***I found a neglected Blogger account that I started in 2009 and wrote exactly 2 entries and an unpublished draft. Since the information in it is still relevant, I decided to repost it here. The OneNote version I’m writing about is 2007. I’m not yet familiar with what all the 2010 version offers.***
First let that I am not part of the targeted demographic for OneNote. I am in no way a professional woman in any sense of the word. I don’t even write freelance non-fiction articles to pay the bills. I am a stay at home mom, full time student, and and a fiction writer still learning her craft. So no, the marketing that Microsoft has all over the software page has officially gone straight over my head.
If my only introduction to this program was the official marketing I would never have tried this program. Luckily for me, I ran into a discussion about the merits of OneNote versus those of Evernote. Evernote is a great program and if costs or other factors prevent you from using ON, then I’d highly recommend Evernote as a viable option.
As it happens, I actually had a copy of ON 2007 included in my Microsoft Office Suite bundle that was installed onto my computer when it was built a few months ago. I’m sure I’ve seen it countless times without making the connection that I had nearly the most important software of my life (second only to MS Word) right there, begging for use.
So at this point, you might be thinking, “Ok, Wannabe, you’ve convinced me that you love this software. Care to elaborate on why you think it’s so amazing?”
Why yes, Hypothetical Reader, I would love to introduce you to the cult of OneNote. I’m not even kidding. This program has its own fansite.
I’ll readily admit that I am the opposite of an organized person. I am the type of woman who writes myself notes on the back of a handy scrap of paper, only to throw it away 20 minutes later. Or use it to spit my gum into. Or spill a half full can of Mountain Dew on it. Or whatever. The point is that my precious thoughts are often lost nearly as soon as they leave the nebulous confines of my mind.
Things got slightly better with the introduction of my iPod Touch. I have some great apps on it for brainstorming writing ideas and keeping track of those former “scrap of paper” ideas. I’ll write more about how I use my iPod as a writing tool at some point in the future. For now though, know that it’s really helped me keep track of things. The area where it really excels is making lists. This is where I keep track of authors, books, and songs that I want to purchase. Helpful, but not life altering.
Enter OneNote. The interface is pretty intuitive. I was able to start using the basic functions within minutes of opening the program. And if that’s all I ever learned how to do, it would still be an extremely useful tool. But it does so much more than just let you write notes to yourself in different notebooks. I’m positive I’ve only scratched the surface.
Let’s talk about using ON for prewriting. My first step for any research is always the internet. I’m lucky enough to have access to a lot of scholarly sources thanks to my continuing education. And even without that, you can’t beat a quick Google search for turning up a dozen different aspects of any topic. The real downside to this approach is that you might end up with numerous links to relevant articles.
I know I’m not the only person who’s ended up killing a forest worth of trees in order to print out piles of useful information. Some people will always feel better having a hard copy of their notes, but I’m fine with just having a handy place to store digital information. OneNote has several options for storing information found on the internet. You can send the page directly to OneNote using a widget in the tools drop down menu (or at least that’s where mine lives). The disadvantage to this is that the formatting is almost always guaranteed to be so wonky that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish what the heck you found so useful about the page in the first place. I was going to add an awesome little screenshot at this point, but Blogger has defeated my will to live and so you’ll just have to explore a little on your own to find this widget.
Another option, and the one I use the most, is the copy and paste method. You can copy anything and paste it into ON and it automatically generates a link to the page where the information came from and tags it with the date and time. This has come in handy on more than one research paper I’ve had to write for school. My sources cited list isn’t half the pain in the butt it used to be.
The last way for getting internet information into ON is to capture a screen shot. There might be easier ways to do this out there, but until I started using ON I used to have to hit the “Prt Scr” button, open an image editing program, Ctrl-V to paste and then crop it into something usable. At the very least we are talking about a process that took a couple of minutes and if I were trying to capture a lot of screen shots then it might take hours. Not fun.
OneNote has a built in feature for capturing screen shots. Windows key-S and the entire screen goes semi opaque and you use your mouse to draw a rectangle around the part you are planning to keep. It then automatically saves the image (with dated link) in the “Unfiled Notes” tab. You can then move it to whichever notebook you’d like to keep it in. And as an added bonus, you can save the screenshot image to your hard drive as a usable image in it’s own right. It was how I took the screen shot I nearly included with this post.
I have hobbies outside of writing. I’m actually something of a (really really) amateur artist. I do some scrapbooking and mixed media collage. In addition to piles of books and magazines that I buy for inspiration, I follow web sites and blogs dedicated to the art I enjoy creating. OneNote is the perfect way to organize the images that really speak to me. A quick screen cap and I not only have the image I want, but also a handy link and date so that I can find the original context again. Please remember when doing this not to violate any copyright laws. Using images for inspiration is ok, using them in your own work and claiming them as your own is not, whether you make a profit or not.
Since this is starting to get really wordy, I’m going to wrap this post up and make another post about how I actually use ON for prewriting.