Using Microsoft OneNote as an ELN

Electronic research data documentation can be achieved with either comprehensive software applications or “do-it-yourself” solutions. Whereas the first is often quite cost intensive, the latter one is usually labor intensive to set it up properly. An interesting intermediary solution is provided by Microsoft OneNote:
Guerrero and colleagues compared different electronic lab notebook (ELN) applications and found that Microsoft OneNote is very competitive in its capabilities compared to dedicated solutions (LINK). A survey also revealed that its users preferred OneNote compared to other solutions. Last year, the same group described the adaptation of OneNote to the lab environment (LINK) and touched on the following aspects:

  • Structure and labeling: Here, the research unit needs to agree on the organization of generated research data and on having a convention for naming and classifying different experiments
  • Data acquisition: OneNote allows saving of raw data within the program and hyperlinking of larger files
  • Data presentation: Tools are described for data presentation and connecting with other Microsoft applications, e.g. integration of Microsoft Excel
  • Sharing: OneNote provides comprehensive sharing features which makes collaborations easy
  • Storing, securing and legalizing: With specific settings and usage of Microsoft SharePoint it is even possible to be FDA Code Title 21 Part11 compliant and files can be backed up in a OneNote file format – only the implementation of legally binding time stamps does not seem to be currently possible.

Overall, this article provides many practical tips on establishing OneNote as an alternative to a conventional lab notebook.
An interesting resource for additional reading material is the blog by Dr Martin Engel. In his posts he describes the transition from paper-based lab notebooks to OneNote (LINK) or the use of OneNote (LINK) in more detail.

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