If you ever find it difficult to keep notes and documents synchronised across multiple devices and to collaborate on them with colleagues, then OneNote might be worth looking at. The full application is a standard part of the Microsoft Office Suite with free companion apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. There is also a web application which works with most browsers, so you can get to your OneNote notebooks without installing anything.
OneNote is made up of notebooks, sections and pages. Notebooks are listed in the left hand panel, sections within the current notebook are displayed as tabs across the top and the pages within the current section are in the right-hand panel. You could think of a Notebook as a ring binder with dividers and pages. The OneNote application is a shelf with any number of these binders. A lot of the content I keep in OneNote is the sort of thing I would otherwise keep in multiple files in a folder structure, but with OneNote it is much easier to manage. All my notes are opened in a single interface which is logically structured in a way which makes sense to me, making it easy to navigate and search. I can reorganise pages by dragging them between sections, or cross reference them by linking to pages.
But what makes OneNote truly indispensable for me, is synchronisation. If you store your notebooks on a server, rather than on your computer, you can access them from multiple devices concurrently. You could start a ‘to do’ list or draft document on your work desktop and update it from your phone or home computer. The app will cache your notebooks so you don’t need to be online to access them. Any changes you make are synchronised to the server when a connection is available. If you have stored your notebooks on the University’s Nexus SharePoint service you will also be able to access them via the browser. There are many ways to synchronise data between devices, but having tried various synchronisation tools I find OneNote to be among the more reliable and easy to use.
OneNote also works well for collaboration. If a notebook is stored in a communal location such as the team’s Nexus SharePoint site, everyone in the team can open it simultaneously. Just as you might open a shared mailbox. OneNote allows multiple users to amend the same notebook, or even page, simultaneously. Changes are flagged with the initials of the user who made the change. OneNote’s page versioning feature can be particularly useful when various people are updating the same content.
OneNote doesn’t do away with the need for traditional documents, but for notes and less formal documentation it has a lot to offer. Alongside Outlook, it is the tool I rely on most to organise my working life.