Pages can contain all manner of things, it’s as simple as ‘click on the page and type’. A container is automatically created for you. Of course, you can copy things from elsewhere (web pages, documents etc) and paste into OneNote.
The real power of OneNote is to include lots of different content types. Here’s a page we’ve enhanced from a Microsoft example.
From top left, there’s text, drawing, images, tables, web clippings, bulleted and numbered lists plus audio and video that’s been directly recorded into OneNote.
In the middle there are two file attachments, a Word document and a PDF file which have been copied into OneNote. You can also make links to files so a single click on the page will open the latest version of a document.
The Insert tab gives you some idea of what you can enter into an OneNote page.
Drawing or Writing
OneNote is a place to collect drawings, rough diagrams … anything you can draw on a screen. This was an OneNote feature from the start but has become a lot more relevant as touch screens have become common.
Making notes in a lecture or meeting can be enhanced by drawing on the OneNote page.
You can write directly into OneNote using a tablet PC and stylus. There’s an option to insert ruled lines.
None of this needs special setup, just touch on the page and OneNote will figure out what you’re doing. But if you want drawing choices, OneNote has them under Draw tab.
The ‘Ink to Text’ and ‘Ink to Math’ options let you convert your scrawls into searchable text. OneNote does a reasonable conversion job, depending on your handwriting.
Recording Audio and Video
OneNote can record audio or video/audio combined directly into a page. But it can do a lot more than just record.
Designed for notetaking in meetings or lectures, OneNote will let you record the event and enter your notes at the same time – keeping the two synchronized.
As you type notes, OneNote keeps track of the time those notes occur in the recording. You can return to a note you made and hear/see that part of the event. For example, if you type in OneNote at 4 minutes 32 seconds into the recording; click on that typed note later and the recording will jump to the 4:32 mark automatically.
OneNote can also convert ‘speech to text’ aka audio transcription or audio search. You need to turn this option on at Options | Audio and Video | Audio Search.
OneNote’s image magic
OneNote can save images but it can also make them searchable. Whenever you insert an image onto a page, OneNote will automatically ‘OCR’ the picture and save any text that it detects. You can see and change that text by right-clicking on the image.
Having this alternative text means that the image itself becomes searchable.
You’ll want to try out audio and video recording on your device to figure out how best to get a clear recording. We’ve had trouble with the sound of typing messing up the audio. The internal microphone and camera might not be enough. You might decide to carry a small USB mic/camera instead. An external camera gives you more options for positioning.
Of course, you’re not limited to direct recording. OneNote can accept external recordings as file attachments.
Searching in OneNote
OneNote developers have understood from the start that it’s not enough just to accumulate all sorts of content, you have to find it later. As you might imagine, regular OneNote users can get a lot of information across many notebooks.
Searching is important, which is why there are options for indexing content that’s not normally searchable like images, audio and video.
Type Ctrl + E to search OneNote (it’s the same shortcut as Outlook) or use the search box at top right.