If you ask me, the best “app-lication” on Microsoft OneNote is the ability to paste a video link from YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Sway (and more).
The playable thumbnail version alongside my notes is a great way to set up Microsoft’s understated note-taking tool as a serious learning platform. Of course, OneNote is a lot of other things too.
- It can save anything from anywhere with a click.
- It can be a handy project management assistant with a little Outlook integration.
- And, it can be a de-stresser, as I am finding out with these Mandala coloring pages, freely supplied with a Microsoft tweet.
Microsoft OneNote is a Swiss knife for your note-taking needs, and you can multi-tool it further with a few free OneNote apps. OneNote apps come in all varieties – there are featured apps from its own stable, and then there are a few third-party add-ins and integrations that help you get more out of your notes.
Let’s make a list of the free and best OneNote apps that can help you stay organized and productive.
1. OneNote Web Clipper
This handy official browser extension is the default capturing tool for any information you find online. Clip anything you find on the web into a OneNote notebook of your choice with the Location Picker. You can capture an entire webpage or a part of it. As OneNote is synced across all of your devices, the clipped information is available anytime and anywhere.
OneNote Clipper is available for Chrome.
Those on the Edge browser can use the Web Note. Take a snapshot of a website and write on it. After you are done with that you can share the note using OneNote or email.
2. Send to Sway
We miss the point when we say that Sway is a PowerPoint killer. Sway is packaged as a quick storytelling tool where you hand over the design to the app. You have control over the content, but not too much when it comes to the layout and design. PowerPoint is the steroid packed alternative for professional presentations.
Sway is incredibly handy for creating web-entric presentations on the fly. It can be an interactive personal story or a quick pitch.
With the Send to Sway add-in for Microsoft OneNote you can organize all content in OneNote and export it to Sway. Then, allow Sway to conjure a beautiful presentation from the raw content.
Take your pick of the 32-Bit or 64-Bit version of the 1.5 MB application and install it. The add-in can be accessed from the Ribbon. Collect content in OneNote and then save it. Click on Send to Sway icon on the Ribbon to export it to Sway.
In the displayed pop-up window give a title to your Sway. If you want any other email ID to sign-in with, sign out from the existing one. You can now customize the presentation before finalizing it. As Sway is cloud-based, you can easily share it with others and access it from any device.
3. Office Lens
The Office Lens is the one app you should install without a thought if you want to take better notes with OneNote. For those who haven’t met it yet, Office Lens is the new mobile scanner app from Microsoft that lets you take pictures of whiteboards, or printed documents. It then enhances your photo by cropping, sharpening and straightening it, so it looks almost like a scanned image.
The strongest feature that makes Office lens indispensable is optical character recognition (OCR). Any printed text is automatically recognized so you can search for words in images and copy and edit them.
I wish I had Office Lens back in school. Using it with the Whiteboard Mode and the OCR, I could have saved hours of lecture note typing.
4. OneNote Learning Tools
If Office Lens hadn’t helped me, I am sure OneNote Learning Tools would have helped to boost my academic scores. It has been described differently – from a top-rated dyslexia app to an education disruptor for transformative learning.
Instead of wasting whitespace, I urge you to read my previous look at how OneNote Learning Tools can fuel a student’s comprehension and also help teachers become more interactive tutors.
The free toolbar add-in for OneNote 2013 and 2016 creates a more immersive reading experience. For example, you can snap a picture with Office Lens and thanks to the OCR technology convert it into text. This text can be read back with the text-to-voice engine of OneNote Learning Tools.
It may be designed for students and educators, but if you believe in lifelong learning, then try it out with any educational material. A feature like the Focus Mode can help you sustain your attention and improve comprehension.
5. The OneNote Importer
OneNote and Evernote are perennially at war for our note-taking attention. There are reasons for choosing OneNote over Evernote (and vice-versa), so if you feel strongly about Microsoft’s un-constrained offering go for the OneNote Importer.
This free and official add-in makes it easy to find Evernote content on your computer and send it to OneNote with a click. You should have Evernote for Windows installed or you can import notes from an Evernote export (.enex) file.
Tried the Evernote to OneNote importer from @Microsoft. Tool worked flawlessly. Still adjusting to the workflow nuances in OneNote though
— Justin Deardorff (@LethalJD) March 15, 2016
The export process creates a new OneNote notebook for each Evernote notebook. Each Evernote page becomes a page in OneNote. Optionally, you can also use Evernote tags to organize your notes within your notebook. Each tag will become a section in OneNote that contains the pages that are tagged with that term. Attachments like PDF files and images are also imported along with your notes.
Do know that some of the tag structure you might have worked hard to create in Evernote might get destroyed with the shift. The add-in picks up only the first tag. Microsoft’s support page says:
We’ll only look at the first tag to determine where we place that page. To make things easy to find, we’ll write every tag that you had in Evernote on the OneNote page so you can find everything easily through OneNote’s instant search.
6. OneNote Publisher for WordPress
As a blogger you might want to go from capturing blog post ideas in OneNote to writing them in WordPress seamlessly. If you do any writing in OneNote, then the OneNote Publisher for WordPress may be the app for you. OneNote Publisher for WordPress exports a OneNote page directly to a WordPress blog.
Going from OneNote to WordPress does create some formatting issues as it creates lots of extra HTML tags and issues with paragraph/line breaks. You might need to do some cleaning up.
OneNote is the perfect companion to more intensive writing tools like Microsoft Word as it has the organization structure that supports brainstorming and research. Pages and selected page sections can be submitted as blog posts. You can also create your own calendar in OneNote to track your publishing schedule. And if you are used to working in OneNote, it should be more productive for you.
Try it and let us know in the comments how you feel about this.
OneNote also has a native Send to Blog option (File > Send > Send to Blog) which helps you publish to a blog directly. It uses the web publishing features of Microsoft Word.
Onetastic is set of third-party add-ins developed by a developer from Microsoft who took it upon himself as a hobby. Download and install to extend the functionality of OneNote with a slew of features available from the Ribbon. Extra capabilities include macros which automate routine tasks like search and replace, a calendar view for your OneNote pages, custom styles which mimic Word, and a handy way to set up your favorite pages with shortcuts.
To illustrate the power and reach of macros, here is a screenshot I borrowed from the Onetastic blog. It lists the macros Onetastic ships with:
Further, Onetastic also comes with a Macro Editor that allows you to build your own. Remember, any repetitive task can be replaced with the time-saving utility of a macro. Omer Atay runs a neat site and this macro tutorial should help you start running with your needs. For the lazy, Macroland is a free repository of macros.
Onetastic is available for both 32-Bit and 64-Bit Windows systems. Do thank Omer for this fantastic resource which is completely free.
What Else Is There?
The seven OneNote apps are the best among the free lot. Between the excellent Onetastic and the basic Clipper, you can pin down most of your notes. OneNote has a little corner dedicated to featured apps. Maybe, you will find something to like there. Automation powerhouses like IFTTT and Zapier are definitely recommended. IFTTT has more than 100 ready recipes for you to use, and Zapier offers 29 others across a wide swathe of services.
And you can always build your own OneNote app.
Which is the best OneNote app that is indispensable for your workflow? Is there an app that deserves a place on this page – free or paid? Tell us.