Techniques, Tools

Living with OneNote on a Chromebook

I spend most of my non-client working time on a Chromebook. It’s turned out to be my go-to tool for creating content, managing information, and doing research. Since I also live out of OneNote, it’s important to be able to work around some of the limitations of a Chromebook when using a tool that is focused on the Microsoft suite.

Working Offline

Chromebooks thrive with an internet connection. It makes sense since it’s a browser based operating system. Unfortunately you don’t always have a connection available, so what’s there to do if you’re offline but still need to take notes or look something up? This is where I put the Android version of OneNote to use.

By running the Android app on my Chromebook, I can keep a synchronized copy of my notebooks handy and accessible. It doesn’t offer all the capabilities of the other versions, but when it comes to information access some is better than none.

The bonus of this arrangement is since I’m running on a Chromebook Pro, I can use the stylus to take handwritten notes and drawings to sync later on. It’s a great combination without pushing too far into unnecessary functionality.

Working Online

Once I get back online I can use the OneNote Online version as well as the Android application. The combination gives me a great deal of flexibility while also offering speed and interactivity. The Android application will sync it’s contents once the connection is established so any notes taken offline are safe and secure.

Once online I can also use the Chrome extensions Clip to OneNote and Send to OneNote to capture information to my notebooks for easy online, offline, and mobile access.

It’s not perfect

This setup is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and could be duplicated by a number of other tools. For my purposes though this has turned into a productivity success for me that requires no effort to keep using day in and day out.

Strategy, Tools

New life for Chromebooks and Microsoft?

Microsoft has been making some major pivots over the past few years to expand their reach and “playing well with others” when it comes to cloud based services. One of the biggest, and honestly most surprising, changes has been altering the rendering engine for Edge to the Chromium engine. There’s lots of speculation as to what this will mean for Edge in the future but I think it will have a greater impact on Chromebooks when it comes to working with Office 365.

With the primary browser platforms all running under one common engine, the developers on the Office 365 will have a much easier time writing applications that work across multiple machines, be it Edge on Windows 10 or Chrome on a Chromebook. As a Microsoft user who counts on his Chromebook I couldn’t be happier. While G Suite (Google’s office platform) has some strengths, it still doesn’t compare one-to-one with Microsoft’s offering.

You’ll hear the argument made that Microsoft’s pursuit of “Windows Lite” or “Lite” or whatever they’re calling it will take a chunk out of the Chromebook market but honestly that’s not the play for the long game. Microsoft is about the cloud now and hardware is just a way to get there. It doesn’t matter the tool, what matters is what you do with it. Personally I like the thin client approach of a Chromebook coupled with the power of Office 365 and Azure. You’d be hard pressed to find a combination that offers the same level of flexibility, power, and accessibility.

I’d wager we will see more and more changes in Office 365 over the coming months that work equally as well on Chromebooks as they do Windows 10 machines. It’s to Microsoft’s benefit to do this because if you can run Office 365 equally well on both hardware platforms, why wouldn’t you get a subscription?

Tools

Chrome OS Split Screen Mode Hits Stable Channel | Androidheadlines.com

Over at AndroidHeadlines they are reporting Google has released Split Screen mode for tablet ready Chromebooks. Now this is a smaller subset of the Chromebook world, only applicable to those that can “fold over” and work sans-keyboard.  Where this becomes important is for the Chromebooks that aren’t on the market yet.

Acer “accidentally” revealed a Chrome OS powered tablet at CES this year and I can’t help but think that more are on their way. For Chrome OS to play a major competitive role against Windows when it comes to the detachable market, having features such as split screen mode are going to be table stakes for being successful.

Are you a tablet ready Chromebook user?  Have you tried the new split screen mode? If so, let me know what you think in the comments.

Techniques, Tools

How well does OneNote work on a Chromebook?

New updateLiving with OneNote on a Chromebook

I’ve been an avid Chromebook user since they were released. I carry with me an Asus Chromebook every day and use it more frequently than even my full Windows laptop. As a OneNote user it was important to find out how well I could take advantage of OneNote on the Chromebook and what features I’d lose in the limited online version.

