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PNG images: OneNote icon

Microsoft OneNote is a computer program for free-form information gathering and multi-user collaboration. It gathers users' notes (handwritten or typed), drawings, screen clippings and audio commentaries. Notes can be shared with other OneNote users over the Internet or a network. OneNote is available as a part of Microsoft Office and Windows 10. It is also available as a free standalone application for Windows, macOS, Windows RT, Windows Phone, iOS and Android. A web-based version of OneNote is provided as part of OneDrive or Office Online; this version enables users to edit notes via a web browser.

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In OneNote, users can enter typed text via keyboard, create tables, and insert pictures. However, unlike a word processor, users can write anywhere on a virtually unbounded document window by just clicking there. Also, users do not need to explicitly save their work – OneNote saves data automatically as the user works.

OneNote saves information in pages organized into sections within notebooks. The interface provides an electronic version of a tabbed ring-binder, into which the user can directly make notes and gather material from other applications. OneNote notebooks collect, organize, and share possibly unpublished materials – as compared to word processors and wikis, which usually target publishing in some way. The difference shows in certain OneNote features and characteristics:

  • Pages can be arbitrarily large

  • Bitmap images can be inserted without loss of quality

  • There is no enforced uniform page layout or structure

Users can move pages within the binder and annotate them with a stylus or word-processing or drawing tools. Users may add embedded multimedia recordings and web links.

While OneNote commonly runs on laptops or desktop PCs, additional features support pen-enabled tablet computers, in environments where pen, audio, or video notes are more appropriate than an intensive use of keyboard.

OneNote integrates search features and indexing into a free-form graphics and audio repository. It can search images (e.g., screen captures, embedded document scans, photographs) for embedded text-content. It also searches "electronic ink" annotations as text, and phonetically searches audio recordings on a text key. It can replay audio concurrently with notes taken during the recording.

Its multi-user capability allows offline paragraph-level editing with later synchronization and merging. This facilitates collaboration among workgroups members who are not always online. More than one person can work on the same page at the same time—using OneNote as a shared whiteboard environment.

On March 17, 2014, Microsoft released the OneNote cloud service API that enables third-party application developers to integrate the service into their apps. The API runs on Microsoft’s globally available cloud, and sends data from applications into the user's OneDrive. While the service stores the data in the OneNote notebook, it can also do things like running Optical Character Recognition on images and rendering webpages as snapshot-images.

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