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OneNote 2010 Organisation

OneNote is probably the least well known of the applications in Office 2010, as it has a shorter heritage than its stable-mates. It’s designed as a freeform note-taking tool, which can be used on desktop, notebook and tablet PCs. As well as being able to type notes at any point on a OneNote page, you can draw diagrams and shapes and clip items from Web pages or other applications on your desktop. They can then be structured into ‘pages’ in separate ‘notebooks’ and exported as needed to other applications, such as Word 2010. Improvements in the latest version concentrate on better organisation and docking.

Basic shape and drawing tools enable you to illustrate your notes in colour and to highlight text, which is particularly important. They can be found on the Draw tab in the Ribbon, where you'll also find the Eraser, which selectively deletes whole elements from a page. The Lasso Select tool really does open up a loop marquee, which can be manipulated to enclose one or more items. The Insert Space tool opens up a space on the page to make more room and the Arrange button gives access to four tools, which can stack page elements in any order needed.

One aspect of physical note taking which is emulated in OneNote 2010 is the ability to annotate notes with tags. In the same way as you might circle a phrase or sentence or draw and asterisk by a bullet point to mark its importance, the program offers a Tags group in the Home tab with a large selection of tags you can add to any object on a OneNote page. These include Important, Question, Critical and many others (custom tags can be created, too) and they can be searched for using the Find Tags tool, where they're listed with the items to which they're attached.

OneNote is a great place for collecting disparate items when researching and you can easily clip areas of a screen into a notebook page. In the Images group of the Insert Tab, the Screen Clipping tool enables you to highlight any rectangular area of the screen and then copy that image into the current page. These clips are in a graphical format, but if they contain text, the Copy Text from Picture option in the right click menu can extract the text, which can then be pasted down separately, somewhere else on the page.

There can be as many notebooks as needed within OneNote and each notebook can have numerous pages. In the latest version, there can be multiple levels of subpages, too, so subject matter can be divided down to whatever level of detail is needed. Subpages can be created, moved up and down within a notebook and promoted and demoted in a hierarchy, in much the same way as items in a Word outline. Hierarchies of pages can also be collapsed for ease of viewing, if there's a complex structure within a particular notebook. OneNote 2010 includes a number of new features, which greatly improve its versatility as a free-form note tool.