Organizing my band with OneNote: An inside look

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Scott H. W. Snyder is a Program Manager on the OneNote team.

Anyone who has seen my apartment, office, or rehearsal space generally picks up on one key theme– I’ve got a lot of computers and about as many musical instruments.  Computers and music have been the two most important things in my life for as long as I can remember.  Two years ago, I decided to combine these passions and started a band called Bright White Lightning that mixes guitars and drums with sounds from retro computers, video game systems, and synthesizers.  So, when I’m not at work shipping software here at Microsoft, I’m playing guitar, tracking a song on a Game Boy, booking a show, or soldering together a new piece of DIY hardware.

My bandmates and I use OneNote to keep everything organized and in sync and I’d like to give you readers an inside look on exactly how it works for us.

Keeping tabs on my gear

Here’s a screenshot of the sections in the band’s notebook as seen from the OneNote app on my Surface Pro:


As you can see, there are lots of sections dedicated to specific pieces of gear.  In each of these sections I keep things like printouts of product manuals, instructions I’ve typed, and occasionally, diagrams for hardware I’m building or repairing.  Here are a few examples:



A different kind of shopping list

I hear a lot of folks telling others to use OneNote for shopping lists and while I agree, I prefer to keep a page per item of gear I want to buy.  That way I can add details for each item, such as its average price on eBay, possible substitute items, or a collection of user reviews.  Here’s an example:


Brainstorms and scribbles

Writing songs, especially lyrics, is time consuming and requires a lot of revision.  Since OneNote syncs to my Windows Phone, I can make changes to work-in-progress lyrics on the bus to work or on the road to my next performance.  OneNote keeps an offline copy of all of my notes, so I can make edits without cell service or when roaming–then they’ll sync when I get back to home territory.

Here’s a screenshot of some lyrics I was tweaking while in Canada:


And while it hasn’t yet come to fruition, we’re working on a stage piece that’s been sketched in OneNote–engineering schematics, blueprints and all.  Here’s a sample:

Keeping the whole band on the same page

It’s great that OneNote syncs to my phone so I can use it on the go, but what’s really useful is my ability to share with the other band members.  Our bass player takes care of booking a lot of shows, so together we collect things like contact information, load-in times, and gear check lists in a section dedicated to gigging. 

While our bass player uses OneNote on his Windows Phone, our drummer has an Android.  No problem-OneNote is available on Windows Phone and on iOS and Android devices.  Even when I’m occasionally recording tunes on a Mac, I can access the band’s notebook in a web browser from  It looks something like this 🙂

That’s a bit on how I use OneNote…let us know how you use it in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

 –Scott H.W. Snyder


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  1. I started using OneNote about 2 years ago when I started medical school. It has revolutionized the way that I study and helps me reference and maintain lectures that are relevant throughout my years of preparation. One of the newest features to the package is the app that is available on different platforms. I was excited to see it, but unfortunately it functions little more than a viewer. I would love to see an add in or update to the app that at least lets you draw or highlight using a touch device within the next month. This would really make One Note the premiere note taking software with competitors dragging in the distance. In the mean time, I’ve resorted to using mirror displays and using my touch pad as a writing device for my main PC. I would have rather spent the $10 on having the ideal office software, but it’ll have to do for now.

  2. Scott, great post.

    One way I (used to) love putting information into OneNote is via the "Send To OneNote" printer driver and then scribble notes and remarks on it and link all sorts of other information and/or documents. Also with a SnapScan scanner the "Send To OneNote" printer (used to) serve as a great "backbone" for my paperless workflow. In combination with the sharing features this is powerful knowledge management :-).

    Unfortunately the "Send To OneNote" feature seems to be broken under Windows 8 (have seen more than on post about it in the Microsoft Community :-/

    Do you know about this?

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