A Few Tips for Integrating OneNote Into Your Life

Posted on November 28, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Office, Office 365, OneDrive, Windows 10, Windows Phones with 40 Comments

A Few Tips for Integrating OneNote Into Your Life

Microsoft OneNote is the best note-taking solution in the world, and it’s available for free on every personal tech platform. You should use it. And here are a few tips for getting started.

Note: This post is inspired by Mike Elgin’s Computerworld post, Why you should start using Google Keep right away. I love Mike, and I understand why he recommends Google Keep. But I feel that OneNote is an even better solution. Plus it’s really free, and not “free for the price of your advertising-driven soul.”

Get it for free. OneNote is free for every modern platform imaginable: the Windows desktop, Windows tablets, Windows phones, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, Android handsets and tablets, Android Wear, and on the web. No matter which platform choices you make, OneNote is there.

Instantly capture anything when you’re on the go with iPhone. On a 3D Touch-enabled iPhone, you can tap and hold on the OneNote icon and access OneNote features like New Note, New Photo, and New List, plus access notifications and recent notes. You can also access these features by adding the OneNote widget to your Today screen. And that New Photo option is perfect for scanning in a whiteboard or document too, just as with the separate Office Lens app.

Instantly capture anything when you’re on the go with Android. OneNote for Android let you add a OneNote badge to the home screen so you can take a note, clip, or photo anytime. Not a fan of Android badges? You can add a variety of OneNote widgets instead, including two full-featured widgets and separate icon-sized widgets for taking an audio note, starting a new note, and taking a picture.

Instantly capture anything from your browser. You can add the OneNote Clipper extension to your browser: It works with Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge. So it works with Chromebook too.

Use it as a sketchpad. OneNote is the only note-taking solution to fully support digital ink capabilities, which can be used for handwritten notes with a pen, of course, and full transcription/search functionality, but also for sketching.

This is obviously just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting started with OneNote. What else should be on this list?


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  1. 1 | Reply
    wbhite Alpha Member #120 - 1 month ago

    Since OneNote 2003 I've been heavily reliant on it for most of my note-taking needs (including using a shared notebook with my wife), but I have to admit that sometimes I use Keep just because it's dead simple in use and quick access.  If I need to quickly jot down a note or idea that I'll likely delete later, then I use Keep.  Creating a new Page in OneNote for only a one-line string of text seems a bit much, and Keep definitely launches faster than the OneNote app.  For example, I recently had to record a Dell serial # to later input into a database; Keep was perfect for this.

    1. 0 | Reply
      Nickel Alpha Member #343 - 1 month ago
      In reply to wbhite:

      It's hard for me to think anything could be faster than starting a quick note in One Note, one note closed, and no mater what I am doing  press winkey-n and I have a brand new page created and instantly can make a note...

    2. 0 | Reply
      wbhite Alpha Member #120 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Nickel:

      I'm talking about the phone apps (Android, in particular).  Keep is definitely faster to load than OneNote on my Nexus 5X.

    3. 0 | Reply
      Nickel Alpha Member #343 - 1 month ago
      In reply to wbhite:

      Ah, On windows and on Windows Mobile One note is quick, fast and easy, syncing works great. On Mobile  just tap note in the action center and tad an instant quick note in One Note. I just charged up my dusty android device, yes keep loaded a tad faster. The quick note widget took about the same time to load as just stating the app normally.  However the One Note smart badge is kind of nice and leads to instant note taking rather than a slight delay to note taking with Keep. It does have the drawback of always  having the badge visible so one can tap it no matter what app one is using... While playing with keep and One Note, I personally can't see the need or use of Keep, One note seems a better solution, but then I have been using One note since the very first version of it was in beta so I know it well


    4. 0 | Reply
      mebby Alpha Member #219 - 1 month ago
      In reply to wbhite:

      I use OneNote for the same thing. One line of text in one page not problem. Of course I don't like Google's way 'search solves all organization' labeling approach, like Gmail.

  2. 1 | Reply
    Harrymyhre Alpha Member #2085 - 1 month ago

    I forget when exactly, maybe 2014?

    I saw a ballmer interview where he said he had gone paperless. I figured "if ballmer can do it, I can too".

    I never got anywhere with OneNote. Then one day I  watched a quick Microsoft "getting started" video.

    Boom, it clicked. The newer versions are better.

  3. 0 | Reply
    simont Alpha Member #1053 - 1 month ago

    Any recommendations or websites or books on learning OneNote 2016? I am considering moving off Evernote when my subscription expires

  4. 0 | Reply
    innitrichie Alpha Member #1889 - 1 month ago

    Jealous of everyone who enjoys a flawless onenote experience. Syncing constantly flakes out for me within a week, and the Microsoft support solution when those ugly error codes creep in is create a new notebook and manually copy all your notes over. Once fine, twice hmmm, a third time - goodbye!

