Mac Productivity

The Essential OneNote for Mac Guide

Rahul Saigal Updated 09-07-2019

OneNote is a cross-platform digital note-taking app that provides a single place for keeping all your notes, plans, and research related information. When OneNote for Mac launched, it had a few features. But in the past few months, Microsoft has completely revamped the OneNote app.


The navigation interface is new. It matches the design aesthetics and functionality of OneNote in Windows 10. In this guide, we’ll walk you through some essential features and show you how to use OneNote on Mac.

Note: The minimum system requirements to take advantage of the latest features is macOS 10.10 Yosemite or later.

Creating a Notebook

The primary way of organizing your notes is through notebooks. You may collect everything you want in one notebook and then rely on the search function. Or, you may create a separate notebook for every project. It’s up to you how you want to structure and organize your OneNote content.

To create a notebook, click File > New Notebook (Ctrl + Cmd + N). Type in the name, choose a color and click Create.

create a notebook in OneNote for Mac


Navigation Layout

The new navigation layout offers you more note-taking space. Click the Navigation button to expand or collapse the navigation pane. In the expanded state, you can view the notebook hierarchy and switch between pages, section, or notebooks. Click the button again to collapse the pane.

toggle navigate pane in OneNote Mac

The list of sections is on the left while pages are on the right. To navigate between the pages, click the title or press Cmd + Ctrl + G to move your focus to the page list. Then use the Up or Down Arrow keys.

To switch to a different notebook, click the Notebooks dropdown arrow button and choose a notebook. If you do not see the notebook you want, click More Notebooks and open it from OneDrive.


switch to a different notebook

Resize the Navigation Pane

If your section and page title appear truncated or you want to maximize the note-taking space without collapsing the navigation pane, then this feature comes useful. Move your pointer over the edge of the pane and drag it to either left or right.

resize the navigation pane in OneNote Mac

Show or Hide the Ribbon

The ribbon spans the top of the app window. If you find the ribbon distracting, you can hide it. Double-click any ribbon tab (for example, Home) or press Alt + Cmd + R to hide or show the ribbon.


show or hide the ribbon

Sections and Pages

Sections make great organizing tools to keep related pages together. You can add any number of sections, move them around, rename or color the tabs, and delete them.

To create a new section, click the Add section button (Cmd + T) at the bottom. When you delete any section, they get moved to the trash. You can recover any deleted data within 60 days.

add section to OneNote Mac


You can even group the related sections to reduce notebook clutter. Choose File > New Section Group or right-click a section and choose New Section Group. Creating a section group has two advantages. Collapse the group to make room for a new section, and you’ll be able to navigate large notebooks easily.

add a new section group

To create a new page, click the Add page button (Cmd + N) at the bottom. Just like sections, you can organize related pages by creating subpages. Right-click any page and choose Make Subpage (Alt+Cmd+]). You can make subpages up to two levels deep and demote them to normal levels.

add pages and make subpages in OneNote

Adding Tags to OneNote in Mac

OneNote provides several tags (or visual markers) that you can apply to mark essential items in your notes. For example, in your research project, you might use the to-do tag to remember the task you need to complete.

To add a tag, click or select the text you want to tag. From the Tags Gallery in the Home tab, click the tag icon. You can even use a shortcut to create a tag.

For example, press Cmd + 1 to make a to-do tag, press Cmd + 2 to add a star, Cmd + 3 for a question, and so on. Go to Format > Tag to see the list of shortcuts.

add a tag to OneNote from tag gallery

You can also create a custom tag. To do this, click the Tags dropdown in the Home tab and choose Create New Tag. A new panel appears from the right. Type in the name, select an icon, and click Create. The tags you create also sync with the OneNote app for Windows 10.

create a custom tag in OneNote

Search Notes in OneNote for Mac

It’s easy to search through your notes no matter where you store them. Press Cmd + F or click the magnifying glass icon near the Navigation toggle button. In the search box that appears, enter a search word or phrase and press Enter.

search notes in OneNote Mac

Just beneath the search box, click Pages to see results found in the text of your notes. Or click Tags to search by note tags.