OneNote Online is the tool

When using OneNote on a Chromebook you’re limited to using the OneNote Online version of the application.  This means right away many of the features you may be used to on the desktop version (such as custom tags) are not available. However, if you use OneNote with these limitations in mind you will find it to be a useful note taking and personal information management tool.

There are a number of strengths and weaknesses to using OneNote on a Chromebook. I’ve identified the key ones you’ll want to take in to consideration.

SCREEN CLIPPING REQUIRES A PLUG-IN

I use the screen clipping tool on OneNote often, more often than any other on my computers. However, since you do not have the desktop capability for screen clipping with OneNote Online, you need to take other steps. One of the best things is to install the extension Clip to OneNote in your Chrome browser.  This extension allows for capturing entire pages, sections, articles, and even products directly to OneNote notebooks.

ONE NOTEBOOK AT A TIME

Unlike the desktop, when you’re using the Online version you can only have one notebook open at a given time. However, you can get around this limitation by two-finger clicking (press the left and right mouse buttons at the same time) on the name of a notebook and then tell Chrome to open the notebook in a new tab.  You can do the same thing by holding down the CTRL key while left-clicking on a notebook name.

SEARCH IS LIMITED

If you use the search box on the Notebooks page it is limited to the names of the notebooks, not the content of the notebooks as you find on the desktop version. If you use the search box in OneNote it will default to searching the page you are currently viewing.  However, if you press Ctrl-E you can tell OneNote to search the entire section you are in.  When OneNote Online is your primary tool, you’ll want to set up your notebooks and sections in such a way so you can leverage search in the most effective manners possible.

Another workaround for searching across notebooks is to click on Manage and Delete at the notebook page and then use the search in OneDrive to search all the contents of your notebooks.  This needs to be integrated into the OneNote Online tool by Microsoft, but for now it at least gives you a chance to find your content.

IT’S NOT PERFECT BUT IT’S NOT TERRIBLE

For now, OneNote Online is a feature limited version of it’s big brother. Whether we’ll see more of the desktop capabilities migrate to the online version only time will tell.  All in all OneNote Online is an excellent addition to the collection of tools you can use to take advantage of the power and flexibility of your Chromebook.

Update – May 2019

I’m still a heavy Chromebook and OneNote user but now I’ve got some tricks on how to get around some of the limitations.  You can learn more at my new OneNote on Chromebook article.

Update – November 2018

We’ve seen a number of updates from Microsoft as of late around OneNote, but most of them have concentrated on the Windows 10 version of the tool. One new feature that has come out for Chromebook users is Sticky Notes, an odd competitor (someday) to Google Keep that integrates (somewhat) with OneNote. Time will tell if this will grow up to be a useful tool but for now it’s more of a proof of concept than anything else.

UPDATE – FEBRUARY 2018

Microsoft has been making a concerted push to expand the functionality of OneNote on the web, slowly bringing it’s capabilities in line with the desktop.  While it’s not there yet, I expect to continue seeing significant development and expansion available to Chromebook users.

As for the Android version of OneNote availability on the Chromebook, it works on some machines but not all. It seems to be tied to having a touchscreen on the machine, but I have yet to be able to prove that conclusively.

All in all, OneNote continues to be an excellent tool on Chromebooks and well worth a considered place in your productivity arsenal.

UPDATE – NOVEMBER 2017

Microsoft has just released the Microsoft Office suite for use on Chromebooks through the Google Play store.  This includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (the Android versions). Alas, this does NOT include OneNote.  C’mon guys…get on the stick.

UPDATE – OCTOBER 2017

With the release of the Google Pixelbook and it’s touchscreen / pen combination, I’m expecting big things when it comes to OneNote functionality on Chromebooks. There’s no doubt it’s becoming a stronger contender in the education space with recent deployments and upgrades, but the addition of higher end Chromebooks to the ecosystem can only help drive adoption that much more.

UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 2017

Microsoft has been busy adding features and improvements to the online version of OneNote.  Recently they have been upgrading the look and feel of the interface, making it much more visually appealing for daily use.  While I’m still waiting on some core features to make it over from the desktop (custom tags, templates, etc.) you can definitely see OneNote is getting a lot of attention in Redmond.


