Windows Phone 7 Tip – How to automatically sync your OneNote documents to the Cloud

OneNote for Windows Phone 7

OneNote is one of my favorite Microsoft Office applications and an amazing note taking tool.  I use it constantly to take screen shots of websites or applications, quick dictation, to-do lists, and even some sketching/doodles (via my Tablet’s pen).  One of the goals of the OneNote Team was to bring that note taking application to all three screens (PC, Cloud and Phone).  With the release of Windows Phone 7 that goal became a reality and we can now sync notes between all three screens.  Changes made on the phone will be available on our desktop and changes made on our desktop will show up in a web browser.  If you haven’t checked out the free Office Web Applications yet you owe it to yourself to take a peek.  Office Web Applications are part of SharePoint, are available when editing or viewing any Office document on your Skydrive as well as through other services like and Office Live Workspace.

Four Easy Steps to Cloud Sync

What I don’t think we have done a good job of is actually exposing this functionality on Windows Phone 7 easily.  I had a conversation just last night with someone who was adamant about Windows Phone 7 not being able to cloud sync One Note Documents yet.  This prompted me to write this blog post in hopes I can make it easier for you as well. 

Step 1 – Open Microsoft Office Hub

When we first open up the Office Hub we are presented with a list of shortcuts to our most recently used OneNote Documents.  You can also tap and hold on these shortcuts to pin them to your start experience on the phone (I use this for quick to-do or shopping lists).  What is not obvious at first is you need to hit the All icon to get to the rest of your documents and open up the syncing option. In the below screenshot you will notice I have just created a quick OneNote document called DaveDev and I am now going to click on the All icon.


Main Menu - Click ALL

Step 2  - Click on Refresh icon on the Application Bar

This will take you to a list of Pages in your current Notebook.  Windows Phone 7 only has one Notebook by default where all of your Pages will be stored.  When we enable syncing however we will start to pull down all Notebooks from the Cloud.  This means we can select these other Notebooks and create Pages in them right on the phone.  So while we cannot create Notebooks directly on the phone we can integrate with them existing ones.  If we bring up the full Application Bar we will notice a Refresh icon.  Go ahead and click that now.

Document ListDocument List


Step 3 – Confirm that you want to start syncing your documents with Skydrive

You will be asked to confirm that you want to begin syncing OneNote with your Skydrive.  What Skydrive would that happen to be?  When you created/entered your Windows Live ID into the phone you were automatically given 25 gigabytes of free storage in the cloud (what a nice present eh?).  Office Documents on Windows Phone 7 are integrated with your Windows Live ID so it will take care of everything for you.  Exactly the same way the Zune Marketplace and X-Box Live integration works.  Go ahead and confirm that you want to enable Skydrive sync.

SkyDrive Confirmation Prompt

You will now be notified during the process of the sync status.  First it will connect up to Windows Live and then it will set up a default notebook (Unfiled Notes) if it does not already exist.

Connecting to Windows Live!Creating Default Notebook


Step 4 – Verify that your notebooks and pages have synced

Now that we have enabled sync you will notice some changes.  First, all of your notes will now include the SkyDrive Folder (Personal) and OneNote Notebook (Unfiled Notes) they have been synced to.  You will also notice a Notebooks option that is now available.


Swiping the screen to the left or clicking on Notebooks will take you to the new Notebooks screen.  This screen will display the status of all your Notebooks currently located in Skydrive as well as their Sync status.

Synced Notebooks and Pages!

Notice too that you now have the ability within each Note to sync immediately back to your Skydrive.  Clicking on the Refresh icon will kick off this process for you.

DaveDev Note - Sync Button


Viewing your One Note documents from the Cloud

So now we have One Note running on our Windows Phone 7 device and we have One Note running on our Windows 7 PC.  But, let’s say we are out, maybe over at a friends house, and we need to pull up a quick One Note document.  I told you our stuff is in the cloud so we should be able to get to it from any Web Browser, right?  Of course! 

Simply point your browser to Windows Phone Live and you will be presented with a bunch of functionality for your phone.  This is really where your cloud integration comes alive!  X-Box Live achievements, avatar customizations, contacts, calendar, phone tracking, photos as well as our newly synced OneNote documents are accessible here.  Simply click on the View All link under OneNote and you will be taken directly into the OneNote Web App.


