How will Microsoft OneNote help me stay organized?
The article was written by: Michelle Kaye

Let's get organized...
You probably have a ton of ideas, millions of pieces of paper strewn around your home, a list of things to read, files to download, and just so much information!

Are you in any way organized?

Maybe you’ve got a filing system…

Maybe it’s a box…

Maybe it’s a digital folder…

But really can you find anything?

I am going to share my absolute all-time favorite program with you!

I’ll be honest it’s a Microsoft product rather than Google, but don’t hold that against me. 😄

(I’ll tell you a secret - you can actually get access to this free as a cutdown version from the desktop which is my preferred option but you can still get it as a free account)

What is it I hear you wondering.

Well, it’s Microsoft OneNote!

(If you are a diehard Google fan they do have something similar – it’s called Keep. Because I was curious (as a computer coach it’s what I do), I did give Keep a go. I’ll be honest I just couldn’t get on with it. I am a diehard OneNote fan.)

Now I’ll tell you a story - I wasn’t always a OneNote fan.

A Little OneNote history:

For those curious, OneNote was actually part of Office 2003, yep it’s really been around that long.  It was a new program they brought out to be the latest addition to Microsoft Office, oh gosh, can you believe it’s almost 20 years ago!

When it came out I was intrigued, an electronic notebook, a way to keep information altogether -  I jumped at the chance.


The biggest issue was that it existed on a single computer and if you remember back then they weren’t exactly light and portable.

However, it was still a great way to keep all your information together.

I will again admit I liked the idea but having to carry what was a desktop replacement laptop (yeah 15 or 17-inch laptop not light) around just to get access to my data? Honestly, it just didn’t work for me, it was way too big and heavy!

At that time I was using an equivalent (Evernote) because at the end of the day it did exactly what I wanted and it was online I could access it on any computer. When Microsoft finally brought out the cloud options (for MS Office) so that we could actually store information in the cloud and access it through a variety of devices and methods – that was my turning point. And OneNote won me over completely!

Today OneNote can be stored locally on a computer (with the right version) and you can access it across a variety of devices, of course, some of which are as small as the phone in your pocket (or should that be as large as the phone in your pocket 😊)

Why is OneNote my favorite?

I’m sure you’re wondering if Evernote was so good how come I switched to OneNote instead?

Well being a Microsoft trainer and having done so for many many years, having a product that I can actually send all my information (easily) to simply was too good to miss out.

One of the biggest advantages to my mind is the ability to send information from email (yeah, you guessed it Microsoft Outlook). With the click of literally three buttons, I can put all of my selected emails into OneNote.

(But Michelle, you still haven’t told us why OneNote?)

Well, remember I mentioned you probably have lots of information, and let me guess it’s all over the place, right?

Maybe it’s physical notes, maybe it’s digital notes

Digital notes…

Let me guess, maybe they’re in a document 😁

And when you want to get that information back what do you need to do? 

Well you need to search for it.

But search where?

So maybe you’re in Google you can use the search function and it will search all of your documents – but how long does that take?

And then you’ve got to work out which file it saved in.

Then open the file.

Search for the text.

And you finally find the information.

But what if you only remember a little bit can you still easily search for it?

Here’s where, in my opinion, OneNote wins out  - the search is amazing and fast! 

Have I sold you on OneNote yet?

If I have, then maybe you need to get it and if you get it, you’re going to need to know how to use it.


The first thing you need to know is that OneNote is a three-level structure.

  • Notebook
  • Sections
  • Pages
However within those three levels, it’s completely up to you – and the great thing – try the obvious structure and if you don’t like it - it’s digital, move things around. It’s as simple as that.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about try this:

You’ve gone into a stationary store and have bought a new lever arch folder (yes I know it’s paper not digital, but bear with me on this), you open up the lever arch folder and what do you expect to see inside?

Hopefully, you’ve just said dividers. If you haven’t got any you have to buy them while you’re at the stationary store so we’ve now got dividers.

What goes between the dividers?

