5 Tips for Using OneNote as Your To-Do List
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Is making a to-do list on your to-do list? Set it up in OneNote to make getting things done as straightforward as possible.

A to-do list can be a great way of ensuring you’re making progress 5 Ways to Get Productive With Microsoft OneNote 5 Ways to Get Productive With Microsoft OneNote Do you feel the need for an offline organization tool that also exists on the web? Surprisingly, Microsoft has come up with the perfect solution - OneNote. Read More — but it’ll only serve that purpose if its set up correctly. Building a to-do list inside OneNote offers a host of advantages over pen and paper. Use these tips to make an actionable list that makes sure the important things in life get done on time.

Use Shortcuts to Make Checklists a Breeze

It’s easier to stick to a to-do list when you have the option of ticking off completed tasks — it’s not just helpful in an organizational sense, it’s a very satisfying way of quantifying just how much you’ve accomplished. OneNote makes this easy, with a simple keyboard shortcut Windows Keyboard Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Guide Windows Keyboard Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Guide Keyboard shortcuts can save you hours of time. Master the universal Windows keyboard shortcuts, keyboard tricks for specific programs, and a few other tips to speed up your work. Read More that can make a checkbox for any purpose.


Just highlight some text and press Ctrl + 1 to pair it with a checkbox. You can combine this shortcut with some others, too — Ctrl + 2 adds a star, while Ctrl + . starts a bulleted list. Using these three shortcuts in conjunction with one another, it’s quick and easy to set up a detailed checklist for a particular task on the fly.

Embed Files to Keep Your Materials Handy

A disorganized hard drive can result in wasted time when you’re working on the computer. However, OneNote 2013 features the software’s broadest support thus far for embedding files directly into your notes. This is great if you want to use mixed media for your note-taking, but it can also be used to get you straight into tackling your to-do list rather than searching for a missing document.


Whether it’s a PDF you’ve been meaning to proofread or a video file that needs to be edited down 3 Ways To Do Video Editing From Within Chrome 3 Ways To Do Video Editing From Within Chrome If you're on a budget and need free video editing options, look no further than these three Chrome apps, compatible with both your browser and Chrome OS. Read More , just drag and drop it onto a page in OneNote and you can add a link to its location on your hard drive. Be sure to open the original document via the respective right-click option. Changes made on your hard drive won’t sync to the document embedded in OneNote.

Link Tasks to Outlook

OneNote is useful as a standalone program, but it really comes into its own when you use it in conjunction with the rest of the Office suite. The ability to import Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations Make a PowerPoint Presentation That Doesn't Put Your Audience to Sleep Make a PowerPoint Presentation That Doesn't Put Your Audience to Sleep PowerPoint presentations, when done right, can be an engaging way to provide an audience with information. When done poorly, however, they can quickly put the audience to sleep. Read More  can help out with certain tasks, but if you’re looking to set up a to-do list, OneNote’s links with Outlook are going to be of most use.


If you’re at an appointment you had scheduled in Outlook, you can use the intertwined Office suite to create an actionable OneNote to-do list based on what you find in the meetings. Better yet, it works both ways — you can use OneNote to schedule dated entries for time-sensitive tasks via your Windows Calendar.

Never Forget a Task

The problem with a physical to-do list is that it takes up space. Whether it’s in a bag or your pocket, it’s yet another thing to keep on your person — and the alternative of a full list at home, and a myriad of scribbled notes waiting to be added to it once you and it are reunited isn’t much better. In the digital age, there’s no reason to make such a compromise unless you prefer pen and paper.

As part of an increasing push for device agnosticism with Windows 10, Microsoft offers versions of OneNote for all major platforms. That means as long as you have a smartphone to hand, you can access your to-do list, whether you’re using a Windows Phone or an iOS device. There’s even a web-based version for when you find yourself in need of your notes while using an unfamiliar computer.


Take advantage of this easy access by adding tasks to your to-do list as and when they come to mind. Get the gist down before you forget it, and worry about refining it later on. If it’s easier, just take an audio recording rather than typing it out — you’ll be able to use OneNote’s powerful search functionality to find the entry you’re looking for just as easily as you would with a few sentences of plain text.

Experiment with View Options

The standard OneNote view does a great job of presenting easy access to your various notebooks without overloading you with information. That said, for maintaining a to-do list, a full-screen display isn’t always the best use of space.

Instead, head to the View tab and see what else is on offer. If your to-do list is restricted to just one page, you can click New Docked Window while that page is open, to temporarily separate it from your notebook and allow it to take precedence over a certain amount of your display. This can be useful if you’re working on a task in another application, but still want to keep the bigger picture in mind as you do so — it can also be a good way to make sure you stay on task if you’re easily distracted Use This 3-Tier Communication System to Resist Distractions Use This 3-Tier Communication System to Resist Distractions The need to constantly stay connected is distracting. To manage your relationships and time, also manage the way you communicate with the world. Create a smart 3-tier plan. Read More .


Customizing your view like this allows you to take advantage of Linked Notes How To Link MS Word 2010 To OneNote & Use It For Writing Linked Notes How To Link MS Word 2010 To OneNote & Use It For Writing Linked Notes MS Office 2010 adds another by letting you link MS Word 2010, and MS PowerPoint to OneNote 2010. This linking allows you to refer back to either the note or the main document by clicking... Read More . OneNote automatically supplements any notes that you take while it’s docked with a link to the Office document or web page that you were looking at while you made the entry.  To make sure that this functionality is enabled, click the link icon at the top of the docked OneNote window and browse through Linked Note Options.

