MS OneNote 2013 – Free version enhanced

NOTE:  I’m going to start posting some blog entries with tips for software I find useful as a BA. They will likely focus on the Microsoft Office suite applications and free / open source applications. This is the first.

I’m a big fan of Microsoft OneNote.  I think it’s a tool I think that every BA that works in a MS Windows and MS Office-focused environment should be using.  It’s something I also leverage a lot at home for personal use.  Unfortunately, not everyone has Microsoft Office on their home computer.  But did you know that you can (legally) get a version of OneNote for free?  On almost any hardware (including Mac)?

The free versions have historically had some limitations in comparison to the version that comes as part of the Office suite, but Microsoft recently announced the elimination of a number of those and has now included the following functions in the free version:

  • Password protected sections—Add a password to protect sensitive information
  • Page history—Easily see or go back to prior versions of a page
  • Audio and video recording—Take notes while recording, and easily jump to the relevant section later
  • Audio search—Search for a word in a voice or video recording
  • Embedded files—Insert Office documents or other files directly in your notebook

The biggest restriction remaining on the free desktop version is that you can ONLY store data on Microsoft’s OneDrive platform.  Microsoft gives you 15GB of free space, so that is not likely to be an issue. I have a fairly obscene amount of information in my personal copy of OneNote, and it still only adds up to roughly 500MB.

The instance where there becomes a major problem is when you want to share one or more OneNote files between your home PC and your work environment, or any other environment where access to OneDrive may be restricted.  I also have to admit that I don’t like to store information in “the cloud”.  I would rather keep my data on my personal computers and local back-up drives.  But that’s a personal preference that apparently few people share. 🙂

This is a significant issue for me, but may not be for you.  I like to carry a copy of my entire personal OneNote folders on a USB drive so that I can pull up articles and other things I have saved to my personal OneNote for sharing with other BA’s, or just to read information I had gathered on a subject before trying something similar at work.  Luckily, I use Office enough that it made sense to actually buy a copy for home use.  But not everyone can afford that option.

Despite that limitation, I highly recommend you give OneNote a try if you have not already done so. It’s by far the best information organizer I have ever tried. And at a price of “free”, it’s hard to beat the price.

Microsoft offers versions of OneNote on the following platforms:

  • Windows Desktop
  • Windows 8 store (for tablet and 8.+ desktops)
  • Windows Phone
  • Mac
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • Android
  • Amazon
  • And even a web version

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