New note flag features for OneNote 2007

Last release we had a feature called note flags, this feature was very popular and was something that most users used and loved (once they discovered them). They are just little tags you can put on a page to mark something as important, just as if you would star an note from class or mark something as important on real paper. On real people many people would do different things, some people would put stars next to their important notes, other people would highlight, etc. The team converted this into a digital way of doing things, by putting little icons on the page on the left hand margin (or the right hand margin for right to left languages).


The default set that we shipped with include 5 items: todo, star, question and a couple highlighted items. We saw that people mainly used note flags in one of two ways (with some overlap of the population (I love how Venn diagrams can explain so much)):

  • People who used OneNote to keep track of tasks and todo items. For lots of people they used note flags just to keep track of what is going on and what they needed to do. They would choose the default note flag (which was a todo button) and mark up their pages. Typically these people would roll up (search) their note flags and then create todo pages from there ("Create summary page").

  • Another group of people didn't want to just use OneNote for task management, they wanted to keep track of 'things'. They would use the note flags as descriptors. I always thought about it as the "important exam question", "interesting idea", etc...there are many types of visual clues we leave on paper notes to help us know what is interesting vs what we need to do. You would underline something or put it in a box, etc...those are the notes that you would flag/tag as such. Hang in there I will get to it.


I fell into the world of #1, I used lists on paper, then Notepad and then OneNote (and now increasingly Outlook). Also many of our customers wanted more with Outlook and tasks sync. The team has done some great work with this release and working better with Outlook, heck even I am using it now. Okay so that is the history behind note flags. Let's talk about what we did this time around!


#0 We added Outlook task sync

This is the first and foremost more important feature for this, you can now mark items as an Outlook task and you will have an item appear in Outlook that links back to OneNote. Mark complete in one app and it will be complete in the other. This feature will totally nail things for people who use note flags for the first scenario.


#1 We added more default note flags:

The first set of note flags were too limited and there were many more possibilities out there! Just look at that list there are many different types from the todo like items (Todo, Discuss with <Person A>, etc) and also other describers you would put on a note (website to visit, phone number, person, etc). I feel that this list better shows what you might want to do with note flags, we want to plant a seed in your mind so that you can customize your note flags for your own needs!


#2 We added more customization support!

First of all we increased the limit from 25 to 100, not everyone needed this but now we allow you to have 4 times as many note flags as before.

Another requests from users was the ability to remove a note flag, which we did as well (see the buttons on the bottom of the task pane).


#3 More icon types

In this release we have updated not only the existing note flags but we also added new icon types, see the new note flag gallery:

The new icons give you more flexibility of what you can add. No we don't support your own note flag icons yet (the ability to upload an image file and make it a note flag), however that is something worth looking into for the next release.


#4 Better sharing of note flags with others

Of course we want more people to be sharing notes in shared notebooks (I know it has made my work life more productive), but we also want to help people share note flags more easily especially in shared environments. In OneNote 2007 whenever you see a note flag that you don't have you can right-click on the note flag and add it to your note flags:

We feel that this will really help teams work together and share note flags.


Note flags are great feature that I feel when people start using them it will really make their OneNote note taking more effective. Also make sure you use the keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl+1, 2, 3, etc). Finally I would like to thank the team for their hard work on this especially Maria and Myung who helped make this a possibility.


Comments (22)

  1. Stephen Mok says:

    Hi there!

    Thanks for blogging in detail about the new note flags features. I’m loving them in my new install of Beta 2 on my desktop!

    The problem is, on my Tablet PC I upgraded from OneNote 2003 to 2007 Beta 2 and it kept my existing set of note flags — but I like the new set much better!

    You know what would be good? A ‘Reset’ button on the Customize My Note Flags task pane that would reset all the flags to the factory default.

    Can this be done? 🙂

  2. Yes you can do this by removing your preferences.dat file which is located here for OneNote 2003:

    %userprofile%Application DataMicrosoftOneNote

    and here for OneNote 2007:

    %userprofile%Application DataMicrosoftOneNote12.0

    Just remove that file (or rename it) and then run OneNote again which will recreate the list.

  3. Robert Roach says:


    Multiple note flags. I note that I can add multiple flags, but it does not seem to alter sort order. Is there a trick to get the note flags to sort by the first icon in the note flag list when I assign multiple icons?



  4. Rob – I don’t quite understand what you are saying.  When you have one line of text lets say that you apply two note flags ToDo & Important (the checkbox & the star).  When you go into "Show all tagged notes" then you would like the list to be ordered a certain way?

    I am not 100% sure I follow you.

  5. John says:

    I would *love* to be able to sort the note flags.  Particuarly by a priority (or order in the note flag customization list).  

    You can group them together but the notes will order by the sections, so a Todo Pri 1 and list before a Todo Pri 2.



  6. rudiger maas says:

    I like OneNote and I use it for class, but I’ve found that in both 2003 and 2007, the note tags are borderline unusable.

