Quite some time ago, I took advantage of a special offer at work and bought a full version of Microsoft Office 2007 at a really knockdown price but it's very memory hungry and I took it off my old laptop because it slowed it down too much (and the even older PC was just too ancient to run it without continually crashing). Since then, I've bought a new laptop with a huge memory and loaded the software onto that but I largely ignored most of the applications and simply stuck to Word, Excel and very occasionally PowerPoint and Publisher. However, when I read a casual remark on another forum, I thought I'd give OneNote a try.
I'm an inveterate list maker and keep lists and notebooks for absolutely everything - Places still to visit, things that need doing in the house, library books to borrow, birthdays, Christmas, recipes: You name it, I've got a list for it somewhere. Whilst browsing through the Old Style forum on the moneysavingexpert website, I noticed one of the posts mentioned using OneNote for list making and planning and remembering that it was one of the applications which came with my MS Office, I thought I'd give it a try and I'm so glad that I did. This is the dream application for any list maker.
I don't want to blind anybody with science so I'll get the techie stuff out of the way first and keep it brief. OneNote is compatible with Windows XP operating systems and above. Your machine will need a CPU which operates at 500 megahertz or higher and you'll also need at least 256MB of RAM and 2GB of space on your hard disk. OneNote also works best with a screen resolution of 800 x 600, 1024 x 768 or higher.
What is OneNote?
I suppose the simplest way to describe OneNote is to say it's like an electronic form of a ring binder or organizer with dividers. Once you've set up your binder, you can fill it with pages on which you can make notes, add drawings, photographs or even add in audio or video recordings and the like and these notes can further be divided into coloured tabulated sections and sub-sections.
Each piece of information put into the workbook is in its own floating cell which can be dragged and dropped anywhere on the pages of your notebook. It's a great way of organising and managing your information.
What can it do?
I have to be honest and tell you that I haven't experienced all that this package can offer but what I have used, I've found invaluable. For instance, I've called one of my notebooks House Projects which is divided into sections for each room in the house and within each section are further sub-sections where I can detail jobs which need doing, things I intend to buy for that room and the like.
As I'm currently in the planning stages of a bathroom makeover (and not before time) in my 'Bathroom' section I currently have details of the dimensions of the room with a (very bad) drawing of the shape of the room and where the window and radiator are situated. I then have sub-sections for Tiles, Bath, Sinks, Flooring, Taps, etc., in which I've gathered together pictures and price lists from various sources together with hyperlinks to external websites as well as other documents stored on my computer, so when Ben the plumber comes to give me a quote, I can call up all the information and show him exactly what I want which, hopefully, will then allow him to give me a more accurate quote.
Theoretically, I can even share this information by Cloud computing by uploading to a host such as Google Documents where Ben can then check out details at his leisure from his own computer, although that might just be a step too far for me. The information stored in OneNote can be sent via email using Outlook but as I don't have this set up on my home computer, I'm unable to comment on how well this works. However, if all else fails, it's also possible to print off pages from the notebooks as well as publish them as pdf documents.
I think the note taking facility in this application probably works best when used on an electronic tablet or at least used in conjunction with some kind of drawing tool because using the mouse produces very wobbly handwriting, though this can be converted into typed text, using Microsoft's version of predictive text. Some of the text suggestions are so wildly wrong, however, that I'm not entirely sure this is worth using, certainly in a note taking capacity. Again, as I can do shorthand, this isn't a facility that I'm likely to use. However, for simple line drawings of, say, room dimensions etc, it's fine and once the drawing toolbar has been called up, it's possible to choose basic shapes and arrows, the thickness and the colour of the lines as well as providing the facility for erasing unwanted parts of the drawing. It's even possible to produce 3-D drawings, if your geometry's up to it.
In terms of creating lists and project planning, this is an extremely useful tool offering the ability to highlight various features and add in pre-designed icons for addresses, telephone numbers, etc., as well as being able to prioritise task lists. It also makes planning very simple by storing everything in one place and thus retrieving it is quick and easy.
Price and availability:
All well and good, I hear you say, but how much does it cost? As I said, I bought this as part of the MS Office 2007 suite at a preferential rate through work. OneNote has been recently updated and there is now a 2010 version which, If you were to buy the application on its own, it is likely to cost in the region of £40+ although I'm sure with a bit of digging, it would be possible to find a cheaper and/or earlier version somewhere like eBay. If you're unsure about whether you'd like or need this application, it's possible to download and trial the software for 60 days for free through cnet.com.
I'm sure I haven't anywhere near plumbed the depths of what this software can do but since beginning to use it, I've transferred all my paper notes and lists, as well as disparate electronic documents into OneNote. I've also added hyperlinks from these notebooks to other separate electronic documents and websites. I've found it to be an invaluable tool in helping me keep myself organised and having everything in one easily accessible place.
I only discovered OneNote 2 months ago, and I wish I'd have found it earlier! This is a fantastic piece of software, and a must have for any student. Most of you will have this product sat on your computer, and won't even know about it. Quite why microsoft haven't broadcast the power of this product to the world I don't know! If you're a student or a business exec then this is a must have. No more piles of sheets spread aimlessly across the desk! Using onenote you can creat separate notebooks for different subjects/projects and use the virtual dividers to split them into different sections/pages.
What OneNote pages give you, essentially, is a blank screen to make your notes and organise your ideas however you want and however you see fit. Something that's been lacking in computer note making, is that freedom to just click and type anywhere, using the drawing tools to make notes that are similar to those you could hand write. Of course with the computer you have the advatnge of being able to delete stuff you decide you don't want in your notes any more, or erase any mistakes quickly.
You can then link different notes, for example, create a mindmap on one page, then link a word in the map to a different page. And you can also hyperlink from your notes.
A quick add-on download from microsoft can allow you to quickly export your work to PDF, keeping it in it's original format.
And the note-making isn't limited to work uses, make quick notes, shopping lists, phone numbers etc. for those times when you can't find a pen. The programme automatically saves any notes as they are typed; so if your computer crashes, no more lost work!
You really have to try it yourself to experience the wonderful power of this application.