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12 Things You Need To Know To Get The Most Out Of OneNote

In this video, Alicia Fairclough, Founder of EA How To, breaks down 12 things that will help you use Microsoft OneNote to its fullest as an Executive Assistant. 

Today we’re going to be taking a look at how to get the most from the free note taking app, OneNote.

If you don’t already have OneNote, you can get it by going to

In this video I’m going to cover 12 things you need to know to get the most out of OneNote and to set it up in a way you’ll find conducive to productivity. 

Throughout the video I’m going to be using my assistant’s business binder template as an example and if you would like a copy of the template, I’ll let you know how you can get it at the end of the video - hint, it’s free for EA How To Plus members. 

You can also use timestamps in the video description to skip ahead.   

Tip Number One - Set your background and default font. 

There’s no need to change the font to the one you like each time you create a new note. You can set your default font by going to file > options > general and setting your default font along with the default size and colour.   

You can also set your office theme to dark mode or white by going to file > account > and selecting your preferred theme from the office theme dropdown menu.   

Tip Number Two - Set your paper style 

Whether you like to use a coloured page, grid lines or rule lines, you can change all of these settings by going to view > page colour and view > rule lines. 

Tip Number Three - Choose your tab layout and colour   

When it comes to OneNote, there are two kinds of people. You’re either a vertical or a horizontal. No judgement here either way! 

Go to view > tabs layout and switch between vertical and horizontal to see which you prefer. 

To change the colour of a tab, right click on the tab then select section colour and then choose your colour. 

Tip Number Four - Password Protection 

You have the ability to protect your notes with a password. In this example, I want to password protect section E. I’m going to right click on section E and then I’m going to select Password Protect This Section. 

You can see that section E isn’t password protected right now so I’m going to click ‘set password’ then enter and confirm the chosen password. 

It’s worth noting that password protected sections are not included in notebook searches and flags used in password protected sections are not included in the note flag summary unless the section is unlocked. 

And this brings me to tip number five which is all about searching. 

OneNote has powerful search capabilities that make it easy to find any note you’ve ever taken. OneNote can search typed text, handwritten notes, words, tags, and even text that appears in inserted images. 

On your keyboard, press Ctrl+F, or click the magnifying glass icon near the top of the Page list.

In the Search box that appears, enter a search word or phrase, and then press Enter. By default, OneNote searches across all sections and pages within the current notebook.

To search for tags, enter the name of the tag, such as "Important" or "Critical". Don't search for the content of the tag.

Just below the Search box, click the arrow to adjust the scope of your search, if necessary. 

You can search All Notebooks, the Current Notebook, the Current Section, or the Current Page.

To see the results of a tag search, click the Tags tab under the Search box.

While we’re on the subject of tags, let’s make them tip number six. 

Think of tags as a highlighter. Tags allow you to tag something in your notes so you can revisit it later.  

To add a tag, place the cursor at the beginning on the line of text you want to tag. 

Click home > tags and then click the icon of the tag you want to apply. 

You can search for tagged notes by keyword and category and see the results in an easy-to-read summary. 

If you’re enjoying these tips, I’m going to keep them coming and I’m going to ask you to give this video a thumbs up and make sure you’re subscribed to EA How To for more brilliant EA content. 

And moving on now to tip number seven, did you know you can copy the text from a picture or file printout in OneNote?

OneNote supports Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which is a tool that lets you copy text from a picture and paste it in your notes.

This feature comes in very handy. If you’ve ever been handed a pile of business cards and been asked to create a list or a spreadsheet with the information, this is one way you can do a task like that easily. 

Right click on the picture and click Copy Text From Picture. 

Click where you would like to place the copied text and then press ctrl + v.

Tip number eight is, transcribe audio in OneNote. 

The transcribe feature converts speech to a text transcript with each speaker individually separated. 

This is really handy for transcribing a meeting. 

From the home tab, click transcribe and upload your audio file. 

Select the add to page menu and choose whether you would like to add just text, text with speakers, text with timestamps or text with both speakers and timestamps. 

It’s not perfect. Some words might be missed or incorrect but it’s pretty close and does a great job. 

Moving on now to tip number nine. Did you know you can add meeting details from Outlook into OneNote with one click? 

Let’s say you’re taking notes in OneNote for a meeting happening today. 

From the home tab, go to meeting details. Select the meeting and add all of the meeting details to your page with one click. 

Tip number ten. Create an Outlook Task in OneNote.

In OneNote, select the words that you want to be your task. In this example, I’m highlighting ‘Proofread annual report’. 

In the menu that appears, click the arrow next to the Outlook Tasks button and choose a reminder.

A flag appears next to your task in OneNote and your task is added to Outlook.

Tip number eleven. Take advantage of templates in OneNote.

When you’re setting up a new page, you might want to take advantage of one of OneNotes templates. They’re nothing fancy but worth exploring. 

From insert, click on page templates. In this example I’m going to click Business and Formal Meeting Minutes. 

You’ll get a template that you can adapt so you’re not starting from scratch.  

And my last tip, tip number twelve is to learn some favourite shortcuts. 

My most used shortcut in OneNote is ctrl + T to create a new section. 

I also use ctrl + tab a lot to move to the next section and ctrl + shift + T to jump to the title and select it. 

I’ll link to the full list of shortcuts in the video description. 

Throughout this video you’ve seen parts of The Assistant’s Business Binder (A-Z Template). This template helps you build your own assistant manual with instructions on everything from giving directions for deliveries to expense procedures, HR systems, contracts, training and more. 

Every assistant needs a Business Binder and this is the perfect template to get you started. 

The Assistant’s Business Binder is free for EA How To Plus members. 

EA How To Plus members get access to replays of EA How To webinars, exclusive resources and templates, an invitation to our small group coaching sessions, discounts on all paid courses and resources and lots more. 

Right now, membership is just $47 a year. Not per month, just $47 a year. It’s an absolute bargain and I would love to see you join us. 

Visit to learn more and I’ll see you in the next video.