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10 OneNote Tips to Master the Microsoft Note Taking App



Lately I’ve begun using Microsoft OneNote for all of my note taking tasks because it works on Windows, Mac, Android, iPhone and iPad. It also handles inking well with the Microsoft Surface Pen and the Apple Pencil.

The app comes on almost every platform and has both powerful features and a simple interface. We focus here on Windows mostly, but not entirely. See our previous 14 OneNote Tips & Tricks for even more about how to use the program more effectively.

Send to OneNote Printer

OneNote Printer Driver

After users install OneNote, the program puts a new printer drive in your Windows Printers and Devices section. When you find something you want to send to your notebook from another program, print it to OneNote. Print however you’d print using that app, and select the OneNote printer driver.

Let’s say you want to share things between people in your office or home. You can share your OneNote Printer on the network and others can add the driver to their computer. Then they can print to your OneNote Notebook.

onenote printed page in quick notes

The program will create a new page with an image of the document or photo printed. Find it by opening the program and going to the Quick Notes section. It will show up as an Untitled Page at the top of the list by default. That’s true whether you print something to OneNote or someone else uses the shared printer driver.

Change OneNote Notebook Names Explorer or Finder

OneNote doesn’t let you change the name of a Notebook within the program for some reason. You can act like you’re changing it and it will seem like it’s changed. However, when you look for the notebook in your file browser, you won’t find the new name. You’ll find the old name because it doesn’t change the notebook name on the hard drive or SSD.

onenotebook file name changing

Changing the file name requires the user to open the file program, Windows Explorer on Windows and Finder on a Mac.

Go to your OneDrive folder, if that’s where you store OneNote notebooks. If not, then find the OneNote folder. Find the notebook you want to permanently change. In Windows Explorer or Mac Safari right-click the name and choose Rename.

Clip Websites with Clip to OneNote

Microsoft made an extension for Microsoft Edge, Chrome and Firefox that will let you clip web pages to your notebook. Install the Clip to OneNote extension and sign into your Microsoft account. Head over to a page you want to clip. Click on the icon from the extensions of the browser. It will open a window that takes an image of the page and offer a few options for clipping the page.

clip to onenote extension

The options include…

  • Full Page – this grabs an image of the entire page.
  • Region – this lets the user select part of the page.
  • Article – only the article gets clipped.
  • Bookmark – adds a bookmark to the page in your note.

Below the list of options for what to clip, there’s a drop down box letting the user select where to place the clipping. By default, it puts the clipping into the Quick Notes section of OneNote. When you’re ready, click on the Clip button.

Take Screenshots on Surface Pro with OneNote

On the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, you can easily take a screenshot using OneNote and the Surface Pen. Set this up from the Settings in Windows 10. Go to the Devices section and click on Pen & Windows Ink from the left side list.

devices in windows settings

Scroll down until you see the section title Pen & Windows Ink (see below).

surface pen button settings

The first set of drop down boxes controls what the Click Once setting does. Click the drop down box to choose what you want the OS to do when you quickly click the button on top of the Surface Pen. I’ve set it to open the Windows Ink Workspace in the above screenshot.

The Double-click drop down box is what I used to take screen shots. I chose “Send screenshot to OneNote” from the drop down box. When I double tap the top button on the end opposite the tip, it takes a screenshot and sends it to the Quick Notes section. I chose to launch OneNote when I press and hold the button.

Create Subpages in OneNote

Organize your notes using subpages. We do this by creating a section inside a notebook. Let’s say you often have meetings with a group of people in your organization. You want to find the group of people by their name, like teachers. Then under that Teachers page you may want to create pages for each meeting titled with the date of the meeting or with a certain group of teachers, like First Grade.

creating subpages in onenote

Animated video demonstrates adding subpages in OneNote 2016.

Create the Teachers page or whatever main page name you want to create. Add a description in the page to let you  know what this group of pages includes. For example, if you’re making a main page for a specific project, describe the project. Then add a new page to the section and give it a title. Hover over the page title on the right side of the OneNote screen. You’ll see a little plus icon show up. Click it to add a new page. Then give that page a title. If you want it to be a subpage under another page, then click on the tab on the right side and drag it in to make it move a bit to the right. You can drag these tabs to the left to graduate it to a main page as well. Put multiple levels under pages if you like.

Add Images to OneNote from the Web

You can add images from the web using the Clip to OneNote extension as we described above. You can also add them using the OneNote Printer Driver. However, if you’re working in OneNote and want to add a specific picture that you have stored in OneDrive, Facebook and Flickr. You can also find an image online using Bing image search.

insert images from online in onenote

Place the cursor where you want to insert the image on the OneNote note page. Click on the Insert tab in the ribbon and then click on the Online Pictures button from the Insert ribbon. A dialog box pops up. By default it shows Bing Image Search and OneDrive, if you’re signed into OneDrive. You can also add Facebook and Flickr by clicking those icons from the bottom of the dialog box. After you do, you’ll have to connect your Facebook and Flickr accounts and it will look like the screen shot above.

bing image search in onenote image insert

To insert an image, click one of the options. Enter what you’re looking for in Bing Image Search and it opens a page loading images from Bing. You can continue to search if you don’t find what you want immediately.  Once you do, click the image and then click on the Insert button.

The other services insert images the same way with only minor variations. You can also insert other media from the Insert ribbon. Play around with the various forms of media.

Use OneNote for Information Organization

information organization in onenote for mac

OneNote offers a huge variety of ways to organize your personal and work information. For example, create a To Do list by adding check boxes to a list from the Home tab. Find the To Do Tag button on the Ribbon towards the right end.

There’s a section called Tags on Windows. On a Mac it sits just left of the To Do button. See the image above. You can add questions, contact information, a Critical tag, or a couple dozen other items. These will help you quickly add visual tags to your notes which helps when you’re searching.

Get OneNote on Other Platforms

microsft onenote in mac app store

Like we said at the outset, OneNote runs on Mac, Android and iOS, too. Head over to your app store and install the free app from the App Store.

After you install OneNote from the Mac App Store, Google Play Store or iTunes App Store, open it and log in. It will find your notebooks from Microsoft OneNote and offer to sync them to the Mac, Android device or iOS device.

Draw or Write with a Stylus on OneNote

Some people don’t think about drawing or writing in OneNote, but it has great tools for inking in the app. This works better on the right device like the following:

  • iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil
  • iPhone, iPad or Android device with stylus such as the Adonit fine-tip styluses
  • Windows tablet like the Surface Pro and Microsoft Pen

Click on the Draw tab in the Ribbon. It looks different depending on which operating system you’re using. For example, here’s the Draw tab in OneNote 2016 for Windows.

onenote drawing tab in ribbon

Here’s the Mac version of OneNote.

microsoft onenote on mac

Notice that the Windows version offers more tools and customizations.

Click on the Pen, Marker or Highlighter tool. This will bring the color and pen size sections of the tab to life. Choose a color and pen size. The Windows version offers some predefined pens as does the Mac version.

Sync Drawings from a Device with a Stylus

If you like to write or draw, but use OneNote mostly on a device without a good stylus, consider doing the drawing or writing on a device with a stylus. If you own a tablet, get a stylus for it. Draw or write on the device with the stylus and then sync the note to OneDrive.





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