OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

Summary: Microsoft OneNote 2010 provides a completely innovative means of taking notes and collecting thoughts and ideas. Accessible in the cloud or the desktop, it's reason enough to purchase Office in education.


I was originally going to call this post, "Microsoft OneNote - Better than Adderall," but then Stephen Wilson, Chief Information Officer for New South Wales Department of Education and Training, called it a killer app for education when he spoke at the Office 2010 launch yesterday, and I have to agree with him.

OneNote 2010 gives users an easily organized, tabbed workspace on which they can type notes, draw, grab links, and insert a variety of media. Click anywhere on the screen and just start typing. Click somewhere else and type again. Create a new tab, click on the fresh page and type some more. The notebook (as the collection of notes and pages is called) can be saved to a network location or a Windows Live Account and accessed via a web browser.

So why do I say that OneNote is better than Adderall? How many of you have add or adhd? How about your students? After years of self-medication with extraordinary amounts of coffee (I used to go to work with my mom as a kid and would pick out the coffee of the day in her Seattle coffee and tea shop), I finally realized that I might have ADD. A bit of researching and a couple conversations with my doctor later, and I had a prescription to try for a month. A little bit of Adderall goes a long ways and I noticed a significant improvement in my ability to focus and finish tasks (I have a tendency work simultaneously on 5 or 6 different things, which works to a point, but sometimes focus is a key).

However, even if I'm being focused and productive, invariably the streams of information that come at me via email, IM, and phone or the thoughts and ideas that pop into my head no matter how much coffee I've had or what dose my doctor prescribes need to be dealt with. OneNote is where this can happen. I use Google Docs for this, of course. A few open documents let me paste in important links or type notes and to-dos, but OneNote takes this to an entirely different level.

Students (and many of us who spend our days immersed in technology) tend to experience a degree of information overload and tech-induced ADD, regardless of what underlying conditions we might have. Being able to take the moral equivalent of sticky notes (with hooks to the web, documents, etc.) and organize them, create them intuitively, share them, and access them anywhere suddenly gives us a means for sorting all of the information that comes in and managing all of the ideas and activities around the data streams.

Add to that the fact that OneNote makes the notecards that many teachers still require students to painfully write out when conducting research completely antiquated and you really do have a killer educational app. Suddenly, it's OK to cut and paste into notes, including links and timestamps (no more wondering when you accessed a website; OneNote records it for you). Then, students actually stand a chance of synthesizing their copied and pasted notes into meaningful research and writing when they break open their OneNote notebooks and a word processor.

Although Office 2010 launched yesterday, the beta is still available. Download OneNote and give it a shot. It won't take long for teachers using OneNote to come up with countless use cases in class and ways for students to be more efficient, productive, and thoughtful with OneNote. In fact, I would argue that this is a reason alone to purchase Office 2010.

Topics: Collaboration, Microsoft, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

    I will try OneNote, but mind mapping software does the same thing for me.
    • no way

      Give OneNote a try, there is a huge difference. I also used to think that's all I need until accidentally I gave OneNote a try. It's a game changer.

      But actually one thing that should be included is proper mind mapping capabilities.
      Eduard Popescu
  • No Mac? No Linux?

    No way. How do you run it on anything but winderz?
    • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

      @piperdown I haven't tried Office 2010 in Wine, but 2007 worked well - 2010 should be close behind. For now, it's nothing a VM can't cure. It can also be accessed through Office WebApps which is cross-platform.

      If I had my 'druthers, I'd be sticking with FOSS, but OneNote really does rock. Fingers crossed for a serious competitor built into Google Apps that's fully cloud-based :)
      • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

        @mrdatahs I would love for Google Apps to have a decent note-taking competitor too. However, Google Notes was perfectly fine! I used it for years. I could take notes at an off-site training facility and travel back to my office to find my wonderful notes right where I left them; tied to my Google account in the cloud.

        Unfortunately, Google decided to discontinue Google Notes and told everyone to use Google Docs instead. It's just not the same as having an organized note-taking app.
    • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

      Neither of those platforms are viable platforms yet.
  • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

    But is it better than Info Select?
  • Info Select... I haven't seen that program in 20 years

