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12 Fantastic OneNote Productivity Tips

By , Sunday 7th July 2013 in Windows

As a recent convert to the awesomeness that is Microsoft's OneNote, I thought I take a few minutes to share some of OneNotes top productivity tips that actually work!

OneNote is a productivity tool from Microsoft and is part of the Office Suite. It allows free-form information gathering, thought gathering and organisation. OneNote is designed to replace the traditional notepad and folder filing systems, replacing the notepad with Pages, folder dividers as Sections and lever arch folders as Notebooks.

Here is a selection of productivity tips for OneNote for you to get the most out of the hidden gem in the Microsoft Office suite.

Capture Screenshots with Ease

OneNote allows you to capture screenshots, or clippings, simply by using the Windows Key and S (Win+S). This allows you to capture a portion of the screen or the entire screen, which you can easily insert to a note, save to disk or copy to the clipboard.

Bonus Tip: You can drag and drop images and text from most applications directly into OneNote without even using the copy and paste commands.

OneNote Productivity Tips
OneNote Productivity Tips

 

Convert Images to Text with OCR

OneNote has a nifty feature which uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert text in images to searchable text or even new notes. You can do this by simply right clicking on an image previously inserted into OneNote.

OCR in OneNote
OCR in OneNote

 

Annotate Images with Ink

You can easily annotate images attached to notes using "ink" which comes in various styles of marker pens and highlighters. The ink is not stored on the image itself so the original image is unmodified.

Bonus Tip: If you have a touch screen and stylus you can convert handwritten notes using ink to text using the "Ink to Text" command in the Draw toolbar. The handwriting recognition feature of OneNote seems pretty good and was able to decipher my scrawlings with minimal errors.

Using Ink in OneNote
Using Ink in OneNote

 

Create Lists

Lists in OneNote
Lists in OneNote

OneNote allows you to easily create lists of different kinds - bullet points, numerical lists, to do list, project lists and more. Creating a todo list is as easy as typing in the list items and clicking To Do from the tags list, or pressing Ctrl+1. You can also flag items as important, an idea, reminder, book or website to read and many more.

 

Highlight Important Text

Although not a feature unique to OneNote, highlighting text is a very handy tool for making important sections stand out. For example you can highlight points that need clarification later, calls to action, an important statement and so on. You can do this by selecting the text and pressing Ctrl+4 or Ctrl+5 for yellow and green highlights. You can configure the shortcuts and colours in the application.

Highlighting Text in OneNote
Highlighting Text in OneNote

 

Creating Tables in OneNote

OneNote probably has the easiest method for creating tables i've seen in a long white. To create a table simply create your columns by typing in headings, pressing tab after each one. When you're done entering columns hit enter to start entering rows. Easy as pie!

Bonus Tip: You can sort rows and reorder rows by dragging them using the icon to the left of the row when the mouse is hovering over it.

Creating Tables in OneNote
Creating Tables in OneNote

Take Your Notes with you wherever you go

OneNote seamlessly integrates with Microsoft SkyDrive allowing you to sync notes between the desktop app, Android app or iPhone app and the OneNote web application.

Using a mobile app (or laptop/desktop with camera or webcam installed) you can also use the camera to insert photographs, video or audio recordings directly. You can convert a photographed document to text using the OneNote OCR feature and create a "cam scanner" tool.

OneNote on Google Play Store
OneNote on Google Play Store

Use Page Templates to Speed Things Up

Unlike other applications in the Office suite, it isn't obvious where templates are stored in OneNote, but once you know where page templates are located; using them for productivity should become a habit.

When creating a new page, there is a little downwards arrow which creates a drop down menu when clicked. From this you can select "Page Templates" from which you can select one of the many predefined page templates, examples of which include business meeting notes, lecture notes with study questions, various to do lists and a plethora of styled pages. OneNote also maintains a list of the most recently used templates for quick access in the future.

Page Templates in OneNote
Page Templates in OneNote

 

OneNote Window Docking

OneNote has a feature whereby you can dock the window to the edge of the screen, and other applications know the new limits of the screen when maximizing them. This means that OneNote can act as a "global sidebar".

This feature can be activated using the two little icons on the top left of the title bar. The left icon sets OneNote to docking mode and the right hand side icon sets fullscreen mode. Clicking on the icon again will reset back to the normal window mode.

OneNote Window Docking
OneNote Window Docking

 

Record Meeting Audio

With a microphone attached you can record audio from meetings or lectures and have OneNote play back specific parts of the audio based on when your write notes. This is especially useful if something important or complex was said, you can just write a note saying "review this later" and OneNote will link this note to the correct point on the audio recording. Just make sure you have a good microphone and that there isn't much background noise or you may not be able to hear the recording. You can also add annotations during playback and they will also be linked to the recording time.

You can play back a portion of the audio related to the annotation by clicking on the play symbol which appears to the left of the note. It will jump strait to the point in the recording when you made the note.

OneNote Audio Recordings
OneNote Audio Recordings

 

Password Protect Important Information

OneNote allows you to password protect Sections to prevent unauthorized access. You can do this by somply right clicking on the section tab and clicking on "Password Protect this Section". Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, the Android mobile app is unable to open password protected sections.

OneNote Password Protection
OneNote Password Protection

 

Linking OneNote and Office Together

OneNote allows you to link and embed content from the other Office applications as well as syncing email and to do items in Outlook. You can do this by using the "Send to OneNote" option. You can then choose whether to insert the item as a new section or page or embed in an existing item.

OneNote Email Syncing
OneNote Email Syncing

 

Do you use OneNote at home or at work? Do you have any other productivity tips to share? Please let us know!

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About the Author

Tim Trott

Tim is a professional software engineer, designer, photographer and astronomer from the United Kingdom. You can follow him on Twitter to get the latest updates.

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2 thoughts on “12 Fantastic OneNote Productivity Tips”
  1. Gravatar
    Stephen Van Vickle

    Was hoping that it would read text from a picture of a hand written will from the 1840's. Did not work. Bummer!

  2. Gravatar
    Jeff

    That tab for tables tip changes EVERYTHING IN MY WORLD. Thank you.

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