Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Product Review - Microsoft OneNote

I've been using Microsoft OneNote for the last 6 weeks, and I have to say it might be my favorite software application ever!  It's similar enough to other MS Office products that you'll intuitively know how to use it, but it has enough differences that it takes a little getting used to before you'll feel fluent with it.  I thought I'd share an overview and some of the highlights with you here.

The first couple of weeks, I wasn't exactly sure how to make the most of it.  It has some features that are obviously *cool*, but I wasn't convinced they would make my life better.  The second couple of weeks I began to rely on the program very heavily in my daily use; it's amazing how fast you can become addicted to a good application!  During the last couple of weeks I'm convinced it has made me more productive; I'm able to do things faster and more efficiently than ever before.

Imagine having a spiral notebook that you carry around with you everywhere you go, in which you make notes about all different types of things & ideas.  You probably make notes all over the page, rather than just in a column down the page (ala MS Word), with boxes, circles, arrows, and little scribbly notes.  Imagine you have multiple section dividers in your notebook, so you can keep your work notes separate from your home notes.  Or maybe you keep your notebook in chronological sections, with each month getting a new section.  Over time you'll probably end up with multiple notebooks & multiple sections.  Well, MS OneNote can do all of this for you EASILY, with an unlimited number of pages, subpages, sections, section groups, and notebooks.

Now imagine you do some research along the way, and you printout some pages from the internet, fold them up, and stick them in your notebook.  Maybe you even made some hand-written notes on the printouts before storing them..

OneNote can do this for you too!  In fact, when you copy something from the internet (or another application) to your notebook, OneNote automatically adds a timestamp and a hyperlink to the original source, making it easier to find it again later should you ever need to.  It also allows you to move pages around (to better organize them), or even to move one particular note from one page to another.  You can also flag any note you write with an unlimited number of flags, which allows you to later do a search for anything flagged with "client", for example.  And of course it indexes everything you write, so you can search by key words & it will look through all your notebooks for you, returning everything you've written about a particular topic/word.

Right now I have 2 notebooks.  One has sections for things that are ongoing, such as Business and Home.  The other is chronological, and I add a new section each month.  Anytime a phone call, email, or random idea generates the need to make a note, I simply start "writing" in my 2008 notebook.  If that page morphs into something that becomes part of my business, for example, I'll move it into my Business section.  If not, it will always be chronologically ordered for me to find it later.  I have some pages that only have one or two sentences on them; I have others that are very long and crowded.  I guess that's just like a regular notebook!

Bottom Line - this is one of the best software applications I've ever come across.  It's too bad Microsoft doesn't do a better job of publicizing it.  I highly recommend giving OneNote a look - you can download a free 60 day trial version here.  (and no, this was not a paid review!)

Your OneNoting everything Realtor,

Chris Butterworth