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Apprised of Microsoft’s 2012 plans for SkyDrive, I switched back to OneNote shortly after announcing, embarrassingly in retrospect, that I would be using Evernote and Word for writing going forward. OneNote’s renaissance is tied in large part to the fact that you can optionally (and ideally) use this amazing note-taking application solely as a Windows-based front-end for your cloud-based notes. And with OneNote apps appearing on virtually every mobile platform imaginable, choosing Microsoft’s note-taking solution over the competition is suddenly a lot less controversial.

For Office 2013, OneNote embraces this cloud-based future explicitly and while it’s possible to use this application the old-fashioned way, Microsoft is rightfully making that more difficult and pointless. Furthermore, we’re getting a true Metro-style app version of OneNote 2013, called simply OneNote (though it went by the moniker OneNote RT during development). I’ll have more on that fascinating development soon. But in the meantime…

Feature run-down

Key new and improved features include:

OneNote for Windows 8 (and more). Microsoft will supply a native OneNote 2013 Metro app, called OneNote, alongside Office 2013. No word yet on availability, but the unique thing here is an amazing pop-up “radial” user interface that puts ribbon-like commands at your fingertips only when you need them. This UI could be how all complex productivity apps—think Photoshop—make the Metro transition in the year ahead. More on that soon, but mobile app versions of OneNote are also available for Windows Phone, Windows RT, iPhone, iPad, and Android phones, Nokia Symbian, and the free OneNote web app isn’t so shabby either.

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Simpler UI by default. OneNote is semi-unique among Office 2013 applications in that its ribbon is hidden by default.

File embedding. You can embed Office documents, web link, video file, or other media directly in your notes.

More powerful tables. OneNote has always offered basic table support, but the features have expanded exponentially in this release, and while it’s not quite at the level of Word—which picks up pretty neat table tools in the pop-up selection menu—it’s powerful enough for virtually anyone. You can convert tablets into embedded Excel spreadsheets.

tables

Improved Ink support. For the 13 people out there still using Tablet PC styli, OneNote 2013 supports improving Ink support, with full handwriting recognition. Don’t have a stylus? You can write with your finger (or mouse) too.

Outlook meeting integration. You can connect notes to Outlook meetings. You actually do this through Outlook, and it creates a link to the OneNote-based notes for that meeting. Then, in OneNote, you’ll see a header related to the Outlook meeting in those notes.

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Screenshot cropping. A new OneNote Clipping Tool lets you take screen clippings (basically a cropped screenshot) that can be sent to any notebook in OneNote.

clipping-tool

But wait, there’s more. In addition to the features listed above, OneNote 2013 also includes a number of new and improved features that are common across several Office 2013 applications. You can find out about these other new features in New Features in Office.