Microsoft OneNote: The Secret Microsoft Office Program

Much of the data you work with each day probably gets stored electronically in some way: you save appointments, meetings, and contacts in Outlook and you likely manage lists and other key data in an Excel worksheet or Word table. How do you handle the stacks of data that doesn’t fit into the most popular Microsoft Office programs? What’re the best way to handle notes from meetings, brainstorming sessions, classes, project planning, Post-It notes pasted to your monitor, important hand-written text, and “where do I store this?” nuggets. How can you search this collection of notes and content? Try OneNote.

OneNote is a place to create, gather, store, and search notes. A note can be almost anything you want it to the be-a typed line of text, a sketch, an audio or video clip, a picture, a link to a web page you get the idea. Even if you have never heard of OneNote or used it before, it may be hanging out on your desktop just waiting for you to discover this “secret” Office tool.
Note: OneNote is available with most versions of the Office 2019 suites as well as the Office 2013 Ultimate suite as well as many enterprise (large/corporate) installations of Microsoft Office 2013,2016,2019

Using Notebooks The physical notebooks in your work area probably include color-coded tabs to divide the notebook into separate sections or topics, each with its own collection of pages. OneNote uses the same idea but with virtual folders called notebooks with a series of color-coded tabs or sections, each section made up of one or more pages. Pages are where you write, doodle, and paste in your notes. For further organization, you can even create subpages with additional information under the same title as its corresponding page.

Creating a New Notebook OneNote includes two notebooks already created for you: the Business Notebook and the Personal Notebook. Rather than trying to modify these existing notebooks, you’ll probably want to create your own. Although the interface varies with your version of Microsoft Office, in OneNote 2019, you create a new notebook with File > New. Most of the options are fairly clear but make sure to watch closely when you choose how you want to use the notebook: on your computer, the Web, or a network. A OneNote notebook might be just for your own use or shared by a group or team. You can even send out an e-mail to others with notebook-sharing information.

Organizing Notebook Information with Sections In keeping with the virtual idea of a functional notebook, it’s important to impose some kind of order on all these pieces of information. Within each notebook, the second level of organization is the section, which is represented by a tab along the top of the notebook. You can use the sections to organize the notebook’s topic or theme into smaller subjects. You can create as many sections as you need although it may be harder to read each tab name as the number of sections grows. To create a new section, click on the Create a New Section tab, or right-click an existing section and choose New Section.

Take OneNote for a Test Drive! If you have access to OneNote, launch the program and take it for a tour. Dig into the sample notebooks and create one of your own (you can always delete it later). Other features to explore in OneNote:
Move sections from one part of a notebook to another or even to a different notebook. Apply color-coding to notebooks and sections. Experiment by adding links to files on your network or local computer, creating freehand text, inserting images and pictures, and even hyperlinks to websites and documents.
Tip: One surprise in OneNote is that, unlike other Microsoft Office work, notebooks are automatically saved and are all loaded when you re-start the program.
See for yourself how OneNote can help you further organize your office, school, or home life.

John Abrams is a technical expert, he has written technical blogs, manuals and reviews for many websites such asĀ