How to Master Microsoft Office OneNote

Microsoft OneNote has been one of our favorite note-taking apps for years, and it keeps getting better. The application is completely free to install on your Mac or Windows desktop and allows you to format your notes in any way you like using the intuitive interface of your digital laptop. Here’s how to get started with OneNote and take your notes to the next level.

OneNote Quick Start

In addition to the familiar Office ribbon, OneNote mimics a spiral notebook. Each note is a page in OneNote, which appears in the right sidebar by default. Pages are stored in sections of your notebook, which you can navigate between using the colored tabs at the top. You can have an infinite number of notebooks stored either on OneDrive if you’re using the free version of OneNote, or somewhere on your hard drive if you’re using the paid version.

For this tutorial, we’ll assume that you know most of the basics of OneNote, such as how to add a new page or create a new tab. If you want to freshen up, check out Microsoft’s Quick Start Guides in Office .

How to perform the most common important tasks in Microsoft OneNote

OneNote is all you need to gather information and help organize it. On the surface, it works just like a mainstream word processor, but with support for handwriting, media embedding, and other powerful features, it’s more than just a note-taking app.

Organize your notebooks and sections

I love OneNote because it helps keep all of the random project-related information in one place and keep it visually organized. We’ve already mentioned some of the features below , but here are some tips to help you get the most out of this laptop metaphor.

Create a hierarchy of notes: Drag a note to the right in the list to make it a subpage of the note above it. You can collapse all subpages using the arrow to the right of the top note to make it easier to scan all of your notes.

Create section groups: If your notebook has many sections, consider grouping some of the related sections. Right-click the tab and select New Section Group. Then you can move the individual tabs to the new group. For example, you might have a Recipes notebook and create a group of sections for desserts, and within that group, sections for pies, cakes, cookies, etc.

Use tags freely on the page: Unlike other note-taking apps where you add tags for an entire note, OneNote lets you tag specific parts of a note. So, for example, you can tag a paragraph with a question mark tag for further study, create a list of checkbox tags for things you have to do, and tag other parts of your notes with custom tags like people’s names or project names. …

Tags are even more useful when you use the Find Tags button on the Home tab to search for a specific tag in your notebook or notebooks. Click Create Summary Page in the Tag Summary pane that opens when you search for a tag, and OneNote creates a (updatable) list of everything you’ve tagged on one page.

Automatically create new pages linked together in the master list: if you’re working on a project that you know will require multiple pages of notes, here’s a great way: put in two square left brackets followed by the title of the first note you want to take , and then enter two right square brackets at the end. OneNote will instantly create a new note with this title and a link to it in your current note. Repeat the parenthesis keyboard shortcut to add new linked notes.

Password Protect a Section : Right-click a tab and select Password Protect This Section to protect sections that contain sensitive information.

Save anything to OneNote

Getting information in OneNote is easy:

I think Evernote is still slightly ahead of OneNote when it comes to clipping web pages , but with OneNote, you still have plenty of options for quickly entering information into the app.

Save audio, video, photos and more

You can embed anything in a OneNote note, and here’s the thing: OneNote will likely make it an audio, video, scanned receipt, or other item searchable. Add these objects anywhere on the page. You can place a photo to the right of the checklist, an embedded Excel task reminder spreadsheet below it, or a YouTube video above your meeting notes.

Click the Insert tab to view the options, or try simply copying and pasting the element onto the page.

If you insert a screenshot or photo into a page, OneNote can be a great markup tool. For example, when I was planning a trip to Disney (it’s like a second job), I added this crowd calendar to my planning notebook and highlighted where we go every day.

OneNote is also great for mathematicians. On the Insert tab, click Symbols> Equation and select an equation to enter, such as the area of ​​a circle. You’ll find a new Design tab that lets you format math equations in OneNote, with a catalog of math symbols, and the ability to write math equations by hand.

Plus, OneNote can do the math for you. For example, if you enter something like “ $15*365*10= ” (without quotes), as soon as you hit the space bar, OneNote fills in the answer. Go ahead and type ” PI= ” (without quotes) followed by a space in OneNote. Cool, isn’t it? Other math functions OneNote works with are cosine and sine, square root, and logarithm. See this Office support page for other fun math tricks .

Finally, if you have a touchscreen PC, or better yet, a stylus-enabled device like the iPad Pro or Surface Pro , you’ll probably enjoy OneNote’s ink support. Not only can you draw or write by hand anywhere on the page using different colors and thickness options, OneNote can convert your chicken scratch to text, or turn warped shapes into a standard shape.

Plus, your handwritten notes, such as audio and video from OneNote, are searchable. It looks like magic!

Work faster in OneNote with these keyboard shortcuts

When you quickly type notes in OneNote, you don’t have time to fiddle with the mouse. OneNote contains over 100 keyboard shortcuts , but these are the ones you’ll probably use the most:

  • Ctrl + Alt + D : Dock the OneNote window so you can use it side-by-side with another application, such as a browser.
  • Ctrl + Shift + C: Copy the formatting of the selected text (use the Format Painter)
  • Ctrl + Shift + V: Paste the formatting of the selected text.
  • Alt + N: Open the Insert menu with additional keys highlighted. For example, after pressing Alt + N, the insert menu shows that you can now press A to insert and start recording audio, or press R to create and insert a screen clipping.
  • Ctrl + 1: add, mark or remove a To Do tag
  • Ctrl + Alt + N: create a new page below the current one at the same level (pressing Ctrl + N creates a new page, but puts it at the end of the page list)
  • Ctrl + Shift + Alt + N: Create a new subpage below the current one.
  • Ctrl + T: create a new section
  • Ctrl + E: open search box

Because OneNote uses RTF text formatting like Microsoft Word and other word processors, there are other universal keyboard shortcuts for editing text as well, such as Ctrl + K to insert a hyperlink, or use the arrow and arrow keys to move the cursor a word to the right or left. … Check out our list of these keyboard shortcuts for highlighting text here.

Further reading for professional users

OneNote is a powerful tool for collecting your thoughts, taking notes in meetings , saving content from the web, and more. There is more to the program than we can share here, so check out these additional resources:

  • Do more in OneNote with Onetastic: The free Onetastic add-on gives you many new features such as custom styles, calendar note presentation, and the ability to create macros in OneNote. This is a must-have for OneNote fans, and Office has a 15-minute webinar that shows you how to use it.
  • Apply a template to a OneNote page: Use a consistent layout or apply a background to your pages using OneNote’s built-in templates, or create your own page templates. Here is Microsoft’s guide to page templates .
  • Set up your GTD notebook for task management: If you’re a fan of Getting It Done, turn it on in OneNote with this notebook and sample tags .
  • Moving from Evernote to OneNote: If you want to move your notes from Evernote to OneNOte, Microsoft has an import tool for that . It is currently only available for Windows, but once you import your Evernote notes, they will be available in OneNote on all your devices.
  • Send notes to OneNote using Cortana / Siri / Google. Cortana not only allows you to display OneNote notes , but also quickly create notes using your voice on Windows 10, iOS, and Android.

If you have any other tips, special notebooks, or ways to use OneNote, share them with us in the comments.


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