To adjust the scope of your search results, click the Funnel button, and choose an option from—All Notebooks, Current Notebook, Current Section, and Current Page.

filter your notes and tags by query

If OneNote finds your search text, it’ll appear in the results list. Do remember that OneNote will not search the contents of password-protected sections.

Taking Notes

OneNote is like a free-form canvas. You can add content like text, pictures, audio, handwriting notes, screen clippings, and more. To format your notes, you’ll find all the usual formatting tools options in the Home tab.

formatting tools in OneNote Mac

Creating Linked Notes

If you’re working on a large project with many sections and pages, then OneNote lets you create links between your notes How to Create a Personal Wiki Using Microsoft OneNote A wiki is a great way to store and share large amounts of information. Here's how easy it is to create a wiki with OneNote. Read More . With the built-in simple wiki system, you can make connections to whatever notebook, section, and pages.

copy link to OneNote page

To get started, right-click any section or pages to copy its link. Then go to your page, highlight the text, and select Insert > Link. From the link dialog box, paste the link you just copied.

insert the link to OneNote page

Web Clipper

With the clipper, you can extract useful information from the web. It has four options—save a full web page, a region of the page (like a screenshot), text with formatting options, or a bookmark.

Click the dropdown menu under Location and select your notebook.

web clipper in action

Download: Clip to OneNote for Chrome FirefoxSafari

Insert Content in OneNote

While working on a project, it’s easy to lose track of things. OneNote for Mac lets you insert files directly into your notes. Go to Preferences > General and check Store file attachments in OneDrive.

enable file attachment in OneDrive feature

As you attach the file, it uploads the file to OneDrive under OneNote Uploads folder and inserts a link to that file. For Office documents, you can view the changes made to your file in real time. In the case of PDF, the attachment will display a link. You can also attach a printout of the document.

attach a word file in OneNote

Embed Your Content

You can embed a wide variety of content into OneNote, including documents, videos, audio clips, and more. Check out the services and sites OneNote supports for embedding contents.

Optical Character Recognition

OneNote for Mac supports OCR. It can extract the text from images so that you can paste it elsewhere in the note. Scan or snap a picture of the text. Click Insert > Picture to insert the image, then right-click and choose Copy Text from Picture.

optical character recognition in OneNote Mac

Insert a Table

Tables are excellent vehicles for the presentation of information. They create visual interest and bring order to ungainly note lists. To create a table, click the Insert tab and choose Tables.

Drag the mouse over the boxes to select how many rows and columns you want. Then, fill the table with text, numbers, files, and more.

insert a table

Create Templates in OneNote for Mac

Creating a template in OneNote has many benefits. They give your pages a consistent look, flexibility in structuring different types of documents, and saves time. But is there support for page templates in OneNote for Mac? Yes, there is.

Set up a note that you want to use for a template. Right-click the page and choose Set as Default Template. A dialog box will pop up for confirmation.

set as default template option

To remove the default template, right-click on the section and choose Remove Default Template. If you want to create a simple template, go ahead and start using this feature.

remove the default template option

Immersive Reader

An immersive reader is a free tool from Microsoft that implements proven techniques to improve reading and writing for people regardless of their age, profession, and ability. To open the immersive reader, select View > Immersive Reader. A full-screen window will open with your OneNote document.

full screen immersive reader in OneNote Mac

There’s a built-in tool to read the text out loud into syllables. To increase your reading comprehension, it offers you various text and reading options. You can change the text size, font, background color, and line spacing.

text options in immersive reader

Parts of Speech control grammar highlighting and helps you understand complex sentences. In reading options, enable Line Focus to highlight a particular set of lines for focussed reading. Translate lets you change the language of the text. It’s a great feature for new language learners.

reading options in immersive reader

Export and Import Notebooks

OneNote lets you take a backup of notebooks. Go to OneNote Online and enter your Microsoft account credentials. Under My Notebooks, right-click the notebook and choose Export notebook.

export OneNote notebook

From the screen that opens, click Export. Follow the dialog prompt and save your file. Each notebook you download gets saved in the ZIP file format.

save the notebook as a zip file

Export Notes as PDF

If you want to share notes with someone without giving them full access, you can export any page as a PDF file. Go to any page and click File > Save as PDF. Type a file name and choose a location.

