The Case for OneNote on Your Smartphone

OneNote is a tool for taking notes. It is called OneNote because it allows you to keep all your notes in One place. If your notes are stored on OneDrive (which is the default) in the Cloud, you can access your notes from anywhere and using any computer, tablet or smartphone.

OneNote comes in several versions: OneNote 2016 for desktops, a OneNote app for tablets, and OneNote for smartphones. You can also access your notes using browser-based version of OneNote using the onenote.com website.

In this article, we will discuss why OneNote on your smartphone is an ideal tool for note taking.

Strength in Weakness

OneNote Desktop is a very powerful, complex program with many features. By contrast, the tablet version has fewer features, and OneNote on the smartphone has quite a limited set of features. That exactly is its strength!

That must be a handicap surely? Well no, 90% of note taking requires only 10% of OneNote’s features. You guessed it—those are the ones included in your smartphone’s OneNote. That makes OneNote ideal for note taking on your phone—there are no complex features to get in your way.

Add to that you are not likely to always carry your desktop or laptop with you, but you are likely to have your smartphone close at hand.

The Notebook Metaphor

If you are going to put all your notes in one place, you better have a way of organizing them. OneNote uses the traditional notebook as its metaphor for organizing notes.

A Traditional notebook

The notebook is divided into sections using coloured tabs. Each section can have as many pages as you like.

Your notes, obviously, are placed on pages. Each page has a title so that you can see at a glance what the notes are about that you put on that page.

When you create a note, OneNote automatically places the note in a container. You can place the container anywhere on the page that makes sense to you.

What Are Notes?

Notes are things you jot down so that you can remember later. When does one take notes?

  1. When you are thinking creatively
    • brainstorming
  2. When planning
    • Planning a project, a book, a vacation, a course
  3. General things you need to remember
    • Lists (shopping, books to read, movies to watch, things to do), passwords, expenses, bank accounts, how to instructions, etc.
  4. Doing research
    • Genealogy, assignments, reports, documentaries
  5. Remembering what was said
    • Meetings, lectures, church services
  6. Events
    • Tradeshows, exhibitions, accidents, news events, demonstrations, press conferences, etc.

Once you are familiar with OneNote, you will probably come up with novel applications of OneNote not listed here—and that’s ok too.

Generally, notes are for your benefit. They do not have to be perfect prose or even full sentences—as long as they help you to remember your thoughts and where o access information sources referred to.

The missing link

When creating notes, one often needs to refer to information in other documents or websites. Rather than repeating the entire document in your note, you simply provide a link to the document. All that is needed is to title the page and add a few lines of text why the document is important or relevant.

Many programs have Share option. When you choose Share with OneNote as the destination, this will generate a link to the information in OneNote, either as a new page or added as a note to an existing page.

Remember, OneNote was not intended for creating documents. For example, when you are doing research for your new book, you keep your notes in OneNote, but you lay out your book in Word or InDesign. Your notes would include things like the list of characters, sample copyright statements, the story out line, etc.

Smartphone Advantages

We now know that OneNote on a smartphone has a limited set of features compared to the desktop version. But it also has some unique advantages.

  1. So, you have a very creative brainstorming session with a friend or colleague. Now you have all these scribbles on a white board or Starbucks serviette. No problem—you can simply take a photo and it goes right into OneNote.
  2. No time to stop and take notes? Again, you can use your phone’s voice recorder.
  3. Is a procedure or demonstration complicated? Use your phone’s camera to record a video.
  4. You can view and edit notes almost anywhere, even if they were created in one of the other versions of OneNote.

A Caveat

Many people don’t like to type on a smartphone. However, typing is an essential part of note taking. There are three solutions for this:

  1. Use the WordFlow feature of the on-screen virtual keyboard. It needs practice, but if you persist, you will soon be able to type as fast as a traditional keyboard. There are many videos on YouTube that will show you how.
  2. Use a foldable Bluetooth keyboard. They are small and take up little space.
  3. If needed, you can use your earbuds’ microphone with your phone’s dictate tool.

Conclusion

  1. Although OneNote on a smartphone has fewer features than the desktop version, it has all the tools necessary for effective note taking.
  2. Your smartphone has the additional advantage that it is always available.
  3. Features unique to smartphones allow for ways of note taking not possible with other devices.

So yes, your smartphone and OneNote should be an essential part of your note taking workflow.

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