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Sunday, December 14, 2014

1554. What is One Note?

I just got a new Windows PC, and noticed an application called OneNote that I had never noticed before. I open it up, and it’s not clear what it’s for or how I would use it. Should I remove it?
Actually, OneNote is part of Microsoft Office (and has been for the past several versions). It started its existence as a simple note-taking application, but has blossomed into an incredibly useful “brain dump, keep track of everything in your life” application. You can use it for making notes, outlining, and tracking any bit of important information. You can set up multiple virtual “notebooks” for organizational purposes, and because it’s part of Microsoft Office, Microsoft supplies hooks all over Windows and in other applications for sending data to OneNote (such as the ability to clip part of a Web page and send the clipping to a note in OneNote).
Your notes aren’t just stuck on your computer, either. You can download the OneNote app for your phone or tablet, and gain access to all your saved information there, as well. Recently, Microsoft updated its OneNote apps so that you can not only view saved notes, but you can create new content on mobile devices, as well.
And that’s not even a tiny portion of what OneNote can do to organize your online life. You can scan directly from some scanners into a OneNote note, and you can forward email to a special email address that adds the email as a note.  You can draw directly into OneNote notes, to keep sketches handy (think maps)! OneNote indexes everything you enter, so it’s easy to find things you toss in there, later, when you need them.
As you can tell, we’re big, big proponents of applications like OneNote. (We say “like” because Doug uses OneNote and Ken uses a competitor, EverNote, which he’ll swear is better because it’s not tied to a particular platform. Doug will tell you that OneNote has apps for just about every platform, but Ken will tell you it’s not really the same thing.) In any case, if you ever thought about having a digital filing cabinet for anything you might need to find later, OneNote (or EverNote) makes a great tool. Both tools provide solid security models (and support two-factor authentication), so your data is as safe as it can be in the “cloud.” (Do consider backing up the data in OneNote occasionally, especially if you use it to store data that is crucial to your life or business.)

We use OneNote (and EverNote) for all sorts of things. Ken stores copies of his drivers license, credit cards, product manuals, online tips, technical information, and much more in EverNote—OneNote could (and does) store the exact same sorts of things. We love these apps, and couldn’t recommend them more highly. For more information, check out these links:,

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