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Microsoft OneNote – Detailed Tutorial

Microsoft OneNote is a free note taking and organization tool that helps you and your students organize your notes and life quickly and easily. In this article, I’ll show you:

  • How to create and customize notebooks
  • How to insert audio, video, photos, and drawings
  • How to organize your notes with sections and tags
  • How to invite collaborators to your notes

This software is compatible with both Mac and Windows systems and serves as a versatile and easy-to-use tool to help busy students, individuals, and families stay on track, create customized files, and collect important information. The free version offers five gigabytes of data storage, or you can choose a paid subscription and get even more storage and benefits.

To get started, you’ll need to create an account on the Microsoft OneNote website if you don’t already have a Microsoft account. Then you can either use the online version or click “Download” to install the software on your desktop or laptop. Once you’ve you’ve logged in to the online account or you’ve installed OneNote, open it and you’ll get a window with “My Notebooks” at the top of the page.

Log in with your Microsoft account, download software, then click to open a new OneNote window

Notebooks

Now you can create your first notebook. Click the icon that looks like a tiny open notebook on the left side of the toolbar, then click the little “+” sign, and a menu will open.

Click small notebook icon at the top left, then click plus sign to open a “New Notebook” menu

The menu gives you a range of colors to choose from, which can be a handy visual tool to help keep your information organized. For example, you could have all of your office meeting notes in the blue notebook, and personal info like birthdays in the yellow notebook. Once you choose notebook color you can give the notebook a name or title, then hit “Enter,” and the program will save a copy of your new notebook in OneDrive. You can check out my video tutorial on OneDrive here.

Inside of your new notebook, you’ll see that a new Section appears by default, and on the right side of the window, you’ll see an “Add Page” option.

Inside the new notebook you’ll see a blank Section and an “Add Page” option

Each time you create a new notebook you can find it by clicking the open notebook in the top left corner to open a list of all of your notebooks and select which one you’d like to work on. You can also rearrange the order of the notebooks in the list by clicking and dragging. You can close notebooks from this view as well, which only removes them from the menu and does not delete them. If you ever want to reopen a closed notebook, click the folder at the top left of the screen.

Click the notebook icon at top left to open menu of notebooks, then click and drag to rearrange order of notebooks

In OneNote, you have Notebooks, which are divided into Sections, which are divided into Pages, all of which can be titled and customized for easy reference and organization.

Sections

Now choose one of your notebooks and click on the “+” next to the “Sections” tab. This lets you add as many sections as you want to your notebook and name each section according to your needs. For example, you could have a section of vegetarian recipes, a section for steak recipes, and a section for dessert recipes.

Choose a notebook and click plus sign to add sections

You can also right-click on each Section tab to open a menu of options such as Copy, Section Color to help color code your files, or Password Protection to give that section extra security.

Right-click on Section tab to open a menu of options

Pages

You can add pages to each section by clicking “Add Page” on the right side of your section window. Each time you add a page, it will appear in a list on the right side of the window. If at any point you want to rename a page, all you need to do is right-click on the page in your list and choose “Rename,” and just like in your Notebooks menu you can click and drag to change the order of your pages.

Click “Add Page” to create new pages within each section, and use list on right side of window to keep pages organized

Adding Content

When you open a new page, the default setting is a plain white background, but you can change this if you prefer a different color. Up in your toolbar, you can find a “Paper Color” option that opens a menu of colors, as well as a “Paper Style” option that lets you choose between blank, ruled, or grid paper.

Click “Paper Color” in the toolbar to choose the color of the page, or click “Paper Style” to choose blank, ruled, or grid paper

Now you can double click anywhere on your new page and start typing. If you click the “Home” tab, you’ll see the toolbar full of text options where you can choose your font, size, text color, and other options like Bold and Underline.

Click “Home” tab to get a toolbar of text control options

One unique feature of OneNote is that you can double click, start writing text, then double click again on another part of the page and start writing a new line without affecting the first line. You can even click and drag each text box to move them around the page.

A helpful tool for keeping things organized is Tags, which you can add to your page from the menu in the toolbar. For example, you can click on the “To-Do” tag and a new window will open on your page where you can add your list of appointments or reminders for the week, or you could choose “Address” to enter the address of the birthday party you have coming up. Tags are just an easy way to add a visual marker, in the form of an icon, to your text or lists to help you quickly organize and find the information you need on each page.

Choose from the menu of Tags in the top toolbar to add extra information to your page

Another useful tool is “Tables,” which you can also find in your top toolbar under the “Insert” tab. Tables let you create a customized chart where you can keep track of information like your daily workouts, your kids’ homework schedules, or even weekly or monthly meal plans. Each time you open a new Table, you can click on it to select it, and you’ll see a range of options appear at the top of your window, like a color selector if you want to color-code your tables to make them easier to find at a glance.

