Friday, 30 April 2010

Handy OneNote 2010 Tips and Tricks

Jeremy Williams, Sr. Director, Modern Workplace

This post clearly falls into the ‘I never knew OneNote could do X…’ category.  For the OneNote power-user, this may be old news.  However, for the uninitiated to the average OneNote users, these tips may prove useful.  I personally use OneNote constantly in my day-to-day routine and would (most likely) be lost without it.

For the uninitiated, OneNote is an note-taking application that gives users far more flexibility than taking notes in Microsoft Word, Notepad, traditional pen and paper, the back of your hand, etc.  Think Microsoft Word meets Paint meets traditional pen and paper; all without any layout restrictions or confusions!  Alright, enough of the background, on to the tricks!

Insert a Space

Consider the following scenario; you’re taking notes during your meeting and everything is following the agenda, so your notes flow nicely and orderly.  Then, at the end of the meeting, someone wants to go back and revisit a topic earlier from the conversation.  For readability sake, I want to put these additional notes near the initial conversation.  However, my notes might already have pictures and markup in them; in other words, simply pressing ‘Return’ to get more space won’t do the trick.  Given the picture below, let’s assume I want a space before that silly looking drawing on the right hand side. 



The quick and easy solution is to click on the ‘Draw’ tab of the ribbon, and click on the ‘Insert Space’ tool.  Then, simply click and drag where you want some more space for notes and away you go!

image <—Click and Drag



Quick Screen-Clips

If you find yourself taking pictures of your screen with the old school method of pressing the ‘Print Screen’ key, pasting to Paint, cropping, then copy/pasting into your destination program still, you are working way too hard.  Assuming you’ve launched OneNote 2007 or 2010 at least once on your system, the OneNote tray application will be running.  Among other things, this allows you to take screen clippings with a quick hotkey of: “Windows Key + S” After pressing Windows and the ‘S’ key, you’ll get a cursor that will allow you to click and drag a box around whatever you want a clipping of.  After releasing your mouse button, OneNote will ask if you’d like to simply ‘copy’ the screen-clipping, or it can also insert the clipping into one of your OneNote notebooks.  In fact, this very feature is what I use for all my blog screenshots.

Quick Side Notes

Ever find yourself needing to write something down quickly.  If you’re anything like me, you scramble looking desperately for a pen and paper.  This scramble can be avoided by simply creating a ‘side note’ by pressing the Windows and ‘N’ key together ("Windows Key” + “N”).  That will pop open a smaller-than-normal OneNote window that you can then type into.  As shown below, I took some side notes while I was composing this post!



While OneNote is no Excel, it does allow you to make quick and easy tables for organizing your thoughts.  When typing a normal string of text, simply press the ‘TAB’ key, and you’ll notice that a table is spawned.  Keep on entering in your headers, pressing TAB for a new column each time.  Once you’re ready to enter in information, simply press return and Voila!  Quick and Easy tables!  Oh, and by the way, all of these features work regardless of if you’re in full-blown OneNote, or a Side Note as discussed above.


Easy Math

Ever needed to crunch some number quick while taking notes.  Instead of launching the calculator or (*gasp) do mental math; just punch your calculation into OneNote (being careful to not include any spaces), and follow your calculation with an equals sign.  After the equals sign, simply press the SPACE or ENTER key and OneNote will do all the math for you; making you the hero and saving you a headache from carrying the one…

P.S. Here’s a link to the supported functions you can use in OneNote math:


Enter in the calculation and then press Space…