Enhancing OneNote with Add-ins

In the last post, we looked at Clipper to quickly and simply grab information from the web, right into OneNote. In this post, I’ll show you how to continue to customize OneNote with add-ins. It’s probably the best kept secret as finding OneNote add-ins is not the easiest task. For sure, you won’t find any if you are not explicitely look for them (tip: Microsoft should put a link to the add-ins page  on the first page of the onenote.com site).

It’s a developer’s game

Not really for us mere mortals, but it’s true that add-ins are the realm of developers. Thanks to the OneNote API (Application Programming Interface), available at https://dev.onenote.com/.

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Think beyond the PC if you’re a developer as you probably know by now that OneNote exists on almost all platforms. This allows apps to use OneNote as a destination or a source of information to automate any relevant tasks.

It’s a user’s game

I’ve left the developer’s world a while back, but I’m an avid user of OneNote and add-ins are a great way to use OneNote for various additional tasks. So, if you scroll down the developer page, you will find the link to go to the featured apps (alternatively, you can click here).

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You can browse through all the available add-ins on this page, here are my preferred ones. Those I’m using almost on a daily basis.

  • OneNote Clipper. I wrote about it, just loving it to save web pages right into OneNote.
  • IFTTT. This add-in connects almost anything to OneNote, from Twitter to email, from Slack to you Tesla…
  • Office Lens. Take a picture, enhance it and integrate automatically right into OneNote. A great way to save flipchart notse.
  • Email to OneNote. Forward emails or send documents right into OneNote at me@onenote.com. Just to easy!
  • OneNote Class Notebooks. For educators, a simple and powerful way to create a course, share it with your students for immediate collaboration.

There are tons of other add-ins, those are just the ones I’m using. However, the cool thing about add-ins are to see OneNote considered more and more as the most powerful tool for note taking. Enjoy and let us know any specific add-ins you are using!

Copy web pages to #OneNote in one click with OneNote Clipper

If you are a OneNote user, you will, someday, definitely need to copy and paste information from a web page. Although the good old Ctrl+c – Ctrl+v (copy and paste) works, there’s a better way to clip a piece of a web page to OneNote: Clipper!

What is OneNote Clipper?

OneNote Clipper is an add-on to your web browser that allows you to copy and paste a web page or a piece of it right into OneNote. It exists for most browsers, including Safari, meaning, yes, it works on a Mac! (Sad though it does not work on Opera).

For Windows 10 users: if you are using Microsoft Edge, you will need to update to Windows 10 Anniversary Update to have the Edge version that allows extensions!

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With one or two clicks, select what you want to copy – in the example above, the article – and where you want to copy it – which section in which notebook, then clip it! You now have this article in OneNote as shown below.

OneNote online showing clipped article

Setting up Clipper

How do you get Clipper? Nothing simpler! Go to onenote.com/clipper and click the button Get OneNote Clipper.

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The setup procedure depends on your browser, but should be fairly easy to follow. Seconds later Clipper is setup in your browser.

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The last step is to get identified so that Clipper gets access to your OneNote notebooks. Click on the Clipper button or link (for IE), then choose to sign in with a Microsoft account or an Office 365 one (provided by your work or school).

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One signed in, you’re good to go!

Using Clipper

Once setup, Clipper is accessible through an add-on (in most browser) or a link in the Favorites bar in Internet Explorer. Below is the Clipper add-on icon in Firefox.

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Once you are on a page you want to paste in OneNote, follow those four simple steps:

  1. Click the Clipper icon or link
  2. Choose between Full page (the exact web page), a region (a rectangle that will be pasted as an image), the article (the text of the web page with basic formatting) or the bookmark (the link to the page) – You will see a preview so you have a fairly good idea of what your OneNote clipping will look like
  3. Choose the Notebook and the sectionsnip_20161012192638
  4. Click Clip

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You can immediately view the result in OneNote by clicking the View in OneNote button. This will open a new tab in your browser and fire OneNote Online.

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After a couple of seconds, or minutes depending on the speed of your connection, the page will appear on your local OneNote.

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If you have this OneNote notebook on other devices, they will all synchronize and you’ll be able to read your article offline at any moment on any of your devices.

