OneNote 2013 Overview

This post was authored by David Rasmussen, Group Program Manager for OneNote

The past two weeks have been exciting for everyone working on OneNote. We have been designing, developing and testing the OneNote 2013 release for quite some time, and now that we’ve released the Office Customer Preview feedback is flowing in. Thank you.

In this post I’ll provide a high level overview of the major investments for the OneNote 2013 release wave. In subsequent posts we’ll go into more detail on the feature areas.

OneNote 2013 Overview

The areas we invested in are intended to make OneNote a great experience for taking notes on clipped content, particularly on touch tablets with pens, to provide easy access everywhere, and to improve sharing with others. Specifically these investments include:

  1. Clipping content into OneNote to write and annotate on
  2. Improved embedded documents and tables
  3. Touch and pen tablet experience
  4. Sharing, meetings and collaboration
  5. Universal access


1. Clipping content into OneNote

Getting content into OneNote from other sources has always been an important part of collecting information and taking notes. Sources include web pages, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, screen clippings and so on. In OneNote 2013 we’ve made this even easier by introducing the OneNote Clipping Tool.

The OneNote Clipping Tool gives you a single location on the Windows task bar that you can tap with a finger (or click with a mouse) to take a screen clipping; send the current web page to OneNote; or send the current Word, PowerPoint or Excel document to OneNote, so that you can take notes on it; or just take a quick text or ink note. It’s context sensitive depending on what app you have top most.


2. Improved embedded documents and tables

The Clipping Tool makes it easier to get content like PowerPoint decks or Word documents into OneNote, but we also wanted to make it a better experience once you’re there. So we’ve improved the experience of taking notes on embedded documents in OneNote in several ways:

  • Multi-page Documents: If the Word document or PowerPoint presentation you’re sending to OneNote is more than 10 pages, OneNote will automatically split it into multiple OneNote sub-pages to make it easier to navigate and take notes.  
  • Auto Zoom: When you’re in full screen mode, OneNote will always zoom the embedded document so that it fits on the screen.
  • Paging Buttons: When you’re viewing an embedded document in full screen mode, OneNote provides paging buttons to go forward or back through the document for easier viewing. The buttons will also re-center and zoom the page, so that you can view your embedded document after taking notes on the side.
  • Improved Rendering: As you zoom and pan around on an embedded Word document or PowerPoint, OneNote re-renders the text quickly so it stays crisp and readable.
  • Embedding Excel and Visio Documents: We’ve added the ability to embed Excel spreadsheets into OneNote pages. You can edit the table in Excel and when you save, the charts and tables on the OneNote page will be updated as well.  For those of you who like to do diagramming, we’ve also added similar support for Visio documents.
Improved table support: Because it was such a common request we’ve also improved tables in OneNote by adding cell shading, sorting and better selection options. You can even convert a table into an embedded Excel document to create charts or take advantage of some of Excel’s features right inside OneNote.


3. Touch and pen tablet experience

Now that you have content in OneNote that you want to take notes on, we wanted to make that a great experience on touch tablets with pens. OneNote has always been designed to take full advantage of pens on tablets. But now that touch is standard on tablets and they are getting thinner and lighter there was an opportunity to improve the experience.

  • Full page mode: OneNote now has a full page button in the corner of the page. You can just tap it and OneNote hides all the UI so you can just focus on your content. This makes it much easier to write with a pen without worrying about accidentally touching parts of the UI with your palm.
  • Drop-down Navigation: When you’re in full page mode, you can tap the notebook name to navigate to another notebook, section or page without exiting the fullscreen mode. It works well with thumbs when you’re holding your tablet in your hands.
  • Touch Pan and Zoom: OneNote automatically defaults to panning and zooming with your fingers, and inking with your pen so you can switch quickly between touch and pen naturally without having to change modes. We’ve also made zooming and panning much smoother.
  • Rotating to portrait flips to full page mode: When people use their tablets to ink, we noticed that they often prefer to do so in portrait orientation, which resembles a typical sheet of paper. So when you rotate your slate, OneNote automatically flips to full page mode and hides all the navigation and chrome to give you all the space you need to write.


