DBA Checklists: Check out Free OneNote in Office Live

OneNote in Office online makes it easy to create and share notebooks with many checklists. The checklists include version tracking.

DBAs tend to use and share a lot of checklists– things like installation and configuration sequences, patching instructions, quarterly system review processes, change/deployment  plans, etc. Sequencing of tasks is important, and sharing status of the tasks easily is extremely helpful.

Essentially, to be successful as a DBA you need to be able to express and document processes simply in a way that others can understand, either for compliance reasons or so they can carry out the tasks themselves.

I use OneNote all the time at work for checklists and I don’t know what I’d do without it. It integrates beautifully with SharePoint 2010 and is great for collaborative checklists. It allows me to easily map out the steps for a project, hand off tasks to others, and share the status of the project. It’s invaluable for later answering the question, “why did we do that?”

Now OneNote 2010 is available online as part of Windows Office Live and is free to use. I highly recommend trying it out.

How to Try it Out

Go to http://live.com. If you have a Windows Live ID, go ahead and sign in. Otherwise, click ‘Sign Up’ and walk through the wizard to create a Windows Live ID.

Once  you’re signed in, click the Office option on the top menu.

This will take you to the Office page. Click the OneNote button on the right to create a new online document.

You’ll be prompted to name your notebook and save it. It will automatically save into your SkyDrive space and then open your new OneNote Notebook.

The Trick For CheckLists

I’m going to describe below how to get started with OneNote, but it’s pretty intuitive and I imagine most people will just give it a shot without reading everything here. That’s what I would do.

So I’ll just say now, the main thing you need to know is this:

All you have to do to create a checkbox is hit CTRL+1.  Doing it again will check the box. Doing it a third time will remove the box.

You can do this with the mouse from the ‘Tag’ menu on the ribbon bar as well, but it’s really fast to do with the keyboard and with a little practice it’s easy as pie. Tasty, tasty checklist  pie.

One Note 101: Pages and sections

OneNote Notebooks are designed like those multi-section ring notebooks you had in school with dividers. Each notebooks can have lots of sections, and each section can have lots of pages.

When you start, you are in a new section named ‘Untitled Section’ and on a new page named ‘Untitled Page’.

To name the page, you just type where the cursor starts you out on the first line. The tab to the left will automatically update.

To rename the section, right click on ‘Untitled Section’ and select ‘Rename’.

Examples, and Why You May Want to Still Purchase Office 2010

An example of how I  use this at work is that I have a Notebook for patching a group of servers. I have a section for patching each month, and a page with a checklist for patching each server. I keep a separate section with the templates for the patching checklist.

I haven’t done an exhaustive search of the features in the online version, but I have noticed that a few things I know and love in the full application aren’t present: copying an entire section, copying or moving a page between sections, and emailing a page  in the body of an email. You can copy the contents of a page and paste them into another page, and you can take screenshots, but these are great conveniences in the full application.

The ribbon bar has a button sync your online notebooks into your local OneNote. I tried that out and it worked really well for me. As I mentioned above, OneNote also integrates really nicely with SharePoint 2010 in a similar way, so that’s another option at work. (You can save NoteBooks to SharePoint and use them successfully with previous versions, but 2010 has a really slick viewer/editor that’s similar to the online interface.)