Have you heard of OneNote, but wonder what it is exactly and how you can use it?  Let’s take a look at OneNote 2010 and see how you can use it to stay more organized and connected.

Getting OneNote 2010

If you’re just getting started with Office 2010, you’ll get OneNote when you install Office.  OneNote is installed by default with all editions of Office 2010 except for the basic Starter edition, so whether you’re using Office at home or in a corporate environment you’ll have it.  You could purchase OneNote on its own, but we recommend getting it with an Office suite as this is usually the most economical route if you use 2 or more Office programs regularly.

OneNote 2010 may already be installed on your computer if you have Office 2010 installed.  You’ll find it in the Start Menu under Microsoft Office, or alternately just enter OneNote in your Start Menu search to find it quickly.

If you don’t want to purchase Office 2010 or aren’t using Windows, you can still try out OneNote 2010 with the new Office Web Apps.  This offers a feature-limited version of OneNote in your browser.  It’s a useful option even if you’ve got OneNote installed on your computer, so check out our Screenshot Tour of the Office Web Apps for more info about the OneNote Web App.

Finding Your Way Around OneNote

When you first start OneNote, you’ll be presented with an example notebook with some information and examples about how you can use it.

OneNote organizes your notes in Notebooks, each of which are broken into Sections and might have multiple Pages.  Your Notebooks are located on the left side, with sections on the top as tabs, and pages listed on the right side.

You can create a new notebook from the File tab.  By default, new notebooks will be stored online in the Office Web Apps so you can access them from anywhere and share them with others, but you can also have a notebook stored only on your computer.  Check out our article on how to Sync OneNote with Office Live and Edit Anywhere for more info.  Or, if you want to share notebooks with OneNote 2007 users, check out our article on how to Convert and Share your Notebooks in OneNote 2007 format.

You can create a new notebook section by pressing the tab with the star on the right.  Then, click in the middle of the window to create a new page, or press the New Page on the right.

You can drag pages around in the list to organize them like you want, and can group a note with another by dragging it to the right under the other page.  Then you can collapse groups of pages to keep them organized and tidy.

Taking Notes

You can enter text, pictures, and more anywhere on a page.  Everything you enter is contained in a container you can move around the page, which makes it easy to organize your notes.

You may notice that there doesn’t appear to be many editing tools, but these are simply hidden by default.  Select Home, Insert, or other tabs on the top to see the options and tools in the ribbon.

If you’d rather keep the tools always available, double-click the ribbon tabs or click the arrow under the exit button.

Notes don’t have to be boring; you can insert a wide variety of items from the Insert tab, including files, video, and screen clippings.  The screen clipping tool is very useful; either press the button or the keyboard shortcut Win+s to capture anything on your screen and add it to a notebook.

If you have a touchscreen or drawing tablet, you can create ink notes in OneNote, too.

OneNote also works great for creating outlines.  You can rearrange bullet points and outlines just like you can any other section of the notebook.

Since OneNote is designed help you keep up with all of your data, it’s only natural that it’s integrated with advanced search.  You can search for text in your notes, including in images.  Simply enter the text you’re looking for in the search box on the top right of the window, and OneNote will automatically start finding results from all of your notebooks as you type.

OneNote includes powerful OCR technology that it uses to index and search text in images, but you can also make use of it to copy text from pictures.  Check out our article on How to OCR Anything With OneNote.

Sending Data to OneNote

OneNote makes it easy to gather notes from a variety of programs.  By default, OneNote will load in your system tray so you can quickly create a screen capture or start taking a new note.

OneNote installs a virtual printer, so you can send info from any program to OneNote.  Just print from your program as normal, but select Send To OneNote 2010 in the print dialog.

If your edition of Office includes Outlook, you can also easily add emails to OneNote directly from the ribbon so you’ll never lose your important data.

Or, you can keep OneNote like a whiteboard on the side of your screen to easily jot notes down when you see something interesting.  Click the Dock to Desktop button near the top left of the window.

Now a simplified OneNote window will stay on the right of your screen, ready for you to jot down and save anything.


No matter what you want to save, OneNote 2010 makes it quick and easy to save notes, thoughts, screenshots, and more.  Since it’s now a part of all Office 2010 suites, chances are you’ll be able to try it out and see how it works for yourself.  We like the page design in OneNote that lets you move anything around, and the new Office Live integration helps you keep your notes wherever you are.

Matthew Guay
Matthew Guay is a veteran app reviewer and technology tip writer. His work has appeared on Zapier's blog, AppStorm, Envato Tuts+, and his own blog, Techinch.
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