Verdict: Few new features, but full touch support transforms this app
OneNote 2013 follows the trend set by the rest of the new Office applications, with only minor changes and few new features to play with. Beyond the new look and slightly rearranged notebook navigation, this initially doesn’t look like the most exciting release.
Excel spreadsheets can be created directly within OneNote, which is more powerful than using simple flat tables, especially if you’re tabulating lots of figures. Any embedded Excel tables can be edited and updated with a simple double-click.
It still does everything it did before: it records audio while you’re taking notes, saves as you go along, and synchronises with SkyDrive. Microsoft also has apps available for Android, iOS and Windows 8, so you can access and take notes on multiple devices. However, there aren’t many new toys with which to play.
Despite the comparative dearth of additions, however, it’s in OneNote that Office 2013’s touch features make most sense. There’s support for finger-based zooming, panning and scrolling, as with every other Office 2013 application – but here it feels less tacked on. Items can be quickly selected and rearranged with a tap and drag, and notes can be scribbled freely anywhere you like, either with a stylus or a finger.
OneNote’s continued support for styluses means turning your tablet or hybrid into a fully fledged handwriting-based note-taker is an enticing proposition, and subtle extension of the handwriting recognition in OneNote makes it even more so; it now automatically indexes recognised words, so you don’t have to use “Ink to Text” to make your scrawl searchable.
A new full-page view, in addition to the auto-hide ribbon option available elsewhere in Office, makes it an even better note-taker. This dispenses with the note tabs that usually run along the top of the screen, and places all note navigation and the search tool in one dropdown menu in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
The new OneNote isn’t perfect. It still has the potential to confuse, with its mishmash of notebooks, pages and sections, and the ribbon doesn’t make the ideal touch interface. However, simply by adding the ability to manipulate notes with your fingers, and providing seamless stylus integration, Microsoft has given OneNote a new lease of life.
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