1. Computing

Microsoft OneNote -- Review

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Microsoft dubs OneNote a note-taking and management program, a rather bland description considering all the cool things the software can do.

Those of you who are still scratching your heads wondering what exactly OneNote is, you're not alone; I'm assuming that Microsoft hasn't done enough to market the software or has focused its marketing on the tablet pc niche market, which is a shame.

Although tablet pc users will probably get more use out of OneNote's extra features, like the ability to incorporate hand-written notes, it would be a mistake to assume that OneNote holds no benefits for desktop or laptop users.

In fact, I will be so bold as to venture that it is best suited for use on laptop computers: One can harness the portability factor (I'm guessing most people will want to take notes while they're in the "field," whether that's on the job, at the library, or hanging out at a coffee shop) and bypass the temptation to rely on the handwriting and opt for the keyboard instead.

After all, the purpose of the program is to help one organize notes one intends to incorporate into a lengthier document -- we have PDA's to handle our to-do lists and other notes to ourselves that never need to make it into print.

That said, the ability to incorporate and prioritize to-do lists is beneficial when one is working on a lengthy research project.

For those who are relatively comfortable in Word but who are wary of new programs, you can relax: OneNote's appearance and controls resemble a trimmed-down version of Word.

This is deliberate, as the program is designed to complement Office and integrate seamlessly with its components -- think of it as a go-between for Word and Outlook.

There are, of course, features not represented in Outlook or Word, but these are easily learned.

The one thing that may trip new users up is the handling of files. OneNote is clearly intended to be used by one person, and one person only, as the program creates a single Notebook in which all notes are saved (I've tried to create additional notebooks but haven't been able to find a way yet).

Within the notebook, there are folders, sections, pages, and sub-pages. Navigating through the notebook is easy enough, but one can become confused until comfortable with the controls.

While it is difficult enough to explain what OneNote is, it is even more difficult trying to explain fully the features of the program and how they work.

Users can move pages of notes or portions of notes around as one sees fit, and this is one of its greatest strengths; one can use OneNote to plan a project, conduct research for the project (yes, there are built in features to help you with online research, as well as integration with an encyclopedia and thesaurus), and then arrange the research notes to come up with a structure for written materials related to the project.

No longer is one constricted by the structure imposed by Word, yet it is easy enough to send information to Word when one is ready to produce a complete, polished document.

Other nifty features include flagged notes that are readily accessible via a task pane (great for to-do items), prioritized lists, the ability to share notes with others via net meetings, the ability to incorporate handwriting and audio clips, and an outstanding screen-clip feature.

Verdict:
OneNote is an excellent, easy to use tool for students, writers, people looking for a way to organize notes, or anyone who needs more flexibility than Word provides in the creation of documents.

Those who are tempted to use OneNote as an inexpensive alternative to Word or Outlook, don't be fooled: OneNote is intended to be used in conjunction with either -- or preferably both -- Outlook and Word, and you will not reap the full rewards if you try to use OneNote as a stand-alone application.

Further, don't listen to anyone who tells you OneNote is only for tablet pc's -- this is either a ploy to get you to buy a tablet or a side effect of Microsoft's niche marketing of the product; in actuality, it performs well on any Windows machine. If you remain unconvinced, try a free, limited-use OneNote download and prepare to be wowed!

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