Throwback Thursday: Using OneNote Like It Was 1987

I’d have given a lot for a tablet and a Smartphone “back in the day.” And a Livescribe pen. And OneNote, the note-taking nirvana from Microsoft. My friends at Microsoft invited me to take a look at OneNote and share my favorite features with you.

I am completely jealous of the gadgetry enjoyed by today’s students.

Just for the record, OneNote did not exist when I was going to college. Nor did iPads (or anything “i”) or Smartphones or most of the cool tech I see on college campuses. I’d have probably given up hairspray for OneNote, which is saying a lot for the time period. We were packing hair spray like today’s students pack cell phones.

This was the late-Eighties, when girls’ bangs were shellacked to their highest height with extra-hold spray. (As in, five-foot-six-with-the-hair-five-ten.)

The late-Eighties, when Michael Jackson topped the charts with BAD and The Simpsons first aired on TV.

The late-Eighties, when most of us were still using typewriters. (Yes, I’m serious.)

We had to do it the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper, and the dreaded microfiche. (I bookmarked “microfiche,” for all of you who have never heard of it.) We used Post-Its for our reference points, so we could find that perfect quote for later.

I’m telling you, college was primitive “back in the day.”

Here are the five things I’d have loved to do with OneNote during my time at the University of Missouri.

1. Searchability

I know this isn’t a real live word, but I’m telling you, OneNote’s search feature is the biggest time saver in the world.

You just tap the search box in the upper right or use the Ctrl+F (Command + F on a Mac) shortcut key and you can search through everything. That’s text, OCR images… EVERYTHING. And the results list includes your notebook and section names.

One thing to note: if you’re using OneNote Online, your search only extends to the open Notebook and section. However, once you open the full app, you can search across all notebooks.

2. Microsoft Office Interaction

Whether it’s a “Send To OneNote” from Outlook or the ability to link Powerpoint slides to any notebook, the push and pull between the Office Suite programs is amazing. And a huge time saver.

Note: Here’s a link for how to import Powerpoint into OneNote, using the 2010 version (in case you don’t yet have Office 2013.

Tags Summary.pngOffice 2013 offers new fun with the ability to embed Microsoft Excel tables or edit OneNote’s native tables with Excel.

Also, flagging any line in OneNote allows you to turn that line into an Outlook task with a right-click. You can also email any page in your notebook and the formatting will hold in the Outlook message.

3. Tagging (and Tag Summaries)

OneNote’s ability to do Tag Summaries is rocking my world. I’m not what you’d call a neat note-taker (and I never was). I might star, arrow or tag anything on any page.

And then forget where I put it.

In OneNote, I can go to the “Find Tags” button on the Home Ribbon and search for tags. In the search results in the right sidebar, there is a button that says “Tags Summary.” (see example to the right)

If I click into the body of a notebook page, clicking this button will give me a summary of all the tags I’ve flung around everywhere.

Like I said: Rocking my world. I’d have genuflected over this feature in college.

4. Templates

There are all sorts of templates in OneNote, but the student-based ones are fantastic. Here’s a sample:

Just go to the Insert tab and explore the Templates section in the right sidebar (this is in OneNote 2013). The Academic section has groovy templates for students.

There’s also Business and Planners, or you can make anything your heart desires from a Blank template. I can think of a million uses.

5. One-stop Shopping

I love the idea of being able to make a binder for each book, or each class. Not only do I adore that the Hubs and I can share our shopping lists in OneNote, I can embed any file into my notebooks as either an attachment or a printed page.

But my favorite part, especially now that I’m doing more article writing? When OneNote is installed on a computer, Internet Explorer gets two buttons — Send to OneNote and Link to OneNote.

When I use those clippers to send to OneNote, I get the source URL, a date and time stamp, and the formatting of the original webpage. It’s been invaluable for holding my research until I’m ready to write the article.

Note: For my non-IE friends, the Send to OneNote option will show up in the Print menu of your browser after you’ve opened OneNote the first time.

