OneNote 2013 in depth

It may not be a household name, but OneNote has built up a hard-core following in the years since it was first introduced to Office back in 2003. Its freeform note entry, automatic saving, and the later introduction of linked notes and online collaboration in 2010, endeared it to note-takers from all walks of life.

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With online and app-based upstarts such as Evernote increasingly encroaching on its patch, OneNote needs to stage a fight-back. It starts as we’ve come to expect, with the new Metro-inspired UI seeming to herald a dramatically different piece of software. The reality once you’ve peered past the new interface, however, is that it’s business as usual for OneNote.

OneNote 2013

Slim pickings

Look closely at the redesigned ribbon toolbar and you’ll find it plays host to the same tools as before, although there has been a little reorganisation. The Share menu, for example, has been replaced with the History tab, and some tools moved onto the Home tab. Otherwise, there’s little sign that anything has changed.

The user interface is organised in the familiar way, too, with a handful of cosmetic alterations – but again, there’s nothing to make you spit out your coffee. Notes take up the majority of the working screen area – the panel for navigating pages within notebooks remains to the right – with a series of section tabs running along the top and page navigation down the right.

The Notebooks navigation panel works a little differently: it used to live in a collapsible panel to the left of the screen, but has now been moved into a dropdown, launched from a small downward-pointing arrow below the current notebook title.

Where there are new features, they’re minor. The ability to create Excel tables directly in OneNote is more useful than the old flat table tool. Embedded spreadsheets and Visio diagrams can now be edited, with changes reflected in the notebook automatically: a double-click launches the application in question for editing; saving it updates the item on the page.

And there’s extended support for touch. As with the rest of the new Office apps, tapping a small button in the Quick Access Toolbar lets you add the touch mode button, which enlarges some toolbar elements and spaces out icons on the ribbon.

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