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Web-Centric Microsoft OneNote Usage Scenarios

Microsoft OneNote has been primarily known, since its initial release in Office 2003, as a client application for note-taking. However, with OneNote 2010 and its companion OneNote Web App client, used in conjunction with Windows Live SkyDrive or SharePoint, Microsoft has significantly expanded the range of web-centric scenarios OneNote can usefully address. While still straightforward and simple for note-taking needs, OneNote has evolved to also serve as a powerful and web-centric hypertext information management and collaboration solution.
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The previous article in this series, Microsoft OneNote: Complementing Other Office Applications, included a review of several options for integrating OneNote with other Office applications. In general, the same options apply for content accessed through web browser clients, especially Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). In this article, we’ll review options for sending web content to OneNote, linking OneNote and web pages, and web-centric content authoring in OneNote.

Sending Web Content to OneNote

The first and probably most widely-used option for integrating web content with OneNote is to send web content into OneNote pages. Sending web page content to OneNote is useful because you can then annotate, tag, link, and share the content using OneNote, and you don’t need to worry about link rot (web pages becoming inaccessible for any reason, breaking page links). You can also easily insert web page links into OneNote content with the OneNote Insert Link dialog (from OneNote’s Insert tab or by pressing Ctrl-K), when you want to capture dynamic links rather than embedding a copy of web page content.

There are two OneNote-related actions in the IE toolbar (see Figure 1): one to send content to OneNote (the icon with the letter N and an arrow) and the other to link web content to OneNote (with the letter N and a chain link; more on the second toolbar action momentarily).

Figure 1 IE OneNote toolbar icons

When you click the send-to-OneNote IE toolbar command, IE captures the content, either the full web page or a subset selection of content, and transfers it to OneNote, along with a link back to the source web page.

OneNote option settings are used to specify what OneNote should do with the sent-from-IE content. The options include inserting the content into the currently-open OneNote page, creating a new OneNote page (in the currently-open section or a specified notebook/section pair), and interactively asking where the content should be sent (the default setting).

For an example of how this all works, imagine you want to capture information about a product such as a book. Start with the IE screen shot in Figure 2. In this case, I selected some text in IE8 (the blue-highlighted text starting with “Microsoft Office 2010 in Depth”), pertaining to a book I want to explore later.

Figure 2 Web page content selected in IE

With a single click of the send-to-OneNote IE toolbar command, the selected content is captured and sent to OneNote, as shown in Figure 3 (it would entail a couple more clicks, if your web-related send-to-OneNote setting is the default, as you’ll then be prompted to specify the destination notebook/section location).

Figure 3 Web page content sent to OneNote

In this case, OneNote created a new page in the currently-open section and captured the content I had selected, along with a link to the source page. Any selectable web page content can be sent (not just text), although page formatting is not always perfectly rendered. If precise formatting is required, and you want to capture an entire web page, you can also simply print the page to the OneNote virtual print driver.

Although not directly supported by Microsoft at this time, there is an extension for sending content to OneNote from Firefox. You can also use an IE tab extension within Google Chrome, and right-click for a menu action to send an entire page to OneNote. These extensions work only on the Windows platform, because OneNote 2010 is only available on Windows.

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