Decided that OneNote isn’t for you and have a Mac? Check out the best Mac reminder apps 10 Mac Reminder Apps That Outperform Apple Reminders 10 Mac Reminder Apps That Outperform Apple Reminders Looking for some Mac reminder apps that beat Apple Reminders? These alternatives provide more features and help you keep track of all your tasks. Read More that let you tackle your to-do list.

Have you got a great tip for using OneNote as the foundation for your to-do list? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

Explore more about: Microsoft OneNote, To-Do List.

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  1. Paul
    April 2, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    If you have bulleted list and you want to add a tag, how do you keep the list together in the "Tags Summary"? For example (assume # = the to do box and * is a first level bullet and @ is the second level) if I have the following list:
    * # Groceries
    @ # milk
    @ # apples
    Will show up in your Tags Summary list as :
    # apples
    # milk
    I understand this isn't the best example as some will say why do you need that but that isnt the point. In the Tags Summary, for To Do it should show:
    # Groceries
    @ # milk
    @ # apples

  2. Sharon Stewart
    November 24, 2016 at 5:11 am

    I apparently missed something as I could not locate how to save and backup files. I am missing notes and I must find. What is the best way to locate all notes and notebooks?

  3. Veerle Ultee
    September 24, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Is there a way to automatically collect all lines with an unchecked checkbox in front of it into a separate page/ section. To create an overall to do list across different pages, sections and even notebooks? That would really be helpful and replace my Wunderlist to-do-app. Ideally if a checkbox gets checked, whether it is in the note itself or on the overall list, it should be checked in both places and disappear from the overall todo list.

    • Tyler
      September 29, 2016 at 6:34 pm

      Just rid myself of Wunderlist by finding this exact feature :)

      On the home tab, click "Find Tags". It will create a window to the right. Select "Show only unchecked items". You can then click the "Create Summary Page" that will give you a list of all the unchecked to dos.

      Hope this helps

      • Veerle Ultee
        October 1, 2016 at 12:45 pm

        No "find tags" on my home tab I'm afraid... (not on Mac desktop app, nor on online version). The feature as you describe it sounds perfect indeed...

        • Rick Cobb
          October 19, 2016 at 3:22 am

          I too would like to have ON "sweep" my notes which contain checkboxes in order to create a consolidated to-do list. Were you able to figure out how to do this? I do not have "find tags" on my home tab either (using ON on iPad).

    • Rob
      October 20, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      Yes, from the Home Ribbon, click on find tags. You can choose to view say just "Unchecked tags". That the bottom of the Tag Summary you can search unchecked tags for all notebooks, specific notebooks or sections or by time, like yesterday , etc. The drop down mean gives multiple sorting options. For simplicity say you choose All Notebooks. Then two boxes down you simple click "Create Summary Page". A new page will be created in the current notebook you are viewing showing all unchecked tags. I suggest if you like this feature, then do your tag search in a notebook or section where you would like your tag summary stored. This way you have a To Do section and each morning you can create a summary of unchecked tags. Within the summary page, when you click to the left of each tag a One Note logo will appear when you hover the mouse just to the left of the unchecked tag, when you click the Onenote icon it will bring you to the specific note. This is a very powerful feature of One Note. If you are leaving your office you can simple print the page for quick reference your view on your mobile device. I hope this helps.

  4. Alex
    July 22, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    I am curious as to why you use bullet points for your lists... I just press tab to indent.

  5. Dubs
    July 18, 2016 at 7:02 am

    The OneNote desktop client is way, way better than the Windows Store client.

  6. corky
    June 13, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    thanks -- for this intro but i need a more precise play by play on how to make and use the to do list...argh.

  7. Noneya
    March 7, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    No use if there are not instructions on how to use features!

  8. Dave
    January 18, 2016 at 12:36 am

    Can I create an outlook task using Onenote for Android?

  9. mp
    November 27, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I clipped this article into Evernote!

  10. Hildegerd
    May 21, 2015 at 11:28 am

    I hate OneNote.
    I want Springpad back.

    • Anonymous
      June 17, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      You should try Evernote. Its more usefull than Springpad.

      By the way, I use OneNote.

    • Anonymous
      August 25, 2015 at 4:04 am

      My poor Blue Eyes... :-(

  11. Chas
    May 21, 2015 at 4:15 am

    I use OneNote docked while attending online training. I can not only add organized pages of notes, but also make checklists of things to test later plus lists of after-action items. I also added tiles of three notebook pages on my Windows Phone start screen. One is our family weekly shopping list. I added all the normal items we buy, then check the ones we need to buy as the week goes on.

  12. Iaccobvs
    May 20, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    I would like Onenote to add a category-based tagging system, like the ones we find in wiki-like software (Connected Text comes to mind). It would make data structuring much more useful.

  13. WinDork
    May 20, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    I have to give OneNote another chance. I had issues with parent-child management that compelled me to seek alternatives. But I appreciate the features of the app, which I consider comprehensive compared to some other productivity apps.

  14. Jay
    May 20, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    The OneNote extension for Chrome has proven it's merits! It allows you to crop and save and save text from articles.

    • Anonymous
      June 17, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Last update of this extension is very good. I like it more now.

  15. Eileen
    May 20, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Good article. I use OneNote all the time and love it device independence via OneDrive. I manage several To-Do lists in my OneNote so your tips were [particularly relevant. BTW, there is a OneNote for Android phones, too. I use it daily.