OneNote + OneDrive = Awesome

Without good tools to keep me organized, I’d be totally scatterbrained and lost. Well, good tools and an understanding partner who helps me keep on top of things! I have tried a bunch of different tools over the years, but two in particular have become absolutely critical: OneNote and OneDrive. This isn’t a sponsored post, I just want to share two tools that have really made a difference for me. Maybe they’ll have a positive impact on your life too!

OneNote

OneNote has developed into an amazing tool since it was launched over ten years ago. I originally used it locally on my computer to keep track of typed notes. I also had a Tablet PC, so I would use it for handwriting too. OneNote supports more advanced features also, like audio or video notes, photo notes, smart tags, document scanning, screen clippings, and much more.

Here’s an overview of the new OneNote:

I use OneNote many times a day, across most of my devices. I track my computer activity with RescueTime, so I know with certainty that OneNote is consistently in the top five applications by usage. It works on my desktop, my laptop, my Surface, and my phone. I run Windows everywhere, but even if your devices are a bit more varied, OneNote can work for you. There are apps for Android, iPad, and iPhone too. There’s even a web app.

At the moment I have two high level notebooks – one for personal stuff and one for work stuff. When I’m doing research for a blog post, I store everything in OneNote. I’ll even write some of my drafts there. I keep recipes, lists, and ideas in my personal notebook. My work notebook is filled mainly with meeting notes, often captured in ink using my Surface Pro, but I also use it for UI reviews, to keep track of technologies I’m exploring, and a variety of other things.

One of the greatest things about OneNote is the search. The ability to organize notes into sections is handy, and if you use tags you can quickly find any note that has a specific tag. But most of the time I just search. The best part is that OneNote will even search my handwritten notes, without any conversion to text. It’s surprisingly accurate, and it’s this feature that I typically demo to people when I’m showing them OneNote on my Surface. Support for this was added years ago and it still never fails to amaze.

OneDrive

OneDrive is the new name for SkyDrive, which first launched in 2007. It’s kind of like DropBox in that it is a place in the cloud to store your files. You get 7 GB of storage space for free, and it’s pretty easy and expensive to boost that amount.

Here’s an overview of the new OneDrive:

Again, OneDrive works across all of my devices, and again, there are apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iPad, and iPhone. There’s even an Xbox app, which comes in handy when you want to show some photos (which are stored automatically on OneDrive as I take them with my phone).

I put all kinds of stuff in my OneDrive (I’ve got over 47 GB of storage total, 20 GB of which comes from my Office 365 subscription). Everything I scan using my Doxie goes into OneDrive. Documents, presentations, audio recordings, graphics, mind maps, blog post drafts in MarkDown, – you name it, I store it in OneDrive.

Using OneDrive I don’t worry as much about backups (though I still use Backblaze and a few other approaches to do regular backups). Using OneDrive means I rarely have use for USB sticks, because my files are always in sync, across all my devices. OneDrive has completely changed the way I think about file storage, for the better.

The one and only feature I desperately want for OneDrive is co-owned folders, to bring DropBox-like folder sharing to the platform (you can share and collaborate on documents now, but I want to have an entire folder that is kept in sync across multiple OneDrive accounts). The good news is that the co-owner feature is apparently coming very soon.

OneNote & OneDrive are better together

The magic happens when you store your OneNote notebooks on OneDrive. All of the new Microsoft Office apps support logging in with a Microsoft Account, so it makes it super easy to do. I think this approach is probably the default for the phone and tablet apps too.

With OneNote on OneDrive, it doesn’t matter what device I’m using, because my notebooks are kept up-to-date with changes. The sync is completely automatic and fast. So fast actually, that it fits into a 6 second Vine:

I rely on this each and every day, so I’m glad I have never run into a sync problem. I can take some notes at home, walk over to the office, and pick up right where I left off on a completely different computer. I regularly take notes on my phone when I’m at an event, and when I get back to a computer to start blogging about it, I don’t need to worry about where my notes are. They’re always there, ready for me.

These two tools have made a big difference in my life. If you want to give OneDrive a spin, use this referral link and we’ll both get an extra 0.5 GB of storage space for free. If you want to try OneNote, you can download it for free here.

  • theNEOone

    I’m trying to get this to work for me, but for some reason the syncing between OneNote and OneDrive is corrupt. Syncing is occuring – but the names of my notebooks are not aligned, and I’m finding that “sub notes” are crossed across notebooks….. This is super aggravating. I want this to work but I’m about 15 minutes away from going to Evernote.

  • Darryl Knott

    When I try to create a new notebook in onenote and store on the web using onedrive, all of my folders appear to be locked for me. How can I unlock them?

  • melvynm

    I want to download a *Copy* (or ‘backup’) of a OneNote notebook but they really don’t make it easy! Any hints?

    • Dizzy

      Just did it — put the notebook(s) in a folder on your onedrive web interface and download the folder as a zip

  • Chuck Haskins

    My company does not allow Onedrive sync to my desktop. We use Exchange and the 2010 office suite. Is there a way to sync all my devices in this scenario? ( We also use sharedrive(Citrix))