Improving Collaboration with Microsoft OneNote and SharePoint

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Taking notes during a meeting or event is something we all do to some extent.   And just like with everything else, technology has evolved to both facilitate compiling and enhance the usefulness of notes.  Microsoft OneNote came onto the seen as a new application in Office 2003, and has continued to be enhanced with each subsequent Office version release (2007, 2010).  One way to greatly improve taking, sharing, and collaborating with meeting notes is to use Microsoft OneNote in combination with SharePoint.

For all of us, compiling notes goes back to school days where we couldn’t write down fast enough important tidbits about key topics that were to be included on the next exam.  In today’s fast paced business environment, it is no different:  taking good notes is a starting point for documenting, understanding, and improving execution for a given initiative.

A classic inefficient business case we frequently see is project team meeting notes.  Here is the scenario:

Someone is designated as official scribe for a given meeting.  It is up to that individual to capture all important notes/items from that meeting, and circulate these amongst the project team for review/comment.

We all can guess where this is heading.  Meeting happens, initial draft version is compiled (hopefully electronically), and then circulated (typically via email with attachments) to the project team to see if there are any edits/comments/omissions, etc.  So eventually (assuming people respond), there will be a final version of the meeting notes for that meeting, usually some days or even weeks later.  By then, most people have possibly forgotten many of the details of that meeting, or in most cases the next meeting for the project team is already in process.

The final conundrum is where to put those final project team notes.  Usually, they end up in various multiple places (email, local drives, file shares, etc.), with most users having challenges to find the right version or simply have the time to review and make any use of these notes.  The notes end up being nothing more than an archive, and probably not ever referred back to unless someone is interested in reviewing the history of the initiative.

Starting with OneNote 2007, OneNote Notebooks could be stored in a Shared Document Library on SharePoint.  With SharePoint as the central collaboration tool, project notebooks in a document library can easily be accessed, reviewed, searched, edited and managed by project team members.  Search capabilities are readily available (either in OneNote or SharePoint) to quickly surface any specific details someone may be looking for in the notes.

But what if you are remote and not necessarily connected (on-line) to SharePoint during a meeting?  Enter OneNote and its powerful synchronization process.

OneNote always keeps a local  copy of every notebook on the device where the OneNote application is installed.  This allows for disconnected note taking without missing a beat.  Once the device (e.g. laptop) again has access to the original library on SharePoint, notebook section changes are automatically synchronized.

Setting up a new OneNote Shared Notebook on SharePoint is very straightforward.  From the File Tab (menu) in OneNote, File –> New –> Network, enter name for new Notebook, and SharePoint URL (Network Location) for your document library, click Create Notebook and off you go.

Once the Notebook is created, it can be accessed either directly from the SharePoint Document Library, or from the OneNote application itself.  Using search (either OneNote or SharePoint) allows for quick access and surfacing of important note information.  Synchronization between Master copy and local copy can be manually started with the shortcut keys of Shift-F9.

It is worth mentioning that OneNote 2010 offers additional greater capabilities for sharing and central storing of notebooks including Windows Live SkyDrive.  This allows for free cloud storage and sharing of documents through Microsoft.

And for those who have advanced to doing most everything via a smartphone, a OneNote Mobile application is also available for both Windows Phone and iPhone platforms.  Thus providing easy and efficient access to Notebook content any place, any time.

Microsoft OneNote is a powerful application and business tool, and using OneNote in combination with SharePoint is definitely recommended to help solve everyday inefficiencies around taking, collaborating, finding, and researching Notes.

Interested in learning more? Contact SBS Group here or email [email protected] to learn more about Microsoft SharePoint.

By: SBS Group New England – Massachusetts SharePoint, Microsoft Dynamics ERP & CRM and Microsoft Master VAR


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One question

  1. Peter Jones says:

    Microsoft OneNote is a really great tool and does work really well with SharePoint, I didn’t actually know there was an app available, I will be installing this shortly!

    Thanks for the post!


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