To conclude, the OneNote Clipper is a simple tool that allows to quickly paste articles or web pages directly to one of your OneNote notebooks. Since it exists for almost all browsers and platforms, it would be a pity not to take benefit of it if you are a OneNote user, which I deeply encourage you to become!

Office Lens, the ideal companion to #OneNote

We are all confronted to situations where we need to scan a document, keep notes taken on a white board or just include a picture in our notes. It’s very easy to use the camera of our phone to do this. However, a picture has many disadvantages, like its format, its size or just the fact it’s in your picture folder and not integrated with the notes you’ve just taken in OneNote. Office Lens is the solution to those disadvantages.

What is Office Lens?

In a nutshell, Office Lens is a tool that transforms your mobile camera in a powerful scanner that integrates seamlessly and effortlessly with Office. This means you can scan a document, a whiteboard or a business card, or just take a picture and include it directly into Word, PowerPoint or OneNote for instance. Of course you may wonder why needing an app where the camera of your phone and laptop can do the same! Well the app has a twist: it straightens the image of the documents.

First, the app detects automatically the document: it draws a white rectangle around the document to scan.

Second, it straightens and cleans it, to enhance its quality. It’s ready to save it as a PDF or include it into OneNote

Installing Office Lens

The good news is Office Lens exists on almost all platforms: Windows Phone, Android, iPhone, iPad and Windows PC. You just have to go to the store of your platform and look for Office Lens. Below is the app in the Apple Store on an iPhone.

Office Lens and OneNote

Although you can save your scanned documents to PDF, as a picture or send it by email, you can insert them into Word, PowerPoint and OneNote.

The OneNote option is the most important to me when I come to a document that I want to keep along with my notes. Once you chose OneNote, you can give the document a name, the app will then create a new page and insert the picture you’ve just taken.

Office Lens is a simple and powerful application that can transform your business cards, documents or whiteboard into a clean picture that can be inserted in your OneNote or other apps. Much more convenient that the normal camera app!

Taking handwritten notes in OneNote

OneNote works with a keyboard and with digital ink and pen too. Although you may, like me, love paper, handwritten note taking is a great way to get ideas on a virtual sheet of paper automatically saved to the cloud. The below screenshot has been taken on my Surface Book in tablet mode.

Automatically adapted to tablets

OneNote adapts itself automatically to tablet mode. If you move from landscape to portrait, as in the screenshot above, you will notice that the menu is not there anymore. The same with pages or sections. The space is entirely freed to allow note taking. Of course, you can always have the menu appear by tapping on the top of the window. Then, move from section to section through the drop-down at the top right of the page.

In the Advanced Options window, notice the details of pen usage like Use pen pressure sensitivity. This option allows to press harder to get the thicker line, like you would do on normal paper.

Using different pens for your handwritten notes

The Draw menu allows you to change pen, color, thickness, etc. If you happen to have a Microsoft Surface (may work on other tablets too), note that the eraser is at the back of the pen, so useless to go to the Eraser option, just use your virtual pen eraser!

Discover in the pen dropdown that there are far more pens that the favorite ones presented in the menu bar.

And finally, adapt the Pen mode to what you need, by clicking the option at the bottom of the dropdown. You can chose to draw only, write, do both, or even just use the pen as a pointer if you are presenting your OneNote.

Drop the keyboard, move to digital pen!

How to use #OneNote without OneNote (hint: online)!

You might think I have probably fallen on my head or am getting a little bit weird. Well actually, no! I feel great, however, what I want to share today is the beauty of the cloud and the power to access your notes anywhere, any time, on any device!

If you are familiar with this blog, you may have read the post on how to sync all your devices through the cloud and access your notes on any of your devices. But what if you are at a friend’s, in an airport lounge or at a customer without any of your devices and you have to access your notes! As Douglas Adams have written it: DON’T PANIC!

The solution is in the cloud. Why? Because to sync your OneNote notes, OneDrive or OneDrive for Business (depending whether you are using a personal account or use your Office 365 one) will store online a version of your note books.

Getting online to OneNote.com

The first step to getting your notes on any machine is to go to Onenote.com. There, on the top right, click the Sign in link.

