10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All The Time [Windows]

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onenote 300   10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All The Time [Windows]I am going to ruffle a few feathers here by saying that Microsoft OneNote is just as good as Evernote. Evernote is probably more barebones and easier to handle, while OneNote is the digital equivalent of a binder, giving you more organizational control.

The showdown will continue, so for the sake of productivity and peace, let’s say that both are great note-taking apps with their pros and cons. I use both, as and when the purpose dictates it. And I have come to love both because they have made me more organized with my note-taking.

We have covered a bit of OneNote’s capabilities with:

But effective note-taking requires as many tips and tricks you can pull together. So, here for your productive pleasure are ten more.

Create Your To-Do Lists in a Jiffy

That’s how you start your day. An organizer and a diary aren’t complete without a to-do. Here’s how you set up a quick to-do list in OneNote.

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You can start your daily to-do in a new Note page. Select the Home ribbon. Click on ‘To-Do’ in the tag box or use the shortcut key of CTRL+1.

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Type your first to-do item.  Hit Enter and then CTRL+1 to add succeeding items. If you complete your to-do, you can check them off one by one.

Use Templates and Get off The Starting Blocks

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Unlike other Office apps, OneNote doesn’t make it obvious where page templates are located. It’s probably because in OneNote, there are Notebooks and Pages, two different entities. But once you know where templates are located, using them for productivity could become a habit.

Click on the little dropdown above the page list on the right hand side of OneNote. Select Page Templates to locate the one you want to use under the different categories. You can choose a template and set it as the default template, or customize a page and set it as a template.

For The Visual – Doodle or Sketch Your Ideas

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A real world diary or organizer is not always neatly written. You find doodles, little sketches on the sides, and what not. OneNote being a digital equivalent gives you the Draw tab on the ribbon with quite a few drawing tools for visually representing your ideas. Draw your ideas…color them…flesh them out.

Feel Like Writing On Paper?

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Does a white sheet of paper make you more creative? Or maybe, it is the soothing yellow of a legal pad? OneNote isn’t about paper at all, but two simple choices can help you duplicate the feel of writing on paper. Check out the View tab on the ribbon. Combining Page Color and Rule Lines, you can create your own writing ‘environment’. You can even set the color of the ruled lines.

Carry Your Notes with You

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Note-taking is often a flash-of-the-moment process. One way to capture a note anytime anywhere is to quickly use the Android or iPhone apps that OneNote has. You can sync it across to your computer using SkyDrive as a bridge. After downloading the app, you need a Windows Live ID to log-in (same as for your SkyDrive account). You can create rich text notes with pictures, bulleted lists, checkboxes et.al.

You can capture instant photos with your phone camera and create a note from there. You can create multiple notes, and also view all your previous notes and notebooks on the first screen. All notes automatically get saved to your SkyDrive cloud. From the cloud, you can sync them across to your desktop OneNote too.

The combination of your mobile device and OneNote is great for capturing and archiving items like receipts and business cards.

The OCR Tool That’s already On Your Computer

I had mentioned in a previous article when we talked about Top 5 Free OCR Software Tools To Convert Images Into Text. The feature is retained in Microsoft OneNote 2010.

Open the document from where you would like to capture the text. Without OneNote opened and minimized, use the Windows + S shortcut (or the Screen Clipping tool in the Insert menu) to grab the section of the document you want to optically recognize.

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Send the screen clip to an OneNote page. Right-click on the image that is inserted in the page, and click on Copy Text from Picture. The optically-recognized text is copied to the Clipboard.

Multimedia as Quick Notes

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The quickest form of note-taking after photos is definitely recording of audio and video clips. In OneNote you can quickly record sound notes and videos (quick voice memos, meetings or class lectures) and insert them into your notes. Open the page and place the cursor where you would like to insert the media file. On the Insert tab, choose either Record Audio or Record Video. You can control the start, pause, and stop motions of the recording from the Audio-Video Playback menu.

Make Them Searchable Too

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OneNote’s Audio Search feature enables you to search your audio and video recordings for words, just like you would search for keywords in your notes. You can enable the Audio Search feature in Audio & Video Settings > Options > Audio and Video. If you have loads of voice memos, this could be a fast way of trawling through them to find the needed one.

Guard Your Privacy

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OneNote uses the 3DES encryption standard to password protect your sections on OneNote. This step is highly recommended if you are keeping any personal information like credit card info, passwords, legal documents etc.

To set a password for a section, click File > Password Protect this Section. Your section will be secured until you click and enter a password to unlock it. It will also be locked automatically after a period of time if you leave the section or leave your computer unattended.

