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  1. #1
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    MS OneNote: Far more than a simple note-taker




    BEST SOFTWARE


    MS OneNote: Far more than a simple note-taker


    By Lincoln Spector

    Not every piece of information we know or need fits neatly into a category such as document, spreadsheet, or photo. But where to keep it? For many, Microsoft's OneNote has become an indispensable app for everything from storing and retrieving random types of information to organizing big projects. Here's how to get the most out of OneNote.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/best-software/ms-onenote-far-more-than-a-simple-note-taker/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  2. #2
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    I agree OneNote is a good program but it has some serious usability issues. Like many Microsoft products the developers are so intent on the next version that they never/rarely address pressing user issues, I guess it isn't sexy marketing to say "we got that wrong". One example that did get fixed (there was a work around) was image rotation. Should have been there from day one but took years before it actually arrived. Here's just some of the things that NEED fixing.

    Group objects - should have been there from day one. Draw a pretty picture with a number of elements and then inadvertently move/insert something, mayhem ensues if you don't notice soon enough.
    Group containers - have one container on top of another to make a side note relating to an element in another container, the containers can move independently. Should be able to lock them together.
    The ability to put multiple images side by side within a single container - never found an easy way of doing this without resorting to tables or multiple containers (see comments above).
    Printing - very inflexible. Why can't I print a selection for instance? Seriously, paper is still very useful at times.
    Inserting files/objects - clunky.
    Move an object by dragging and the window scrolls really slowly so better to cut and paste and that opens up another set of problems getting it in the right place.
    Text not adhering to default settings - problem arose during an upgrade, supposed to be a 'feature', it's a pain!
    Styles - why should one have to put in an addon such as OneTastic to do this. OneTastic crashes my OneNote so not useable for me.

    And so on.

    There's probably answers to my gripes but they aren't obvious to me and I have taken a bit of time to look.

    OneNote can and should be a great program rather than just a good program but it needs some usability focus. I use it almost every day and I am frustrated almost every day.
    Last edited by Rocket99; 2015-06-18 at 06:27.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for your excellent column on OneNote today. I've been using OneNote for years, and couldn't live without it. It is the most valuable MS Office program I own. I also teach a class on OneNote to seniors and will incorporate several of your tips into my class.

  4. #4
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    I stopped all my use of OneNote and uninstalled it when I found that you cannot sign out of the app on an android phone.

    Good grief...did anybody not think of the horrendous security deficiency that is? If you lose phone or it is stolen, Mr. X has complete access to everything you have in OneNote.

    NOT FOR ME!? No way.

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    Trev (2015-06-18)

  6. #5
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    Nice article, very useful and I hope it will spark further discussion of this topic.

    If any of my fellow readers have ideas or suggestions about a good, basic introduction to OneNote, beyond your article, I hope they'll reply here with links (TIA).

    BTW, the (more info) link reference following 3DES is not active. Wikipedia, as usual, has a reasonable intro to the topic. Also, a link from the AES-256 reference to the Wikipedia article about AES would be nice.

    DvH
    Last edited by dvhirst; 2015-06-18 at 14:07. Reason: add htlinks

  7. #6
    Ken Kashmarek
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    The only serious issue I have with OneNote, probably due to my over simplistic use of the tool, it that the program ALWAYS locks up for 1 or 2 minutes after initial use each day. Apparently, it is taking a backup of the database. During that lockup, it CAN'T be used.

  8. #7
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    Just over a week ago, I got a Surface Pro 3 (SP3) to experiment with as a laptop replacement that could double as a tablet. My needs are fairly simple now that I'm semi-retired but I still need to use a couple Windows programs or I might have jumped ship completely.

    One thing I looked forward to experimenting with was OneNote, it's a program that I really hadn't paid much attention to since I never saw the need. But the SP3 (I did a 'clean' upgrade to Win10 the day I got it) came with a Universal (Modern/Metro) version of OneNote that was slaved to the Surface Pen so why not give it a go.

    Here I was immediately met with the Microsoft "my way or the highway" logic. To use the Win10 version of OneNote, you must log in with a Microsoft account and use it with their OneDrive application. I'm not sure what the reasoning is behind this but the SP3 is supposed to be a laptop replacement, which means not being tethered to the internet all the time.

    And guess what, the Surface Pen is tethered to OneNote and cannot be reassigned to a different app. It would appear to be possible to install a Wacom utility that would allow you to change that, but this brings us right back to the problem people had with Win8 being short-sighted.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same. <sigh>

    Addendum... I recalled seeing that MS had a free OneNote version that could be downloaded for Win7 and did some checking and found that it's the same with it. This is from a MS answer to a question in the Microsoft Community asking if they could use it without an account or OneDrive.
    The free edition does require a Microsoft account as it stores your notebooks on OneDrive for easy access on all your devices. Your Microsoft account is free and comes with 7 GB of storage on OneDrive. Once you've signed in and created a notebook, you can use OneNote whether you're online or offline.
    If you want to store your notebooks locally, OneNote includes that functionality as part of an Office 365 subscription. I'd recommend signing in to the free version just to try it out first.
    IOW, free means free with conditions. I particularly like the part about being able to access it from all of my devices. All 1 of my devices?
    Last edited by gsmith-plm; 2015-08-11 at 11:17.

