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Microsoft OneNote OneNote 2013 Icon is a tool for notetaking, information gathering, and multi-user collaboration by Microsoft. While many earlier systems relied on linear text flow (simple lists), OneNote visualizes notes as a two dimensional page. OneNote also adds modern features such as drawings, pictures, multimedia audio, video, and ink as well as multi-user sharing of notes. It was a separate program in 2003 and became a core program in most retail editions of 2007 and became fully core in 2010.

Key Features

The following features are shared with both OneNote 2003 SP2 and OneNote 2007:

  • Automatic saving of notes—no need to remember to save or pick a file name and location
  • Simple section/page metaphor which resembles a spiral-binder notebook. Two clicks to get to any page with a medium sized notebook. "Back" and "Forward" buttons to browse notebook.
  • Full text, cross section, search capability.
  • User-defined note flags to mark important paragraphs, check off to-do lists, and other items in need of highlighting or categorization. A linked summary of the flagged paragraphs drawn from some or all of one's entire notebook can be viewed on a separate window to make it easy to mine one's notes for information one has categorized.
  • Screen clippings—use a hot key or menu command to initate a clip—drag out a rectangle and the image contained within is added to one's notes/research.
  • Outlining tools - collapse/expand multi-level outlines to make organizing thoughts easier
  • Side Notes which allow the user to quickly pop up a small window to take notes at any time.
  • Drag-and-drop content from Internet Explorer to OneNote preserves most formatting and automatically build a reference link back to the source website.
  • Microsoft Office Outlook integration for creating task items from OneNote notes. It is also possible to e-mail OneNote notes as HTML documents so they can be read even by people who do not have OneNote.
  • Audio and video recording that is synchronized with notes as they are written during a lecture or interview. Clicking on an icon associated with a given paragraph plays back the related portion of the recording.
  • Send notes to Word—take any set of notes and send them to Word to create a document.
  • Password protect any individual section to encrypt its contents.
  • Multi-user real-time peer-to-peer sharing of note pages. Invite other users to edit one or more pages of notes at the same time without restriction—useful for meetings or as an adjunct to teleconferences. Add pages as necessary.
  • On a Tablet PC, use a pen to handwrite or make drawings. Handwriting is searchable directly without having to convert to text. Direct conversion to text is also supported.
  • Import notes from Pocket PC (Windows Mobile) devices.

OneNote 2007

OneNote 2007 also included a number of new features:

  • Support for multiple notebooks—create a notebook for each class one takes or project one works on.
  • Table support, including easy creation while typing using just the Tab and Enter keys.
  • Hyperlinks into/between notes. Create an indexed personal or shared knowledge web and point to notes in OneNote from other documents or emails.
  • Server-hosted shared collaborative notebooks (like a rich, offline, editable wiki). Any user can edit online or offline at any time, and changes are automatically merged, as well as marked with who made them and when. Additional features allow highlighting changes made since one last viewed the notebook, or any pages one has not read yet.
  • Search system is now indexed constantly in the background for much faster response.
  • New ink model for ease of use as well as new features such as lasso selection.
  • Drawing tools (for diagrams, flow charts) work with pen, mouse, trackpads, etc. to get cleaner looking results vs. hand drawn. Shapes can be repeatedly stamped for easy reuse.
  • Support for email tools other than Outlook (emailing notes only).
  • Drag/drop support for easy rearranging of pages, sections, and notebooks.
  • Integration with Microsoft Office Outlook, including note pages linked to Contacts and Calendar items, as well as buttons to send emails to OneNote and direct creation of Outlook tasks in OneNote, which sync two-way with Outlook.
  • Integration with Internet Explorer, including buttons to send Web pages to OneNote for research and data collection purposes.
  • Automatic text recognition in scanned documents, clipped images or photos of documents. Target text is highlighted in context in the image
  • "Print to OneNote" capability to allow documents or web pages from any application to be sent to OneNote where they are indexed and made searchable
  • Support for embedded files such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF etc. placed on a page but kept in native format so they can be launched and viewed/edited in their source applications.
  • Support for OneNote "packages", which consist of subsets of your notes plus embedded documents and recordings wrapped into a single file for easy distribution and sharing.
  • Support for searching audio and video files (match on phonetic equivalent of a typed word)
  • Save notes as PDF or XPS (XML Paper Specification) files for perfect fidelity when sharing notes with others who do not have OneNote.
  • Built-in "napkin math" calculator for quick in-meeting calculations. Type simple equations using arithmetic or trigonometry and OneNote solves them in-place (e.g. "19.72/12=", followed by a space results in "19.72/12=1.64")
  • New "full-screen" view with minimal UI to optimize screen real estate for note taking.
  • Support for blogging any content in your notes to common blog sites (requires Word 2007 to be installed)
  • Two-way sync with Windows Mobile-based Smartphones running OneNote Mobile (also announced and shipping with OneNote 12). In addition to text notes, voice and photo notes taken with the device (such as business card photos) are indexed and can be searched using the PC version of OneNote.
  • Additional extensibility (API) to allow customization and tools that import or export data from OneNote to connect it with other systems (such as Customer Relationship Management tools or a Document management system).
  • Windows Desktop Search 3.0 (WDS) enables fast search on your computer using indexing

