Microsoft OneNote: Getting Started for Students

In this article, you will learn ten basic skills to help get started using Microsoft OneNote by watching a tutorial video, reading step-by-step instructions, or downloading a free & printable Quick Reference Guide.


Video Tutorial:

In this video, I explain ten basic skills to help get you started using Microsoft OneNote. You can find step-by-step instructions and a free, printable quick reference guide below.


Step-By-Step Instructions:

Here are ten basic skills that everyone should know when getting started with Microsoft OneNote. Click a link below to jump to a specific skill or scroll down to see them all.

  1. Create a New Notebook

  2. Identify Important Parts of the Notebook

  3. Create New Sections & Pages

  4. How to "Search" for Something

  5. Identify the Main Parts of the Toolbar

  6. Insert a File Using a Printout

  7. Draw & Write in the Notebook

  8. Create & Insert an Audio Recording

  9. Change the Appearance of the Notebook

  10. Categorize & Sort Text

1. Create a New Notebook

To create a new notebook, click on "File" in the top left corner of your screen and choose "New Notebook" as shown in the picture below.

You will be prompted to choose a color. Click on one of the colored notebooks to choose a color for your notebook as shown in the picture below. Making your notebooks different colors will help keep your work organized. Example, make your math notebook red and then have a separate history notebook that is blue.

After choosing a color, enter a name for your new notebook, choose a saving location, and click "Create" on the bottom right of the screen as shown in the picture below.






2. Identify Important Parts of the Notebook

Your notebook is broken up into "Sections" and "Pages". On the top left corner of the screen you will see the notebook you just created. Just below the notebook you will see the different "Sections" and "Pages" of your notebook as shown in the picture below.

3. Create New Sections & Pages

Add new sections within your notebook to keep your work organized. This will make it easier for you to refer back and use your notes for studying later. To add a new section, click "Add section" on the bottom left corner of the screen. Then enter a name for your new section on the top left of the screen as shown in the pictures below.





Similarly, adding pages within your sections will help organize your work and therefore make your notes easier to use. To add a new page within a section, click "Add page" on the bottom left corner of the screen as pictured below.

4. How to "Search" for Something

Rather than trying to manually look through all of your notes for one specific thing you are looking for, you can save a lot of time by using the "search" feature in Microsoft OneNote. You can use this feature to search for words or parts of your notes inside your notebook.


To search for something inside your notebook, click on the "search" button on the left side of the screen. Then type what you want to search for in the "search bar" that opens as pictured below.



5. Identify the Main Parts of the Toolbar

The main navigation buttons within Microsoft Word are "Home", "Insert", "Draw", and "View". Most of the important features and tools for using OneNote are found within these buttons or tabs. These navigation buttons are found on the top left of the screen as shown in the picture below.

6. Insert a File Using a Printout

There are a number of ways to insert a file into a notebook. You can insert a link that will open a saved document on your computer. You can also insert a picture file. One very helpful tool is to "printout" a document or file onto your notebook as though it were a picture. Then you can resize the image and write or annotate on it.


To insert a file using the "Printout" option, click on "Insert" on the top left of the screen and choose "Printout" as shown in the picture below. When prompted, choose the file you would like to insert from your computer.

7. Draw & Write in the Notebook

You can draw or write in your notebook by choosing the pen or marker tool under the "Draw" button as shown in the picture below. You can change the colors and sizes of your writing utensil as well as use an eraser to clean up any errors.

You can type text on your page by clicking on the "Text Mode" tool also found under the "Draw" button as pictured below.

8. Create & Insert an Audio Recording

One good note-taking strategy is to use an audio recording. Sometimes you might have an audio recording of your teacher or friend explaining something that you want to refer back to. You also could record yourself summarizing the learning from a class and save that to your page.


In order to create and insert an audio recording into your OneNote page, click on "Insert" on the top left of the screen. Then locate and click on the "Audio Recording" button in the center of the top of the screen as show in the pictures below.

The recording tools will show up on the top left corner of the screen as shown in the picture below. You can start and stop the recording and see the recording status.


9. Change the Appearance of the Notebook

You can change the appearance of your notebook pages depending on your personal preferences. You may want your note pages to be like blank white printer paper or you may prefer your note pages to be lined like notebook paper.


To change the style and color of the notebook, click on "view" on the top left of the screen. Under "View" you can click on & change options for "Paper Color" and "Paper Style" as shown in the pictures below.

10. Categorize & Sort Text

You can categorize and sort parts of your text by adding symbols and checkboxes. To do so, click on "Home" on the top left of the screen and choose a symbol or checkbox option found in the center of the top of the screen as shown in the pictures below.


This was just a quick overview of some basic skills to help get you started using Microsoft OneNote. There are a ton of other features not discussed here. Once you figure out the basics, try to explore, practice, and master some of the other tools in OneNote on your own that will help you take notes more easily and more effectively.


Downloadable & Printable Quick Reference Guide

Click here for a free three page printable "Microsoft OneNote: Getting Started Quick Reference Guide" This guide gives step-by-step visual directions on ten skills everyone should know when getting started with Microsoft OneNote.



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