The One OneNote Tip I Always Forget To Use

Simply because I don’t have to.  The tip is: you don’t have to save your notes, as OneNote does it automatically. It’s only when you need to save a notebook, page, or section, under a different name, you need to use the Save As…function.

These ten Onenote tips do not even begin to cover the awesome range of features OneNote gives you. OneNote is more often than not one of the neglected applications in the Office suite. But hopefully these ten tips just might make you turn your eyes away from the prima donnas and take a look at the wallflower who could be a princess. Do you use OneNote? Share your favorite OneNote productivity tips with us.

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52 Comments -

Greg

I love OneNote. I have tried and tried, and tried again to get used to and like EverNote, but I can’t. As a college student, OneNote gives me that layer of organization I need: tabbed chapters. EverNote stuffs all notes together, whereas OneNote gives me visual organization tools.

Mzolisi

Totally. Im using it to document technical docs at work and I havent had to use Notepads in a while or remember to save. I have layers of hierarchy using the Section groups-> sections -> Pages to Subpages and Subpages…..
MicroSoft got it right this time…

Lee

The thing I really like about Evernote is how well it syncs across everything (my iPod, my computer, and there’s even a web app for when you’re on a public computer or something), but OneNote is catching up in that area with SkyDrive.
I really like how OneNote integrates with other Office products, and it looks to have huge potential for note-taking in class. I’m going to college starting this week, so I’ll definitely be trying this out (I already setup all my classes and such in it). I love the template feature, it seems like it would make it so much easier to take better notes in a hurry (plus, most of the templates for education have a summary area at the end so it tries to make you review what you just learned so you learn it better, really neat!)

Thanks for posting these tips, they should really help! In fact, I copied this page into OneNote so I can reference it in a hurry :)

Saikat Basu

Good comment. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Feature for feature, OneNote is far more powerful than Evernote, and with SkyDrive things can only get better.

Erlis Dhima

I will consider using One Note now! :)

shahid

All these features are fine about OneNote. But what I like about Ever note is its ability to Search text on the photos/images.

Lee

I think OneNote does this too, as mentioned in the article.

Saikat Basu

True. OneNote does it too as I have mentioned.

dohRG

This calls for muo OneNote giveaway ;)

Sebastian Hadinata

I second that! OneNote Giveaway please ;D

juanDM4

now i need a way to make onenote portable… or a windows tablet :)

Sebastian Hadinata

Yes! It would be nice if its portable :D

Joel Lee

Aww man. I tried using OneNote when I was in seminary and I ended up using it as nothing more than a more-organized Word. I wish I had these tips back then!

Saikat Basu

Probably, OneNote didn’t have these tips back then :)

Sebastian Hadinata

Nice tips. Been using OneNote for long time now…

Tug Ricks

Thanks for the tips! After taking a few years off, I went back to school this past semester. I used OneNote, but I had no idea how to take advantage of all its features. The next semester begins in a couple of weeks, and hopefully OneNote will help me to study more efficiently and be more organized. Great stuff!

Saikat Basu

Well, there are more where these came from. Ten tips doesn’t begin to describe the powerful features of OneNote. Thanks for your feedback :)

Tug Ricks

Keep ‘em coming. :)

Stephen Booth

I’d love to use both. Unfortunately, at work, our proxy supplier (Bluecoat) lists Evernote as if it were a Warez site (same with SkyDrive, Google docs/drive and Dropbox) and IT won’t install One Note (they don’t support it, I did point out I don’t want them to support it, I don’t need them to support it, I want them to install it because I want to use it same as I use it at home without any need for support, but they weren’t interested).

Saikat Basu

That’s unbelievable! What do they have against OneNote. It is a productivity tool for God’s sake and a default part of MS Office.

GrrGrrr

Stephen, it may not be categorized as warez, but a personal share/upload site; hence blocked.
same problem here.

AP

I use Evernote but now can give it a try.

GrrGrrr

Thanks Saikat. I have OneNote, but never knew its power.

Krysia Baker

For me the statement ‘OneNote is more often than not one of the neglected applications in the Office suite.’ is most definitely true. I had no idea of the capabilities. I use SpringPad, but I’ll take a closer look at OneNote now.

Saikat Basu

You are not alone. I also “discovered” OneNote comparatively late :) But have been a user since.

Nezlo

This is very interesting, I’ve been using Evernote for quite some time now, but I will check this out and give it a shot. Nice article, thank you.

William

I had not fully looked at OneNote’s capabilities until I saw this article. I have been using Evernote for awhile, but I’ve spent the last few hours giving OneNote a whirl, and I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far. So, I shall give it a practice run with some actual notes, etc. It looks pretty good so far. If not for the article, I wouldn’t have known what I’ve been missing. Thanks.

