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.