OneNote: A hidden gem in Microsoft Office

Gavin Livingstone, Bryley Systems Inc., January 2016

Microsoft first introduced OneNote with Microsoft Office 2003; since then, it has gone through five iterations and has become a useful utility to record free-form ideas and collaborate with others on any device, from Windows to iOS to Android. (See Wikipedia’s write-up on OneNote.)

Microsoft says that OneNote is “…a digital notebook for your to-do lists, lecture and meeting notes, vacation plans, or anything you want to organize.”

Key benefits:

  • Use anywhere, on any device
  • Work collaboratively with others
  • Keep all your ideas, notes, images, everything together in one place

I have been using OneNote for the past two months to replace my old, spiral-bound notebook. I setup my major groupings by Tabs (Executive, Meetings, Archive, etc.) and I then setup Pages within each Tab for my major task-groupings (Planning, Setup KPIs, ToDo, etc.). Within each Page, I setup a task list with task items.

For example, within my Executive Tab in the Page named “Planning –2016” I have:

  • Five-year plan:
    • 2016
    • 2017
    • 2018
    • 2019
    • 2020
  • Quarterly-plan
    • Q1
    • Q2
    • Q3
    • Q4

Each item within a task-list has a checkbox (called a To Do Tag), so that I can check it off when completed. When all items within all task-lists are completed, I move the Page to my Tab that I named Archive.

Within OneNote, I move Tabs left-to-right to arrange by priority. Likewise, within a Tab, I constantly shift higher-priority task-groupings (Pages) upward as their urgency increases.

I can include emails, documents, handwritten notes, and graphics within each Page.

Because it syncs securely and works with different devices, I have OneNote on my Ultrabook and on my Android tablet to allow use anywhere, anytime.