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What is OneNote? Microsoft’s Digital Notebook Explained

by | 2:52 pm EDT | August 10, 2023 | Apps

In a world where information is at our fingertips, and innovative ideas are sparked in an instant, a reliable note-taking app is more than a convenience — it’s an essential tool for the modern mind.

OneNote is the digital notebook we all need. Developed by Microsoft, it effortlessly integrates with other Office applications, making it an invaluable tool for managing your personal, professional, and academic life.

With its seamless integration and powerful features, OneNote has become an indispensable tool for many of us looking to streamline our note-taking and information management process.

This article will give you all the information you need to get started and make the most out of this ingenious tool.

So what is OneNote, and how do you use it?

Let me explain.

What is OneNote?

What is OneNote

Microsoft OneNote is a digital note-taking app that provides a single place for keeping all of your notes, research, plans, and information.

It can be used for personal, professional, and academic purposes, allowing you to easily manage and organize your life.

OneNote notebooks never run out of paper, enabling you to have unlimited space for your notes, ideas, and thoughts.

What Can You Do With OneNote?

Whereas some of the other digital note-taking apps pride themselves on simplicity, OneNote prides itself on its robustness.

Here are just some of the things you can do with OneNote.

1. Create and Edit Notes

Created note on OneNote

Whether you need to jot down a simple list or create a multimedia document for external use, OneNote gives you multiple options to create exactly what you need.

Here are some of the features it offers in this department and how to use them:

1. Adding and Formatting Text

To start creating notes with OneNote, click anywhere on a page and begin typing. As you type, a note container will appear around the text, which allows you to resize or move the note on the page.

OneNote provides you with various font styles, sizes, colors, and more. You can create bullet points, numbered lists, and tables to organize your information effectively.

2. Incorporating Multimedia Documents

OneNote page with multimedia

OneNote supports the integration of various multimedia formats, enhancing your notes with images, diagrams, audio recordings, and videos.

  1. To insert an image or diagram, go to the Insert tab and select Pictures. You can either upload a file from your computer or take a screenshot.
  2. For audio recordings, click on Record Audio on the Insert tab. OneNote will insert the recording directly into your note.
  3. To record videos, click on Record Video in the Insert tab.

This multimedia functionality aids in creating visually engaging and interactive notes.

3. Using Templates and Custom Layouts

To improve the organization and appearance of your notes, OneNote offers various templates and custom layout options.

You can access these by clicking on Page Templates in the Insert tab.

There’s a wide range of templates available, from to-do lists to meeting notes. You can even convert your notes into different formats, such as Word documents or PDFs, for easy sharing and collaboration.

4. Accessing Offline Functionality

OneNote allows you to access and edit your notes while offline, ensuring that your work is always available to you. The application will automatically sync your changes once you’re connected to the internet again.

By combining text, multimedia, templates, and offline access, OneNote provides a versatile note-taking platform for all your digital needs.

2. Collaborate with OneNote

Sharing a notebook on OneNote

OneNote is not just a personal-use app. This tool allows you to collaborate effectively with others by sharing several notebooks and notes and working together in real time.

Here are some of the collaboration features it offers and how they work:

1. Sharing Notebooks and Notes

To share a OneNote notebook in Windows:

  1. Open the notebook you want to share.
  2. Navigate to File > Share > Share with People.
  3. On the left, click or tap Get a link.
  4. On the right, under Choose an option, select either Edit or View only to specify the access level for the notebook.
  5. Click or tap Create link.

You can now share this link via email, text message, or any other method to invite others to view or edit your notebook.

Sharing individual pages is a similar process. Just right-click on the page you wish to share and select Copy Link to Page. You can then paste this link into a message, email, or even directly onto a piece of paper for those who prefer analog methods.

With this feature, you can work on your own notebooks or any others shared with you.

Copying a link to a notebook on OneNote

2. Real-Time Collaboration

OneNote supports real-time collaboration, which means more than one person can work on the same document simultaneously.

When multiple individuals have access to a shared notebook or note, they can add, modify, or delete content, and everyone will see these changes as they happen.

