Using Author Names to track which machine I used to edit OneNote pages

Every so often I get a question about Author Names and how they work in OneNote. Folks who use more than one machine will typically want to use this to track which machine was being used when they made edits. OneNote will let you do this (and more) and here's how.


First, a quick demo. Amit is a tester on the OneNote team, and I opened a page recently which had many changes he had made. Since we only show the initials on the page by default, I had a list of "AS" (his initials) showing.

Notice how "Amit Sinha" has many different colors here:



He was using several different machines to make edits to this outline. That's not the reason there were this many colors, though. He actually used a slightly different name for himself on each machine.

For instance, the top dark purple color has this name:



The second light blue uses this name:



And finally, the green uses this name:



So Amit has three "names" in use that all use the same initials: "Amit Sinha," "Amit Sinha PC" and "Amit Sinha - Mail." Although the initials are all the same, the text name he uses on each machine is enough to make OneNote treat each as a different user. Since OneNote is treating each entry as coming from a different person, it shows each color differently.


If Amit wanted to "fix" this, all he would need to do is change his user name to be the same on each machine. He can do this in File | Options. This won't go back and change anything that has already been created but will change the behavior in the future when he makes edits.


So if you want your changes to all appear as just one user, make sure your user name and initials match on all the machines you use. If you want to use this to track your machine usage, vary your user name on each machine.


Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,


Comments (19)
  1. Anonymous says:

    John, I know this post is old but hopefully you are still monitoring it! I have just started using OneNote in an Office 365 environment. I really like the feature where OneNote identifies the author of an edit in a shared notebook with his or her initials. However, I've noticed that my initials are backwards: the first letter shown is actually the first letter in my last name, not the first letter in my first name (i.e., "BWF"). I checked File | Options in OneNote and it corrected showed my initials as "WFB". Do you have any idea why OneNote would flip my initials?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bill – if you go to and then click your account settings, what does it show for your name?  I have never seen this before.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi John, very interesting post on Authors initials. I have a concern and I hope you can help me. My initials doesn't show! I can see everyone else in a shared notebook but mine. I also opened a new notebook and typed some notes but still the same, my initials don't show. Any ideas? Thanks!!!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    We specifically do not show your own initials. If you look to the right, the "blank" area is the indication that you changed it (does this make sense)?

    You can also right click any element to see who added it.

    Does this help?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Now you explained yes! If I right click my notes I see my name, time and date of the post. All notes have that info. I thought that something in my configurations didn't show my initals, but now I learned that they do not appear. Thank you!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    What about onenote 2007?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just right click the text and the pop up menu will have the name and the time of the edit at the bottom.

  8. Anonymous says:

    who is kind enough to tell me how to change the color of the tab??

  9. Anonymous says:

    You mean the color used per author?  That cannot be changed.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I share a One Note book with multiple people.  When changes are made their author tags show up, but mine never do.  Is there a setting to disable a single users author tag?  

  11. Anonymous says:

    Yours are not showing since they are your comments and showing your name to you seemed redundant.

    The only setting either turns all names off or on – there is no way to remove just one person.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Getting started on OneNote 2013 on Windows 7. It does a lot of stuff nicely and well.


    Author tags are driving me crazy. Maybe I just don't know what I am talking about. I searched for Author Tags to get to this page, but I guess they are called "Author Names", Anyway I am talking about the "Author Initials" off the right margin of text that seem to indicate who wrote that chunk of text.

    Above I read:

        "We specifically do not show your own initials."  –

        "Yours are not showing since they are your comments and showing your name to you seemed redundant."

    OK that sounds like a reasonable idea, except that in fact

                  sometimes I see my initials,

                  sometimes I don't,

                  sometimes I see a single letter,

                  sometimes I see three letters.

    There are only two people in this onenote session. There is no overlap in our initials.

    If what you say is true, then why do I see my initials at all?

    There seems to be a general option page where I can define my initials. What I put in there has no bearing on the initials I should not see BUT do see to the right of text I have written.

    I find that I can turn initials on and off using Hide Authors. Another faster trick is to just type an extra space after a period in the middle of text. It's a common style requirement to have two spaces, and a common style error

    to leave one out. In my installation adding that extra space will cause the initials associated with that chunk of text to disappear.  Later I have discovered that thanks to that small edit, my initials now appear next to that text. Yes, the original author's initials have been replaced by mine.

    Which brings me back to the assertions

        "We specifically do not show your own initials."  –

        "Yours are not showing since they are your comments and showing your name to you seemed redundant."

    Obviously I am confused. Can you help?

  13. Anonymous says:

    The originator took the onenote session down that was exhibiting the problems I described.

    So unfortunately, I can't explore the problem further.

    I can think of a scenario that might explain what I saw.  Suppose  the originator provided access to an additional account ( that account had my initials), and added text via that account before granting me access. When I was granted , I would see text annotated with my initials, and the originator's, That would be a perfectly natural introductory demonstration. However, text that I then added would not have initials. So I, a newbie, would see my initials next to some text and no initials next to text that  I knew I had entered.  I searched and learned I could turn on and turn off the author initials with "hide authors", That worked except that one set of initials that matched mine were not created by me. That set would appear/disappear with "hide author". No initials would ever appear next to mine that I knew I had entered. I changed my initials in my account settings. That had no effect since as has been said, I will not see my initials, ever.

    I  discovered "right click for date time and author" late on, and even then did not think to click on text that appeared to be attributed to me and actually wasn't.  

    So, Andrea wrote/asked,

        "We specifically do not show your own initials. If you look to the right, the "blank" area is the indication that you changed it (does this make sense)"

    It didn't make sense to one newbie. "blank" suggests to me "no attribution" not that I authored the text.

    To put my related concern a different way, I have to be careful not to accidentally hit the largest most commonly used key on the the key board while I am looking through the text. I will have just inherited/usurped authorship of that chunk of text, and may not have even noticed if I have "hide authors" on

    That said. All software has peculiarities. I can deal with these, now that I know they are there.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone been able to see their changed author initials show up correctly in a shared OneNote 2013 page?  My author initials were initially generated as WC (most inconvenient 🙂  so I changed them to CCW immediately after I started OneNote  2013 (desktop version) on a new laptop.  Unfortunately, even though the Options page shows CCW, all modifications made by me on that computer have an author tag of WC.  Does anyone know where this information is stored in the registry so I can change it there?  I even tried creating a new notebook to see if that would show the new initials.  No go.  I would really like to have my contributions not be referred to as from the toilet, although it does make for entertaining remarks.  Thanks for any help you can offer. Someone must know where the cached initials are stored.  

  15. Anonymous says:

    OK, I got frustrated and dug into the registry to change my initials.  It worked.  You may have multiple identities here, depending on how many email accounts you have, etc.  You need to see if you can figure out which identity is tied to your Office/OneNote implementation.  The registry entry is at:


    As always, edit the registry at your own risk.  If you haven't done it before, don't try this.  If you are comfortable editing the registry, make backups in case you break something.  

  16. Anonymous says:

    Yes, that would work.  To be more specific, our code to check user names is a strict string comparison, so having a different name on different devices can cause this.  I filed a bug to see if we can update this behavior in the future and come up with a more resilient plan but changing the strings (like CC does with that registry key) is something power users can do now.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Is there any way to configure the "hide author" setting via policy ore at least registry key so we can deploy the setting to our users?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thank you C.C. Wilson. The registry edit was required to fix my initials.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Thank you very much for this info! It was helpful!

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