How I Use Microsoft OneNote

Posted on December 10, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Mobile, Office, Office 365 with 30 Comments

How I Use Microsoft OneNote

Following up on last week’s OneNote posts, I thought I’d open up my own notebooks and explain how I use this product every day.

If you haven’t, please do check out A Few Tips for Integrating OneNote Into Your Life. There are some interesting tips in the comments too, plus the usual assortment of noise. (Sorry.) I also wrote a post called A Personal History of Microsoft OneNote that documents my early experiences with the first versions of the application.

Looking back on the past decade or so, there are two major changes that have really impacted my OneNote usage.

First, OneNote moved from local, PC-based storage to the cloud, first as an option and then as a requirement for most. This is the correct way to store this kind of information, because it means you can access it from any device, leading to point number two.

Which is that OneNote is now available everywhere, and for free. So I can access OneNote on my Windows-based PCs, of course, but also on the web (and thus on Chromebooks), Macs, Android handsets and tablets, Windows phones and tablets, iPhone and iPad. It is literally everywhere and, more to the point, everywhere I am out in the world.

These changes have transformed OneNote from useful to ubiquitous.

From an organizational perspective, things have likewise changed over the years. Today, I maintain four separate notebooks, all in (consumer) OneDrive. They are:

Paul’s Notebook. This is my person notebook, and I have sections for our annual home swap, unusual foods and drink I want to remember (sushi, Indian food, sake), and more. At one point, I was using it sort of like Pocket before there was a Pocket, and was saving articles there, but I’ve moved on to Pocket for that. But my Quick Notes and phone scans go here too. So now this is the notebook I access most often from mobile, and the least on my PCs.


Meeting Notes. This notebook contains five sections representing the five most recent years of meeting notes (2012-2016) plus more sections for internal meetings and notes from sources. My original content roadmap for is here, for example.

Windows Weekly. This one has about six years of show notes (2011-present), with a unique section (e.g. 2016) for each year. It’s shared with Mary Jo, so we can collaborate on the notes, and with various people at TWiT so they can access the notes during the show.


First Ring Daily. This is the most recent and simple of the notebooks, which I started so Brad and I could collaborate on the podcast. There is only one section, with five pages, each of which is for a specific day and is overwritten each week as we go (Mobile Monday, Tech Tuesday, We Help Wednesday, Throwback Thursday, and Future Friday).

Day to day, I do all of my note-taking by typing, rather than handwriting. But my usage varies by device. For example, I access Meeting Notes, Windows Weekly, and First Ring Daily almost exclusively on the PC. But Paul’s Notebook is mostly mobile because I use often use it to remember things I see out in the world.

Because I use the iPhone most frequently, I have added the OneNote widget to the iOS Search screen, which I can access quickly by swiping to the right on the Home or Lock screen. From this widget, I can create a new note, a new photo or scan, or a new list.


In short, OneNote is always there, whenever and wherever I need it. And as a free and full-featured tool, it’s easy to recommend to one and all, especially now that Evernote has succumbed to a less attractive pricing model.


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