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I’ve been an Evernote guy for years. I’ve used the service to store a variety of content including workout routines, articles I’ve read, and even draft blog posts. It’s my go to for digital note taking. I imagine this is why I was hesitant to fully embrace OneNote until last year when I started a contract role with NetHope and began to use it as my primary digital notebook for work. While the service is very similar to Evernote, I’ve personally found it excels in work settings.

Recently I had the chance to sit through a great webinar hosted by NetHope Solution Center – a resource for NGOs to learn more about technology solutions. Representatives from Microsoft led the webinar and discussed some of the application’s best features. Below is a quick overview of how OneNote works and tips on how to unlock its power.

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Why Use OneNote

Often billed as the ultimate digital binder, OneNote allows users to put any type of content onto its pages. Whether it’s text, pictures, audio files, or digital ink, OneNote has you covered. Microsoft representatives were quick to point out its simple user interface makes it just as easy to create a note with OneNote as it’s to create one with paper. Best of all, the service is completely free and available across various platforms and devices.

How it Works

Similar to a real life binder, OneNote is separated into sections. Like paper you can design whatever you want using different layouts. For example, many educators have used it to create learning resources for students. Another nifty trick is changing the type of paper in your notebook. You can switch to a variety of paper types, including graph paper. This can be easily accomplished by clicking the view tab.

OneNote is an excellent collector as well. A neat aspect of the application is its ability to store “printed documents” digitally. This is accomplished by selecting the “print to OneNote” option in the print settings. Another aspect of the application which makes collecting easier is the screen clipping function. Using this handy tool, users can select items from the web, documents, images and simply copy over selected portions. To make things even better, all content taken from the web is automatically sourced, time stamped, and includes the source URL! Finally, thanks to OneNote’s seamless integration with the rest of the Microsoft suite, it’s easy to pull in other information from complimentary applications such as Outlook, Excel, and Word.

Collaboration Hub

OneNote makes it simple to share ideas and content with team members. One easy way to do this is to create a “Shared Notebook.” These notebooks can be created by project leaders and shared with the entire team. Every team member has access to this folder. A few organizations have used this function to house new on-boarding materials and other lengthy reference documents. Project leaders also have the ability to create a content library the larger team can access to learn more about specific topics.

In addition to the “Shared Notebook,” project leaders can create a “Staff Notebook.” It functions similarly to the “Shared Notebook” but is a space for individual team members and the project leader to collaborate. Project leaders decide what goes into each initial notebook, e.g. action items, meeting notes, and instructions. Team members can use the space as a place to collaborate with the project leader on specific projects and share new ideas. Thanks to OneNote’s ability to sync automatically, content is updated immediately as its added and tracked so viewers can see how the document has evolved overtime. Once it’s uploaded to the cloud, notes are accessible everywhere and from any device.

Closing Thoughts

Special thanks to the NetHope Solutions Center Editorial team for organizing the webinar. It was a very informative session. I’m still an Evernote fan boy for everyday notes (I even went as far to buy the company’s beautiful messenger bag) but I’m a OneNote convert for work related content.

More info about OneNote can be found at http://www.onenote.com.

[Photos Courtesy of akrabat, WordPress, and Microsoft]