4. Sharing, Meetings and Collaboration

Beyond personal note-taking, OneNote is also designed to easily share notebooks with others, edit together in real time, and to facilitate collaboration in meetings. We have improved these experiences in the following ways:

  • Easy notebook creation on SkyDrive: When you start OneNote for the first time, we will setup a notebook for you on SkyDrive. We’ve also made the new notebook process very simple – just provide a name and it will be created on SkyDrive for you.
  • Easy Sharing: We’ve focused on making sharing easy by removing hurdles.  There are two simple ways to share a notebook:
    • Invite people with an email address – there are no restrictions on which email address can be used. People who receive notebook invitations do not to have OneNote to view or edit the notebook, they can use OneNote in the browser (for free). 
    • Get a Sharing Link - These links can be used on your blog, Facebook, Twitter or anywhere you can send or post a link.  Anyone with a sharing link can view the notebook without having to sign in.  We also let you disable the sharing links later, in case you decide to make a document private.
  • Real-time Editing: When two or more people are working on the same page, you can now see changes almost instantly. This makes collaboration a delight and is very useful during meetings. This feature is available on Office 365 today and is coming to SkyDrive soon (if you want to check it out now sign up here)
  • Meetings experience with Lync: If you’re using Outlook or Lync for your meetings, you can create meeting notes automatically in OneNote, which will include a list of attendees, meeting details, and relevant documents so that you can get right down to taking notes. Meeting can be created in Outlook, or during the meeting in Lync and attendees can collaborate on these notes in real time.


5. Everywhere Access

We repeatedly hear that access to your notes and the ability to take them anywhere is very important, whether you’re at work, home or on the go. Since we released 2010 we’ve been hard at work creating a great OneNote experience for you, no matter where you are:

  • OneNote for Windows 8: We’ve reimagined the OneNote experience for Windows 8 and created an exciting new app codenamed OneNote MX.  Whether you draw, type, click or swipe, this app will shine on your Windows 8 device.  If you are running Windows 8, you can download it from the app store today and try it out.
  • OneNote for Phones: In addition to the desktop version, OneNote now supports Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android and Symbian phones.
  • OneNote in your Browser: The OneNote web app lets you access your notebooks from a browser, without having to install anything. Just click on your notebook from SkyDrive or SharePoint to start editing.


We’ll write more in future posts to explain each of these areas in more detail. We hope you enjoy OneNote 2013!

David Rasmussen
Group Program Manager, OneNote

Comments (36)

  1. M.Ahrens says:

    I love all the little things you've done (like smoother panning, the new full screen view, inviting people to a shared notebook from within OneNote, etc.) They make OneNote a joy to use (especially as a student).

    I see that you can now embed Excel sheets, and I've found it useful (particularly for the sciences: physics & chemistry experimental data), but how about embedding YouTube clips (even Word can do that now!) or HTML content as well? With more and more edu content on the web (Sal Khan, Udacity, Coursera, etc.), I'd love to be able to combine my notes with the lectures / videos.

    Not to mention cooking, travel, or how to videos.

  2. AMP says:

    Overall the OneNote improvements are much welcome, but would have loved to seen a merge cell option with the table improvements.

  3. Cliff says:

    Looks amazingly good. My only niggle is the OneNote MX app. Would love to know what's in store and when we should expect it. While I like it, basic stuff like pen selection (size, color, etc) and the ability to open password protected sections (really?) are sorely missing.

    That said, as I explore the main version, I'm really enjoying what I see. I second the request for the ability to bring in video from YouTube, though if I'm not mistaken, you can bring in video from your desktop, so this should be a relatively simple add.

  4. varunsrin says:

    @Malte, AMP, Cliff: thanks for the feedback about embedded videos, I'll pass this along to the team.

    Though we don't support cell merge in OneNote today, a workaround would be to convert complex tables into embedded Excel docs, so that you can take advantage of excel's powerful features inside of OneNote.  

  5. potyi says:

    One main disadvantage for me in OneNote is Find functionality – it can't find substrings. It finds only strings at the beginning of the words. Is this improved in OneNote 2013 ?

  6. UB says:

    I really like the new navigation in OneNote 2013,but am having trouble converting ink to test.

    I am using an HP 2740p. I lassoed the inked test and then clicked on convert ink to test, but nothing happens.

    I am able to concert ink to match without ans problems.

    Please advise.

  7. Goran Licanin says:

    Does this release has Clipping tool for mail messages from  MS Outlook 2010/2013?

