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10 Tips to Unlock the Potential of Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote surface screenshot
400 200 Jason Tran

Often overshadowed by its brothers and sisters, like Excel and Word, Microsoft OneNote is truly the hidden gem in the Office suite. Literally your digital notebook, OneNote is a great way to create and organize your notes, whether its for school, work, or personal. Ever since Microsoft released a bunch of new features in the 2013 version and made OneNote absolutely free for everyone, it’s a must-have organization tool.

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In this post, we cover 10 tips to help unlock the potential of Microsoft OneNote:

1. Customize OneNote to what works for you

Don’t like the default blank pages in OneNote? Customize it with paper styles, like lined sheets or a yellow background. You can do this by going to View tab > Page Setup group > Rule Lines. The View tab also has other customization options such as the Full Page View that provides a no-distraction workspace and Dock to Desktop which lets you keep your notes visible while browsing the web.

2. Embed almost anything and make it searchable

Don’t limit yourself to just text, OneNote lets you improve your notes by adding other file types. Plus, OneNote makes them searchable too! By going to the Insert tab, you can, for example, insert math equations, scan handwritten notes, take audio recordings of a lecture, and more.

Make you sure you enable searching within video and audio recordings to do this (File > Options > Audio and Video).

3. OneNote recognizes your handwriting

OneNote’s built-in OCR (optical character recognition) technology recognizes your handwriting and converts it into text, especially useful for those using a stylus to write notes. The magic button for this feature is called “Ink to Text”. Notice the button next to it as well labelled “Ink to Math” which converts your handwritten formulas.

4. Quickly add and edit notes with keyboard shortcuts

When you’re taking notes in class, there’s not always time to bold, italicize, and bullet. But with OneNote’s keyboard shortcuts, it’s easier and faster than ever. Quickly add tags, format your notes with headings, or insert tables – all without your mouse. Pro tip: Easily create detailed to-do lists by highlighting text and use Ctrl+1 to pair it with a checkbox. You can also use Ctrl+2 to add a star, Ctrl+3 to add a question mark, Ctrl+Shift+3 to add a flag or checkmark, and Ctrl+. to begin a bulleted list.

Here’s a huge list of keyboard shortcuts, learn them and start note-taking like a pro.

5. Use tags for better organization

It’s easy to get lost in your digital notebook when you’ve got all your notes in one place. Make sure you’re tagging your notes so it’s easier to organize and find them. You can find tag options under the Home tab. Speaking of lots of notes, don’t forget about handy advanced search lets you search for notes, text, authors and recent edits – a great feature for group projects.

6. Automatic sourcing

You heard that right, OneNote automatically adds a source link from anything you copy and paste from the web so making a bibliography is that much easier.

7. Take notes without having OneNote open

OneNote makes it easy to quickly create notes, especially for when you have to jot down something important like an assignment date or a spontaneous exam tip. PC users can use Win+N to open a quick note or Win+S to take a screenshot which will then be automatically saved to OneNote.

Additionally, the OneNote icon in the taskbar gives you quick access to OneNote. You can even customize what the OneNote taskbar icon does like taking quick notes, a screenshot, audio recording, or simply opening OneNote. Pro Tip: You can also send notes to yourself using me@onenote.com.

8. Use apps with OneNote

There are tons of apps available to integrate with OneNote, but our favorites are OneNote web clipper and Office Lens. With OneNote web clipper, you can clip anything from news articles to blog posts which are then automatically captured in OneNote.

Office Lens enhances pictures of white boards and documents then saves them to OneNote. It’s basically like having a scanner in your pocket – no more frantically copying down information from whiteboards!

9. Save all your notes to the cloud

Integrate OneNote and Microsoft’s OneDrive and get 7GB of cloud storage for free – that’s a TON of notes. And if that’s not enough for you, you can always buy up to 200 GB of storage. Also, did you know OneNote automatically saves all your notes for you? Gone are the days you didn’t click the save button and lost all your notes!

10. Integrate OneNote with other Microsoft Office apps

Being a part of the Microsoft family, you can count on OneNote to seamlessly integrate with other Microsoft apps. You can import charts from Excel, take notes on Powerpoint slides, create meeting notes from Outlook appointments, or add Visio diagrams to your notes. The list goes on! FYI if you’re big on Excel (or not), start using it like a pro with our post 9 Essential Tips for Excel.

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Featured photo: Wavebreak Media via  Shutterstock


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