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OneNote Overview


This article is designed to guide OneNote users through an overview of its features as a desktop application and a web portal via the Office website.


Either access point will be sufficient for using this guide. Choose one of the methods listed below:

  • Access to Office 365
    • For UO users, go to, sign-in with your Duck ID and password, then select OneNote to proceed.
  • OneNote Desktop application
    • If you do not have the application, check the Program Files (Windows) or Applications (macOS) area to see if OneNote is installed.
    • If it is not installed, UO users can download it via, sign-in with your Duck ID and password, then select Install Office Apps, go through the installation process once downloaded, then open OneDrive from your operating system’s application folder.
  • OneDrive access (default; highly recommended)
    • Available via Office 365. OneNote saves progress by syncing to OneDrive for quick access to notebook files across all devices with OneDrive access (by web or by desktop or mobile application)


Each instance of OneNote will present different features based on each method below:

  • OneNote for Windows
    • The Windows desktop app has the most available features for OneNote.
    • Allows for rich-text entry, list building, and web-formatted text heading levels
    • Allows for insertion of tables, files, pictures, links, audio clips, stickers, Forms (from Microsoft Forms), meeting details (to connect to OneDrive), researcher tools, and math formula assistance (solving equations and graphing)
  • OneNote Online
    • It is nearly identical to the Windows desktop app in available features
    • Allows for all other data entry except for researcher tools, math formula assistance
    • Any files created or opened here will be saved to your OneDrive account
  • OneNote for macOS
    • Allows for most of the data entry methods described above but with fewer options
      • Does not support Microsoft Forms compatibility, meeting details (with connection to OneDrive)
      • No researcher tools are available and math formulas can be entered but with no additional assistance.

The versions will be mentioned alongside their respective features in the Primary Features section below.

Note: The OneNote Notebook window and Primary Features sections below showcase OneNote for Mac as it provides a baseline for the features of OneNote across current platforms and operating systems. Specific notes for features showcased in Windows and online versions are in development.

Key Terminology


  • Located at the top of the OneNote application window, the Ribbon will contain all of the primary OneNote content types and features. There are a few tabs that separate the content types and settings by theme. On the far-right side of this area, the notifications, sharing, and additional settings menus are contained.

Notebook Frame

  • The left-hand side of the window will contain the Notebook Frame which shows any open synced Notebooks and the Sections and Pages within the selected Notebook


  • Pages contain all entered content and content types in a OneNote file. All Primary Features (listed below) are entered on to a page and organized graphically according to the user’s desires.


  • A Section is the Notebook’s container for pages. Notebooks can contain as many Sections as a user desires.


  • A collection of Sections and Pages containing any entered content. Users may use Notebooks as a way to thematically organize their content.

OneNote Notebook window

The OneNote Notebook is where users can add take notes and organize thoughts using various content types and wide adaptability. The window will look like this:

1. Ribbon menu with tabs for all OneNote content types and features, 2. Notebook, Section, and Page lists, 3. Page editor frame

  1. The Ribbon Menu will contain all of the primary OneNote content types and features. This section also showcases the notifications and sharing settings.
  2. The Notebook content frame will show each open synced notebook, associated sections, and respective pages.
  3. The Page Editor frame is where content is add to a page. Click anywhere to enter text and select the Insert tab to add other content types.

Primary Features

OneNote is designed to act as an online notebook for many types of note-taking styles, organizational methods, and offers wide adaptability of content. The following list is located in the Ribbon menu at the top of the application window.

Home tab

The Home tab is the home for most of the primary features of OneNote which includes:

OneNote Home Tab with three sections highlighted: 1) copy, paste, and format, 2) fonts, bold, italic, underline, lists, text color, web headings, 3) content types panel and to-do button

  1. Cut, copy, paste, formatting
  2. Text font and size, rich text formatting (bold, italics, underline, links) and web headings
  3. Content types that can be added to for note-taking

Insert tab

The Insert tab allows for tables, pictures, links, equations, calendar appointments, audio recording, arrows, and stickers. To use them, select the desired content type

OneNote Insert Tab view

  1. Tables, pictures, PDF printouts, files, links, equations, date(s), date(s)/time(s)
  2. Arrows, shapes, and audio recording

Draw tab

The Draw tab allows for mass selection of content on a page, freehand drawing tools (pen, marker, highlighter) and different line thicknesses.

The Draw tab features: 1. Selection and content spacing methods, 2. Types of drawing tools (eraser, pen, marker, highlighter), and 3. Colors and additional details for the drawing tools (pen is showcased here)

  1. Selection and content spacing methods
  2. Types of drawing tools (eraser, pen, marker, highlighter)
  3. Colors and additional details for the drawing tools (pen is showcased here)

View tab

The View tab allows for adapting the active window to the user’s needs. Users can zoom in and out, add a password, change the color and style of the active page and to check for accessibility.

OneNote View tab: 1. Manipulation of OneNote display features, 2. Zoom and page width, 3. Security, paper style, and accessibility tools

  1. Manipulation of OneNote display features
  2. Zoom and page width
  3. Security, paper style, and accessibility tools

Class Notebook tab

The Class Notebook tab may appear on some accounts. It is designed to have teacher-student interaction within the software however any correspondence and collaboration may only occur with UO-affiliated persons with email addresses.

OneNote Class Notebook tab



If OneNote opens without any issues and is aligned to your OneDrive account, any changes made to the OneNote file will be available on all machines in which you access your file.

The Recent dialog box: opening a OneDrive-synced file that was recently opened on a connected device.

Note: The file and the order any of your OneNote notebooks are not going to match precisely across devices but the content will still save automatically and be in sync.

Opening files from other locations

OneNote like other programs will allow for files to be stored on a computer that is not synced via OneDrive.

OneNote Open Dialog: OneDrive is setup by default. Other places can be added but they will not sync across connected devices.

Note: OneNote is designed for the cloud: one file accessible via multiple entry points and synced to a central repository. OneNote will still work if files are isolated to one computer or device but syncing will need to be done manually in that case.

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