This is why OneNote is Awesome

Well I know I normally blog more about Microsoft Datacenter and Cloud stuff especially Hyper-V and System Center, but I am a huge fan of Microsoft’s Office Suite. I really live in Outlook and Microsoft OneNote. I organize my private life, my work and university notes in OneNote.

I get often ask by customers or friends how I work and how I get things done. In this case I always show them OneNote, which is maybe one of the best keep secrets inside Microsoft. This post shows you why OneNote is awesome and shows you some of the hidden features you didn’t know about.

If you have more hidden features leave a comment on the post.

OneNote Dock to Desktop

With the Dock to Desktop feature you can keep your notes visible by anchoring an OneNote window to the side of your desktop. Your notes will stay on top of your desktop while you are working in other programs.

Linked Note taking

While you are using the Dock to Desktop mode you can enable Linked Note Taking. This will automatically create a link to the page or office document you have open while you have taken note. This is perfect, while I was write a whitepaper for university and I had to do a lot of research I used this feature. While I was write the document I had to mention the sources as foot notes and sometimes it’s hard to find the source of something you have found on the internet. With linked notes I only had to check my nodes and all the sources and references were linked.

 Visio Integration

A lot of other Microsoft products to integrate into OneNote. One of them is Visio, if you have Visio installed on our computer you can add an existing Visio diagram to you notes. You can also directly create a new Visio diagram from OneNote and add it to your notes.

Audio and Video Recording

You can do audio and video recording of classes, meetings or sessions with OneNote. Or you could take some great audio notes. The great thing if you record a class or session, OneNote does link the notes you have taken during the recording to the specific time. So if you read your notes you can quickly jump to the position of the recording when you took the note.

Links inside your notes

A great thing to work with your notes is also to link specific words and notes to websites, files or other OneNote pages. This makes finding stuff very easy and simple, especially if you share notes with others.

Automatically adding the Source Link

If you are copy pasting something for a website into your OneNote, it does automatically add the source link to your note. If you are looking for the source you can find it very easily.

Using a stylus to take notes

Taking notes using the keyboard works great, but sometimes taking notes with a pen is much easier, especially when you add drawings to you notes. But make sure you get a good stylus. A lot of tablets out there like the iPad do only support capacitive inputs like your fingers, to some vendors created capacitive pens which are simulating a finger. But there is another much better solution for this called digitizer pens like the Surface Pro has got one. The advantages of this technology is that the display can detect the pen input as different input. Which means that the display can turn off the capacitive input during the note taking, so you can put our hand down on the display while writing, or you can make use of different pressure inputs and an eraser at the top of the pen. The downside of this, not only do you have to have the write pen, also the display of the device itself has to support the specially pen. So if you want to take notes with a pen, I highly recommend you to buy a tablet with a digitizer pen.

Outlook Integration

As already mentioned, OneNote does integrate in a lot of other Microsoft products. Of course in also integrates perfectly in Microsoft Outlook. You can note only send email to your OneNote notes, you can also directly create meeting notes from Outlook appointments. This adds automatically the subject, date, location, the participants and a link to the Outlook item. You can start directly from your Outlook calendar or you can start from OneNote where you can scan for your appointments in Outlook.

Use touch mode on your OneNote Desktop App

If you are using the OneNote Desktop app on your Windows tablet, make sure you enable Touch mode, which makes the OneNote application and other Office apps more touch friendly.

Change the background of your notes

If you are using a stylus it can be hard to write on a blank white paper. OneNote allows you to change the “background” of your paper which makes it much easier to write and draw on. You can choose between different styles like rule lines or grid lines.

Pin your favorite pens to the top

Another cool OneNote feature if you are using a stylus is to pin your favorite pens to the top. If you are taking notes you sometimes have to change from your highlighter pen to your drawing pen and maybe even different colors. This can take some time if you have to do this over the menu. But you can also pin your favorite pens to the top of the window, which makes is a lot faster and easier to switch between the different pens.

Ink to Text

If you are taking notes with a stylus you can convert your notes to computer text with a simple click on the Ink to Text button. This will use some OCR technology to recognize your handwriting and convert it to text.

Math input

For my friends in chemical engineering this is for you. If you have to do a lot of math this is great for you. With the Ink to Math converter can you write your formula and this will convert it. You also write the math down and convert it afterwards.

Get OneNote for free on all your devices

One of the most important things about a note taking application is to have your notes everywhere available. Microsoft does offer several OneNote apps for different platforms such as a Windows Desktop Application, Windows Store, Windows Phone, Apple iPad, iPhone and an Android app. With this and SkyDrive you can access your notes on any device on any time.

Store your notebooks on OneDrive

To have your notes available anywhere and anytime you can store your notebooks on your Microsoft OneDrive. This will allow you to sync all your notes across all your devices. And you can also access your notes directly from a web browser.

Share your notebook with others

If you are working on a group project and want to share some notes, OneNote lets you do this. You can share your Notebook directly from OneNote or on a SharePoint site. So all your team members have access to it and can work on it at the same time.

Use to access and edit your notes online

You can access and edit your OneNote notebooks by using Office Online or This allows you not only to view your notes, you can also create new notes and edit existing notes directly from your web browser.

