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Excel and OneNote Integration: Limited But Still Useful

Excel and OneNote Integration: Limited But Still Useful

It’s not possible to send information items to Excel from OneNote, nor does Excel support linked OneNote notes. However, Excel can still be useful when used in conjunction with OneNote, primarily for capturing and sharing list-oriented information.

You can create and edit tables directly in OneNote, but OneNote’s table-related features are rudimentary, and are used primarily for layout-oriented. It’s not possible, for example, to sort rows within a OneNote table, or to use aggregate functions (e.g., sum, average, min, or max) on OneNote table columns.

If you want to capture, share, and analyze a list of structured information, inserting Excel workbooks into OneNote pages is a useful option, especially for scenarios involving collaboration among people in different locations. As an example, a project team could use OneNote to share an Excel workbook for project-related expense details.

Microsoft Access files can also be inserted into OneNote pages, for more elaborate list-oriented collaboration needs, although it’s important to remember that OneNote is not a replacement for multi-user database services in applications such as Access or database management systems such as Microsoft SQL Server. If two people simultaneously update a OneNote-inserted file, OneNote will detect and flag the update conflict, but such conflicts must be manually resolved.

Revisiting the OLE-centric compound document theme, there is currently no way to have the contents of an embedded file appear within a OneNote page (e.g., to see an Excel table in-line in a OneNote page); readers see only the embedded file icon, and must launch the file to access its contents. This in some respects represents a step backward from the seamless compound document model in OLE (and other approaches such as OpenDoc, a failed standards initiative that is unrelated to the more recent OpenDocument Format standard), but it is nonetheless a useful integration option, and it avoids the complex and performance-challenged architectural plumbing that constrained the use of OLE and similar pre-Web compound document models.

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Using Microsoft OneNote 2010

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Using Microsoft OneNote 2010

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