OneNote is Free and it is Awesome

OneNote is one of the coolest Office apps that gets very little attention from users.  Most people don’t have a clue what it is, or what it does, or even how to use it.  Be warned — once you start using it you will be addicted!

What is OneNote?  If you are like most people, whenever you need to take a quick note about something you want to remember or you need to take notes in a meeting the first thing that comes to mind is to grab one of those yellow pads of paper and start writing away.  OneNote is an electronic version of that yellow notepad…and so much more.  OneNote is a binder and organizer in addition to a notepad all rolled into a single application.  OneNote lets you take notes and organize them by pages, sections, and notebooks.  OneNote lets you clip images and add them to a page.  Because OneNote is part of Office you can pull in objects from other Microsoft applications, like a chart from an Excel workbook.  OneNote notebooks are searchable, even the hand written text.

OneNote supports natural handwriting.  Using a Windows Surface tablet and stylus, OneNote has near perfect palm blocking allowing you to rest your hand on the screen as you write just like you would a piece of paper.  OneNote can recognize handwriting so that search I was telling you about is able to also search your freeform handwritten notes.  Handwriting can be selected and converted to typed text with a push of a button, so translating your notes to a typed document becomes a matter of a little cleanup instead of completely re-typing your notes.  Handwriting is by far one of my favorite features of OneNote.  Until recently you could only really use handwriting on a few devices like the Surface Pro or a computer with a digitizer.  Recently, Microsoft updated the iPad version of OneNote to support handwriting and palm detection/blocking for a natural writing feel.  According to Microsoft blogs similar features are coming to the Android app in the near future.  In addition to handwriting recognition and being able to use digital ink on the iPad, Microsoft also added the ability to recognize and search text within an image from any notebook saved on OneDrive with any OneNote app available today.

OneNote is included as part of Office and Office 365.  For a long time now OneNote apps have been available free on mobile devices with some limited functionality, though new features are being added all the time.  Last year the full OneNote desktop software became a free tool available to everyone, but with a few feature restrictions.  Recently, the free desktop version became “even more free.”  Microsoft announced that they are removing all feature restrictions from the free edition of OneNote 2013.

I use OneNote on my Surface Pro constantly to jot down thoughts and ideas, sketch out network layouts, and even take notes in meetings.  I am beginning to use it more on my iPad as well now that it supports handwriting, and my wife is even using it to help her organize her 31 parties.  If you aren’t using OneNote to organize yourself and your notes I strongly recommend giving it a try today.

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