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Vitamin CH Chocolate: that substance without which we would get nothing done

I have been trying for the last year to write a OneNote book. (Old news, I know) After a flash of inspiration caused by a friendly comment, I have realized why this book hasn't been working.

Most books on computer applications tend to be step by step directions on how to use the software. I write that kind of book, and not too badly either. But for this book, that approach hasn't been working. What I was writing was coming out boring and unreadable. I wasn't having fun writing it and I knew it wasn't right.

After a discussion with the editor of the book, we have decided to take a new approach. I want your input. I want to know what you want in a OneNote book. I want to know what you want it called. I want to know what kind of book you are looking for. I want to know what you think!

Title ideas

The first thing I need from you, my loyal readers, is a potential title for the book. If you were looking for a book on OneNote, what would grab your attention enough to get you to buy it. The title of a book says a lot about what is inside it. Think of the series title for your favorite books, and you will see what I mean.

I want you to tell me what title a OneNote book should have. The title should be fairly brief. It should say something about what you want to learn from the book. It should also be catchy enough to earn a place in the brick and mortar stores. It should be open enough to interpretation that people will "get" the book from the title. Oh, and if it has a bit of humor in it, that would help too.

The content and the style

The problem with a OneNote book is that it doesn't seem to lend itself well to an existing series title. Step by step books are great for some programs. But OneNote doesn't need a step by step book. It needs a book that tells you what you can do with the program, how to get started with it, how to use it to organize your life, and how to keep it up. OneNote needs a book that will spark your interest and creativity. It needs to excite you about the opportunities OneNote provides and the different ways everyone can use it to save time, money, space, and so much more.

I also don't want to go to a series of essays on OneNote. That's covered by all of the great blogs that already exist. I don't think that is a book that the publishing house could sell to the book stores.

I do see this as more of a dip and dive book. I expect that people will read it to learn about how to improve their lives with OneNote and then later refer back to parts of it for more information.

I also see this book as a resource about what power toys are already out there and how people use them to make OneNote do exactly what they want. I think that there are already a set of tools that have proven themselves invaluable. Those definitely have a place in this book.

Finally, I see this book as having a wide audience. I don't see this as OneNote for the business person. I know that many users of OneNote can't live without it in classroom settings, home settings, and much more. Somehow that depth needs to come across too.

What do you think?

This is what I think. I want to know what you think. What do you want to see in a OneNote book? Are there things that need to be covered in a step by step manner? Would a series of case studies and implementation ideas be better? Would an electronic book be better than a printed one?

Comment here or email me. Let me know what you want to see. I am going to try to start over from scratch. Your opinions would help with that process greatly.


I know that there is a segment of the OneNote community that really wants a book on the API. I am not the person to write that book. Sorry.

Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2008 2:01 PM OneNote | Back to top

Comments on this post: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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Hello Kathy,

I'm a non-business user of ON. I use the application for all home record-keeping purposes (except daily banking) including daily diary, home inventory, journalling, archives, research and any other purpose for which I find a notebook might be useful (at the moment I have 16 notebooks). I have used askSam and Paperport extensively but, in my opinion, ON beats them both hands down. ON is simply the most rewarding software I have ever used.

From my position, I think the broad guidelines you need are all essentially in the "content and style" paragraph. What those notes suggest to me is what I would call a "OneNote Guide" or "OneNote Handbook". In other words, a OneNote user companion or resource (as you mention).

The first section of your book might deal with what one can do with the program, etc (your suggestion)followed by a resource section that may contain details of available ON power toys and descriptions of how users benefit from the program (all your suggestions, once again).

As an example, one of my ON notebooks records the home inventory. For this purpose, I had to start from scratch, design my own template, etc, because home inventory (so far I can see)is not generally a use to which On is put. The availability of a handbook or guide to consult when developing the project would have been very helpful.

Finally, I would opt for an electronic book because frequent updates would be required to maintain the usefulness of a handbook. But, this may only be my personal preference.

I've not given you anything here that is not already in your own notes. I apologise for my lack or originality. I read your comments as striving for a focus. I hope my words will be positive in that context.

Kind regards,

Left by Bevan Johnson on Jun 26, 2008 4:55 PM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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I think I understand your problem. Many applications (i.e. Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.) have a straightforward "Purpose". While there are many features in each of those programs, the flow of a book on that topic is also straightforward.
I believe the main difference in OneNote is that many new users look at the product and wonder "What would I use that for?".
Even many experienced users may not grasp all of the possible things OneNote can be used for and may be underutilizing it.
One question I would have for you is who is your audience?
Business users completely new to OneNote(OneNote 101)?
Regular users of OneNote who want to learn more "Tips and tricks"?
I see from your post you eliminated one audience - Programmers looking to understand the API.
For myself, a regular user of OneNote, I would love to see a "200" level book on the product.
I would like to know what other people use it for and how they organize the data. You could possibly present a chapter on each of several potential uses. Some examples:
A. Using OneNote for "Getting Things Done {GTD}
B. College note taking
C. Workgroup "Knowledgebase" application
Then within each of those chapters, highlight specific OneNote features that can help with that application of OneNote. The GTD chapter could discuss integrating OneNote and Outlook, while a Knowledgebase chapter could discuss multi-user functions.

