Geeks on Campus

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How I use OneNote

Posted by jeggent on January 31, 2014


Since I have talked about OneNote in two posts already, I thought I should expand upon how I use this software.  Kind of like how Trello has boards, lists, and cards; OneNote has notebooks, sections, and pages.  Each notebook can contain multiple sections and each section can contain multiple pages.  I only use a single notebook, both for simplicity and because I don’t need more than two layers (sections and pages) to organize my content.

The Structure

So within that single notebook I have a number of sections and those sections each have a number of pages.  You may want to begin with a structure similar to your paper files where the sections are like the folders and the pages are like the… well, pages.  Or you may want to mimic your e-mail folder structure as many of you have probably refined your e-mail over the years.  Some of the sections that I use include Projects, Committees, Systems, People, and ForNext.  Within these sections each page is for information on a specific item, group, or person.

One of My Favorite Things

Of all of the things that I consider to be a component in the system that keeps me organized, maybe my favorite thing is within OneNote.  I have a section called ForNext and each page contains items I want to cover the next time I meet with a given person or group.  If you’ve ever said “I know there was something else I wanted to talk about with you.” then you need a list like this.  This is a sample of what the ForNext page for my boss might look like:


  • Vendor selection
  • Staff training


  • New project
  •  Hardware request
  • Vacation request
The next items I want to discuss are always at the top for quick access.  Once we’ve talked about those items I date that group of things for future reference and begin the new “next” list.

Other Stuff

I have my OneNote connected to a free Microsoft SkyDrive account.  That is how I’m able to have it synced to my Nexus tablet.  The search function in OneNote works really well.  Although I don’t use it much because of my simple structure I can usually find things quickly without searching.  There are lots of other tools within OneNote that I don’t use such as freehand drawing and audio notes.  I think these would be useful for those using a tablet with a stylus and are kind of reminders of Microsoft’s earlier attempts at tablet computers.  Notebooks can also be shared with multiple users.  One other thing that I do use which is kind of nice is dragging highlighted content from a web page into OneNote.  It copies the content and includes a link to the page you were on.  And that is how I use OneNote.  Good luck.