Productivity Programming

6 OneNote Tips Programmers Must Try

Ben Stegner 28-02-2018

Microsoft OneNote is an excellent note-taking tool with an extensive set of features. No matter your field, it can help you become more efficient at work How to Use Microsoft OneNote for Work OneNote is one of the best note-taking tools. We'll show you five OneNote features you can use to increase your productivity at work. Read More too.


If you’re a programmer, you might think that OneNote doesn’t have anything to offer you. But you’d be wrong. Here are some of the best tips and tricks for programmers to get more out of OneNote.

1. Keep a Programming Journal

OneNote allows you to create as many notebooks as you like, which are great for keeping your work on different thoughts separate. One notebook that every programmer should keep The 7 Best Note-Taking Apps for Programmers and Coders Staying organized as a programmer can be tough! Here are the best note-taking apps designed with coders and developers in mind. Read More is a journal.

This isn’t a “dear diary” type of journal, though. Instead, it’s a place for you to keep snippets of code, links to useful resources, and anything else you learn on the way. Programming is difficult, and it’s easy to forget a solution you found to something weeks ago when a similar problem pops up.

You could perhaps create a notebook section How to Organize OneNote for a Productive System OneNote has organizational features that allow you to do more with it than just keeping notes. We show you how to use them effectively. Read More for each language you code in. Then, make a new page for reusable code snippets so you don’t have to search online every time you want to reuse code. Collecting links to explanatory websites or in-depth examples also makes it easy to review later.

Recording how you overcame difficulties, the output of certain commands, important findings, and similar will create a valuable collection of knowledge.


2. Color-Code for Easy Identification

With a sea of code on a OneNote page, it’s often difficult to scan through and remember what it was all for. You can overcome this by using OneNote’s highlighter feature (or colored text) to your advantage.

Come up with a system for highlighting, and you’ll be able to decipher your notes at a glance. For example, you might highlight errors that you were unable to fix in red, blue for questions that you want to solve later, and green for new facts you’ve learned. This makes it easy to categorize thoughts.

Then, in the future, you can scan through and find the information you need. If you’re in a problem-solving mood, look into your red errors. To review what you’ve learned to help retain information How to Remember What You Read Using Simple Tools Reading more won't do you any good if you can't retain anything that you read. Use these tips when you find it difficult to remember what you read. Read More , check your green notes.

3. Add a Dark Theme

Anyone looking at a screen for most of the day will likely appreciate a break on their eyes. If you use OneNote often, you can darken it thanks to a macro and one of OneNote’s themes.


To use macros in OneNote The 10 Best OneNote Macros You Should Try OneNote is an awesome productivity tool on its own, but you can take it to the next level using macros. We show you how to get started and the best macros available now. Read More , you’ll first need to install Onetastic.

After that’s done, download the Programmer (Wombat) extension. You can then enable it by finding the Macros section of the Home tab, and clicking Themes. Select Programmer (Wombat) to apply it to the current page. This will change the background color, font color, and more to approximate the Wombat theme.

onenote tips for programmers

To black out more of OneNote, click File and then open the Account tab. Under Office Theme, select Black (or Dark Gray if you prefer). This will darken elements of OneNote that the macro doesn’t touch.


A darker theme is easier on your eyes and makes looking at your notes more comfortable.

4. Use NoteHighlight2016

If there’s one OneNote extension that every programmer needs to install Every Programmer Who Uses OneNote Needs This Add-On ASAP If you're a programmer tired of ugly code formatting in OneNote, you need to download this tool. It makes adding code to OneNote books a cinch and sets up in seconds. Read More , it’s NoteHighlight2016. This allows you to paste in code and format it correctly in OneNote. Doing so is much easier than cleaning it up by hand, and far more useful than just pasting in a screenshot.

Head to the releases page. Download the NoteHighlight2016 file if you’re using a 64-bit version of OneNote and NoteHighlight2016x86 for 32-bit installations.

Once installed, you’ll see a new tab on the Ribbon in OneNote called NoteHighlight. Click it to reveal a row of languages Looking for the Best Programming Languages? Start Here! Whether you're completely new to programming languages or looking to jump into a new kind of programming, one of the most important questions to ask is: "Which programming language is right for me?" Read More like C#, Java, and Ruby. Select the icon for the language you’re using, and paste your code into the dialog. The extension will format it properly and insert it onto the current page when you click OK.


onenote tips for programmers

5. Utilize Tags

If colors don’t do it for you, tags are an awesome way to categorize your notes Why Every OneNote User Needs to Start Using Tags Right Now Microsoft OneNote tags are easy to overlook. But if you're a note-taker, tags are crucial for organization and productivity! Read More . Unlike colored highlighting, you can easily view tags from a special menu in OneNote.

After clicking anywhere on the page, have a look at the Tags section of the Home tab. You’ll see a box of available tags; click the Show all arrow to expand it. This contains a wealth of icons, such as Important (star), Question (question mark), Idea (bulb), and more. You can also use To Do Tag to add a checkbox next to some text.

onenote tips for programmers

Click the Find Tags entry, and you’ll get a great summary of all your tags. It groups them by type, so you can view all your questions, to-dos, and similar together. Click one, and you’ll jump right to it so you can see it in context. This makes it easy to return to a question you had about a piece of code, or to an important snippet you knew you’d need later.

onenote tips for programmers

If you click Create Summary Page at the bottom of the tags sidebar, you can make a OneNote page with all your tags. This is great for sharing or keeping track of your progress.

And if the default tags aren’t enough for you, try making your own 12 Little-Known Microsoft OneNote Features You Will Love Microsoft OneNote is free and packed with features. Here are some little features to boost your note-taking productivity! Read More .

6. Integrate With

If you need a scratch environment to test out some code quickly, has you covered. Just pick your programming language, and you can open a programming environment in a few seconds Try Python in Your Browser With These Free Online Interactive Shells Whether you're going through these Python examples or reviewing the basics of arrays and lists, you can test the code right in your browser. Here are the best online Python interpreters we've found. Read More even without signing up.

What’s great is that you can integrate programs you create with this tool right in OneNote. At any time during the writing process, copy the URL and paste it into OneNote. You’ll get an almost-exact copy of the web page interface, including a code editor and ability to run the program. It’s pretty handy for testing with a basic environment inside OneNote, archiving programs you’ve created, and more.

What Tips Help You in OneNote?

OneNote wasn’t designed with programmers in mind, but it’s still a useful tool for them. Whether you want to organize your scattered thoughts in notebooks, load live code snippets, or tag your notes for easy search, there’s something OneNote has to offer you.

For lots more, check out our complete guide to OneNote The Only OneNote Guide You'll Ever Need OneNote is a powerful note-taking app. It's cross-platform and well integrated into Microsoft Office. Read this guide to become a OneNote pro! Read More .

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Any Onymous
    March 1, 2018 at 6:08 pm

    Nice advert for Onetastic (commercial software). Would be nice to mention that up front in the article.....

    • Ben Stegner
      March 1, 2018 at 6:30 pm

      One tip out of six relies on OneTastic, and I linked to a full article on using OneTastic, including its limitations.

      If the entire article revolved around using OneTastic, I would have mentioned it, but I don't think what I did was unfair or deceptive.

  2. Alpheus
    February 28, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    Of course, programmers could do this with Org Mode under Emacs...particularly if you're most at home in a Linux command line!

    Which reminds me: I still need to install Evil so I could try out Vim on Emacs (and from there, Org Mode)...