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August 15
Utilizing OneNote in Microsoft Teams

Brief Introduction to Microsoft Teams

In late 2016 Microsoft announced Teams, a new collaborative workspace intended to centralize people, their conversations, their content and tools, into the Office Suite. As with other Microsoft Applications, Teams is available with both a desktop and a web version in Office 365. One advantage I’ve noticed through using the tool is that the web application seems to replicate all of the desktop aplication’s features/functionality, unlike many other Microsoft web applications that small short on feature offerings.

As a relatively new tool within the Microsoft stack, there should be careful consideration for an organization to determine if Teams should be made available, who should use Teams, how they should be leveraged, and how they will be managed. If an organization determines that Teams would be a beneficial tool to deploy to users, there are a few things to consider about the use of Teams that I will outline below. 

The Terminology & Associated Features
With so many new tools and features being released by Microsoft, it can be difficult to keep the terminology on everything straight. Therefore, a few terms I’ll be using a lot in this blog are defined below along with an explanation on their relationship to one another.
•  SharePoint Team Site – as many of your know, SharePoint Team Sites provide users with a collaborative, highly-customizable/flexible workspace that allows for content management, process automation, page creation, etc. on top of the SharePoint platform within an organization. A SharePoint Team site will enable access to Lists, Libraries, a Shared OneNote Notebook, a shared mailbox, an Outlook Calendar, and more.
•  Groups – a new Office 365 feature that allow you to easily set up collections of users. As a new take on distribution lists and shared mailboxes, this feature allows a group manager to select the users to join and in-turn are deployed a Shared Outlook Inbox, Shared Outlook Calendar, a SharePoint Team Site (site, document library, OneNote, etc.), and more.
•  Teams – a new Microsoft collaborative workspace application, not to be confused with the general sense of the term teams used to describe functional groups of individuals. Creation of a team deploys the conversation and content-centric workspace with various “Channels”, which enable a Team Wiki, Team Threaded Chat, as well as, all of the features offered with a Group or SharePoint Team Site.
Refer to the basic diagram below which depicts the relationship between these tools and features.

The Teams Interface

With a better understanding of some of these Microsoft tools/features and their relationship to one another, we can take a closer look at Microsoft Teams. The Teams experience will be new to many, so I wanted to give a very brief, high-level run through of the application and it’s interface.

General Interface

The Teams application utilizes a simple user interface that rolls up an Activity Feed from all of the user’s Teams, a chat functionality, a list of the user’s Teams, and Team Files on the left-hand navigation. All of the user’s Teams are listed with various “Channels” or topic areas underneath. There is the ability to search across a user’s Teams for chat conversations, people, and files. Each Team/Channel has a basic working space that offers an easily-configurable, tabbed navigation where Team members can add links to specific Team files, Microsoft Planner, other applications and connectors, and….. the Team’s OneNote Notebook.

Now that we’ve outlined some of these new features and covered the basic layout of the Teams application, we can start to dive into the use of OneNote within your Teams.

OneNote in Microsoft Teams

I’m sure that almost everyone reading this knows what Microsoft OneNote is and have probably used it for taking notes. The tool provides a great platform for personal note taking, however, by utilizing it in Microsoft Teams and maximizing its features, OneNote can add much more value to you and your functional groups. As depicted in the feature diagram above, once a user creates a Team, a single OneNote Notebook is provisioned through the corresponding SharePoint Team Site. 

This is advantageous for a team to utilize because groups can manage findings, commentary, and other annotations in a single location that can leverage standardized templates, can be edited by multiple users simultaneously, and searched. This shared Notebook can be accessed through the Teams Application, the Outlook Web Application, the SharePoint Team Site, as well as, the OneNote desktop application.

*Note that the OneNote desktop application has more features/functionality available than the OneNote instance in the Teams application, but the latter still works well for basic note taking.
Once you’ve created an Office 365 Team, you have an associated OneNote Notebook. From the Teams application, select the + symbol and select “OneNote” to make the Notebook accessible to the Team members. The OneNote Notebook will appear as a tab within the Teams application for everyone to access and you can even post the update to the Team thread conversation to update other members.

