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Microsoft OneNote Ultimate Guide

This is the ultimate guide to Microsoft OneNote. As with all the ultimate guides on our blog, it will help you learn about this software application and find out some tips for using it more effectively.

Microsoft OneNote Guide 1

When was the last time you forgot to do something important and afterward regretted you had not written yourself a note or reminder? It probably happened much more recently than you would like to admit.
There is nothing unusual about this as many of us tend to forget our daily or weekly agenda. With so many activities waiting for us, we better jot them down so we don’t forget them and turn into one of those irresponsible people that nobody likes.
There was a time when we added a sticky note on the computer screen (or fridge) for each task we needed to do until it was completely covered in notes. (And the notes tended to fall off whenever the screen warmed up!)
But those days are gone, my friend.
Nowadays, most information is stored digitally, so why would to-do notes be an exception?
To avoid covering your entire office with sticky notes, we recommend you to use the best note-saving tool around ‒ Microsoft Office OneNote.
In this article, you will find out all you need to know about this extremely useful tool. If you are asking yourself questions like:

  • What is Microsoft Office OneNote?
  • What can OneNote do?
  • How can I use OneNote effectively?

… you have come to the right place.
Our Microsoft OneNote guide will answer all your questions.

What is OneNote?

Microsoft OneNote is a software application that enables you to scribble, write down ideas and save notes.
Apart from being an all-around tool for personal notes, it is perfect for business notes as it allows for collaboration between team members.
It is available as a part of Microsoft Office and Windows 10, but also as a free standalone application for many operating systems.
It is supported on Windows, macOS, Windows Phone, iOS, and Android. In a word, OneNote app is the best of its kind.

Microsoft OneNote Guide 2

Getting Started with OneNote

So, how does OneNote work?
Microsoft Office 365 OneNote is actually quite simple to use. It is organised just like a regular notebook, including the following levels of hierarchy:

  • Notebooks
  • Section Tabs
  • Pages

Pages are like pieces of a blank canvas where you can write down everything you need.
On the top left, you can see all your notebooks and there is also a choice of sections.
Once you click on the section, you can choose different tabs.
On the far right, there is the Pages menu if you want to further separate a section.
This system lets you effectively organise your notes so that you can always find them quickly and easily.
Whether you are a student, an event organiser or a business person, Microsoft OneNote 2016 gives you numerous possibilities to keep yourself organised.
In time, you will find your own best way to organise OneNote and how to get the most out of it.

How to Use OneNote for Business?

Apart from being able to scribble your to-do list in OneNote, you can also rely on it when it comes to more complex tasks.
As a matter of fact, the best way to use this app is to use Microsoft OneNote for business since it can make your life and work much easier.
Take a look at the best ways to use OneNote for work:

  • Taking notes in meetings (divide topics into sections and days/time into pages)
  • Organising different projects (separate clients into sections and projects into pages)
  • Keeping track of task progress (use to-do lists)
  • Planning editorial outlines or entire books (chapters = sections, plot points = pages)
  • OneNote video recording (or audio) and embedding the material in the notes

These are only some ways of using OneNote at work. As you learn about the new possibilities of this app, you will discover all the fantastic things it can do for you.

Microsoft OneNote Features

It is time to delve more deeply into this app’s features and explain how you can benefit from using them. We will list some of the most useful ones to help you get the basic idea of how the app works.

Blank Canvas

Although this might seem like just a simple white workspace, you will soon discover that it gives you infinite possibilities.
Taking notes with OneNote is rather easy as you can expand the canvas both horizontally and vertically. To start typing (or writing/doodling on a touchscreen device), just double click on the canvas.
You can also add pictures, charts and edit entire articles.

Text Boxes

If you are a fan of Microsoft Word (aren’t we all?), you will love this option.
You just need to double-click anywhere on the page to open a text box. Then just type whatever you want in the box, which you can later resize, drag and drop.
This will help you organise your drafts and place content in different boxes to compare them. It will also give you additional options to arrange your notes.


You can find the ribbon on the top of the screen. It gives you the option to choose a font, size, colour, bullet points, tables, charts, and other formatting options.
With the ribbon, how to highlight text in OneNote will no longer be a secret to you. Also, you can hide or show the ribbon at any particular moment.


