – OneNote is definitely still part of Office (although yes, you can also get it as a standalone app): it looks like you ran into the upgrade issue from a couple of years ago when Microsoft was messing around with OneNote in Office while it forced upgrades to 64-bit Office.  Reinstall OneNote from this link which will rerun the OfficeSetup.exe installer and let you pick OneNote as part of Office.

        You need to use either an org account – like Office 365 – or a Microsoft account to get the sync through OneDrive: if you’re only using OneNote locally, you could skip that but the backup is very useful – and you always have local access to your notes even when you’re not online. If you’re worried about your email address, you can just make a new Microsoft account using any email you have, including using a new Outlook.com email.

        Depending on when you tried OneNote from the Store, my guess is that you ended up with the OneNote for Windows 10 app because that does insist on an MSA or org account. If you go back to the Store now, you would get the desktop OneNote – same as the one from the Office installer link I put above – and that should be able to open your notebooks without issue.

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    • #2499941

      Thank you for this article. I am still not persuaded. I used OneNote to plan a new college course I am teaching, but after a couple of months of adding info I decided it was no better than MS Word for that purpose. You can link Excel sheets in Word as well, use page breaks instead of OneNote’s tabs, and find things quickly via search. In addition, you can format tables and charts much better in Word than in OneNote.

      I just don’t see a use case that justifies the time investment of learning another program.

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    • #2499934

      We use it together with sharepoint to save all our clients procedures – pictures of the servers, visio printouts, attached files as pre-configured VPN clients, as well any relevant info on text. Edited by all our employees, with backup using veeam and of course versioning in case we need to find someone who edited something by mistake.

      About 10 users.

      Cant live without.


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    • #2499994

      Currently, I find that links (to internet sites, or other locations in Onenote) don’t work.  error messages.  web search hasn’t provided a solution.  this started happening some time ago.  Seems to be a common issue, for years.

      Onenote is a microsoft product.  They can’t figure out what they want to call it, keep changing the plans for it, how to install it, pretend that the only storage option is cloud, and like most microsoft products is short on development and usability.

      Onenote started as a great program with a lot of promise, under an clever and innovative development team, until it was integrated into Office. Downhill from there.  Search stopped being developed and is pretty lame.  Tagging suffered the same fate.  Creating links to other office software is a recipe for headaches.  Any changes to file structure destroys those links.  They don’t auto update.  And this was before the current “all links, to anywhere, fail” problem.

      I tried using onenote for the tasks that you mentioned, years ago, and gave up on it.  For now it is simply a repository for some data.  Nothing more complicated than that.  And I would like to find another mechanism for this, since I don’t have confidence in Microsoft or Onenote’s future.

      • #2500022

        I’d recommend opening a support case with the OneNote team through the Microsoft Answers site for OneNote: although you may get a fairly vanilla ‘try these basic troubleshooting tips’ response initially, the OneNote team does look at problem reports and will often jump in and guide you through fixing things or ask for a repro so they can look at it. Links not working can be because the target is missing or because you don’t have the right defaults set on your system for the browser/OneNote app that should be opening them, or because the Win 10 app can’t do local links, or it could be something specific to your system, so getting the OneNote team to go through the details with you is the best option.

        • #2500031

          Funny that you suggest Microsoft Answers.  I generally don’t bother looking at references to that site when web searching.  Can’t remember ever seeing a useful response there. In fact, i have suspected that all the “pro” responses are bots.  They often don’t seem to understand the o.p. question.  Nor give successful suggestions.

          Most of the failing links are to web sites.   they all get the same “an unexpected error has occurred”  .  persuant to your remark about defaults, I just checked default app settings. I don’t see any for Onenote.   I tried changing the browser default to Edge.  then the links worked.  Changed it back to Vivaldi: error message.  Really?

          this is  another good reason to resist getting deeper into MS app usage.

          • #2500048

            that suggests Vivaldi isn’t handling a protocol correctly somewhere along the line: mention it in your support case. I don’t generally recommend the Answers site because, as I say, vanilla ‘try these basic troubleshooting tips’ responses, but I also know that the OneNote team specifically do look at and give support for problems there. If you prefer, Help > Feedback inside OneNote but then you lose the chance someone else has had your problem and can help or that like the forums here, your very specific problem being solved is helpful to someone else!

    • #2499992

      I have used OneNote for a long time.  I went through some aggravation with transitions between versions but the one thing that has kept me with it is it’s ability to evolve and grow as my needs changed.  I started out as a young engineer with a small snap ring notebook where I kept written technical notes, equations and equipment info that I found myself looking up all the time.  Once I stumbled onto OneNote I starting using it like the snap ring notebook with pages of info.  The beauty was that I could easily rearrange the pages, sections and even notebooks as my needs changed.  No way I could anticipate what my notebooks have grown into.  As a business owner who performed all his own IT functions as well as running a business with taxes, insurance, agreements and contracts as well as personnel information, OneNote has been able to keep up.  To me that’s the strength of OneNote – it’s ability to evolve over time as my needs (and ideas about organization) have changed.