    I loved Info Select back in the days of little square boxes lighting up as you typed letters. Is it better? I think so. <br><br>I have Adult ADHD and found out about it 5 years ago. Anyway, OneNote 2010 combined with Skydrive allows me to keep flashes of thoughts somewhere... until I can get back to them...WITHOUT FORGETTING ABOUT THEM.... <br><br>For example, I'm working on a project plan and all of a sudden I'm thinking about the type of light sensor used in my outside garage light. Scary huh? If I don't write it down somewhere it's gone, but now I toggle over to OneNote and anywhere on the page I type "garage light sensor? what kind?" and then I'm back to work. <br><br>During that time Skydrive has started to sync my notebooks to the 25gb online storage folder (that's another story). Then when I get home, I start thinking about banana pudding and suddenly...hey! I was going to do something about the light???? I walk over to my home desktop that also has OneNote and pull up my notebooks and search on "garage light" ....TADA... there it is, my earlier note on sensors. The notebook is synced at home, Skydrive, and work now my freeform thoughts are with me most of the time. So, yes it's pretty good so far. I hope that helped! It time to finish that banana pudding!<br><br>Jim
    • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

      @jrjeffcoat64 Exactly - I'm one of the bigger Google Apps fanbois on the planet and this still managed to sell me. You're right - those flashes have to go somewhere or they're gone. Between OneNote and my wife (and some decent stimulants, of course), I actually stand a chance of getting 2/3 of the things done that fly through my head.

  • OneNote

    I wouldn't be surviving school right now without it. I'm glad it finally got the ribbon UI going on now...
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

    <i>"Students (and many of us who spend our days immersed in technology) tend to experience a degree of information overload and tech-induced ADD, regardless of what underlying conditions we might have."</i>

    Perhaps Obama is right and children <b>shouldn't</b> be required to use yet another app/distraction?

    <b>Business school ditches Kindle DX after trial run</b>

    "The Kindle isn't doing as well in academic environments as Amazon??????and educators??????had originally hoped. The Darden Business School at the University of Virginia is near the end of its Kindle "experiment," already concluding that students are not into the Kindle when it comes to classroom learning. They are, however, fans of the Kindle when it comes to using it as a personal reading device."
  • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

    So why is it better than Evernote (
  • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

    I've used OneNote 2007 and tried the 2010 beta version. It is almost as good as you described, especially now that Microsoft has the online version with synchronization.

    However, there are a few other programs which are also excellent and much, much cheaper, in particular Evernote (which can be used at no cost or with a few additional tools for a small monthly fee). I consider Evernote to be one of the best free applications available.

    Some other free or cheap online notebook tools include:

    Also worth a note is Post-It Digital Notes ($19.99) another alternate lighter note-taking program.

    Zoho and Google both have very basic notebook tools, also, but don't have the off-line tools or the sophistication of Onenote or Evernote.

    Since not everybody gets educational discounts from Microsoft, it's worth considering some of the much cheaper options which can be very useful for teachers, students, researchers, or anybody else who collects information.

    Andrew Brandt -
  • OneNote 2003

    As a professional seeing many clients and little control over what comes at me in a day, OneNote has been great - What changes have come since 2003? And I have never been able to synch with an online version and even if a could the cp I would sync with would not be a tablet PC so what's the use? Finally I have a microsft phone but the OneNote mobile is useless as it does not accpet pen genstures or does it sync any way I have figured out
  • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

    OneNote is really great on a real Tablet PC! In addition to all the points that you have made, you are also able to write out notes and drawings with your stylus! I will NEVER use web pages attempting to be applications, and it also works well in my test scenario, disconnected. The application just gets better with time. I was impressed when OneNote was first release in Office 2003, seven years later it is still one of the best applications for taking notes.
  • MORE than notes, ADHD OneNote = Success

    I'm a long time OneNote fan, professional woman with ADHD, and a service provider to adults and teens with cognitive challenges.

    One point not mentioned here that's relevant for ADHD folks: OneNote's integration with the full Office suite, including Outlook. The ability to link your research and products to email, tasks and appointments with reminders is the linchpin that takes your life to the next level. Set your phone to autosync with Outlook and you have a seamless work- space-time system.

    I could elaborate a lot more, but just encourage you to explore more. Excel, Word, Outlook and more, mail merge, contact info, journals, map it, you can link everything from your OneNote page. Push beyond the Note box, it's amazing!
    • Re: MORE than notes, ADHD OneNote = Success

      Yep, that's what sold me. Since my company already has Office, like most companies, and everyone uses it, and I use it, it seemed like I'd be pushing for excuses NOT to use it or excuses just to use Evernote.

      Path of least resistance tends to be the right one when I'm choosing new software.
  • RE: OneNote is Office 2010's killer app in education

    Forget ADHD -- what about those of us who are of (ahem) "advanced" years and have more than a half-century's worth of neural pathways firing at seemingly random intervals? Even if I managed to get most things written down in Word I couldn't ever find a good way to organize them. OneNote actually matches the way my old brain works!