Written by 4:27 pm Microsoft, Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Windows • 85 Comments

This is why OneNote is Awesome

OneNote Overview

Well I know I usually blog more about Microsoft Datacenter and Cloud stuff, especially Hyper-V and System Center, but I am a huge fan of Microsoft’s Office Suite. I live in Outlook and Microsoft OneNote. I organize my private life, my work, and university notes in OneNote.

I get often asked by customers or friends about how I work and how I get things done. In this case, I always show them OneNote, which is maybe one of the best keep secrets inside Microsoft. This post shows you why OneNote is awesome and shows you some of the hidden features you didn’t know about.

If you have more hidden features, leave a comment on the post.

OneNote Dock to Desktop

OneNote Dock to Desktop Title

With the Dock to Desktop feature, you can keep your notes visible by anchoring a OneNote window to the side of your desktop. Your notes will stay on top of your desktop while you are working in other programs.

Dock to Desktop

Linked Note taking


OneNote Linked Note Talking

While you are using the Dock to Desktop mode, you can enable Linked Note Taking. This will automatically create a link to the page or office document you have open while you have taken note. This is perfect, while I wrote a whitepaper for university and I had to do a lot of research I used this feature. While I was writing the document, I had to mention the sources as footnotes, and sometimes it’s hard to find the source of something you have found on the internet. With linked notes, I only had to check my nodes, and all the sources and references were linked.

 Visio Integration

OneNote Visio Integration

A lot of other Microsoft products to integrate into OneNote. One of them is Visio if you have Visio installed on our computer you can add an existing Visio diagram to your notes. You can also directly create a new Visio diagram from OneNote and add it to your notes.

Audio and Video Recording

Audio and Video RecordingYou can do audio and video recording of classes, meetings or sessions with OneNote. Or you could take some great audio notes. The great thing if you record a class or session, OneNote does link the notes you have taken during the recording to the specific time. So if you read your notes, you can quickly jump to the position of the recording when you took the note.

Notes during recording

Links inside your notes

Link notes

A great thing to work with your notes is also to link specific words and notes to websites, files, or other OneNote pages. This makes finding stuff very easy and straightforward, especially if you share notes with others.

Automatically adding the Source Link

Automatically adding the Source Link

If you are copy-pasting something for a website into your OneNote, it does automatically add the source link to your note. If you are looking for the source, you can find it very quickly.

Using a stylus to take notes

Surface Pro Stylus

Taking notes using the keyboard works great, but sometimes taking notes with a pen is much more comfortable, especially when you add drawings to your notes. But make sure you get a good stylus. A lot of tablets out there like the iPad do only support capacitive inputs like your fingers, to some vendors created capacitive pens which are simulating a finger. But there is another much better solution for this called digitizer pens like the Surface Pro has got one. The advantage of this technology is that the display can detect the pen input as different input. Which means that the screen can turn off the capacitive input during the note-taking, so you can put our hand down on the display while writing, or you can make use of different pressure inputs and an eraser at the top of the pen. The downside of this, not only do you have to have the writing pen, but also the display of the device itself has to support the special pen. So if you want to take notes with a pen, I highly recommend you to buy a tablet with a digitizer pen.

Outlook Integration

Outlook meeting integration

As already mentioned, OneNote does integrate into a lot of other Microsoft products. Of course, it also integrates perfectly in Microsoft Outlook. You can not only send email to your OneNote notes, but you can also directly create meeting notes from Outlook appointments. This adds automatically the subject, date, location, the participants, and a link to the Outlook item. You can start directly from your Outlook calendar, or you can start from OneNote where you can scan for your appointments in Outlook.

Use touch mode on your OneNote Desktop App

Touch Mode

If you are using the OneNote Desktop app on your Windows tablet, make sure you enable Touch mode, which makes the OneNote application and other Office apps more touch friendly.

Change the background of your notes


If you are using a stylus, it can be hard to write on a blank white paper. OneNote allows you to change the “background” of your paper, which makes it much easier to write and draw on. You can choose between different styles, like rule lines or grid lines.

Pin your favorite pens to the top

Favorite Pens

Another cool OneNote feature if you are using a stylus is to pin your favorite pens to the top. If you are taking notes, you sometimes have to change from your highlighter pen to your drawing pen and maybe even different colors. This can take some time if you have to do this over the menu. But you can also pin your favorite pens to the top of the window, which makes it a lot faster and easier to switch between the different pens.

