OneNote 2013 in depth

OneNote for Metro

The most significant development with OneNote surrounds not new features, but a new addition to the OneNote family. Alongside Office 2013 for desktop will debut a separate Metro app called OneNote MX, and the most interesting aspect of this app is its radical menu system. Dubbed the radial menu, this is a turbo-charged context menu, with formatting controls such as font type and size arranged in a circle, and accessed via a button that pops up whenever you tap an item or highlight text.

It looks unusual, and gives access to a huge range of controls in a very small space; it’s no coincidence that this circular menu fits within the narrower part of a Windows 8 Metro split screen. But for a system aimed at operation by touch, some of the buttons are surprisingly small and fiddly. We hope it’s refined further by launch, because there’s clearly great potential here.

OneNote 2013: radial menu

Aside from the radial menu, OneNote MX features very different navigation and search facilities. Making your way around OneNote’s over-complicated organisational structure (notebooks, sections and pages), is performed via a series of panels that can be pulled out from the left-hand side of the screen. These can be hidden away to the point at which only links to pages in the current notebook show when you’re working, and they disappear completely when the app is split screened in Windows 8.

As with most Metro apps, searches are performed using the Windows 8 Search Charm, accessed with a swipe of a finger from the right or by shunting the mouse pointer into the top right-hand corner of the screen.

Elsewhere, though, it’s disappointing. Functionally, OneNote MX echoes many of the desktop version’s features: it links to the cloud via SkyDrive or SharePoint, allowing synchronised access to notes on whatever device you’re using; it allows you to type, insert pictures, and scrawl notes with a finger or stylus. But certain key features are missing. It won’t recognise and index text in photos when they’re inserted, and you can’t record audio notes or make quick screen clippings – both key features in the desktop version.


We hope there’s more to come from OneNote MX when the final version ships with new Windows RT tablets, because elsewhere it’s pretty slim pickings. And with the desktop version also gaining few significant features of note, it looks like OneNote enthusiasts are going to be disappointed with what Office 2013 brings.

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