Change the default font settings in Microsoft OneNote.

OneNote comes with the standard font of Calibri, size 11, in the color black.

If you would like to see a bit of variety in your text, you can always modify each paragraph the way you like, or you can set a new default, and thereby give OneNote a slightly more animated personality that better reflects who you are.

To change your font,

  • Go to FILE
  • Options
  • General

OneNote: Change Default Font

Just a note – the new font won’t apply in the current page, but when you use Ctrl+N or the Add Page button to create a new page, you will see your new font choice.

Use ruled lines or gridlines to help organize your notes

OneNote: Page Rule ColorsBy default, OneNote’s interface is a plain, white background, which is great for normal notetaking, but if you work with images or like to handwrite your notes, it can be helpful to have ruled lines or gridlines on your page. The ruled lines and gridlines don’t print, but they do help with lining things up while your create and design your notes.

Find the rules and gridlines by going to the VIEW tab, and choosing Rule Lines

Once you have gridlines or rules in place you can change the line colors, and you can then have all future notes feature your custom line settings.


Change your page colors in OneNote

The standard OneNote setup has a blank white page, which personally, I am perfectly fine with. There have been times though that I like a little bit of variety with my page. Especially when I need to write on it with an actual pen using the stylus on my phone. I thought you might find it helpful to have a few tips on how you can customize your OneNote experience.

Change your page colors in OneNote

Switch up your notetaking experience in OneNote by changing the page colors. Page colors options are pastel colors in various rainbow colors with pastel pinks, oranges, yellows, greens, blues and purples.

Changing your page colors is very easy:

From the VIEW tab, choose Page Color to pick your color.

OneNote: Page Color showing various pastel colors

Using colors can be helpful when you’re working in multiple pages at once using multiple OneNote windows – to help you keep track of which page you’re working on.

Or, you may just prefer a default page color over another because it helps your text feel more readable

Take screen clippings using OneNote

OneNote has a quick shortcut to allow you to take screen clippings from your screen. It works similarly to the snippet tool that comes with windows, and it gives you an option to clip directly to the current page, or you can save your clipping to the clipboard and paste it in your favorite program.

In Windows 7, you can use the WINDOWS key plus the letter S to generate the screen clipping tool.

In Windows 10, the WINDOWS key plus S pulls up Cortana, the Windows search tool: Windows’ version of Siri, so in Windows 10 you need to use the SHIFT key, the WINDOWS key and the letter S to activate the screen clipping tool in OneNote.

Thankfully, this combination also works in Windows 7, so you don’t need to worry about remembering the difference.

I used to use the print-screen function that comes with Windows but that tended to generate a full screen shot of my two monitors, and then I have to go through the process of cropping the image, so I now prefer to use WINDOWS + S to take care of my screen clipping needs, and I love how OneNote just places those screen clippings directly into the current page.

If I later want to save out that image to my desktop, I can right-click on the image and choose SAVE AS… to do so.

Such a simple tool, but so incredibly versatile, I suspect the screen clipping tool will become a much-used function in your arsenal.

Organize your OneNote: Using Notebooks

In the past few posts we’ve discovered the different ways you can organize your OneNote documents, using pages & subpages, sections, and section groups. The next – and final – level of course is a new Notebook.

Some people create a new notebook for every topic, and while that is ok, I caution you against having too many notebooks when you can organize much of your content in one Notebook. So when should you step out and create a new Notebook?

Here are a couple of criteria I use for making that decision.

  • Sharing needs: While you don’t have to create new notebooks; you can create password-protected sections, I generally create a new notebook when I need to share the information with other people.
  • Distinct topic differences: If the subject matter is completely different from anything else you’re working on, it might be worth creating another notebook.
  • Topic content outgrows capacity: Sometimes a topic that used to be in a section or section group of a more general Notebook just outgrows the ways to keep track of the topic inside that Notebook. Perhaps you already have a section group for that content, and you find you’ve outgrown that. It might be worth to create a Notebook to hold that topic.

