OneNote is simple at first glance: it’s a place to write notes and maybe clip articles from the web for future refernce. It’s an organizational tool, and a good one. But unlike other Office products, Microsoft offers OneNote for free and is constantly adding new updates.

One feature you might have missed: OneNote is capable of embedding content from all sorts of sites, with nothing more than a URL. This means URLs for YouTube and Vimeo videos, alongside Spotify and Soundcloud songs, automatically expand, letting you play these files within OneNote itself (assuming you have Internet access). There’s also support for embedding Office documents uploaded to, and anything you put together in Microsoft’s Sway service.

Embedding Online Media in OneNote

If you’re collecting a number of online videos for a project, or even just for fun, OneNote’s embed feature makes life a lot easier for you. Just copy any YouTube, Vimeo, or DailyMotion URL, then paste it into OneNote. The links will instantly expand:

This is a lot easier to keep track of than a list of URLs, because you can see a thumbnail and even playback the videos in one place. And because it’s OneNote, you can arrange things however you like and leave lots of context for future reference.

Music works the same way, and Spotify and SoundCloud are both supported. Just copy and paste the URL, and it will expand.


If you’re looking for the perfect track to use in a future project, this is an easy way to compile options in one place. Again, you can leave notes for future reference.

Embedding Online Documents

Embedded PDFs are remarkably useful. Drag a PDF into a note and it will auto-expand, allowing you to leave notes in the margins for future reference. The online capability lets you extend this, somewhat, to online documents.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: OneNote cannot embed documents uploaded to Google Docs, and we bet that won’t be changing anytime soon. But several services are supported, including PDF sharing site Scribd and Microsoft’s own service. If you’ve got a document from one of these services, you can paste the URL and it will automatically expand.

Which Services Are Supported?

We’ve pointed out the main services people are going to be interested above, but of course there’s a lot more. Here’s the official list of supported sites, from Microsoft itself:

  • ClickView
  • DailyMotion
  • Geogebra
  • Microsoft Forms
  • Power BI (public, non authenticated URL)
  • Office 365 Video
  • Office Mix
  • Quizlet
  • Scribd
  • Sketchfab
  • Slideshare
  • SoundCloud
  • Spotify
  • Sway
  • TED Talks
  • ThingLink
  • Vimeo
  • Vine
  • Wizer
  • YouTube

It’s a start, but there’s a lot of room to grow here. Tweets, maps, and Facebook posts all come to mind as potentially useful additions Microsoft could add in the future. You can kind of add these things by embedding things in Sway, then embedding your Sway link in OneNote, but direct embeds are a lot simpler so we hope more features are coming.

If you’d like to see some examples of how this can work, check out this extensive collection of example embeds put together by our friends at OneNote Central. That page notes a few caveats, including whether embedded media is supported on various platforms. Most platforms support most everything, but on Android embeds will mostly just show as thumbnails, and on Windows Phone embeds basically don’t work. We tested everything on Mac and Windows, and embeds worked great on both!

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Justin Pot has been writing about technology for over a decade, with work appearing in Digital Trends, The Next Web, Lifehacker, MakeUseOf, and the Zapier Blog. He also runs the Hillsboro Signal, a volunteer-driven local news outlet he founded.
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