A quick check of my Wakoopa profile reveals something interesting: I now use Microsoft OneNote more frequently than almost any other Windows application and in fact use it to create all of the articles, blog posts, news articles, and editorials that appear on this site. (I still use Microsoft Word for writing books like Windows 8 Secrets and for my print magazine columns.) The reason I do this is simple: OneNote integrates quite closely with Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud service, so I can seamlessly access the same notebooks from any PC, whether I'm online or off.
And with Office 15, it seems, OneNote is getting even better. Here are some of the new and improved features in this coming release.
Colorful new look
It's a small thing perhaps, but OneNote is decidedly more colorful than the other Office 15 applications, and it's got a nice, flat look, I think. This effect reminds me of the new Server Manager in Windows Server 8 Beta, which overcame the previous milestone's flat expanse of unending whiteness by throwing in a bit of color. Microsoft should do the same across the other Office 15 apps, I think. It just looks good.
OneNote 15 on a desktop PC with a large screen
Additionally, OneNote 15 is somewhat unique in that it comes up by default in a full-screen mode (available to other Office 15 apps too) in which the ribbon is hidden. This is particularly useful on tablets, given the general lack of screen real estate. Also, the notebook view is nicely hidden by default, further preserving onscreen space; I open that up (and expand the pages list) on my widescreen desktop display.
OneNote 15 on a tablet: Ribbon off, full-screen mode on
Yes, every Office 15 app supports a new Touch Mode, in which onscreen elements like the ribbon become bigger. But in OneNote 15, Touch Mode also expands the size of other onscreen items, like the page tabs, making it much easier to move between the various pages in a notebook.
OneNote 15 with Touch Mode enabled
As with Word 15, OneNote supports a new bookmark feature that lets you pick up in a notebook right where you left off. Incredibly handy and, in retrospect, obvious. It is, however, a lot more subtle in OneNote than it is in Word. I'm thinking these should be consistent.
Improvements to existing features
In addition to the handful of new features noted above, OneNote 15 includes improvements to many existing features as well. Syncing notes between the PC and SkyDrive or SharePoint is much faster than before, so much so that I rarely find myself manually syncing just in case anymore. (And OneNote uses cloud-based notebook storage by default now, a nice touch.) OneNote, of course, has been bolstered by the arrival of many mobile clients since Office 2010 debuted, not just Windows Phone, but also iPhone, iPad, and Android. The inking capabilities have apparently been updated, though I haven't spent much time with that yet: I use OneNote mostly for content creation. To me, that means typing on a real keyboard.
What's still missing
OneNote still lacks a way to lock a page or notebook, which I consider a serious issue. Too, while this applications supports Word-like heading styles, these heading are not, in fact, identical to those in Word. They should be.
There's more, but as always, this is just a quick look at those improvements that stand out to me. OneNote 15 isn't as big a leap as, say, Word 15, but then this excellent note-taking solution was already an excellent solution in the 2010 version. I like that the cloud sync functionality is more automatic and seamless, and this alone puts it over the top.
Next up, PowerPoint 15.