Microsoft OneNote is a virtual notebook binder for different types of content. You can use it to store text and content from almost any copyable source. OneNote provides a free-form intermediary between different applications and formats. It uses the familiar nomenclature of pages and notebooks for compartmentalizing information. Content in OneNote can also be shared for collaboration, saved in a network location, such as SharePoint, or on the web, in a location such as Office Live. It can be used as a rudimentary database of basic documents and an intermediary for distributing information, even in heterogeneous environments. (See also, "Using OneNote with Microsoft Outlook" and "How Microsoft OneNote Helps Me Organize My Life on the Go").

OneNote offers some basic free-form editing, highlighting, and other customizations. Content, including email messages, can be saved to OneNote, manipulated in ways unavailable within Outlook, and then emailed again. OneNote can save pages in many different formats, including Word .docx and .doc, .pdf, and .xps. OneNote can also save content as .xml or in its own .one format. The OneNote extension .one is the same for OneNote 2007 as it is for OneNote 2010, even though the format is different between them. A Notebook, which contains multiple pages analogous to spreadsheets (.xls) and workbooks (.xlw) in Excel, uses the extension .onepkg.

 Saving Outlook Content to OneNote

In Office 2010, the integration between Outlook and OneNote can really improve productivity. There’s a Send to OneNote icon in the Outlook ribbon and an E-Mail Message icon in the Outlook section in the OneNote ribbon. Each one simplifies data transfer between the applications. I’ll give you an example: I received an email  from Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong foundation. If I select the Send to OneNote button with the LiveStrong foundation email selected in the Outlook Inbox (or use the same option when the email is opened in its own window as shown in Figure 1), it will open the dialog box in which I can identify where the item should be saved (see Figure 2). The default in Outlook is not to download images “to help protect your privacy.” So the images in Figure 1 were not downloaded. However, when you click the Send to OneNote icon, images accompanying an email are then retrieved from the server (or web server) and included in the OneNote page output, as shown in Figure 3.

 Sending OneNote Content Through Outlook

With Outlook installed, OneNote can launch an email when you select Home, E-mail Page in the Office ribbon. This serves as a good option where you aren't able to share the content natively. This will place the OneNote page content into the body of a new email. Alternatively, if the recipient is also using OneNote, you can attach the OneNote page in OneNote format, with the .one extension. This is a global setting within OneNote. You can configure it by accessing File, Options, Advanced, which opens a window like the one shown in Figure 4. Either way, Outlook automatically generates a new email message with the OneNote page name as the message subject and the default Outlook account as the sender. The LiveStrong foundation email generated from the OneNote page is shown in Figure 5.

 Custom Footnote

When you send a OneNote page through the E-mail Page option in OneNote, you can include a disclaimer. By default, Microsoft adds the following text at the end of the email message: “Created with Microsoft OneNote 2010. One place for all your notes and information.” In a standard HTML email, this boilerplate text is formatted in grey and is lighter than any black text within the message. The disclaimer text is configurable through the Advanced Options window shown in Figure 4. You can deselect the option to remove any additional text or customize the text to suit your company’s needs. This option is good for adding disclaimers or support information to OneNote page content sent through Outlook.

Known Issues

If Outlook attaches the OneNote page as a .mht file, a MIME HTML web archive, then there is an odd issue where “the string value for Outlook 2010 is longer than any other program's string value in the RegisteredApplications key in the registry.” This seemingly preventable problem is fixed by a simple registry entry or by installing a supplementary application. The options for remedying this issue are outlined in Microsoft knowledge base article 982991.

Some Uses for OneNote

I’ve seen Microsoft MVPs use OneNote to store answers to frequently asked questions posed by people in forums and newsgroups. The MVPs typically save and configure standard responses to OneNote. Then they retrieve their canned reply by copying and pasting it to a web forum or to an email message. Help desks could use OneNote to store how-to information to send out as supporting documentation in response to a help desk call. Human Resources might maintain basic forms that could be sent by email through OneNote as well.

In Part 2—Meetings and Tasks, I’ll look at the Outlook and OneNote integration options for calendar and task items.

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