OneNote Windows Store App

Microsoft does not only offer an OneNote Desktop Application, Microsoft offers also a Windows Store app for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, which is not only more touch friendly, the app also offers some unique features. One of the great features in the OneNote Windows Store app is the possibility to take pictures of documents or whiteboards and OneNote does automatically resize it and format it so it looks like a simple note inside OneNote, and not just a picture.

Screen Clipping

If you want to take a screenshot or just a simple snapshot of a part of your screen, you can use the screen clipping tool to take a snapshot of your desktop. You can simple press “Windows + S” in Windows 8 and Windows 7 and “Windows + Shift + S” in Windows 8.1 to get the screen clipping tool where ever you are. After you have taken the snapshot you can insert it into a note page or copy past it into Word or another application.

Create Subpages

To organize yourself in OneNote you can create different notebooks, sections and pages. A thing a lot of people don’t know is that you can also create subpages by moving pages to the right.

Print to OneNote

At university we get a lot of documents and most of the presentation in PDF file format. Well I don’t like to take my notes directly inside the PDF files because most of the time its very limited. I also like to have a centralized notebook for all my notes. To get PDF and other documents such as Word or PowerPoint into OneNote you can simple use the Print to OneNote feature. If you install OneNote on your computer a new “Send to OneNote” printer shows up which let you print documents to OneNote.

This allows you now to take notes directly on the slides or pages and for example use the highlighter to mark important spots.

Text recognition

OneNote has a build in OCR software which allows you to convert text from pictures into text. This also works if you Print a PDF into OneNote with the “Print to OneNote” function.

Make Image text searchable

The OCR technology build into OneNote does not only allow you to copy text from pictures, it also allows you to make Images searchable. You can find text content on pictures via the search function.

Search Text in Audio and Videos

This is one of the features which is really hidden and not a lot of people know about. You can not only search text in pictures, OneNote also allows you to search for words inside audio and video recordings. This is great if you have a lot of audio recordings from classes, sessions or meetings and you are looking for a specific discussion.

Take Quick notes with the Send to OneNote feature

With the Send to OneNote function you can quickly add notes without having to open the OneNote application itself. By using the “Windows + N” keyboard shortcut or the Windows Tray Icon.

Send Websites to OneNote

Something often happens to me is that I am surfing through the web looking for something but I find some other interesting pages which I don’t have time for to read it right now but I would love to read them later. If I don’t bookmark the page I simply forget about it, so OneNote has a cool feature where I can send websites directly to OneNote. This makes it later easy to find via the OneNote search function. I also recommend to create some kind of an inbox notebook or section where you can send a websites to, so you don’t have to organize them later, and you can focus on what you are looking for.

Create To-do lists

You can use OneNote to create a simple To-do list. This is really helpful in meetings and other appointments where you take notes. And with the link features you can also link To-Dos to other items, such as other notes, websites or documents.

Create Outlook Tasks / To-do’s

You can create Outlook Tasks or Outlook ToDo’s directly from OneNote. Or you can link Tasks in Outlook to OneNote notebooks.

Use Shortcuts

OneNote offers a huge list of keyboard shortcuts, so you can quickly add and edit things. It also allows you to quickly navigate through your notes. Some of the shortcuts are system wide shortcuts such as “Windows + N” or “Windows + Shift + S” and others are just shortcuts inside OneNote.

Use Tags for Important Items

You can use tags for important items inside your notes. This is not just a simple icon inside your note, it also helps you to organize and find your items inside OneNote.

Send Your Notes per Email

You can not only share your OneNote notebook via OneDrive or SharePoint, you can also send notes via mail.

Export Your Notes

You can export your notes to other documents such as PDF files or Word documents.


If OneNote because one of your most important tools, and you store most of your documents and information in it, finding things is key. You can organize your notes into different notebooks, Sections groups, sections and pages but still it can be hard to find. That is why OneNote has a great search function built in.

Password Protect Your Notes

OneNote is not the place to store your critical information, but still sometimes you want just to make sure not everyone can quick access some information on your notebooks. OneNote allows you to Password protect your sections.

Insert spaces between notes

If you take notes during a meeting or a class it often happens to me that I don’t have enough space between different things or I would like to add something between them. With the insert Space option you can make very easily space between your notes.

Share a Notebook via Lync

If you are working with Microsoft Lync, you can share your OneNote notebooks directly in a conversation or Conference call.

Do Math in OneNote

OneNote does recognize different times of text, so if you try to do some math OneNote will automatically help you and calculate stuff.

Equations – Doing even more Math

OneNote cannot only help you by doing simple calculations, it also does help you with equations.

Add Photos to your notes

If you have installed OneNote on your phone you can simply add photos to your pages.

Advanced Search

I already mentioned that finding things is key and that OneNote has a great search integration. With the History you can not only search for notes and text you are looking for, you can also search for authors or recent edits. This makes especially sense if you work with a team on the same OneNote notebook.

Open multiple OneNote Windows

Something a lot of people don’t know is that you can have multiple OneNote windows open at the same time. This is really helpful if you want to copy past or compare something.

