OneNote 2007 review
A worthy update to the most underrated of the Office applications - OneNote is now a must-have
Review Date: 15 Dec 2006
Reviewed By: Simon Jones
Price when reviewed: £64 (£74 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Ease of Use
OneNote is a misunderstood application. Although some people think it will only work on a tablet PC, this is far from true. OneNote will work equally well on a desktop PC, notebook or a tablet. There's even a pocket version for use on Windows Mobile devices.
At its heart, OneNote is a place where you make notes, scribble diagrams and gather information. It's quick and easy to jot things down, paste stuff in from the internet or other applications, then drag it all around and share it with other people. If you do run OneNote on a tablet PC, you get the added advantage of being able to handwrite notes and later have them converted to text.
OneNote doesn't get the new Ribbon UI, but it's had a complete overhaul. Its tools are mainly about creating, collecting, arranging and sharing information - there are relatively few tools for formatting. There's now extensive support for drag and drop: it's easy to drag pages, sections and notebooks (the metaphor for the different sets of pages, such as your various projects) to rearrange them, or drag pages or sections to different notebooks. The Navigation Bar on the left of the OneNote window shows all your notebooks and lets you quickly switch between them. Expand this bar and you also see all the sections in the notebooks, and you can colour these and the sections for easier identification.
DirectPlay gaming technology can be used to sent edits to other users. For example, a page may start as the agenda for a meeting, where everyone can make changes, eventually becoming a record of the meeting. Users can be in the one room or remotely connected via video or audio links, as well as via a OneNote shared page or section. If anyone was unable to attend the meeting, a copy of the page can be emailed to them.
If you store a OneNote notebook in a SharePoint document library or network share, all of its contents are available to anyone with access to that document library or share. Email someone a link to that notebook and they can synchronise their copy of OneNote with the shared notebook. They can then make changes, such as adding, editing or deleting text, graphics, pages or sections, whether they're online or offline. Any changes they make while offline will be replicated on the server copy next time they connect, and OneNote will automatically resolve most conflicts by itself. If you don't have a central server, you can share a notebook directly from your PC.
A great new feature is the ability to create quick tables. Just type the data into your table, starting with the headings, pressing Tab between cells and Enter at the ends of lines - it's amazingly intuitive. When you've finished entering data, press Enter twice. It couldn't be simpler. There are no tools to change the fill or borders on the table cells, but you can copy and paste OneNote tables into Word or Excel if you need to tidy them up.
On machines with enough power, you can use OneNote to simultaneously record audio and video while you're making notes. A time-code to the recording is logged, so you can launch playback from any point - click on a note and you'll hear from ten seconds before it was made. The audio recordings are indexed just like the text, images or handwriting in OneNote. Search for a term and it will be recognised not just where it appears in text, but also in handwritten notes, images with text in them and spoken words in audio recordings. If you have a high-quality microphone close to the speaker, you can even run recordings through Office's dictation engine to get a written transcript.
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