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Living life with OneNote: OneNote at school

As a senior in the computer science program at California State University and summer 2013 intern on the OneNote team,William Devereux uses OneNote to keep track of every aspect of his life. Here’s what he had to say about how he puts OneNote to work to manage his entire college career in a single notebook.

As a college student, my school notebook is absolutely crucial to my academic success. Each semester is represented as a section group, allowing me to store the lecture notes for my entire college career in a single notebook. This also allows each class to have its own section, with pages for every lecture and any assorted projects. OneNote keeps track of the page creation date, but I also note the week and lecture number in the page title. For example, the first lecture (typically on a Monday or Tuesday) during the fifth week of the semester would be 5:1.

I also have a special section titled simply “CSUS” (the name of my university) in each semester which contains a number of important general-use pages. This includes an overview page with my student ID and various important links, my graduation plan, a list of fellow students in each class, and the Current Assignments page.

A lot of my time is spent on the Current Assignments page, since it’s where I keep track of the due dates for assignments, required reading, and other notes. The assignments are organized by date and they’re checked off as they’re completed. Once the assignment has been turned in, it is removed from the page.

 

I make heavy use of headings in lecture notes in order to differentiate the various topics covered by my professor, and I’m constantly adding tables, bullets, and various forms of indentation. If something is crucial, I’ll also use OneNote’s tags to add a star or exclamation mark next to the paragraph.

 

Computer science classes contain a lot of code samples, equations, and diagrams. Thankfully, OneNote includes a special formatting option for code and supports a number of ways to input math equations. Napkin math allows you to type an equation such as “2 + 2 =” and have it automatically display the answer–this has allowed me to beat my professor to the result on multiple occasions–while more complex equations can be created using the equation tools. You can even ink an equation and have OneNote convert it to text.

 

Speaking of ink, OneNote excels in this area as well. Using a laptop or tablet with a stylus–or your finger with a touch screen–is just as easy as pen and paper, yet much faster and more convenient. Your handwritten notes are still searchable and it’s easy to convert them from ink to text. And if you’re someone who likes ruled paper, you can always turn on rule or grid lines.

 

There are a number of other great features for academic use as well, from linked note-taking (which automatically associates everything you type with whatever web page or document you were viewing) to audio and video recordings. Best of all, playing back these recordings shows you exactly what you were writing at that point in time. You can also import files into OneNote, allowing you to ink or type directly on Word documents or PDFs, PowerPoint slides, Excel tables, and more.

OneNote is a fantastic tool for students, whether you’re taking notes for yourself or collaborating with a group using a shared notebook on SkyDrive. And since all of your notes are digital and stored in the cloud, it’s easy to share your lecture notes with a classmate who is ill.

Do you use OneNote for school? Let us know in the comments!

–William Devereux

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12 comments
  1. A few suggestions:-
    1) Contents of embedded documents, at least word, excel and powerpoint files and hopefully pdf, should also be searchable (This can already be done in Lotus Note version 7). Currently, the only workaround is to insert the files as printout which consumes resources unnecessary;
    2) More advanced searching features, such as "search-in-search" and the use of operator, should be allowed to refine the search results;
    3) Hovering over a search result should bring up a preview;
    4) Search language should be customizable rather than just blindly following the settings of Windows. This is important to people using non-Latin based languages who may have their Windows set to their native languages but still need to talk English notes;
    5) Pictures inserted in web app should automatically set to be searchable instead of requiring users to turn on OCR picture by picture, which is inefficient and annoying;
    6) As many suggested, web app should allow search, at least for the folks who have pay to buy the desktop version. The absent of this feature virtually makes the web app useless;
    7) In terms of inking, Onenote should be compatible with Wacom’s cintiq panel, if the jaffy inking is just a driver issue;
    8) There should be a function similar to "email to evernote"; and
    9) Radial menu should be available to the desktop version.

  2. [Revised]
    A few suggestions:-
    1) Contents of embedded documents, at least word, excel and powerpoint files and hopefully pdf, should also be searchable (This can already be done in Lotus Note version 7). Currently, the only workaround is to insert the files as printout which consumes resources unnecessary;
    2) More advanced searching features, such as "search-in-search" and the use of operators, should be allowed to refine the search results;
    3) Hovering over a search result should bring up its preview;
    4) Search language should be customizable rather than just blindly following the settings of Windows. This is important to people using non-Latin based languages who may have their Windows set to their native languages but still need to take notes in English;
    5) Pictures inserted in web app should automatically set to be searchable instead of requiring users to turn on OCR picture by picture in the desktop version, which is inefficient and annoying;
    6) As many suggested, web app should allow search, at least for the folks who have pay the desktop version. The absence of the ability to search virtually makes the web app unproductive, if not useless;
    7) In terms of inking, Onenote should be compatible with Wacom’s cintiq panel, if the jaggy inking effect is just some software problem;
    8) There should be a function similar to "email to evernote"; and
    9) Radial menu should be available to the desktop version too;

    • Hi dthk,

      Thanks for the feedback! We’re always working hard to improve OneNote, and we really appreciate you taking the time to tell us what you’d like to see in future versions.

  3. I would like to use Onenote this year for the first time, i am a mac user. Does Onenote have voice record for mac?

    • Hi deolinda y,

      OneNote is currently not available on Mac, but we do have a free Web App on SkyDrive that you can access through your browser. As for voice recording, the feature is supported on the desktop (OneNote 2013) and some mobile apps like Windows Phone.

  4. How do you use headings and keep up at the same time if you’re using the metro version of OneNote? Magical different keystrokes? Headings are way too clumsy in metro onenote, so I have to use desktop.

    • Hi Daniel,

      Headings aren’t supported in the Windows Store app, but personally I’d love to see that feature added in the future. I typically bold text in the Windows Store app and then add the headings on the desktop after the fact.

  5. I’m promoting OneNote heavily at the school I work at. We’re getting students and teachers sharing their notebooks but it does become a little unwieldy with teachers syncing to maybe 100 notebooks. There must be a better way to do this, I’m wondering if anyone has any ideas?

    • Hi dendesigns,

      It’s great to hear how you’re using it at your school! You could try using section groups in a single notebook, but it sounds like each notebook is for a different student and you might not want to share the information with others. As a result, your current system is probably best. You have a very interesting use case though and we really appreciate your feedback!

  6. I use OneNote and my Tablet-PC since 4 years now in my classes and my students can access my teacher’s notebook via SkyDrive, so they can put in their content. is a very simple way of collaboration and i am looking forward to the day, where the first of them will chuck in with stylus enabled device on their own.
    If you want to read more (in german) of my project and thoughts, feel free visit kurtsoeser.at!

  7. I have one more wish from the OneNote Team/Developers:
    In PowerPoint or Word you can insert Vdeos or other WebContent. I would like to embed a Video, not only the file, also a player window, where I can embed a YouTube-Video or another html-code-snipplet. That would be the best solution for creating digital, animated and interactive textbooks for students.

  8. I just started using onenote to keep track of all my work information. If there a way to keep a running tab of information? I’m looking for something that is more of a blog format that i can date each entry, but just scroll through. I have email snipits that i would like to put in the order i get them and not have to keep opening email after email to read information. I would like it to all be at my finger tips. and just have one tab for each month.

    I also keep a daily log for work, and would like to do something similiar

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