Other recent articles

More articles by category

Tools

Using the OneNote Web Clipper on a Chromebook

One of the best features I have found with OneNote is not in the application itself, but rather an extension of the application.  The Web Clipper extension for Chrome has become an invaluable tool for me in capturing and managing information from around the web. I use the extension multiple times a day and have doubled the productive use of OneNote because of it.

The web clipper is a Chrome extension that is added the same way you add any other Chrome extension.  Once it is loaded, you will be asked to log into your Microsoft account. When you trigger the extension to save some content from a web page, you’ll get a pop-up showing:

  • Full Page – Captures the entire web page and a link to the original page
  • Region – Captures a section of the page determined by click and drag
  • Article – Captures the content of a page reformatted for easy reading
  • Bookmark – Captures a link to the page

Personally I use the Article, Full Page, and Region options most frequently.  The Bookmark option works well, but since you also get a bookmark when you save a clipping or a full page, I’ve found it a bit redundant.

One of the powerful side features of the capture is any images captured are searchable within OneNote. The text is scanned and can be located the same way any other text is available. This makes it easy to locate information from pages without having to spend an exceptional amount of time tagging and annotating.

An interesting, if obscure, feature of the clipper is if you capture a page containing a recipe, it will recognize the page is a recipe and replace the Article option with Recipe. This cleans up the formatting of the page to make it easier to read and follow the recipe. Not necessarily a feature for everyone, but still a nice perk. This same effect occurs if you are capturing a page that contains a product, such as on Amazon.com. The product capture includes a link back to the product page, making this a great way to manage your holiday planning.

Using the web clipper either personally or professionally will result in a more organized and productive approach to content from around the web. Give it a try and see if you’re not having more success being productive with OneNote.

Tools

Five minutes with the Samsung Chromebook Plus

I took five minutes in Best Buy to check out the new Samsung Chromebook Plus that’s getting all kinds of attention in the press. Designed to be a solid performer in the $500 price range, I wanted to know if it had the features to be a daily driver for someone like me. Now this isn’t a comprehensive review by any means, just my initial observations:

  • It has a nice build aesthetic with curved corners and edges. Definitely designed to create a premium feel.
  • The screen is a beautiful high resolution display but feels a little awkward with almost a square aspect ratio to the layout.
  • The stylus is a traditional Samsung stylus that slips into the edge of the screen. I can see it being useful with Android apps, but it’s a bit hard to pick up if you lay it down. It also seems to be an easy thing to lose so replacements on hand would likely be in order.
  • I didn’t care for the feel of the keyboard but I know that’s a very personal, subjective opinion. I use an ASUS most of the time and love the keyboard so anything else isn’t quite right for me. As usual, your mileage will vary.

If your looking to get a Chromebook for a daily driver or laptop replacement you could certainly do worse than the Plus. If you have a Chromebook already I found the Plus to be lacking in enough compelling reasons to upgrade.

Tools

Five minutes with the Samsung Chromebook Plus

I took five minutes in Best Buy to check out the new Samsung Chromebook Plus that’s getting all kinds of attention in the press. Designed to be a solid performer in the $500 price range, I wanted to know if it had the features to be a daily driver for someone like me. Now this isn’t a comprehensive review by any means, just my initial observations:

  • It has a nice build aesthetic with curved corners and edges. Definitely designed to create a premium feel.
  • The screen is a beautiful high resolution display but feels a little awkward with almost a square aspect ratio to the layout.
  • The stylus is a traditional Samsung stylus that slips into the edge of the screen. I can see it being useful with Android apps, but it’s a bit hard to pick up if you lay it down. It also seems to be an easy thing to lose so replacements on hand would likely be in order.
  • I didn’t care for the feel of the keyboard but I know that’s a very personal, subjective opinion. I use an ASUS most of the time and love the keyboard so anything else isn’t quite right for me. As usual, your mileage will vary.

If your looking to get a Chromebook for a daily driver or laptop replacement you could certainly do worse than the Plus. If you have a Chromebook already I found the Plus to be lacking in enough compelling reasons to upgrade.

[amazon_link asins=’B01LZ6XKS6′ template=’ProductAd’ store=’ideapump0b-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’b04417d8-0922-11e7-909b-05c877c86569′]