    1. 0 | Reply
      matsan Alpha Member #906 - 1 month ago
      In reply to innitrichie:

      After reading this post I have just started using OneNote less than 6 hours ago. Initially syncing fine across PC/iPad/iPhone but even with a modestly sized notebook (6 tabs and less than 10 pages in total) syncing is now terrible. Slow and unreliable throwing up errors forcing me to restart.

      I've never been a OneDrive user before and I guess I won't be ever again unless the system accepts my single OneDrive document in my account. I'll give it another 48 hours and keeping my fingers crossed.

      I know Paul is biased towards Microsoft's products but this amount of problems needs a real zealot with too much time available to troubleshoot things that should "just work".

  5. 0 | Reply
    lprell Alpha Member #968 - 1 month ago

    OneNote is a complete solution, no doubt. Although sometimes i wonder it is just too much for simple to-do list entries like: buy milk on way home.

  6. 0 | Reply
    mebby Alpha Member #219 - 1 month ago

    Can you use Keep offline on a Windows 10 computer?

    1. Paul Thurrott
      0 | Reply
      Paul Thurrott Alpha Member #1 - 1 month ago
      In reply to mebby:

      Yes, but if you're using the desktop application, you just have to load your notebooks. It's all synced for offline automatically. 

  7. 0 | Reply
    cseafous Alpha Member #610 - 1 month ago

    I love OneNote.  I save travel plans and other things into it and it gets saved to OneDrive so my wife can see it.  Keeps us from having to email things to each other.  The sync happens pretty quickly as well.

  8. 0 | Reply
    gsmith-plm Alpha Member #1599 - 1 month ago

    I want to like OneNote - I've tried.  But it really leaves going, "Meh".  The UWP app is very limited and the "free" Windows app is crippleware.  There's really little for me I can't do with other things I already have.

    1. 0 | Reply
      lwetzel Alpha Member #113 - 1 month ago
      In reply to gsmith-plm:

      'the "free" Windows app is crippleware'

      Are you talking about the desktop OneNote?  In what way?  I really have no problems with it on any device.  The UWP is not as full blown as the Desktop OneNote.

  9. 0 | Reply
    lwetzel Alpha Member #113 - 1 month ago

    It can be used on a Windows Phone also.

  10. 0 | Reply
    rope_photo Alpha Member #1297 - 1 month ago

    I tried and tried to use Onenote, but search simply will not work for me.  I can almost never find anything with it unless I stumble upon it.  Like wbhite said, Keep is just so much simpler to use.  

  11. 0 | Reply
    fuzzsdad Alpha Member #540 - 1 month ago

    We all have various large ticket items that we have or purchase new. I take a photo of the Model/Serial Number tag and then list the date of purchase and include a snap of the receipt. If you keep doing this and also start capturing your older stuff, you have a searchable record of all the stuff you own. If you need service or a part, you don't have to go and try to find the info you need in several different places. It is all right there in OneNote. Lawnmowers and other small engine tools. Power tools and electronic items. Nothing is off the list. It's great for home inventory.

  12. 0 | Reply
    Polycrastinator Alpha Member #163 - 1 month ago

    Office lens. Handwritten notes converted to Onenote pages via the camera. It's awesome to be able to write straight onto a surface, and devices like the Yoga Book are great options for note taking too, but fundamentally you can just keep using paper if you'd prefer or can't afford a computer with a digitizer and import stuff later.


    At least that's what I'm told. I, ah, have never actually done that. Because I do own a Surface. But my understanding is you can....

    1. 1 | Reply
      Narg Alpha Member #420 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Polycrastinator:

      Office Lens to me is clumsy.  If they'd work on the UI a little bit to make it easier to do some of the basic functions, It'd be noteworthy.  But for now, it's just another "scanner app" where there are much better apps available. 

    2. 0 | Reply
      Cain69 Alpha Member #1034 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Narg:

      Which apps do you suggest that are better than Office Lens?  

  13. 0 | Reply
    mclark2112 Alpha Member #1239 - 1 month ago

    Love OneNote! Use it for everything. We run our IT department from OneNote. It has now become a repository of info for all of senior management for upcoming purchase of another bank. It took a while for everyone to jump on board, and really "get it." But now, everyone loves it. We have a very mixed user group too, probably every platform in use.

  14. 0 | Reply
    dstrauss Alpha Member #640 - 1 month ago

    Hand written notes...that says it all. I have eight years of hand written notes with clients from various generations of note taking devices, and they are ALL searchable without converting to text. Every time I write "Joe Smith" in a note, OneNote (desktop) can find it through all my notes - highlighted and ready to review - just brilliant.