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5 reasons you should take notes with OneNote

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY I'm a meticulous note taker. I record notes throughout the work day -- I track URLs to research, take meeting minutes, write to-dos. And I do it all in Microsoft OneNote. Sure, I could write all this stuff on paper, in an online app like Evernote, or even just write in Word. But in my book, OneNote is just about the perfect tool for tracking all the bits of flotsam and jetsam you need to record every day. Inspired by the 10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All the Time over at the excellent MakeUseOf blog, here are my top five reasons you should use OneNote for your own note taking:

You probably already have it. Recently, I was lauding the benefits of OneNote to someone on my editorial team, and she asked me how she could get a copy. It was one of those "You're soaking in it" moments -- OneNote is included in most versions of Office, including Office Professional, Home and Business, Home and Student, and even Office Standard. Just click the Start button and type "OneNote" to launch the best program you didn't know you had.

It has extremely flexible organizational options. Perhaps the most confusing aspect of OneNote -- and I don't blame anyone for scratching their head at how all this works -- is the fact that there are tabs everywhere. There are tabs on the left, across the top, and even down the right side. What are all these things? Well, they represent hierarchies of information storage. You can create multiple notebooks, each one with an array of sections. And each section can have its own subsections, or tabs. In my case, I have different books for personal, work, and freelance writing topics. Even better, I can share specific books -- like the work-related book -- on my work and home PCs via SkyDrive, so I can access that information anywhere, without also having to share my personal stuff at work.

It has built in OCR. This is one of the most underrated and underreported features in OneNote. Paste an image into a OneNote document and then choose Copy Text from Picture. You'll instantly get a plain text version of the text in the image that you can paste into OneNote or elsewhere.

It's portable. Not only can you share OneNote documents with other PCs -- I already mentioned that feature earlier, and I use it every single day -- you can take OneNote with you on your iPhone and Windows phone. Because I have the OneNote app on my iPhone, I keep all sorts of general-purpose information in OneNote that I might need to access while on the go.

You can make digital to-do lists. Check out the Tags section in the ribbon. You can tag any text with a wide variety of graphical bugs. One of the most useful of these tags is To Do, which gives you checkable checkboxes. Not only can you use these as an actrual to do list, but you can later search for to do entries, and optionally choose to only look for items that are completed or uncompleted.

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