Productivity: One note on OneNote

Organizing ideas with OneNote

For those who always have a great deal going on or who struggle with keeping things organized but still haven’t committed everything to an electronic record, Microsoft Office OneNote could be your product. There are very few products I have ever recommended to anyone because there are always skill-set differences, learning curve issues or not enough substance for them to be considered a real reason to change, not to mention I am not one to adopt things just because everyone else does. With respect to this product, I stumbled upon it looking for something else.

In an attempt to customize my screen’s Desktop to make it work the way I think, I wanted to add an Outlook icon to the Quick Launch toolbar. Instead of grabbing Outlook, I launched OneNote. If you have never seen it, your response will most likely be similar to mine. “What the heck is this?” It looks very unassuming and almost useless when first launched. Don’t let looks deceive you. It is probably the most remarkably laid out organizer you will ever see. The images in this document are all from OneNote’s “Getting Started” section.


Image 1


First, there are what look like file folders on the main screen with tabs on top, each with its own heading. The headings are customizable. However you organize your file cabinet, you can do the same here. The unique thing about this window is that you can put anything on it like a paste-board. As an experienced Adobe Creative Suite person, I have come to love the paste-board concept.

Sections in the current notebook:

Sections let you organize notes by activities, topics, or people in your life.  Start with a few in each notebook.

If you have never used one, here’s how it works. A long time ago, ads were initially laid out on large pieces of paper. Blocks of text and images were freely arranged until the format seemed to work. At that time, the objects were then pasted to the board so that they could be shown to others for approval and to ensure that they layout idea was not lost. This was the concept that got the program PageMaker on the Mac its cult following. Mac people were considered quite odd individuals who looked at things very differently. They were the creative ones.

Image 1 shows a Business Trip example. There is a title to the page (Conference trip), tasks to be completed (linked from Outlook’s Task list), flight information (copy and pasted from another program) and an image showing the location of the conference (linked from Google Earth or Mapquest). Each of these are separate “objects” that can be dragged abound the paste-board to create a layout that makes sense to you.

Next, just like with a file folder, in it is filed everything about that subject. On the right are separate pages pertaining to the Business Trips file folder. If each page is a separate “document” or idea relating to the file, you have the opportunity to create “Subpages” that allow you to expand on the idea from the original page. The idea is that if you had a multipage document that was stapled together and had charts, images, graphs and other related material in it, you would create a subpage as if it was a series of charts or images.

Pages in the current section:

Create as many note pages in each section as you want.

Another example is, for the old-agers, the pre-computer way to do a research project. Remember? Each relevant piece of information with its associated bibliographical information was put on an index card. At the end of the research, you had stacks of cards with, in some cases, nothing more than a sentence. However, it was important to capture and an important finding. OneNote can be used the same way. As you research subjects, you can add a line of text on the page and then place the hyperlink.

The following is my reason for sharing. I have a large number of projects going all the time, in addition to my writing. It is much easier to keep everything electronic. Also, consistent with my moniker in The Paranoid Marketer, I am worried that I might forget something. As I work on projects, an idea from another project might float through my head. At that point, I click on the folder name, type the idea somewhere on the page, and then go back to the project at hand. How cool is that?!

OneNote is how I manage my job hunting, personal research, non-profit, two blogs, LinkedIn group, mentoring projects and consulting projects at the same time. For those who want to Blog or who are avid Bloggers, I would recommend using OneNote to not just get organized, but to make sure that you don’t lose your thoughts and ideas. Many times, we are working on other things and then fleeting thoughts fly through our heads about another project. If you have this application always launched and minimized, you are only one click away from capturing your ideas. Then, you can get back to your other work at hand.

In my next review, I will cover even more interesting features. Just to give you a little teaser, you NEVER have to save it or worry about multiple versions on multiple computers.

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