In case you’re an old-school person and don’t really like typing, you can use a touchscreen device, mouse or trackpad to draw or write.
Inking support lets you choose from a set of colours, thickness options, and so on. Here, you also have additional tools, such as an eraser, marker, pen, lasso select, highlighter, etc.
The best thing about this feature is that Microsoft OneNote converts handwriting to text and even a badly drawn shape to a precise one.

Microsoft OneNote Guide 3

Web/Screen Clipping

If you need to integrate your favourite web browser into this app, you can do it very simply by using one of many OneNote add-ons ‒ OneNote Clipper.
This enables you to easily clip a whole web page or a section of it. Also, you can integrate an image or a PDF that you want to view later while offline.
To capture a part of your screen, place the cursor where you want to insert the screen clipping. Then go to Insert > Screen Clipping. OneNote will minimise so that you can use your mouse (or finger on a touch screen) to select a part of your screen.
Once saved, the image will appear in your notes and in the clipboard, so you can paste it to another page or another app.
You can save clips as individual pages in a section, as well as draw or highlight on them when saving.

OneNote Tags

There is practically nothing you can’t tag in this app.
Using tags in OneNote is very easy and it gives you the option of using numerous tags. There are about 27 of them, which is more than enough to be accurate when tagging notes.
To Do checkboxes, Star icon, Critical sign… These are just some of the tags that can help you arrange your notes by category and priority.
If you need to, you can also create your own custom tags.
It is very easy to add tags in OneNote. Just go to the Home tab, select Tags and then choose which tag you want to use from the list.
If you want to remove a tag, just right-click on it and select Remove Tag.

OneNote Collaboration

You can use this application on your own but you can also use it with your team members to share OneNote pages, sections or tabs and edit them together. Just invite other users to edit a Notebook and you are good to go.


You might think that this software is designed only for taking text notes. If so, read on.
In case you want to include a video or audio directly in the application, this is no problem at all. OneNote audio and video recording are among the many excellent tools this app gives you.
When conducting an interview, just record it instead of trying to write down each word. This will save you lots of time and effort in the long run.
Also, if you want to search for a recording, just type in a word or phrase that appears in it and it should pop up instantly.

OneNote Page Templates

If you are in a hurry to prepare a presentation for today, don’t worry. There are myriads of Microsoft Office OneNote templates that you can use.
Whether you need a project management template, calendar template, daily planner, task list, meeting agenda or any other type of template, you should be able to find it in no time.
On the other hand, if time is not your concern, you can get creative and make your own template.
In case you need OneNote templates for Mac, we will have to disappoint you. At the time of writing, Microsoft is working on this, but the option is still not available to Mac users.


Apart from OneNote Clipper, there are many other OneNote add-ins you can download.
If you need OneNote math add-in, just google it. In case you want to check OneNote add-ins for Mac, you can find them easily on the Office Support website.


If you’re into math, OneNote has you covered. There is a variety of math symbols in OneNote.
Go to the Insert tab and click on Symbols > Equation.
Then, simply choose the equation you want.
You can also format math equations in the Design tab which contains a number of math symbols.
On the other hand, there is an option to handwrite equations, which OneNote can then convert to math.
Finally, the app can be your calculator. To use this option, type the equation and just hit the spacebar.


OneNote Office 365 is not an isolated application. In fact, you can convert OneNote to Word, Excel or PowerPoint.
But you can also go the other way around ‒ send a Word document to OneNote and do the same with the other two Office apps.

Microsoft OneNote Guide 4
Finally, you can integrate it with third party programs like Feedly or Zapier.

Internal Linking

Another tool that will be of great help when trying to stay organised is the option to link to existing notes, sections and tabs.
This enables you to go from one location to another and never lose track of a single note.

Password Protect OneNote

If you are collaborating with OneNote, you probably don’t want people to have access to all of your notebooks.
To prevent them from reading the content, you can use OneNote encryption option. Just set up a password to protect your notes and nobody will be able to read them without your permission.

OneNote Tips and Tricks

The fact that the app is organised the way it gives you a number of options to arrange your notes and ideas.
Here is one of the excellent OneNote tutorials that can teach you a lot about this app. However, we have also made our own selection of the best tips for using OneNote.

How to Organise?

