The Beginner's Guide to OneNote

The Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to OneNote: Mastering Notetaking and Organization

The Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to OneNote: Mastering Notetaking and Organization

Welcome to the comprehensive Beginner’s Guide to OneNote. In this guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of Microsoft OneNote, a versatile notetaking application designed to help you capture, organize, and share your thoughts and ideas seamlessly. Whether you’re a student, professional, or simply someone looking to enhance their productivity, OneNote has got you covered. Let’s check out this world of OneNote and discover how to create notebooks, add and format notes, use tagging and search features, and collaborate and share with others.

In Beginners Guide to OneNote, adding or typing notes is super easy

What is OneNote?

OneNote is a note-taking application that allows you to capture, organize, and share your thoughts and ideas. It is part of the Microsoft Office suite and is available on multiple platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.


It is a good idea to install OneNote not only on your computer, but also on any mobile device you own. I have OneNote on my desktop PC, as well as my laptop, my tablet and my iphone. If I create a notebook on anyone of these devices I can then access that notebook for any other device (if I so choose).


OneNote provides a digital space where you can create and organize your notes, thoughts, and information efficiently. Let’s break down the key features for beginners, and look into how to make the most of this versatile application.

Creating Notebooks, Pages, and Sections

Before you start your notetaking journey, it’s crucial to understand the structure of OneNote. Think of OneNote as a virtual version of a spiral notebook. Here’s how to get started:


Create Your Digital Notebook: To begin, open OneNote and create a new notebook. This will serve as your overarching storage space for all your notes, just like a physical 3-ring binder. Name your notebook with a name that reflects its purpose or content.

I have so many notebooks!

Notebooks for work, personal notebooks and lots of notebooks shared with others. Don’t limit yourself to one notebook, remember OneNote is the application and what you are saving inside OneNote is a notebook. A notebook represents a file to OneNote, just like a file you would save in Word or Excel. Take advantage of this and experiment with more than one notebook.

Organize Your Digital Life: Within each notebook, you can create multiple pages and sections, just like how you’d organize your notes in a physical notebook.


Each page is your blank canvas, where you can jot down ideas, take notes, or even insert media like images and audio recordings.

Organize by Topics or Projects: You can create different pages for various topics or projects. For instance, if you’re a student, you can have separate pages for different subjects or assignments. Professionals can use pages to manage different work projects.


For a more organized structure within your notebook, be sure to create sections. This is particularly useful for breaking down large projects or subjects into manageable parts.

Customize the Sections: You can also customize the sections by giving them meaningful names. For instance, if you’re working on a research project, you might create sections like “Literature Review,” “Methodology,” and “Data Analysis.”

By understanding this hierarchical structure, you’ll find it easier to keep your digital notes well organized and readily accessible.

Project notebook example of sections and pages in OneNote

Adding and Formatting Notes within OneNote

One of the great strengths of OneNote is its flexibility in capturing information. Here’s how to add, input and format notes:

Adding Notes in OneNote

Add notes easy: There are various methods for adding notes in OneNote. Thus making it easy to fit within  your preferences and needs. You can
  • type your notes,
  • use a stylus or touchscreen to write by hand, or even
  • record audio notes for those moments when typing isn’t practical.
The stylus or touchscreen are definitely helpful when using OneNote on your mobile devices. Mix up the note types: On a single page, you can combine text, handwriting, images, and audio recordings, providing an all-in-one platform for comprehensive notetaking.

Formatting notes in OneNote

Polish up Your Notes: You’re not limited to notes that are only plain text. OneNote allows you to format your notes to your liking.

Customize Font and Style: Change the font style and size to match your preferences. You can also use bold, italics, underline, and other formatting options to emphasize key points. For a short-cut you can use the Heading styles provided on the toolbar.

Add Visual Elements: Enhance your notes by inserting images, tables, charts, and other visual elements. Visuals can make your notes more engaging and easier to understand.