  9. #8
    5 Star Lounger RussB's Avatar
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    I stay away from those Microsoft "added value" programs as they have sucked too many in only to abandon them later i.e. Money, Outlook Express, etc.

    Just because they do a good job with an OS does not mean all of their software should be jumped on.
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    I did find that once I had signed in to it the first time, while connected to the internet, it did allow me to go on using it while offline. But, as far as I can tell it is still tied to OneDrive. If you look in the OneDrive folder, there is a URL link to your account. It's not clear where the document(s) are stored when you are working offline.

    Now, to be fair to MS, I am speaking here about the Free version that comes with Win10. But I'm going to assume that if you actually have a full version of Office then that version would allow you to store your documents where you wish.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gsmith-plm View Post
    I did find that once I had signed in to it the first time, while connected to the internet, it did allow me to go on using it while offline. But, as far as I can tell it is still tied to OneDrive. If you look in the OneDrive folder, there is a URL link to your account. It's not clear where the document(s) are stored when you are working offline.

    Now, to be fair to MS, I am speaking here about the Free version that comes with Win10. But I'm going to assume that if you actually have a full version of Office then that version would allow you to store your documents where you wish.
    I have been using OneNote since 2005 and I absolutely, unconditionally love it. I use it for everything and it's the MS app I love the most. It's one of the 3 MS apps I use everyday, the other two being Outlook and Visual Studio.

    This said, I guess I can say that I do have some experience with OneNote and that comes from a time when there was no OneDrive or SkyDrive. I am running the version that comes with Office 2013, but I sincerely doubt that version is different from the free OneNote version. Although OneNote is configured by default to use OneDrive, it can save notebooks locally. For existing notebooks, you can change the notebooks properties and move it from OneNote to local:

    Moving Moving a OneNote Notebook from OneDrive to a local drive

    P.S.: Seems I was wrong. The free edition of OneNote does seem to be limited to OneDrive based notebooks. There are also some limitations connected with more advanced functionalities. Although the full version is not expensive, this is still an annoying limitation on the free version...
    Rui
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  12. #11
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    One thing that kept me from trying OneNote is, anything it could do, I already had a system for. It was simply redundant and I didn't have the time to fool around with it. But now I've started looking at it and the OneDrive issue is a can of worms I'm not sure I want to deal with.

    I use DropBox to share files but I am not dependent on it in any way. OneNote on OneDrive is a different proposition. I can't put a document on a thumb drive or copy it to a CD/DVD or archive it to an external drive. And I'm not comfortable with that.

    There is no doubt at this point that MS is determined to move people over to a "software as a service" model that's tethered to the internet. While there are distinct advantages to that model, it's not one I am in a hurry to embrace. That's partly because I spent a lot of time working with thin clients in the late 1990's and early 2000's and I know where the weak points are in the whole concept.

  13. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by gsmith-plm View Post

    I use DropBox to share files but I am not dependent on it in any way. OneNote on OneDrive is a different proposition. I can't put a document on a thumb drive or copy it to a CD/DVD or archive it to an external drive. And I'm not comfortable with that.
    Yes you can. Notebooks can be exported to a packaged format, from which they can be imported again.

    You can also backup all your notebooks to a location on your computer, from which you can copy them to wherever you want.

    http://windowsitpro.com/onenote/back...note-notebooks
    Rui
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  14. #13
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    Rui, I didn't know that applied to the newer free version of OneNote. I'll check it out.

    ---------------
    Addendum: One big note here... There are clear differences between the free OneNote version you download and the Universal (Modern/Metro) App that ships with Win10. I didn't realize until to day how seriously dumbed down the Win10 App is.
    Last edited by gsmith-plm; 2015-08-17 at 15:37.

  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by gsmith-plm View Post
    Rui, I didn't know that applied to the newer free version of OneNote. I'll check it out.

    ---------------
    Addendum: One big note here... There are clear differences between the free OneNote version you download and the Universal (Modern/Metro) App that ships with Win10. I didn't realize until to day how seriously dumbed down the Win10 App is.
    Yeah do check it out, please. I don't have the free version, so I don't know what's available on the free version. I keep forgetting that's the one you are using...
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  16. #15
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    I installed the free PC version last night. It was actually a bit dumb of me not to understand that the version that came with Win10 is the Metro (sorry, can't stop using that term) version and that it would be quite limited in function.

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