Your Microsoft account is generally the one you used to access your mail box. It could really be any email account, not only a Microsoft one like outlook.com or hotmail.com. Gmail or Yahoo works as well. As the above dialog box indicates, if you are not sure if you have an account, click on the link.

Once signed it, you will see in the window the list of your Notebooks.

Opening your Notebook online

You are now almost there. Click now on the Notebook you want to open and voilà! All your sections, folders and notes appear right in your browser.

If it’s one of the Notebooks you created or have write access, you will be able to edit right in your browser. If somebody as shared a Notebook and as provided only Read access, you will not be able to edit it. Note the Edit in Onenote link that will allow you to open the OneNote client and work on this Notebook right there. However, if the Notebook is not already on the machine, it will be downloaded. I don’t think it’s a good idea on a shared PC or on somebody else’s PC. So either it’s your machine and you can decide to edit in OneNote, or keep it online.

OneNote online is compatible with all modern browsers, so pick your favorite one and start taking some online notes.

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 voilà! 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!

How to organize notes with tags in OneNote

Once you start using OneNote on your various devices, notes add up quickly and after a couple of months, it may be difficult to find the one you took about skydiving for instance. This is where tags play a simple and useful role. Tags are somehow self-explanatory. In OneNote though, they are kind of cool because they associate a friendly name, format and an icon, and you can customize them as you wish, create your own, and of course search notes that have been tagged. Let’s first see how to apply tags.

Apply Tags

This is damn easy. Click on the note you want to tag, then go to the Home tab, in the Tags menu, click the drop-down and click the tag you want to apply.


Once tagged, the note gets an icon in front and it’s format can change. Look at the notes below, the last one is highlighted because the tag used applies a yellow highlighter to the tagged note.


You can use existing tags, customize them or create new ones to suit your needs. Let’s have a look.

Create Tags

To create new tags, click Customize Tags at the bottom of the tag drop-down list. In the Customize Tags window, you can select an existing tag and click Modify tag, or you can just click New Tag to create a new one. The New Tag Windows appear and allows you to define four characteristics of your new tag: its display name, its symbol, its font color and its highlight color. Note that symbol, font color and highlight color are optional. Notice you cannot create new symbols nor define customized colors, may be an enhancement in a next version. Once defined, click OK.



You can delete existing tag as well as sort them. It may be convenient to put at the top the most common used tags. To do this, click on the tag you want to move and click on the up and down arrows.

Search Tagged Notes

The power of tags is the search function. By clicking the Find Tags function in the Tags menu, the Tags Summary pane appears on the right hand side. It actually searches automatically all existing tags that have been applied and will group the results by tag name by default. You can group by section, title or date, but I personally find the name grouping more convenient. You see in the screenshot below that you can search in a Notebook, or all notebooks, a section, notes taken on a certain date, to restrict or expand the search area.

Of course, the text that is tagged and displayed is clickable to go directly to the page containing it. Finally, you can create a Summary page that will display all tags and notes on a single page, which can be very convenient when your notes span multiple pages, sections and notebooks.


Tags have other useful usage, like creating To Do lists for instance, or creating Outlook tasks automatically, this will be for another post. In the meantime, enjoy tags and get more productive everyday with OneNote!

Taking linked notes in OneNote

In case you have not figured out yet, I love OneNote. Just after Outlook, this is the best productivity tool I have in my toolbox. Like many people, I sometimes need to do some research on the web for a presentation or an article. OneNote helps getting track of the information I found and most importantly of the website source of the information. OneNote can associate automatically your notes to the address of the website (storing the URL, you know that address that starts with http). And the beauty is the simplicity.

Start Note linking

Linked Notes are available with Internet Explorer, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote. This means that you can take notes while browsing the web, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations or other OneNote documents. Let’s look at the Internet Explorer way (which I personally find the more useful). Start Internet Explorer and if you do not have the menu, have it displayed (right click on the Title bar, and chose Menu bar). On the menu bar, click Tools, then OneNote Linked Notes.

