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OneNote for iPad: Ample Room for Improvement

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While many people consider Microsoft OneNote to be a lightweight note-taking tool, it's actually a powerful multi-platform solution for information management and collaboration, with significant potential utility for iPad users. However, Peter O'Kelly explains, limitations in the initial release of OneNote for iPad might frustrate people who have more elaborate information-management needs.

As I explained in my earlier article "OneNote for iPad: A Hopeful Leading Indicator," Microsoft OneNote for iPad is a useful companion for OneNote 2010 (the full version of OneNote used on Windows PCs). OneNote for iPad can be helpful for viewing notes on an iPad, for example, or for capturing images in OneNote notes with the iPad's cameras (starting with the iPad 2). Overall, however, the application tacitly suggests that at least some Microsoft product planners consider the iPad more of a super-sized iPhone than a robustly useful personal computing/communications device, and that attitude is reflected in the application's frustratingly limited feature set.

The rest of this article provides a review of what I consider to be several shortcomings in the initial release of OneNote for iPad. The next article in my OneNote series will include a comparison of the iPad versions of OneNote and Evernote.

Context Setting: How I Use OneNote

To be clear at the outset, I'm probably pretty far along toward the demanding end of the continuum, in terms of OneNote user expectations. I've been using OneNote as my primary personal information management tool for several years.

I have a large collection of semi-structured OneNote notebooks and also use OneNote as a collaborative workspace tool to facilitate consulting projects. For more information about some of the powerful but (mostly) intuitive OneNote capabilities upon which I routinely rely, see my earlier articles "Information Item Management in Microsoft OneNote" and "Compelling Collaboration Capabilities in Microsoft OneNote."

The screen shot in Figure 1 shows an example of one of my OneNote notebooks. I use it to keep track of a variety of information resources; I created a section for tracking resources about books I've read, along with related reviews and copies of my Kindle highlights (which I copy/paste into OneNote from kindle.amazon.com). To keep things simple, I use page/sub-page relationships to organize my notes and related reviews by book title, and I collapse the page hierarchies when I'm not exploring items related to a specific book. In Figure 1, my focus was on Daniel Kahneman's excellent book Thinking, Fast and Slow (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011).

Figure 1 OneNote Book notebook example.

It would be very useful to be able to access my book-related notebook from my iPad, but, for reasons I'll explain momentarily, I haven't been able to do so using OneNote for iPad.

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