Go Paperless with OneNote and SharePoint Online

Topics: Office 365

Written by Dock SharePoint Evangelist

OneNote makes your paper notebooks, index cards, and sticky notes obsolete, taming the “paper jungle” and raising your note taking to a whole new level. Microsoft OneNote 2016 makes taking notes a paperless activity, helping you become more organized, more productive, and more persuasive with your ideas than ever before. OneNote 2016 is the perfect solution for creating, organizing, searching, and sharing notes online. It stores your notebooks in the cloud, so you can access your work from anywhere and share it with your colleagues anytime.

NOTE: This guide covers the desktop client version of OneNote 2016 for Windows. Some of the features below are not yet available in Office 2016 for Mac. To learn what’s new in Office 2016 for Mac, please visit support.office.com..

Benefits of Using OneNote

Creative, Paperless Communication

Using a touchscreen or keyboard, you can hand write or type detailed notes, jot down reminders, and draw sketches to communicate your ideas. You can also take note of digital content that you couldn’t capture on paper—such as musical recordings, screen captures, whiteboards, and screen clippings. By combining OneNote with the rest of the Microsoft Office suite, you can unlock more possibilities, including the ability to embed a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or a Microsoft Visio diagram in your notes.

Instantly Saved Content

Everything you add to a OneNote notebook is immediately saved. Organizational changes within the OneNote notebook—such as a moved page or section—are also saved, so you never have to worry about losing time or data.

Shareable Data that Enhances Collaboration

With OneNote, you and your teammates can work on shared notebooks simultaneously, without losing each other's changes or overwriting another's suggestions.

Easy Access on Almost Any Device

Access your work from your computer, tablet, or smart phone. Just download the OneNote app from the Windows Store, or go to OneNote.com to use OneNote on the web. The mobile version of OneNote is ideal for touch-first devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, whereas the OneNote desktop program is designed to work with your computer.

Creating a Notebook, Sections, and Pages

By creating a OneNote notebook in the cloud, you can access it from other devices regardless of where you are. You can also easily share your notes with others. Your notebook is backed up automatically, so you never have to worry about losing data if your device is lost or stolen.

Use the following table to determine where to create a notebook.

OneNote notebook location

How you plan to use your information


Microsoft OneDrive

You want to share personal information with trusted individuals, or you want to access your notes easily on any enabled device.

A shared grocery list or a family vacation plan

Microsoft OneDrive for Business

You want to share business information for a short-term project, or share notes with a small, informal, or virtual team.

A marketing campaign for a product launch that includes external writers and editors

Microsoft SharePoint Online

You want to share business information with a formal team that has an existing SharePoint Online site.

Training materials for employees or new feature development, including brainstorming, specifications, and schedules

Creating a Notebook in the Cloud

From the OneNote Desktop Program

  1. Select File > New.
  2. In the New Notebook pane, select the OneDrive for Business, OneDrive personal, or SharePoint Online site where you want to create your notebook.

The Create New Notebook dialog box appears. This example shows a SharePoint Online site. If needed, browse to the subsite or folder you want.

  1. Give your notebook a name and select Create.

From OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online

  1. Select + New > OneNote notebook.
  2. In the OneNote notebook box, type a name.

After you have created your notebook, you are ready to create sections and pages.

Moving a Notebook to the Cloud

To make it easier to access your information on other devices or share it with others, you might want to move a notebook to the cloud or from one location in the cloud to another.

  1. To move your notebook, right-click its title, then select Properties.
  2. Select the Change Location
  3. Select a cloud location for your notebook.

NOTE:  Moving a notebook from your local hard drive creates a copy of the notebook in the new location. It does not delete the original notebook. If you have shared your original notebook, it is important that you tell your team to close the notebook and reopen it with the new link. You might also want to delete the original notebook.

Creating Sections

When you create a notebook, it contains one section called New Section 1. You can rename this section, and add new sections or rename other sections to fit your project needs.

Select the down arrow to see more sections.


Select the plus sign (+) to create a new section.

Creating Pages

New sections contain one untitled page. OneNote automatically inserts the date and time that the page was created. You can add and rename pages if you desire.