If there are too many sections in your notebook, you can group the related ones. To do this, right-click on a tab and select New Section Group.
This will enable you to move individual sections to new groups.
There are some notes that are high-priority. To create a hierarchy of notes, go to the pages panel and drag a page to the right. That will make it a subpage of the note above.
Use tags to mark parts of a note (paragraphs, checkboxes, names, etc.). In addition, you can search for a tag by using the Find Tag button in the Home tab.
Select Create Summary Page in the Tags Summary when searching for a tag to access a list of all tags on the page.
Microsoft OneNote Guide 5

How to Save in OneNote 2016?

You might be surprised when you find out that there is no Save option in this application. This is because there is no need to save anything manually.
Everything is saved automatically, but you should also backup all notebooks.
To do this:

  1. Go to File > Options
  2. Then select Save & Backup > Save
  3. Choose Backup Folder > Modify
  4. Simply choose the folder where you want to backup the content and that’s it.

Apart from saving the content created in OneNote, you can also save other content to OneNote.
For example, you can use OneNote Clipper Chrome extension to save web pages.
In addition, you have the option to take photos with Office Lens and send them to OneNote. To send an email to OneNote, set up this option in your Microsoft account and just send the message to me@onenote.com.
Finally, you can connect IFTTT to OneNote, thus automating sending iPhone screenshots, Gmail messages and Pocket favourites to it.
You can save all kinds of media content (audio, video, photos) in OneNote and add them anywhere you want on the page.
Just copy and paste them or instead click on the Insert tab.
In addition, you can mark up any photo or screenshot that you add to a page.

How to Create a Notebook?

It is rather simple to create a notebook in OneNote.
Click the Show Notebooks button and click the + Notebook button at the bottom of the list that opens. In the Notebook Name box, type the name of your new notebook and click Create Notebook.
In case you want to open an old notebook, click the Show Notebooks button and then select More Notebooks. In this window, select the notebook you want and click Open Notebook.
If you have more notebooks open at the same time, you can easily switch between them. To do this, select Show Notebooks and choose the notebook you want from the list.

How to Take Notes in OneNote?

Just click anywhere on the page and begin typing. A text box will appear, which you can later move and resize.
For a new text box, simply click somewhere else on the page.

How to Add a Page or Section?

In case you want to add new pages or sections, we advise you to give each of them a title. This will make it easier to search for them later on.
To add a page, go to Show Notebooks and click the + Page at the bottom of the page list. When the cursor starts blinking, type a title and press Enter.
If you want to add a section, click the + Section at the bottom of the same list. To name it, do the same thing as you would with a page.

How to Share OneNote Page or a Notebook?

Sharing OneNote pages:

  1. When in your notebook, open the page you would like to share
  2. Click the Share option in the upper right-hand corner and select this page from the menu
  3. Select Create to make a web link and then click Copy and paste the link where you would like to share it

Microsoft OneNote Guide 6
Sharing OneNote notebooks:

  1. If you want to share an entire notebook, open the notebook you would like to share
  2. Click the Share option in the upper right-hand corner and select this notebook from the menu
  3. Type email addresses in the box at the top of the Email invitation section. Depending on whether you want people just to view your notebook or edit it, select Can view or Can edit.

How to Be a Pro in OneNote?

The Onetastic add-in lets you use custom styles, see your notes in calendar view and create macros.
If you want to merge two organisation apps and get the best of both worlds, you can incorporate Getting Things Done into OneNote.
To convert Evernote to OneNote, use Microsoft’s importer tool.
You can see your notes in Cortana, but you can also create them with your voice in Windows 10, Android and iOS.

Convert OneNote to Word

Need to export OneNote to Word? No problem.
Go to File > Export. From the Select Format menu, choose Word Document, type the name you want and choose the location for the new document.
And if you need to save a Word document to OneNote, save it and close it. Then, simply drag it to OneNote.

Import PDF into OneNote

Go to the Insert tab and choose File Printout. Then, just select the PDF file you want to insert.
Should you need to export OneNote into PDF, go to File > Export. From the Select Format menu, choose PDF, type the name you want and choose the location for the new document.

