Inside OneNote 2010

  • 9/27/2010

Customizing the Look and Feel of a Notebook Page

By default, every new OneNote page starts out with a bland white background and no adornment. You can change the appearance of a page in a variety of ways—some for purely aesthetic reasons and others, such as rule lines, for practical effect. In this section, we discuss the main customizations you can apply to a page.

Page Title

Page Title

The page title box appears at the top of every page in a fixed location, with a date and time stamp below it that (initially, at least) indicates when the page was created. Any text you enter as the title on the page is also used as a label on the page tab.

As far as we’ve been able to determine, there’s no technical limit on the number of characters you can include in a title. From a practical standpoint, however, shorter is better; remember that the main purpose of a title is to provide a label in the page tabs bar.

By default, all page titles are formatted as 17-point Calibri. You can change the font, font size, and color of a title. You can also add hyperlinks, tags, and just about any other type of formatting that’s applicable to text. This sort of custom formatting might be useful if you intend to print a notebook page or save it as a PDF file for sharing; just remember that the page tab label does not reflect any formatting.

You can’t change the position of the date/time stamp just below the page title, nor can you add your own text to it. You can, however, change the date and time. This option is useful if, for example, you create a page in advance of a meeting so that you can keep minutes and want the date and time stamp to reflect the actual starting time. Click the date field to expose a calendar control (like the one shown here) and choose a date. Click the time stamp and use the clock control to choose a new time. Use the Today button to insert today’s date from the calendar. The clock control initially displays the current system time; the list of available alternate times is limited to round values, on the hour and half-hour.


For some pages, such as those that include design sketches or diagrams, you might prefer to have no title. In addition, any Side Notes you create are added to the Unfiled Notes folder with no title. Click Hide Page Title (in the Page Setup group on the View tab) to remove the existing title and date/time stamp and hide the page title box.

Page Color

The default background color for every notebook page is white. You can adjust this color to one of 15 pastel alternatives using the Page Color menu on the View tab, as shown here.


To remove the background color from an existing page, click the No Color button at the bottom of the Page Color menu.

Rule Lines

Adding rules or grid lines to a page can help with a variety of note taking and drawing tasks. To add a default set of rule lines (including a vertical red line in the left margin, just like the one on a yellow legal pad), click the Rule Lines button on the View tab. You can change the default lines by clicking the down arrow and selecting from an assortment of rules and grid sizes on the Rule Lines menu.


To adjust the color of rule lines from their default light blue to one of 17 alternatives, use the Rule Line Color list on the Rule Lines menu.

You can show or hide rule lines as needed for a specific task. If you’re using a Tablet PC to take notes, for example, you might use rule lines to help keep your notes from creeping up or down the page and then hide them for reviewing later. Likewise, you can use grid lines to initially position images on the page. To toggle the display of rule or grid lines using the keyboard, press Ctrl+Shift+R.

If you prefer to use rule lines for all new pages, you can choose a set of rule or grid lines and then set it as the default. The easy way to accomplish this task is to click Create New Pages With Rule Lines at the bottom of the Rule Lines menu. This has the same effect as selecting Create All New Pages With Rule Lines on the Display tab in the OneNote Options dialog box.

Background Image

In addition to background colors, you can choose a single image to use as the background of a page. This option works best with an image that has been specifically created (or edited) for use as a page background. The ideal image has strong elements limited to the top and left margins and soft or faded image elements in the body of the page, where they won’t adversely affect readability of the page contents.

To add a background image, first insert the image on the page and position the picture in the upper left corner, making certain it is not enclosed in a note container. Then right-click the image and choose Set Picture As Background. To remove a background image, first clear the Set Picture As Background option, click to select the picture, and then press Delete.

Paper Size and Margins

The Paper Size setting for a default OneNote page is Auto, which means it can expand in any direction with no limits. That’s fine if you’re planning to use a notebook for strictly digital purposes. However, if you intend to print one or more pages, you’ll want to define paper sizes and margins that match the paper and printer you plan to use.

OneNote includes 14 predefined paper sizes as well as a Custom option that allows you to specify your own dimensions. To edit these settings for an existing page, click the Paper Size button on the View tab. That opens the Paper Size pane on the right side of the page. In Figure 15-13, we’ve used the Index Card setting to mimic a standard 3-by-5-inch index card; to enhance the effect, we’ve hidden the page title and added rule lines.

Figure 15-13

Figure 15-13. These settings allow a OneNote page to mimic a standard 3x5 index card. Save the page as a template to reuse it on new notebook pages.