I hope that helps spark some ideas of your own.


Left by Chuck on Jul 01, 2008 11:52 AM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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I use OneNote quite a lot already on my X61. I know how to do use most of the application.

Two things would be useful for me in a OneNote book.

First, I would like to read a lot about how others are using OneNote. The more scenarios the better! I would like some creative ideas about how I can utilize OneNote in ways that I may not have thought of yet. They could be quick one paragraph snippets, or they could be more in depth case studies. This could be organized by industry and/or type of user. You could almost do an entire book this way. You could actually let your readers contribute directly to this section.

Secondly, I would like to discover some of the less er know features of the program which could include various add-ins.


Bob Atkinson
Left by Bob Atkinson on Jul 10, 2008 7:09 PM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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Many of us have discovered the versatility of ON. We've gone through the great features and tips available for the product online. However because of that flexibility, there are many unique ways we can customize and use ON to our own special needs or work.

I think it would be very interesting to read examples from those ON experts who have customized the use of ON to their particular needs with a good sampling of many diverse fields. I belive that would give some really good potential insights I might want to adopt myself. I use it for R&D portfolio management as well as my own research. Students use it differently. I've seen academia uses by professors. I'm sure physicians, lawyers, sales/BD, nonprofits, educators, accountants, consultants, ... all sorts of professions may have customized / streamlined ON to best meet both the needs of how they want to work as well as take advantage of the power of ON. Seeing multiple ways and unique customizations to their field or those common elements would be interesting to read and study for things I might want to adopt in my use of ON.

Also of course there are common functions like time management (e.g. GTD, FranklinCovey, ...) or Project Managment that are out there but not collected in one spot. Use of ON on multiple methods and common needs across professions would also be very interesting reading (right now I surf the web or monitor a few blogs to try to pick up tips).

Covering these areas in depth with significant content in one spot would make me more likely to buy a ON self-help book than one that simply repeats the things I can easily find and go through on the web.

Look forward to seeing your efforts realized -- Mark
Left by Mark on Jul 13, 2008 6:49 AM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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Why be cute or funny, just call it the OneNote Notebook. I use it more than any program I have ever had on my computer(s) back to early 90s (not counting Tetris). If you want an interesting layout - do it as loose leaf notebook that you can add more pages to, set up just like the electronic version - notebooks, sections, pages,et Have a pocket with a CD that has links to the pages or sites that would add to the reading experience. like the ON blogs. Thru a website, users could add ways they have used it -
ready for linking or printing out to add to "notebook". In other words, a hard copy that isn't set in stone. Also the only difficult learning experience for me was the Sharing, which I've just been too busy to concentrate on. Good luck!
Left by aldwyth on Jul 13, 2008 11:34 AM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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I think you are missing a trick in saying this OneNote book would not be aimed at the business user. Shared notebooks are an incredibly powerful tool that can create perfect team wiki environments. You should definitely include a section on setting these up, though as with much of OneNote it is the the cultural/behavioral change which is the more complicated piece to implement.

PS How about OneBook for a title? (manged to get this while mis-typing but it's kind of neat)
Left by Ben Gardner on Jul 14, 2008 3:21 AM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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The first thing that comes to mind is a bit of a narration how people have used OneNote in different areas or functions. IMO, a big values to OneNote is the name: one place to put all notes. I've seen a blog or two about OneNote in education, but there would still be a lot of false starts if I wanted to do that. A few stories of teacher experiences would be handy. Includeing the flexibility to just start writing & then rearrange as things come together. Then, highlight some of what works & what doesn't. A couple of things I've found is that links to a page work even if the page has been moved, but not between sections (I think.) Same story if a section has been renamed. So as, what will break, and how to fix it.

Include frustrations in the basic software, like print to OneNote puts everything on a page, and then the link to the powertoy to fix that. I'm a bit of a techno-addict, so I follow some blogs. The average user won't follow blogs about OneNote because it is not their passion. They have other passions, but OneNote can help them do more with their passion. I think the book should be addressed to the non-computer geek in the form of how the tool can be used to get things done more efficiently, effectively, etc.

