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GoBinder vs. OneNote Part 1 – Incorporating my straightforward?!? filing system

Well as I promised to provide an update on this about a squillian years ago I thought I’d better make a start on it.

The amount of commentary that will accompany this challenge is, through my natural tendency to talk endlessly, going to be…..well.…endless really. So therefore in this initial post, I will only be setting out to give a bit of clarity on the filing system I use with its component parts and how I have slotted that system into my paperless routine through GoBinder and the new ‘contender’ (for me) OneNote.  Once I’ve got everyone familiarised with that (or more probably completely and utterly confused) I can go on to discuss how successfully (or not) I’m getting on with it.

One of my problems is that my brain never does as it’s told. It regularly enjoys going off on tangents and taking the rest of me with it. For instance I’ll make an arrangement with my brain to spend two hours reading a course book. All fine and well except the two hours of ‘book time’ pass by and the book, in its still unopened position on the desk, glares at me in disgust as Mr. Brain continues to distract me with a whistle-stop tour of the most pointless and irrelevant websites on the Internet (including mine). It’s unbelievable; he’s done this for years and he’s driven me demented. So when I returned to education, fear of only getting a degree in mindless web surfing, forced me to formulate (in the style of a mad chemist) a way to keep him in check.

The solution came by instituting complete control through an organised filing system which of course has had to have been adapted and incorporated into my paperless system. So, using an explanation akin to a Rocket Science lecture and using the new semester as a model here’s how it works:

This semester I am doing three different modules – Ancient History (AN2002), Mediaeval History (ME2004) and Art History (AH1003). The codes in the brackets are the module codes as designated by the university and I use these ‘codes’ as a part of my system. Using the Mediaeval History module (ME2004) as an example I use the module code as follows:

For lectures I append a letter L and sequentially number each lecture i.e. ME2004 L01, ME2004 L02, ME2004 L03 etc. and for tutorials I append a letter T and again sequentially number them i.e. ME2002 T01, ME2002 T02 etc.

So what I end up with folks is a unique id code for each and every lecture and tutorial that I’ve got during the semester. (Clever eh?.....well maybe more obvious than clever) Anyway I go on to use each unique code to label everything associated with the parent event such as my own lecture notes, the lecturer handouts (with an HO added to the code i.e. ME2001 HO L01), the audio recordings of the lectures (I don’t record Art History lectures as my voice recorder doesn’t have the capacity, at a decent recording level, to hold all three lectures each day :o( ) and any ‘web finds’, articles etc.

To keep things even tidier I also create a separate folder within each module to house the lectures and tutorials and I also create a module support folder (for throwing general ‘stuff’ in like maps, timelines etc.) I create all of these folders in ‘quiet time’ before the semester begins as soon as I know the lecture and tutorial schedule for each module. (it isn’t all sugar and spice though as I also get to see just how much work I’ve got ahead of me…gulp!!)

So how does this work out in GoBinder? It’s been my weapon of choice for a while now so it the best thing to demonstrate with. So here’s some pretty screenies to hopefully illustrate how my system works.

First up is an upper-level view of the Mediaeval (ME2004) folder:


What you can see (I hope) is the folders laid out for the different components. I use !’s to order the folders to how I want them. At present both the essay and Support Material folders are empty but they are there for when I need them. You should also notice the tabs for the other two modules in the screenie.

Now, if you dare, we'll venture inside the parent ME2004 lecture folder:


Here you can see all of the pre-prepared folders for each lecture all sporting their respective code number. They all have the lecture title included so I know that’s coming up. The first year that I used this system I used the codes without the lecture title and it wasn’t the helpful (not surprisingly). Note: The lecture folders that have [*] are lectures I’ve already had. This isn’t essential but helps me quickly see what’s what.

Lastly, for GoBinder, is a view inside one of the lecture folders – in this case ME2004 L01:


Here’s how the folder looks post-lecture when everything is crammed in. My ‘live’ notes are first in the list followed by an imported copy of the lecturer’s handout. Lastly is an imported copy of the audio recording of the lecture.

Now I think I may have made it clear that I can’t function without my storage & retrieval system in place so it is essential, if I am to possibly migrate to it in the future, that I am able to incorporate the same system into Onenote.

Emmm…..well, probably through inexperience with the program (and this is where you guys are going to help me I’m sure), I’m not overly impressed so far. I don’t get the same Explorer-esque view which is a bit disappointing so the only way I could think of replicating my set-up was to create a folder and then throw my sections into it. Here’s another pretty screenie:


The first thing you will notice is how atrocious my handwriting is. It looks like a litter of puppies have just jumped into a tray of paint and then ran across a sheet of paper. Well I apologise for that but these notes were made during my first day wrestling with OneNote and I had to keep up with a breakneck lecture speed (that’s my excuse anyway).

