When it comes to organizing your notes, OneNote is all about freedom – you can put information wherever you want, move it around at will, and generally get totally lost. The search box is a lifesaver in this situation, but it’s easiest not to get lost in the first place. Luckily, we’ve got four levels of hierarchy to play with in order to stay organized – what, you thought there were only three?
Folders – I use these at the top level, with separate folders for Work (everything I’m working on), Resources (useful information I might need someday), Secure (password-protected), and Blog (past posts and ideas for the future). Since the taskbar version of OneNote automatically saves everything into a top-level section called “SideNote”, I’ve kept that section and use it as a short-term note-holder for random scribblings.
Sections – One level deeper. With default font sizes, you can fit about seven section tabs horizontally across a 1024-pixel screen, and that’s also the useful maximum. Partly because you really don’t want scrolling tabs – how will you ever remember what’s there if you can’t see it in the first place – but mostly because seven-plus-or-minus-two is the rule of thumb for “number of separate concepts you can keep in your head at the same time”. So if you’ve got more than seven sections, start a new folder, and your memory will thank you for it!
Pages – Ok, I just counted, and you can fit 27 page tabs vertically down a 768-pixel screen. That’s wayyyyy too many to easily grok at a single glance. Three ways to organize ’em:
- By date. This works great for e.g. archiving daily information (blog posts, anyone?)
- Alphabetically. Your eyes have had lots of practice at quickly scanning down alphabetical lists of information to find what you need, so put that skill to use.
- By topic, with liberal use of subpages to add a fourth level of hierarchy. SP1 made this technique much more useful, since subpage tabs now show their title text.
You can find many more suggestions in Chris Pratley’s excellent post, “How do you use OneNote?” Make sure you read all the ideas in the comments as well!
Part 1 of this series was about making your own toolbars.