Once the Notebook is accessible from the Team’s tabs, you will be able to navigate its pages/sections and enable team note taking within the application, right alongside the threaded conversations, chats, and other shared files. OneNote within the Teams Application does not offer all of the same features as the desktop application, but you can always elect to open within the OneNote desktop application.

In the following section, I’ve outlined some of the key features available within the Teams Application, as well as, a few of my favorite features that I feel users often don’t utilize to their full advantage.

OneNote Features & Functionality

Within the Teams application, users will notice many familiar features and options that are available within OneNote itself. Below, I’ve outlined some of the key features available from the OneNote ribbons:

•  Home – Core Functions such as Undo / Redo; Cut / Copy / Paste / Format Painter; Basic Text Features; Styling; Tag Creation; and Spell Check
•  Insert – Inserting New Pages / New Sections; Tables; Pictures / Attachments / Links; and Recording Audio
•  Draw – Ability to Draw / Sketch; Control over Drawing Styles and Colors; Highlighting Notes
•  Table Layouts – Ability to Select / Delete / Insert / Shade / Etc. Rows, Columns, and Entire Tables
•  Print / Open in Desktop – Users can also elect to Print their notes or Open them on their Desktop Application for full, native functionality
Outside of the standard features and options that OneNote in Teams offers, I’ve found that there are a number of tools within OneNote’s Desktop Application that users should leverage to maximize the value of their personal notes, their team notes, and the tool as a whole. I’ve highlighted a few of my personal favorites below:

•  OneNote Templates – Everyone has their own style, structure, and process around taking and organizing their notes, which can leave team members scavenging through OneNote Pages trying to find key insights and information in unfamiliar formats. OneNote has the capability to leverage standardized templates to promote consistency around all of those things.
In order to take advantage of OneNote Templates, a user can create a structured format within an OneNote Page. From the Page Templates pane under the Insert tab, you’ll notice that Microsoft provides many out of the box templates for users to leverage, as well as, the ability to see your personal Templates and the ability to save you current page as a Template. By leveraging Templates, individuals and Teams can standardize note taking formats, styling, and structure for a more clearly-organized experience.

•  Password Protecting OneNote Sections – Shared OneNote Notebooks are a great feature within Microsoft Teams that allow collaborative note taking functionality in a single location. Often times within a team of users, there is some information that shouldn’t be openly shared with everyone involved. Password protecting OneNote Sections allows users to secure certain information that shouldn’t be shared with everyone.
In order to password protect an OneNote Section, simply right-click on the Section Tab in the desktop application and select “Password Protect this Section…”. From the Password pane, set a password for the Section and now you can have secured notes within a Team Notebook.
*Sections must be unlocked to search within them.

•  OneNote Tags – OneNote offers the ability to create Tags which allow you to creatively mark key information within your notes. Microsoft offers pre-built Tags that can be leveraged to denote To-Do Lists, Definitions, Contact Information, Note Criticality, etc. From the Home Ribbon, within the Tags section, you can see the extensive list of OneNote Tags. You can also create Microsoft Outlook Tasks within OneNote that will appear in your Outlook Mailbox.
OneNote Tags are also fully-customizable to allow you to create, modify, and maintain your own Tags to leverage both personally and within your Teams. Tags are a great way to effectively organize your notes, follow-ups, to-do tasks, and much more.

•  OneNote Search & Finding Tags – Do you ever find yourself looking through all of your notes, not remembering where you left key information or details? OneNote has strong search capabilities that allow you to query through your notes to find exactly what you’re looking for. More importantly, you can scope your searches to:
     • A single Page
     • A single Section
     • Across multiple Sections
     • Across an entire Notebook
     • Search through all of your Notebooks
This scoping capability is extremely useful when you’re leveraging OneNote for multiple projects, initiatives, and teams.
OneNote Tags are also searchable, allowing you to locate your to-do’s, contact information, ideas, and other key insights across the tool. You can query Tags across Pages, Sections, and all Notebooks and are also given the ability to create a Summary Page that will aggregate all of your Tags, by type, onto a single Page.

I hope that this helps to outline how Teams, Groups, SharePoint and OneNote all work together to create a simple, collaborative workspace for you and your users. Also, I hope that this provided you with some great ideas and insights on how to leverage OneNote within Teams, as well as, some simple OneNote features that can make your life a lot easier. Happy note taking everyone!

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