I Heart OneNote

There's a new website called iheartonenote.com. It's a place to discuss OneNote with other people, share tips, notebooks, etc. So many people post emotional connection stories about OneNote that "heart" seems appropriate (FWIW, last time I checked a piece of software can't yet have your baby). That Marcus guy seems a little kooky though. I'd only trust a fictional host as far as I could throw him. Check out my profile there to see how old I really am (fictionally, of course).

Anyway, for my first post in the community I thought I'd share my top OneNote tips. Here's the post I put up:

Top fifteen OneNote tips 

I tried to do ten but couldn't stop myself.

15. Send to OneNote printer driver. Print anything to OneNote from any app. PDF, Word, web pages, AutoCAD, whatever! (currently not now also on 64-bit Windows - bummer yippee!)

14. Email these notes button (Ctrl-Shift-E). Click the button in the toolbar, choose recipients, and my notes are distributed without any retyping or hassle. Even sends ink. (you need Outlook 2007 for this to work best)

13. Type a word, right click on it, click "Create Linked page", then click the link and presto you're on a new page with that title that is linked to from the first page. Great for things like "here is the recipe for Grandma's cookies". highlight "Grandma's cookies", right click, create linked page.

12. Type simple math (like "12*29.99= ") on the page, hit Enter (or space bar) and OneNote solves it!

11. Right click on anything (notebook, section, page, piece of text or image on page), and choose "copy hyperlink to this". Paste that in OneNote or in other documents. You can even hyperlink to other places on the same page. I often type "see note above" right click on the referenced note elsewhere on the page, copy hyperlink then put cursor on the word "above", then Ctrl-K, Ctrl-V, Enter to add that link.

10. Ctrl "." (period)  to toggle bullets on and off. Tab to indent.

9. Ctrl-1 to triple-toggle ToDo checkbox (Todo|Done|nuthin). Customize the built-in tags and use Ctrl-1-9 to tag things, Ctrl-0 to remove tags. Don't forget View/All tagged notes to query across all your notes and build summary pages pulling out quotes you liked, questions to follow up on, ToDos, etc.

8. Right-click on image (e.g. screen clipping), copy text from picture (also works great when searching for a screen clipping - Find (Ctrl-F) will find text inside your images!)

7. Using Live Mesh (mesh.com) to put notebooks in folders that are synced across my many machines

6. Win-N for a new "always on top" side note. Great for taking notes while reading other stuff like web pages, docs, PDFs.

5. Shared notebooks with my team (File/New/Notebook, select shared when the instructions ask you). anyone can edit at any time, even offline! Don't forget to use features like 'View/Pages I Haven't Read' and 'View/Pages Changed Recently'. Also right click on anything to see who added it. Work disconnected if you like - your changes will sync and merge cleanly later. Offline/online, easy to use super capable group wiki!

4. Tab key after text to create tables on the fly. Type the first column heading, then Tab (Table magically appears!), next column heading, Tab and so on. Enter when finished the header row, keep going. Use Enter twice on an empty row to break out - never touch a mouse while taking notes!

3. I'm falling behind with my notes! Click "record audio" button to capture what people are saying so I can participate instead of take notes. Take the occasional one word note to indicate what was happening. Later click on those words to hear what we were saying. Great for brainstorming and interviews!

2. Flag OneNote items as Tasks to track in Outlook with Ctrl-Shift-1 through 5. The task is created in Outlook, and the done/not done status is kept in sync with OneNote.

1. Win-S to take a screen clipping and auto-file it in OneNote! Bonus: right click on the system tray OneNote icon, customize screen clipping to send only to clipboard to paste in other apps or OneNote as you like. (my all-time fave)

Ok one more for bonus: Full Page view. F11 to toggle, or the button to the right of the Help menu. Nice clean screen for uncluttered note taking and maximum "paper".

What are yours? (feel free to respond on the iheartonenote site...)

Comments (10)
  1. Craig Burley says:

    #8 isn’t working well for me at all.  I’ve taken several screenshots (Windows-S to use OneNote’s feature), pasted them into my Personal notebook, then right-clicked and chose Copy Text From Picture, but gotten…nothing, nothing that pastes into either NotePad or OneNote.

    But I tried Copy Text From Picture on an existing graphic (already in OneNote, in its built-in stuff), and it kinda sorta worked, resulting in some gobbledygook that vaguely resembles the original text in certain places when pasted into NotePad.

    Nice to see a writeup of the other cool features OneNote offers.  I was happy to discover the ScreenShot (Windows-S) feature, since I need that but can’t run whatever I was using on Vista after upgrading to W2K8 x64 with Desktop Experience (so I can run Hyper-V).

