How to create outlines with ink

Alex Simmons on the OneNote PM team wanted me to post this for him. Have you wanted to create outlines while inking in OneNote? Well with Alex's handy tips you can:

Also, let me add a little to the list below too:

  • Always start paragraphs with an ink bullet (or inked numbering)
  • Draw your bullets as a circle, then fill in the circle all in one stroke, like filling in a bubble on a scantron test
  • If your paragraph has multiple lines, on the 2nd and following lines, make sure the beginning of the text on the left side matches up with the left most text on the first line, and that the bullets on the same level are aligned vertically.
  • Make sure the spacing between the bullet/number and your first word is consistent.
  • When you indent, also use bullets
  • When you indent, indent a distance that is between 1-2 line heights (the space between the rule lines is one line height) in – this isn't a hard limit, it will just look less ambiguous to the ink parser
  • When you want to move structure around, switch to selection mode, and use the paragraph handles to move your paragraphs around.  By default, this will move a paragraph's sub-paragraphs with it.
  • If you want OneNote to know that you want to start a new outline, draw a horizontal line across your page, and make sure it is wider than the outline above it.
  • If you think OneNote has done something unpredictable in the way it has created some structure, try lasso'ing all or part of the ink on the page, and moving it slightly.  This will cause that ink to be reparsed with the rest of the ink on the page.


These are not hard rules, just guidelines. You may find success or failure using slight variations of the guidelines above.  You'll notice that even though in my example I followed the guidelines pretty closely, the resulting structure still isn't exactly perfect (separate paragraph for "line heights."):

This will allow you to convert to text and it will preserve the paragraph positioning as well as the bullets. Thanks a bunch Alex!

Comments (3)
  1. Andy says:

    Very nice guide! Was wondering how to do this…

  2. Since you’re using Ink Analysis under the hood, it might be worthwhile to experiment with my Ink Analysis Explorer application.

    User’s (advanced users anyway) can play with it and see just how IA partitions ink and how bullets play a part in paragraph detection and alignment level.

  3. Unfortunately Josh’s link is dead.  Come back Josh!

    Should the tips above allow me to control how ON interprets a new line as a new paragraph?  It doesn’t for me.

    While typing, a line can wrap but stays part of the "previous" paragraph.  I have yet to find a way to get the same behavior with ink.

    Ok, maybe I have now.  I missed the circle tip above when creating bullets.

    Is there any way to accomplish the same forced paragraph formatting without littering my documents with bullets?

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