Click “Tables” under the “Insert” tab to create customizable charts on your page

Back in the “Insert” menu, you also have options like “Picture” to add images to your page, and just like the text and the lists you can click and drag to move the new images anywhere on the page.

Click “Picture” under the “Insert” tab to add images to the page, then click and drag to move image

Other “Insert” options include “PDF Printout” to create a PDF version of your page, “File Attachment” to add files, “Link” to enter a web address and insert a hyperlink into your page, or click “Equation” to add math functions into the page. For example, when the “Equation” window pops up on your page you can enter a simple formula like “55+7=” and then hit Enter, and the answer will appear. This tool also works with more complex equations, and if you get lost, you can find tips and hints about using the tool at https://support.office.com.

Click on “Equation” under the “Insert” tab to open a window where you can type mathematical equations and get the answer by hitting the Enter key

If you want to customize your page even more, you can choose from a range of arrows and shapes in your “Insert” tab, and then use the various “Shapes Formatting” options like color and thickness to make the shapes fit your needs.

Choose from the “Shapes” menu under the “Insert” tab to add customizable shapes and arrows to the page

The final “Insert” option is “Audio Recording.” Simply click the Audio Recording icon, and the program will immediately begin recording sound through your connected or built-in microphone. The recorded sound will appear on your page as an icon that you can click to listen to the sound. This is a useful tool for people who like to make quick audio notes about things like shopping lists, appointment reminders, or spur-of-the-moment creative ideas. A useful feature with the Windows version of OneNote is that the program can search through the words in the audio files in your notes.

Inserting a video into your page is easy! Simply find the video that you want to select, like a Teacher’s Tech video on YouTube, copy the URL, then go back to your page and right-click to open the options menu. Select “Paste,” and the video has now been added to your page and you can click and drag it to move it wherever you want.

You can even play the video right on your page. This can be a fun way to make a list of your favorite crafting tutorials, organize videos of the kids’ dance recitals, or create a page full of favorite recipes by keeping video tutorials, written instructions, and charts of the nutritional information all in one place.

Drawing

Next to the “Insert” tab, you’ll see the “Draw” tab. This tab opens up a menu with options like Pen, Marker, Highlighter, and Eraser, as well as color choices and a line thickness selector. This tool lets you doodle, draw, jot down notes, and circle important images or text. Since OneNote notebooks are shareable, you can also allow collaborators to draw on or add content to your sections and pages. Just click on the “Share” icon at the top of your window, and you can add as many people as you like and choose to let them edit your notebook or just give them permission to view it without the ability to edit.

Click “Share” icon at top right to invite people to view or edit your notebook

Web Clipper

The OneNote Web Clipper is an extension that can really enhance your experience. You can find it in the Google Chrome Web Store or search for whatever browser you prefer. Follow the instructions for downloading the extension to your preferred system, click to get the OneNote Web Clicker button, and add it to your browser toolbar.

When when you go to a page on a website, all you need to do is click on the Web Clipper icon in your toolbar and a new window will open showing the content of the page and an options menu. The menu lets you choose “Article,” which takes the information from the page and puts it into an easy-to-read article format, or select  “Full Page” to take a screenshot of the entire page. You can also choose “Region” to take a screenshot of a section of the page if you only want a single paragraph or photo.

Now you need to select where you want the clipped information to go. If you click “Location” in the Clipper menu, you’ll see a list of your notebooks, and you can choose which one you want the clip to go to. Now you just click “Clip” and the clip you’ve created will be added to the notebook and will appear in the list on the right of your notebook screen. Keep in mind that it may take a few seconds for the clipper to sync with your notebook, so don’t panic if the clip doesn’t show up instantly.

Click the Web Clicker icon to select a specific web page and use the menu to choose how the selection is formatted and choose location

Searching

Once you start creating more and more notebooks, sections, and pages, it’s going to be impossible to remember where everything is, and that’s where the Search feature comes in. Simply go to the search bar at the top of your OneNote page and enter your keywords. Let’s say you clipped and saved a veggie burger recipe and now you can’t remember where you put it. Just start typing “Burger” in the search window, and it will show you the recipe and exactly which notebook and section it’s in. One of the coolest features of OneNote is its Optical Character Recognition capability, which can search for words within pictures and scanned documents you’ve uploaded.

Use the Search tool at the top of the OneNote page and enter names or keywords to find files

Now you’re ready to let OneNote help make your life more streamlined at home, at work, and at play. As you get more comfortable with this tool, you can choose from a range of apps and extensions to make OneNote even more versatile. For people on the go, there’s a OneNote app that you can download to your mobile device to help you stay organized no matter where you are.

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