Working with Notebooks, Sections, and Pages in Microsoft OneNote Home and Student 2013

  • 5/15/2013

Working with ink and shapes

OneNote was originally created to be the “killer app” on the original tablet PCs. Back in the early 2000s, Microsoft got on board to promote a variant of the laptop computer that had a touch screen. Some were laptops where the screen could lie flat; these were called convertibles. Others had screens that detached entirely from the keyboard, much like early, primitive, iPads. These were called slates. The devices ran a version of Windows that was designed specifically for tablets, and OneNote (then OneNote 2003) was a powerful tool for those early efforts at tablet computing. Though those tablets never really took off, OneNote has endured and thrived, and the ink capability of those early devices has continued in OneNote.

In this exercise, you’ll explore the inking capabilities of OneNote.

  1. Click the Draw tab.

  2. On the Draw tab, in the Tools group, you’ll find a selection of pen colors and thicknesses. Click one of the pens from the pen gallery to select it, or click the More button on the right edge of the gallery to expand it and show more pen choices.

  3. After you’ve selected a pen, click in the page area. Then draw, write, or annotate with that pen, using your mouse or a stylus.

  4. To change back to entering text, click the Type button at the left end of the Draw tab.

Custom pens

If you can’t find the pen you want, you can create a custom pen by clicking the Color & Thickness button in the middle of the Draw tab.



Next to the Color & Thickness button you’ll find the Shapes gallery. These shapes may look like the kind of shapes you’re used to in other applications, but actually, they’re just predefined ink strokes. That’s important to understand, because you use the pens gallery to select the color and thickness of the lines in your shape.

To create a shape, select the pen you want to use from the pens gallery, and then select the shape you want to draw from the shapes gallery. Use your mouse or stylus to drag the shape onto the page where you want it to appear.

Didn’t get it exactly the right size or precisely where you want it? Just drag and drop the shape where you want it or grab one of the resizing handles and make the shape larger or smaller.


If you want multiple copies of the same shape, select your shape, click Copy (or press Ctrl+C), then move to another part of the page and click Paste (or press Ctrl+V). You can make as many copies of the same shape as you like, then drag those shapes to various places on the page.

If you want to select multiple shapes and move them as a group, you should use the Lasso Select option. Click Lasso Select button on the Draw tab and draw a line around the shapes you want to select. When you’ve completed the loop, OneNote will select all of the items within that Lasso. Then you can drag the shapes or delete the group as you choose.

If the shape isn’t aligned the way you’d like, you can rotate it to the right or left. Select your item and click Rotate on the Draw tab (or right-click the shape and select Rotate from the shortcut menu) to display more choices for how you can rotate the shape.


Erasing ink or shapes

If you don’t like what you’ve drawn, you can use a couple of methods provided by OneNote to erase it. The first way, if it’s something you just drew, is to simply use Undo (press Ctrl+Z). You can undo several steps in case you wish to go back further than one step. Just continue pressing the key combination until you’ve removed the steps you don’t want.

If you accidentally undo one too many steps, you can use Redo (press Ctrl+Y) to advance one step.

If you want to do a somewhat more determined sculpting of your ink, you can use the Eraser tool on the Draw tab. When you click the Eraser tool, the pointer turns into an eraser that you can use to erase ink or shapes (or parts of them) from your page.

You have four different types of erasers to choose from. To select one, click the arrow below the Eraser button to view the menu.


The types of erasers are described in the following list.

  • Small Eraser An eraser with a small head for very fine work.

  • Medium Eraser An eraser that is a bit bigger than the small eraser; used for faster erasing.

  • Large Eraser A rather large eraser head; used for wiping large swathes of the page in quick strokes.

  • Stroke Eraser A special eraser that removes entire ink strokes with a single click. This eraser is useful for quickly removing a specific ink stroke without disturbing other ink around it.

Inserting space

Sometimes you’ll want to move items down the page so that you can insert other items above them. The Insert Space tool helps you do that. Just point above the items you want to move down, click the Insert Space button on the Draw tab, and drag down to move all of the items below that point down.

You can also insert space horizontally with the Insert Space tool. Simply point to the side of the page; the Insert Space line will change from a horizontal line to a vertical line. Then you can drag left or right to move everything over.

To illustrate how this works, enter some text on the page. Then enter some text in a different note container that appears somewhat lower on the page. Next, click Insert Space on the Draw tab, and point to the space between those two note containers. Then drag down to insert more space between them.

Arranging shapes

Shapes don’t only exist in two dimensions in OneNote. You can also layer them front to back, and for that you use the Arrange tool.

To place a shape in front of another shape, select that shape, click the Arrange tool on the Draw tab, and select Bring To Front.


After you’ve brought the shape to the front, drag it on top of the shape you want it to be in front of. In the following graphic, you can see that the Arrange tool has been used to bring the photo of the dog in the crate to the front of the image, and send the other dog photo to the back. Then the front photo was moved so that it overlaps the back photo.

If you play around with the Arrange features, you’ll find that you can create some complex layers of shapes.