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      • #2500017

        I used to use those spiral bound paper notebooks with Post It notes for index tabs and no matter how many of them I took to a meeting it turned out the one I wanted was always back at my desk! That’s very much why I love OneNote so much 😉

    • #2499993

      Fascinating article! For some years – decades? – I have used Amigo! to keep anything and everything of any importance. Years ago author of Amigo went AWOL, it is now an orphan software, and I have tried hard to find a place to move all of  my life treasures to. Will this gem of Msft you talk about accept data from Amigo! ?  Amigo claims to be able to export to ‘interchange file’ ,  export to ‘ text file ‘ , and ‘ export to HTML file ‘ , whatever all that might mean. Amazing as it is the Amigo! still runs even on win10, but I live in horror when that goes out of support, since I cannot imagine my existence without all my treasures saved in Amigo! …  Agreed, I am a frail old man so it probably does not matter much, still …   Thanks.  JJK

      • #2500010

        Jeremy – yes, OneNote can import text and HTML files (HTML will have images and formatting, text may not). You can print the files and pick OneNote as the target or you can use the handy Onetastic addon to run a batch import macro (which you can do for free because Onetastic lets you run a limited number of macros without charge). Find the batch import macro here: https://getonetastic.com/how-to/batch-file-import

        hope that helps you out!


      • #2500023

        BTW, my next OneNote piece will specifically cover getting information into OneNote, so you may find that helpful as you do your imports.

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    • #2500026

      Will the desktop version of OneNote, support new local notebooks over the long run?

      We have OneNote from a “perpetual” version of Office for which security updates expires in 2025. We don’t mind re-buying a consumer version of OneNote to continue with local Notebooks and security updates. We don’t run anything under a Windows account or run OneDrive, which is uninstalled. We don’t like software subscriptions, either.

      So, will one time purchases of OneNote with local folders by consumers be available in the future, to the best of your knowledge? If we have to re-buy retail Office to get this capability, that is ok too.

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

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      • #2500049

        yes, the OneNote team has told me multiple times that they will continue to support local notebooks for users who pay for OneNote (whether it’s the perpetual licence or subscription licence and the consumer or the business licence – though it may not be a specific, separate OneNote purchase but an Office licence): you might not get all the features that syncing through OneDrive enables, but they know how valuable local notebooks are for businesses and plan to keep supporting them.

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    • #2500072

      i have posted to the vivaldi forum, to see if there is a setting to adjust, or some other suggestion.

      I have tried disabling extensions.

      if no fix there, i can try the answers site.

    • #2500130

      Originally I used Lotus Organizer back in the dark ages, and I liked it a lot. Then I found EverNote and have been using that for years. I have OneNote, but I find it unintuitive and klunky to use. Every time I give it another try, it’s been changed again. At this point I don’t know if it’s the version that came with Office 2021 or with Windoze or from the Micro$oft Store. So it mostly just occupies disk space on my computer while I’m waiting for the dust to settle, and getting comfortable with Linux…

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      • #2500162

        As I mentioned in my first post, Office 2021 doesn’t include OneNote so you either have a Windows Store version or one from a previous version of Office.

        I guess one man’s ‘unintuitive and klunky’ is another’s ‘easy to use’ as I have always found it to be the simplest and most intuitive note taking App out there. I haven’t really noticed much of a change in how it works over the years. It just seems straightforward and right to me. 🙂

    • #2500342

      I have only recently come to OneNote for a specific purpose, to replace the Journal function in MSO Outlook which was deprecated some time ago and is gradually getting harder to access (no doubt it will completely disappear at some stage).

      My main issue with OneNote concerns the table format I need.  I currently have four pages in use (in the one notebook), all formatted as tables.  The problem is that the rightmost column of these tables in which I store (sometimes lengthy) text entries, does not wordwrap at the right border of the table.  Instead it just expands that column of the table out to the right and I have to drag the border back to where I want it and manually add newlines to the text.  Columns to the left seem to wordwrap OK.

      Is there any way to fix the rightmost column border and get the text to wordwrap at that border?  I appreciate that an auto-expanding column may be useful in some cases, but I just find it frustrating.

      Another issue is more of an annoyance.  I understand that OneNote auto-saves – but how often?  Other programs auto-save, but also allow you to manually save (usually Ctrl-S) at any time.  OneNote does not seem to offer this option.  After entering something long or complex, being able to save immediately via Ctrl-S gives me confidence that the new data is safe.  In fact, I find myself doing Ctrl-S by force of habit in OneNote even though it probably does nothing.


      Dell Precision 3630 w/32 GB RAM, 500 GB (C:), 1 TB (D:)
      Window 10 Pro x64
      Internet: FTTC (Fibre to the Kerb)

      • #2536062

        you can’t change the autoexpanding final column – it will always expand to the width of the current page window: if you make the window smaller when you create or paste into the table, it might keep it the size you want. or you could put in a sacrificial blank column as the final column?

        OneNote saves automatically every time you type something: into the local cache every few milliseconds and then synced into the main notebook file and up to OneDrive. Ctrl-S doesn’t do anything in OneNote except make you feel better (and maybe exercise your fingers a bit!)

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