Thursday, November 2, 2006

Taking notes with Microsoft OneNote

[This was originally posted at]

In our profession, there is a constant need to take quick notes. Ideally, there'd by a way that is (1) quick to load, (2) flexible, (3) searchable, (4) different information formats (pictures, outlines, tables, paragraphs), and (5) low maintenance. I've played around with several techniques:

  • Using Notepad files on my desktop
    • PRO: very quick to load and make edits
    • CON: very little formatting (outlines & tables), no image support, not scalable
  • MS Word
    • PRO: Lots of formatting ability
    • CON: To bulky, html is bad
  • FrontPage
    • PRO: Lightweight, friendly HTML that can easily be used on the web, easy hyperlink to other pages
    • CON: Each resource (like an image) is its own external object - not embedded as a single file.
  • Visio
    • PRO: Decent for formal images
    • CON: Designed mainly for diagrams and modeling, not for note taking
  • Wikis
    • PRO: Optimized for easy entry and search-ability
    • CON: Entered with plain-text formatting limits your options
  • Custom Tools - I've looked at SourceForge's Freemind, and tried to build some things myself

Also, all of these are funneled to a specific purpose designed to make formal documents, not informal note taking. Enter Microsoft OneNote - a desktop app designed explicty for note taking. Some benefits:

  • Quick start up (it can run in the tool tray)
  • Draw with a pen to scribble any diagram
  • Automatic outlines
  • Can just copy in images
  • Auto-saves everything
  • Can just start writing anywhere on the page.

It looks like it has a lot of potential, and provides a decively different niche than other office products (Word, FrontPage, Visio, or Excel) that may be used for the same task. I'll curious to check it out more.

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