Creating a New Notebook

When you create a new Notebook in OneNote, make sure you choose to place this file either on your SharePoint site or in your OneDrive. My preferred method for creating OneNote Notebooks is to go to the location within SharePoint or OneDrive and choose to add a New OneNote notebook from the dropdown.

OneDrive Dropdown showing Word document, Excel document, PowerPoint presentation, OneNote notebook, Excel Survey

Once you’ve created a file, then use the EDIT IN ONENOTE link to open this new document in your desktop version of OneNote.

OneNote: Edit in OneNote

Your notebook will then appear in your notebooks list on the left hand side of your OneNote application. If you don’t see the list as shown below, click the dropdown arrow next to your notebook’s name, and then use the PIN icon to pin your notebooks list to the left.

Notebooks: My Notebook, Projects, DSA OneNote

I prefer creating OneNote notebooks online and then linking them to the desktop application because then I don’t have to worry about knowing the path to which I need to save the document.

You can also create OneNote notebooks using the application. If you do that, please make sure you choose either Sites – YourCompanyName or OneDrive – YourCompanyName as your location, and then use the Browse button to find the path to your folder on your SharePoint site or in your OneDrive.

OneNote: Create a new document from OneNote

Organize your OneNote: Using Section Groups

I started off talking about how I use Pages as a starting point for my organization, and then when I outgrow Pages I move on to Sections.

Sections appear along the top of your work space. While you can have as many sections as you want, one thing to note is that your desktop application real estate is only so large and therefore, depending on the length of your section names, your application real estate only allows the room for about 8-12 sections before they disappear in a drop-down menu.

OneNote: section drop-down showing 5 blank sections

While the use of the drop-down menu is generally not a big deal if there are some sections you rarely use, I personally don’t like having to use a drop-down menu. At the same time though, it doesn’t always make sense to create a new Notebook just because you can’t see the section tabs.

Section Groups allow for that middle ground, where you can group your sections into similar topics (e.g. meetings) while still allowing all of your meeting notes to stay together with the rest of your file.

The two most commonly used section groups in my Notebooks are Meetings and @MySpace, where I keep things that belong to the overall topic discussed in the Notebook, but are just my notes to myself or random thoughts or collected information that I’m not ready to put out into the rest of the book just yet.

OneNote: Subsections showing on left menu: Blog Posts and Emails; Tutorial Scratch Files; @MySpace; Committee Work; Dept A-M; Dept N-Z; Meetings

Our divisional finance team uses Section Groups to name their budget codes, Sections for each of the months in the fiscal year, and Pages for the individual invoices and purchase orders. That way they can have multiple budget codes but still keep their information in a single file for a department.

Image showing section groups for finance budget codes 122318, 122325, 120917 and V00173

Using section groups works best when you are using the desktop version of OneNote, and you have the notebooks “pinned” to your left sidebar, because you’re able to view all of your section groups and sections at a glance.

Across the top of the page, you will see any top-level sections as well the names of section groups. When clicking on a section group in the top bar, only the sections within the section group will show.

OneNote Section bar showing section groups
When you open a section group for the first time, it can be a little disconcerting because it appears you’re “stuck” inside that section group, as you no longer see the remaining portions of the notebook. The little green “return to top” arrow will get you back to the top level of your Notebook so you can navigate to the rest of it again.

OneNote: Section Group Bar showing 5 tabs, with a little arrow on the left that would take me up a level Smart Tip

If you use section groups, keep the most-used sections at the top level, so that you can easily access them without needing to go into section groups. As shown in my working notebook above, I keep the blog post and tutorial scratch tabs at the top level because I use them all the time, and I don’t want to have to click into a section group to do my daily work. I like that OneNote lets me have the flexibility to do what works for me.

Featured on Twitter!

Yesterday was a cool day! I woke up to find that I had been “mentioned” on Twitter with one of my blog posts: Organize your OneNote: Using Pages and Sub Pages. Thank you so much to OneNote Central for posting my blog on your Twitter feed.

I have only recently been tweeting my blog posts on Twitter, and so it’s nice to know that those efforts are paying off. I got close to 100 visits just from that one post, so that’s pretty neat.