OneNote Tip: setting different levels of Priority for TODO tags

Last week I received a user request for a way to prioritize To Do tags a bit more granularly than the single "To Do" tag we ship out of the box. He did not like the way all his items were found in the tag summary pane and wanted a way to somehow come up with a system to allow for High, Medium and Low priority items. I suggested the method below (which actually did not work for him, by the way), but I have already started to use this myself.

Here's what I want:

  1. I want to be able to tag an item To Do with CTRL+1, or 2, or 3, or 4 and have OneNote assign a check box tag to each item.
  2. I want the tag summary pane to sort the To Do items by those priorities.
  3. Finally, I want each check box to look visually different so I can quickly see the relative priority for each item.

Customizing note tags allows for all of these. Here’s how to do it.

First, click the bottom most dropdown for the note tag gallery on the Home tab of the ribbon. Way down at the bottom is the option to Customize Tags... Select it.


Sharp eyed readers will notice there is already a Priority 1 and 2 here. But we can do better.

I'm going to add some new tags named Pri 1 through Pri 4 and assign a new symbol for each. Press the New Tag button:


And you will see a dialog similar to this:


Give each tag a Display Name (Pri 1 through Pri 4 in my case) and choose one of the check box symbols. I went with blue items for 1-3, then swapped to yellow for Pri 4.

Once you make them all, you can reorder the list to make them get applied with CTRL+1, CTRL+2, etc… You can have 9 shortcut keys for applying tags so you can set 9 different default priorities. Actually, you can do more, but my initial requirement was to have a shortcut key for each different level.

Now I can type some items on a page and tag them. When I hit the Find Tags button, I get a sorted list based on priority:


This is pretty sweet I think. As a bonus, since I used check boxes for these tags, the "Show only unchecked items" functionality also works.

Now I can tag items to do, assign a relative priority at the same time and get a sorted To Do summary page on demand. This meets all my demands!

I hope you find this useful.

Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,


Comments (9)

  1. Anonymous says:

    We are using this a lot. Fantastic functionality.  We are using it like  "09-17 making comments on OneNote Testing – best blog on net" (Short date – task name) and tag connected to person. Every person have its own tag. In Tags summary we see our task ordered by date. Really great if you have lots of task, or have to remember do something in next month or year , as we have. We are lack of two things:

    • how to close all tags groups in one click in Task Summary?

    • how to filter only one group which you are using every day in Task Summary?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kamil,

    For 1, there is no way to do this.  You have to click each control one at a time.

    For 2, you might want to filter on only a section at a time to see if you can come up with a work-around.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Where are the preferences for the Ctrl+1 etc kept? I use a couple of these priority tags for time stamping entries when I'm documenting a task so that I have a reference of how long a particular stage takes. I typically use ctrl-1 to Set a tag with the time icon followed by (new to me, thanks to this blog) alt-shift-f to enter the date and time. However I've found that Onenote keeps losing my preferences for Ctrl+1 etc so I have to keep setting them up again.

    Is this stored in a profile setting that I can save out (or programatically add back in?) – I suspect it's a roaming profile issue but not sure…

  4. Anonymous says:

    in c:users<<<username>>>AppDataRoamingMicrosoftOneNote14.0preferences.dat

    It should roam…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Am I missing something here? Every time I search for tags….the results include ALL tagged items, making the search essentially totally useless….since I'm tagging items to filter them by tag type.

    The only scope control I see is by notebook (or section or etc.)….but whatever that scope is set to, how do I show all items set to CRITICAL within my scope….without showing all the other tags within the same scope?


  6. Anonymous says:

    PS to last post

    The "Group tags by Tag Name" definitely does not solve the problem.  You're left with a list of critical items with no context…ie, you can see the text of the line marked critical, but not what the title of the item is (which might well be a project name)…..So, if you have 5 projects including a line item called "Estimate Project Cost" (since you created it from a really nice project template), and you have 3 of them marked as critical (the 3 high priority projects), and you group your search results by tag name… have 3 entries that say "Estimate Project Cost"…..but you can't tell what projects without clicking on each one of them.


  7. JohnGuin says:

    There is a check box to show only untagged items which filters out non-TODO items.

    But that still may not get you all the functionality you want.  I'm interested in hearing what you expect – can you contact me via email?  There is a link to the upper right.  I want to hear your scenario end to end.

    Thanks for the feedback,


  8. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Alan.

    I want to be able to filter my tags so I only don't need to see all tags every time I "find tags".

    I also want to search in my tags so I can find just tags with a particular search term.

  9. Anonymous says:

    is there an option to make different priority levels so if I have a lot of subtasks under a main task and if i have all of the subtasks done it automatically checks off the main task…

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