productivity apps that rule: OneNote

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” – Peter Drucker

To write or not to write: that is not the question. Because write we must -Some love it, some hate it, but most must write. It’s inevitable.

Collar color notwithstanding -blue, white, black or gold-collar workers all must write at some point, some more than others. Whether jotting minutes at the customary (and dull) Monday morning meeting, noting down important requirements at a lunch date with a potential client, scrawling your latest business/blog idea or maybe penning down a poem for a loved one, write, you must.

Innovative apps ensure you can now enjoy the convenience of writing, or taking notes on a variety of your day-to-day smart devices and that you can share this information easily with your colleagues, friends and customers.

Microsoft’s OneNote is one such app that has been around in sleeping-giant mode for ages though the revitalized cloud and mobile version is fairly new.

Here is Microsoft’s long-winded definition of OneNote: “Microsoft OneNote is a computer program for free-form information gathering and multi-user collaboration. It gathers users’ notes (handwritten or typed), drawings, screen clippings and audio commentaries. Notes can be shared with other OneNote users over the Internet or a network.” Quite a mouthful then.

My definition -  it’s a mobile note taking app, that does what it’s supposed to do exceptionally well.

Here are a few reasons that make OneNote a great tool for me and for anyone else looking to ditch their notebook and maintain an archive of any notes and ideas they take.

Auto Sync

This is my favorite feature, and one that many OneNote users love. It synchronizes notes across all my devices: Laptop, smartphone and tablet. Here is how this is a great feature – If you attend a meeting and jot your notes on your laptop, the notes will synchronize to your phone and tablet. Later when you need to quickly peek at the notes you can easily access the same on any of the synchronized devices. Instead of wasting paper printing out notes to read on the way to your next meeting, use your tablet or phone to jog your memory on what was discussed last time. You can also edit these notes on any of your device, at a convenient time -I do a lot of editing on the road and in bed.

Auto Save

With OneNote you go when you have something to write  and stop when the tank runs dry or must do something else. It auto saves and you pick up from where you left off, on any of your synchronized devices. Microsoft should really work in the word convenient into that long definition.

Take Notes in Own Handwriting

Most people naturally write faster than they type. You can already see how an app that enables you to take notes in your handwriting is a great tool to have in a meet-up or anytime you must quickly scribble notes. This feature works on any touch-capable device using a stylus or even your finger :)

The beauty is you can also change this handwritten text to typed text, which you can then save as PDF for sharing out. This is sure to become a well-loved feature with tablet users and more so for students.

Sharing and Collaboration

Another invaluable feature of OneNote is you can easily share your notes by exporting them into common formats like PDF and word. You are also able to collaborate on projects with your coworkers by sharing your notes, granting them an ability for them to edit. Updates other people are making to a document will appear almost immediately.

You can also attach documents such as PDF docs to your note so that the team members you are collaborating with can easily access them.

Sometimes you are reading an interesting article and need to save it for later, share/send it to a page of your choice.

Screen Clips

A great feature that I use frequently to take screen grabs of websites or items on desktop especially when preparing manuals. Screen clip pastes screenshots to a note of your choice. Many note takers will find this feature indispensable. The 78 page LogicalHRM user guide seen here relied heavily on screen clips. The entire manual was also compiled on OneNote across different devices.

Great Search

OneNote’s search is as good as they come. You just need to type in one word and search will perform its magic and return relevant results.

User Friendly

OneNote is organized like a book. At the top is a notebook, that has sections (chapters), the sections contain pages. Let’s say your notebook’s name is Peter and you love to blog, so you have a section called Blog. Under blog you have individual blog posts such as why I love OneNote, blog ideas, favorite blogs etc. Peter loves cooking, so a second section could be Recipes under which there will be various interest topic pages.

You can have as many sections as you have interests and under these sections have as many pages as you wish. Sections (chapters) and pages are organized in different colors for an appealing look.


For your more sensitive information, password protection is provided, this covers sections and pages under these sections.

…Your very own digital archive

You go through your old notes months or years after you first scribbled them and it’s a great feeling, it takes you back in time and gives you a reflection of who you were at that point in time. A dreamer, a realist..

How To Get Started

To start using OneNote, you need a Microsoft Live account. If you do not already have one the app provides a step-by-step registration process. One Note is available for your windows machine, android and Apple iOS or right on your browser.

This blog post was created on OneNote.