Select Add Page to add a new page.

Capturing Your Information

With OneNote, you can capture information by typing your notes on a page, or by using one of several creative new options.

Typing Notes on a Page

When you are ready to start taking notes, tap or click to place the cursor anywhere below the page title, or to the right of the page title, then start typing. Notice how OneNote creates a note container for the text as you type. Note containers are visible only when you type or format text in them, or as you hover over the container.

After you finish typing your text, you can move the container anywhere on the page by selecting it, then dragging it. When you want to add a note somewhere else, just tap or click in a separate area, and start typing.

You can format the text in the note container similarly to how you format text in other Office programs.

TIP:  If you prefer to write notes instead of typing them, or if you want to create a sketch, select the Draw tab.

Using the Send to OneNote Tool

The Send to OneNote tool is installed automatically and is available to use once you start your device. It allows you to take screen clippings, copy information from a webpage to OneNote, and create Quick Notes.

TIP: You can send a note even when OneNote is not running, by pressing the Windows logo key (   ) +N.

Using Quick Notes

A Quick Note is like an electronic sticky note. Quick Notes are stored in Unfiled Notes or in the Quick Notes section at the bottom of the list of notebooks.

TIP:  To keep the reminders and important information in Quick Notes visible at all times, you can pin the Quick Note. To pin a Quick Note, select the View tab, then select Always on Top.

Using OneNote Add-ins

OneNote features several add-in programs that you can use to share team notebooks, capture information from whiteboards, and print documents while viewing, searching, and formatting your OneNote content.

Office Lens

Office Lens turns your smart phone into a tool for capturing content from a whiteboard or a printed document. Office Lens works with your phone's camera to take images, including pictures of business cards, whiteboards, and documents. You can then save the images directly to OneNote and your camera roll. You can also save images to OneDrive as Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, or Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. After images are inserted into OneNote, you can use optical character recognition (OCR) to turn the printed text in images into text that you can copy, paste, and edit.

To install Office Lens on your smart phone, go to the app store that is associated with your mobile device.

Using Office Lens

Office Lens turns your smart phone into a tool for capturing content from a whiteboard or a printed document.

To capture content from a whiteboard or a print document:

  1. Start Office Lens on your phone, then select Whiteboard
  2. Frame the whiteboard or printout so that the relevant information is visible, and take a picture.
  3. Select the save options you want, then tap the Save

NOTE: You might be asked to sign in to OneDrive. Office Lens only works with personal accounts, not organizational accounts.


Onetastic is a third-party add-in for OneNote that lets you view content in a calendar, create custom styles for your content, and create or download macros. Onetastic adds three groups to the Home tab: ToolsOnetastic, and Macros, as shown here.

You can download the Onetastic add-in from www.omeratay.com/onetastic/?r=download.

NOTE: Onetastic is only available for the Windows version of OneNote.

Organizing your Notebooks

After you have created sections and pages, you might want to organize these elements by re‑ordering, combining, or deleting them in your notebook. You can also download the Onetastic add-in for OneNote to view OneNote items in a calendar view.

Use the following table to learn how to perform common organizational tasks.

Desired task


Re-order sections, pages, or notebooks

Drag the section, page, or notebook to a new place within the section bar, page list, or notebook list.

Move a page to a different section

Drag the page tab, and let the pointer rest on the destination section until the section opens. Then drag the page to the desired location among the pages of that section.

Move a section to a different notebook

Drag the section tab, and let the pointer rest on the notebook list until the list opens. Then drag the section to the appropriate notebook.

Delete a section or page

Right-click the section or page, then select Delete. If you are using a Mac, control-click the section or page, then select Delete.

NOTE:  If you need to recover a section or page that you deleted from a shared notebook, open the shared notebook, select the History tab, then select Notebook Recycle Bin.

If you are using OneNote 2016 for Mac, select the View tab, then select Deleted Notes > View Deleted Notes. Control-click on the section or page to restore it to your notebook.

TIP:  You can also move or copy sections and pages by right-clicking the section or page title, then selecting Move or Copy.

