A few tips to make the most of Office365 – Tip 1 – OneNote

In other posts I have hammered away on the point that Office365 is much more than just email (the usual driver for organizations to switch to O365) and I have talked about the various components such as SharePoint and Lync.   I’ve also made numerous mentions to the smoking deal you get with Office (5 copies per user!) through various O365 subscription levels.  This is all fine and dandy but there is so much more to the whole bundle than just various software packages; there is capability and linkage and I think these are the two things that make O365 an absolute home run.

So, what do I mean by capability and linkage?  Those are kind of vague terms, are they not?  Well, not really and here’s why:

Capability in this case refers to all of the built-in features and tools that you can take advantage of across all of Office365 as well as Office (when connected to O365).  Linkage refers to how these capabilities cross the various bits and pieces of O365 and tie together information in ways that makes it much more meaningful and useful to you and your organization.  Linkage also refers to how that information is presented to you (PC, tablet, phone, whatever) so that the information is available where and when you need it.  If you leverage capability and linkage you can do some pretty amazing things with O365 and your favourite Office tools without having to buy any other software.  In fact, depending how you combine things, you can easily come up with solutions to business problems that, in the past, might have required standalone software applications that ended up siloing your data.

My first example of this theme is to use OneNote and SharePoint together to create a powerful information capture and sharing platform.  If you already use OneNote you know that it is pretty amazing and mind-boggling in its flexibility.  And, of course, you know that SharePoint is a Swiss Army Knife in terms of what it can do.  When you combine the two you really open up a world of possibilities.  And now that you have your O365 subscription you have all the tools to make it happen!

OneNote has always had the ability to share with other people BUT if you go the further step and save/publish OneNote from your O365 SharePoint site you’ll gain immeasurably because, through the magic of the WebApps publishing of OneNote (now known as OneNote Online), ALL your Internet devices with a browser can now get to the OneNote content and work with it.  If you have a native OneNote client then that works as well so you really do get the best of all worlds.  This means that OneNote content becomes available to everyone that you choose to give access to the OneNote.  We make monster use of this feature inside itgroove to document everything.  It is the tool of choice and has pretty much supplanted our wiki’s and internal blogs as a means of capturing/sharing information.  It really is as simple of thinking of something that you could capture in OneNote and then “just doing it”.

Ok, now for a simple example of the mechanics (where you go and what you do is up to your own imagination):

In our corporate O365 we have all got our own “sandboxes” in SharePoint so that is where I will create my OneNote Library:


I pick “Add lists …” then pick Document Library.




OK, now I have a place created to hold my OneNote files.  Next step is to set up OneNote in the library.

Easiest thing to do is to go into OneNote and create a new OneNote notebook and set it’s storage as the library location you just set up using the SharePoint link in your OneNote (should be there if you have set up your PC with a federated Microsoft account).


Once the notebook is created you have the option of sharing it immediately or you can share it out later. The point is once it is shared other users can access the SAME OneNote out of the SharePoint library and this makes it very powerful indeed.  It also makes it accessible to you on your mobile devices and via the WebApps.

And this is where it is stored:



My admittedly pathetic demo has this content inside:


OK, so the content is nothing to build a reputation on but you get the idea.  We (itgroove) use OneNote to document EVERYTHING.  The built-in screen-capture is a godsend when documenting processes and the other tools aren’t too shabby, either.  OneNote can be used as the information “store” for much of the unstructured information you work with and even for structured information like projects.  And, if it is stored in a SharePoint library like in this case, it becomes searchable which suddenly makes all of that unstructured data much more useful to all concerned.

Remember, now that I have my OneNote in SharePoint on O365 it also becomes accessible from tablets, phones and non-Microsoft O/S’s like Linux which, again, makes the data much more useful to all in an organization (even if you are an organization of one).  Here are some examples:

From Firefox on Ubuntu:


This is opened in OneNote Online.


From Samsung Galaxy Tab 2:


This is using the “native” OneNote app that is downloadable from the Playstore.  App connected via O365 account.


Still on that Galaxy Tab but using the browser so OneNote is opening in OneNote Online (similar to what happened when I was using Firefox on Ubuntu).

Screenshot_2014-04-19-14-09-33 1

And this is it opened up in the browser. 

While the “look” might vary a bit between the various devices and clients/browsers, the content is the same across all and that is the salient point.  And you can edit, add,delete, mess with the content to your heart’s delight.  The device used becomes “irrelevant” and you can focus on the content and the work you want to accomplish.  OneNote, SharePoint and O365 rock

So, go give it a try.  As I said earlier, the possibilities are pretty much endless.  You just might amaze yourself (and your colleagues) with your creativity!