Ok you will notice I’m inside my ‘lecture folder’ but I’ve had to create all of my lecture pages in the one section which I’m not keen on really. I thought of using a new page for each lecture and then setting subpages for the related handouts etc. but for some reason I went with a separate section for lecturer handouts. I’m also not keen on the fact that I don’t seem to be able to expand the tab view to see the whole title of the lecture (although I suppose this would reduce the size of the paper) and I have to ‘mouse over’ or open the tab to see it Not a major inconvenience I know but one that made me mildly irritated. One thing I haven’t done yet is to create an audio file section (strange because that’s the sole reason I’ve used OneNote in the past). I think though I’ll just append the recording to the actual lecture page which would be a plus when compared to GoBinder. However I’ll speak more about that in a post that is not solely about the filing system. 

What’s my initial impressions then?  (bearing in mind that it IS early days with OneNote and I’m sure that I’m not aware of the many features that will 1) allow me to better incorporate my system 2)give me tools to do the job better). Well as I’ve said before I’m not overly impressed and my initial impression is not one of hope. Maybe I’m just so used to GoBinder and have things so down to a tee that I’m out of my depth with OneNote. I’ve heard rumours that OneNote 12 (sorry 2007) addresses some of these initial issues I’ve got but as I’m also pretending to ignore what I DO know is coming in GoBinder 2006 it isn’t fair to pitch one forthcoming version (which I do know about) against another (which I’m merely speculating about). So I’ve got to judge on what I DO have in front of me. So probably unfairly GoBinder has won the first round in my opinion.

Now they’ve both stumbled off to their respective corners to await the bell. Stay tuned for the Ding! Ding! and the start of Round 2


Great post for those who are really looking to implement these programs to go paper-less. As a business user who both teaches & takes classes, I find the tips helpful.
I use primarily OneNote on my Tablet PC (several models, but primarily IBM's X41), and have found the audio integration invaluable. I suppose much of that hinges on the mic setup being satisfactory on your machine, but I've been pleased. It can linked with your text/ handwriting in very creative ways, so that the audio begins as you scroll through those notes, if you'd like.
Also, I do use the OneNote subpages, but find little benefit, other than that they are linked to the same title automatically. I don't see intuitive ways to "expand/condense" the top & sub-pages, which the more Explorer-like interface of GoBinder allows.
The huge differences between GoBinder & OneNote seem to lie primarily in their different visual interfaces: OneNote clearly modeled its style on a huge tab-edge section binder, like we used back in grade school. It's cute & versatile, but doesn't seem as navigate-able as the Explorer-Window style of GoBinder. Reminds me a bit of comparing MSN Explorer to IE in terms of cuteness vs content. The other problem that's very apparent with OneNote is that printing from the pages almost always selects too much content because of the way the pages are stored. (Perhaps this problem is related to my frequent use of sub-pages)
Even with all that said, OneNote stores hundreds of pages for me which I refer to daily. If you'd like a more interactive/ visual tab-style organizer for your digital info (and would rarely need to print out items there), it'll very likely work for you.
So the above is just my .02, but I hope it might help those deciding between the 2 programs.

Hi Ismail - Many thanks for taking the time to respond. You've given me a lot of great stuff to think about.

Ive used OneNote primarily in the past solely for its 'audio integration' It's a magnificent feature, made many times more useful with the audio bookmarking. So I'm sold on that feature of OneNote entirely (although I have to use a separate voice recorder and play it back through ON as my internal mic is frankly rubbish). I'm interested in this "audio beginning as you scroll through the notes" feature though never heard of it.

As you say the interfaces of both packages are quite different and I think that's where my initial problem with ON lies so far. I'm just so used to the GB interface and not so used to the one used by ON. However it would be entirely unfair for me to belittle ON just because I'M not used to it. So I'm trying not to be too judgemental until I am used to it.

I do like the way ON stores it's sections as separate files unlike the single file GB format which I always think is a bit vulnerable to corruption (although that's never happened to me yet...touch wood!)

As for printing out..well having this (unhealthy) obsessive paperless ethos I consider printers to be the invention of the devil so this ON printing issue you've pointed out isn't a problem for me.

I'm getting more and more used to the way ON works as time progresses and the big divide, I've put between them, seems to be lessening. I guess only time will tell if I can convert over (especially with all these new ON 2007 features we're being promised).

Thanks again for taking the time to respond Ismail

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