Inside OneNote 2010

  • 9/27/2010

Filling a Notebook with Text, Pictures, Clippings, and More

Every time you type, paste, or otherwise insert a new item on a notebook page, OneNote creates a note container for that item. Note containers can hold text, pictures, audio and video clips, handwriting, and clippings from a web page or from the screen. The initial size of the container matches the size of the object you’re creating or inserting; if you click and begin typing, a new note container is created immediately and explands in width and depth to accommodate your input.

Note containers are normally invisible. To see the container, move the mouse pointer over its contents, click to select the contents, or position the insertion point within the container. Figure 15-4 shows a note container, with the pointer positioned over the Move handle at the top. Click and drag the handle to move the container and its contents to a new position on the page. Click the Move handle to select the entire container so that you can cut, copy, or delete it and its contents. Click the sizing handle in the upper right corner to make the container wider.

We can’t understand why anyone would want to hide note containers permanently, but if you do, there’s an option for that: click File, and then click Options. On the Display tab, clear Show Note Containers On Pages.

Figure 15-4

Figure 15-4. Click and drag the Move handle at the top of a note container (shown by the four-headed arrow here) to reposition the container and its contents on the page.

In the remainder of this section, we discuss the specifics of how to work with different types of content that you enter directly or paste from the Clipboard—text, pictures, equations, and ink, for example. But you can also send items directly to OneNote by using the Screen Clipping tool and Send To options in Outlook and Internet Explorer. When you send a web clipping, a screen clipping, or an Outlook item to OneNote, you see a dialog box like the one shown in Figure 15-5. If you choose a section from any open notebook, the item is sent to a new page in that notebook; you can also choose a specific page within a notebook and send the item to that page, where it’s placed at the bottom of the page, below any existing content.

Figure 15-5

Figure 15-5. When you send an item or a clipping from another program to OneNote, you can specify the destination page or section here.



Entering text from the keyboard is the simplest (and probably the most common) way to fill a notebook. Click to position the insertion point on the page, and start typing. (You can also paste text into a page, with or without formatting.) The text you enter or paste appears in a single note container.

OneNote supports basic outlining functions for text. Press Enter to create a new paragraph, and then change the outline level for that paragraph by pressing Tab (or Shift+Tab to promote a paragraph to a higher level.)

You can move any paragraph up or down or adjust its outline level by dragging it. You can also use keyboard shortcuts: press Alt+Shift and then use the Up or Down Arrow key to move the paragraph up or down in the outline; use Alt+Shift and the Right or Left Arrow key to demote or promote a paragraph in the outline. When you move the mouse pointer over a paragraph, a Move button appears to its left. Move the mouse pointer over the button, and the pointer turns to a four-headed arrow; click to select the entire paragraph and move it up, down, left, or right. In the example shown here, the mouse pointer is to the right of “Christopher Marlowe,” so the Move button appears to the left of that line.



You can format any text on a OneNote page as a list using bullets or numbering. List formatting applies to the current paragraph or, if multiple paragraphs are selected, to all paragraphs in the selection. If you’ve used list formatting in Word or PowerPoint, you already understand the basics. OneNote adds a few twists to simple lists.

To choose a bullet character and immediately apply it to the current paragraph or selection, click the arrow next to the Bullets button (on the Mini toolbar or in the Basic Text group on the Home tab). The selection of characters in the Bullet Library (shown here) is fixed and cannot be customized.


To format the current paragraph or selection with the most recently used bullet character, click the Bullets button or use the Ctrl+period keyboard shortcut. To automatically add a standard bullet character (a big black dot) at the beginning of the current line, enter an asterisk at the beginning of the paragraph.

Numbered lists work in similar fashion. To begin a simple numbered list, start with a number or letter followed by a period, a closing parenthesis, or a hyphen; then press the Spacebar. You can choose from an assortment of ready-made numbering and outline formats using the Numbering Library (shown next), which is available by clicking the arrow to the right of the Numbering button on the Mini toolbar or in the Basic Text group on the Home tab.


As with automatic list formatting in other Office programs, pressing Enter continues the list formatting in the next paragraph. To end automatic formatting, press Enter twice.


You can add a simple table to any page in OneNote, using its rows and columns to arrange data that doesn’t lend itself to simple paragraphs. OneNote tables offer a basic set of features and formatting options, far simpler than those found in Word or PowerPoint. When the insertion point is within a table, OneNote makes a custom Layout tab available, as shown in Figure 15-6. (The same options are also available if you right-click anywhere within the table.)