By collaborating in real-time, you can:

  • Ensure everyone stays up-to-date with the latest information
  • Avoid overlapping or redundant work
  • Encourage active participation and discussions

Remember to be mindful of potential syncing delays. While edits typically appear immediately, some users may experience slight delays in seeing changes.

3. Advanced OneNote Features

Advanced OneNote features in open notebook

Beyond the editing and collaboration features, OneNote also offers useful advanced features.

Here are some of the advanced features you can make use of:

1. Syncing Across Devices

OneNote automatically saves and syncs all your notebooks across multiple devices, ensuring that your information is always up-to-date and easily accessible. This feature is particularly useful for users with Office 365 or using OneNote 2016.

To sync your notes, simply sign in with your Microsoft account on each device, and your notes will be synced automatically. This allows you to access and edit your open notebooks on devices like your laptop, tablet, and mobile devices.

2. Password-Protecting Notes

In OneNote, you can add an extra layer of security to your notes by password-protecting them.

To password-protect a note:

  1. Right-click on the section tab
  2. Select “Password Protect this Section.”

You can then create and confirm your password. Remember that if you forget the password, you can’t recover the protected notes. So, ensure you store it securely.

Password protect your notebook on OneNote digital version

3. Using OneNote with Other Microsoft Apps

OneNote is fully integrated with other Microsoft Office apps, like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. This integration allows for seamless collaboration and sharing of information between these apps.

For example, you can easily insert an Excel spreadsheet into a OneNote page or create meeting notes in OneNote directly from a Microsoft Outlook calendar event.

This integration helps improve productivity by keeping all your important information in one place and making it easy to reference and work with.

The advanced features of OneNote provide a comprehensive note-taking solution for both personal and professional use.

Now let’s talk about how you can get started with OneNote in the next section!

Getting Started with OneNote

Getting started with all your notes

Having explored the fundamental concepts and extensive features of OneNote in the preceding sections, it’s now time to delve into the practical aspect of using this versatile tool.

This section aims to guide you, step by step, through the process of setting up and effectively using OneNote, regardless of your level of technical proficiency.

Downloading and Installing OneNote

OneNote is available on various platforms, including Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and via any web browser. To download OneNote for your device, follow the steps below:

  • Windows: OneNote is pre-installed on Windows 10+ and can be found in the Start menu. For previous versions of Windows, you can download it from the Microsoft Store or through the Office 365 suite.
  • Mac: Download OneNote from the Mac App Store.
  • Android: OneNote can be found on the Google Play Store.
  • iOS: For iOS devices, download OneNote from the App Store.
  • Web Browser: Use your Microsoft account to sign into Office.com and select OneNote.

Setting Up Your Microsoft Account

Setting Up Your Microsoft Account

After installing OneNote, you’ll need to set up your Microsoft account to start using the app,

  1. Open the OneNote app on your device.
  2. If you already have a Microsoft account, click on Sign In and enter your email and password.
  3. If you don’t have a Microsoft account, click on Create One and follow the on-screen instructions to create a new account.

Now that you’ve successfully downloaded and installed OneNote, and set up your Microsoft account, you can begin to take advantage of its powerful note-taking features across different platforms.

In the next section, we’ll go over how you can navigate and organize OneNote.

Navigating and Organizing OneNote

Navigating and organizing multiple notebooks in onenote

To make the most out of OneNote you need to understand how it is structured and how best to organize notes. This section will help you with that.

Understanding Notebooks, Sections, Pages, and Quick Notes

OneNote consists of notebooks, which can be divided into sections and further subdivided into pages. Let’s break that down:

1. Notebooks are like physical notebooks that hold all your content related to a specific topic or project. E.g. Project Management

2. Sections work as dividers within a notebook, allowing you to separate and categorize different aspects of your topic or project. E.g. Project A, Project B, etc.

3. Pages are individual notes within a section where you can input text, add images, and other content specific to that aspect of your project. E.g. Project Overview, Milestones, Budget, etc.

