When it comes to digital note-taking apps, Microsoft OneNote checks all the boxes. It’s reliable and fairly intuitive, and works seamlessly across devices, no matter if you’re a Windows user, a Mac user, or both.
In a nutshell, OneNote works like a physical notebook with cloud-based perks. Beyond being able to organize and capture digital notes, you can add images, video, and audio, and then access them easily on the go.
Whether you’re a dedicated OneNote user or just discovering its value for note-taking, research, and information organization, here are some ways to get more utility out of the program.
Scan documents directly from your phone
If you need to get a copy of a document into OneNote, there’s no easier way to do it than with Office Lens, a mobile app for iOS and Android. After you install and configure Office Lens, you can use it to take high-quality scans of multi-page documents with your phone and then upload them to any number of destinations, including OneDrive, email, and OneNote. Just choose the Notebook you want to copy it to, and you can use OneNote as a permanent storage for important documents.
Convert handwritten pages to text
If your computer, tablet, or mobile device works with a stylus, you might already use it to make sketches or jot handwritten notes in OneNote. But you can also convert those handwritten notes to digital text.
1. Click the “Draw” tab in the ribbon and click “Lasso Select.”
2. Drag the lasso around the text you want to covert.
3. In the ribbon, click “Ink to Text.”
OneNote will convert your handwriting to text as best it can. There will be errors, no doubt, but the text will be editable and you can incorporate it into other documents.
Do simple math
You can use OneNote to do simple math problems just by writing out the equation you want to solve. For example, you can write “100 + 400 =” and OneNote will fill in the answer. You can perform any common math problem — addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, for example — in the same way. OneNote will even respect the order of operations, such as “(1 + 2) * 6 =.”
Solve complex equations
OneNote isn’t limited to simple grade-school arithmetic — there’s a pretty powerful math engine under its hood. You can use a stylus to write an equation, then ask OneNote to convert it to text so you can use it in another document. But that’s not all: in many cases, OneNote can graph or solve the equation as well.
1. Using a stylus, draw an equation.
2. Drag the lasso around the text you want to covert.
3. In the ribbon, click “Math.”
4. To convert the drawn equation to text, click “Ink to Math.” Or click “Select an action” and choose one of the available options, such as solving or graphing the equation.
You can use OneNote on a laptop to record meetings and take audio notes. Not only that, you may also “bookmark” important moments during the recording so you know exactly where to go to hear a specific moment from the meeting.
1. Click the “Insert” tab in the ribbon and then click “Audio.” OneNote will start recording immediately.
2. If you hear something you want to be able to easily find later, type a note in the OneNote page. It can be a short, one-word keyword or you can type a detailed description.
3. When the meeting is over, click “Stop” in the ribbon.
Your notes should now have small “Play” icons to their left. When you click the “Play” button, OneNote will play the recording from the moment when you started typing that note.
Easily clip webpages to OneNote
OneNote Web Clipper is a browser extension for Google Chrome that may make you wonder how you ever got by without it. After installing the extension, open a webpage you want to copy to OneNote and click the extension icon in your browser’s toolbar. By default, the extension will load a preview of the entire page, but you can click options like “Region” to snip just parts of the page. You can then choose which OneNote notebook to copy it to.
Make a team wiki
A wiki-style encyclopedia doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t need to use specialized tools. OneNote, in fact, is a great way to create a shared space with documents, processes, meeting notes, or any other kind of content you want to share and collaborate on.
To build a wiki-like page in OneNote, you simply need to create links to other OneNote pages. To do that, right-click the name of the page you want to link to and choose “Copy Link to Page.”
Then, to create the link on another page, select the text, right-click and choose “Link.” Paste the link into the “Address” field and click “Insert.”
Share this wiki Notebook by clicking “Share” in the upper right corner and sending an invitation to everyone on your team. Make sure you set it to “Can edit” so everyone can make changes to your Notebook.
Replay a sketch
If you create a sketch or drawing, or even jot down notes with a stylus, you can take use of a clever feature in OneNote to play it back like a short video, watching exactly how it originally unfolded. It’s a great teaching aid, for example — you can use it to play back how a sketch was made one step at a time, or how to solve a math problem.
1. To replay a drawing, click the “View” tab in the ribbon.
2. Click “Replay.”
3. If promoted, drag a selection box around the part of the page you want to play back, or just click “Replay everything on the page.”
Turn off special formatting when pasting into OneNote
OneNote does something that’s often helpful: when you paste text from a webpage, it copies the special formatting from the page, and adds a link to the page for easy reference. That’s great if you’re researching, but can be annoying if you just want the text. The good news is you can turn off this feature.
1. Click the three dots at the top right of the OneNote window and choose “Settings.”
2. In the Settings pane, click “Options.”
3. Scroll down to the bottom and, in the “Paste Options” section, set the dropdown menu to “Keep Text Only” and slide the “Include link to source” button to the left to turn it off.
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