Use your Windows Phone Start Screen to pin OneNote Live Tiles

In Windows Phone 7 Microsoft introduced the concept of Live Tiles. With OneNote on your Windows Phone you can make use of this by adding the “New Note” button to the start screen to quickly create new notes. You can also pin existing notes such as shopping lists, electronic flight tickets or hotel reservations to your start screen so you can quickly access them.

Use Tables to organize things

Sometimes it is just easier to organize things in tables. OneNote helps you to do this very easily and quickly. Not only can you create a new table from the menu. If you type something and press TAB OneNote will automatically create a table for you.

Excel Integration

OneNote does not only integrate with Outlook, Word or PowerPoint, it also integrate with Excel to help you calculate or create charts.

Take notes on PowerPoint slides

With the send to OneNote integration you can also take notes on PowerPoint slides.

Taking Voice notes with Windows Phone

With Windows Phone you can create new voice notes directly from by pressing the Windows button. After that voice recognition does start and if you say “Note Your note text” Windows Phone will automatically create you a new OneNote note. Which does not only save the audio file, it does also save your notes in words. So if you are waking up in the middle of the night and you remember that you have to buy more whiskey, just use the voice recognition feature of Windows Phone and you can go back to sleep. Thanks to one of the commenters on my blog which remembered me of this cool feature.

OneNote for Mac

Microsoft also released a free OneNote version for Mac OS X. This makes your notes available on a huge number of devices. You can get OneNote for Mac from

Clip the web right to OneNote

With the OneNote Web clipper you can clip anything from news articles to blog posts to recipes in just one click. Your clips are automatically captured in OneNote so you have them all in one place. You don’t need to install any software you just have to create a bookmark, so you can use this feature on any device.

Send notes per email to OneNote

With the new web features Microsoft offers you can also send your notes simply via email to your notebook. Send emails to [email protected] and Microsoft will put them into your notebook.

Office Lens

Office Lens trims, enhances and makes pictures of whiteboards and docs readable, and saves them to OneNote. Office Lens is like having a scanner in your pocket. Never miss notes on whiteboards or blackboards. Always find important documents or business cards. Don’t lose receipts or stray sticky notes again.

Surface Pro 3 OneNote integration

Microsoft just announced the Surface Pro 3 with a new digitizer pen. This time Microsoft did some enhanced OneNote integration. With the new Surface Pen you can not only write on your Surface Pro 3 like it would be to write on paper. The new pen comes with a new button, which could be called the OneNote button. If your Surface Pro 3 is locked and you have to quickly the note, you can press the button and this will open a new note or page in OneNote. If you press the button twice, OneNote will capture the screen and create a new note with the image.

Create Notes on your Windows Phone with Cortana

With Windows Phone 8.1 Microsoft introduced the new digital assistant called Cortana. Cortana allows you to do a bunch of new stuff. Especially the voice control feature is great. Cortana allows you to take notes and insert them directly to OneNote.

Collecting recipes in OneNote

OneNote is a great place to catalog your recipes. And now adding them to OneNote is a piece of cake (pun intended) with the OneNote web clipper or the email clipper ([email protected]). When you use the OneNote web clipper or email clipper to clip a recipe, we’ll simplify the page down to just the steps, ingredients, and key pieces of information you need most, giving your recipes a simpler, cleaner format in OneNote. This feature works on many of the top recipe websites in the U.S., and we’ll expand the number of sites it covers in the future. Current sites include, and, and many more.

Publish note to blog

You can directly publish your notes to a blog post, directly within OneNote. This will connect to your blog and publish your post.

OneNote Online co-authoring

With OneNote you can work together with others on the same notes at the same time. I used this feature to collaborate with co-workers, friends and students from university. Microsoft recently updated the OneNote Online co-authoring experience on with a People Presence feature which shows you who is working on the notebook and in which note. Microsoft also improved the sync process which means edits are nearly in real-time.

Translation with OneNote

OneNote does not only allow you to make ink to text, it also allows you to translate text from one language to another one using Bing translation in the back-end.

Create notes with the Microsoft Band

If you are using the Microsoft Band together with a Windows Phone running 8.1, you can directly create notes in OneNote via Cortana.

OneNote WordPress Plugin

Microsoft announced some new OneNote integration partners and one of them is a new WordPress plugin which allows you to publish OneNote pages to WordPress blog posts.

Windows 10 Quick Note

With the release of Windows 10 Microsoft added a cool new button to the Windows 10 Action Center, which allows you to quickly create a new note. Just press on the Action Center and you will find a new button called Note. Pressing the Note button will open up OneNote with a new blank page, so you can quickly take a note.

Windows 10 Edge Browser Web Note

If you are running Windows 10 you have the new Microsoft Webbrowser called Edge. This new browser is not only crazy fast and adds a lot of new features as well as some common web standards, it also has a feature called Web Note. This allows you to simply take a snapshot of a websites and write on it. After you are done with that you can share the note using OneNote or Mail it.

I hope I have showed you something’s you didn’t know about OneNote. If you think there is something cool missing, leave a comment and tell me why you think OneNote is awesome.

All Rights Reserved for Thomas Maurer

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