4. Quicknotes are the yellow sticky notes of OneNote. With a quick note, you can quickly capture information without the need to specify a notebook or section, ensuring that no valuable insights are lost in the midst of a busy day.

These notes are automatically saved in the unfiled notes section of the Quick Notes notebook, and later, you can easily move them to the appropriate notebooks or sections for better organization.

Using Quicknotes on OneNote effectively

Creating and Navigating Notebooks

Creating a notebook in OneNote is a straightforward process. To create a new notebook:

  1. Open OneNote and click on the File tab.
  2. Select New and choose a location for your notebook (e.g., OneDrive or your local computer).
  3. Enter a name for your notebook in the notebook name box and click Create.

Once you’ve created your notebook, navigate between notebooks, sections, pages, and Quicknotes by using the navigation pane on the left side of the app. Here, you will see a list of all available notebooks. Expand a notebook to view the sections within it, and click on a section to display the pages it contains.

By leveraging notebooks, sections, pages, and quick notes, you can enhance your note-taking experience and ensure the easy accessibility and management of your content.

Final Thoughts

Microsoft OneNote is a versatile tool and a powerful digital note-taking application that offers a myriad of benefits for individuals and professionals alike.

Its user-friendly interface, cross-platform availability, and seamless integration with other Microsoft Office tools make it an indispensable tool for capturing and organizing information.

Whether it’s for academic purposes, project management, brainstorming ideas, or simply staying organized, OneNote’s hierarchical structure of notebooks, sections, and pages enables efficient note organization.

With its collaborative features, your team can easily work together on shared notebooks, fostering teamwork and productivity. Let OneNote help you streamline your workflows, boost creativity, and stay on top of your tasks with ease!

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about Microsoft OneNote

Is OneNote free?

Yes, OneNote is free. However certain premium features are only available with a Microsoft 365 or Microsoft Office 2019 subscription.

How to optimize OneNote for note-taking?

To optimize OneNote for note-taking:

  1. Organize your notes into Notebooks, Sections, and Pages for better structure and easier navigation.
  2. Use Tags to categorize and prioritize your notes.
  3. Take advantage of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to search for text within images.

What are the best practices for using OneNote as a student?

As a student, you can follow these best practices:

  1. Create a dedicated notebook for each subject with sections for lectures, assignments, and exams.
  2. Use Pages for specific topics within each section.
  3. Record audio or video during lectures to sync with your typed notes.
  4. Convert handwritten notes to text for easy searching.
  5. Share your notes with classmates for collaborative studying.

How can OneNote be effectively utilized for project management?

OneNote can be used for project management by:

  1. Creating a project notebook with sections for tasks, meeting details, and resources.
  2. Using Tables to track project tasks and their progress.
  3. Integrating OneNote with Outlook to manage deadlines and meetings.
  4. Sharing the project notebook with team members for seamless collaboration.

What are some useful OneNote templates?

Useful OneNote templates include:

  1. Meeting Notes: Agendas, attendees, and action items.
  2. To-Do Lists: Prioritize tasks with checkboxes and categories.
  3. Project Timelines: Track milestones and deadlines visually.
  4. Travel Itinerary: Flight, hotel, and activity details.
  5. Class Notes: Templates for various subjects and note-taking styles.

Why choose OneNote over Word for certain tasks?

OneNote’s features make it more suitable for certain tasks, such as:

  1. Flexibility: Place text and images anywhere on the page.
  2. Interactivity: Embed audio, video, and linked files.
  3. Organization: Navigate through notebooks, sections, and pages easily.
  4. Collaboration: Work on shared notebooks with multiple users.
  5. Integration: Connect with Office 365 apps like Outlook and Teams.

What sets OneNote apart from OneDrive?

OneNote is a digital note-taking app, while OneDrive is a cloud storage service. Key differences include:

  1. Purpose: OneNote is for creating, organizing, and sharing notes. OneDrive is for storing and sharing files.
  2. Features: OneNote offers rich note-taking functionality, whereas OneDrive focuses on file management and syncing.
  3. Access: With OneNote, you can access your notes offline. OneDrive requires an internet connection to access files unless they’re downloaded to your device still

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