OneNote Online

With the release of Office live apps I was really excited to be able to be able to move my OneNote files to the web. I had tried this before but the old Small Business option didn’t have enough storage space. The plus to that was that I had an idea of what I was doing. Since this is all new I thought that I would post a little of my experience.

My Old Setup
My old setup was a USB key that all of my OneNote files lived on. All of the files were synced to all of my PC’s by plugging in the USB key. This was actually very convenient for all of the laptops. Rarely does my stuff have to be continuously in sync and if I wanted to ensure absolute synchronization, say before getting on a plane, I could just plug in the USB key.

It was still imperfect because I often had to plug in 3 times to get 2 two computers to sync. That is, changes from computer A to the drive, changes from computer A to computer B via the drive and changes from computer B back to computer A.

OneNote Online
That of course is why I was looking forward to maintaining OneNote online. All in all the process was about what I expected. It seems to work fine for new notebooks but it’s still a  little rough around the edges when moving existing data up. For my own safety, I created a new notebook online with the same name as existing notebook and copied each section from the old notebook to the new, online notebook. Then I let the notebook sync online naturally. Warning, it can take a long time.

Most of my notebooks synced fine but a few of them kept throwing errors. Typical errors were that a section was too large or a generic error that the section couldn’t sync. All of them were finally solved, more on that later. Everything is now syncing.

So here are my tips:

  • Syncing can be very slow to move a lot of data up for the first time. Give yourself plenty of time
  • I found some oddities where I couldn’t delete sections from within OneNote. Deleting them from the web worked. Similarly, I would delete items locally and they would come back when syncing. Deleting them from the online version worked. This only happened occasionally and with sections that had trouble syncing. It was not common.
  • There doesn’t seem to be a really efficient way to get an existing notebook up to the cloud. I preferred to copy sections not move them in case something goes wrong.
  • To access the notebook on a second computer, open the notebook in and click Open in One Note.
  • Notes taken in Ink will sync back and forth but aren’t visible in the web app edition.
  • The online help for sync errors is essentially non-existent. Nothing led me to the error numbers, direct link, Bing, Google, nada.
  • For Sync errors:
    • If it’s a generic can’t sync error, try again. In my case my internet connection had lousy upload speeds and that was part of the problem.
    • For errors where the section is too large, the error log will show the specific section. Remove that section and add back parts one at a time.
    • Also if the section is too large, splitting it into multiple sections works fine. It was really hard to figure out why a section was too big. Often it didn’t seem to make any sense.
    • Pay attention to the recycle bin. Sometimes the error message actually refers to a recycle bin section that won’t sync. Empty the recycle bin for that notebook locally. (Right Click on a notebook name and pick Notebook Recycle Bin)
    • In a few cases, creating a new section with a different name and copying each item separately seemed to fix the issue.

I think that’s about it. My OneNote files total about a 1.5 gigs so that should give you an idea of how much data I’m pushing.

3 Replies to “OneNote Online”

  1. I’m quite disapointed. I bought OneNote 2010 for the cloud capabilities so I could access it via my MacBook Pro. I have a far smaller notebook that has several group of sections and in them sections with some PDFs. It makes up to a few hundred megs. But it won’t sync my groups of section, saying they are too big. Now I don’t get what you mean by adding parts one at a time since you cannot syncronize at the sections level, just the whole notebook.

  2. Anonymous,

    1) The errors tab should tell you which notebook won’t sync. Move that notebook out to a different, local OneNote Notebook.

    2) Keep doing this until it syncs.

    3) What’s left in that local OneNote notebook are the sections that have to be split into more sections.

    4) I haven’t figured out what the issue is. I have some very heavy graphic tabs that sync just fine and some other PDF printout tabs that don’t.

    For me, it was absolutely worth it and I have had any sync issues once I got the intial sync resolved.


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