Microsoft Office 2010 - OneNote 2010

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell



  • Editors choice
Microsoft Office 2010


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OneNote is a great application that (almost) no one uses. It’s not for want of trying on Microsoft’s part, as it has pushed the application unwaveringly for several years now and it is one of the apps that appear in every single edition of Office.

If you’re unfamiliar with OneNote, it’s a potentially very useful note taking and research tool that supports useful stuff like linked notes to recordings. In effect it’s a digital ring binder, with an interface to match. In 2010 it’s seen many of the same updates as its counterparts, which means a ribbon interface – though in OneNote it’s hidden by default – and Backstage View. Neither is particularly developed though, as the idea with OneNote is to keep things as simple as possible, hence why the ribbon is hidden by default. OneNote also gets its own Web App, which is useful for accessing your notes on the move, but seems somewhat moot as if you’re using OneNote like that you’re probably better off with a natively online application.

Probably the most noticeable improvement in OneNote 2010 is the addition of a docked view. This is activated via a shortcut on the Quick Access Toolbar, and as the name suggests docks a minimised version of OneNote to the right side of the screen. This effectively acts as the edge of the screen, with active windows automatically re-sized to fit inside it and anything dragged toward it being hidden behind. With it docked, it’s then very easy to drag and drop content from documents and webpages straight into your notebook.

OneNote has always been a favourite among the admittedly niche Tablet PC users, but with tablets looking like they might make a recovery with the likes of the Acer Aspire 1825PTZ, Packard Bell EasyNote Butterfly Touch and HP’s Pavilion tm2 – not to mention the less PC-like Apple iPad – it’s just as well OneNote 2010 gets some enhancements in this area. This includes pinch to zoom, finger panning – where you can move around a notepad with one finger and draw with the other – and some improved UI controls for touch users. The ribbon interface helps here, too, as it’s intrinsically a lot easier to use in touch mode than the toolbars of old.

There are numerous editing enhancements, but students who deal with mathematics will be best pleased with the newly added support for equations. OneNote has also become more Wiki-like in operation. It now supports versioning, so you can more easily track changes in collaborative pages and who made them, while anything that’s been added to a document since you left is now highlighted so as not to miss it.

All these additions, and the many other tweaks made to enhance editing and searchability, make OneNote 2010 a solid incremental upgrade on the previous version. However, among the various changes, only the docking ability really stands out and due to the emphasis on simplicity, the Ribbon and Backstage View – so integral in other applications – don’t have the impact they have elsewhere.


There’s nothing in OneNote 2010 to dissuade sceptics that’s it’s trying to be more organised than most people want to be, but it’s a good incremental upgrade for current users, with the integration with Web Apps and SharePoint being important for those that use it extensively.

Nick G

June 15, 2010, 7:40 pm

This has got to be a fix?! 10/10 for every product, including the ones other trusted sources have major complaints about like Outlook 2010? Suspicious?!

Andy Vandervell

June 15, 2010, 8:04 pm

@Nick Gilbert: See scores end of the review.


June 15, 2010, 8:06 pm

The main problem with Office 2007 and what will (I'm guessing) be a similar issue with 2010 is backwards compatability. Unless both you and the person sharing the document have the same 2010/2007 version of Office, most of the fancy-pants features can't be used, rendering the upgrade largely pointless. We've had big issues where I work as the rollout of 2007 hasn't been coordinated properly. Consequently you have to save everything in Compatability mode in order to ensure that everyone can use it, regardless of the version of Office they're using.

I know you touched on this in the article, but to me it's a big problem. I can't see how can Microsoft expect a large take-up of a piece of software that is so widely used but isn't backwards compatable wiith previous versions. Why would a company upgrade to 2010 and risk work-flow disruption caused by compatability issues, when at the end of the day 2000 et all offer most "every-day" users all the features they need.

It's not as if they can cash-in on all those people who don't have some kind of word processor installed on their PC, as I'd guess that's a pretty darn small market...


June 15, 2010, 8:06 pm

Nick, use it and then comment. Office 2010 is fantastic...


