Beginner: How to Use Notes in Outlook 2013 for Easy Desktop Reminders

Notes are simple and very handy. They are basically desktop Post Its, which you can collect and save in your Outlook and display on your desktop as reminders to do stuff.

Outlook has a lot going on for it. Obviously, you can use it for your e-mail, but you can also manage contacts together in one address book. If you’re a stickler for keeping a schedule, you’ll no doubt find its calendar skills appealing. Finally, you can use its tasking abilities to create killer to-do lists that help you ramp up your productivity.

Notes are really meant to be more of a personal use tool. As such, you won’t find yourself and co-workers doing all kinds of collaboration or setting deadlines on notes. Nevertheless, if you like the idea of Post Its but don’t want to have them arrayed all over your display bezels or actual physical desktop, then you can use Outlook’s notes to serve a similar purpose.

Working with Notes

If you have Outlook installed on your computer already, then you’re good to go. If Outlook is totally new to you, we can help you get up to speed. The Notes view is very simple, probably the simplest, feature we’ve discussed thus far. To write a new note, simply click “New Note.”


A new note will appear floating above the desktop. You can type up your reminder(s) and they’ll stay there until you close it with the X in the upper-right corner. Even after you close the note, it will still remain in Outlook’s note view.


You can change the view, so you sort your notes by subject, or creation date, or even categories. You could also right-click on the details bar and add further ways to sort.

Finally, just for the sake of completeness, you can manage and create new views for your notes, or you can modify your current views. This assumes you’re going to do a lot of note-taking and keep them all for posterity’s sake.

You can also assign categories, which can help you categorize them by subject and importance. We’ll talk more about categories in an upcoming article. Like we said though, notes are really easy; if you use Outlook for anything else, whether it’s email or tasks or calendaring, then chances are you’ll pick them up in no time.

Posting Notes to Your Desktop

Okay, so enough of the boring specifics, let’s check out some notes in action. You can see from the screenshot, you can array your entire desktop with notes if you like, or you can just have one big note.

Notes are resizable, you want to grab the bottom-right corner and drag them to the size that suits you. You can also change the color of each note depending on the category you place them in. Note also, even when you hit the X to close the note, it doesn’t go away. The note is kept and filed away until you delete it. 

One of the easiest ways to quickly attend to your notes is to just right-click on each one and use the resulting drop-down menu.

Beyond this, however, there’s not a whole lot else to know about notes. They’re a really cool feature. Just remember, your stickies won’t be persistent from one Outlook session to another so, if you shut down Outlook, or restart your computer, your notes will need to be resposted for you to see them on your desktop. That said, if you just let Outlook run in the background, checking mail and doing its thing, they’ll remain for you to refer to, just like regular sticky notes.

Of course, there are other ways to keep notes. You could use something like Evernote, which is very popular but can be a little overwhelming for casual users. On the other hand, there’s something like Google Keep, but that’s more the domain of Android and Chrome, which some users may not use.

The simple appeal of creating and posting notes in Outlook is that it rounds out the application as one of the most comprehensive personal information managers available. There’s also the appeal of being able to compartmentalize your work and personal lives. You don’t always have to have emails, meetings, to-do’s, and note starting you in the face.

We’d like to hear now from you; tell us what you use to take and keep notes. Have you ever or do you use Outlook or have you adopted another option? As always, our discussion forum welcomes your comments.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.