The Wonders of OneNote

Whether at work or school, most of us have multiple streams of information simultaneously competing for our attention. For those of us in education, it is especially important that we are able to separate what is valuable from the junk. Today’s students and teachers need to efficiently focus on and capture what’s important while at the same time remaining flexible to explore and record tangential ideas.

For recording text, audio, and other media, Microsoft OneNote is a tremendous productivity tool that is already installed on most of La Salle’s computer workstations. If you aren’t using OneNote already, here are some great features that can help you become more focused and productive in any area:

Imagine an endless 3 ring binder.

OneNote lets users write notes and group them into boxes, tabs, pages, and books. To begin, just click anywhere on the page to start a text box.

OneNote Text Box

Later, you can organize your thoughts by separating them into smaller segments  or by dragging the text boxes around the page. OneNote pages can be arranged by tabs on the right of the screen, and these tabs are further collected into binder sections on the top of the screen.


Record audio and video right next to your notes.

OneNote allows you to easily record audio and video through your device and embed the recording right on your notebook page. This feature is great for long class lectures or discussions where you may miss an important concept every now and then. Just click the “Record Audio” button on the “Insert” menu and continue taking notes while OneNote records at the same time. Later you can go back and replay the class lecture to hear what you may have missed. If you have a webcam and want to record a quick video of you or someone else addressing the class, OneNote can integrate video clips right into your notes as well.


Search powerfully and efficiently.

OneNote lets you search for key words in all of your notebooks almost instantly. The search feature also allows you to narrow searches to specific notebooks, tabs, or pages and shows your most recent searches. Even more impressive, it comes with an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) ability that allows it to even search text found inside image files and handwritten notes. So if you have important text in a screenshot or an internet meme you don’t want to lose, just right click on the image and check the option to make the text searchable.


Use tags to visual highlight important notes.

Have you ever been sitting in class or in a meeting and think of something you have to do? You may jot the to-do item down, but it can get lost among all your other notes. To make important lines stand out on the page, OneNote has visual tags for to-do notes as well as other icons. Do you ever want to jot down a follow-up question or a reminder about a book you should read? OneNote has tags for those too. After the class or meeting, the “Find Tags” feature can helps with searching and grouping your notes in yet another way.


Upgrade your copy and paste.

Copy and paste is so routine for computer users nowadays that it is easy for us to grab text or an image from the web, paste it somewhere else, and then completely forget where it came from next time you see it. A lot of unintentional plagiarism results from innocent note-taking without citations. To prevent reckless copying and pasting, OneNote comes with a nice feature that automatically includes the URL and timestamp with any text or images that are copied and pasted from a website. In addition, OneNote will let you paste any file type directly into your note page. You have the option to either insert a link back to the original file, embed a copy of the file right on to the page, or import text out of document files and add it to your notes.


Share and work on OneNote collaboratively.

OneNote plays well with other Microsoft productivity products like SkyDrive, SharePoint, and Outlook. A great feature for group work is the option to share any OneNote notebook with others on a network location. Shared notebooks sync everyone’s edits together in one file and allow for more collaborative work. This feature eliminates the need to keep sending multiple copies of documents back and forth every time there is a revised version. OneNote also integrates seamlessly into Outlook for sharing among coworkers. You can turn note pages into emails and vice versa. Look for the OneNote button on your Outlook toolbar that can create a meeting notes page linked to the Outlook calendar event for future reference. Did you ever write down new tasks or new contacts during meetings? OneNote can convert them into Outlook tasks and contacts as well.


Don’t forget the auto-save, drawing tools, and calculator features.

To really grasp all of its features, you have to start using OneNote regularly, but here are a few more that can help productivity. OneNote’s auto-save feature is like having a guardian angel in your PC. Every edit to a OneNote file is immediately saved, so no more worrying about losing data if you accidentally close the window or your laptop battery dies. The drawing tools are another great addition that can be good for doodling in the margins or for scribbling down handwritten notes. Believe it or not, OneNote can then convert any text written with the drawing tool into regular text that can be copied or formatted. There’s also a cool feature where you can type an equation into OneNote, and the software will do the calculations automatically when you type the equal sign and press enter.


Give OneNote a try and share tips and your top uses of the software in the comment section below. As always, please contact the La Salle University instructional design team for any of your educational technology needs.

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