Using OneNote with Microsoft Outlook: Task Integration

In last month's column, I explained how you can integrate Microsoft Office OneNote with Outlook ("Using OneNote with Microsoft Outlook," October 26, 2007). As a reminder, OneNote, which is part of the Microsoft Office suite, is a digital notebook that lets you easily store your unstructured data. OneNote 2003 SP1 introduced enhanced integration with Outlook, and this integration has been improved in OneNote 2007. You can use OneNote to help manage and create Outlook tasks. For example, if you're taking notes in a meeting using OneNote, you can easily create a task that you can track from either OneNote or Outlook.

Outlook task integration with OneNote 2003 merely copied text to an Outlook task, but with OneNote 2007, you get 2-way synchronization of the task status. You can create an Outlook task for any paragraph on your OneNote page by inserting the cursor anywhere in the paragraph and using either the Insert, Outlook Task menu, the Task button on the toolbar, or the keys Crtl+Shift and 1–5 for Today, Tomorrow, This Week, Next Week, and No Date. This creates a task in Outlook that includes the paragraph and a link to the OneNote page. The OneNote paragraph is marked with a flag on the left side. Just as you're used to with Outlook tasks, the flag changes color according to its deadline: If the task is due today, the flag is bright red; if the task is due next week, it's light red. The new task is added to your Outlook To-Do Bar if you define a due date.

This functionality is of great value if you take meeting minutes or other notes during meetings: You can add your action items as they come up in your notes directly to Outlook. You'll save considerable time compared to writing out hard-copy notes and then entering the tasks in Outlook after the meeting. When you finish working on a task, you can mark it complete either from Outlook or OneNote and the status will be updated to the other one after a few minutes. Unfortunately, synchronization is available only for task status, not for the task subject or other fields. For instance, if you change the task description in OneNote, the change won't be synchronized to Outlook. You have to delete the Outlook task and re-create it from OneNote to have it updated.

If you delete a task in Outlook, the task flag still appears in OneNote, but you'll see a message that OneNote can't find the task. You'll have to delete the task in OneNote as well; this process should have been triggered automatically from Outlook. Well, no product is perfect. Another limitation I've found is that the search capability for finding Outlook tasks in your notebook isn't sufficient. You can filter your notebook by using Show All Tagged Notes, but this brings up your tasks as well as any other tagged notes. You can apply this filter by clicking the Tag button on the toolbar or from the Insert, Tag menu. I haven't found a way to display only the tasks that I've defined in my notebook.

That's it for task integration. Next month, I'll investigate a couple more features that you can use when combining OneNote with Outlook, such as creating contacts or appointments from your OneNote notebooks.

Outlook Internet Site of the Month
I recently discovered a site called All about Microsoft Office Outlook that has a section of free Outlook add-ons. You'll find tools such as Advanced Folders Watch to help you deal with your increasing volume of email, Advanced Security for Outlook to configure security and alerts in Outlook, and several other add-ons. Check it out—you'll find some interesting tools! Access the freeware section here.

As always, if you find a link for an interesting new freeware tool or add-on for Outlook, let me know! Send me a message at [email protected].

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