18 Tips and Tricks to Customize the OneNote User Interface

Microsoft OneNote features several settings you can customize to maximize the user interface and experience. 

Check out this slideshow for 18 easy ways to customize OneNote.

Keep in mind that the desktop version offers you the most options from this list (as opposed to the free mobile or online version, though many of these customizations apply to those as well). 

01
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Personalize Notes by Changing the Default Font Settings in Microsoft OneNote

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(c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

Desktop versions of Microsoft OneNote allow you to specify default font settings for notes. This means future notes will be created with your updated defaults.

Using the font you like most can go a long way to streamlining and maximizing your OneNote experience, because font is more automated--just one less thing to format each time you begin capturing your ideas.

Go to File - Options - General to apply this customization.

You may also be interested in: How to Import New or Custom Fonts in Microsoft Office.

02
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Feature Key Tools in Microsoft OneNote by Customizing Default Display Settings

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Advanced Display Settings in OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

You can rearrange whether certain navigational or organizational tools show in Microsoft OneNote. This can help you capture your ideas in note form even more effectively.

Select File - Options - Display to customize settings, such as whether Page Tabs, Navigation Tabs, or the Scroll Bar appear on the left side of the interface.

03
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Personalize Microsoft OneNote Through Background Header Art and Color Theme

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Customize Background Illustration and Color Scheme in OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

In the desktop version of Microsoft OneNote, you can choose from about a dozen illustrated background themes for the upper right corner.

You can also choose among several color themes for the program.

Select File - Account then make your selection.

04
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Get Started Faster in Microsoft OneNote by Changing Note Paper Size

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Change Note Page Size in Microsoft Word. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft OneNote notes are created with default sizing but you can adjust this. Your future notes will then follow this default sizing. 

This can be a great customization if you are used to a different program that featured a different note size, for example. Or, you can make notes on a desktop look the same way they will on a smartphone, by reducing note width.

Select View - Paper Size to change properties such as width and height.

05
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Set a Custom Default Zoopm in Microsoft OneNote Using Fit Page Width to Window

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Zoom Page Width to Window in Microsoft OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

OneNote notes are zoomed wider than note width by default, meaning you see extra space around the edges.

If this is a distraction, you may want to use a setting called Fit Page Width to Window..

To zoom to fit the page width to your window, select View - Page Width.

06
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Use Shortcuts, Live Tiles, and Widgets to Get to Microsoft OneNote Notes Faster

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Create a Dekstop Shortcut to a OneNote Note. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

Save time getting to important Microsoft OneNote notes by using shortcuts, widgets, and Windows 8 live tiles on your desktop, home screen, or Start screen.

For example, on Windows Phone mobile, tap the elipsis (...) then choose Pin New to Start to create a live tile on your Start screen so you can create a new note from there.

Pin notes to the home screen in the mobile version of OneNote or rely on the home screen widgets to see most recent notes or find your commonly used notes among your recent documents. 

I was not able to find a slick way to create a shortcut on the desktop but I did find a somewhat goopy way that works:

  • Right-click the tab for the note you are interested in the choose Get Link to Note Page. Paste this as Text Only in the OneNote note space or some other editor, so you can see the full link address. Copy just the part of the link after 'onenote'.
  • Then, on your desktop in Windows, for example, right-click and select New - Shortcut then paste the link. Name your shortcut and have it open with OneNote.
07
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Update Your Microsoft OneNote Experience by Changing Language Options

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Change Language Settings in Microsoft OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft OneNote can be used in different languages, though you may need to install additional downloads depending on which languages you are interested in using.

It makes sense to set the default language you use most.

Change the language options by selecting File - Options - Language. 

08
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Take Notes More Easily by Customizing the Microsoft OneNote Tool Menu Ribbon

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Customize the Ribbon in Microsoft OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

In  Microsoft OneNote, you can customize the tool menu, also known as the ribbon.

Select File - Options - Customize Ribbon. Once you do this, you can move certain menus from the main bank to your customized bank of tools.

Options include showing or hiding tools or inserting separator lines between tools, which can create a more organized appearance.