Ink to Text

Convert handwriting to Text

If you are taking notes with a stylus, you can convert your notes to computer text with a simple click on the Ink to Text button. This will use some OCR technology to recognize your handwriting and convert it to text.

Math input

Math Input

For my friends in chemical engineering, this is for you. If you have to do a lot of math, this is great for you. With the Ink to Math converter can you write your formula and this will convert it. You also write the math down and convert it afterward.

Get OneNote for free on all your devices

OneNote iPad App

One of the most important things about a note taking application is to have your notes everywhere available. Microsoft does offer several OneNote apps for different platforms such as a Windows Desktop Application, Windows Store, Windows Phone, Apple iPad, iPhone, and an Android app. With this and SkyDrive you can access your notes on any device at any time.

Store your notebooks on OneDrive

Notebook on SkyDrive

To have your notes available anywhere and anytime you can store your notebooks on your Microsoft OneDrive. This will allow you to sync all your notes across all your devices. And you can also access your notes directly from a web browser.

Share your notebook with others

Share your notebook

If you are working on a group project and want to share some notes, OneNote lets you do this. You can share your Notebook directly from OneNote or on a SharePoint site. So all your team members have access to it and can work on it at the same time.

Use OneNote.com to access and edit your notes online


You can access and edit your OneNote notebooks by using Office Online or OneNote.com. This allows you not only to view your notes, but you can also create new notes and edit existing notes directly from your web browser.

OneNote Windows Store App

OneNote Windows Store App

Microsoft does not only offer an OneNote Desktop Application, but Microsoft also provides a Windows Store app for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, which is not only more touch-friendly, the app also offers some unique features. One of the great features in the OneNote Windows Store app is the possibility to take pictures of documents or whiteboards, and OneNote does automatically resize it and format it, so it looks like a simple note inside OneNote, and not just a picture.

Photo of Whiteboard or Document

Screen Clipping

Screen Clipping

If you want to take a screenshot or just a simple snapshot of a part of your screen, you can use the screen clipping tool to take a snapshot of your desktop. You can simply press “Windows + S” in Windows 8 and Windows 7 and “Windows + Shift + S” in Windows 8.1 to get the screen clipping tool where ever you are. After you have taken the snapshot, you can insert it into a note page or copy past it into Word or another application.

Create Subpages

Create OneNote Subpages

To organize yourself in OneNote, you can create different notebooks, sections, and pages. A thing a lot of people don’t know is that you can also create subpages by moving pages to the right.

Print to OneNote

Print PDF to OneNote

At university, we get a lot of documents, and most of the presentation in PDF file format. Well, I don’t like to take my notes directly inside the PDF files because of most of the time, it is very limited. I also want to have a centralized notebook for all my notes. To get PDF and other documents such as Word or PowerPoint into OneNote, you can use the Print to OneNote feature. If you install OneNote on your computer a new “Send to OneNote” printer shows up which let you print documents to OneNote.

Print to OneNoteThis allows you now to take notes directly on the slides or pages and for example, use the highlighter to mark important spots.

Text recognition

Copy Text from Image to Text

OneNote has a build in OCR software which allows you to convert text from pictures into text. This also works if you Print a PDF into OneNote with the “Print to OneNote” function.

Make Image text searchable

Make Image Text Searchable

The OCR technology build into OneNote does not only allow you to copy text from pictures, but it also allows you to make Images searchable. You can find text content on pictures via the search function.

Search Text in Audio and Videos

Make Audio and Video Searchable

This is one of the features which is hidden, and not a lot of people know about. You can not only search text in pictures, but OneNote also allows you to search for words inside audio and video recordings. This is great if you have a lot of audio recordings from classes, sessions or meetings, and you are looking for a specific discussion.

Take Quick notes with the Send to OneNote feature

Send to OneNote

With the Send to OneNote function, you can quickly add notes without having to open the OneNote application itself. By using the “Windows + N” keyboard shortcut or the Windows Tray Icon.

Send Websites to OneNote

Send Websites to OneNote

Something often happens to me is that I am surfing through the web looking for something, but I find some other exciting pages which I don’t have time for to read it right now, but I would love to read them later. If I don’t bookmark the page I forget about it, so OneNote has a neat feature where I can send websites directly to OneNote. This makes it later easy to find via the OneNote search function. I also recommend creating some inbox notebook or section where you can send a website to, so you don’t have to organize them later, and you can focus on what you are looking for.

