Making the most of OneNote

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OneNote is Microsoft's cloud notetaking system, and is part of the Office 2010 suite. OneNote is also built into the Windows Phone Office Hub, allowing you to sync your notes via SkyDrive. If you've always taken OneNote for granted and never investigated its abilities in-depth, then stop to read our guide as we take you through all of the tips and tricks.

Where to fine OneNote on your phone

You'll find your OneNote files within the Office Hub on your handset. Once there, you can either view notes you already have in the 'notes' section of the Hub panorama, or alternatively, swipe to the 'locations' section and navigate to wherever you know a OneNote file stored, either locally or remotely on SkyDrive, Office 365 or a SharePoint server.

How notes are structured

OneNote files are known as notebooks. Within each you can create sections, in which you can create and store individual notes. Think of sections as chapters in each notebook with which you can create notes grouped by, say, topic. Be aware that, unfortunately, mobile clients cannot create sections - only the desktop incarnations of OneNote can do that.


How to find OneNote Notebook files

How to create notes

You can quickly get writing notes by tapping the "+" icon while viewing the notes section in the Office Hub. However, an even quicker method can be set up. From this notes section of the Office Hub, tap the "..." menu and select the "pin new to start" option. This will create a live tile on your Start screen with which you can create a new note.

Notes created in the ways described above will be placed in the default section - but which section is the default section? It's any section you like, simply navigate to the section you wish to be the default (e.g. "'Quick Notes" or "Unfiled Notes"), and make a long press and select the "Set as default" option. You can also go to any section you like and create a note there.

How to make the most of tiles

We have just touched on the fact that a 'new note' tile can be added to the Start screen. As you might expect, individual notes can be added as tiles - either long press from the list of notes in a section, or tap the toolbar pin icon while viewing a note.

Unfortunately, there isn't an option to add a section as a tile - if you know of a way to do so, come to the front of the class and tell us! If you want to pin an entire notebook (i.e. file) to the Start screen, it's a little convoluted. Go to the notes section in the Office Hub, then tap the notebooks icon in the toolbar; from there you'll have a list of all available OneNote files, on which you can long-press for a menu which will have an option to pin.


Taking tiles beyond single notes

Writing notes

Besides typing plain text, the note editing toolbar gives you quick access to four functions in the following order: toggle a bulleted list, add a to-do tick box to the current line, add an image, and add a voice note.

For adding images, you'll be sent directly to the gallery, but also take note of the camera icon on the toolbar, which lets you take an in-situ photo of something. There's no optical character recognition, which is one particular feature where OneNote is inferior to Evernote.

The microphone icon allows you to take voice notes, which is handy to use as a Dictaphone, but don't expect to be using it as a quasi-podcasting tool, the recording quality is far too low.

Tapping the "..." menu gives you more formatting options, to increase or decrease indentation and to switch to a numbered list instead of a bulleted list. You can also change some font properties too.


Formatting notes

Accessing your notes elsewhere

Unless you save your notes in the OneNote notebook that is automatically created on your Windows Phone device, all of your notes, complete with images and sound clips, will be synchronised to the cloud, most probably your SkyDrive account.

Microsoft have provided surprisingly comprehensive coverage for OneNote. OneNote is part of the Office 2010 and 2013 office suites for desktops , plus Windows 8 users can now try the "OneNote MX" client that will feature on Windows RT tablets.

OneNote MX

OneNote MX on Windows 8, in which I've been writing this tutorial!

Meanwhile, the easiest way to access OneNote on the desktop for Mac and Linux users is to use the web client of OneNote from the SkyDrive website.

Finally, there are also versions of OneNote for Android, iOS and Symbian (via the 'Microsoft Apps' Suite), so you truly can access your notes everywhere.

On a final cautionary note, every other OneNote client than the Windows Phone one uses "Personal (web)" as a default notebook filename. However Windows Phone tends to use "OneNote Notebook". Given that Windows Phone is the odd one out, the easiest solution is to load the Personal (web) file and set a section within it as the default location.