Intuitive Note-taking with Microsoft OneNote

Intuitive Note-taking with Microsoft OneNote

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If you’re not familiar with professional note taking applications like Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote, now might be a good time to get privy.

Although it might seem like a significant time investment to get familiar with these applications, they can have some serious long term payoffs when it comes to how you navigate the web, archive your information and access it down the line.

Since OneNote recently became available for free, with Microsoft releasing a host of new features earlier this year, I thought it might be worth taking a good hard look at this software. Ultimately it comes down to functionality: whether or not this application will increase your productivity over the long run, once you’re done fiddling with the features and figuring out how you might use them. It takes a certain amount of X,Y and Z for an application to earn a place on our cyber tool belts. Is OneNote deserving? Well let’s find out.

A Notebooker’s Notebook

The first thing I noticed when I started using OneNote is that it’s formatted like a physical notebook. This may seem like a trivial design element to some people, but it makes navigating the software smooth and intuitive. Although OneNote allows you to maintain multiple notebooks at once, each one is neatly separated into different tabs that house your pages—as many as you want of them.

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But here’s where OneNote differs from the other note taking applications out there. In this software, the document page is virtually unbounded. You can click anywhere on the page and a text box will appear, ready to receive a note. If you start crowding the page with articles, pictures, captions, tables, notes or what have you, just scroll outwards on the X or Y axis and suddenly you have more space to work with. This feature of OneNote gives you the opportunity to creatively organize the information you clip from the internet.

Another important aspect of OneNote’s capability is the diversity of media formats it supports. On top of article clippings, pictures and text notes, you can also place in audio recordings, video recordings, spreadsheets, shapes and many other aids you may be familiar with from Microsoft Word and basic design software. This means you can not only archive your information, but you can interact with it too. This is the difference between passive information gathering, and active engagement with the media you deem important.When you pair these options with OneNote’s unbounded document canvas you end up with some nifty ways to organize and integrate information.

But as I said, what matters most is whether or not this application can help you get things done over the long run. Here’s why I think it can.

The Ultimate Bucket

OneNote is the ultimate bucket. It receives your information and gives you a place to interface with it. You don’t need to worry about formatting your notes within strict design parameters, yet everything you funnel into OneNote is searchable—even things you say in audio and video recordings. With a well adapted mobile application, this system becomes a powerful tool for filtering information, funneling it into a centralized place, and formatting it as you please.

This frees up time by making you a lot more efficient at navigating the internet. For example, I come across plenty of health and fitness articles throughout my day-to-day navigation, so I use OneNote to archive them. When I have a spare few minutes before class, I launch OneNote on my phone and read an article or two. I highlight sentences and circle paragraphs I find compelling. Then when I revisit these articles later I don’t waste time scanning the text. Below is a screenshot of a page in my ‘Training Articles’ tab. The highlighted portion was done using my phone which then synced with my desktop interface.

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For me, interacting with my media is key. And until I started using OneNote, I felt chronically underserved on this front. I want the creative freedom to save information, manipulate it and comment on it using whatever mode I see fit. If you also value these freedoms, you might really fancy this software as well. And although I primarily use OneNote for archiving and reading text, I get the impression that creative visual learners will find ways of leveraging this application in ways not immediately evident to everyone.

Beyond Personal Use

Whether you employ OneNote as a creative way to manage your media, or mainly as a time saver, the collaboration options in this application deliver on both objectives. With full cross-platform capability, your notebooks can be shared across devices with your classmates, colleagues, friends or family. Group projects become a creative and interactive experience without sacrificing an ounce of efficiency. This is a big selling point for free-form information gathering systems like OneNote as the demand for organized file sharing continues to increase. Gone are the days of saving all of our information locally and e-mailing lists of files into a circuit of team members. Collaboration is key and OneNote’s a great facilitator.

So if you haven’t seen the utility in professional note taking applications up until this point, I suggest giving OneNote a go. After a few months of using it, you’ll likely wonder how you ever did without it—it’s kinda one of those things.

Contributed exclusively to the Daily Mac View

Written by: Dylan Smart