7 Little-Known OneNote Features You Will Love

Joel Lee 02-03-2016

After OneNote went 100% free OneNote Is Now Truly Free With More Features Than Before Evernote no longer rules the roost of note taking apps. Microsoft recently announced OneNote would be more free than ever before. Let us show you what this means in terms of features and functionality. Read More , a lot of people — including myself — ditched whatever note-taking app they were using and flocked over to experience what Microsoft had to offer. Most liked what they saw and never looked back.


The best thing about OneNote is that it’s packed full of features. And while alternatives like Evernote can say the same, only OneNote offers everything for free, and these features are its bread and butter. (Unless you’re on the Mac version of OneNote The Essential OneNote for Mac Guide Microsoft OneNote is a free note-taking app for Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Here's everything you need to become more productive. Read More , which needs to catch up.)

But let’s look past the well-known aspects of OneNote — such as its wonderful to-do lists 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  — and check out some of the deeper features you may have missed. If you aren’t on OneNote yet, these may just convince you to make the jump.

1. Quick Notes

OneNote is already pretty good when it comes to taking impromptu notes. At most, you just have to pick a notebook, pick a section, and create a new page using the provided button. But if you just need to jot a throwaway note, you should turn to the Quick Notes feature.


Quick Notes are like Post-It Notes: they’re separate, minimal note windows that act independently from the main OneNote window. They don’t belong to any particular notebook either. Instead, they just sit in a collection of Quick Notes, though you can move them if you want.

You can launch a new Quick Note even when OneNote is closed using the Windows + N keyboard shortcut. If you need to launch additional ones, use the Windows + Alt + N keyboard shortcut.

2. Page Templates

Another one of those features you should be using all the time 10 Awesome OneNote Tips You Should Be Using All the Time Microsoft OneNote is just as good as Evernote. OneNote is the digital equivalent of a binder, giving you more organizational control. We show you effective note-taking tweaks you'll love. Read More  in OneNote is the Page Template. To understand why Page Templates are so awesome, let’s look at examples of when they’d come in handy.

Maybe you’re the minute taker for your office meetings and you have a certain way you like to take those minutes. Or maybe you’re in a physics class and you like to organize your notes into text-based and equations-based. Or maybe you have a certain kind of checklist that you use for recurring project milestones.


Instead of recreating the layouts of those notes every time, you can set up a Page Template that you can invoke when creating new notes, which can save you a lot of time and energy. Check out our guide to OneNote templates 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  for more details.

3. Custom Tags

OneNote’s system of organization is already really good with its notebook/section/page approach to notes, but you can get even more granularity by using tags. Tags are good for relating notes that exist across different sections or notebooks.


For example, I have a recipe notebook with a section for Lunches and a section for Dinner. I also have tags for Chicken, Beef, Pork, and Vegetarian which I can apply to notes in both Lunch and Dinner sections — and these tags come in handy when I need to search.

OneNote comes with a bunch of default tags (e.g. Important, To-Do, etc.) but you can create as many Custom Tags as you want. Make good use of this because it’s a lot more handy than you might first expect.

4. Internal Links

Another fantastic organizational feature of OneNote is the ability to create Internal Links, or clickable links that take you to other notebooks, sections, and pages. The larger your notebooks and the more notes you have, the more useful this feature becomes.


To create a link, just right-click on any tab — whether notebook, section, or page — and select the Copy Link option. Now all you have to do is paste it somewhere (we recommend typing out a phrase and converting it into a link afterwards).

But if you want to link a page, there’s an easier way. Just type [[, the name of the page verbatim, and then ]]. This will automatically convert it into an internal page link. Ever wanted OneNote to be more like a wiki? There you go!

5. Quick Access Toolbar

At the very top of the OneNote window along the title bar, if you look to the left, you’ll see a handful of shortcut buttons. These make up the Quick Access Toolbar, and the best part is that you can customize which buttons show up on it.


What can you add to it? Pretty much any action that you can make in OneNote. Everything from tagging notes to inserting meeting details, from changing font sizes to clearing all formatting. Seriously, it’s that useful.


If there are any actions that you frequently perform in OneNote, make your life easier by throwing them into the Quick Access Toolbar Boost OneNote Productivity With the Quick Access Toolbar If you aren't using the Quick Access Toolbar in OneNote, you should! It can really speed up your workflow if you have a lot of highly repeated actions. Read More . You won’t regret it.

6. Docked Note-Taking

If there’s one thing that OneNote offers that alternatives like Evernote don’t, it’s the Docked Note-Taking feature. In short, you can dock OneNote to any side of the screen, which prevents all other windows from overlapping with it.


