I like my Windows Phone 7, but I love its support for One Note and SkyDrive.
Getting it all to work
However the whole integration story is a bit temperamental. Here are my tips for getting everything to work nicely together on the phone, in the SkyDrive web editor, and in Office on the desktop:
- If you’ve got yourself in a mess, reset Office on the phone. I’ve done this several times with minimum pain. Use Settings –> Applications –> Office –> Reset Office.
- When you set up Office on the phone it creates a One Note notebook called Personal (Web) inside the Documents folder in SkyDrive. Don’t rename it. Don’t move it. Renaming is the obvious one – it will break the link. But I thought it would be OK to move it. It isn’t. I did so and it worked great for a bit, but the next time I reset Office on the phone it created a new one in the Documents folder and linked to that one instead. Pain. Incidentally, it’s completely safe to reset Office when the Documents\Personal (Web) notebook exists and has content – it preserves all existing notes and sections.
- When you reset Office on the phone it creates rather boring “Explore Microsoft …” documents. It looks at first like you can’t delete them, but in fact the Word / Excel / Powerpoint ones are in the “Phone” location in the “locations” area. If you touch and hold them in there you can delete them. The OneNote one is in your Personal (Web) folder and is easy to delete in there.
What’s in the Launch Area?
This is what I’m calling the home screens in Office on the phone that show you the tiles. There is one for notes, and another for documents. How does the phone decide what tiles to show?
Both OneNote and Word / Excel scan SkyDrive when you setup or reset Office in order to populate this area. OneNote scans down through all SkyDrive folders looking for notebooks, while for other documents only the top level folder in SkyDrive is scanned. In both areas the first 16 notes / documents it finds are displayed.
After that anything you view or edit on your phone is added to the notes or documents area – it becomes a most recently used feature. The limit remains 16 documents.
So if you create a note or document on your phone it appears here, but notes or documents you create in SkyDrive on another computer don’t appear here until you navigate to them and open them (by going to the locations / SkyDrive link in the Office app).
Where is my document stored when I create it on the phone?
- OneNote puts all new notes in the SkyDrive / Documents / Personal (Web) / Unfiled Notes section
- Word and Excel put all documents in the root of SkyDrive
How do I organise OneNote?
Your phone will create new note pages in the “Unfiled Notes” section of the Personal IWeb) notebook. But if you have a lot of notes you won’t want to keep them there.
I recommend moving them. First, open SkyDrive in the browser. Then click on “Open in OneNote”. Using the desktop app create new sections in the Personal (Web) notebook (e.g. Home, Work etc) then move your unfiled notes into them. As far as I can tell only the desktop app allows you to move notes around, the web interface doesn’t support this.
Once you’ve moved them they are still viewable and editable on the phone. But notes you create on the phone will always go into “Unfiled Notes”. There’s no way of adding notes to a specific section from the phone.
So what have I got at the end of all this?
- Whatever system you use, Getting Things Done or (my favourite) Getting Results the Agile Way you can create and manage daily / weekly / monthly lists on your phone.
- The lists sync automatically to SkyDrive, and you can do more advanced juggling on OneNote on your desktop.
- You can keep trivial spreadsheets such as paying in / expenses on your phone and sync / edit them in the same way.
- Now I know there are lots of competing apps and cloud solutions for all this, but MIcrosoft have very nearly got this one right. Maybe with Windows Phone 8 there will finally be a cohesive story.