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I like wikis for knowledge gathering / sharing but the usability of many of them could be better in my opinion (for example, MediaWiki is popular but has quite complicated and verbose syntax which can put some people off).

OneNote, on the other hand, is fairly easy to use and also can be viewed as a kind of wiki. However, I have only experience with OneNote as a single user on a local PC. I'm not sure about these things:

  • Is there a version history stored for every page? Can I do diffs between revisions?
  • Can OneNote "wiki" be hosted as an intranet website, i.e. something like a self-hosted OneNote Web Application? Or are Microsoft services like Office 365 or SkyDrive the only ways to view OneNote pages in the browser?
  • Can OneNote pages have their URLs I could link to?

In general, do you think it is viable to use OneNote as an enterprise wiki? What advantages and disadvantages will it have?

4

I'll tackle your specific bullet-point questions to the best of my ability and then try to give an answer as a PM using such a tool.

  • Version history is per user per page; this is a different function than the Show Revisions functionality (and is an action in a different group in the ribbon, too)
  • OneNote files are viewable in the browser only in conjunction with the "Share to Web" functionality which works with other MS services like OneDrive, OneDrive for Business & SharePoint.
  • When shared online in this manner (as above), I believe the URLs are at the file level.

As a PM, or as part of a team that does a lot of collaborative editing and document sharing, I would not use OneNote in the way that you've described unless:

  • Your environment already has a good deal of OneNote use
  • Your systems/IT folks are ready to support this sort of collaborative work (which may include the installation of additional services in-house, such as SharePoint)
  • No one in the org or on the team uses a Mac, because OneNote is not in the Office for Mac suite.

As a PM, I look for collaborative tools that are easily adoptable, easily supported, and have collaborative elements already built in...and that typically ends up being a wiki -- either standalone or built into other document- and knowledge-management tool suites.

3

My team is using OneNote informally in a way similar to what you describe. It works for us, but probably won't scale to more than a dozen or so. jcmeloni makes some good points worth thinking about.

We're sharing OneNote notebooks on a shared drive. It does very well at multiple users at the same time, and flags changes since last entry to the notebook for each user. We don't use a web browser, although there are URLs that can be pasted into various Office objects (tasks, calendar entries, etc).

The version history available has worked for us, but hasn't been a big deal, either. We're a small team (6) all located in the same office, easy to get up and go ask someone what they did and why if necessary.

The really big advantage we see over the wikis we've used is the easy of including screenshots. With OneNote running, WINDOWS-S lets you capture part of the screen, and it is very easy to paste directly into a OneNotej page. No intermediate steps of creating an image file and then uploading. Having easy screenshots has saved us a lot of time in UI discussions and defect notes.

Hope that helps.

  • Easy work with screenshots is also something I like about OneNote / Word, good point. It is also nice to have a "wiki" page only a Win+N far away. Plus good search. My problem with OneNote is that it is a binary format that is not easily viewable / editable from the browser, may be hard to version-control using tools like Git should we need to, one is basically tied to the functionality that Microsoft provides etc. Simple text-based wiki is what I'm leaning towards now but the usability is a bit worse, that's for sure. – Borek Bernard Jan 16 '12 at 23:50
  • on the screenshots: if you have a modern browser you can use something like: jsfiddle.net/KJW4E/83 for easier uploading screenshots. Skips the creating an image. Needs more work to actually upload the data. But in saying that my team of 6 has recently started using onenote and it is completely sufficient (so far) for us. – James Khoury Nov 7 '13 at 1:25
  • I love OneNote's Windows+S functionality. Unfortunately Microsoft squashed it in Windows 8 by making it open Windows search. – Jeremy Cook Jun 17 '15 at 20:52
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I've personally used OneNote as my goto knowledge base and recently have worked on a few teams that are using Office365, which in many cases includes Sharepoint (depending on O365 license level). This allows for notebooks to be shared amongst both internal and external teams. As all of my recent teams have been using Office for the other tools (i.e. Word & Excel) to produce documents the infrastructure is already there for them to use OneNote as a Knowledge Base.

From the OneNote application you can click on any notebook page or section and obtain a link to the section. If this is a notebook hosted on sharepoint you can then share that link with team members to access the notes via the OneNote App, OneNote desktop client or via the Web.

It can help to have different note books for different projects rather than a single large notebook with multiple sections. When you have separate notebooks on sharepoint you can control access and thus restrict who can read/edit a workbook by projecte team members.

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