Microsoft OneNote has long allowed you to record a meeting’s audio and then take notes, syncing the audio to your inked or typed notes for later review. Microsoft is now going one step further by including transcription.
Microsoft also announced significant aesthetic and functional changes to OneNote as part of a plan to unify the OneNote apps on Windows. Microsoft previously stated that it will begin phasing out the UWP version of the app, also known as OneNote for Windows 10, while adding new features to the version that comes with Office.
What’s exciting is that OneNote will soon do the heavy lifting for students and employees. Part of the difficulty of listening to a lecture is trying to understand the points being made while also following the argument and taking notes for future reference and teaching aids. Drawing and typing notes can be useful, but they can also be distracting. What OneNote will do is go back to the basics: record the audio, transcribe the audio, and sync it to the notes you took during the lecture. Microsoft also promises the return of “ink replay,” a cool feature that first appeared in 2016. Ink replay, like transcription, should allow you to “rewind” your inked notes.
In addition to transcription, you’ll be able to dictate notes into OneNote, which is becoming more common across Windows and Office. Microsoft will also integrate its AI-powered transcription punctuation into OneNote, which will aid in editing the transcribed text.
OneNote will be incorporated into the Windows 11 visual aesthetic, with rounded corners and the Mica look and feel, which will incorporate the colors from your Windows theme and wallpaper into the app window. Functionally, you’ll notice a simplified toolbar, which allows you to devote more space to your content and less to the toolbar; and a small dot that will appear next to OneNote pages with unread changes. These appear to be likely in pages you’ve shared with other collaborators. This has also been improved, with more granular controls over what is shared with others — individual pages or an entire notebook.
Drawing tools will be more consistent with other Office/Microsoft 365 apps, such as Word and PowerPoint, according to Microsoft. While you can always drag photos into a OneNote page, Microsoft is also attempting to streamline the process so that you can quickly snap a photo with a Surface’s rear camera, for example, and then drop it into a page.
Microsoft also promises common-sense ways to organize your notebook pages, such as by letter or date of modification. Previously, moving pages was primarily a manual process. Microsoft is also increasing the granularity with which notebook pages can be shared.
Finally, you’ll be able to update OneNote in the background, which means you won’t have to wait for more updates before you can start inking.
However, not all the changes are immediately available. You should be able to see the new notebook page sorting, background updates, and some inking tools as of today. If they sign up for the Office Insider program, they will be able to see the improved camera photo capture as well as improved sharing.
Unfortunately, some of OneNote’s more interesting features, such as transcription and ink replay, are “coming soon,” according to Microsoft in a blog post. They can’t come soon enough for someone who uses OneNote on a regular basis.