The complete guide to Office 2010: OneNote

You have to feel a little sorry for OneNote. It’s one of those great little applications that barely anyone uses, with one Microsoft employee referring to it as the “forgotten” part of Office when we spoke to the company recently.

The complete guide to Office 2010: OneNote

Hence the fact that most of the effort in OneNote 2010 – aside from the belated introduction of the Ribbon – focuses on integration with the other applications.


People use OneNote in many ways, from scrawling notes in meetings to jotting down random ideas, but it’s probably most effective when used for note-taking while researching. Rather cleverly, Microsoft has extended the idea by introducing Linked Notes: you create a new page in OneNote, then hit the Linked Notes icon in the Review tab.

Then, whenever you work in a Word, Excel or PowerPoint document, an appointment in Outlook, or view a page in Internet Explorer (other browsers aren’t supported), the notes you make in OneNote will be automatically linked to whatever page you were examining at the time.
Aware that when people use OneNote they want to keep it in view, Microsoft has also introduced a Dock to Desktop mode.

The Complete Guide to Office 2010

This snaps the OneNote window to the bottom, top or side of the screen, so that it’s always available – in just the same way that, unless you choose to hide it, the Windows taskbar is always present.

It’s also a relief to see that OneNote has been judged to be of enough significance to be rolled into the Web Apps. Just as with Word and Excel, you can upload a notebook and then share it with friends and colleagues. Sadly, OneNote’s Web App wasn’t live for testing at the time of writing.

Microsoft will eventually provide plenty of carrots to entice you to share. Once you upload your notebooks to Microsoft’s SkyDrive or SharePoint, you, the author, can carry on editing the notebook in OneNote 2010 while others not only view what you’re typing but are able to edit the document themselves.


The biggest cosmetic difference between this incarnation of OneNote and its predecessors is the Ribbon: together with the ability to apply styles to text, this makes it a whole lot easier to make your work look more professional.

It also makes it easier to find the nice features that were already on offer in OneNote 2007, if you knew where to find them. One obvious example is tags. These were a dropdown list previously, so most people (if they used them at all) would probably just click the one visible option: Important.

Now tags take pride of place on the Home Ribbon, and once you’ve applied your tags you’re encouraged to collate all the tagged lines – you can then create a Summary Page, which is perfect for rounding up all the tagged items, such as action points from a meeting.

The Ribbon again helps when it comes to applying formatting to text, as the options are nigh-on identical to what’s on offer in Word. The approach to choosing heading styles is again similar, minimising training needs.

There are some odd decisions, though. The new Notebook Recycle Bin, which lets you browse and rescue deleted pages in the same way the Recycle Bin handles files in Windows, is bizarrely tucked away on the Share tab. It’s also a little odd that, while you can insert screen clippings, you can’t insert “live” screenshots from already-open apps in the same way you can in Word.

OneNote 2010’s key features

  • Ribbon interface
  • Linked Notes
  • Dock view
  • Shared notebooks
  • Co-authoring

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