The Perfect Modern Notetaking App: OneNote For Windows 8

Skye Hudson 18-12-2013

One of the most convenient parts of having a Windows 8 tablet is the ability to quickly scribble notes in it just like a notebook, and Microsoft’s OneNote application is perfect for that. Even if you’ve got a Windows 8 laptop, OneNote also supports typing notes, as well as a host of other features like Camera Scan, Optical Character Recognition, and a Share Charm.


Let’s take a closer look at this modern notetaking app.

Creating Notes

The basic structure of OneNote’s organization involves three layers: Notebooks, Sections, and Pages. Below, you can see that I have two notebooks, one for school and one for MakeUseOf. Inside my MakeUseOf notebook, I have three sections, and then just one page under the “Different Colors” section. Each section has a different color, but we’ll get more into those customization options later.


Once you have your notebooks and sections created, the page can be named by typing on the dotted line in the upper left corner of the page that also includes the date and time beneath it. You can then begin typing or writing notes. The three layers on the left can be pulled up or put away by tapping on the three-line icon in the top left.



Since I mostly use OneNote for school, I prefer to have the lines visible as shown above. These can be accessed by pulling up OneNote’s options by either swiping in from the top or bottom of the screen. There is also an option for grid paper, as seen below with the options menu pulled up.


If you have a stylus, writing is as simple as putting your stylus on the screen. A small icon will appear in the upper right which Microsoft is calling a Radial Menu. I know, catchy name, right? Well, if you tap that icon, a multitude of options will appear, allowing you to customize 4 different pens and switch quickly between them all. This simple addition makes it very easy to switch between colors or adjust the thickness of your pen without having to dig through menus.



If you don’t have a stylus, you’ll still get a Radial Menu, but the icon will be a piece of paper rather than a pen, and you’ll see slightly different options. Once you’ve clicked anywhere on the screen, it should appear. It allows you to access all of OneNote’s more complex, but useful features, like the Camera for storing pictures, the ability to insert a table or list, or the ability to draw with your finger as if it were a stylus.


The Radial Menu, despite its terrible name, is actually one of the best parts of OneNote, allowing you to access a lot of settings very quickly.


There’s quite a bit of room for customization here, which I love. The color of each section can be changed, and when you do that, it changes the appearance of the entire app, although the bottom pop-up menu will still be purple. There are 16 different colors to choose from, so you could theoretically have 16 different sections within each notebook before having to repeat colors.



You can also create subpages, which doesn’t mean much, except that the page gets indented a bit, allowing it to stick out from the rest. I often use it to show connections between different notes in class. For example, I could have a main page with the introduction to a certain topic, and subpages below it for more detailed notes, then another main page with subpages, etc. It’s surprisingly useful, being such a tiny feature.


Other Features

If you select a page or section, either by right-clicking or long-pressing on it, a layer of options pops up as shown above. One of those options is “Copy Link to Page/Section”. Since all of your notes are automatically synced with SkyDrive How To Keep Your Files Synced With SkyDrive In Windows 8.1 Storing data remotely and syncing them across devices has never been so easy, especially if you're using Windows 8.1. SkyDrive received a significant update, improving its integration with Windows and adding interesting new features. Read More , this creates a link that can be shared with your friends if you want them to be able to see your notes. Very helpful if your friend was sick and missed class.


The other feature is a “Pin to Start” button, which works for both sections and pages, and I find most useful for keeping my notes for separate classes easily accessible. I just walk into class, tap the live tile for my notes for that class, and I’m ready.

And as briefly mentioned before, it automatically backs up everything with SkyDrive. No more losing your notes. No more forgetting to press save on Word. No more dog eating your notes, which you swear totally happened that one time.


OneNote isn’t just a Windows 8 modern app, it also has a desktop counterpart with some extra features, although quite a rougher interface. Still, it’s worth checking out for those extra features, and we have 10 awesome tips 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 for the desktop version of OneNote. If you just want to get the most out of your OneNote experience, check out these five ways to do so 5 Ways to Take Advantage of Microsoft OneNote Read More .

What do you think of OneNote? Do your prefer Evernote Touch, or another modern notetaking app? Let us know in the comments.

Related topics: Microsoft OneNote, Note-Taking Apps, Windows 8.

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  1. Ricklee57
    April 27, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Evernote Touch really sucks. Verrrrry slow to sync. I use Evernote lots but gave up on the Touch version

  2. Alan
    April 1, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Dude.. review the App eJournal for Windows 8.1
    WAY better than this one..