Create Lists: OneNote supports bulleted and numbered lists. This helps you maintain a clear structure in your notes, be it to-do lists, outlines, or action items, OneNote makes it easy.

Customizing your notes and making them visually appealing is a major reason why OneNote could soon become your favorite application.

Using Tagging and Search within OneNote

Do you want to make sure you see your notes faster? How about ensuring that you know why you might of made that extra note?

The Tags in OneNote provide a meaningful way for you to go back to your notes or see them more easily. So, take your note organization to the next level, utilize tagging and the powerful search functions.

Tagging Notes in OneNote

Organize with Tags: OneNote allows you to tag your notes with labels that represent their significance. You can use predefined tags like “ToDo” and “Important” or create custom tags to suit your needs.

Easy to spot: Tags provide visual cues, making it easy to identify important notes or items that require action.

Using the ToDo Tag a Lot!

I tend to use the ToDo tag a lot. The check box provided by this tag makes it an easy way for me to see what I have to do (within the pages of my notebook). Not that anyone wants to have more To-do lists, but this is a very handy feature.

Learn more about OneNote Tags

Watch this video for how to learn more about how to use Tags in your OneNote notebooks.

Searching within OneNote

Find Notes Fast: One of the best features of OneNote is its amazing search function. Whether you have lots of notes or you just need to find a specific detail quickly, OneNote can do it for you.

Search by Keywords, Tags, and Handwriting: You can search for notes based on keywords, tags, or even handwritten content. This means that no matter how you’ve entered the information, you can find it in a fast.

If I need to see all my ToDo’s in my notebook, I can easily search for that tag as well.

Search in OneNote notebooks

Collaboration and Sharing OneNote Notes

OneNote is not just about making notes for yourself; it’s also a powerful collaboration tool. Here’s how you can leverage its sharing and collaboration features:

RealTime Collaboration: OneNote allows you to collaborate with others in realtime. You can invite people to view or edit your notebooks, making it perfect for group projects or team meetings.

Web Link Sharing: You can share your notebooks via a web link, which makes it easy for others to access your content from anywhere. This is especially useful when you want to share information with individuals who might not have OneNote installed.

OneNote in Teams or SharePoint: The easiest way to share your notes with a group of people, is to use an existing Team or SharePoint site. Both Microsoft Teams and SharePoint let you create a notebook within their platforms. If for instance you have a Project ABC Team, you can go into that Team and create a notebook. Then everyone on the ABC Team will have access to the notebook and can contribute. This notebook will work in the Team as well as in OneNote itself. So you can open up your shared notebook for any location that is convenient.

By sharing your notes and working collaboratively, you can make teamwork more efficient and ensure everyone is on the same page.


In conclusion, this comprehensive beginner’s guide to OneNote has equipped you with the essential knowledge to make the most of this versatile notetaking application. With its wide range of input and formatting options, powerful search and organization capabilities, and collaboration features, OneNote is a valuable tool for staying organized and capturing your ideas effectively.

As you embark on your OneNote journey, remember that practice makes perfect. The more you use OneNote, the more adept you’ll become at tailoring it to your specific needs. So, whether you’re a student taking lecture notes, a professional managing projects, or simply someone looking to stay organized, OneNote is your trusted digital companion.

We hope this guide has given you a strong foundation for using OneNote to its fullest potential. As you dive into your notetaking endeavors, may your productivity and organization reach new heights. Happy notetaking, and remember, with OneNote, you’re just one click away from unlocking the power of your ideas!

For in-depth training on OneNote, check out our online course, the OneNote Success Secrets. In this self-study online course you will learn everything from the basics to advanced functions of OneNote. Take this training so that you too can master the art of organization and efficiency, using OneNote. Click on link below.

Learn More by taking our ONLINE OneNote COURSE

Learn more about OneNote notebooks

Watch this video for how to decide on whether you need a OneNote notebook or just a OneNote section.

you save notes on your phone, wear out more spiral notebooks than you can count, or are a Microsoft 365 user and need to keep track of information. 

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