Import the Notebook

If you want to import the notebook, unzip the file, go to OneNote Notebook Importer and import the entire folder. Use Firefox or Chrome to export and import the notebooks.

import saved notebook

Sharing and Collaboration

OneNote for Mac offers you several options to share your notes. You can invite other people to collaborate or allow them to read your notes. Click File > Share and choose from the following options:

  • Invite People to Notebook—send specific people an invite (through email) to collaborate on a project. Select Can Edit if you want them to make changes.
  • Copy View and Edit Link to Notebook—Create a sharing link so that others can view and edit your notes.
  • Copy View-Only Link to Notebook—Create a sharing link so that others can see your notes.

sharing and collaboration in OneNote Mac

Keep a Productive Schedule

Now that you know how to use OneNote on Mac, learn and develop your own OneNote workflow to make use of the features discussed in this article.

Take a look at our guide on how to use OneNote to manage to-do list 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 plan your week with OneNote to develop a productive schedule How to Plan Your Entire Week in Under 30 Minutes: 8 Productivity Tips That Work With these tips, you can make your own plan for a week of productivity in a half hour or less. Read More .

Related topics: Microsoft OneNote, Note-Taking Apps.

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  1. Josh
    February 21, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    I fell in love with OneNote several years ago, as a Windows user. I even recommended it to other people (so I was what would be called a "promoter", which companies love). Then I changed jobs and started using a Mac, and over the last two years I've stuck with it but grown increasingly disappointed with how much the Mac version lacks compared to the Windows version (and interestingly, the latest Windows version reportedly is a step backward in terms of features compared to OneNote 2016). To me, the most egregious is lack of local storage which also manifests itself in lack of export ability. That means I can't migrate my account from a personal one to my new work OneDrive account. The second is lack of Outlook integration. In Windows it's so easy to take meeting notes, with a direct link between an Outlook calendar entry and a Note in ON, plus the ability to create tasks in Outlook simply by marking something as To Do in ON. I'm considering making a switch to Evernote...not that I could use my work OneDrive account for it, but I'm just frustrated by how stunted ON for Mac is.

  2. Prashant Saund
    July 30, 2017 at 1:55 am

    Adding Macro add-on support would be great relief for Mac Users.
    At least Onetastic is not supporting Mac version yet.

  3. Juliet
    May 16, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    I tried to use OneNote for Mac. I mean, I really really tried. But I can't sort my notes alphatically or really even at all. And that just means it's unusable.

  4. Meghan Adamo
    February 1, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    There are a couple features that I wish they would offer soon:

    1. A way to change that date/time of the page manually.
    2. Use of templates.

    Is there a timeline for either of these to be introduced in future versions?

  5. Foobar
    January 20, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    The inability to sort by date is a deal killer. One Note stupidly puts a new note at the bottom of the list, making me scroll through hundreds of notes just to see the newest.

    Windows users having been requesting this feature for literally TEN YEARS.


  6. elvis
    November 30, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    Migrated from Evernote. Fail.

    Super slow syncing. Its been a month and not all of my notebooks are synced.

    Now looking at something else, and I find there is not Export feature.

    Be careful before committing

  7. CJ
    October 21, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Thanks a lot for this nice review.
    Like you may be, i am not a great fan of MS software.
    But OneNote definitely turned out to be an easy, convenient and very productive tool for me.
    The key feature that is missing on Mac though, is the search for tags.
    It is a pity to see it works like a charm on Windows and we do not have it on Mac.
    This makes tags almost useless since only decorative as smileys would be in an email.
    I tried to post this feedback to OneNote developers.
    Do you guys know other ways to push for this update of OneNote?

    • Juan Antonio Dominion
      January 6, 2017 at 6:14 am

      Hello –

      Within OneNote for Mac, and I believe OneNote for Windows, in the upper right or left side of the display. (I'm not at my computer so I can't tell you exactly where.) Either way on the upper portion of the screen on the left or right hand side where the icons are, there should be a smiley face icon.

