Working with all your OneNote notebooks in Office 365

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OneNote is one of my favourite Microsoft products. The digital notebook has been my number one application for years now. With such a great cross-device scenario and combining it with a Surface Pro 3 it really does become a masterful tool. I’ve used it for everything from technical research, note taking in meetings and workshops and even hooked up to a projector with the Surface as a mobile whiteboard.

While I was giving a team an overview of OneNote last week a simple question was posed.

“How do you find all your notebooks in Office 365?”

One the desktop/device top

In the Office 2016 version your opened notebooks can be found listed in the Notebooks listing top left. Like the screen shot below.

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This lists the Notebooks I’ve opened and sync’d with the OneNote application.

If you’re using the Windows 10 universal app then you get the same concept from he hamburger menu.

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I personally keep a different set of notebooks sync’d between the applications. Mainly keeping the bulk in the full application and those I use on the go in the Windows App version. In Edge (Microsoft’s latest IE replacement) you can snip the page into OneNote directly. I have one notebook i use for these snippets so that’s one i sync.

So the conclusion in the desktop and device world is that you can find them if you knew of/accessed them before and opened them. There is no true ‘discovery’ that’s super obvious to an employee.

Office 365

So what’s the story in Office 365?

OneNote is listed in the App Launcher and the main Office 365 portal page by default. The Office portal looks like this.

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The App Launcher looks like this (I’ve ordered my tiles differently to default)

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And this is where life become super cool!!!

When you clicked this icon a few months ago you jumped into the OneDrive for Business notebook by default. Well now we get a splash screen with all the notebooks I have access to. VERY COOL Open-mouthed smile

This is how it looks.

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Now there are some interesting things to notice about this.

  • It is listing all my notebooks, from OneDrive for Business and my Office 365 Unified Groups and team sites. Which is giving my entire notebook estate.
  • The url is actually pointing out to the consumer services at this point. In this example it was https://www.onenote.com/notebooks?auth=2# more on that later in the article.

Clicking into a notebook takes you into the WOPI/Office Online version as you are used too. We’re now back inside our tenant by url.

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Things get even better for us…. You’ll see the splash screen now moves the ‘Quality’ notebook up the order as we’ve recently interacted with it.

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One final thing, when you’re in a notebook you can still quickly skip to another by clicking the ‘Notebooks’ link in the left hand panel. This launches the splash screen again.

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OneNote.com

Now it’s interesting to see the consumer services and the Office 365 service getting some crossover, we know it’s coming as the API is already ‘unified’ to interact with both.

When you visit www.onenote.com you can log in with either Microsoft Account or your Work account and the app will work out what to show you.

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Signing in with your Office 365 work account gives us the already familar splash listing.

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If we log in with our Microsoft Account we get our personal notebooks (from OneDrive normally).

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Wrapping it up

So hopefully this has shown some of the new updates to the OneNote experience that can be shared across the organisation. It also reinforces the value of the web application versions of the Office clients.

OneDrive for Business gets a new user experience

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The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that Microsoft have released an update to the web interface of OneDrive for Business. It now looks and functions in a very similar way to the personal consumer version of OneDrive.

OneDrive for Business look and feel.

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OneDrive consumer look and feel. (i’ve just redacted the names of my personal stuff, it doesn’t really have the blobs of colour all over it)

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To me this feels like a great improvement in the user experience, and probably a good view an Office Fabric use. Microsoft did say that OneDrive for Business was utilising the Office Fabric. One challenge with this unification will be helping your employees to understand the differences, how to identify the UI so they understand where they are. I can already see some tricky consulting conversations ahead with regards the obvious questions around helping an employee differentiate one from the other. We always have to remember those of us living and breathing Office365 24/7 are actually not a ‘typical’ employee Winking smile. The most obvious element is the ‘Office 365’ wording in the suitebar.

A tour of some of the features

Lets take a walk around the new features. While this isn’t an exhaustive list it should help get a footing.

View formats and options

We can switch between viewing formats with the following buttons in the action bar.

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Sort is fairly self explanatory and changes the sorting of the main view.

The little block icon next to it toggles the main view from details to icons.

Details view

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Icons view

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Document details

The ‘hover panel’ is no more. Personally i’m really glad to see the removal of the hover panel idea, it always felt clunky to me and was a really bad experience on a touch enabled device.

Selection of a document is now super easy even with a fingertip.

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You can see the action bar become contextual with the common action now available for that file.

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You can also invoked the menu from the item ‘…’ option as well.

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Opening the details panel now provides an in-depth view of the selected document. The file previewer for an Office Document shows the contents. If you select a folder you get the large folder preview icon and an item count for that folder.

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Return to the older UI style

Simply click the bottom left

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Which takes the view back to the older one.

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Help panel

The new ‘Help’ panel also lights up with new content for this interface. Access it by clicking the ‘?’ icon on the suitebar. This is something that you can encourage employees to click through when they enter an area of Office 365 they are less familiar with. Microsoft are starting to bring some more useful and engaging information in through this mechanism and I’d encourage organisations to begin to highlight this feature as a good way to aid learning.

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First item prompt.

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Second item shows a small animation in the panel.

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Third item prompt.

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Fourth item prompt.

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UserVoice

As you may be aware Microsoft like to hear from their consumer base about their changes and any ideas they might have via UserVoice. The specific OneDrive for Business is here: https://onedrive.uservoice.com/forums/262982-onedrive/category/86090-onedrive-for-business

Summing it all up

So these new user experience changes are great, one thing that struck me was no mention of them on the roadmap site http://success.office.com/en-us/roadmap.

OneDrive for Business site folders page

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Recently Microsoft updated OneDrive for Business on Office 365 with some new features. Full details can be read in their blog: https://blog.onedrive.com/onedrive-for-business-updates-web-user-experience/

As you can see below a new left navigation item has appeared called ‘Site Folders’.

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This takes you to a new screen which shows all the sites which you have followed as shown below.

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Hovering over an item allows you to click into it.

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Clicking in shows the libraries within the that site.

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One final observation is that the page itself lives off the ‘Social’ list in the users ‘personal site’ (For the techies out there the MySite Personal site equivalent). So in theory it could be manipulated, although this is of course risky.

Thoughts on the UX and Features for this update

So looking at the implementation as it stands I think there are still some possible enhancements that could be made.

UI Design and considerations for your branding

As you can see from the screen grabs, the site logo is being brought into the UI for the page. So this page suffers the same issue as the ‘Sites’ page when the client branding implementation uses the same site logo for every site. This information becomes repetitive and adds little value. So if you are considering a global branding implementation maybe it would be worth considering a more statically defined ‘logo’ image and allowing the individual sites to use their own logo. This would help this page pop more visually. This global logo in the suite bar is also on Microsoft’s public roadmap for implementation.

Site naming

Site naming is brought even more to the fore for this page (It was already evident on the ‘sites’ page). Many sites are not being named with these features in mine, so when presented with a list like this and the ‘sites’ page the sites are actually hard to differentiate. So when thinking about a site naming scheme it will be important to think about this capability at the same time. How you can message this to end users, especially once the new ‘Group’ features come along and end users have the potential to be creating new site collections associated to mailbox and Yammer groups. Maybe a good method is to provision sites with names to give appropriate length urls then retro fit a more descriptive site title.

Information presented

So there is a very basic collection of information presented, Name and site logo and a followed or modified date depending which level of the hierarchy you are on. In my opinion this isn’t really as useful as it could be. It also causes some confusion with the dates where it switches from date followed to modified. It doesn’t make it clear what was modified, it also doesn’t seem to add value to the experience as you can not filter or sort by either date.