June 15, 2010, 9:57 pm

@TheEvilGenius: How can you expect 100% backwards compatibility? They wouldn't be able to add any new features then, just make the program easier to use - which wouldn't be much of an update!

After 7 years you have to expect some new additions and from glancing through this review there's a lot. For the most part it's compatible and the fact you can save in older formats (or now use the Web version) means that it should be easier than ever for people to work on the same document.


June 15, 2010, 10:56 pm


The use of the XML based files should mean that any new features not covered by Office 2007 shouldn't prevent the docs or spreadsheets or whatever from rendering properly. They'll "fail" nicely, if you see what I mean. The previous backward compatibility with '03 was fixed very promptly by MS with a patch, so I think you are making too much of this, really.

Back to the main review, I was disappointed to read how limiting the online capabilities are. I was wondering recently whether to embrace google docs more, or wait out for office 2010 web apps. This has made my mind up to go with Google, although I'm sure the online capabilities of both suites will be massively improved over the coming years.


June 15, 2010, 10:57 pm

@HK Agreed - Whilst annoying as it is something has to give or we'll just be stuck in the year 2000 in terms of office software.

Glad to hear you mentioned the HP tm2 - any chance of reviewing it :-). I had heard that they have improved the handwriting recognition in onenote, which in 2007 wasn't very good compared to the tablet input panel in windows 7.


June 15, 2010, 11:21 pm

The open in Word/Excel feature in the web apps does work in Firefox without such shenanigans as ActiveX - it's just an Office 2010 plugin


June 15, 2010, 11:25 pm

You forgot to mention that you can get a fourth version of Office 2010: Office Professional Academic 2010. Its only £49.99, the one I shall be buying.


June 15, 2010, 11:31 pm

Nice write up, this could be time to upgrade.

Can I ask what resolution you were playing at?

The toolbars look slick and very appealing but sized down come become ciumbersome maybe I guess I need to try before I buy.


June 15, 2010, 11:57 pm

I need a new keyboard too ;)

Nick G

June 16, 2010, 1:04 am

I've used some apps and some of them are really not good. I would Word 10/10 but none of the others higher than 8 or 9. Especially not Outlook or Access - both of which have some serious issues as highlighted by other reviewers. Note how on cnet the *users* only give it an average of 2.5 out of 5 and no other review sites I can find give it flawless results when there are glaring issues.


June 16, 2010, 1:45 am

"Note how on cnet the *users* only give it an average of 2.5 out of 5"

Oh please. You're not being serious are you. Most of those trolls haven't used an MS product for years.

Andy Vandervell

June 16, 2010, 2:02 am

@Exxo90: Good point, but it's not available to buy at retail, only a select few.

@hank: I've used it at 1,920 x 1,200 on my desktop and 1,280 x 800 on my laptop, which fits perfectly - there's no resizing necessary to make them fit.


June 16, 2010, 2:27 am


Perfect!!! Thanks for the answer :)


June 16, 2010, 1:45 pm

I've been using the beta and it's a refined piece of work, but I don't think I'll be shelling out again for the full version. There are many small improvements, things which make the program nicer to drive than its rivals (to use Andy's analogy), and I'd have paid a small premium, perhaps 30-40 quid to get them. And once I started to focus on value things began to look very different.

One thing using the ribbon has taught me is that I very rarely move from the "home" tab. I realise that's how it should be, but it does emphasise how little I actually use, both within the program and the wider suite. I'm a freelance writer so I'm word processing all day. Outlook remains awful. I make very limited use of spreadsheets and avoid Powerpoint as much as possible. With either of these latter two OpenOffice or Symphony 3 does everything I need.

In fact even when it comes to refinements a closer scrutiny of Symphony has made me feel that Microsoft has got it wrong with the ribbon. IBM's co-option of Microsoft's own earlier side panel idea is not only easier to use than the ribbon but is better suited to widescreen monitors. The functions available through the sidepanels are also easier to find than in the cluttered ribbons (which are so ugly that I've always had them hidden by default). The Symphony beta remains occasionally flaky and it doesn't support the Win7 taskbar properly, but it's enough to make me want to give it an extended trial, and leave Office on the sidelines.