      If you click on this icon, it gives you the option of telling Microsoft what you like or don't like about the application. Supposedly, they read all of these comments.

      Be prepared, however, because it does take a screen capture image to send along with the feature request; nevertheless, It does give you the option to NOT send the screen capture image with the feature request.

      I hope this is helpful and, as a dedicated OneNote user, I would love to see this enhancement added. So, good luck to you and getting this in stated in Microsoft OneNote for Mac.

      ~Antonio Dominion

  8. James
    August 25, 2016 at 2:08 am

    I was going to move from Evernote to OneNote, then I discovered that you can't edit or add tags on OneNote on the Mac.

    That's a deal breaker for me right now. Sorry Microsoft!

  9. pbn
    August 25, 2016 at 12:37 am

    Any ideas on finding a free or student affordable pdf editor that will allow editing/annotating of pdf's in OneNote on a Mac that will seamlessly save back to OneNote.

  10. Michael
    July 22, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I have been using scannable for capturing receipts into Evernote. taking your advice & moving to Onenote, do you have a suggestion to do replace this app?

  11. Laura
    July 17, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    I'm having issues adding Onenote to outlook, so I can streamline my work process. You can do it on a PC, I just can't seem to get it on any of my apple devices. Any input would be appreciated

  12. Patrick Houlihan
    July 15, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Many of the official Microsoft shortcuts for OneNote Mac (in Help and on their site) don't work, at least not on my Mac. In some cases, I've been able to find the correct shortcut.

    But I still haven't found one to move the cursor by one word. Microsoft lists Option + Left Arrow and Option + Right Arrow to move the cursor by one word, but neither works on my Mac. These commands are not listed in a menu, so you can't assign custom shortcuts to them in System Prefs > Keyboard > Shortcuts.

    Do these work on your Mac or have you found substitutes?

    • ar
      July 15, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      Hi Patrick - this is was a bug introduced in an earlier update of OneNote for Mac. There are lots of people w/ the same problem. OneNote finally released an update about 2 days ago that put the functionality back in. If you install the newest version (15.24), you should be fine.

      Incidentally, they didn't overtly state that it was a bug or even that it was fixed in the update. After a few slightly pushy tweets w/ the support staff, they let on that they had fixed it.

  13. David Herst
    June 25, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    I find that after keeping OneNote open on my Mac for a while, certain menu commands disappear. For example, I now only have Edit, View, Window and Help menus. The others are gone, and the remaining menus are missing some commands.

    Usually I can clear this condition by restarting OneNote, but this time that doesn't work. (BTW the Quit command on the OneNote menu is disabled.) Tried bouncing the Mac, still no change.

    Have you seen this problem and can suggest how to fix it?

  14. Simon
    May 23, 2016 at 7:16 am


    This is perhaps the wrong forum for this kind of question but I've read some things here and there about Windows v Mac compatibility with OneNote. Our office stores all our .one files on a PC in the office and I roam with a MacBook Air.

    After downloading OneNote for Mac, I still can't see to access any files - files don't download with a OneNote icon like they do on PC and when I select "open with" after downloading a .one file the OneNote option is greyed and unavailable.

    I just can't seem to work it out.

  15. Peter
    February 12, 2016 at 4:52 pm


  16. Brett
    February 12, 2016 at 6:22 am

    Like it a lot, nice article Justin. Main issue for me are the crappy printing options. No ability to change orientation! ...although there is a work around if you print via the online version.

    • Justin Pot
      February 12, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      The online version is a nice workaround, sucks that you have to resort to it though.

  17. Anonymous
    February 12, 2016 at 2:40 am

    I love One Note and am now using it for Mac but I sure do miss some features.

  18. lccv
    February 10, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    I have Mavericks and can't download OneNote... It's seems it's only available for El Capitan :(

    • Justin Pot
      February 10, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      That's too bad man. El Capitan is a free upgrade, though, and I think I remember Yosemite being supported as well. But if you want to stick with Mavericks, the sad thing is software will slowly stop working for you.