For those of you like me who are long-graduated, what do you wish you’d had back in your college days? If you’re currently in school, what is your best tech tool? Do you use OneNote? Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!

~ Jenny

P.S. If you want to hear about five MORE of my favorite features, head on over to the Microsoft blog — I’m hanging out there today too. 🙂

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm ( Write on!
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27 Responses to Throwback Thursday: Using OneNote Like It Was 1987

  1. Piper Bayard says:

    Keep it up, and you might even sell this Luddite on it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well all righty then. I have One Note on my laptop (it apparently came with the MS Office software I bought when I to my new laptop), but I never use it. I opened it once and said, “I’m pretty sure I’ll never use this,” and promptly closed it again. You can take the girl out of the past, but you can’t take the past out of the girl.

    Sorry – I am NOT a techie. But, I love that you as excited about it and use it to it’s maximum potential. And that you’re sharing your knowledge with the world. Keep it up.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Patricia, I totally get excited about OneNote. I’m glad it shows. Also, I appreciate the fact that you at least looked at the software. Half the people I talk to don’t know they have it. Some day, when you want a searchable place to keep all your book research, you’ll tag me and say, “About that OneNote…”


  3. davidprosser says:

    I’m sorry. My schooldays are so long ago that I only understood one word in 3 of what you said so I stand no chance with the technology. They hadn’t invented some of those words ( like typewriter) back in my day. I thought native tables were where people sat?
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. John Holton says:

    Hell, calculators would have been nice. Neither Microsoft nor Apple existed when I started college (1974). The first generation of calculators was just coming out, and they cost an arm and a leg. I used mathematical tables and a slide rule to do most of my calculations. Computers were enormous machines that you communicated with by punching cards on an IBM 029 keypunch and having them run through a card reader (and God help you if you dropped the cards on the way to the operator). And EVERYONE used a typewriter to type papers. None of this “word processing” stuff.

    Get off my lawn, goldurnit! XD

    I sincerely doubt using a computer would have made notetaking any easier for me. Most of my notebooks were full of doodles as it was. I’d have spent class time playing solitaire if I had a computer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      John, I have always wished I’d learned how to use a slide rule. I guess I still could. They just sound so cool! And yes, the joy of Solitaire…or in my case, Gin Rummy and Words with Friends. 🙂


      • John Holton says:

        I found a whole stash of slide rules at an antique market. They haven’t changed much in price, but the really good ones were always over $100. I had an inexpensive one that cost about $10 in the early 70’s that was more than sufficient, but there aren’t many of those floating around anymore, probably because they fell apart or broke pretty easily.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. ingalicious says:

    Yeah, I tried OneNote a few years ago, even took a course through my job, and loved it! Loved the features, and could think of so many situations where it would be incredibly useful.
    But in the end, I never actually used it.

    I have other tools that allows me to do all the same things as OneNote, if not in one, handy little app. The problem is, there are NO problems with these other tools! Microsoft have provided the perfect solution to a problem that I don’t have. It’s a brilliant idea, but while my other tools work to my satisfaction, OneNote will remain unused.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Hey, Ingalicious…at least you TRIED. I like knowing people are using technology to solve problems. 🙂

      *fist bump to the fellow techophile*

      Liked by 1 person

      • ingalicious says:

        I started out as a reluctant technophile, I’m afraid. I was working for Apple when the iPhone was released, and we received one each. It took me months to actually use it, but once I realised I could read eBooks on it, there was no going back, lol.

        Since then, working in communication and digital marketing, I am in AWE at the developments that have occurred in the last ten years.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Ari Schorr says:

    When Jenny says “friends at Microsoft” she probably means me and I am so happy to see the enthusiasm she brings to OneNote! I was actually born in 1989 and missed the “dreaded microfiche” days but am constantly in awe of the things OneNote can do for me as a student and now a young professional. Yes, I am the product marketer for OneNote, but I learn new things every day from passionate individuals like Jenny and many of you. I agree with ingalicious that the developments in the last ten years have been amazing but we hope to avoid creating solutions for problems you DON’T have. Would love your feedback on the types of problems you DO have so we can go out and solve them ASAP with OneNote 🙂 Feel free to share in the comments or we have User Voice site you can contribute to here:

    Keep Rockin’ on the cowbell for OneNote, Jenny!