    I’d like to be able to order the tags in the summary pane by something other than text (who would use that anyway??) and date. Right now, the only thing I can do is cut and repaste a note to get it in the order I want. And what really sucks about 2007 is that it now separates the tags in the pane into days. What that means is I can’t even do the cut and paste trick if I’m tagging over two different days.

    Honestly, did anybody put any thought into this at all??

  7. Rick says:

    As a visually oriented person, I find the rich visual content that’s possible in OneNote the major reason I’m moving to using it as my single note taking tool and source.  I plan to use the note tags/flags feature extensively, including adding my own, but I would LOVE to be able to add custom note flag icons!  Please seriously consider this for the next release.

  8. Kaine says:

    I’ll add a second vote to Rick’s request for custom icons – after discovering the tags one of the first things I thought was: "This is cool, how do I use my own graphic for these?"

  9. J-Mac says:

    Another vote for custom icons. First, I have literally thousands of icons that are sized perfectly – many I created for use on Pocket PCs (BMP), and then Windows Mobile (Lots of TGA and PNG), and also quite a few I created for eWallet desktop/WM.

    Furthermore, there are numerous topics that are screaming for their own tag icon, particularly for personal users rather than business users. E.g., Medical, Disability (important to me – I’m disabled and tag a lot of notes as disability-related. Presently using the weather tag icon. 🙁  ), Family, Computer, Home Projects, etc., etc.



  10. Chip H. says:

    Thanks for all the helpful input on using tags in OneNote.  I recently started using OneNote for grad school and really like it for taking / organizing / searching class notes.  I also frequently go back through my notes and tag key sections for studying. I really like the idea of using "show all tagged items" to create summary pages for studying, but but the only sort order I’ve been able to achieve for these lists is alphabetical.  This stinks because because it means the summaries, however efficient content-wise, don’t follow the natural flow of the course material.  No matter how I group, I still can’t sorting other than alphabetical.  I must be missing something here, right?  PLEASE, someone enlighten me before I pull my hair out over this.

  11. andspl says:

    How to tag words only. Not full lines or sentences in OneNote 2007.

    For example.


          I like football and basket ball.

          I dont like hockey and boxing.


    I want to collect only words foot ball and hockey from the above lines, but not full lines. How can i dow that?

  12. Kurt Seifert says:

    I love OneNote 2007 – I have cusomtized many Tags to highlight – projects, next steps, open issue, and task (linked to Outlook)  However when I Show all Tagged notes only my TASK (flags) are shown.  The rest of my TAGS are included?

  13. Graeme says:

    I am just leaving another comment to vote for those custom icons. So much possibility.

  14. Bob says:

    Often icons aren’t very useful. If I want to have a set of flags each associated with a different person, it’s difficult to remember which icon/color goes to which person. It would be nice if there was an option to have the Display Name (or at least a couple of text characters) be the flag "icon".

  15. cafrczar says:

    I just started using One Note tonight and already really like the Tag/Note feature. I also agree there should be more icons (or allow icons to be imported)in One Note.

    Thank you.

  16. Suzannah says:

    Different Notebooks have different subjects.  different subjects have different topics.  the way tags are conceived of in OneNote currently is great for to-do’s but not at all for archiving information.  I am a nonprofit person who loves astrology.  Its nuts that "Virgo, Ascendent, and 7th House" has to share with "Fundraising, Board of Directors, and Liability Insurance".  It’s not my organization either.  The Board of Directors Fundraising Gala is going to have to be tagged as both fundraising and Board of Directors.  Not everything fits into a tree structure.  OneNote needs to embrace tagging in a 2.0 sense.  Or at the very least adopt outlook’s "Categories".  

  17. Michael says:

    I would vote to be able to upload .ico images to an icon flag library so that we can use custom flags. The new flags are nice but there are so many 3rd party custom icons available on the web that it is scandilous not to allow users to add them and personalize their flags.

  18. Emma says:

    I’m new to OneNote and I think the tags are wonderful, but would also dearly love to be able to add my own graphics as tag icons.  I’m a writer, student, teacher, inventor and soon to be business manager etc. and do all these things rather piecemeal across many subjects in the same notes, I need more icon images to easily associate and order it all.

    I would also like additional options when creating a summary page, like having it update automatically for a designated period of time and to have it either show in a chronological order view or topical/tag grouping view, or Notebook/Section grouping of the same.

    Thanks for a fantastic Tool!

  19. JTF says:

    Is there a way to have distinct flag sets on a section or notebook basis?

    Each discrete project I work on has its own set of flags that I want to track, on totally separate issues. But if I change the flags it changes them across all of OneNote…

    I’d love to be able to have custom sets per section or, at least, per notebook.

  20. M Whitney says:

    I’ve been transitioning to OneNote from DB6 on Palm, and support for custom tags would be ideal!

  21. qk101 says:

    it is an wonderful feature! can you tell me how to sync the tags to skydrive? and how to customize tags using onenote web app?


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