OneNote 2013 Overview

OneNote 2013 Overview

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This post was authored by David Rasmussen, Group Program Manager for OneNote

The past two weeks have been exciting for everyone working on OneNote. We have been designing, developing and testing the OneNote 2013 release for quite some time, and now that we’ve released the Office Customer Preview feedback is flowing in. Thank you.

In this post I’ll provide a high level overview of the major investments for the OneNote 2013 release wave. In subsequent posts we’ll go into more detail on the feature areas.

OneNote 2013 Overview

The areas we invested in are intended to make OneNote a great experience for taking notes on clipped content, particularly on touch tablets with pens, to provide easy access everywhere, and to improve sharing with others. Specifically these investments include:

  1. Clipping content into OneNote to write and annotate on
  2. Improved embedded documents and tables
  3. Touch and pen tablet experience
  4. Sharing, meetings and collaboration
  5. Universal access


1. Clipping content into OneNote

Getting content into OneNote from other sources has always been an important part of collecting information and taking notes. Sources include web pages, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, screen clippings and so on. In OneNote 2013 we’ve made this even easier by introducing the OneNote Clipping Tool.

The OneNote Clipping Tool gives you a single location on the Windows task bar that you can tap with a finger (or click with a mouse) to take a screen clipping; send the current web page to OneNote; or send the current Word, PowerPoint or Excel document to OneNote, so that you can take notes on it; or just take a quick text or ink note. It’s context sensitive depending on what app you have top most.


2. Improved embedded documents and tables

The Clipping Tool makes it easier to get content like PowerPoint decks or Word documents into OneNote, but we also wanted to make it a better experience once you’re there. So we’ve improved the experience of taking notes on embedded documents in OneNote in several ways:

  • Multi-page Documents: If the Word document or PowerPoint presentation you’re sending to OneNote is more than 10 pages, OneNote will automatically split it into multiple OneNote sub-pages to make it easier to navigate and take notes.  
  • Auto Zoom: When you’re in full screen mode, OneNote will always zoom the embedded document so that it fits on the screen.
  • Paging Buttons: When you’re viewing an embedded document in full screen mode, OneNote provides paging buttons to go forward or back through the document for easier viewing. The buttons will also re-center and zoom the page, so that you can view your embedded document after taking notes on the side.
  • Improved Rendering: As you zoom and pan around on an embedded Word document or PowerPoint, OneNote re-renders the text quickly so it stays crisp and readable.
  • Embedding Excel and Visio Documents: We’ve added the ability to embed Excel spreadsheets into OneNote pages. You can edit the table in Excel and when you save, the charts and tables on the OneNote page will be updated as well.  For those of you who like to do diagramming, we’ve also added similar support for Visio documents.
Improved table support: Because it was such a common request we’ve also improved tables in OneNote by adding cell shading, sorting and better selection options. You can even convert a table into an embedded Excel document to create charts or take advantage of some of Excel’s features right inside OneNote.


3. Touch and pen tablet experience

Now that you have content in OneNote that you want to take notes on, we wanted to make that a great experience on touch tablets with pens. OneNote has always been designed to take full advantage of pens on tablets. But now that touch is standard on tablets and they are getting thinner and lighter there was an opportunity to improve the experience.

  • Full page mode: OneNote now has a full page button in the corner of the page. You can just tap it and OneNote hides all the UI so you can just focus on your content. This makes it much easier to write with a pen without worrying about accidentally touching parts of the UI with your palm.
  • Drop-down Navigation: When you’re in full page mode, you can tap the notebook name to navigate to another notebook, section or page without exiting the fullscreen mode. It works well with thumbs when you’re holding your tablet in your hands.
  • Touch Pan and Zoom: OneNote automatically defaults to panning and zooming with your fingers, and inking with your pen so you can switch quickly between touch and pen naturally without having to change modes. We’ve also made zooming and panning much smoother.
  • Rotating to portrait flips to full page mode: When people use their tablets to ink, we noticed that they often prefer to do so in portrait orientation, which resembles a typical sheet of paper. So when you rotate your slate, OneNote automatically flips to full page mode and hides all the navigation and chrome to give you all the space you need to write.


4. Sharing, Meetings and Collaboration

Beyond personal note-taking, OneNote is also designed to easily share notebooks with others, edit together in real time, and to facilitate collaboration in meetings. We have improved these experiences in the following ways:

  • Easy notebook creation on SkyDrive: When you start OneNote for the first time, we will setup a notebook for you on SkyDrive. We’ve also made the new notebook process very simple – just provide a name and it will be created on SkyDrive for you.
  • Easy Sharing: We’ve focused on making sharing easy by removing hurdles.  There are two simple ways to share a notebook:
    • Invite people with an email address – there are no restrictions on which email address can be used. People who receive notebook invitations do not to have OneNote to view or edit the notebook, they can use OneNote in the browser (for free). 
    • Get a Sharing Link - These links can be used on your blog, Facebook, Twitter or anywhere you can send or post a link.  Anyone with a sharing link can view the notebook without having to sign in.  We also let you disable the sharing links later, in case you decide to make a document private.
  • Real-time Editing: When two or more people are working on the same page, you can now see changes almost instantly. This makes collaboration a delight and is very useful during meetings. This feature is available on Office 365 today and is coming to SkyDrive soon (if you want to check it out now sign up here)
  • Meetings experience with Lync: If you’re using Outlook or Lync for your meetings, you can create meeting notes automatically in OneNote, which will include a list of attendees, meeting details, and relevant documents so that you can get right down to taking notes. Meeting can be created in Outlook, or during the meeting in Lync and attendees can collaborate on these notes in real time.