    Liked by 3 people

    • ingalicious says:

      Well, it’s not a problem for me now, but when I first was introduced to OneNote it was for use in project management. It could have been a fantastic tool for that, but there is SUCH focus on measurability and reporting today, and (at least when I tried it) there was no easy way of using OneNote to create reports. You have carefully put in your notes on figures and progress, all the stats from those surveys are in there, not to mention the minutes from all the progress meetings. But how do you collect the relevant data to create the graphs and pie charts you need for the stakeholders meeting? You can copy/paste it into another program to create your reports, but that rather defeats the purpose of OneNote.

      This was the main reason we didn’t use it, in the end. Now, I am not ruling out the possibility that there IS such a feature in OneNote, and I was just too blonde to figure it out (heaven knows that I have barely dipped my toe into the VAST ocean that is Excel!!!) but what I remembered is that we had to keep the information in different programs in order to get the reports we needed, and in the end, OneNote just became superfluous (side note, I know it’s not a good thing to BE, but isn’t “superfluous” a GREAT word??).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        Personally, I love the word “superfluous.” Just maybe not when it refers to OneNote. However, you make an excellent point here. A report generating add-in would be worth it’s weight in gold for this program.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I do mean you, Ari! *waves hello*

      Thank God you missed the microfiche days. They were awful. It was like looking through a microscope for your article. Blurgh.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah, Jenny, in my college days, a typewriter was the “go-to” high school graduation present.

    I’m very envious of college students today with the technology available to them. I remember microfiche well *shudders*. I had a professor in college who envied us for having photocopying available, so I guess it’s all relative!

    I do use One Note, but you have given me several uses I didn’t know. Thank you! It’s quite an accomplishment to “turn” someone who still uses fountain pens–should I explain those to the younger set? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Yep, that present got missed on my watch. Computers were out, but you had to reserve time in the computer lab, and that was sometimes difficult.

      Enjoy OneNote! And if you get a chance, click over to the Microsoft blog and you’ll get five more features. Awesome sauce.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What did I wish I had in school back-in-the-day? Big hair, for one.

    A more convenient time for Calculus class. Mine interfered with double pinochle games in the student union. Even the Prof wondered what grade I might have pulled had I attended more than 10% of the classes. I scored a “B” — a helluva lot better than I did in Music Appreciation class.

    GACK! I do not yet use OneNote, but that bit on using a URL MAY be the ticket to get a certain post from my test site to yours. I’ll be in touch.



    Sally Sue Rich Person hadn’t yet brewed whiteout on her stovetop.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      You didn’t have big hair?! You? Really?? And I’m here with Piper Bayard, and she’s a wicked card player too. I was a little to scared to start a game.

      On the blog front, when you’re ready just tag me on social media and we’ll get together our pimping schedule.


  9. Julie Glover says:

    From AquaNet to Internet…we’ve come a long way, baby! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I, for one, am so glad we have this technology now. I wish we had this stuff back when I was in school. I can’t live without my droid phone as I use it for everything,

    Problem is now I can’t do math or remember any phone numbers without it!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Eclipse Now says:

    Hi, I’m loving your series on OneNote and have read a few pages now.
    Do you know if there is any way to edit the heading styles for iMac or on iPhone? It seems there might be a few different features on PC that I can’t see on Mac. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Eclipse Now says:

    Oh oh oh! More important than silly styles: does it have “Search & Replace” for that terrible day I suddenly need to change the name of a character, and have to get through 150 pages of backstory, character development, world building, etc? Doing that manually, one search at a time, *could* just be heartbreaking.


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