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Something new, something old – Microsoft OneNote 2007

Three years ago I wrote the following about my thoughts on and approaches to note taking and personal info management:

As much as I use, and enjoy using, information technologies, my primary personal note taking (and storing, for that matter) media is a paper notebook. My current book of choice is the Infinity Journal from Levenger. With 600 pages, I get about a year out of each book. Everything goes into this book, including random thougths throughout the day, notes from meetings, and quotes/passages from books/websites, etc. At times I even print-and-paste things from my computer into the notebook so I have it available whenever I may need it.

Of course, paper does have some limitations. Two key ones are searchability and organization. To solve the searchability problem for key things such as phone numbers, e-mail addresses, web sites, etc. that tend to get jotted down in haste, I use a Moleskine pocket-size address book. Though it is called an address book, it is really just a notebook with the letters of the alphabet on tabs every few pages. No “rules” on what should go in, just a simple way to organize. (I’ve chosen to alphabetize names by first name, since that is what I usually think of when I want to call someone.)

As for the organization part, that’s not so easy. I do use a paper calendar to keep basic schedule stuff (see my response to Jack’s post Thinking While Note Taking for more on that), but that doesn’t help with organizing the notes I have. I do number the pages, as well as date them when I jot something down, so that helps a bit.

For the most part, this is still my process. I do use some digital tools, such as MindManager, The Brain, and the ever-present Microsoft Outlook, but these do not give me a single, consolidated approach. When a friend told me I should try out Microsoft OneNote 2007 – I think his exact words were, “Dude, I don’t know how I lived without it!” – I downloaded the trial to give it a try. (Interestingly OneNote was not part of the Office 2007 Professional package, it is only part of the Home and Student package.)

So far, I like it. Or at least the concept. I’ve not put too much into it yet, but I see the possibilities. Note taking, cross-linking to Outlook calendar and tasks, integration with the rest of Office (obviously). Multiple notebooks, sections within the notebooks, linking between pages in the notebooks, drawing tools. The ability to put notes anywhere on the page, pictures, etc and then move them around. Pretty much all the things I do with paper now, or wish I could do. (Makes we wish I had a TabletPC!)

I’ll give it another week or two before I decide if it is worth $100. I’d love to hear of any success (or horror) stories about how OneNote has (or hasn’t) worked for you.

2 Comments

  1. A few thoughts on OneNote (from a TabletPC user):
    - I really like audio/notes integration (when you record audio and make notes those are synchronised, so later you can jump to the audio fragments using notes)
    - Organisation via tagging is very limited (more on that at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2006/07/25.html#a1806)
    - You can sync between different machines (which I never figured out since the laptop where I make notes and my desktops belong to different networks)
    - Nice thing – what you write there is saved automatically

    I use it mainly for:
    - meetings – in handwriting
    - offline notetaking – ideas for blog posts, meeting minutes, etc. – usually typing (don’t have to bother about the conversion quality)
    - drawings in ink – best use of Tablet mode for me since it’s much easier for diagrams, interface mock-ups and funny images to use in presentations
    - research stuff like interviewing (see the link above)

    Posted on 17-Mar-08 at 03:57 | Permalink
  2. Lilia,

    I’m jealous (envious?) of your TabletPC. I think I would get more use from OneNote if I could write like in a notebook. Old habits die hard, I guess, and I still prefer actually writing over typing.

    That said, OneNote is handy for jotting down quick notes, I’ve started using it to track ideas for blogs, jotting down quotes from books I want to remember, that kind of thing.

    Thanks for the ideas on other ways to use it.

    Posted on 27-Mar-08 at 08:51 | Permalink

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