OneNote Question and Answer from #prodchat

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Every Wednesday at 8:00pm EDT, a great guy by the name of Ray Sidney-Smith hosts a chat on Twitter under the hash tag #prodchat.  The topics vary from week to week and this week the topic was one suggested by us...OneNote Tips and Tricks.  You'd think that suggesting a topic would mean you'd be participating in the discussion, right?  Yea...didn't happen.  So with that in mind I culled the questions from the chat and I'm responding to them here to contribute in some small way  I highly encourage you go over to Twitter and search for #prodchat to see not only the rest of this discussion but other interesting ones as well.  Let's begin (for reference @msonenote refers to Microsoft OneNote in its various flavors):

"Q1: What is @msonenote? Is it just a note-taking software?"

Avoiding the marketing fluff, OneNote is an open structure tool allowing for information capture and manipulation in a free form environment.  That information can be text, media, images, and much more.  Supporting multiple platforms, OneNote provides a powerful tool for capturing, processing, and reporting information for yourself and others.

"Q2: What are some unique ways that people are using @msonenote for note-taking or otherwise?"

I do use OneNote extensively for both personal and professional note taking.  In addition, just within the past week I've used it for:
  • Blog writing (this article as a perfect example)
  • Metrics tracking
  • Documentation management for an access control procedure for a client
  • Strategic planning around enterprise services
  • Design and documentation of a dashboard system for data analysis
  • Capture of receipts for tax and expense tracking
  • Research on the concept of "Survivorship Bias" in project management

"Q3: What is the best feature that sets @msonenote from other note-taking software?"

This is a tough one because the best feature depends on the task at hand.  The features I use most commonly are the embedded links to create connections between documents and the To Do Tag (Ctrl-1) to keep track of actionable items. Outside of OneNote I use the Send to OneNote feature all the time to capture screenshots, emails, and meeting information from Outlook.

"Q4: What’s the best way to organize @msonenote notes? Notebooks, sections, pages, and/or tags?"

See, again it's really up to what works for the user.  The important things to remember are:
  • Notebooks don't have to be open until you need them
  • Sections can be used for workflow as easily as for organization
  • Tags are searchable on the desktop
  • Pages can be automatically created from within the body of another page by using [[ ]] around a piece of text

"Q5: @msonenote allows for recording audio and video. How do you use these features?"

I've used the audio recording far more than the video recording.  By capturing audio notes on my phone, I can then easily play them back later on to recap my notes.

"Q6: Taking offline to digital is easy with @msonenote with handwriting and OCR! How do/would you use it?"

I've used the OCR component for two purposes.  First it makes the text in photos searchable which is great for printed materials that I capture using OfficeLens.  Snail mail, school notices, company flyers, all are referenceable without worrying about the original paper. Second, my notebooks (I'm still a huge paper and pen guy) are scanned and captured.  I print notations on pages to make them easier to reference through OCR since my handwriting is a little too fancy and gives OCR fits at times.

"Q7: Templates are a fantastic feature in @msonenote. What kinds of templates have you created in OneNote?"

Templates are one of my favorite features.  Aside from creating dozens of them, one of the most common templates I use is the one I have for my Writing Workflow.  Remember though that templates are limited to the desktop applications currently.  If you want to use them on mobile or Chromebook, for example, you need to create a page based on the template and then copy and paste that page to make a blank copy.  Make a note of this for question 9.

"Q8: What’re the differences between working on @msonenote on mobile versus desktop?"

Much of the desktop functionality and user experience doesn't translate from the desktop to mobile / web.  I recommend to every using OneNote, figure out what platform you will be using it on the most and stick to that feature set. Don't expect all the cool desktop features to follow you around.
Layout is also an issue specifically when going to mobile.  OneNote allows for a great deal of vertical as well as horizontal space on a page.  This is great for the web or desktop, not so much for the limited screen of a phone.  Again, decide what platform you are likely to use the most and stick with that feature set.

"Q9: What’s the biggest feature request for @msonenote?"

Two main requests – Uniformity of features between the platforms (as much as is possible) and addition of templates to the web / mobile interfaces.

"Q10: How will you improve your note-taking with @msonenote (or your preferred software) after #ProdChat?"

Every day I find new ways to use OneNote.  As the platform grows the opportunities improve.  If you want to see some really innovative ways OneNote is being used, check out @OneNoteEdu on Twitter to see how it's being used in the classroom.
I'll be writing many more articles and releasing more materials around OneNote in the coming months so keep checking back to get more out of OneNote.  Thanks again to Ray and the participants of #prodchat for helping share the knowledge!