09
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Streamline Tasks in Microsoft OneNote by Customizing the Quick Access Toolbar

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Customize the Quick Access Toolbar in OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

In Microsoft OneNote, the Quick Access Toolbar is found in the upper right and features picture icons for engaging certain tools you use a lot. You can customize which tools show there, which streamlines common tasks. 

Select File - Options - Customize Quick Access Toolbar. Then move certain tools from the main bank to your customized bank.

10
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Work With Microsoft OneNote Alongside Other Programs Using Dock to Desktop

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Dock to Desktop View in Microsoft OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft OneNote can be docked to one side of your desktop thanks to the Dock to Desktop feature.

This allows the program to be easily accessible as you work on your projects in various applications. In fact, you can dock several OneNote windows to your desktop.

Select View - Dock to Desktop or New Docked Window.

11
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Multitask Like a Pro in Microsoft OneNote by Leveraging Multiple Windows

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Work in Multiple Windows in Microsoft OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

You can have more than one window open in some versions of Microsoft OneNote, making it easier to compare or link notes, for example.

Select View - New Window. This command will duplicate the note you are active in, but you can always switch to another note for each new window. 

12
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Jump Into Favorite Microsoft OneNote Notes Quickly Using Keep a Note on Top

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Keep a Note on Top in Microsoft OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

When working in multiple windows, it can get annoying for the smaller one to keep hiding behind the larger one.

Use Microsoft OneNote's feature for keeping that smaller window on top.

Find this Keep a Note feature on the far right side of the View menu.

13
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Switch Up Your Notetaking Experience in Microsoft OneNote by Setting Page Color

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Change Note Color in Microsoft OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

Changing page color in Microsoft OneNote goes beyond cosmetic preference--it also makes it easier to keep track of different files when working in multiple windows, for example.

Or, you may prefer one default page color over another because it helps text feel more readable.

To apply this customization, select View - Color. 

14
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Get More Organized in Microsoft OneNote by Customizing Section Colors

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Change Section Colors in OneNote Online. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

In Microsoft OneNote, notes can be organized into sections. You can color-code those sections to make your notes even more easy to find.

Do this by right-selecting the section (before opening or clicking into it). Then select Section Color and make your choice.

15
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Align Objects in Microsoft OneNote Using Custom Color Rule or Grid Lines

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Customize Rule Lines and Grid Lines in OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

By default, the Microsoft OneNote interface is blank white. This is great for general notetaking, but if you need to work with images and other objects as well, you can show and customize rule lines or grid lines. These do not print, but serve as guides while you create or design your notes.

You can even customize the color of the lines or have all future notes feature your custom line settings.

Find these options under View.

16
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Streamline Inking in Microsoft OneNote by Pinning Favorite Pen Styles

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Pin Favorite Pens in OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of OneNote

In Microsoft OneNote, you can use a stylus or your finger to draw or handwrite notes, as opposed to typing them. You also have several options for customizing the pen.

In some versions, you can pin preferred pen styles for simpler access. 

Select the small arrow in the upper left to customize this on the Quick Access Toolbar. 

17
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Simplify Your Microsoft OneNote Experience by Hiding Note Page Titles

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Hide or Delete the Note Title in Microsoft OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

If it bothers you to see the note title, time, and date in a given Microsoft OneNote note, you can hide it.

This actually removes the title, time, and date, however, so pay attention to the warning box that pops up when you select View - Hide Note Title.

18
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Take More Control of Notes in Microsoft OneNote by Changing Notebook Properties

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Change Notebook Properties in Microsoft OneNote. (c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft OneNote notebooks have a few properties you may want to adjust, such as display name, default saving location, and default version (2007, 2010, 2013, etc.).

Right-click the notebook tab then select Properties. 

Ready for more Microsoft OneNote tips?

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Grigg, Cindy. "18 Tips and Tricks to Customize the OneNote User Interface." ThoughtCo, Jan. 11, 2018, thoughtco.com/tips-and-tricks-to-customize-onenote-2512135. Grigg, Cindy. (2018, January 11). 18 Tips and Tricks to Customize the OneNote User Interface. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/tips-and-tricks-to-customize-onenote-2512135 Grigg, Cindy. "18 Tips and Tricks to Customize the OneNote User Interface." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/tips-and-tricks-to-customize-onenote-2512135 (accessed January 23, 2018).