Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Are you tired of tracking all of your tasks, plans, and notes in your head? Nobody can remember everything. That’s why you must write things down. And instead of using pen and paper, a note-taking app like OneNote is more convenient and reliable.
OneNote is great for keeping track of and organizing all your information and having it available on all your devices. Microsoft currently offers two versions of OneNote:
- OneNote for Windows 10 (the Microsoft Store app)
- OneNote 2016 (the Microsoft Office desktop app)
The former used to be much more limited, but things have certainly changed over the years.
OneNote 2016 is still more robust than OneNote for Windows 10, but it’s also being phased out. We’ll explain what’s happening to OneNote 2016 and show you some of the great benefits of switching to OneNote for Windows 10.
What’s Happening to the OneNote 2016 Desktop App?
Just in case you were starting to panic, OneNote 2016 is not going away. At least, not right away.
As of Office 2019, OneNote 2016 will not be installed by default. If you subscribe to Office 365, you can still choose to install OneNote 2016. And you can download OneNote 2016 for free even if you don’t subscribe to Office 365.
But OneNote 2016 will no longer receive new features.
Instead, Microsoft will be updating OneNote for Windows 10 (also referred to as OneNote) with features from OneNote 2016 as well as new features. For this reason, Microsoft encourages everyone to start using OneNote for Windows 10 so you’re always using the latest version through the Microsoft Store and taking advantage of the great new features.
If you need some of the features that OneNote 2016 has that have not yet been added to OneNote for Windows 10, you can still use OneNote 2016. Microsoft will continue to provide support, bug fixes, and security updates for OneNote 2016 through October 2020 for mainstream support and October 2025 for extended support.
If you have any questions about OneNote in Office 2019, see Microsoft’s FAQ list.
How OneNote Keeps You Organized
The structure of OneNote mimics a three-ring binder. You create notebooks that have sections like tabs in a three-ring binder. Each section contains pages like the sheets of paper you put between the tabs in the binder.
Each page, or note, can contain different types of content like typed text, tables, images, attached files, web links, and even handwritten text and drawings.
Just like when you write on a piece of paper, you can insert content anywhere on a page in OneNote and move the items around.
OneNote for Windows 10 works like OneNote 2016 when it comes to the basic operations. Our OneNote guide covers OneNote 2016. Some things work a bit differently in OneNote for Windows 10 compared to OneNote 2016, but you’ll get the idea how OneNote works.
Why OneNote for Windows 10 Is Better Than OneNote 2016
So why should you switch to OneNote for Windows 10? Microsoft keeps adding new features to OneNote and migrating features from OneNote 2016 to the Windows 10 app.
Here are some awesome benefits you’ll get from switching over to OneNote for Windows 10. And the ones listed here are not all of them. You’ll find a list of features only available in OneNote for Windows 10 on Microsoft’s site, and new features are being added each month.
Share Notes With Any Windows 10 App
OneNote for Windows 10 allows you to share notes with other Windows 10 apps like Mail, Skype, and Twitter.
Open the note you want to share and click Share in the upper-right corner of the OneNote window. Then, click Send a copy.
The Share dialog box shows the Windows 10 apps installed on your PC that are fit to share your note with. If you don’t see the app you want to share your note with, click Get apps in Store at the bottom of the dialog box. The Microsoft Store shows you a list of available apps you can use to share your note.
You can also share your note with people by clicking on a person above the list of apps or clicking More people and selecting a person from your address book.
Draw Using Your Finger or Mouse
You can draw or sketch in notes using a Surface Pen (if you have a Surface) or your finger if you have a PC with a touch screen. If you don’t have a touch screen or a Surface, you can still draw using your mouse.
To draw in a note, open the note you want to draw in. The selected note can contain other content like typed text and images.
On the Draw tab, click the type of pen you want to use, then click Draw with Mouse or Touch. Start drawing in your note using your finger or mouse.
Solve and Graph Math Equations
OneNote will even solve and graph equations for you. You can either type or write your equations. We’re going to write the equation for our example because it’s quicker when your equations contain items like superscripts. We’ll also show you how to convert a written equation to a typed one.
To use the Math Assistant to solve an equation, click the Draw tab. Then, click the type of pen you want to use and click Draw with Mouse or Touch.
With your finger, stylus, or mouse, write your equation in the note.
Click the Lasso tool and drag your mouse around the equation. The beginning and end of the lasso automatically connect, so when the connection shows that the selection includes the whole equation, release the mouse button.
Click Math on the Draw tab.
To convert your handwritten equation to a typed equation, click Ink to Math on the Math pane.
Choose whether you want to solve for an unknown in the equation or graph the equation from the first drop-down list. Drag the box with the solution to the note.
You can also show the steps to get to the solution using the second drop-down list. Drag the steps box to the note.
Now you have a complete solution to your equation.
Transform Drawings Into Shapes
Another cool benefit of the drawing tools in OneNote is the ability to draw shapes and have them turn into shapes automatically.
Click the Draw tab and click the type of pen you want to use.
Click Draw with Mouse or Touch and then click Ink to Shape. With your finger, stylus, or mouse, draw a shape in the note.
Make sure you connect the beginning and end of the drawn shape.
The drawing automatically transforms into the shape you drew.
Save Web Page Annotations in Microsoft Edge to OneNote
Microsoft Edge allows you to add annotations to webpages and save them to OneNote.
To add an annotation to a page and save it to OneNote, open Edge and navigate to the web page you want to annotate.
Click Add Notes on the toolbar in the upper-right corner of the window.
Choose whether you want to write on the web page with the Ballpoint pen, highlight text with the Highlighter, or Add a Note.
Write on the web page, highlight text on the page, or add a note by clicking on the page and typing your note in the box.
Click Save Web Note and make sure OneNote is selected on the dropdown pane.
Select a recently used section to save your web note in from the Choose a recent section dropdown list or accept the default section. Then, click Save.
A message displays when your note has been successfully saved to OneNote. Click View note to automatically open OneNote and see the new note.
If you have both versions of OneNote on your PC, OneNote 2016 may be the versions that opens automatically. If that happens, you’ll have to change the default version of OneNote used in Windows.
A screenshot of the web page and the web note is added to a new note in the selected section.
Pin Pages to the Start Menu for Quick Access
If you have some pages you access often, you can pin them to the Start menu for easy and quick access.
Go to the page you want to pin, right-click on the page, and select Pin Page to Start.
Then, click Yes on the confirmation dialog box.
The page is added as a tile on the Start menu. Click the tile to open the note in OneNote.
If you decide you don’t want that note pinned to the Start menu anymore, right-click on the note’s tile and select Unpin from Start.
Speak Your Notes Instead of Typing Them
Do you get tired of typing all your notes? Relieve your hands and start speaking your notes using Cortana.
To speak a note, open Cortana and click the microphone icon on the search box.
Speak what you want to add to your note. Cortana converts what you said to text and displays it. Click on the converted text to open the note in OneNote.
Again, if you have both versions of OneNote on your PC, OneNote 2016 may be the versions that opens automatically. To have the OneNote app be the default, you’ll have to change the default version of OneNote used in Windows.
The Recent Notes list displays with your spoken note at the top. The notebook and section containing the new note is also shown.
You may have to edit your note depending on how well Cortana understood what you said.
Switch to OneNote for Windows 10 Today
OneNote for Windows 10 provides many benefits for improving your productivity like drawing and solving equations in notes, transforming your handwriting to text, and speaking your notes instead of typing them.
There are also other useful OneNote features you may not have tried yet, like converting handwritten text to typed text, the Tell Me search feature, navigating backward and forward, opening multiple OneNote windows, and creating and hiding subpages.