Another View of OneNote’s Conceptual Model
In order to understand how the myriad information item types supported by OneNote all hang together, it’s useful to explore OneNote’s conceptual model. Figure 4 captures the basic OneNote model in terms of entities, attributes, relationships, and identifiers (for more information about the modeling technique, see Mastering Data Modeling: A User-Driven Approach by Pearson).
Figure 4 The basic OneNote conceptual model.
For the purposes of this article, you don’t need to be concerned with all of the modeling technique details, but it is helpful to understand that:
- A OneNote notebook may contain multiple sections.
- Each section may contain multiple pages.
- Pages may contain information items (called paragraphs in the OneNote 2010 user interface), which may be associated with multiple tags (e.g., some text in a OneNote page may be tagged as a “to-do” item).
- Types of information items that may be included in OneNote pages include titles (e.g., “OneNote keeps track of stuff at Work, Home, or School,” in Figure 1), outlines (e.g., hierarchically arranged bullet lists), inserted files, images, and ink drawings.
It may seem like conceptual overkill to explore OneNote with this type of model diagram, but the approach will prove useful later in the article seriese.g., when comparing OneNote to Evernote, another popular note-taking tool.
Curiously, considering the application’s name and its primary focus on note-taking, there is no “note” entity in the essential OneNote conceptual model. You’ll find two references to “note”-related concepts in the OneNote user interfacelinked notes and side notesbut neither note type is central to the way most OneNote users routinely work with the application.
Linked notes are OneNote pages associated with content managed by other applications (e.g., a OneNote page with comments on a particular PowerPoint slide, or a web page linked via Internet Explorer), and will be explored further in the next article in this series.
Side notes are like digital sticky notes, and they can be used in any OneNote context in which you want to capture a quick note. Side notes are stored in a OneNote system-maintained notebook called “Unfiled Notes.”
In other words, notes and pages should be considered interchangeable, in the OneNote conceptual model. (OneNote is not the first software application with “note”-related vocabulary mysteries; IBM Lotus Notes is another product with “note” in the product name but rarely in the product’s user interface or conceptual model.)
The use of the term “paragraph” to describe intra-page OneNote information items is another curious vocabulary choice, but that’s the term used in the OneNote user experience when, for example, creating links to an text or image item on a page. For consistency with the user experience model, we’ll stick with “paragraph” for the OneNote conceptual model context, but will otherwise use “information item” and “paragraph” interchangeably, because “paragraph” doesn’t generally connote multimedia information item types such as images or video clips.