Create To-do lists

OneNote Todo Lists

You can use OneNote to create a simple To-do list. This is helpful in meetings and other appointments where you take notes. And with the link features you can also link To-Dos to other items, such as additional notes, websites or documents.

Create Outlook Tasks / To-do’s

Outlook Tasks

You can create Outlook Tasks or Outlook Todos directly from OneNote. Or you can link Tasks in Outlook to OneNote notebooks.

Use Shortcuts

OneNote offers a massive list of keyboard shortcuts, so you can quickly add and edit things. It also allows you to navigate through your notes quickly. Some of the shortcuts are system-wide shortcuts such as “Windows + N” or “Windows + Shift + S” and others are just shortcuts inside OneNote.

Use Tags for Important Items

OneNote Tags

You can use tags for essential items inside your notes. This is not just a simple icon inside your note, and it also helps you to organize and find your items inside OneNote.

Send Your Notes per Email

Send OneNote notes via email

You can not only share your OneNote notebook via OneDrive or SharePoint, but you can also send notes via mail.

Export Your Notes

Export OneNotes Notes

You can export your notes to other documents such as PDF files or Word documents.


OneNote Search

If OneNote because one of your most important tools, and you store most of your documents and information in it, finding things is critical. You can organize your notes into different notebooks, Sections groups, sections, and pages, but still, it can be hard to find. That is why OneNote has a great search function built in.

Password Protect Your Notes

OneNote Password Protect

OneNote is not the place to store your critical information, but still, sometimes you want to make sure not everyone can quickly access some information on your notebooks. OneNote allows you to Password protect your sections.

Insert spaces between notes

OneNote Insert Space

If you take notes during a meeting or a class, it often happens to me that I don’t have enough space between different things or I would like to add something between them. With the insert Space option, you can make space between your notes very quickly.

Share a Notebook via Lync

Lync Sharing

If you are working with Microsoft Lync, you can share your OneNote notebooks directly in a conversation or Conference call.

Do Math in OneNote

Do Math

OneNote does recognize different times of text, so if you try to do some math OneNote will automatically help you and calculate stuff.

Equations – Doing even more Math


OneNote cannot only help you by doing simple calculations, but it also does help you with equations.

Add Photos to your notes

OneNote on Windows Phone

If you have installed OneNote on your phone, you can add photos to your pages.

Advanced Search

Search recent edits

I already mentioned that finding things is vital and that OneNote has great search integration. With History, you can not only search for notes and text you are looking for, but you can also search for authors or recent edits. This makes especially sense if you work with a team on the same OneNote notebook.

Open multiple OneNote Windows

Multipe OneNote Windows

Something a lot of people don’t know is that you can have various OneNote windows open at the same time. This is helpful if you want to copy past or compare something.

Use your Windows Phone Start Screen to pin OneNote Live Tiles

Windows Phone

In Windows Phone 7, Microsoft introduced the concept of Live Tiles. With OneNote on your Windows Phone, you can make use of this by adding the “New Note” button to the start screen to quickly create new notes. You can also pin existing notes such as shopping lists, electronic flight tickets, or hotel reservations to your start screen so you can quickly access them.

Use Tables to organize things

OneNote Tables

Sometimes it is just easier to organize things in tables. OneNote helps you to do this very easily and quickly. Not only can you create a new table from the menu. If you type something and press TAB OneNote will automatically create a table for you.

Excel Integration

OneNote Excel

OneNote does not only integrate with Outlook, Word, or PowerPoint, and it also integrates with Excel to help you calculate or create charts.

Take notes on PowerPoint slides

OneNote PowerPoint Slides

With the send to OneNote integration, you can also take notes on PowerPoint slides.

Taking Voice notes with Windows Phone

Windows Phone Voice Notes

With Windows Phone, you can create new voice notes directly from by pressing the Windows button. After that voice recognition does start and if you say “Note Your note text” Windows Phone will automatically create you a new OneNote note. Which does not only save the audio file; it does also save your notes in words. So if you are waking up in the middle of the night and you remember that you have to buy more whiskey, use the voice recognition feature of Windows Phone, and you can go back to sleep. Thanks to one of the commenters on my blog which remembered me of this cool feature.

