OneNote 2007 Powertoy to change section colors

Way back in January of 2008 and again in 2009 I mentioned the colors in OneNote can appear much more bright if you adjust the brightness and gamma settings on your monitor. One of our monitors was so out of whack that we even thought we were seeing a bug at one point. I tried to fix this on a monitor I have that is shared on four different machines, and each video card needed different settings. I eventually gave up trying to tweak the hardware, and started thinking about how to work around this. I really want more differentiable colors (at least, literally, in my eyes). One thing finally led to another and when I was looking at the schema for OneNote 2007 I saw this attribute on a section:

<one:Section name=”Tips” ID=”guid” path=”C:\…\” color=”#F6B078″ xmlns:one=””>

(For those of you conversant with XML, you can probably guess I’m going to write a toy to change the value of this attribute for a given section. Your guess would be right.)

That color attribute is the color of the section. In this case, it is Orange (and the section is the Tips section from OneNote 2003 that is still on my machine somehow. I never had OneNote 2003 on this machine that I can remember – maybe it was preinstalled? Hmm…). Anyway, I was looking at that format and realized it could be changed. It looked like the color format string was the familiar Red, Green and Blue format with each value being 0-255 (in hex, though, so 00-FF). Sure enough, after checking the schema reference, that is exactly the format:

pattern = #[a-fA-F0-9]{6}|none|automatic

So I reused my old text importer to populate a tree view control with section names and added the default Visual Studio color chooser control. I added a little preview to show the how the font will look with the color you choose, and gave a Commit button. Throw in my old red icon for the OneNote 2007 logo, give it a good name (OneNote Section Color Overrider – OSCO) and here’s what you have:


I made red the default color as the background just so you know it is doing something. I tried White as the default but it simply was hard to tell what to expect. It will update to the selected section color when you choose a section.

Using it should be fairly self explanatory. You browse to the section whose color you want to change, click the Choose Color button to get the standard color chooser:


If you want to define your own color, select Define Custom Colors(I already did before getting that screen shot) and move the arrow around until you find the color you like. Add to custom colors, select that custom color and click OK. The preview will show the color and when you click Commit, it gets applied.

OneNote will need to redraw to show the color, so either navigate to the section or from and back to it.

Here’s what this Red will look like:


Compare to the default red:


I like the jelly bean colors. I hope you do too!

The download is below my signature. It’s less than 35K and is just the executable file. I’ll post the code for this next time since the blog limits me to just one file attachment per post.  If you want it before next week, just email me and I can send you the compressed files.

And this only works for OneNote 2007 for now. I need to update it for 2010 – stay tuned.

Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,


Comments (16)

  1. CB says:

    Is there anyway in 2007 or 2010 to have different colors for PAGES in addition to sections?

  2. JohnGuin says:

    In 2007, file page setup lets you change the page color.

    In 2010, the View tab on the ribbon has a page color button.

    Hope this helps!

  3. CB says:

    Ahh, but that's just the color for the background of the page itself.  All of the page "tabs" retain the section color when not in focus or change to white when selected.  I was hoping (if not in 2007, maybe in 2010) to change the colors of the individual page tabs within a section.  If I've got 20+ pages in a section with similar names it's hard to find the page I'm looking for without "hovering" over the page tab to reveal the full name — that's why having individual page tab colors would be helpful (or at least have the page tab retain the same color as the background color assigned to that page rather than the section color).

  4. John says:

    I'll pass the idea along.  Thanks!

  5. MN says:

    Great powertoy! One of the biggest turnoffs to OneNote is the forced feminine color schemes. Looking forward to the 2010 update! More tweaking for the user equals more happiness.

  6. wonderlandbaby says:

    can't wait for the 2010 update! any news on an eta?

  7. McGribble says:

    Hello, I was interested in being able to assign a different color to the page tab within a section similar to user CB above.  Currently all page tabs withing a section have the same color.  It would be great if you could either assign the tab its own color just like the page or have it inherit the same color assigned to the page since you can change the page color in 2010.  Has anyone found a way to do this since the last post?  Thanks!

  8. JohnGuin says:

    Being able to change the page tab color is simply not possible.  Sorry…

  9. Hi, says:

    Does this great powertoy support windows 7 and onenote 2010 (32-bit). For some reason the application is crashing my one note every single time now. It was working fine for the first hour or so. Please let me know. It would be amazing add on.

  10. JohnGuin says:

    No, I have not updated it for OneNote 2010.  

  11. Hi, says:

    Since it worked on my Onenote2010 briefly (I don;t know if it is because I have installed it over Onenote2007 or for other reasons) do you think it would be difficult to port this to Onenote 2010?

    And if you don't plan to do it in the future, could you possibly post the source code, and Maybe I could try to modify the powertoy myself… and post it back here?

  12. JohnGuin says:

    Can you email me via the link at the upper right?

  13. Charlie says:

    Hi John:  was hoping you'd have the section color power toy updated for one note 2010.  sounds goofy I know but I'm trying to get the section colours to match reasonably close to the physical colours of my paper file folders.  with a couple of "shades" of blue the emebedded section colours don't quite do the trick.

    Any ETA on the update?  your 2007 toy looks like exactly what I was hoping to find.

  14. JohnGuin says:

    Hopefully soon – haven't had a chance to get to this in awhile…

  15. jiffy says:

    I would love this for OneNote 2010 if possible 🙂