Combining Multiple Sections into a Section Group

You can use section groups to keep related sections together. This is useful if your notebook has more sections than will fit on your screen, or if you want to make it easier to navigate and understand a notebook’s structure.

  1. Open a notebook that contains at least two sections.
  2. Right-click any section tab, and then select New Section Group.
  3. Type a name for the section group, then press Enter. The new section group appears to the right of the section tabs near the top of the page.
  4. To add an existing section to the section group, drag the section tab to the section group’s icon.
  5. To navigate to a higher organizational level, select the green arrow to the right of the notebook name.

Section groups

Combining Multiple Subpages into a Page Group

You can create a page group by creating subpages under a page title. A subpage looks the same as any other page, but its page tab is indented. The visual difference makes it easier to keep information separate. In the example shown here, there are four subpages under the Project phases page.

  1. Select Add Page. A new page is added below all the other pages.
  2. Type a page title for the subpage, then press Enter.
  3. Right-click the page and select Make Subpage.

NOTE:  To promote a subpage, right-click the page tab, and then select Promote Subpage.

Tagging Notes to Categorize and Prioritize Them

You can tag your notes to categorize or prioritize information. For example, if you are writing a review, you might want to highlight information with the Important tag.

When you tag a note, OneNote places an icon to the left of the tagged text or selected object.

Built-in tags include To DoImportantQuestionRemember for laterDefinitionHighlightContactAddressPhone NumberIdeaWebsite to visit, and Critical.

To add a tag:

  1. Select the text or other object you want to tag.
  2. Select the Home tab, then select a tag from the Tags For example, to create a to-do list, select To Do.

TIP: The first nine tags at the top of the list have shortcut keys, such as Ctrl+1 for To Do, Ctrl+2 for Important, and Ctrl+3 for Question.

  1. To customize a tag, select the More button from the list scroll bar, then select Customize Tags.

Organizing your View

To easily switch from one notebook to another, you can pin your notebook list to the side of OneNote.

Pinning the notebook pane

  1. Select the down arrow to the right of the notebook title.
  2. Select the Pin Notebook Pane to Side

Using Onetastic OneCalendar

To view your OneNote content in a calendar format, do the following:

  1. On the Home tab in the Tools group, select the Launch OneCalendar
  2. Select your language (the default language is English).
  3. A new OneCalendar window opens, showing items from any notebooks that are currently open and have been created or modified within the current month.

Searching your Notes

One of the great things about OneNote is that you can start adding notes to your notebook right away without worrying about its organization. OneNote's powerful search tools make it easy to find information in your notebooks instantly.

Searching for Text in Your Notes

By default, OneNote searches all of the notes in all of your notebooks.

  1. Enter your search keywords in the search box. As you type, OneNote displays the search results in the pop-up window that appears below the search box.
  2. Select an item from the results list to go to the page that includes your search keywords. You will notice that the keywords are highlighted on the page.

Select the X button to close the search results pop-up window.

NOTE:  By default, OneNote searches for text in pictures and screen clippings, in addition to text from notes. To turn these options on or off, select the File tab, select Options then select Advanced. Under Text recognition in pictures, select or clear the check box for Disable text recognition in pictures.

Searching for Tagged Notes

  1. Select the Home tab, then select Find Tags from the Tags
  2. In the Tags Summary pane on the right side of the window, OneNote displays a list of all tagged notes in the notebook. To go to a tagged note on the appropriate page, select the entry in the list.

NOTE:  By default, OneNote searches for text in pictures and screen clippings, in addition to text from notes. You can also search audio and video recordings for words. Audio and video are turned off by default. To turn these options on or off, select the File tab, select Options, then select Audio & Video. Select or clear the check box for Enable searching audio and video recordings for words.

Sharing Notebooks

If you share a notebook on the cloud, you and your team members can work simultaneously and track each other’s changes. If team members are viewing the shared notebook while you are typing, your notes will automatically appear on their screen. Likewise, their notes will appear on your screen. The notes are updated every few minutes, so you can see changes in near real time. You and your team members can edit the same paragraph of notes on the same page without overriding each other’s notes.