Okay if you said paper you’re absolutely right, I’m not bothered if you want plain, lined or square paper but it's paper at any rate.

Anyway, while you’re in the stationary store we buy the paper, hopefully with the holes already punched so that we don’t have to find a hole punch.

So now we’ve got a lever arch folder, we’ve got dividers to make sections and then we got paper to hold the information.

So if I tell you:

  • The lever arch folder is a notebook, 
  • The dividers are the sections, and finally 
  • The paper is the pages
Does that make more sense?

Yes, I was hoping you would say that 😀.

So that is our structure and as I said earlier, however, you prefer you can actually create the structure that suits you and how you think, i.e. how you work.

What’s really cool -  is digital storage with digital data. 

If the structure doesn’t work for you, don’t worry, you can change it and you can keep changing it until you find the structure that does work for you personally, how you work, or perhaps even how you want to work.

Now we’ve got a structure, we do actually need to put some information into it. After all, what's the point in having an empty file?

The last thing to mention, it’s not technically part of the structure, but it’s really important.

While we may have a lot of sections, we can expect a LOT of pages… how do we identify the pages?

With titles.

So we want a useful (doesn’t have to be perfect) page title.

Fortunately, OneNote has a space for that - go ahead and type in something meaningful (to you) that explains what’s on this page.

So what type of information can we add in?

Hopefully, the first thing that you’ve just thought of is text. And you are so right. 😁

How can we add text?

(Reading your mind here) Type it in.


You’ll be unsurprised that you click (anywhere) on the page, and start typing. Voila!

Did you think of copy and paste (or perhaps cut and paste?)

You’ve already got so much information, around and about, let’s just add it in!

Oh, copy and paste isn’t working…

Take a look at the Print command.
(You know how to print, don’t you… you just (don’t - “put your lips together and blow.”)
Mangled quote from Lauren Bacall 1944’s To Have and Have Not

Check the Printers list - one of them should be OneNote.

You will be asked where you want to add it - which notebook and section.

Tip: Select the notebook and section - don’t add it to a page (unless it’s a continuation). You’ll like what it does.

Tip 2: Go to OneNote and give it a proper title (making the search a lot easier. Do it while you’re thinking about the page - yep now. Off you go.

And I’ll give you a little taste of the pièce de résistance:
(Anyone else watched The Lego Movie with the ‘piece of resistance? Yep, Everything is Awesome 🤣)


It’s not fair if I tempt you with the big, huge selling point and don’t offer anything…

Once you’ve got something in your OneNote notebook (it doesn’t help when there’s nothing there), now you can search.

Depending on which version of OneNote you’re using, click on the search option and start typing in what you’re looking for.

  • OneNote Desktop - top right above the pages list
  • OneNote Web App - magnifying glass, left side of the notebooks/sections
  • OneNote for Windows 10 - magnifying glass, left side of the notebooks/sections
  • OneNote Mobile Apps - magnifying glass, top left corner
  • OneNote for Mac - magnifying glass, left side of the notebooks/sections

There’s more…

You’ve now got a grasp of the basics for OneNote.

You won’t be surprised (hopefully) if I tell you there’s a lot more that you can do - with all versions of OneNote.

But telling you everything in a single blog would a) make it a super long blog (Suzy really doesn’t want it that long 😅) and b) you can’t ask me to give everything away…

My hope: This blog has given you the starting/basic tools to bring together all of your misc notes (that are everywhere). Gives you a starting point to get organized. And piques your interest in learning more.

If it has, my contact details are below, I’d love to hear from you.

About The Author
Michelle Kaye has spent the last 25 years in front of computers - mostly in her role as a computer trainer.
After being an in-house IT trainer (helping staff), Michelle realized that she wanted to help more people understand that tech and computers aren't hard - they aren’t a mountain to climb!

She can help you save hours of yelling at your computer (cough spreadsheets cough) with actionable and personalized answers to your specific questions. For more computer learning tips from Michelle, visit her Learning Blog.


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