How our Dev team uses OneNote

I like the OneNote 2007 product.  I use it for both personal, academic and business uses.  Today I'm going to share with you how my team uses it to support our development process.

OneNote Basics

OneNote is the electronic equivalent of a notebook binder which can contain multiple sections and numerous pages per section.  ON2007 adds the major feature of being able to have multiple notebooks.  Notebooks can be shared on a network drive or via a SharePoint Server (they can also be stored locally or on a flash drive).  ON has on-line/off-line capability with notebook synchronization.  While ON has some features that are best used with a TabletPC - such as being able to write or draw on the page, a TabletPC is not required.

OneNote also has a great search capability which includes grabbing text out of images and searching in audio files too!

Operations Manual

We have put together an “operations manual” in OneNote.  The idea is to document routine and some times not so common tasks.  We originally started off with a single section in a notebook with lots of pages and now we have a “section group.”  So my suggestion here is start off small and let your sections reveal themselves.

For example, we now have tabs (sections) for:

  • Original information we haven’t moved anywhere else yet--a catch all.
  • Daily tasks
  • Nightly tasks
  • End of session
  • Server specific stuff
  • A section that is a data dictionary

Each section can have from a few to many pages under it.

Where does the Operations Manual content come from?

Basically, if we come across a task that we don’t know how to do, we ask the person that is the expert to document the task.

Then someone else runs through it with the expert – making additional notes or changes.

Now, we have at least two people that have run through it plus it is documented by the expert with “newbie” notes.

To me, one of the biggest advantages of using ON is that you can focus on what's important--the content.  When deal with a word processor to document processors we quickly get bogged down in the proper formatting of the document and in making the tool happy.  Did I mention that it's really easy to search all of the pages in ON too?  With multiple word processor documents, you'd need a desk top search of some sort and have to deal with more pessimistic file locking when editing them.

Project Documentation

We also use ON for capturing project information – meeting notes, tasks, pictures, diagrams, etc.  ON has OutLook integration so at the end of a meeting you can quickly email the notes that were taken to all of the meeting attendees.  You can set task flags on items as well.  I have found that even handwritten minutes can quickly be mailed out to everyone and that they are acceptable.  ON does have a feature to convert handwriting to text.  However, it is not 100% accurate.  If you intend to email out plain text you are almost better off taking notes via keyboard.

In an earlier post I talked about taking pictures of whiteboard diagrams and dropping them in OneNote.  ON also has the ability to capture from TWAIN devices such as a scanner.  So if you have printed source material w/out a digital version, scan it in.

OneNote also includes a screen clipping feature like SnagIt! So you can easily put screen captures in with the project information.  There are also send to ON tools for OutLook and IE.  If you want to preserve formatting you can print to ON.  So, if there is an email that has particularly relevant information you can send or print it in with those project materials.

That just made me think about another nice feature.  Say, you do have a nice PDF document you got from a vendor.  You can drag-drop that PDF onto a project page, choose to insert the file and now it's part of the ON document!  So, you can keep notes, pictures, sound files and other files all together in the same notebook.


OneNote 2007 has many more features than I have mentioned.

I find OneNote 2007 to be an affordable and indispensable tool that supports our operations and development roles.

1 comment: