Henry’s Tech Tips: OneNote

Henry’s Tech Tips:  Why I Recommend OneNote for Note-taking

Written by Henry Chen, grade 12

OneNote—the cute purple-looking program that is installed with Microsoft Office is, unfortunately, overlooked by most. If you have never heard of OneNote or have never used it in the past, allow me to introduce OneNote to you. Microsoft OneNote is a FREE program that can be downloaded at Microsoft’s website for PCs and the Mac App Store for Mac computers. It also comes with all editions of Microsoft Office. If you don’t already have it installed, grab your copy of OneNote at http://www.onenote.com/download for PCs running Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. For Macs, search “Microsoft OneNote” in the Mac App Store.

First up – the differences between OneNote and Word:

Word is a magnificent document editor. Don’t get me wrong, I love Microsoft Word; I drafted this article in Word. You can edit and create almost anything that you wish with Word’s powerful user interface. It has a dominant engine that allows you to create any type of document, whether it be a newsletter, essay, or a resume. Most schools, such as WPGA, have Word available for both teachers and students; your 16-page math test was probably drafted and finalized on Microsoft Word. It has, and will always be, the #1 choice for virtually every computer user when it comes to word processing. However, when it comes to classroom note-taking in Word, users are restricted specific margin alignments: left, middle or right. That’s reasonable, as Microsoft designed Word to produce elegant, professional looking documents, not cute looking notes with stars, exclamation marks, and colourful highlighted text. Because the “bring-your-own-device” program is getting more popular at high schools, Microsoft created a free program aimed at assisting teachers and students in note-taking: Microsoft OneNote.

With OneNote, your creative note taking ideas are realized. Have a look at the screenshot of OneNote at the top of this article. Notice the drop down menu and how I can insert the star or exclamation mark next to important facts. Actually, that’s only a small part of what OneNote can give you. Other notable features include giving you the ability to type anywhere you click (useful for flowcharts or diagrams), the ability to create different “notebooks” for all of your subjects, and easily share notes with your friends.

Ever run into a situation where you’ve typed your notes on a Word document but after a long day of classes, you can’t find where you saved that document? With OneNote, all of your notes are all contained in one place. In fact, you don’t have to dig through your files just to find that document you typed your notes on. Simply open OneNote and it automatically opens all of your notebooks with just a few clicks (or taps, if you’re using a touchscreen!).

Finally, let me talk about a 4-letter word that most computer users do on a regular basis: “SAVE.” I was in a situation where I lost my files due to an oversight; normally, when you hit the “X” button to close a Word document, it prompts a window asking you to save, with the YES button highlighted and all you need to do is press ENTER. However, for some reason at that time, when it asked “YES / NO” to save, the NO button was highlighted. Nonetheless, as a natural reflex, I hit the ENTER key and… yup… you guessed it – everything was gone. Luckily I printed out that document before making that mistake, so I still had a hard copy of the notes.

With OneNote, you do NOT have to save. Yes—you heard me correctly—no saving. Actually, OneNote doesn’t even have a save button; everything is saved as you type. No more making mistakes like me; just hit the close button and next time you open OneNote, all of your notes will be right there as you left them.

For these reasons, I strongly recommend the use of OneNote for note-taking. It is cross-platform, meaning you can use it on all of your devices. It supports PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android. Nevertheless, let me stress one point – this “Tech Tip” is NOT one of those “OneNote versus Word” articles. I am just recommending the use of note taking with OneNote; Please – continue to use Word for essays, reports, articles, … etc. but please, if you’re interested, take some time to try out OneNote for your note-taking. Trust me—through time, I found it more and more useful and I’m sure you will too. If you have any questions on how to use OneNote or would like me to give you an intro to it, please don’t hesitate to ask me. I’m more than happy to give you a quick tour of the features of OneNote and explain anything you need to know to start using this flawless note taking program.