At that moment, OneNote will start and will be docked on the right hand-side of the screen with Internet Explorer docked on the left side. One last choice: either chose a section and this will create a new page, or chose an existing page. Your screen should now be similar to the one below.

Taking Linked Notes

Now, you can browse the web, looking for and finding the information you want. When you have something you like, go to the OneNote windows and start typing some notes. You will see next to the notes you are taking an Internet Explorer icon. If you move your mouse over the icon. It will display a small window with the website address and an image of the page. This is automatically done by OneNote for each note you take, not for each website you visit. It’s important to note that OneNote will not keep an history of all the websites you visit during this session, but only of those you took notes about.

Once you’ve finished and want to stop, you can close the OneNote file or open the Linked Notes menu at the top right of the OneNote window, as shown below. Notice that you can have a complete view of the links by clicking on Linked File(s), as well as getting rid of all of those. By choosing Stop Taking Linked Notes, the linked notes actions are paused and not completely stopped. You can restart any time.

As with any note taken with OneNote, save is automatic. No worries, everything will remain in your OneNote document. This very simple procedure allows to really organize research and ensure you capture everything you need. Enjoy!

Never lose any idea with OneNote

OneNote is probably the least used Office app, although one of the most useful, if not the most useful because it allows you to store all your ideas in one single location, in almost any conceivable format. First of all, OneNote is free of charge (yes, you read it well, zero, nada, nil). Second, OneNote is available on almost all platforms: Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and Phone. To set it up, go to www.onenote.com and download the right version for you, or go to the Store (Windows, Google Play, App Store) and look for OneNote. Set up OneNote on all your devices to really get the full power of the platform.

One account to rule them all

A Microsoft account will be necessary to get the full power of OneNote. Any email address can become a Microsoft account (yes, even a gmail or a yahoo account). Once created, ensure you are identified by OneNote with this Microsoft account.

The File Menu, Account option will allow you to change account or sign out. Note this account is used by all the other Office apps as well.

Note your idea down and let it sync

Once you linked your Microsoft account to all your OneNote apps, your OneNote Notebooks will now synchronize automatically. This means that if you take a note on your iPhone, it will appear automatically a few seconds later on your PC, because of the magical power of the Internet, like below between my laptop and my phone.

This synchronization works in all direction and if you come to setup a new device, it will sync on this new device too. OneNote is much more than a note taker, as it allows as well to store picture, grab web pages, create lists, draw with your fingers or your pen (on your touch screen), and collaborate with other people over the same notebook!

With OneNote, you’ll never loose anything and will gather in one single locations all the information you need for any of your projects!

3 Steps to keep all your OneNote Notebooks in sync

If you are reading this blog, there are chances you are using computers, tablets, smartphones and many other electronic devices to do your job, play games, and carry on various sort of activities.

Among those activities, there are chances you come up with ideas, information or data you want to keep. The ideal tool for this is OneNote. Yes, there are other alternatives, but since Microsoft is now giving OneNote for free for almost all platforms, including Apple and Android, you may want to give it a try: OneNote.com.

You may want to read more about what you can do with OneNote by reading the OneNote blog. I’ll go over in future posts on simple tips and tricks that will help you squeeze the juice from this application. However, for whatever you’ll use OneNote, the first critical thing to do is to keep OneNote sync on all your devices. If you do this, when you update OneNote on your phone, your PC, Mac and tablets will be updated too automatically! The same goes in every possible direction.

Sync’ing all your devices

There is nothing simpler than achieving this ubiquitous synchronization, with this simple 3 steps:

  1. When creating your OneNote Notebook (File, New), chose your OneDrive share.
    OneNote File New menu
  2. Invite other people, or not, if you want to collaborate with peers. Note this is not mandatory. If you chose to do so, others PC/Mac/Tablets/Phone will be kept in sync as well – a great way to create a document on which all can contribute.
    OneNote Invite people dialog
  3. On your other devices, open the Notebook you have just created (File, Open) by going to OneDrive and chose the right Notebook.
    OneNote File Open menu

Voilà, as simple as that. Now your Notebooks are synchronized and you can start taking notes, without risking losing them. They will be with you anywhere, anytime, on any device (sounds familiar, doesn’t it?).