Microsoft OneNote tips: 5 better ways to manage and share data

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Rob Schultz

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OneNote has long been overshadowed by its Microsoft counterparts Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, but it’s easily the most powerful productivity tool of the bunch. Whether you’re a new convert to the digital note-taking app or are an experienced user, these five tricks will help you really unlock its potential.

1. Password-protect your notes

If you’re collaborating in OneNote, there may be times you don’t want particular individuals or teams to see certain information, such as financial data. OneNote lets you password-protect notebook sections (but not entire notebooks) so you can limit access to sensitive material when necessary.

microsoft onenote password protection

Microsoft OneNote lets you protect sensitive material within a notebook, but only section by section.

Open the notebook section, right-click on its tab, and select Password Protect this Section. The Password Protection pane will open on the right side. Select Set Password, enter a password twice in the Password Protection dialog box, and click OK. Now you can share that information on a need-to-know basis.

2. Create a Quick Note without opening OneNote

Sometimes you need to capture information or an idea in a note now and worry about contextualizing it later. For those moments OneNote offers the Quick Note, the digital equivalent of a Post-it.

microsoft onenote send to onenote

Summon this dialog with the Windows + N key combination to create a quick note.

When you really can’t afford to break away from a task, you can even create one without opening OneNote at all.

To create a Quick Note on the fly, press Windows+N. When the Send to OneNote window appears, press N to create a new Quick Note and type your note in the note window.

The note is automatically saved in your notebook’s Quick Notes section so you can organize when you have more time.

3. Add Outlook meeting details to your notes

If you want a more complete record of your meeting, you can add details to your meeting notes right from the meeting’s calendar entry. To do this, you’ll need both OneNote 2013 and Outlook 2013 on your computer.

microsoft onenote add meeting details

Add meetings details to a OneNote item in a few clicks.

In OneNote, select Home > Meeting Details. This will bring up a list of the current day’s scheduled meetings. Just click on one to have its particulars—including subject, time, location, and participants—added as text to your note. To choose a past or future meeting, click Choose a Meeting from Another Day, then use the Previous Day or Next Day buttons to navigate to it.

4. Link to specific paragraphs within a note

microsoft onenote link paragraph edit link text

Once you've created a link to a paragraph in OneNote, you can customize the link text.

While you can link to a notebook, notebook section, or page within OneNote, sometimes you want to be able to jump to a specific passage.

To link to a paragraph, right-click on the text, select Copy Link to Paragraph, then paste the link wherever you want.

The link will display some or all of the first line of text from the paragraph, but you can change this by right-clicking the link and selecting Edit Link. A Link dialog box will appear, and you can change the text in the Text to Display field. When a user clicks on the link, the paragraph will open on its original page.

5. Take advantage of templates

A plain white page isn’t the only option for your notes. OneNote features a number of pre-formatted options that can give your notes a more professional look or just liven them up.

microsoft onenote templates

Dress up your notes with a template. OneNote offers a variety of choices, grouped by theme.

To choose a template, open a note and select Insert > Page Templates. Arrow down to one of the five categories—Academic, Blank, Business, Decorative, and Planners—and click on one to see your choices. Select a template to apply it to the currently opened note.

If you’ve formatted a note yourself that you want to save as a template, open it and select Insert > Page Templates. On the Templates pane, select Save Current Page as Template. Enter a name for your design in the dialog box that appears and click Save. A new category called My Templates will appear on the pane with your template in it.

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