  8. I'm thrilled to see you've thought of portrait mode users like myself.  I do most of my inking in portrait mode.

    Also, I was thinking a while back of how I'd like my tables to have some spreadsheet like features and I'm glad to see you've included embedded excel spreadsheets.

    Haven't used visio much for personal use but embedding them in ON opens up some opportunity for mindmaps.

    Great work ON team.

  9. Eule says:

    I LOVE OneNote, but will finally PDFs be searchable?

  10. Roland says:

    @UB: You might need to add your language as additional (or primary) languange in the settings and install the equivalent proofing tools of your language if it is not EN-US. At least this helped me! It's easy to test, just switch your keyboard language (virtual keyboard, right lower corner) to English, close/open OneNote and retry converting. If this works, it's most probably the proofing tools…



  11. I've mentioned this on other blogs and MANY others have as well…

    When, oh when, will you add the ability to GROUP OBJECTS in OneNote? I love so many of the features, but the inability to group objects CRIPPLES the application. I take many screenshots, etc. and then annotate them along with arrows, circles around important items, etc. Unfortunately, OneNote (unlike Word, Publisher, etc.) is so stupid that it does not keep the objects together – so if I add something at the top of a page, it pushes the text down but NOT all my carefully placed arrows, etc. How dumb is that? Not trying to be mean, but I'm frustrated by the lack of such a common feature.


    Thank You!

  12. Here's another vote for being able to group objects.  I totally agree with scion111.  Please let us know when this is likely to be available, or why it can't be made available.  Thanks

  13. John Walton says:

    Another for the wish list..being able to sort pages.

    This is driving me nuts..

  14. MeToo says:

    I agree with John Walton.  Why can't we sort pages??  Please give us this option.

  15. Jörgen Hasselgren HNO3 says:

    I agree. Why can't we sort the tabs. I've tried the sort add-in for 2010 but it doesn't seem to work on 2013.

  16. J says:

    Where are the paging buttons described in this blog post? I can't find them. Are they maybe only for word and powerpoint documents and not for pdfs.

  17. tunghoy says:

    Most of the time, when I go to a web site (using IE 10.0.9200) and use the Send to OneNote button from the Windows key + N shortcut, it inserts a blank page or only partial contents of the page. I'm using the release version of OneNote, 15.0.4420.1017.

  18. Peter Maddern says:

    I'm trying out the Office 2013 Preview.

    I love the ability in the new OneNote 2013 to insert spreadsheets into notes. However, if I create a page and insert a new spreadsheet and populate the cells with information, I find that when I try to edit the spreadsheet on the page saved on SkyDrive using the OneNote Web App, the table is not editable. It just looks like its an embedded image.

    I tried opening the same page in OneNote on my iPhone and iPad with the same result.

    Is this normal?



  19. Peter Armstrong says:

    I like the developments in Onnote 2013 and am finding Onenote to be very useful in capturing, handling and organising my work – notes, information, drafts and to-do lists.  

    Organising is the key word – anyone can write notes and lists, it's finding theright pages quickly that matters in the long term – and Onenote has enough structure to suit the way I do that.

    One issue that makes it visually rather more confusing than necessary is the lack of ability to colour or highlight headings/titles at some levels.   I would really like to express the structuure more visually by setting colours or highlights for page titles and section groups.

    I'm not a colour junkie, and want to use quite subtle highlights (Only my two most important sections are other then grey) – but I do find myself "visually confused" at times and think colour/highlighting at all levels would help.

    Peter A

  20. varunsrin says:

    @Truly: Can you provide an example of a website that does not work? That might help us dig into the issue.

    @Peter Maddern: Unfortunately, the editing spreadsheet feature only works in the desktop client today. Glad to hear that its useful!

    @Peter Armstrong: Thanks for the feedback – there's no way to color pages or section groups in 2013, but we'll keep your request in mind as we look into new ways of improving the navigation experience in OneNote.

  21. Greg Charland says:

    Oh, No!

    I finally installed Office 2013. I've been using OneNote pretty much constantly since 2003, and have gotten lightning-fast with the Win+N key. In fact my use is about 85% of the time hitting Win+N to type up a quicknote that I "process" later…I also use the Win+S screen grab a lot.

