Thursday, April 30, 2015

OneNote Tags and Summary Page

OneNote Tags and Summary Page - Managing a Pile of Stuff

I have been feeding content ideas for blog posts into OneNote using IFTTT and Feedly. Now I have a very large collection of "stuff" that needs a bit of structure. Search functionality in OneNote is great, but my content is tightly clustered around a few topics, so search result redundancy makes the process of retrieving information a bit tedious.

It's hard to get things done without a structure and clear process.

So, how do you collect content, retrieve it quickly, with some organization, without buying your own Google appliance?

How I Collect

The first method is IFTTT (If This, Then That) an online tool that triggers specific actions when a specific event occurs. When I mark a Feedly story "Save for Later", IFTTT sends a message to my GMAIL account with the details from the article. This captures the details I need for proper citation and for context. Also, it preserves large articles intact. Sometimes a single phrase catches my interest, sometimes a well-structured paragraph. At my age it pays to capture a bit more detail. Anytime I post a new blog I have IFTTT send me a copy.

When I read any great content I may copy and paste the text or pictures or infographics directly into OneNote. Again, citation and context are captured. If the content can be grouped on an existing page, I insert/paste the information on that page adding my notes, commentary and editorial as needed. The automatic hyperlinking in OneNote makes citation a breeze.

Code, Content, Creative, and Community

While earning my degree in Web Development, in the old days - the stone ages, actually - a century ago, we discussed code and content almost as a single concept since HTML was buried in the page, and creative (color and pictures) as the "3Cs" framework for development. Community is the final addition as the social web changed the dynamics from a publisher/reader framework to a symbiotic framework. 

For those that work in the new HTML5 standard, significant strides in removing code from the content makes a clear break between code and content. Style sheets (CSS) and page templates are a huge benefit. My CSS file is a couple pages long. My content page, minus the actual content, is only 60 lines of META content and code for navigation. 

 My OneNote section structure is fairly simple and reflects the 4-C model: I have a section for my "Process" which collects the How to…, Best Practices, Tips and Tricks for blogging. SEO and Keyword strategy is a good example. The process section contains some of the "creative" detail of layouts, color choices, and content structure.

Blog metrics and targets (top secret stuff) are captured in a rudimentary dashboard - representing community and engagement.
Code problems and solutions are captured in a section. When I spend time to find a solution I want to make sure I don't have to re-spend that time. Notice the hyperlink back to the solution? Here is an example of using HTML Includes from my SEO-HTML-CSS section (embedding object should be easy, and I need to work on my PHP):

Content is captured  for each of my Blogs in their own section. A cover page contains specific notes for style, tone of voice, outlines for content, audience profiles. Pages represent potential topics with the notes that eventually to be crafted into posts. I even have a content decision workflow.

How to Tag in OneNote

The steps are basic, but the thought process to set your own rules may take a few test runs.
  1. Insert your cursor next to the item you want to tag
  2. Click on the TAGS drop down menu (located in the HOME section of the ribbon)
  3. Select (click) to add your Tag

OneNote has a couple dozen tags, and you can edit/customize an existing tag, or create your own custom tag. Icons, highlight colors and other variations make this markup very cool. 

Three Tips

TIP #1 - If you like to check boxes as done, use a check box style tag -- you cannot check a phone number as "done".

TIP #2: Consider the smallest number of Tags possible. You can always expand later on, but having 463 Tags to choose from complicates the learning process and makes the summary page hard to manage.

TIP #3: OneNote can "Flag" tasks and integrate with Outlook. Items marked with a "To Do" Tag will show up in the Tasks View. It's OK to use the To Do feature for actual To Do activities, but you probably do not want to clutter your Outlook task list with your content management work.   

How to Retrieve Tags and Create a Summary

Going back to tag several hundred pages is not going to be fun. But, once tagged, and once the discipline to tag new content as it arrives, I gain access to a very powerful OneNote feature, a feature hidden in plain view under a ribbon item called "Find Tags".

Clicking the Find Tags option will open a panel called Tags Summary, which will list out the items with tags. 

A couple of quick features help narrow the Summary. Choose the "Show only unchecked items" box to ignore completed items. And, restrict the Summary to "This Notebook" or section, or to items that are new today, or items in other time-frames. 

When you have the items you want, click the "Create Summary Page" button… and magic.

Summary Page Magic

Magic is having all of your tags, sorted, grouped and displayed on a single page. OneNote inserts a new page into your current notebook - a simple list with each tag as a header, or by date, or by which section the tag is pulled from. Use the Refresh Results button to collect new items.

The example below shows my custom tag called Idea/Topic - using a light bulb as the icon and a yellow highlight. The tag is the same on the content page as it is in this summary page. The Web site to visit tag even brings the URL onto the summary page.

The OneNote tag summary page is providing a user defined, user driven, task list. This is a very nice way to get things done without surfing your entire notebook. If you mark all of your potential content as "Content for XYZ Blog" you can create a group in the summary. Mark all movie and book suggestions and you get your "what to watch" or "what to read list".

Fine Tuning

Earlier I recommended that you keep your tag list as small as possible. Once you have a created and worked through a few summary pages you can fine tune your list. Add a few more tags to help set priority, look for new steps to include in your workflow. Consider new activities like: add all phone numbers to my contacts list. Make your personal adjustments so that the Summary Page moves from nice to powerful.

Bottom Line

  • OneNote is great for collecting ideas, collecting content, collecting stuff.
  • OneNote has a solid Search feature, but search results can become very noisy, cluttered and can waste time. 
 If you want your stuff presented as structured results, with actionable data, try tagging a few items and see if you agree that the Tags and the Summary Page are a wonderful OneNote feature.

~ Xolo

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