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OneNote has many strengths but search is a major weakness


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OneNote search syntax from tests

 The default for a multiword search on the Windows 10 Office 365 OneNote native app is the boolean operator AND but the default for a multiword search on OneNote browser app is the boolean operator OR.

Crazy but true. Different versions of OneNote have different search functionality.

Improving search has been a feature request since 2014 and little has changed in the last five years.

As previously discussed, Evernote style tag searches are extremely limited therefore cannot be recommended.

What works best is the old fashion "notebook" method. A hierarchical structure of "folders" is created and the notes dropped into them to create order.

For OneNote permits levels: notebook, grouped section, section, page, subpage.

Search can be narrowed to the notebook, section or page.

Macros can be applied to the notebook, section or page but also selected sections.

 

File graveyard

One person described SharePoint as a file graveyard. They were referring to their own experience that things are hard to find due to a weak search function. The way one person files things rarely makes sense to anybody else. One becomes reliant on one's memory and the memory of others with a weak search.

 This comment may also apply for OneNote. Keywords must match to find anything at all. The search is not case sensitive. There are no recommendations for similar spellings.

 

SYNTAX FROM TESTS

 Windows 10 Office 365 OneNote native app

 This works:

CAT OR DUCK OR EMU

CAT AND DUCK AND EMU = cat duck emu

"CAT EMU"

 

General rules:

AND and OR operators only permitted but they cannot be mixed in the same boolean expression.

The search does not distinguish between upper and lower case.

 

Does not work:

Boolean operator AND and OR in the same string.

 

OneNote browser app

Using the browser app-only options are "CAT EMU" or without quotation marks. Without quotation marks is the boolean operator OR (not AND as for the native app).

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