It’s useful because you can jot down notes while reading a PDF file or watching a video in another window without having to flip back and forth over and over. When used well, docking is one feature that can make OneNote a more productive tool than Evernote This Feature Can Make OneNote More Productive Than Evernote Choosing between OneNote and Evernote can be tough, but here's one feature that may sway you towards one side for good. Read More .

And to make it even easier to use, don’t forget to use the Ctrl + Alt + D keyboard shortcut to toggle the dock. In fact, while you’re at it, catch up on these useful OneNote shortcuts that everyone should know 11 Useful OneNote Keyboard Shortcuts to Start Using Now If you're new to OneNote, these shortcuts may boost your productivity, so learn them sooner rather than later! Read More  to really boost your productivity up a notch.

7. Version History

The final feature worth highlighting is the ability to view any note’s entire Version History. Indeed, every time you make changes to a note and save it, OneNote keeps track of the previous versions instead of completely overriding them.


Under the History tab in the Ribbon, you can use the Recent Edits menu to select a certain time period and see all of the changes made during that time. Unfortunately, this option only goes as far back as six months.

Or you could use the Page Versions menu to look at every single past version of the current page. Version histories take up data space, though, so OneNote allows you to delete any of them. You can also disable Page Versions on a per-notebook basis.

Which OneNote Feature Is Best?

These features are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to OneNote making your life more productive 5 Ways to Get Productive With Microsoft OneNote Do you feel the need for an offline organization tool that also exists on the web? Surprisingly, Microsoft has come up with the perfect solution - OneNote. Read More . In fact, OneNote can be useful for so many things, including simple project management 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  and activities unrelated to note-taking 10 Unique Ways to Use Microsoft OneNote OneNote is one of Microsoft's most underrated apps. It's available on almost every platform and can do many tricks you wouldn't expect from a note keeping app. Read More .

That being said, we recognize that OneNote isn’t perfect for everybody. Check out our in-depth comparison of OneNote vs. Evernote 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  to see which one is right for you. Either way, use the one that’s most effective for you.

Do you think these features are useful? Which one do you like best? Are there any others that we missed? Share with us in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.

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

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  1. William Russo
    August 13, 2017 at 1:46 am

    OneNote does not allow sending of the text of the note. Apples Notes does. For that reason Apple Notes stinks.

  2. JA
    February 20, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Evernote cannot beat the multiple reminders and multiple tags with reminders within the OneNote. I switched an year ago to onenote and never looked back. Although i wish onenote will make the reminders independent of outlook

  3. May
    February 17, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Love one note but feature I miss from Evernote is ease of emailing notes. I use one note app a lot for minutes, but have to wait to sync to a PC to email out. Can't do straight from the app. ?

  4. Patrick Saunders
    October 10, 2016 at 9:38 am

    embedding youtube video (in OneNote 2016)
    Also the free OneTastic add-in offers a macro function which I find handy.

  5. Jay
    April 12, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    How does the mac version differ?

    • Jonathon
      July 11, 2016 at 2:13 am

      The Mac version is a somewhat gimped version of the Windows OneNote. Lack of recording, additional add-ons and features and overall presentation make the Mac version a bit inferior.

      Still, it operates just the same, just a lack of extra features.

  6. Vedderhead
    March 8, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    I mainly use Evernote for the "Article Clipping" feature (for research, and to read later so I don't waste too much time going down a rabbit hole of articles). Is there any workaround with OneNote that could do something similar?

    • Andrea Doyon
      November 17, 2016 at 12:39 am

      The full version of OneNote comes with a "Clipper" feature that acts much like that in Evernote.

  7. Justin Klyczek
    March 3, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    I love Evernote! But I'm digging on OneNote as well. My school corporation went all Microsoft so I've been using it as my main note-taking app for awhile now. This is a great list of features. I'll share it with my fellow teachers!

    • Joel Lee
      March 14, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks Justin! I'd appreciate that. Glad you found the post useful. :)

  8. Bart
    March 2, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    Very useful!

    In this piece you mention Evernote twice: If there’s one thing that OneNote offers that alternatives like Evernote don’t, it’s the Docked Note-Taking feature. In short, you can dock Evernote to any side of the screen, which prevents all other windows from overlapping with it.

    Don't you mean OneNote the second time you mention Evernote? :-)

    • Anonymous
      March 4, 2016 at 3:35 am

      Dang, Bart! You beat me to it! :)

    • Joel Lee
      March 14, 2016 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks Bart. It's been fixed. :)