10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All the Time

Saikat Basu 21-08-2012

Updated by Tina Sieber on 7 March, 2017.


I am going to ruffle a few feathers here by saying that Microsoft OneNote is just as good as Evernote. OneNote is the digital equivalent of a binder, giving you more organizational control.

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The showdown will continue, so for the sake of productivity and peace, let’s say that both are great note-taking apps Evernote vs. OneNote: Which Note-Taking App Is Right for You? Evernote and OneNote are amazing note-taking apps. It's hard to pick between the two. We compared everything from interface to note organization to help you choose. What works best for you? Read More 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.

1. 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 6 Tips for Using OneNote as Your To-Do List Are you making the most of your OneNote to-do list? Apply our tips for better OneNote checklists. Read More .


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

10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All the Time OneNote Home To Do Tag 670x310

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.

2. Use Templates and Get off the Starting Blocks

It used to be difficult to find Page Templates in OneNote How to Use OneNote Templates: Everything You Need to Know OneNote templates are essential for true productivity. Here's all you need to know to edit and create your own OneNote templates. Read More . It’s probably because in OneNote, there are Notebooks and Pages, two different entities. But once you know where OneNote stores its templates, using them for productivity could become a habit.


Go to Insert and under Pages, expand Page Templates, then click on Page Templates… This will open a sidebar from which you can choose templates from various categories.

10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All the Time page templates 640x99

You can choose a template and set it as the default template, or customize a page and set it as a template.

3. For the Visual – Doodle or Sketch Your Ideas

A real world diary or organizer is not always neatly written. You find doodles, little sketches on the sides, and what not.


10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All the Time OneNote Draw Tab 670x189

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, and flesh them out.

4. Feel Like Writing on Paper?

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.

10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All the Time OneNote Paper Rule Lines 670x380


5. Carry Your Notes with You

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 OneDrive as a bridge. After downloading the app, you need a Windows Live ID to log-in (same as for your OneDrive account). You can create rich text notes with pictures, bulleted lists, checkboxes

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 OneDrive 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.

6. 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 7 Best Free OCR Software Apps to Convert Images Into Text Want OCR software for free? This article collects the seven best programs that turn images into text. Read More . The feature is retained in Microsoft OneNote.

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 a 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.

7. Multimedia as Quick Notes

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 as media files into your notes Embed Media to Turn OneNote Into a Digital Scrapbook OneNote has many secrets. Ready to up your OneNote game? Here's how to get more out of embedded content. Read More .

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.

10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All the Time playback tab 670x135

8. 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 under File > Options > Audio & Video.

10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All the Time one note08

If you have loads of voice memos, this could be a fast way of trawling through them to find the needed one.

9. Guard Your Privacy

OneNote uses the 3DES encryption standard to password protect your sections in 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, right-click the section tab and select Password Protect this Section.

10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All the Time OneNote Password

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.

10. 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.

Though if you want to make sure that you never lose a note How to Never Lose a Note in Your OneNote Notebooks OneNote is so good, it's hard to lose anything, even if you try. Let us show you how OneNote handles notebooks, how backups are managed, and how you can restore even deleted notes. Read More , make sure to customize your backup and sync  options.

OneNote Mastered

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 How to Use Microsoft OneNote for Project Management OneNote is the ideal collaboration tool for managing simple projects in small teams. And it's completely free. See how OneNote can help your projects take off! Read More . Hopefully, our advice just helped you you turn your eyes away from the prima donnas and take a look at the wallflower who could be a princess.

How do you use OneNote? Please share your favorite OneNote productivity tips with us!

Explore more about: Microsoft OneNote, Note-Taking Apps, Organization Software.

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  1. Mike Chapman
    April 11, 2017 at 3:49 am

    Import your work to able to search across all notebooks
    I've been using OneNote for about ten years (or, ever since it first came out). For me it's the ultimate tool for anyone who likes to write, read, organize, etc., but one of its features is my real reason for being addicted. I have imported 35 years of writing into a single notebook, "My Writing Master." I pulled all of the writing, probably 3000 pages, into OneNote using cut and paste, not links to the originals. That allows me to search through 3+ decades of serious writing for topics I've been developing through the years. For example, I'm a fan of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and wanted to assemble my best thoughts on it for a presentation. It took seconds to pull them all together, and since it's a major thread in understanding the universe, I refer to it often.

    Use autocorrect to speed up writing
    Since it uses the same autocorrect file as all of the other Office tools, I can standardize my language across them all. I have hundreds of autocorrections, so I can write practically in shorthand. For example, typing "slt" autocorrects to "Second Law of Thermodynamics" - a major time saver.

    • Saikat Basu
      April 24, 2017 at 5:16 am

      Oh Wow! That's impressive Mike. I agree -- I think it is one software Microsoft got right even when faced with the popularity of Evernote.

  2. Roc
    January 17, 2017 at 3:12 am

    One Note is great; however, no Linux support and that is the only reason I switched to Evernote.

    • Saikat Basu
      January 22, 2017 at 6:40 am

      You can use the online version, but that's not as useful as the desktop one. So, which one do you use?

  3. D Marie
    October 30, 2016 at 5:47 am

    Is there a way to find and delete duplicate notes?

    • br
      October 30, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      this would be a good tip!
      Microsoft says, "use OneNote on multiple devices". Then it goes an duplicates all your work. Finally, it tells you are you sure you didn't create duplicate notes yourself? Ugh, Microsoft - please do something right the first time and you won't have broken software all over this world!

      • Mike Chapman
        April 11, 2017 at 3:55 am

        I use OneNote with OneDrive to avoid duplication. The OneDrive version is the master file, and I have synched copies on my Dell desktop and Surface Pro. Changes update automatically and quickly. If you're off line, you can continue to work uninterrupted on the local version, and OneDrive will update as soon as you're back on line.