OneNote Keyboard Shortcuts

As you can see from the examples above, using OneNote is quite straightforward.
However, to make your user experience even more enjoyable, here are some of our favourite shortcuts for this app:

  • Screen clipping – Windows+Shift+S; then drag to select a portion of the screen that you want to capture, you can then Ctrl+V to paste into the page
  • Insert the current date ‒ Alt+Shift+D
  • Insert the current date and time ‒ Alt+Shift+F
  • Add the current time ‒ Alt+Shift+T
  • Create a table at the end of a text entry ‒ Tab
  • Apply, mark, or clear the To Do tag ‒ Ctrl+1
  • Apply or clear the Important tag ‒ Ctrl+2
  • Add or clear the Question tag ‒ Ctrl+3
  • Enable or disable full page view ‒ F11
  • Send to OneNote Tool ‒ Windows+N
  • Search the current page ‒ Ctrl + F
  • Search all notebooks ‒ Ctrl + E
  • Create a Wiki Link to another OneNote page ‒ (Enclose page name in double square brackets) [[Name of Page]]
  • Lock all password-protected sections ‒ Ctrl+Alt+L
  • Email the page ‒ Ctrl + Shift + E
  • Dock the OneNote window to use it side-by-side with another app ‒ Ctrl+Alt+D
  • Copy/paste the formatting of selected text ‒ Ctrl+Shift+C/V
  • Open the Insert menu, with additional shortcuts highlighted ‒ Alt+N

How to Use Microsoft OneNote on Mac?

Even though OneNote is primarily a Windows app, it works almost as well on other operating systems.
Microsoft OneNote for Mac includes a wide variety of features that can make your life incomparably easier and better organised.

Microsoft OneNote Guide 7
Here is a comprehensive OneNote for Mac tutorial that can answer some of your questions. But we also want to list additional tips for Mac users.

Mac OneNote Screen Clipping

You can take a screenshot of the entire screen, a part of it or just a window.
For the entire screen, press Shift-Command (⌘)-3. The screenshot will be saved to your desktop and you can just drag it to OneNote.
For a part of the screen, hit Shift-Command-4. The pointer will change to a crosshair. Move it to the place where you want to start the screenshot and then drag it to capture the area.
While you are dragging, hold Shift, Option or Space to change the way the selection moves.
Once you have selected the area, release the mouse or trackpad. To cancel, hit Esc before releasing the button. The screenshot will be saved to your desktop.
For clipping a window, hit Shift-Command-4 for the pointer to change to a crosshair.
Press Space for the pointer to change to a camera and move the camera over the window to highlight it.
Then, click the mouse/trackpad. To cancel, hit Esc before releasing the button. The screenshot will be saved to your desktop.

How to Insert Symbols in OneNote for Mac?

To insert mathematical symbol or equation, click on the place where you want to insert them in the note.
For a symbol, go to Edit > Emoji & Symbols. In the Characters box, choose Math Symbols.
Double-click the symbol you need and that’s it.
For an equation, choose Equation from the Insert tab. This will insert a Type equation here placeholder. Type your equation in it. Once you are done, hit Enter and you are good to go.
In case you want to edit the equation, later on, just click on it.

How to Delete a Notebook in Mac?

To delete a notebook, you have to delete it from the place where it is stored.
To do this, open the notebook you wish to delete. Once in the menu bar, click Notebooks, point to Notebooks and select Close This Notebook.
Open your web browser and go to OneDrive. You need to sign in with the account where the notebook is stored.
In OneDrive, go to the Documents folder. Then, move your mouse over the notebook you would like to delete. Click on the small checkbox in the upper right corner of the notebook icon. Select Delete on the OneDrive toolbar.

Double Space Issue in OneNote Mac

Line spacing, like many other features, is still in development for Mac computers.
From time to time, this causes issues for some people. For example, OneNote will sometimes randomly double-space text that shouldn’t be double-spaced.
What you can do here is copy the text to Notepad and then copy it back into OneNote.
Another thing you can do is copy the text to Word, choose to Keep Text Only from a clipboard at the bottom right corner. This will remove all formatting, including spacing. Then just re-copy the text back to OneNote.
As you can see, there are certain issues that Mac users encounter while working in this application. Nevertheless, it still offers numerous features that easily compensate for these drawbacks.
The app also has versions for other Apple devices, such as OneNote for iPhone and OneNote for iPad, both of which work rather smoothly.

