Working with and testing To Do lists in OneNote

    Every so often, I'll get the same or very similar questions all at once. I'm not sure why this happens, but this last week I received several different variations of this type of request.

    "I wish there was a way to quickly mark and find all my To Do items."

    Well, there is, and I'll show the feature first then explain a little about how it works.

    First, the easiest way to tag an item (a piece of text, a picture, etc…) is to apply the "To Do" tag. There is a keyboard shortcut for this (CTRL + 1 is the default) and the Standard toolbar also has this right at the top of the Tag dropdown:



    I have to paste an image here since my blog software won’t recognize the “To Do” box from OneNote as an image…


    Now you can use the Search feature in OneNote indirectly to look through all your pages to find tagged notes. Click the Show All Tagged Notes command from the Tag dropdown. This is also on the view menu (I wrote about this a bit differently in August).


    And there will be a task pane that opens and shows all the check boxes you have:


    When search runs, it will find both the checked and unchecked items. If you only want the unchecked items to show, the Tag Summary pane has a box near the top to only show the unchecked items:


    This also filters out all the other tagged notes so you can see what you still have to do. You can refresh the results and create a single summary page by using the two buttons at the bottom of the tag summary pane:


    The summary page is especially useful if you have items scattered all over the place and want just one place to see a master list.

    OK, that is the whirlwind tour of the feature. Since this is based on search technology (that is what is used to find the tagged notes), there are some standard test cases which are obvious. Installing Windows Desktop Search (built into Vista and Windows 7) onto Windows XP will allow an index of all your notes to be built. Then when the search is triggered the index is searched rather than going page by page through all your notes to build the list.

    In turn, that leads to some other testing. If the index is not done, the pages get searched one by one. This ensures that you get the data you want when you are trying to get the list created. Either search method will also get re-triggered if you click the "Refresh Results" button.

    You can also see the amount of time the search takes by looking at the top of Tags Summary - there is a "Searching…" with a clickable Stop link, or a "Search Completed" string. This gives you a visual indication of whether the list you have is complete or is still being built.

    There is a lot more to testing this feature with tags and searching. For now, though, I just wanted to explain the feature here since it has bubbled up a little this last week. Have fun with applying and searching tags!

    Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,


Comments (13)

  1. John Richardson says:

    Use this functionality all the time as my major use of OneNote is as one big, Getting Things Done based To-do list.

    Unfortunately the bug in OneNote whereby only some check-box tags appear in the search pane with the "Show only unchecked items" option selected is particularly noticeable in this context.

    There’s an easy work-round (un- and re- check) and it’s finally been fixed in OneNote 2010, but I’ve reported this bug more than once on the MS Connections pages and never received any acknowledgement of it’s existence, still less that it will be fixed in an update for OneNote 2007.

    That over three years on it has not been acknowledge or addressed in SP1 or SP2 is very disappointing.

  2. JohnGuin says:

    Hmm.  Do you use WinXP, and does the string in the upper right ever get to the "Search Completed" stage?  And what version of desktop search do you have?

  3. John Richardson says:

    Thanks John,

    I’ve been running OneNote 2007 on Vista, and now on Windows 7. The "Search Completed" string appears as expected.

    I’ve every reason to believe (from the small number of other reports I’ve come across) this is a universal bug across OneNote 2007. By "some  check-box tags", all instances of a particular tag appear, but for example, only tag 1, 4 and 5 in the list (and not the second and third tag) – until the uncheck/check fix is performed.

  4. Vasiliy Petrenko says:

    Recently I’ve faced the bug mentioned by John, but in different environment – Win 7 HP and Office 2010 Beta. Is this bug really fixed in Office 2010, as John says? I’m dying to try it in commercial version.

  5. JohnGuin says:

    If you get some results, but not all expected results, it sounds like the index hasn’t finished.  YOu can use the control panel indexing options to rebuild it or check to see if it is done.

  6. parkerdr says:

    is there a fix/sp for this problem in the Office 2007 version?

  7. JohnGuin says:

    Does rebuilding the index solve the problem?

  8. Paul says:

    Rebuilding the index does NOT solve the problem.

    This is very disappointing – surely someone has made a fix for this, without all the people using OneNote 2007 having to get OneNote 2010 instead?  I got OneNote 2007 only very shortly before OneNote 2010 came out, so I'm not going to go and now buy Office 2010 just because people didn't develop a fix, but don't you think it's disappointing that nobody made a fix for it?  

    Or is there a fix out there?

  9. John says:

    If you have a section that is showing this problem and are willing to share it with me, please contact me via the email link in the upper right.  I'd really like to get to the heart of this.  Extremely sorry for the problems.

  10. David Gellman says:

    I may be a few years late, but I'll try-

    I'm running OneNoye 2007 on Windows Vista, and the function doesn't work properly.

    No matter where I tell it so search for tagged nots (All notebook, this notebook, this section etc.), it'll show me results only from the one open page.

    Any idea how to fix the problem?


  11. JohnGuin says:

    Are you hitting CTRL+F to start the search?  If so, try CTRL+E.

  12. Steve Cheren says:

    Does the iPad app have this same functionality?  If not, is there a work-around?

  13. Emily says:

    Is there a way in One Note to hide all To Do items once they have been checked?  I know you can search by to do items that are unchecked, but what about showing only the unchecked items in the main section page itself?  Outlook Tasks does it.

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