  4. Emile Kroll
    October 6, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Yes! Finally someone writes about hair.

  5. Sarah
    September 13, 2016 at 7:42 am

    is there a way, when making checklists - for the "done" items to move to the bottom of the list, and the unchecked items to be top of the list - without manually reorganizing them?

    • Saikat Basu
      September 15, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      No. OneNote so far does not support dyanamic lists of the kind you mention.

      • Greg
        February 8, 2017 at 5:38 pm

        However, you can easily create reminder for your OneNote task in Outlook.

        This is how you do it:
        1) click somewhere on the row of text in OneNote that you want to make into a checklist item
        2) type Control+1 to make it a task with checkbox
        3) right-click on the text in the task in One-Note
        4) select 'add reminder' flag to create reminder in Outlook
        5) you can take it one step further by right-click again on the task, then you can do things like assign to someone, edit reminder, add details, set priority, categorize, recurrence, etc.
        6) finally, you can manage your one-note tasks in Outlook just like you would any other tasks. When they are complete you click the flag to mark them complete and then they fall off the list. the checkbox doesn't check in OneNote, but the flag will sync with Outlook and show as checked off once its completed. Hope this helps! :)

        • Saikat Basu
          February 12, 2017 at 4:41 am

          Thanks Greg. That's a neat workaround :)

  6. don
    August 22, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    when I want to print and picture I drew how do I change it so it prints on one page?

    • JAIMIE - (converted from "E")
      September 27, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      Click on the VIEW tab and change the paper size.
      Click on FILE section then PRint and then Print Preview. In the print settings to the right you can choose the paper size and there is a checkbox for SCALE CONTENT TO PAPER WIDTH.

    • JAIMIE - (converted from "E")
      September 27, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      There are several ways:
      The best way to do this may be to use a template for paper size
      OR You can click on the VIEW tab and change the paper size afterwards
      OR Choose the FILE section and click Print and then Print Preview. There are several options there including page size and a checkbox to SCALE content to paper width, as well as portrait or landscape options.

  7. Anonymous
    June 25, 2015 at 10:54 am


  8. Daud
    January 8, 2015 at 8:14 am

    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
      January 8, 2015 at 8:58 am

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

      Has the OneDrive troubleshooter caught anything?

  9. Ted
    February 13, 2013 at 5:47 pm

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

  10. Yashraj Talan
    February 5, 2013 at 10:33 am

    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...

  11. Anonymous
    December 4, 2012 at 3:20 am

    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.

  12. Teemu
    October 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm

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

  13. ROchelle
    October 18, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    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.

    • Rick Harris
      November 7, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      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).

  14. Helmut
    September 15, 2012 at 11:45 am

    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:
    I think this multilevel outlining capability must the most overlooked feature in OneNote. Have a great day.

  15. Gary
    September 3, 2012 at 12:11 am

    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?

  16. Sue
    August 27, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    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.

    • Saikat Basu
      August 28, 2012 at 5:02 am

      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.

  17. VS Vishnu
    August 27, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    will try using it now..

  18. venkatp16
    August 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Very useful article... Thanks

  19. anthonymonori
    August 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm

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

  20. JS Farkas
    August 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Thanks for this. Very useful.

  21. Steve Maersk-Moller
    August 24, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    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.

  22. BeyondDawnRadio
    August 23, 2012 at 10:59 pm

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

  23. Edgar Meixueiro
    August 23, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    OneNote is great.

  24. Rigoberto Garcia
    August 23, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    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
      August 24, 2012 at 5:14 am

      Glad you liked it Rigoberto.

  25. Edward
    August 23, 2012 at 5:22 pm

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

  26. Ellen Odza
    August 23, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    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! :-)

  27. Paul Girardin
    August 23, 2012 at 3:43 am

    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
      August 23, 2012 at 5:32 am

      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.

  28. William
    August 23, 2012 at 2:53 am

    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.

  29. Nezlo
    August 22, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    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.

  30. Krysia Baker
    August 22, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    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
      August 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm

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

  31. GrrGrrr
    August 22, 2012 at 5:27 pm

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

  32. AP
    August 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    I use Evernote but now can give it a try.

  33. Stephen Booth
    August 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    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
      August 22, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      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
      August 22, 2012 at 5:29 pm

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

  34. Tug Ricks
    August 22, 2012 at 5:10 am

    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
      August 22, 2012 at 5:18 am

      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
        August 22, 2012 at 5:33 am

        Keep 'em coming. :)

  35. Sebastian Hadinata
    August 22, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Nice tips. Been using OneNote for long time now...

  36. Joel Lee
    August 22, 2012 at 2:13 am

    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
      August 22, 2012 at 4:42 am

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

  37. juanDM4
    August 21, 2012 at 10:41 pm

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

    • Sebastian Hadinata
      August 22, 2012 at 3:33 am

      Yes! It would be nice if its portable :D

  38. dohRG
    August 21, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    This calls for muo OneNote giveaway ;)

    • Sebastian Hadinata
      August 22, 2012 at 3:33 am

      I second that! OneNote Giveaway please ;D

  39. shahid
    August 21, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    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
      August 22, 2012 at 1:33 am

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

      • Saikat Basu
        August 22, 2012 at 4:43 am

        True. OneNote does it too as I have mentioned.

  40. Erlis D.
    August 21, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    I will consider using One Note now! :)

  41. Lee
    August 21, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    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
      August 22, 2012 at 4:45 am

      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.

  42. Greg
    August 21, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    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
      October 6, 2012 at 11:50 am

      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...