Considering Switching from Handwritten Notes to Digital Notes with Microsoft OneNote?

Microsoft OneNote is a software program that is a family member of  Microsoft Office. There is a paid version and a free version. The paid version is bundled with your Office subscription of Office 365 or the installed desktop version of Office. The free version is included when you create a OneDrive account. OneDrive (formally called SkyDrive) is Microsoft’s online cloud storage for creating, editing, and sharing documents. OneDrive comes in different versions (OneDrive for business and OneDrive for the consumer). Currently the free version OneDrive comes with 15 GB of document storage plus 30 GB for you camera roll to backup smartphone pictures. You can access OneDrive from your smart phones, take a picture and have it automatically saved to your OneDrive account. I love this feature.

Ok, so the first place to start with taking notes with OneNote is to decide if you want to use it on just one computer or across multiple devices. You will need to save the notebook to your OneDrive account if you want it to sync across your phone, tablets, laptops and computers (PCs and Macs).

Below are 2 screenshots. The first one shows you how to create a new OneNote notebook using the free version with OneDrive. The second screenshot shows you how to create a new OneNote notebook with the paid version of the OneNote running from your desktop.


From the desktop version click File–>New–>OneDrive to have your sync and share with anyone. Select computer if you plan on just using the notebook from your computer only.

onenote desktop version

After you create your first notebook, then start adding sections and pages. I think of this as the digital “trapper keeper”. I remember in middle school I had a trapper keeper and it was one folder with sections inside for my classes. Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. were individual sections is the analogy to having the digital notebook now with OneNote.

OneNote has an awesome search tool that will find your notes quickly. You can also tag content which allows you to quickly find it by searching for tags. OneNote saves your notes automatically as you enter them.

If you have the paid for version of desktop OneNote, you can transfer copies of emails and meeting calendar items from Outlook to OneNote. Open up the Outlook item and click the OneNote button in the Ribbon. It will then prompt you to select a section with the notebook you want. In addition to taking notes, you can record audio, take screen shots, scan images, use pen tools to annotate and have the option to share notes with others.

For other ways to use OneNote check the ideas presented on the OneNote blog here

About Steve Chase

I'm a proud husband and dad to 4 boys! Microsoft Certified Trainer and Boy Scout Leader are some of things I call myself. The Cincinnati Reds are my favorite team! When not outdoors, I enjoy working with documents in Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, Visio and Photoshop. My wife, Erin, shares her awesome recipes on her blog at
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