Sharing an Existing Notebook in the Cloud

From the OneNote Desktop Program

  1. Open the notebook you want to share.
  2. Select File > Share.

You can share the notebook with individuals, or within a meeting.

  • Select Share with People, enter the names or email addresses of the people with whom you want to share the notebook, then select Share.
  • Select Share with Meeting, then select Share with Meeting again to choose a meeting or start a new Skype for Business meeting.

From OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online

  1. Open the notebook you want to share.
  2. Select File, then select Share.
  3. Select Share with People, then enter the names or email addresses of the people with whom you want to share the notebook.
  4. Select Share.

You can also share a notebook from the cloud without opening the notebook. From OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint Online:

  1. Navigate to the notebook you want to share.
  2. Click the more icon () next to the notebook you want to share, then select Share link on the menu that appears.
  3. Enter the name or email address of each person with whom you want to share the notebook, and then select Share.

NOTE:  If your team members do not have access to your SharePoint Online site, they will not be able to see the shared notebook. You cannot share just a section group, section, or page. You must share the entire notebook. However, you can assign a password to a section to control access to it.

TIP:  To share the contents of a specific page, on the Home tab, select Email Page. This lets you email a snapshot of the page.

Working Collaboratively

After you have shared a notebook, you can begin working on it with your team. You can easily see each other’s changes because they appear in bold and the initials of the person who made each change will appear next to it. You can also use the History tab for a more comprehensive view of changes.

Using the History Tab

Use the History tab to determine who has made changes and the content of those changes.

The following table describes the buttons on the History tab.

Use this button

To do this

Next Unread

Move to the next unread section in the notebook. If the Next Unread button is not available, there are no unread notes.

Mark as Read

Mark a section that you have already read (to narrow down unread content).

Recent Edits

Specify a time period to review recent edits.

Find by Author

Search for changes by a specific author.

Hide Authors

Display or hide author initials.

Page Versions

View a previous version of a page (select the page tab to see a list of versions).

Notebook Recycle Bin

Restore a page or section that has been deleted from a shared notebook.

 Taking notes in an online meeting

OneNote is fully integrated with Microsoft Outlook and Skype for Business, so you can easily take notes and share them with others.

Taking Notes in a Scheduled Outlook Meeting

  1. In the Outlook calendar, open the meeting for which you want to take notes.
  2. On the meeting ribbon, select Meeting Notes.
  3. In the Meeting Notes dialog box, do one of the following:
  • To share your meeting notes with other participants, select Share notes with the meeting.
  • To take notes only for yourself, select Take notes on your own.
  1. In the Choose Notes to Share with Meeting dialog box, select a section and page for the new notes, then select OK.

TIP:  If you want to take notes in a meeting, but you do not need to share them, you can select the Home tab then select Meeting Details.

OneNote creates a page that is linked to your Outlook appointment, which allows you to keep the meeting details and your notes from the meeting together.

Take Notes in a Skype for Business Online Meeting

  1. In Skype for Business, send an instant message, or start an audio or video call.
  2. In the meeting window, select the Present button .
  3. Do one of the following:
  • To share your meeting notes with other participants, select Shared Notes.
  • To take notes just for yourself, select My Notes.
  1. In the Select Location in OneNote dialog box, select a section and page for the new notes page, then select OK.

OneNote creates a page that is linked to your Skype for Business conversation, so you and other participants can contribute notes at the same time.

OneNote on the Go

With OneNote 2016, you are not restricted to one place or one device when you need to get work done. For example, you can create a notebook for meeting notes on a desktop or laptop computer and save it to OneDrive for Business. You can then go outside to work within the notebook using OneNote on your phone, and use your finger or a stylus to take notes, or even use Cortana to take notes on your Windows Phone. You can also share the notebook with a colleague, and each of you can co-author meeting notes—you can use your phone and your colleague can use a tablet. For more information on OneNote for your mobile device, visit support.office.com/en-us/onenote.

Read more: Choosing a SharePoint Intranet to Transform Your Team Productivity

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