Paul Girardin

I got both OneNote and Evernote (in two versions, the recent one and version 2)

I love all three (Evernote 2 lets me grab notes down quick and dirty which I then refine later on without having to put it online)

Saikat Basu

I use EverNote and OneNote in pretty much the same way. OneNote is where all my long-term and project plans go, while EverNote is as you say for the quick and dirty grabs.

Ellen Odza

I will have to look at onenote – I’ve never used it before but it definitely sounds like something that would be very helpful. I’ve got Evernote but have not used it much yet so there’s not much to unlearn! :-)

Edward

I’ve been using Evernote for a while, but this looks good so I think I’ll give it a try!

Rigoberto Garcia

I have OneNote from the 2003 version and I actually used very few opportunities. After reading this article I shall try the functionality described (OneNote 2010) and compared with the tool I use for several years: Evernote. Thank you very much for the article Saikat

Saikat Basu

Glad you liked it Rigoberto.

Edgar Meixueiro

OneNote is great.

BeyondDawnRadio

I like OneNote. Use it all the time! Fabulous tool!

Steve Maersk-Moller

I have OneNote on my PC and on my Android Phone. I am using the password function on the PC to protect my CCs, Kids SSN, etc.. I can go in and out of this protected page on my PC, but can’t sync or enter a password to view on my Android. Most of the time that I need access to the info is while I’m out of my office. So, it would be great to be able to sync and view on the Android. Please advise.

JS Farkas

Thanks for this. Very useful.

anthonymonori

As a freshmen, I will definitely consider using OneNote, at least to try it out. Thanks for the tips.

venkatp16

Very useful article… Thanks

VS Vishnu

will try using it now..

Sue

Ditto to loving OneNote. Nice information here. I tell my co-workers about it too. So simple to use. I show them the capability of linking pages within OneNote – they like that. Search is powerful. I think the page sorter add-on is a must. http://blogs.msdn.com/b/johnguin/archive/2011/01/24/updating-the-page-sorter-powertoy-for-onenote-2010.aspx

Saikat Basu

I was thinking of including Page Sorter here in the list, but then I thought that let me go through the other tips first :) Yes, I agree with you there; search is powerful and all-inclusive.

Gary

Two OneNote questions:

1. I have a OneNote “section group” that I reuse often. The “save as” function you mention above doesn’t seem to work for a section group–just a notebook, section, or page. What’s the best way to be able to quickly copy and paste the section group?

2. My OneNote search works fine in English but doesn’t seem to work in Chinese. What do I need to do to add Chinese search capability?

Helmut

Great post, Thanks Saikat. I have been using OneNote since the 2003 version, and IMO if someone is into note taking for studying, research or writing, it’s almost unbeatable on a PC. One feature which is almost never mentioned is the ability to create collapsible / expandable outlines. Under a heading, you can type text, paste images, videos, doodles, collect sources, quotes etc. If you want to focus on the pig picture, just collapse the heading. Here is an article (by me) about that feature: http://remembereverything.org/note-taking-and-outlining-with-onenote/
I think this multilevel outlining capability must the most overlooked feature in OneNote. Have a great day.

ROchelle

Hi Saikat,
I love OneNote too but I am now having a problem… maybe you can help. I am trying to email the huge number of Page Templates that I have created in OneNote on my desktop for use on my tablet PC. However, I can’t manage to find the file containing these created templates to copy them/attach on email to send them. All I am able to do is save sections and notebooks and send them, but when I open them on the tablet, I don’t see a My Templates section… only the default Academic, Blank, Business, etc, categories that come with the software.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
THanks!

Rick Harris

Have you tried sharing a notebook that the templates are in with yourself? IE share from PC to Tablet? Then you’d have everything…

Also, is the Tablet PC running a full version of OneNote or is it an “app” version, like the iOS version? I know that templates are not a feature of the iOS version. MS seems very intent on driving away from Android/iOS and forcing one to use the desktop or SkyDrive/Web-App version (that are, of course, provided by themselves).

Teemu

Fave here too. I like Evernote’s web clipper with Clearly, otherwise have migrated.

Anonymous

I Love onenote! I also use evernote. But they are not equal. I am just trying to figure out how to sync from desktop, ipad, laptop so I can work away.

Yashraj Talan

OneNote has been my best note-taking app, and since I have it already on my PC, I never thought of downloading, or installing(or simply using) EverNote, also since I do not have any Android or iOS device…

Ted

Great tips and easy to use. Thanks for sharing them.