    Now…I have the "Send to OneNote" icon that takes up a spot on my taskbar…and my Win+N just opens THAT I've already pasted a few things into oblivion because I'm so used to using Win N for the note.

    Is there any way to go back to the old functionality? I don't understand the point of the Send to Onenote thingy, 'cuz I would use Win+S to grab a screen clip anyway. It's redundant, repetitive, and serves the same function as the Win+ keys that used to activate it.


    Greg C

  22. @Greg – Thanks for this feedback and something I understand myself as a heavy OneNote Win-N user.  In 2013 we noticed that many people didn't know how to get to the clippings or how to use them so Win-N was how it was opened.  But to get the quick side note again you can just hit Win-Alt-N.  Sorry for trouble and once you get Win-Alt-N then you can get back into the normal swing of quick notes!  

  23. Paul C. says:

    The fact that we still can't sort notes alphabetically is ridiculous. At least have it is an option. I realize that not everyone would want to utilize that feature, but it should be an option to do so, hence the word "option".

  24. Greg Charland says:


    Thanks, the Win-Alt-N is exactly what I was looking for.


  25. islander says:

    Youtube,video, and html embed functionality would be incredibly beneficial. I believe the majority of computer users utilize the internet for research and educational purposes, so it would be a fitting addition to the program.

  26. mike says:

    Why isn't there any support for VBA and Macros in OneNote 2013?  Having access to the developer tab in OneNote would make it much more powerful for enterprise users

  27. Chris says:

    I want to be able to group objects!  Its a great application otherwise.  

    It is a problem when you edit where you previously had a drawing on top of a screenshot.  After the edit the drawing is offset and does not to relate to where you highlighted the screenshot.

  28. Groupie says:

    +1 for being able to group objects. So frustrating I am actually considering using a different app.

  29. Jason Campbell says:

    Another raised hand for being able to group objects.

    It's fairly intuitive that this would be a requirement – why isn't it in this product?

  30. Dev Dhruv says:

    I can't make a sub sub page in One note 2013. The sub page can't be dragged to be indented to make a sub sub page. Also i cant click make sub page on a sub page because the icon is faded out

    help please

  31. Katherine Hambley says:

    GROUP SCREEN CLIPPINGS AND DRAWING OBJECTS! Word has this ability, why doesn't OneNote 2013? So needed! I've been inserting my word docs into onenote and it is really time-consuming. It would be much easier if I could just annotate my screen shots right in Onenote!

  32. Louis Gephardt says:

    +1 For grouping objects together. I use OneNote extensively for writing and distribution of documentation. However, I can't edit or move text without my annotated objects getting misaligned. It's really annoying.

  33. Jenny Wilding says:

    I just can't believe that microsoft STILL haven't been able to provide a "group objects together" function?!  It simply renders the software useless if you can't group for e.g. a screenshot or picture, with a text comment and some highlight of text in the screenshot, together.  Try moving anything or inserting something above and you are left with an unholy mess.  Get it right guys, please please pretty please!

  34. ajh says:

    I too REALLY want to  see a "group" function for OneNote. Especially with the new pen input devices this becomes critical. After just screen clipping a map into OneNote I made notes on it but cannot send that to a client of mine who would benefit from seeing this – I know I could share a page but let's assume they don't use OneNote. I just want to copy and paste it into an email. PLEASE add this functionality. Reading through all these comments it is a very common request and it has to be at the top of your dev list based on consumer feedback. Love OneNote. Would really love it if this would be added.

  35. scotto says:

    Yes, I used to do most of my inking in portrait orientation, and I understand that the new mandatory portrait fullscreen mode is supposed to improve that experience.  But ironically, it makes it worse; to switch pens, add whitespace or any number of things, you now have to go through an annoying sequence of clicks to expose the ribbon draw menu.

    Maybe this would be OK if the ribbon stayed visible once it's exposed, but it is autohidden, and the control that is supposed to disable autohide, the "show tabs and commands" icon, is constantly forgotten.  

    Also, the fullscreen mode does not even say on.  For some reason ON constantly switches views from fullscreen to the screenspace gobbling Normal Mode.

    So, during meetings, I find myself falling behind in my note writing because I spend so much time fussing with OneNote interface — something I never had to do in ON 2010.

    For inking, the ON 2013 interface is a big step down.

  36. Michael says:

    Yup, grouping tops my wishlist as well

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