Posted in OneNote

OneNote Tip for Android – Creating Shortcuts

If you’re an Android user (sorry iOS) you can press and hold on the OneNote icon on your phone to pop up a list of the quick actions available for the app.

But that’s not the tip. The tip is that if you press and hold on the double line to the right of the shortcut on the menu you can create a shortcut to that entry. Press, hold, and drag from the menu to a space on the desktop to create the shortcut so it looks like below:

This is a great way to put shortcuts where you need them.

OneNote Tip of the Week – Custom Checkboxes

This quarantine thing has caused me to switch from coffee to tea (for no real reason aside from a change) but it has also resulted in a new hobby…trying various teas and keeping track of their information for my own reference. As such I wanted to see if I could come up with an effective, efficient solution using OneNote to track this information and sure enough I found an answer that works for me. Before I get started though one caveat…this solution requires OneNote 2016 and won’t work on other versions because of requiring a specific feature in 2016. Sorry in advance for that. Let’s dive in.

The main issue I had when coming up with this solution was how best to organize the information. This is what I was working with:

  • Tea Brand
  • Name
  • Flavor
  • Type (loose, bagged)
  • Rating (excellent – poor)

My first instinct was to go with the old standby the outline layout:

But before I even got part way through that design I knew I could come up with something better. I wanted to avoid typing so much information so I needed a way to provide and select options. Checkboxes are what came to mind:

Now if you’re of a sharp eye you’ll notice my checkboxes are yellow, not the normal black and white boxes you get with the To Do tag. What I did was create a custom tag in 2016 called “Toggle”, assigned it to position 4 in the list (so I can use Ctrl+4 to assign it to a line) and chose the yellow checkbox as the symbol for the tag.

Why do this instead of using the normal To Do tag? I want to avoid confusing these selections with things to do (for which I use the To Do tag frequently). By creating a custom tag I can have the same functionality while letting the To Do tag do it’s thing.

After defining the custom tag I decided to try a different, table based layout for the information:

This format works very well on the desktop application: it takes a minimum of space while still providing all the information I need. Unfortunately it isn’t mobile friendly so a little tweak and that problem was fixed:

Now I can update the information on mobile as easily as I can on desktop and still have access to everything I need. I keep a blank copy of one of these pages in the section with my tea notes and I can make a copy of it on mobile to the same section and have it act like a template for new entries.

You may also have noticed I didn’t include the name of the tea in the table. I name the page using the name of the tea to make it easy to locate and reference.

There are any number of ways to adapt this structure:

  • Create a section for each tea manufacturer and page for each of their teas
  • Create a section for each tea variety (black, green, etc.) and then add pages for the teas
  • Use stacked pages in a section to group the teas
  • Use page links to connect these teas to other content (for example: teas and music)

The flexibility always surprises me when it comes down to what you can do with OneNote. While it may not have the embedded databases that other tools have there’s no question in my mind you can make it work in almost any situation with a little creative thinking.

Posted in Notion

Notion Tip of the Week – Roadmap Template

Notion is known for the number of templates out there not only from Notion but from the Notion user community as well. This week I want to highlight one from Notion called the Roadmap Template.

If you’re familiar with Agile methodologies of software development the Roadmap template is a great way to kick start using Notion for planning and sprint management. Providing cards, epics, sprints, and structures for capturing user stories and requirements you can use it as is or customize it to your heart’s content. Just add a new page, select Templates, and look under Product Management.

OneNote Tip of the Week – Full Page View

One of the ways to get more out of OneNote is to use it to focus on the work at hand. A quick method of getting the other stuff out of the way and concentrating on the page you’re working on is to use full page view. By clicking on the double arrow in the upper right, you can hide all the unnecessary OneNote buttons and bars until you need them again. I use this option all the time in meetings and when writing to help me stay on task.

Posted in Planner

Microsoft Planner is almost worth it. Almost.

I’ve been using Microsoft Planner for a while now for various projects and have found, while useful, it is severely lacking in two key areas: custom fields and labeling.

Labeling is an approach Planner uses as an alternative to tagging you would find on other platforms to help with categorizing tasks for organization. Planner includes labels but only six of them to be used across all the cards in a plan. You can assign multiple labels to a card but can still only define six labels total. It’s an unfortunate state because if you have more than six categories you want to apply to your cards you’re forced to use buckets in their place and that restricts you from using buckets for process management. It’s an unfortunate oversight in the application design and needs to be addressed.

Custom fields are the other missing piece of the puzzle. In applications like Trello and Notion you can create multiple fields for storing data on a card. This ability to customize makes these platforms far more powerful for targeted organization than Planner. It should be a simple enough matter for Microsoft to add additional fields to the Planner platform with it’s closer association to the SharePoint platform. Until that happens Planner is going to be a second-class product when it comes to project management.

If Microsoft is serious about the future of Planner in the enterprise they need to step up their game and improve the tool in the ways that matter. It’s a good start but it has a long way to go.