How to Use OneNote Templates to Be More Organized
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If you’ve already integrated OneNote into your workflow, making full use of templates can help you super-charge your usage. For those of you not yet using it, there are plenty of reasons to try OneNote 10 Unique Ways to Use Microsoft OneNote 10 Unique Ways to Use Microsoft OneNote OneNote is one of Microsoft's most underrated apps. It's available on almost every platform and can do many tricks you wouldn't expect from a note keeping app. Read More .

The key to good note-taking is a foundation that lets you quickly and efficiently take down the information that’s most important Make The Minutes Work: How To Take Effective Notes During A Meeting Make The Minutes Work: How To Take Effective Notes During A Meeting It’s a skill which few people have perfected; the perfect meeting minutes. The record of events saves you headaches further down the line. Here's how you take effective minutes in a meeting. Read More . Sometimes, a blank page does that job just fine, but there are situations where a well-made template can grease the wheels. Spending time creating a template can reap great rewards in the long term, but even using the pre-made templates included can improve your notes.

Here is everything you need to know to get started using templates to fulfill your note-taking potential in OneNote.

Use a Template

To use a template as a new page in OneNote, first make sure you’re in the correct section of the Notebook you want to place the new page into. Then, choose the Insert tab in the Ribbon and navigate to Page > Page Templates.

page templates

You’ll be presented with several different categories of templates that serve different purposes. There are blank pages that simply add a shade of color or change the paper size you’re working with, as well as more detailed templates for specific usage cases, like to-do lists and skeletons for lecture notes.

template choices

Note the Always use a specific template field at the bottom of the Templates window. If you want to use a template on every new page that you make in the current section of your Notebook, it can save you some legwork.

Editing Templates

You may find a template that would work better with a few of your own tweaks. Thankfully, OneNote makes it very easy to customize templates to your liking. First, open up the template that you like and create a new page with it in place.

For the purposes of this guide, I will take the History Class Notes template and change it so that it’s a bit more suitable for printing. To do so, I’ll need to remove the background to reduce on ink costs and change the paper size. To get rid of the image, right-click it and uncheck the option that reads Set Picture as Background. With that done, you can move and delete it as normal.

remove image

To change the paper size, navigate to the View tab via the Ribbon. Select Paper Size in the Page Setup section, and you’ll be presented with options to change both its size, as well as the margins in place. If you’re planning to print off your notes at a later date, changing this before you start writing can help keep your layouts in check.

paper size

Finally, re-open the Templates menu that we started with, if you’ve already closed it. At the bottom, there’s the option to Save current page as a template. Click on this, then choose a sensible name to save it under when prompted to. Now, you’ll be able to select your customized template just as you would any other.

save as template

Creating Your Own Templates

Once you’re comfortable with using and editing pre-existing templates, you can start creating your own from scratch. The basics are largely the same as customizing a pre-existing template, but think beforehand about exactly what you want your template to accomplish. You will want to specialize it towards a particular task, but making its design too specific might prevent it from being as useful as it could be.

I’m going to produce a template that I can use each month to reflect on my MakeUseOf articles and start thinking about what I’ll write next. First, I’ll need a blank canvas, which I can access by selecting a Notebook that doesn’t use a template and adding in a new page.

The first thing I will do is add in a MakeUseOf watermark and change the default page color. To insert an image, head to the Insert tab on the Ribbon and choose the appropriate option from the Images section. Once it’s positioned where you want it, right-click it and make Set picture as background is selected—this will prevent you from accidentally moving it around when you’re using the template.

image background

To change the page color, select the View tab in the Ribbon and use the Page Color drop-down in the Page Setup section. This is also a good opportunity to add rule lines or grid lines, and adjust the paper size you want to work with.

Now it’s time to begin structuring your template for the notes you will make in it. This will vary depending on your usage, but the general idea is to build a foundation that makes sure the only thing you need to add to the template is your notes. For my needs, that means going through and making sections that will house whatever I might want to jot down.

template example

As you can see, I’ve split the page up into sensible sections. I’ve also used italics and bold type to make sure that all of the notes I’m going to take are properly organized, as well as using some of OneNote’s to-do list functionality 6 Tips for Using OneNote as Your To-Do List 6 Tips for Using OneNote as Your To-Do List These tips show how easy it is to set up your to-do list in OneNote and enjoy the advantages as compared to pen and paper. Read More to make the template even more useful. Obviously, it’s important to think about your note-taking habits when you construct your template, but try to think about how you look back on your notes as well. That’s a big part of finding an organizational structure that works for you.

Once you’re happy with your template, it’s time to save it for future usage. You can do this exactly as before, by opening the Templates window and selecting Save current page as a template at the bottom. However, your template is never truly “finished”—if you have an idea for a tweak later on, just use the steps towards customizing a template outlined above to make your changes to the template we just built.

Do you have a tip on creating powerful templates in OneNote? Have you had an idea for a particular template that you’re eager to share? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

Image Credits: big piles of paper via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Microsoft OneNote, Note-Taking Apps, Office Templates.

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  1. Nicole Campbell
    March 9, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    I would like to be able to input the meeting details in my template without everything moving around .

  2. Michal
    September 26, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    When I create template like that:
    - Menu
    header1 ( link to section1 )
    header2 ( link to section1 )

    Section 1

    Section 2

    And use that template, all links point to the original template page. They should link to the section in newly created one.

  3. Kuroneko
    February 9, 2016 at 4:13 am

    No templates in my menu. What a crock!

    • Martin
      June 21, 2016 at 7:05 am

      I guess it is only available in OneNote 2016 that comes with the MS Office package, but not in the free version that comes with many restrictions. Additionally, from my experience all Mac versions of Microsoft applications have their limitations by design - compared to their relatives that live in Windows.

  4. Anonymous
    September 21, 2015 at 11:23 am

    I have a question -

    Where are the templates in OneNote?

    My Ribbon doesn't have a Templates tab at all, like the one in this article.

    I have looked at three different versions of OneNote - Android, Online and Windows 10. None has a Templates tab.

    What am I missing?

    • Martin
      June 21, 2016 at 7:09 am

      Compared the free OneNote desktop client with the OneNote 2016 that came with my MS Office I can confirm, that many (if not most) features are missing in the free version. Unfortunately.

      • Martin
        June 21, 2016 at 7:20 am

        Anyway, there could be a workaround for the free version: Use a separate notebook for your custom page templates. After everything is set up, just right click the desired page and choose "copy" to copy it to the target notebook whenever you need it. It is not that convenient than the template feature, but at least it helps to solve the task.

  5. Anonymous
    August 1, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Really useful article, Brad.

    I have just created a Notebook pkg using various templates to help in planning a novel, if anyone is interested.

    All the best

    CC Hogan

  6. Anonymous
    June 27, 2015 at 3:48 am

    Its too bad there are no templates in the MAC version. I hope they make that a feature someday. The MAC version will see templates that were created in the Windows just can't implement a template in the MAC version.

  7. Anonymous
    June 25, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Great article! Thanks!