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Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” With that thought in mind, may I introduce you to — Microsoft OneNote.
You can choose from plenty to-do list services, organization tools and personal time management apps. One of the things most of them have in common is that they serve one aspect of a person’s life very well – either the online life, or the offline life. Rarely both.
Good examples are ToDoist (why you should upgrade to premium) or gTasks (our review), which both are fantastic tools for organizing your life whenever you have access to your web browser and the Internet. And when you feel like doing some organizing while you’re offline somewhere without the Internet? Not so much.
Sure, desktop apps are available, but they are rarely as functional as the online version, and usually also require an Internet connection. The need for an offline organization tool that also exists on the web is apparent by how many people look for ways to manage their Google Tasks on their desktop.
While I love Google, it is surprisingly Microsoft that has come up with the perfect solution, and that solution is Microsoft OneNote.
1. Accessing OneNote From Everywhere
It was about two years ago that Saikat described just how awesome OneNote can be. In that article, he explained that you could sync your offline OneNote to itsAndroid or iPhone apps – transforming this desktop organizational tool into a mobile productivity toolkit.
What is even more impressive two years later is that everything you do to organize using your desktop OneNote application, is all accessible online through your OneDrive account, at OneNote Online.
To take full advantage of this mobility, make sure to install OneNote for Android, or OneNote for iPhone. The ability to access your organized lists and information from anywhere is really the key behind true productivity.
2. Quick Linking to OneNote
While using OneNote, you may discover just how useful creating tables inside of your pages is. Tables let you track data over time, but one of the problems with creating lots of tables inside of OneNote, especially if you start using a lot of sections in OneNote, is finding the important tables. OneNote makes it really easy to save quick links to those tables by right-clicking the table and choosing “Copy Link to Paragraph”.
With that link, you can either store all of the most important “Quick Links” in a “Table of Contents” page right on OneNote itself, you can save the links in your Browser Bookmarks for important OneNote pages, or just create a shortcut right on your desktop.
You can save links to all different areas of your OneNote collection of sections and pages. Just right click on the section, page, text element, or any other object inside of OneNote that you want to access quickly, and copy the link.
This is one of the easiest ways to boost your productivity. Rather than wasting time looking for where you put things, you can save the items that you use the most right at your fingertips.
3. Saving Important Things to OneNote
If you’ve always liked services like Evernote (our Evernote manual), then you’ll absolutely love the “Send to OneNote” tool that comes with OneNote. This is a service that runs all the time on your PC, and lets you quickly save a quick note to OneNote. No matter what you’re doing on your computer, you can quickly create a note by pressing Windows Logo + N.
You don’t even have to open OneNote to create the notes. Later, once you have time to sort through and organize those notes, you can access your notes in the Quick Notes section.
Of course, if you find yourself doing a lot of web clipping, you’ll want to install the OneNote Clipper plugin that’s available for major browsers. This gives you one-touch clipping of entire pages to your OneNote account.
Later, you can access those web clippings in your Quick Links section.
You can organize the clippings into your other existing sections, or just read the clipping and then delete it.
The tool also lets you press Windows Logo + S to take a screen capture of your current desktop (or a section of it).
Then you can send that instantly to OneNote.
This shows the flexibility of OneNote to blur the lines between online and offline – the ability to send a desktop snapshot right to your OneNote account in seconds is something that you’d normally struggle to do with many other web-based note-taking apps.
4. Record When You Can’t Write
One of my favorite features in OneNote is the ability to add more than just text. You can also add recordings – either audio or video!
Once you start using this, you’ll always wonder how you ever got along without it. The ability to record audio especially, during those times when you can’t actively type, is a huge productivity boost. Imagine – now you can record an office meeting rather than trying to keep meeting minutes. Or you can record a lecture at school without getting distracted trying to type as fast as you can in class. Just make sure that you’ve hooked up a good microphone to your laptop if you do plan on using this feature often to boost your productivity.
5. New Pages Based on IFTTT Triggers
The one moment I celebrated was when IFTTT introduced a OneNote channel. If you haven’t experienced this yet, you’re in for quite a treat. You can add OneNote information based on all kinds of IFTTT triggers. For example, how would you like to have a new OneNote page automatically created for each story covering topics you’re interested in?
One way to do this is to use a Reddit trigger for “New post from search”.
Next choose the OneNote Action to create a page from a link – this will add a page to your default OneNote section (usually Quick Notes), and then you can go in and sort each of those into whatever section you like.
Here’s what the resulting “feed” looks like.
As you can see, you can click on any of the pages to see the story details (title, who posted it, and the link), and either delete that entry or move the story somewhere else in OneNote.
When you consider that IFTTT has triggers available from things like your email accounts, WordPress or Buffer, or all kinds of content feeds like Craigslist, Flickr or The New York Times, the possibilities of automating new content into your OneNote account is really only limited by your imagination.
Do you use OneNote? Are there any other creative ways that you’ve used OneNote to boost your won productivity? Share your ideas and insights in the comments section below!