Figure 15-6

Figure 15-6. The Layout tab allows you to arrange rows, columns, and cells in a OneNote table and align their contents.

To create a table, use any of the following techniques:

  • On the Insert tab, click Table and drag the grid to select the number of rows and columns you want.

  • Click Insert Table at the bottom of the Table menu and select the number of rows and columns from a dialog box.

  • Easiest of all, create a table automatically by typing the text you want to appear in the first cell of the first row, and then press Tab. Continue pressing Tab to create new columns, with or without text, and press Enter to begin a new row.

If you use OneNote tables regularly, you can save some time by learning a few keyboard shortcuts in addition to the Tab and Enter keys. To create a new column to the left or right of the current column, press Ctrl+Alt+E or Ctrl+Alt+R, respectively. To create a new row below the current one, even if the insertion point is in the middle of the row, press Ctrl+Enter. To create a new row above the current one, move the insertion point to the beginning of the row and press Enter. To begin a new paragraph in the same cell, press Alt+Enter.


Pictures fit nicely in OneNote pages, either alone or accompanied by text. To add a picture to a OneNote page, you can paste it from the Clipboard or click Picture on the Insert tab and then choose an image file.

What happens next depends on the destination you select. If you choose an empty page as the target for the paste, OneNote drops the picture into a note container, resizing the image if necessary so that its height is under 400 pixels, with the insertion point positioned just below the picture, awaiting your caption. If you insert another picture, it appears in the current note container at the insertion point. However, if you click an empty space, outside a note container, and then insert a picture into a page that already contains at least one item, the pasted picture appears at its original size with no note container. In either case, you can resize the image using handles on the bottom and right sides; use the handle on the lower right corner to preserve the picture’s aspect ratio. To resize any image to the full dimensions of the original file, right-click the picture and then click Restore To Original Size.

OneNote treats each picture as if it were a paragraph, so you can move it up and down with text (or other pictures) in a note container. You can also paste or move a picture into a table, as we’ve done in Figure 15-7. After you insert the first image and resize it to fit the column width and row height, pictures you paste into other cells are scaled accordingly.

Web Clippings

OneNote and Internet Explorer work exceptionally well together. As you browse, you can collect snippets of text, images, or entire pages for insertion into a notebook page. The mechanics are simple: make a selection (skip this step if you want to save the entire page) and then click the Send To OneNote button on Internet Explorer’s Command bar. Alternatively, you can right-click a selection or an entire page and then click Send To OneNote from the bottom of the shortcut menu. Choosing this option opens the Select Location In OneNote dialog box, where you can specify a section or page as the destination.

Figure 15-7

Figure 15-7. You can insert pictures into a table on a OneNote page. After you scale the first image, OneNote handles the remaining images.


A web page doesn’t look right when you send it to OneNote

Although the process of sending a web page to OneNote is easy, the results are not always what you’d expect. In particular, heavily formatted web pages often translate poorly onto a OneNote page, with text flowing in an unreadable fashion and tables rearranged haphazardly. If that happens, click the Undo button and try either of these approaches.

  • Select the most important portions of the web page and try to send them individually to your OneNote page. You’ll lose the overall design, but that might not matter if you’re mostly concerned with content.

  • Use the Send To OneNote 2010 option on Internet Explorer’s Print menu to send the entire page or a selection to OneNote as an image. You lose the ability to copy or edit text on the resulting item, but you are certain to get an accurate (and readable) representation of the page.

If you use a browser other than Internet Explorer, your best option is to select all or part of a web page, copy the selection to the Clipboard, and paste the result into OneNote.

Regardless of the method you choose, OneNote adds a link to the source web page at the end of the item, making it easy to revisit the source when you review your research later.

Screen Clippings

Other Office programs allow you to copy and paste a screen shot from any open window. OneNote offers a more limited Screen Clipping version of that feature.

As with the other Office programs, you can use the ribbon to kick off the process: click Screen Clipping on the Insert tab to select a portion of any window to automatically copy and paste into OneNote at the current insertion point. When you use this option, OneNote temporarily minimizes itself so that you have full access to the rest of the screen; just make sure the window from which you want to clip is visible behind OneNote. Your selection is inserted in the current page at the current insertion point.

