OneNote Mobile – Unsung Killer App for Windows Phone 7

OneNote Mobile may be the best kept secret of Windows Phone 7 (WP7).  By default OneNote syncs any notes you create on the phone with a notebook called Personal (Web) on your Windows Live SkyDrive.  This is great.  It provides a cloud-based copy of all your notes, which is editable from your PC using Office 2010, or in the browser using Office Web Apps.  It really is OneNote everywhere. 

But what if you want to use multiple notebooks?  Or what if you want to share a notebook with another Windows Phone user?  This is where OneNote really gets killer, but unfortunately it’s not readily apparent.  By default OneNote only uses a single notebook, and that can only be sharedby editing permissions from the web, not on the phone.  In addition, individual tabs don’t seem to be shareable, only the notebook.

I ran across this situation, where my wife and I both have Windows Phones and wanted to be able to share Christmas lists for each other and the kids.  They should be viewable and editable from our PCs or either of our phones, and I didn’t want to have to send texts or emails back and forth to do it.  From Windows Live on the web, I could set the permissions to share my default Personal (Web) notebook with my wife’s Live ID.  But then she would appear to have two Personal (Web) notebooks on her phone, which could get confusing and annoying.  A better solution would be to have a separate shared notebook with a distinct name.

In Office Mobile on WP7, there does not appear to be a way to create additional notebooks from the phone.  One way around this is to create a new notebook in either OneNote Web App, or OneNote 2010.  There are a couple of ways to get this new notebook to sync between SkyDrive and your Windows Phone.

Using OneNote 2010 to Create and Share A New Notebook

The easiest way, if you have Office 2010, is to create the new notebook in OneNote 2010. 

  1. Open OneNote 2010 and create a new web notebook in SkyDrive (File, New, Store notebook on web, provide a name, select the folder to store it in – See first pic below)
  2. Once the notebook is created, you should be presented with an option to send a link to share it.  Click on Email a Link  (see second pic)
  3. Send this link to yourself to the email address you use on the phone (see third pic)
  4. When you receive the link email on your phone, tap the onenote:… link in the email. This should sync the new notebook to your phone and open it in OneNote Mobile
  5. To share with another WP7 user, go to SkyDrive and edit the permissions for the folder where your notebook is stored to allow access for the person’s Live ID.  Unfortunately it doesn’t look like you can edit permissions for an individual file at this time. 
  6. Finally, forward the link to the notebook to the person who will share it, and have them tap the link.  This should sync the new notebook to their phone and open it in OneNote Mobile.  They will now be able to view and update the same notebook.

OneNote1  OneNote2  OneNote3

Using OneNote Web to Create and Share

If you don’t have OneNote 2010, you can do a similar thing using OneNote Web App.

  1. On the PC, go to SkyDrive and open the folder you want to create the notebook in
  2. Click on New, then click OneNote Notebook (first pic below)
  3. Edit the permissions for the folder where your notebook is stored to allow access for the person’s Live ID (second pic below)
  4. With the new notebook created and shared, go to SkyDrive in the browser on your phone.  Note: You MUST view the SkyDrive mobile site, or the notebook will not open on the phone.  If it opens in the desktop view, towards the bottom of the page on the right, there should be a link to view the Mobile Site. 
  5. Go to the folder where your notebook was created, tap on it, and then tap on the name again.  It should open up in OneNote Mobile and sync with SkyDrive. 
  6. If you shared the notebook with someone else, on your PC go to the folder on SkyDrive where your notebook was stored.  Mouse over the notebook, then click on More, then click on Properties (third pic below)
  7. Copy the Web Address from the bottom right of the properties page (fourth pic below)
  8. Paste the address into an email and send it to the person who will share the notebook
  9. Have them open the email and tap on the link to the notebook on their Windows Phone
  10. A page should open in the browser on the phone with the notebook icon and name displayed.  Have the person tap the icon or notebook name
  11. At this point, the notebook should sync and download to their phone, and they should be able to view, edit, and sync the shared notebook

OWA1  OWA2  OWA3a  OWA3b

Fun With OneNote

Now that you are able to use multiple notebooks and share them with other Windows Phone 7 users, OneNote really reaches it’s full potential.  I highly recommend using OneNote 2010. 

At this point, you now have multiple cloud hosted, fully synced and shared notebooks accessible from PC and phone.  In my case, my wife and I can now update and share Christmas list info (and any other info) at anytime, viewable anywhere.  No PC required, and no sending emails back and forth.  Killer.

2 thoughts on “OneNote Mobile – Unsung Killer App for Windows Phone 7”

  1. This is a really good post, dude. Hell, I work for the company and you educated me on some steps. Well done! It’s sort of important as I’m getting that HP Slate 500 in which OneNote’s gonna be really important since notetaking is the primary reason I chose that device over the ExoPC. (Must… have… STYLUS!)

    1. Thanks, Kurt! This is the kind of thing I’ve been waiting for. I’m hopeful that as WP7 matures it will get more SkyDrive integration and be able to handle sharing/permissions straight from the phone. Also hoping that functionality for creating additional notebooks will be exposed in OneNote over time.

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