Microsoft Small Business Software: OneNote

Thursday May 20th 2010 by Helen Bradley

Helen Bradley introduces Microsoft’s note-taking and research tool (not to mention unsung hero), OneNote 2003.

OneNote 2003; small business software
You can copy content from websites into OneNote and it will automatically include a link back to the original site.
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Microsoft OneNote is an organizational tool like no other. From brainstorming ideas to taking notes and assembling research, OneNote has a place in any business. In this column, I’ll show you the basics of getting started with OneNote 2003.

Over the years, OneNote has been treated a bit dismissively by Microsoft. It’s been included in some Office editions and left out of others, often absent from the very editions where it would be most useful. With Microsoft Office 2010, however, the situation has changed, and OneNote is included in all major retail and academic editions of Microsoft Office.

OneNote is a freeform note-taking application that mimics -- in some ways -- a traditional paper notebook. When you first launch OneNote 2003, you see the first page of the notebook on the screen. Click in the title area to type a title for your notebook page. There are General and Meetings tabs across the top indicating different sections of the notebook (you can customize these), and page markers down the right-hand side. There's also a toolbar button you can use to show or hide the ruled lines on the page.

To add text to your page, click somewhere in the notepad page and start typing. A small box appears with your typing in it. To convert lines to a bullet list, select the text and click the Bullets icon on the toolbar. OneNote offers a range of typical word processing formatting features on the toolbar. One nice feature of OneNote notebooks is that you don’t have to save your work as the everything that you type into a OneNote notebook is automatically saved for you.

OneNote 2003; Microsoft small business
When you flag items throughout a notebook, the Note Flags Summary task pane displays them all in one place for easy access.
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Flexible Small Business Software

Unlike a word processor, you can click and type anywhere on the OneNote page. The text is placed in a small container and each container is separate from other containers on the page. So you could, for example, write meeting notes in a notebook page and click elsewhere on the page to add other unrelated items. You can move each container by clicking in it so its top bar appears, and then dragging it by the bar to another position.

To add a new page to a notebook, either click the New Page button underneath the page title on the right (to add a page quickly) or), choose File > New (to add one with stationery. From the panel’s Stationery collection choose one to use for your new page. For example, in the Business group you'll find various layouts for taking minutes for meetings. When you click a stationery option, a new notebook page with that stationery applied to it appears immediately.

You can flag items that need special attention, like reminders, so you can find them easily. To do this, click in front of the item and, from the Note Flags dropdown list, select the note flag to mark it with, such as To Do, Important, Question, Remember for Later and so on.

You can also customize additional undefined note flags for your own needs. To find flagged items, choose View > Note Flags Summary and a pane opens showing all the items marked with note flags grouped by flag type. This way you can find To Do items across different pages and notebook sections.

Add the Internet: Organize, Search and Find

You can use your OneNote notebook to organize things you find when searching the Internet. For example, open a Web page and select some content from that page. Copy it, and then paste it into the notebook page. When you do this, not only will you see the text and graphics from the Web page but you will also see a link back to the page where the information came from.

OneNote 2003; small business technology
Using your computer’s microphone you can record sound directly into a OneNote notebook page, and play it back anytime.
(Click for larger image)

Other features of OneNote include the capability to record audio into a notebook. Click in the page and click the Start Recording button. The audio recording toolbar appears and the recording starts immediately using your computer’s microphone.

When you’re done, click the Stop Recording button, and the recording will cease and you can close the toolbar. The audio recording appears in a container in your notebook, and you can click it and click the speaker icon to its immediate left to play back the recording.

If you have a tablet computer you can hand write information into your OneNote notebook or draw and doodle on a page. OneNote also includes OCR (optical character recognition) functionality so it will convert handwriting into text that can be found when you search for information in a notebook.

OneNote 2010  is the newest version, and it will be included in the new Microsoft Office 2010 suite. This version supports the updated ribbon interface -- although this is hidden by default, you can displayed clicking a small button. OneNote can also recognize the text in any graphic making the text in an image searchable. It can also create special notebooks you can sync on a Windows mobile device by using a free, downloadable OneNote app.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site,

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