Oftentimes when people start with OneNote they feel they need to create a Notebook for each topic. Please resist that temptation; work from one notebook to start if you can. It will be easier to manage in the long run. Where I have multiple books it usually has to do more with who else is sharing that book than it does with the content within each one.
Organize your OneNote using Pages
I tend to start working with pages first and organize as many pages as possible within one section, essentially until the subject matter just gets too involved to where sorting by pages doesn’t work anymore.
One way I sort by pages is to put spacers in between content types. The way I do that is to create a page with a title of asterisks so it looks like this:
Then I create a page with title for the topic I’m writing about, followed by another page with asterisks in the title. The end result looks a little like this:
It’s a way for me to visually separate the information without needing to use multiple sections, and thus will then allow me to search all the pages within the current section.
Another way to use Pages to help you sort content is through the use of Subpages. Subpages allow you to “roll up” or “collapse” your content so that you can keep certain information together.
You create subpages by dragging the page title over to the right so it looks indented, as above. The little arrow next to the ROLL UP CONTENT example above will let you collapse those two pages under ROLL UP CONTENT so that it takes up less space. Note: The ability to collapse or expand only works in the desktop version of OneNote.
Subpages work two levels deep, though the second level does not roll up. I personally don’t use this second level very often, but it can be helpful in further separating like-but-not-quite-the-same items.
Between the use of asterisks to visually separate your content, along with the use of subpages to further organize your notes, you can go a long way toward keeping your information in one section.
My daily working file includes a section for emails and blog posts which contains over 200 pages, and I use the asterisks to visually separate that information and the subpages to roll up content I no longer need. I have another section for Tutorial Scratch Files which are sorted in a similar fashion. I use that section to capture screen shots as I am working within SharePoint or another Office365 tool so I can create tutorials in the future. As tutorials get created, I am able to drag the page to the “completed” section in my list, without needing to move the page to another section.
In the various notebooks I use I have several sections that contain more than 100 pages and through the use of subpages and asterisks they’re still manageable.
My decision to move beyond one section to another is based on a distinct separation of topics, and I’ll explore that further in an upcoming post.