Ditch your paper notebooks and store class material in the cloud with Microsoft’s best-kept secret.

Note taking can be a pain. Adding to the annoying fact that you’re stuck in class, having to listen to a vapid instructor or T.A. drone on endlessly, but you’re also expected to record what they’re saying fast enough to not miss a beat. The simple truth is, if you don’t know how to write shorthand or aren’t the Flash, you probably can’t write as fast as your professor is talking, so you’re likely still writing one point well after they’ve moved on to the next. Most people of our generation, however, can type much faster than we can write by hand, due to years of training with online instant messaging. But until recently, no particularly good program was available that was fluid enough to let you take notes in an organized, yet simple way. Luckily, OneNote is the answer to this problem.

It’s highly likely you’ve never heard of OneNote, despite the fact that you probably already own it if you have Microsoft Office installed. Even though it’s one of Microsoft’s greatest accomplishments since the Xbox, it somehow has slipped under the radar due to a severe lack of marketing. OneNote is a great way of taking notes on the fly by giving you access to all your notes at once, separated into different notebooks based on subject, and then subdivided into sections and pages which can easily be rearranged. Important notes that you need to keep your eye on throughout can be docked to the desktop, showing up as a thin bar along the side of OneNote. Since it automatically saves with every change and then syncs with the cloud, you can then effortlessly switch from one computer to another, or view them on your mobile devices with the OneNote app for smartphones and tablets, available for Android, iOS and Windows phones.

Ease of access is great, but what really makes OneNote a fantastic note taking tool is the flexibility that it provides. Unlike word processors, you can type anywhere on the page and then effortlessly rearrange text boxes. Then, you can add in lines, graphs, bullet points, equations and more to help organize the information. On top of that, OneNote seamlessly allows users to insert entire powerpoint presentations, emails, web pages, or web clippings, which is amazingly handy when an instructor has provided supplemental lecture notes. You can even record audio or video notes simultaneously, which cuts down greatly on the amount of hassle.  Tags or highlights can be added as well, so you can simply run a quick search within the program to find all the information you need on a particular subject.After you’re done, you can share entire notebooks with group members or fellow classmates, or email individual pages. When you share a notebook with someone else, any sections or pages that have been changed are automatically made bold, and areas that have been altered are shown in green.

For someone looking for a simpler, faster, or more ecofriendly way to take notes in class, OneNote is definitely the most polished option available. While programs like Evernote are quite handy in recording quick thoughts or saving web pages found on the web, OneNote’s ease of use and ability to act as an omnibus hub of all the information you’d ever record in class makes it a step above the current competition. While open source software is available, its inclusion with Office suite makes it hard to pass up and well worth the initial investment.