OneNote 12

However you get your data into OneNote, if it can be recognised as text you can search for it. Search for a word and it will be found within text, handwriting, faxes, screenshots, photographs of documents – even the spoken word may be found within an audio stream. Searching is extremely fast, because OneNote files are indexed behind the scenes using the Windows Desktop Search engine.

Embedding documents

You can embed Office documents and other types of file within a OneNote 12 page, and add annotations around them, which is great for gathering together lots of documents about a current project and making notes. You can share this page, section or notebook with others simply by emailing it to them. Of course, this sends only a copy of the page and the embedded documents, which is fine for sharing finished documents, but if you want to collaboratively edit the documents with many people you might be better off using Send For Review from Word or Excel, or a SharePoint Document Workspace.

Another new feature in OneNote 12 is the ability to create tables of data, which couldn’t be simpler to use. Merely type a word and press Tab and OneNote will start to define a table. All the words you now type, separated by Tab, will form the column headers, and you press Enter once you have enough of them. OneNote will then add the next row, ready for you to type in the data – just keep hitting Tab whenever you need to move to the next column and OneNote will automatically add new rows as they’re needed. If you press Enter twice in a row, OneNote thinks you’ve finished with the table and will move you out of it back to plain text. There’s no way to format cell and table borders or background colours at the moment, so if you need fancy formatting OneNote isn’t the place to do it – OneNote is all about capturing the information rapidly and easily, not about presenting it prettily. OneNote tables are, of course, compatible with Word tables, so you can copy the rough table you just brainstormed in a meeting out of OneNote into Word to smarten it up.

Sharing notebooks

When OneNote 2003 was released, it was definitely a single-user application, but its development team had cleverly built in provision for multi-user facilities to be added later on. Each paragraph in OneNote is treated as a separate entity, which can be edited by many users at the same time. OneNote 2003 SP 1 enabled real-time multi-user editing using peer-to-peer sharing and DirectPlay technology as used in multiplayer games (this sends each user’s changes to the other users in real-time). This is very good for meetings of peers, where everyone collaborates on a document that starts off as an agenda and ends up as a record of the meeting and plan of action. The participants could all be in the same room together, each with their own laptop or tablet PC connected via a wireless LAN, or alternatively some or all of them might be at remote locations, joining the meeting by phone or video link. However the participants get to the meeting, they can all see the original agenda/meeting notes and can add to or edit them at any time. Jotting down status reports and things to do in OneNote can help keep the meeting focused, and if anyone has any charts or other data to contribute they can just copy and paste them into OneNote from Excel or wherever, so everyone else can see them. When the meeting is over, everyone will already have a permanent record of what was discussed and agreed, and if anyone couldn’t get to the meeting you can email them a copy of the OneNote page or section to bring them up to date.

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