Use note tag colors to prioritize information on a OneNote page

I got a question from Denis last week that went like this:

"[I] have different priorities on my daily To Do pages, and would like to be able to change the [background] color of the note containers based on priority/urgency levels. Is this possible…?"

This is a request we get every now and then, and the short answer is no, this is not directly possible. But there is a workaround I sent to Denis that goes like this.

In this case, I imagine Denis has separate paragraphs of text that need to be colored differently based on priority. The fact that they are in separate containers won’t turn out to matter, because you can use customized note tags to highlight the text. First, click the drop down arrow for Tags on the Home tab and choose "Customize Tags":


Then click the New Tag button and create a tag named Urgent, and set the highlight color to whichever color you want to use, like this:


Then click OK. It will get added to the top of the list:


and is assigned the shortcut key CTRL+1 be default. You can use the arrow keys along the right to move it down. I moved it to position 4, then renamed (modified) the Remember for later and Definition tags to be Medium and Low priority, respectively.  I did not make a screenshot of moving Urgent down or renaming the other tags.

Now I can select any text on a page and hit CTRL+4 to tag it high priority, CTRL+5 for medium and CTRL+6 for low. I could also create more ("critical", "optional", etc…) and color code them accordingly. Then when I look at a page I could see something like this:


and be able to tell which task was at a given priority by its highlighted color. I can also use the Find Tags option with its functionality to create a summary page with only the given priority items as well.

I hope this tip helps, and feel free to send me any other feature wishes you have for OneNote.

Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,


Comments (5)

  1. win7guru says:

    I would really like there to be a Powertoy for making tags, currently it is just too much work, especially when I have many tags.  Does this sound doable?

  2. John says:

    The tag information is exposed in the XML, so this *might* be doable.  But it would need to replace the tagging which is built in (since the names of those tags, icons and such are stored in a binary format in a local data file).  I don't think a powertoy would be any easier than what already exists.

    But assuming it was possible, what would you want the powertoy to be able to do?

  3. win7guru says:

    Okay, this post didn't work yesterday:

    Sorry for not getting back to you soon enough.  I didn't think that you would be so quick to respond.

    Since you asked, I would like the following features to be implemented:

    Custom Icons for tags (Maybe possible)

    More sorting capabilities (Frequency, Alpha, A-Z), similar to Delicious

    Docking of commonly used tags (Better docking, I should say, perhaps like Visual Studio docking)

    Auto suggest for tags (Type in a few letters and get suggestions for tags that already exist)<—Awesome

    Rearranging of tags (Ability to rearrange and make groups for tags)

    This is just a quick list of suggestions, but if you want to collaborate further, just send me an email and I will show you my design ideas.

    Thanks for listening.

  4. John says:

    Feel free to send me any suggestions you have – just use the link in the upper right corner.  I'll forward them to the designers – thanks for the input!

  5. win7guru says:

    Thanks John, I will definitely send you my feedback.