OneNote is a note taking tool from Microsoft and is one of the most useful tools and best hidden secrets of the Office Suite. It is designed to allow you to organise your notes in much the same way you would a physical notebook but will all the advantages of doing so digitally. OneNote is installed on university computers and is included as part of Microsoft Office (Windows only) or for free online as part of Office Online. It is also available from the following app stores, although functionality on specific devices may differ:
The application is split into three distinct levels, notebooks, sections and pages. For example you could create a notebook to contain all your SHU notes, add sections within for each module and use pages to record content of lectures and seminars within these modules. Alternatively you might choose to create a notebook for each module and have sections on specific topics, it just depends on how you like to organise notes and how much content you have. Notebooks can also be a great tool for organising and collecting information for projects or research.
The editor will appear familiar to anyone who has used Word (or any other word processor) with some notable differences, of these the most useful is automatic saving as soon as you add content (so no more lost work!). You can click and start typing anywhere on the page and pasting or dragging useful notes or images from a web browser automatically includes the link to the source. Documents can also be embedded within the pages with the option to add previews of charts from spreadsheet or slides from presentations which can be a great way of writing and organising notes from a lecture.
If you create or store your notebooks online using OneDrive (formerly
SkyDrive) your notes are automatically synced to the cloud and can be accessed across all your devices. This also gives you the option to share you notebook with others so that can work collaboratively in real time, something which can be useful when organising group work.
One of the largest differences between OneNote and word processors is its ability to recognise drawing and handwriting (not supported on all devices), if you have a touch screen then you can draw, highlight and write notes, you can also do this with a mouse it’s just not a fun. By far the best way to take handwritten notes is by using a using a stylus or digital pen. Without going into too much detail here there are two distinct types of digital pens, those that act as more precise touch input such as a stylus you may buy for an iPad and those designed specifically to act as a digital pen, commonly called digitisers. Digitisers offer much greater control by working independently of the touch screen and are therefore not disturbed by resting your palm on the screen. These are usually included with the device and are not something you can buy as an extra, examples include the Samsung Galaxy Note or Surface Pro.
You can find out more about OneNote online at onenote.com or within the applications by following the tutorials when you create your first notebook.