OneNote for Mac

OneNote for Mac

Microsoft also released a free OneNote version for Mac OS X. This makes your notes available on a vast number of devices. You can get OneNote for Mac from onenote.com

Clip the web right to OneNote

OneNote Webclipper

With the OneNote Web Clipper, you can clip anything from news articles to blog posts to recipes in just one click. Your clips are automatically captured in OneNote, so you have them all in one place. You don’t need to install any software you have to create a bookmark so that you can use this feature on any device.

Send notes per email to OneNote

Mail to OneNote

With the new web features, Microsoft offers you can also send your notes directly via email to your notebook. Send emails to [email protected] and Microsoft will put them into your laptop.

Office Lens

Office Lens

Office Lens trims, enhances and makes pictures of whiteboards and docs readable, and saves them to OneNote. Office Lens is like having a scanner in your pocket. Never miss notes on whiteboards or blackboards. Always find relevant documents or business cards. Don’t lose receipts or stray sticky notes again.

Surface Pro 3 OneNote integration

Surface Pro 3 OneNote

Microsoft just announced the Surface Pro 3 with a new digitizer pen. This time Microsoft did some enhanced OneNote integration. With the new Surface Pen, you can not only write on your Surface Pro 3 like it would be to write on paper. The new pen comes with a new button, which could be called the OneNote button. If your Surface Pro 3 is locked and you have to quickly the note, you can press the button, and this will open a new note or page in OneNote. If you press the button twice, OneNote will capture the screen and create a new note with the image.

Create Notes on your Windows Phone with Cortana

Windows Phone Cortana Create note in OneNote Windows Phone Cortana Create note in OneNote

With Windows Phone 8.1 Microsoft introduced the new digital assistant called Cortana. Cortana allows you to do a bunch of new stuff. Especially the voice control feature is excellent. Cortana allows you to take notes and insert them directly to OneNote.

Collecting recipes in OneNote

OneNote Recipe

OneNote is a great place to catalog your recipes. And now adding them to OneNote is a piece of cake (pun intended) with the OneNote web clipper or the email clipper ([email protected]). When you use the OneNote web clipper or email clipper to clip a recipe, we’ll simplify the page down to just the steps, ingredients, and critical pieces of information you need most, giving your recipes a more straightforward, cleaner format in OneNote. This feature works on many of the top recipe websites in the U.S., and we’ll expand the number of sites it covers in the future. Current locations include AllRecipes.comFoodNetwork.com, and Food.com, and many more.


Publish note to blog

OneNote blog post publishing

You can directly publish your notes to a blog post, directly within OneNote. This will connect to your blog and publish your post.

OneNote Online co-authoring

OneNote Online co-authoring

With OneNote, you can work together with others on the same notes at the same time. I used this feature to collaborate with co-workers, friends, and students from the university. Microsoft recently updated the OneNote Online co-authoring experience on OneNote.com with a People Presence feature which shows you who is working on the notebook and in which note. Microsoft also improved the sync process, which means edits are nearly in real-time.

Translation with OneNote

Translations with OneNote

OneNote does not only allow you to make ink to text, but it also allows you to translate text from one language to another one using Bing translation in the back-end.

Create notes with the Microsoft Band

Microsoft Band OneNote

If you are using the Microsoft Band together with a Windows Phone running 8.1, you can directly create notes in OneNote via Cortana.

OneNote WordPress Plugin

OneNote WordPress Plugin

Microsoft announced some new OneNote integration partners and one of them is a new WordPress plugin which allows you to publish OneNote pages to WordPress blog posts.

Windows 10 Quick Note

Windows 10 Quick Note

With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft added a cool new button to the Windows 10 Action Center, which allows you to create a new note quickly. Just press on the Action Center, and you will find a new button called Note. Pressing the Note button will open up OneNote with a new blank page, so you can quickly take a note.

Windows 10 Edge Browser Web Note

Microsoft Edge Webnote in Windows 10

If you are running Windows 10, you have the new Microsoft Webbrowser called Edge. This modern browser is not only crazy fast and adds a lot of new features as well as some common web standards, but it also has a feature called Web Note. This allows you to take a snapshot of a website and write on it. After you are done with that, you can share the note using OneNote or Mail it.

I hope I have shown you something’s you didn’t know about OneNote. If you think there is something cool missing, leave a comment and tell me why you think OneNote is awesome.

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