Microsoft OneNote helps with document organization and collaboration

Many users of Microsoft Office tools like Word and Excel and PowerPoint have never heard of Microsoft OneNote. Even those familiar with the program do not use it because they are not familiar with its advantages.

In years past, OneNote was a stand-alone product available to purchase separately from the Office suite. Now, in Microsoft Office versions 2010 and 2013, OneNote is included in the bundled Office software.

What is Microsoft OneNote?

OneNote is an application designed solely for notetaking. It is called OneNote because it is a digital notebook program that has tabs to organize pages related to specific topics. Users can create multiple notebooks containing section tabs and multiple pages to record as much content as needed. OneNote’s page capacity is limited only by the user’s device space available.

When you want to take notes, how often do you find yourself creating a new Word document? Many of us even create multiple documents related to a given topic and house them in a dedicated folder. That practice becomes problematic when time has passed and we need to remember where we saved and stored those documents.

Microsoft OneNote is a wonderful application to assist with the organization of documents you need to reference frequently. It allows you to continue to edit documents; create to-do boxes; track, record, and collaborate with others in a project; and have access to all of it anywhere on the go.

Here’s the best part: no saving necessary, at all! Microsoft OneNote automatically saves all your work every few seconds as you use this program.

Basics of Microsoft OneNote

Let’s start with a basic overview of how this program can be so useful.


As we open OneNote, let’s consider three components to explore:

  1. Store new or existing notebooks
  2. Create new tabs to organize the content
  3. Create multiple pages for any given section


Users of Microsoft OneNote access Notebooks by clicking on the drop-down arrow. By default, OneLook will display your notebooks in the “collapsed” manner ,or you can lock the notebooks to always display at the left of OneNote. (To lock your note books in to the left, click the dropdown to expand your note books and click the thumbtack.



If you work with tabs in Excel, you will find OneNote’s section tabs to be similar, in the sense that you can name, move, or change the color of the tabs. As in Excel, these tab changes are accomplished by right clicking on the tabs.


You may want to assign titles to pages to assist in organizing your content. By typing into the title at the top of a page, you are essentially giving that page a name.

To begin working with Microsoft OneNote pages, simply click and begin typing. Unlike in Word, you can easily place your text anywhere on the page you would like. The text resides in a content holder (or text box) that you can move around and even resize for more content later.

Create Quick Tables

Begin typing and press tab. OneNote automatically identifies tabbed text as tabular data and inserts the table for you.


Tags allow users to identify important information within notebooks for quick search and retrieval. Tags include check mark boxes (to-do items) and important items. Microsoft OneNote’s tags also help if want to note any questions for follow-up as you take notes.

Add Tags

If I’m in a meeting and asked to complete several tasks that are needed by next week, I can create a to-do list. In OneNote, this can be done manually or use a template that already has most of what is needed for various scenarios.

  • Home Tab
  • Tags group and choose the To Do button
  • This gives an active check box for you to type out what is needed
    • Once the item has been completed you can checkmark the item as being completed
To Use a Template

Templates are pre-created documents designed for common actions users may perform within each application. Under every application, templates are located under the File tab. Many are available and searchable on the file tab that links directly to where they reside.

In Microsoft OneNote, you must physically insert a template page to utilize the templates. You will find templates under the Insert tab, Pages group. The templates are organized into categories: Academic, Business, Decorative, and Planners.

Integration with Outlook

One of the many reasons to use Microsoft OneNote is its strong integration with Outlook. The most popular Outlook integration tools within OneNote are under the Home tab.


OneNote users may create tasks directly within the application. Select a line or paragraph of text and then select Outlook Tasks under the Home tab for the same functionality as Outlook provides. Any tasks created within OneNote will automatically display in Outlook.

Users can send pages of their OneNote books via email through the Email Page option and can also share meeting information by using the Meeting Details button. The meeting details is a useful tool to provide attendee details to important meetings.

Inserting Documents

OneNote allows users to insert any documents into a notebook from the Insert tab. OneNote uses OCR (optical character recognition) to help find text within images. This is beneficial if a user has a PDF and needs to take additional notes on specific topics.

AutoSync and Sharing

One of the best features of OneNote is the automatic synchronization and the sharing capabilities of notebooks. Within Microsoft OneNote, saving is not an option—the program frequently saves all your information regardless of where the notebook resides. Many users choose to save their Notebooks to their OneDrive cloud option. This practice makes their information accessible anywhere on the go.

The OneNote app easily downloads to any mobile device, smartphone, or tablet to make notebooks much easier to read and edit information.

On the File tab, users can adjust the setting of any notebook.


These setting include the options to redesignate the saved location and share the notebook with specific users and privileges.

Selecting Invite people to this notebook removes the need to place a document on a shared drive network for all collaborators to work within. By default, shared users are not required to log in to view this information, but is an option if necessary. The owner of a notebook has options to grant authoring rights of Can edit or Can view the contents.


When the owner shares a notebook, Microsoft OneNote sends an email to the intended recipients with a link to view the notebook.

Once a notebook is shared, OneNote allows for multiple users with edit permissions to edit simultaneously, and the application will autosync the notebook to ensure changes are up-to-date for all users. This functionality alone proves to be a tremendous benefit to group collaboration.

So, whether you are a chef, a business executive, a photographer, a student, or just simply take a bunch of notes, Microsoft OneNote offers many useful features. I challenge you to begin working with this program and after a week, tell me what you think.

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