Using Microsoft OneNote for, Well, Everything

Image: Microsoft
Image: Microsoft

After Microsoft OneNote became free for everyone, everywhere, I decided to invest my time into using it for new and a few existing projects. I’m using it to organize my wedding, plan next year’s homeschooling, and my current book writing projects. I’m using it for random household lists. I’m using it to keep all of my ideas in one place. I’ve made myself at home there: writing, including images, tables, resource material, and different categories of information. What do I think?

I love it. Love. It. It is perfect for how I think, and how I prefer to organize things. Though I had started using Scrivener for writing books, it has a lot of features that, frankly, I just don’t use. Daily writing goals are useful for NaNoWriMo, but generally I don’t have a set amount of time each day to set aside for writing. So I’m happy with OneNote, except for one thing.

OneNote doesn’t have character or word counts. Microsoft, please add this feature! You have it in Word, so I doubt it’s impossible to add to OneNote. Okay, back to the good stuff.

Image: Microsoft
Image: Microsoft

The way OneNote organizes your notebooks, tabs, and pages, with plenty of color coding, feels so comfortable to me. You click on one notebook at a time, and ignore the rest. The colored tabs at the top help you clearly see which part of that notebook you’re working in. The page listing over at the right is a little hidden for how I scan the page, but I remember it’s there, and I like how it’s in its own spot. This arrangement gives an apparent physical separation in the hierarchy, unlike in Evernote, like I seem to need.

I haven’t yet had a reason to record audio or video within my OneNote files, but if I do get to use it while taking notes during a meeting, the feature which shows you where you were in the audio when you took specific notes is ingenious.

One of OneNote’s best features is this: If you save your notebook to OneDrive (formerly called SkyDrive), it synchronizes all of your work across all of your devices. So my computer, my phone, my laptop, and my tablets all have the same information. I count on this feature on a regular basis. You can also choose to save your work locally, or share notebooks with others. There are so many features within OneNote that I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of possibilities.

Sometimes, you just find a program that works for you. Perfectly. (Or it would fit perfectly if it did word and character counts.) So perfectly that you would pay for it. But it’s free! OneNote is one of those programs for me. As someone who loves to stay organized, it keeps as much information as I need in one place. I recommend it, without reservation, to everyone.

Note: As part of the Windows Champions program, I have been loaned Windows 8.1 devices for the purpose of these reviews. The views expressed in these reviews are my honest opinions about the hardware and software involved.

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Jenny Bristol is an Editor at GeekDad and a founding Director at GeekMom. She is a lifelong geek who spends her time learning, writing, homeschooling her two wickedly smart kids, losing herself in history, and mastering the art of traveling on a shoestring.