I'll be anxious to hear about your progress.
Left by Henry on Jul 19, 2008 1:19 PM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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ps. from above: I have found that if I copy the hyperlink to a page, and then later try to follow it, I am prompted to open the workbook or section. But other times I wasn't. I finally found out that the copy hyperlink function must have started including the name of my pc in the path (onenote:///\\HENRY-PC\Users\...) instead of (onenote:///\\c:\Users\...). Following a link that includes the pc name generates the prompt. If replaced with c: then no annoying prompt. I don't know if you know the solution to this, but it would be good to have a compilation of these kind of issues in the book. I've checked online help & the MS support system to no avail. I think this is one product where people would pay to answer these kinds of questions.
Left by Henry on Jul 19, 2008 1:27 PM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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OneNote is not like other MS Office programs. Everyone knows what MS Word is for; what they need in a book is the how. In OneNote, the how is not so difficult (but still merits coverage), the need is to understand the 'why'. To that end, I would emphasize the ways ON can be used, with lots and lots of specific examples.

Also, I may be wrong, but I bet most ON users don't have a tablet PC, so I would not emphasize that aspect of ONs functionality too much.
Left by Mike Morales on Jul 28, 2008 7:02 AM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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I personally love ON and I think it is the best application to ever come from Microsoft. I use ON at home and at work. At home, one of the biggest uses that we have is a paperless document management system for tracking bills & home exepenses. For the work side, I am a software consultant so I use ON thoroughly to track development, testing & debug notes and the ability to document the issue with screen shots & commentary is invaluable.

I agree with others here that for me the most valuable information in a book would be the extra kind of tips and tricks of maybe little known features or add-in capabilities that I might not be aware of. The PowerToys for ON are great and the content of the blogs is great and I learn about new features all the time.

Thanks for writing this book. I will watch this blog for your progress.
Left by Mike Moore on Aug 07, 2008 8:49 AM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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Hi Kathy,

I am just starting One Note and see great posibilities in researching and fact gathering. BUT...when I followed the instructions on side note and another feature, it didn't work. So... I wouild like to see a section of a book that says, "when something doesn't work" - like "check to see if the computer is plugged in"...

I'm sure it is just someting I missed, but I don't know what it is. That's when I started to look for a book and came to be on this site. Good luck, we need your product.

Left by Rob Wilson on Sep 21, 2008 11:56 AM

# One Note ...thought
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I would love to see a server withhold one note info
I'm petrified to lose things, notwithstanding owning external hardrive, burning disks, etc...
Left by TJ on Dec 28, 2008 4:25 PM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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I am not sure if you are still looking for ideas about a OneNote book. I faced the same dilemma about two years ago. I am a trainer and part owner of a training organization that is a Microsoft Partner. We create our own courseware in the form of quick reference guides. We believe that time and cost are always a factor for anyone who wants to learn software. If it takes too long and costs too much, chances are you wouldn't do it. So instead of writing books or training manuals, I created a OneNote 2007 quick reference guide with companion exercises. It satisfies about 90-95% of the users out there as it is written in a brief, yet effective and approachable style. The quick guide is fully illustrated, in color and with screen shots. It is geared towards the general user, with clear description of various situations. Now, this may sound like a shameless plug, but I would love to find a way to make this accessible to customers as a companion to a book (i.e cliff notes) or just as an independent learning tool. We use the guide for our client training classes - it is designed for 2.5 hours of learning and costs about $8.50. Any thoughts?
Left by Tom Lahoud on Jan 16, 2009 10:17 AM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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It doesn't have to be perfect. If it's about OneNote 2007, I'll buy it. Most of the features are pretty well addressed in the info that's available on the net, although I haven't found much help with the section group option. I keep looking for a subsection.
Left by G. Gilbert on May 05, 2009 12:01 PM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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Well OneNote is a powerful tool with very little information available to help unleash its power. The problem with this book is that it can't make its mind up whether it's written for the Windows newbie (painfully showing screenshots for every little action required) or for the Power User (too slow and time-consuming to plough through)
Left by Project Management on Sep 29, 2009 9:57 PM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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I want complete, real-life examples of implementations of David Allen's GTD in OneNote, plus some OneNote/Outlook integration or OneNote/Office integration. Not interested in Collaboration tools at this time.
Left by James Renatus on Oct 16, 2009 2:23 PM

# re: Back to the drawing board with the OneNote book
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I think it could work... Some idea (if your still working on the idea)

Master OneNote in OneWeek
A Walk-Through OneNote

And Re: what Bob Atkinson mentioned:
Uses and Utilization of OneNote

Hope that helps,
Left by Online Tetris Games on Sep 11, 2010 11:10 AM

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