Friday, December 4, 2015

What I don't Like about OneNote

OneNote is by all accounts a very capable application. I tried it and I don't like it. My dislike has to do, in part, with its skeumorphism which, as far as I concerned, goes both too far and not far enough. I dislike the way it aspires to look like a paper notebook with different pages. Even more do I dislike the fact that you have to "put" notes on "pages" the way you would paste a post-it notes on pages in notebooks (which you can then move around, etc., on that page). I find this disconcerting. I would prefer, if the notes were firmly on the page, like in a paper notebook. On the other hand, I think the organization according to "pages" (which really are not pages at all) should be eliminated. All this is, I grant you, very subjective. It's just me.

One thing that is not subjective is how OneNote forces you to use a OneDrive account to use it. (At the very least, this is true of the Mac version of it which I used last). See here:

Nor do I approve of the way in which OneNote is intended to integrate with the Microsoft Ecosystem. Apart from MS Windows, I don't have any other Microsoft application on my computer. It is, of course, a Microsoft application, and Microsoft has every right to enforce this approach, just as I have every right to reject it.

I should perhaps add that Wysiwyg editing that is available in OneNote leaves me completely cold. I know that it is important to many people who dislike the wki-approach. So be it.

Also, my notes don't have to be both client-based and web-based, I don't need formatting, images, links, etc. from web-page capture to be retained, OLE editing, OCR, Excel Spreadsheets, MS-Outlook exchange (the last two should be obvious after what I said before, but ...).

As I said at the beginning, OneNote is a very capable application, and I do understand why many people do like it. It's just not for me.

Should I say that this rant was occasioned by recent and not-so-recent comments? Yes, it was!

Should I point out that I do not consider this rant as a thorough review of the program? Probably not, as this is obvious.


Angry Thinker said...

With all due respect, Manfred, you don't really know what you are talking about in this case.
1. post-it notes on pages?? NO, definitely not. Like in any app, you have to put them on a page, yes, in a so-called text box. But you can handle that the way you want. OK, you admit it is subjectively you.
2. You are forced to use OneDrive: only if you use the web version. But if you use the desktop version that is definitely NOT true !!!
3. Integration with the other MS Office apps: yes, but you can use OneNote in "solitary confinement" without any problem at all.
Having aid all this, I realise you will not change your mind, and that's OK with me. I just wanted set the record straight.

MK said...

Yes, I mean the textbox behavior when I talk about post-its. Why can't you write directly on the "page?"
As I said, I have been using the and I don't think you can use that without OneDrive. At least, I cannot.
I agree to your third point.

As I said, it's just as much about me as it is about OneNote.

Angry Thinker said...

OneNote was designed solely as a Zettelkasten, it was designed for other purposes too. There are people who want to put various things next to each other, or in a special constellation to each other. That's what the text boxes are for. Having said that, you can use the text box in a regular way too: I don't use it for special purposes & it (text box) does not interfere with my work or work flow.
OneDrive is most definitely not a must.
As for my 3rd point: how are you forced to use the other MS apps, or how were you affected by them when using OneNote?

Andrew Peng said...

The Mac version of OneNote requires OneDrive, as does the free version of OneNote for Windows (the licensed Office version doesn't though).

I've never been able to get into OneNote. Every few years I try again, but it doesn't suit my way of thinking or working. It is really good for taking long-form notes during meetings or lectures, but it is not natural for organizing extensive collections of notes or observations.

I have a lot of specific beefs with it, such as various usability issues and difficulty in exporting notes with attachments, but at its most basic, I think the cognitive overhead for creating notes is even higher than a standard two-pane outliner. For every note, you have to decide... do you create a new page for it? Should it go in an indented section on an existing page? Should you create a new section or tab? You're managing a three-level purely hierarchical structure, where different parts of the hierarchy are exposed in different ways. If you put a note in the wrong place and then want to move it, there are a lot of clicks. It's quite different than working in a wiki, where organization can emerge organically, and where you can have book-style indexes where a page can be at different places in the hierarchy simultaneously. Or you can forego hierarchy at all.