5. Everywhere Access

We repeatedly hear that access to your notes and the ability to take them anywhere is very important, whether you’re at work, home or on the go. Since we released 2010 we’ve been hard at work creating a great OneNote experience for you, no matter where you are:

  • OneNote for Windows 8: We’ve reimagined the OneNote experience for Windows 8 and created an exciting new app codenamed OneNote MX.  Whether you draw, type, click or swipe, this app will shine on your Windows 8 device.  If you are running Windows 8, you can download it from the app store today and try it out.
  • OneNote for Phones: In addition to the desktop version, OneNote now supports Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android and Symbian phones.
  • OneNote in your Browser: The OneNote web app lets you access your notebooks from a browser, without having to install anything. Just click on your notebook from SkyDrive or SharePoint to start editing.


We’ll write more in future posts to explain each of these areas in more detail. We hope you enjoy OneNote 2013!

David Rasmussen
Group Program Manager, OneNote

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  • I love all the little things you've done (like smoother panning, the new full screen view, inviting people to a shared notebook from within OneNote, etc.) They make OneNote a joy to use (especially as a student).

    I see that you can now embed Excel sheets, and I've found it useful (particularly for the sciences: physics & chemistry experimental data), but how about embedding YouTube clips (even Word can do that now!) or HTML content as well? With more and more edu content on the web (Sal Khan, Udacity, Coursera, etc.), I'd love to be able to combine my notes with the lectures / videos.

    Not to mention cooking, travel, or how to videos.

  • Overall the OneNote improvements are much welcome, but would have loved to seen a merge cell option with the table improvements.

  • Looks amazingly good. My only niggle is the OneNote MX app. Would love to know what's in store and when we should expect it. While I like it, basic stuff like pen selection (size, color, etc) and the ability to open password protected sections (really?) are sorely missing.

    That said, as I explore the main version, I'm really enjoying what I see. I second the request for the ability to bring in video from YouTube, though if I'm not mistaken, you can bring in video from your desktop, so this should be a relatively simple add.

  • @Malte, AMP, Cliff: thanks for the feedback about embedded videos, I'll pass this along to the team.

    Though we don't support cell merge in OneNote today, a workaround would be to convert complex tables into embedded Excel docs, so that you can take advantage of excel's powerful features inside of OneNote.  

  • One main disadvantage for me in OneNote is Find functionality - it can't find substrings. It finds only strings at the beginning of the words. Is this improved in OneNote 2013 ?

  • I really like the new navigation in OneNote 2013,but am having trouble converting ink to test.

    I am using an HP 2740p. I lassoed the inked test and then clicked on convert ink to test, but nothing happens.

    I am able to concert ink to match without ans problems.

    Please advise.

  • Does this release has Clipping tool for mail messages from  MS Outlook 2010/2013?

  • I'm thrilled to see you've thought of portrait mode users like myself.  I do most of my inking in portrait mode.

    Also, I was thinking a while back of how I'd like my tables to have some spreadsheet like features and I'm glad to see you've included embedded excel spreadsheets.

    Haven't used visio much for personal use but embedding them in ON opens up some opportunity for mindmaps.

    Great work ON team.

  • I LOVE OneNote, but will finally PDFs be searchable?

  • @UB: You might need to add your language as additional (or primary) languange in the settings and install the equivalent proofing tools of your language if it is not EN-US. At least this helped me! It's easy to test, just switch your keyboard language (virtual keyboard, right lower corner) to English, close/open OneNote and retry converting. If this works, it's most probably the proofing tools...



  • I've mentioned this on other blogs and MANY others have as well...

    When, oh when, will you add the ability to GROUP OBJECTS in OneNote? I love so many of the features, but the inability to group objects CRIPPLES the application. I take many screenshots, etc. and then annotate them along with arrows, circles around important items, etc. Unfortunately, OneNote (unlike Word, Publisher, etc.) is so stupid that it does not keep the objects together - so if I add something at the top of a page, it pushes the text down but NOT all my carefully placed arrows, etc. How dumb is that? Not trying to be mean, but I'm frustrated by the lack of such a common feature.


    Thank You!

  • Here's another vote for being able to group objects.  I totally agree with scion111.  Please let us know when this is likely to be available, or why it can't be made available.  Thanks

  • Another for the wish list..being able to sort pages.

    This is driving me nuts..

  • I agree with John Walton.  Why can't we sort pages??  Please give us this option.

  • I agree. Why can't we sort the tabs. I've tried the sort add-in for 2010 but it doesn't seem to work on 2013.

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