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Using Microsoft OneNote for Research and Brainstorming

written by: cra8051•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 7/12/2010

If you use Microsoft Word to take notes, create reports, write research papersprepare thoughts for a speech or organize ideas for a PowerPoint presentation you are missing a bet by not using Microsoft OneNote 2007.

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    Availability and Pricing

    OneNote is an add-on for Office 2007 but will work with Office 2003. Microsoft's price for OneNote 2007 is $99.95 as a direct retail purchase or $79.95 as an upgrade to qualifying Microsoft Office Suites. It may be included with installation of some versions of Office 2007.

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    Some Reasons to Use OneNote

    The program provides one place to do a lot of things at once—gather, organize and store notes including text, graphics, recordings (audio and visual), even handwritten notes with a Tablet PC. There is an automatic backup of the notebooks as well so information from many sources will not be lost. Notebooks can be shared with team members. One of the biggest advantages to using OneNote is that typically when preparing an involved report or presentation you will draw information from a number of sources on the Internet, your computer and from your brain. Without OneNote all this preparatory data will be saved in different files on your computer as well as handwritten notes. When sitting down to create the final document, it takes additional time to pull things together.

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    Collecting Information

    OneNote organizes information in Notebooks, Section Groups, Sections, Pages, and Subpages. Preset templates come with the program for areas such as Personal, Shopping, Travel, To Do, and Miscellaneous. New information is inserted in an “Unfiled Notes" section. Planning how to name and organize these notebooks and folders is probably the most complicated part of using the program but well worth some time before using the software. Rearranging the sections is a matter of clicking and dragging.

    Rather than copying and pasting text and graphics from web pages into different files and then trying to find where you put it later, click on Tools in the upper right of a browser window. In the drop-down menu choose Send to OneNote. The result will open in a new window in OneNote. As a convenience, the source URL also travels along with the content.

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    Organizing Content

    Besides inserting text, graphics, audio and video you can type directly in OneNote.

    To format notes in outline form that you type or capture, create numbered lists by typing the number “1." before an. item. Then press Enter each time you start a new line of text. The same process works to create a bulleted list except use an asterisk (*) followed by a space and then the item, pressing Enter for each new line. Drag and drop information to reorganize.

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    Helpful Options

    If working on a document as part of a team there is an option to Share and Synchronize documents. Notebooks also can be published. Click on the File menu to access this. The options may be abbreviated on the display to PDF or XPS format. However, once in that menu, Save AS file types include Web files with an extension of .mht or a Word document. There is another option simply to send the file as an email.

    OneNote includes an audio/video recording feature. Record live presentations and insert your own notes as you follow the speaker. Search capabilities for words in audio and video recordings are part of the software as well.

    Get to know all the features of OneNote and watch your workflow increase, improve the quality of research papers, and learn more about techniques for writing reports.