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Taking notes with OneNote from any device on Office 365

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OneNote is a great tool for taking personal or business notes. I have been using it for years to store information about projects or SharePoint. Click here to read more about this amazing product. The advantage of OneNote isn’t only the ease of storing notes but also the accessibility on multiple devices. OneNote is available an all mobile devices through an OneNote app. In this post I want to explore the advantage of OneNote in project scenarios. OneNote is integrated with SharePoint since the SharePoint 2013 release. Every project site has a default OneNote Notebook:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

This is a great new feature to centrally store all the notes about a project. All the project members are able to create notes or view notes. Let’s take a look how our favorite mobile devices support this scenario.

You may want to catch up on this working from anywhere on any device with Office 365 before continuing:

OneNote on the Surface RT

The biggest advantage of the Surface RT, as a work tablet, is the presence of the full Office 2013 suite. That’s really a winner in my eyes. You can use the local OneNote client to work with project notes:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

The downside of an App, based on software or a website, is that some features aren’t present. You don’t have to worry for any of your favorite OneNote features to be absent because it’s all here. The full blown OneNote client in combination with the type keyboard makes the Surface RT the perfect tablet for working with OneNote.

The Surface RT does have an OneNote App available! The App has a nifty little feature for editing your notes:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote 

This feature seems to be made for working with a pen. Especially with the draw option. I wouldn’t use this App because I can work with the OneNote client.

OneNote on Windows Phone 8

All mobile devices have an Internet browser so you can use the OneNote Web App. Well, can you? Let’s open the OneNote Notebook our project site on my Nokia Lumia 720:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

This is really unworkable because the frames don’t move at all. I can click on any of my OneNote pages, workshop 1 or 2, but nothing happens. To open the OneNote Notebook in the App, I have to click on Open in OneNote. I have the flip the phone to be able to do this:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

After clicking on Open in OneNote the App opens:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNoteSharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote
This actually works very well but don’t cheer to fast because this is what happens when you want to add text:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

The keyboard takes over the screen, literally! This makes adding notes a real pain. There a couple extra features available:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

I won’t recommend using the Windows Phone 8 App for adding notes but more for reading. Although it’s pretty cool to take a picture and add it to a Notebook.

OneNote on the iPad

You are finally able to use the Office Web Apps with the iPad. Due to the absence of Silverlight, which couldn’t be installed on an iPad, the Office Web Apps can be used. The following figure illustrates an example of an OneNote Notebook opened in the browser:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

The keyboard, not as extreme as the Windows Phone 8, takes over the screen but by using an external keyboard this can be solved. The App works very well and has enough formatting options:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

You can change the font size and style or use one of the many tags. One of the features I really find useful is adding images:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

You can bring your iPad to a workshop and take pictures of the whiteboard with important notes. The only downside with this is that you can’t change the size of the picture. You have to use the client version.

OneNote on the iPhone

The iPhone App has the same issue as the Windows Phone 8 app. You can’t use the Office Web App at all. Before you can start using the iPhone App with an Office 365 Notebook, you have to login with your Hotmail e-mail address. The App for the iPhone works a lot better for adding or editing notes:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

They keyboard only takes half of the screen. There is one feature I really liked and is especially useful when you have many Notebooks:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

You can search for words to find specific Notebooks. Nice!

Co-authoring with OneNote on Office 365

I hope that most of you are familiar with the concept of co-authoring. This allows multiple users to work together in an Office document at the same time. You can use the Office Web Apps or the Office clients. This is really a cool and useful feature that improves productivity. Co-authoring doesn’t work well with OneNote in combination with the Apps. I did a test where I opened a Notebook in the browser and on a mobile device. After a minute the following error message appeared:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

By clicking on the error the following screen appears:

SharePoint Office 365 on Any Device with OneNote

This creates an unworkable situation for co-authoring. I would propose to only use the OneNote client for adding or changing notes. The mobile devices should be used for viewing notes.


Although co-authoring doesn’t work properly and creating notes on the phones isn’t really workable, OneNote is still a very powerful tool for project scenarios. By storing your project notes on a central location all the project members can use their mobile device of choice and always view the project notes. The real power of the mobile devices in combination with the OneNote App is taking notes and adding pictures to your project Notebook. I have been in many project (for example workshops) meetings where project members sketch on a white board. Just take a picture with your phone and add it to the project notes! The Apps for the tablets enable you, especially in combination with an external keyboard, to add important project notes to your project Notebook. This saves valuable time instead of writing it on paper and adding it afterwards in OneNote.

This is the table of contents of this series:

I hope you will find these posts useful and insightful. Please, don’t hesitate to leave your feedback.

Jasper Oosterveld

This article is a guest post by Jasper Oosterveld. A member of the SharePoint community, co-author of two books and speaker for many SharePoint Conferences and SharePoint Saturdays. If you are looking for Jasper, you’ll find him working for Macaw straight from the Netherlands!
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