How to use Templates in OneNote

OneNote is one of those software that you can start using without reading any manual. Since it’s based on the notebook/section/page paradigm, it’s simple and obvious enough to use it directly. Most OneNote user actually never go beyond the Home ribbon. They sometimes read the first two pages that provide some basic functions of OneNote and voil√†! This is all they will ever learn about OneNote. However, it’s missing a lot of the power of OneNote.

In previous posts, we’ve seen how to use tags, how to gather information from a browser, as well as how to synchronize all your devices. This week, we are going to have a look at the templates. I love templates, because they allow you to create consistent and beautiful documents.

What is a template?

As per the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a template is “a computer document that has the basic format of something (such as a business letter, chart, graph, etc.) and that can be used many different times”. The OneNote templates though are different from the Word, Excel or PowerPoint¬†templates. Let’s spend a quick moment to understand the differences. A Word, Excel or PowerPoint document has generally only one format. For instance a Word report has the same heading, uses the same font or the same colors from the first page to the last. The same logic can be applied to PowerPoint and Excel. A OneNote document is a set of sections and pages. Each section can be different and each page within each section can be different too, from a format perspective.

Hence, when we talk about templates in OneNote, we talk about Page templates. I can for sure create an empty OneNote document that serves as a template, but this would not be a template as such in the OneNote context. One point to realize the differences is the Templates site on Office.com. You will find templates for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but none for OneNote!

OneNote comes with a set of predefined templates, as you can see below. (Those sections are stored in C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Templates\1033\ONENOTE\16\Stationery)

You can also create your own templates which will appear in a new template notebook called My Templates, appearing at the top of the predefined templates. (This section is stored in C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates)

Using templates

Using templates is easy. Remember first that templates are actually page template. So using a template means adding a new page based on the template you will chose.

Note that you cannot apply a template to an existing page in OneNote

To add a new page based on an existing template, go to the Insert ribbon, and click the Page Templates button. The Templates pane appears on the right hand side. Click one of the available sections and click the template you are interested in.

This will automatically create a new page based on this template.

If you click on another template, this will create another new page. So if the current template is not what you’re looking for, you will need to delete the newly created page.

Note that customizing the predefined template is possible but beyond this post.

As you can see using predefined template is very easy. You can also define a default template in the Always use a specific template section at the bottom of the Templates pane. You will find in the dropdown list the exhaustive list of all available templates. Once a default template defined, all new pages in the current section will use this format. You cannot define a default template for an entire Notebook.

Creating your own template

Creating your own template is almost as easy as using a predefined template. Just take any existing page and click on Save current page as a template, at the bottom of the Templates pane.

Give a name to your template and click the Save button. If this is the first template you are creating, a new section called My Templates will be created above the predefined templates sections in the Template pane. For subsequent creations, they will all show under the My Templates section.

As previously written, templates are a great way create consistent documents. If you intend to use OneNote to create user manuals, professional reports or other of document you will want to share with others, I highly recommend that you create your own template to have professional looking documents. Remember, as the OneNote app is free of charge, OneNote documents can be shared with everybody, not just the happy few who have Microsoft Office!

Have fun with templates!

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