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An Introduction To Microsoft OneNote

written by: Nacie•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 8/25/2008

You have seen OneNote listed as a program in your Microsoft Office 2007 folder and now want to know what it does. Read on to get introduced to the new does-everything program and why you need it in your life.

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    What Is Microsoft OneNote?

    Microsoft Office OneNote was added to the Office product suite in 2003 as a program that endeavored to take the place of your Post-its, loose paper notes, and binders with a digital “notebook" that could be easily shared, modified, and organized to accommodate the user’s work style. The program is fully integrated with the other components of the Office suite, so the format of the program is familiar and Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and Outlook emails can be added to your notebook with a click of the mouse.

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    How Do You Use It?

    OneNote is meant to be an accessible and moldable workspace where you can enter and easily move information, images, tables, and graphics. The system utilizes a hierarchical structure of organization to categorize and sort information into user-friendly and intuitive groups. The largest unit in the system is the “notebook" which can be uniquely named and follow one of nine templates- which include personal, client, business, and blank options. Each notebook is comprised of sections, which are the next level of organization. These sections sit along the top of your notebook screen and are accessible as tabs. You may add as many tabs as you like to your notebook and can name them and color code them according to your needs. Each tab holds pages and subpages, the two most specific forms of organization in the system. Pages and subpages are basically blank slates for the user to add and move around information, video, audio clips, spreadsheets, to do lists, free write, take notes, and add images.

    To illustrate this system in action, let’s look at an example notebook called “Home Restoration." Inside this notebook, there are six tabs with the titles “Ideas," “Budget," “Contractor Information," “Pictures," “Timeline," and “DIY Projects." Under the tab “Contractor information" there are three pages named “Roofing," “Floors," and “Cabinets." Under each page there is a subpage for various contractors with their contact information, estimated costs, and list of workers. Under the “Budget" tab, there is a front page that has a spreadsheet in it listing total costs each month, while there is a page for each month that breaks down more precisely what was spent where. In the “DIY" section there are pages that have video clips from a favorite home project website, while the “Ideas" tab has pages with different random notes written all over the place and images pasted in from websites and online magazines.

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    Why Should I Use It?

    While the OneNote format takes some time to get used to, it is really a great program for organizing almost any aspect of your life, from work projects to family vacations,from book lists to school projects. It really is a do-it-all program that allows the user as much flexibility or structure as they desire. OneNote also has some irreplaceable features, like the ability to search through all pages, subpages, sections, and notebooks from one search window. Unlike other aspects of the Office suite, all information is saved automatically, so you don’t have to always worry about hitting the save button. The on-site scratch calculator is also a great tool that allows you to enter in an equation and it solves it for you. This is perfect for on the fly budget calculations and quick notes in meetings.

    At the end of the day, OneNote will provide users with a satisfying organizational system because it is able to be tailored completely to reflect a user’s thought process and style. No other program currently on the market has such broad potential to serve such a variety of purposes and feel completely intuitive to so many different types of people. It is worth the effort to get it set up the way you like it – you will wonder how you ever functioned without it!