Evernote vs OneNote

OneNote and Evernote are definitely the two best notetaking apps around.
They have a lot of things in common, such as advanced features, a user-friendly interface, eye-catching design, etc.
Both of them are available on Windows PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones, Android devices, Windows Phones as well as on the web.
But so many people have been asking us which app is better. To answer their question and help you opt for one of these two apps, we decided to compare them.

Microsoft OneNote Guide 8


This application is developed by the Evernote Corporation.
Similar to OneNote, it allows users to create, organise and sync notes. But unlike OneNote, its primary function is not to create notes from scratch. Rather, Evernote is focused on web clipping.
Its features and layout are very simple to use, with an easy navigation and search system. The display on Apple devices is arguably more advanced than OneNote.
It offers basic tools like text formatting, tables, picture inserting, electronic ‘ink’, recording options, reminders, etc.
But where Evernote is really the undisputed champion is clipping content from the web. Its web-clipping tool is a browser add-on which gives you many different capture options.
You can clip the article without ads, a simplified article (just text and graphics), a full page, a bookmark of the page or a screenshot of the page. Then, you can add tags and import the content to a particular notebook.
Apart from this, the text you captured can be copied, edited, formatted, and so on (unlike in OneNote). Links are also opened in your browser. However, for multimedia, you are sent to the original page.
The most basic version of Evernote is free and it lets you add only 60MB of new notes a month.
If you want to have a higher limit and more advanced features, you will need to pay different prices for different advanced versions.


This is a much more robust application. Here, you can create notes from scratch and organise them into complex notebooks.
It offers a wide choice of tools for recording, drawing, scanning, embedding different content, collaboration, and so on.
It is great for people who want to organise their notebooks in sections, section groups, and pages. As we mentioned, even though it allows for web clipping, it falls short of Evernote’s clipping tool.
OneNote syncs the content on all your devices and to the web using OneDrive.
With the free version, you will get up to 5GB of cloud storage, but you can also buy additional storage.
With an Office 365 subscription, though, you will get 1TB to 5TB of storage depending on the version you opt for.
Now, Evernote may be the best at web clipping but it doesn’t even come close to OneNote when it comes to the following features:

  • Office integration is its forte, which is somewhat natural. It works great with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
  • Collaboration is one more advantage to OneNote. You can share notes and notebooks with people and edit them together.
  • Video recording is possible in OneNote but not in Evernote.
  • If you have a touchscreen device and want to write or draw notes instead of typing, Microsoft’s application has stylus input that makes this possible and interesting. You can even search for them later on thanks to optical character recognition.
  • To-do lists in OneNote are head and shoulders above Evernote’s. There is a set of tags to mark your checklists and many other options.

Microsoft OneNote Training

After everything you have read in this article, you probably want to learn how to use OneNote.
Keystroke Learning teaches a Microsoft OneNote training course which equips you with the knowledge and confidence to start using the app very effectively.
In this course, you will learn how to take personal or business notes, create and manage notebooks, add content and navigate through the interface. In addition, we will teach you how to use tags, search for content and collaborate with shared notebooks.
If you want to use templates, integrate with Outlook and implement security features, you will discover that too.
Finally, our friendly instructors will be glad to show you how to highlight, make a checklist, delete a notebook, as well as perform screen or web clipping.
Our training courses are fun and unforgettable. In them, we encourage you to ask questions and get constructive feedback, as well as immediately apply new knowledge under the supervision of our facilitators.
Keystroke Learning is based in Melbourne, Australia and we teach our courses around the country to groups or individuals.


This was a review of Microsoft Office OneNote. Now that you have read it in detail, we hope you will have a much better idea of how to use this app for different purposes.
It is very simple to navigate through your tasks and notes thanks to its hierarchical organisation: notebooks, sections, tabs, and pages.
The app is perfect for personal use but also for all those who need a superb tool to become more organised at work.
With features like text boxes, screen clipping, recording, collaboration and tags, OneNote brings notetaking to a whole new level.
Even if you had doubts whether Microsoft OneNote is better than Evernote, now you know for sure that it is far ahead of it in many aspects.
And now that you have a list of tips and tricks for both Windows and Mac, you can play with the application and find out how powerful it is.
On the other hand, if you want to attend professional OneNote training, book your course today with Keystroke Learning.

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