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

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onenote tipsI 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.

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.

onenote tips

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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

onenote tips and tricks

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

onenote tips and tricks

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?

onenote tips and tricks

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

microsoft onenote tips and tricks

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.

microsoft onenote tips and tricks

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

microsoft onenote tips and tricks

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

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

onenote tips

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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Comments (55)
  • Steffen Voigtländer

    Excellent!

  • Daud

    I wish sync was as smooth as in Evernote I have all sorts of problems in logging on to Onedrive from onenote and other office apps

    • Saikat

      Hope you are not using it from behind an office firewall and also have the latest updates installed.

      Has the OneDrive troubleshooter caught anything?

  • Ted

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

  • 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…

  • 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.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.