  2. Hi Craig. The "Copy text from picture" feature is optimized for two types of text: 1) screen resolution text at normal font sizes with solid color (ideally whitish) backgrounds and 2) scanned images at higher resolution (e.g. 200dpi). So if your text is embedded in advertisements or multicolored backgrounds it may not work well. If it is small and poxellated it may also have accuracy problems. As a test, I took a screen capture of the first part of this page: http://www.officelabs.com/projects/chartadvisor/Pages/default.aspx

    The text that came out:

    Chart Advisor

    Ever Struggled to find just the right chart for your data? Chart Advisor Was Created as a concept test to explore new

    ways Excel users can Create graphs quickly and effectively. Based on the data in your spreadsheet, it identifies, ranks,

    and displays an array of charts most relevant to you so you Can make the most Out of your presentation.

    As you can see there are a few capitilization issues. That said, it will be less accurate with some other screen clipped text. The main purpose of this feature was to enable you to search for pictures by the text which appears in them – that is going to be more successful since it doesn’t require 100% conversion accuracy for every word.

  3. Luis Franco says:

    I really like OneNote and it is the application I use most, by far.

    I have some issues tough, I don’t know if they will be "fixed" or "included" in next versions.

    1. Regarding to your tips in this page. #13 works more or less fine: When I do a "Create Linked page", it actually works, but it doesn’t show any indication that the word is a link. Is it a configuration issue? The link works, but you don’t know it is a link.

    2. This would be great to make OneNote behave a bit more like a wiki, but it actually doesn’t, suppose as your example you create a linked page out of the phrase "Grandma’s cookies", despite what I said in #1, it works fine…

    In another page (or paragraph) you create a linked page to the phrase "Grandma’s cookies" and it will create ANOTHER "Grandma’s cookies" page, instead of linking to the first one. What is wierder is, if you delete this newly created page (the second one), the link will take you to the FIRST page, instead of telling you’re trying to go to a non existant page.

    3. TAGS. Tags are lame in ON. Yeah it is cool to have small icons… but its quite unuseful… why not having a tag system like anyother blog system in the network, so you can attach "global" tags to your pages instead of applying them to paragraphs? why not having both? why not adding a tag cloud page?

    4. Talking about TAGS… one thing I really dislike about ON is, if you use two or more computers (as I do), I have to manually configure each one to mimic the CTRL1-9, the figures, meanings and colors of the tags. Wouldn’t it be nice if you add an "import/export configuration" or something like that?

    Just few ideas…

  4. Luis,

    1. that’s odd. When I create a linked page, the link is created with the usual blue text with underline right on the word I created. Do you by any chance have Windows set to a high contrast setting or similar?

    2. you’re right that the second linked page you create will be a new one – you will need to right click on that page and "copy hyperlink" for future references to it. The deletion case is a side effect of OneNote attempting to make links robust against being moved around. If you move that grandma’s cookies page to another section the link will still work – that’s because the link is first to the page uniquely, but if it is missing OneNote will search for a page with the same title.

    3. why not indeed? who’s to say that won’t happen? Our use of tags kind of predated the web tag phenom, and they are more about marking up notes visually than a semantic labeling system. That said, it is easy enough yo make your own page level tags – just type the tags you want on the page somewhere (i prefix with xx to ensure uniqueness, like this "xxJapan" so I can later search on xxjapan and not confuse with normal references toJapan)

    4. great suggestion and a common one. maybe in the future.

  5. DG says:

    Hi Chris – just catching up to this post.  You mention in the tips that you can synch notebooks across multiple machines with Mesh.  Do you know if that would work for a shared notebook for two users?  I’m trying to find the best way to enable a shared notebook with someone in another company.  He has Groove, but I’m not sure how to do that or if it would work so I’m looking for the ‘best’ (least worst) answer.

  6. Hi DG. Yes Mesh works with multiple users. I do that with my wife.

  7. Ken Murray says:

    It would be grand if the formatting abilities of MS Word were present in onenote!  This is the one major weakness in OneNote!  I often like to collect information in my notes and have to make presentation quality documents.  If I could just make them presentation quality in OneNote I would be all set.

    It would be great if a note on a page could be a word doc, powerpoint, excel sheet, etc..  

    I’ve noticed a lot of comments are about formatting issues in OneNote.  If a note could just be a word document the problem would be solved.

  8. Marcus says:

    If you love OneNote, you are really going to like the new OneNote video – check it out at


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