OneNote at

Like all of the Office Web Apps the One Note Web App is full featured and even includes the familiar Office Ribbon.  Notice along the top you can see the current Skydrive folder my Notebooks are synced under (Personal Web).  This is the same folder we saw displayed on our Windows Phone 7 device.  On the left pane you can now navigate between all of your notebooks and their included pages.  Opening up my newly synced document will display it in the editor on the write and any changes here will save back to the desktop and my phone.

SkyDrive - Editing my OneNote Docs

To the Cloud

Hopefully this eliminated any confusion you might have had around enabled Cloud sync for Office One Note documents on your Windows Phone 7 Device.  Although we only do this for OneNote today we have already announced a free Windows Phone 7 update later this year that will sync your Excel, PowerPoint and Word documents as well.  These documents will be able to sync back to your Skydrive like we have shown here in addition to the already existing SharePoint functionality. 

Comments (12)
  1. CGomez says:

    Can you have more documents synced than just Personal (Web)?  I may not have all the OneNote terminology right but on my SkyDrive I have several existing documents with different names and they weren't coming down to the phone.

    (Maybe I'm just getting greedy)

  2. @Chris  I believe you are correct.  While you can create additional OneNote Notebooks in Skydrive they just don't appear in Notebooks on the phone currently.  I was only able to get documents in the Personal(Web) Notebook to sync down for me.

  3. Ken Q says:


    When I hit the refresh button, I don't get the "Sync with Skydrive?" window you show above.  Also, I note, all of my OneNote pages on my phone say "Personal(phone)" where yours say Personal(Web).

    What do I need to do to get my phone to sync with my Skydrive?


  4. @Ken – You should only see that prompt if you have not set up Skydrive sync before.  You can check to see if you have or not by going to and clicking on View All under OneNote.  The reason my Personal Notes show Web instead of Phone is because I was syncing them to Office Web Apps before I got my phone. =)  It is smart enough to know if there is already a Personal Notebook and will use that instead of creating a new one.

  5. Barry K says:

    I some how seem to have delected the Personal (Web) notebook from notebooks and so can notchoose a note book to sync, how do I replace it?

  6. @Barry – No worries according to the OneNote Mobile documentation it will not have been removed from the server.  You just need to go to your skydrive, switch to "mobile view" and make sure the notebook you want is part of that.  It should come down to the phone the next time you sync.  Here is the documentation I am referring to:…/use-office-onenote-mobile.aspx Hope that helps!

  7. George says:

    Hi Dave,

    I have everything set up and the auto sync happens, but only one way. When I add/edit a note on the phone, it shows up on Skydrive web, but when I add/edit a note on Skydrive Web, it does not show up on my phone unless I do a manual refresh on the phone. Any ideas?

  8. @George – I have found the only way to get stuff to sync up or to come back down from Skydrive was to do the manual sync as well.  That will most likely change in the next release.

  9. Jason Bauer says:

    Hi Dave.  I just updated my LG-C900 to "Mango" and I couldn't be more pissed off.  Now all my Office documents and notes sync to skydrive automatically and it's forcing me to waste my data allotment for something I want to keep locally.  How do I turn this off and keep the phone from syncing everything?  Some of my word documents are no longer editable that were before the update.  If This can't be resolved I will have no other option but to get rid of what was a great device because it has now been rendered garbage.

    Please help!!!

  10. update on automatic sync says:

    Dave, great article.  I'm a OneNote junkie too and am seriously considering WP7 (or 7.5) for the superior OneNote integration.

    Is there any update here in Q4 on the ability to AUTOMATICALLY/background sync to-and-from the phone?   This is a feature lacking in the iphone client for onennote and it makes the product nearly unusable.  (Reason is, if you are looking for a cloud doc on the phone, the most likely thing you will want to do first is make sure it is the most current one and if your phone doesn't have connectivity now, you're hosed, unless it sync'ing when it had the chance..!)

    Hope you see this comment and can reply.  Thanks again for the info.


  11. @Jason – Unfortunately, as far as I know anything you created in Personal (Web) in OneNote will always try and sync back to Skydrive since that is where its hosted.  You can however created documents locally on the phone that will not sync.  For example, when you go into Word do a "Save As" as select the Save To location as "phone" instead of SkyDrive.

  12. @Mark – I agree this would be a great option.  It does do this for Office docs today, for example editing an excel spreadsheet is immediate and then it will notify you if there was changes in the cloud as you're working.  If you are editing any docs in the OneNote Personal(Web) though it will always try and grab stuff from the cloud ignoring the local copy.  I don't know if the team has plans to change that in the future but I would suggest getting it on the teams radar here:…/101801-feature-suggestions which will allow others to vote for it too.

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