According to historian and author Toby Lester, Leonardo da Vinci used to travel with a small notebook hanging from his belt, and would scribble notes or sketch ideas when he was inspired. Da Vinci amassed countless notebooks filled with what seemed (to the rest of the world, at least) to be random thoughts. We’re not sure how da Vinci used his notes, or tied his thoughts together, but we can only imagine how much more productive he would have been if he had access to note-taking software like Microsoft OneNote.

Unfortunately, many people today use similar antique methods of keeping thoughts in order, even though amazingly intuitive note-taking technology is available (a confession: count me as one of them). Perhaps it’s because humans resist change, but it’s more likely because people don’t know how to use the software, and haven’t had the time or resources to figure it out.

Thankfully, with Office 2013, Microsoft has made OneNote easier to use. (Not that it was difficult to begin with. It was just different.) We asked our Director of Training Joe Puckett his thoughts on the latest version. Here’s his list of OneNote 2013’s Top Things. Welcome to the 21st century.

  • Office 2013 automatically includes OneNote. Look for the OneNote button in other Office applications to see how it can save you time by providing a central, highly searchable place to keep all your notes.
  • The Linked Notes button on the Review tab in Word or PowerPoint enables you to take notes that are automatically linked to the paragraph or slide you were in when you took the note. (See image.)

    MS Word's Linked Notes

    OneNote 2013 enables you to link to a specific PowerPoint slide or Word paragraph.

  • OneNote works closely with Outlook to provide linked notes for Calendar items, Tasks and Contacts.
  • Right-clicking on almost anything in OneNote provides an option to copy a link to that item so you can refer to it from documents, emails or elsewhere in OneNote.
  • Notebooks shared through network drives or SharePoint Document Libraries are available when you aren’t connected to the network and synchronize automatically when you reconnect. This makes them great for teams that need to share information with colleagues who travel.
  • OneNote 2013 adds some helpful features. Two of the most useful are in tables: the ability to sort, and the ability to convert a table to an embedded Excel spreadsheet with a single click.
For OneNote 2013 tech tips, visit our how-to library.
For more on OneNote 2013, check out Microsoft’s guide.
And for more about Leonardo da Vinci, note-taking and historian Toby Lester, read “Leonardo’s To-Do List” by NPR’s Robert Krulwich.

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