Unlike the other Office programs, you can use the Create Screen Clipping keyboard shortcut, Windows logo key+S, to capture a portion of the screen, even if OneNote isn’t running. (If OneNote is open, the OneNote window remains visible on the screen, allowing you to capture a clipping from one page and paste it in another.) After you use this option, OneNote displays a variation of the Select Location In OneNote dialog box, shown in Figure 15-8. You can choose a OneNote section or page or use the Copy To Clipboard button to save your selection and use it in another program.

Every screen clipping you add to a page is tagged with the date and time it was taken; if the source is a web page, the tag includes the page name and URL.


Your keyboard and mouse aren’t the only way to put stuff on a OneNote page. The Draw tab includes a full gallery of pens (shown in Figure 15-9) that you can use to draw, write, and highlight information on a page.

Figure 15-8

Figure 15-8. Use the Create Screen Clipping shortcut (Windows logo key+S) to copy part of a screen and paste it into OneNote or save it to the Clipboard.

Figure 15-9

Figure 15-9. Fine-point pens work best for handwriting. The thick markers on the bottom row are ideal for highlighting text.

If none of the built-in pens are quite right, you can customize pens and highlighters, choosing from a variety of colors and thicknesses.

When you select a pen from the Tools group on the Draw tab, the pointer changes to a colored dot or brush whose color and thickness match the pen you selected. Use the pen to draw or write in an unused area of the page, and your ink is captured in a container, where it moves along with any text or graphics in the container. If you use a highlighter, your markup is treated as a discrete drawing and does not move when you move the text. (To highlight text, use the Highlighter button in the Basic Text group on the Home tab, as we describe in Formatting Text on page 508.)

To switch from pen mode back to mouse/keyboard interaction, click the Select & Type button at the left of the Draw tab.

If you intend to take handwritten notes or create anything more interesting than stick figures, you’ll need a Tablet PC, a touch-enabled PC, or a digitizer and stylus. Although you can add ink using a mouse, the results are rarely satisfactory, especially for handwriting recognition. One noteworthy exception is the set of thick fluorescent-colored highlighters, which work well for marking up printouts.


Engineers and math majors can use the Equation menu on the Insert tab to create valid, editable math equations in OneNote. The tools are identical to those available in other Office applications.

E-Mail Messages and Other Outlook Items

If you use Outlook, you’ll find a Send To OneNote button (in the Move group on the Home tab) when you’re viewing a mail message in the message list or in a message window. Click that button to send the entire message to OneNote, with the message header (Subject, From, To, and Sent date) in a table and the text of the message itself just below the header.

If you select an Outlook appointment, meeting, task, or contact, you’ll see a Linked Item Notes button (where Item is the item type) with a slightly different button image. Clicking this button allows you to send relevant details from the current item to a OneNote page with a link back to the original item. (If you’ve already created the item in OneNote, clicking this button returns you to that page.) A Notes section at the bottom of the item allows you to enter additional text. You can use this feature to keep notes about a meeting or to record details of your history with a contact, as shown here.


File Attachments

You’ll find an Attach File button in the Files group on the Insert tab. When you click that button and select a file from the Browse dialog box, OneNote embeds the selected file and displays its icon and name on the page. The file attachment is an independent copy, not linked to the original file in any way. Changes you make to the original file are not reflected in the OneNote attachment, and vice versa.

Attaching a file to a notebook is a good strategy when you want to preserve the file for historical purposes with your notes, or you want to make sure it’s always available with the notebook, even if it’s deleted from the file system or e-mail message from which it originated. For a document that you want to continue editing, especially with other members of a team, the preferred strategy is to create a link in OneNote to a file stored in a shared network folder or in Windows Live SkyDrive.


During installation, OneNote adds a virtual printer to your Windows Devices And Printers folder. When you choose this “printer” as the output from any program (including a web browser or another Office application), OneNote creates an image of the file as it would appear on paper and inserts that printout on a page you select. You can also create a printout from a file or use the output from a scanner—both options are available in the Files group on the Insert tab. Use this if you want to preserve the formatting of an original document or web page.

There’s a subtle but significant difference between the two techniques for adding a printout to a OneNote page. If you use the virtual Send To OneNote 2010 printer, your printout appears on the page you select, without any links to the original document. In addition, you can choose which page (or pages) you want to include on the OneNote page. When you click File Printout on the Insert tab and select the same file, OneNote adds the selected file to the current page as an attachment, with a link to the location of the original document. It then opens the associated program in the background, creates the printout, and inserts the printout below the file attachment.