I did wonder about just buying a copy of Word, but on Amazon it actually costs more than the Home and Student edition. Then again because I'd be using it in my work Microsoft wants to say I can't have the latter. That's a sore point in itself - how can someone charge me nearly 100 quid for something and then tell me how I can use it? On its own terms Office is an advanced piece of software, but compared to the alternatives it offers such terrible value that I'm beginning to think its days are numbered.


June 16, 2010, 5:45 pm

I have been using the 2010 Pro Beta plus for the last 8 months. It defo is more stable than 2007. Word is fab. Excel and PPT is the same beneath the pretty GUI. Apart from prettier looks, Outlook is still rubbish. especially if you use activesync or WMDC for Windows Mobile users. For those who bought 2007 in the last few months should be eligible for a free upgrade.

Not the best value and for those used to the pre 2007 interface. you will find it hard to get used to the Ribbon. (which frankly takes up too much screen space). MS should allow a small icon toolbar version.

overall will give it 6/10. 7 if they give a big discount for beta users buying the full version.


June 16, 2010, 8:47 pm


"To start with, unlike Word and Excel, PowerPoint wasn’t given the ribbon treatment in Office 2007."

Not true - Powerpoint got the Ribbon in 2007. Perhaps you're mistaking it with Publisher, which kept the old toolbars?


June 16, 2010, 9:50 pm

Must admit I have been using Office 2010 for some time now, as a subscriber to Technet and find it much improved, search in Outlook 2010 now works, that alone is a huge improvement. Basically the whole suite feels like it is a much more polished and finished Office 2007. Admittedly there are still areas for improvement, but the areas that changed so drastically in 2007 have been finished in 2010, and the newly changed programs, like Outlook, whilst better still have some way to go to match Word & Excel.

I have a question though, I'm interested to know in Office 2010 what does Microsoft provide as a replacement for Office 2003's Frontpage and Ofice 2007's Expressions Web as a web page authoring tool? Or do they believe no one works on web layout any more?


June 17, 2010, 4:21 am

Good article, but the following statement isn't correct...

>PowerPoint wasn’t given the ribbon treatment in Office 2007

The ribbon is there by default in PowerPoint 2007.

It's not too shabby either once you get a handle on the groupings of functionalities - which is sensible on the whole.

For die-hard power-users, the old keyboard shortcuts still work too - e.g. to <b><u>I</b></u>nsert a <b><u>Picture</b></u> from <b><u>F</b></u>ile simply press 'Alt + i' then 'P' then 'F'.

Simples ;-)

Powerpoint 2010 simply takes the Ribbon concept a couple of steps further.

The best improvement is that all video effects, transitions and animation is now fully accelerated and composited via WPF. Even complex 'builds' with multiple simultaneous items following motion paths, run with a fluidity not seen before in PowerPoint.

More to explore - but I'm digging some of the new possibilities.


June 17, 2010, 8:39 pm

Only question I have is this: Is the new version of Access better than 2003?

If so, why? and does it allow for a database that was created in 2003 to run in 2010?


Geoff Richards

June 17, 2010, 8:49 pm

@Mitch: I haven't used Access 2010 myself, but on the basis that Word, Excel etc are "better" it would be reasonable to assume that Access has also benefited from a refresh. More bells & whistles, plus the Ribbon menu.

Again, I'm assumingly slightly, but given than Word 2010 opens Word 2003, I don't see any reason why Access 2010 couldn't open Access 2003 databases... Microsoft software is pretty much universally backwards compatible. The usual complaint is from people with older versions unable to open files created by users of the newer version(s).

Not sure if that's any help to you... we don't have any plans to specifically evaluate Access 2010 though.


June 18, 2010, 3:28 pm


Please don't take this the wrong way - but I find quite disturbing that you consider this review to be complete without evaluating Access 2010, especially when you consider that Excel & Access are meant to work together.

I appreciate you may not have the skills to make an assesment of the product, but surely there must have been someone who could have imported data into Access 2010 and setup even the most simplistic of relational databases?

I hate to say it, but your review (regardless of how well written it is) must be considered to be incomplete...


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