Tech Solutions

How to use OneNote for digital note taking

Jenneth Orantia
Smarter Writer

Jenneth Orantia is a journalist who has been reporting on tech developments and trends for the last decade

Jenneth Orantia
Smarter Writer

Jenneth Orantia is a journalist who has been reporting on tech developments and trends for the last decade

OneNote is a powerful digital note taking platform that’s well worth adding to your daily apps arsenal.

illustration of people using onenote

Use your handwritten notes in OneNote

If that’s not enough to entice you over to digital note taking, perhaps knowing that you can continue to write notes down on paper will seal the deal. OneNote uses optical character recognition (OCR) to transcribe your scribbles into text, so provided your handwriting is fairly legible, you can simply take a photo of your notes from your mobile device and add it to OneNote. Any handwritten notes you upload to OneNote will be completely searchable and available from all of your devices, giving you the best of both worlds.

OneNote for business

In a work context, you could create a notebook for each client, and within that notebook have different sections for specific projects and jobs. On each page, you can use a combination of formatted text, checkboxes, tables, pictures and links. Unlike Word, the formatting is free-flowing, so you can drag and drop objects around to your liking. You can also copy and paste content from Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and webpages and retain its original formatting.

Clipping webpages

A powerful feature in OneNote is the ability to ‘clip’ webpages from your desktop web browser. Essentially, it takes a screenshot of the webpage you currently have open, but combined with OneNote’s OCR functionality, you’ll be able to search across those clipped webpages as well as access them from any compatible device. This feature is handy for saving pages – everything from news articles and blog posts to emails and bills – for off-line reading. It will even include the URL at the bottom of the note so you can easily find the webpage again in the future.

To setup web clipping, click here, open your Bookmarks Bar (on Chrome for Mac, this is done by pressing Command + Shift + B), and drag the ‘Clip to OneNote’ button to the bookmark bar. After signing into your Microsoft account, you can save any webpage to your OneNote account by clicking on the ‘Clip to OneNote’ bookmark. This will save the webpage to your Personal (Web) notebook by default in the Unfiled Notes section, but you can move it to another notebook or section by right-clicking on the name of the note in the right-hand panel, selecting ‘Cut’, and pasting it where you want it. If you don’t see the note straight away, click File > Sync All Notebooks to sync the new note to your computer.

 

Sharing notes

OneNote also makes it easy to share notebooks with colleagues, giving them either viewing only or viewing and editing privileges. In the Mac version of OneNote, click the ‘Add’ icon in the top right-hand corner, click ‘Get a sharing link’, select ‘View only’ or ‘View and edit’, and OneNote will generate a link that you can send to colleagues via email or instant message to open the notebook with the relevant privileges. In the Windows version of OneNote, click the ‘File’ menu, then select the ‘Share’ option. The ‘Get a sharing link’ option will give you the ability to generate links for viewing and editing in the notebook.

You can also save particular notes as a PDF. While you have the note open in the Mac version, click the ‘Add’ icon in the top right-hand corner, select ‘Email page as PDF’, and OneNote will create a new email in your default email client with the note embedded as an attachment. In the Windows version, click on the File menu while the note you want to export is open, then click on the ‘Export’ button and select the ‘PDF’ option.

Additional features in OneNote for Windows

Sadly, Mac users don’t get as many features as their OneNote counterparts. Among the extras that are included in the more powerful Windows version are the ability to attach files to a note (including PDFs, Word documents and images), insert recorded audio or video, use drawing tools, and ‘print’ any file to OneNote (basically the same as printing to a physical printer, but outputting the file as a new note in OneNote).

 

Use IFTTT to automatically file things into OneNote

Throwing IFTTT − a service that enables users to connect to different web applications − into the mix will enable you to file things into OneNote automatically.

Visit IFTTT to create a new account if you don’t have one, then head to the OneNote Channel. Click the ‘Activate’ button, and you’ll be prompted to grant IFTTT permission to access your Microsoft and OneNote data. Click ‘Yes’, and you’ll be able to connect OneNote to dozens of web services, including Twitter, Pocket, and Calendar.

You could, for instance, set it up to automatically create a new note in OneNote for every calendar event (handy for keeping meeting notes). You could also get it to send any emails in Gmail that you label as ‘OneNote’ to your OneNote account. 

Need to take a quick note but no pen or paper in sight?

Find out more about how OneNote could both take and track your important notes. 

Find out more

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