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 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 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 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, 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.
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.
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, 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 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.
5. Utilize Tags
If colors don’t do it for you, tags are an awesome way to categorize your notes. 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.
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.
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.
6. Integrate With Repl.it
If you need a scratch environment to test out some code quickly, Repl.it has you covered. Just pick your programming language, and you can open a programming environment in a few seconds 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.