Key shortcomings

  • Limited generic export capability or API functionality.
  • No equation capability makes it very difficult to take notes in statistics, math, or science courses (if trying to type notes; there is no difficulty taking these kinds of notes with OneNote when using a Tablet PC). This is due to a lack of OLE support; in other Office applications, Excel documents can be embedded in Word documents can be embedded.. etc, but this is not supported as of OneNote 2007.
  • Occasionally moves notes to other areas of the page. This can hamper formatting.
  • OneNote Mobile does not support ink writing on a Windows Mobile PDA.
  • OneNote 2007 notebooks, sections, and pages cannot be opened within OneNote 2003 and cannot be converted to OneNote 2003 format, thereby limiting the ability of different users with different versions to interact.
  • OneNote Mobile does not have a "send to" option to send notes to an e-mail address.

In August 2004, Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for OneNote 2003 which fixed several shortcomings and added a number of significant new features such as date/time stamping, import of notes from Pocket PC and video recording, as well as shared sessions and a button to transfer a "page" of notes to Word 2003. The current release of OneNote 2003 is Service Pack 2 (which includes all the changes made in Service Pack 1).

In January 2007 Microsoft released OneNote 2007. OneNote 2007 is included in Microsoft Office 2007 Home & Student Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Ultimate Edition.

Upcoming releases

Little is known about future releases at this time. Speculation includes a web version of OneNote, more features around group sharing of notes, a timeline view of notes, a thumbnail view of notes, mind maps, support for categories, and direct editing of SharePoint wikis using OneNote.

Platform support

Microsoft OneNote 2003 requires Windows 2000 with Service Pack 4 or later, Windows XP or Vista. A feature with similar (but comparatively limited) functionality to OneNote's is available in Word 2004 for Mac OS X, called "Word Notebook."

OneNote 2003 will run on any hardware that supports the required operating systems.

OneNote 2007 will run only on Windows XP SP2 or later versions of Windows.

Many Office apps support importing/exporting MIME HTML (.mht), including OneNote, Word, and Internet Explorer. Therefore, any modern browser that recognizes this file format is a suitable platform for viewing OneNote's exported MHT files. OneNote 2007 will also support exporting notes as PDF which is likely to be a better option than MHT if editability is not required.

OneNote Mobile for Smartphones (Windows Mobile 2003, 2003 SE, and 5) as well as Pocket PCs (Windows Mobile 5 only) is included with OneNote 2007.

Version History

First public announce November 17, 2002
OneNote 2003 released October 21, 2003
OneNote 2003 SP1 released July 27, 2004
OneNote 2003 SP2 released September 27, 2005
OneNote 2007 released January 30, 2007
OneNote 2010 released July 15, 2010
OneNote 2013 released January 29, 2013
OneNote 2016 released September 22, 2015

Note that all release dates are "retail availability". "Release to Manufacturing" ("RTM" or code final) is usually 2–3 months prior.


Since the introduction of OneNote, EverNote and GoBinder have emerged as competitors on the Windows platform. There are many notebook applications available for the Apple Macintosh. The open-source application BasKet is the most noteworthy competitor in the Linux/Unix field. It also competes with Google Notebook, a web based note taking and web clipping system.

Two free-form databases on the Windows platform are askSam, from askSam Systems, and Info Select, by Micro Logic. Both have been available since the mid-90's. Info Select for the Palm Organizer provides bi-directional synchronization between Info Select databases on a Windows computer system and Info Select databases on Palm PDA's.