What is OneNote?

OneNote is your very own digital notebook. You might even describe it as an extension of your brain.

  • Jot down that idea before you forget it.
  • Make a check list of tasks to do the next time you are in the office.
  • Sketch out a concept and add some photos that will help get the point across in that next meeting.
  • Organise all your lesson plans so you can easily find them each term.

Do this on any device – PC, Mac, phone or tablet; and wherever you happen to be. OneNote works offline and saves all your content automatically. Yes, say goodbye to remembering to click save every few minutes.

And the next time you connect to the internet? Well, all that content is synchronised across all your devices. So the notes you made with your phone, on the bus, on the way home will appear on your PC when you log in that evening. And when you need those notes in a meeting the next morning, there they are in OneNote on your tablet. It’s like magic. Which is probably the best way to describe OneNote. It kind of does everything. Which is kind of magic!

Tell me a bit more. Why should I use OneNote?

Microsoft summarizes OneNote in 3 words: Capture, Organise and Share. For such a wide ranging, do everything application, that is actually quite a good way of beginning to understand why it is so useful, and why you will want to use it.


OneNote is all about making it as easy as possible to capture all your ideas and information, and in whatever way best suits you. Sit down at your PC and type out neat lists.  Scribble down random thoughts, either with your finger or a Surface pen, on your tablet. Take a photo or record some audio directly into OneNote with your phone. Use Office Lens to capture the page of a book directly into OneNote, and have it converted to editable text. Use OneNote Web Clipper to capture whole webpages, selected sections or just a bookmark link.The point is that the technology doesn’t get in the way of capturing an idea, but just lets you get it into OneNote as quickly and easily as possible. You can then find and organise it later.


OneNote has a canny knack of being all things to all people. Are you the sort of person who likes to have everything neatly sorted and colour coded? Is your desk always neat and tidy? Then you’ll love OneNote. You can have separate notebooks for different parts of your life; for example school and home. Within an individual notebook you can then have different sections; for example different topics at school. And within each section you can have different pages. Tidy and Neat, as you might say.

Or are you the sort of person who has a messy desk, paper scattered everywhere? But you always know where to find everything. You’ll love OneNote too. Just bung down your ideas and thoughts wherever suits you. No need to organise. And when you need to find them again, just click on search, type in a key word or phrase, and OneNote will pull up all the places where it finds that search term. So you find that article you wrote a year ago, without ever having to worry about where you might have filed it.

But don’t take my word for it. See what Doug has to say.


You get the most out of OneNote when you use it in conjunction with OneDrive and SharePoint, as part of Office 365. This means that your OneNote notebooks will be available wherever you are and on all your different devices. It also means that it is really easy to share information with work colleagues and collaborate on projects together. Once a notebook is shared you can all access it and add in your own thoughts, ideas and content – even working in the same notebook at the same time. Any changes that someone else adds will be highlighted with their initials. For example, take the minutes for a meeting in a shared notebook, and those minutes are immediately available to everyone who was in the meeting. No need to type them up and e-mail them around the group. And at the next meeting, somebody else takes the next set of minutes in that same notebook. Work and results shared instantly.

And because OneNote is part of the Office suite, it integrates with other Office 365 apps. Flag an item as a task in OneNote, and it will appear in your list of tasks in Outlook. Received an e-mail from a customer about a project you are working on? Save that e-mail into OneNote to easily share with colleagues and access later in the context of other relevant information. Have you created some instructions in OneNote that you would now like to e-mail to some people. Send a page as an e-mail directly from within OneNote.

Learn More About OneNote

As you might have gathered, we think OneNote is brilliant. So if you’d like to find out more and learn how to use it, then why not check out this Microsoft training. It will take you through installing from Office 365*, setting up a notebook in OneDrive and getting started with the all the basics. You won’t look back once you’ve started.

We’ll be covering other aspects of OneNote in future articles, including OneNote Learning Tools and OneNote Class Notebook. So stay tuned for even more OneNote goodness over the coming weeks.

* You can download and install OneNote 2016 from Office 365 if your subscription includes it, or if your school has an EES agreement. But don’t worry if you can’t install OneNote 2016. You can also install the OneNote app from the Windows store, the Apple store or the Google Play store, and the app is preinstalled on Winodws 10. This has nearly as much fuctionality as the full blown Office 2016 desktop product, so you won’t be missing out on much. And don’t forget, you can use OneNote online from within your Office 365 subscription as well.