Teachers: It’s OneNote to the rescue!

Applies to
Microsoft Office OneNote 2007

As a teacher, I'm always looking for efficient ways to store information and to recapture it for immediate use in the classroom. As keen as I am on databases (I'm a Microsoft Certified Database Administrator), a dedicated database of information would be overkill for a classroom presentation. By the time I'd open Microsoft Office Access and run a query, my poor students would be snoozing.

For teachers, information repositories are only as good as how easy they are to access. Enter Microsoft Office OneNote 2007. OneNote serves as a storehouse for notes, facts, answers, and miscellaneous information — and it puts it all at my fingertips when I take the stage in front of a class.

OneNote in action

Let's say you're giving a slide show presentation and a student asks a question or you want to refer to a little-known fact or to a chart that isn't in the courseware. OneNote is like rubbing the bottle that contains the genie.

If you leave OneNote minimized on the Windows taskbar during your presentation, all you have to do is maximize it, enter a search term, and press ENTER to find the information you are looking for. Like magic, your notes appear. It's an easy transition to minimize OneNote when you're finished, and then resume with the presentation.

Preparing for classes

OneNote has a familiar interface, which makes setting up OneNote for the classroom both familiar and comfortable. Perhaps you teach several different classes and would like to use OneNote to organize your thoughts or lesson plans for each class. This can be accomplished in a few easy steps.

Create sections

First, create a specific section for each of your classes (designated as tabs across the top of the window). On the File menu, point to New, and then click Section. Type a name for the section (or class) name on the section tab. The following illustration shows a glimpse of how I've organized my classes in sections in my Class Notes notebook:


Sections in a teacher's notebook

 Tip   You can create new sections even faster by right-clicking any section tab and then clicking New Section on the shortcut menu. You can also change the default color of any section by right-click it, pointing to Section Color, and then clicking the color you want.

If you prefer, you can also create a separate notebook for each of your classes, and then use sections within each notebook to keep track of course plans, class rosters, individual students, and other pertinent information.

Collect notes and other information

Once you've created the sections you want, you can begin taking notes. To create notes for different classes, you can use a variety of methods:

  • Type directly into the notes window. There's no need to save — OneNote saves your work continuously and automatically.
  • Copy and paste material from other files.
  • Add scanned material. Scan what you want to copy and save it either in .bmp, .jpg, or .tif format. Navigate to where you saved the file, select it, and then drag it to the location in OneNote where you want to place the image.
  • Drag links, text, or images from Web pages into your notes as you are doing research on the Internet.
  • Import an image from a file on your computer or directly from a scanner or camera.
  • Insert documents as picture files, and then annotate these images in your notes. For more information, see Insert documents or files into notes.
  • Capture anything on your screen — including details from other programs, Web pages, or documents — that you want to refer to or share with the class while you're teaching. Screen clippings are similar to using the PRINT SCREEN (PrtScn) key to make a copy of the screen, but better — you control exactly what portion of the screen you want to capture. For more information about screen clippings, see Insert a screen clipping into notes.

Customize note tags

You can customize note tags to quickly identify and categorize your notes.

First, let me give an example of why you would want to customize note tags. Say you want to be able to quickly identify notes you've jotted down that you may want to incorporate into future lesson plans. After you create the note, you can flag the note with a note tag that you've customized as "Lesson Plan." Later, when you sit down to write lesson plans, you can search for all the "Lesson Plan" tags you've used and then incorporate those notes into your work.

Customize Note Tags task pane

To customize note tags:

  1. On the Insert menu, point to Tag, and then click Customize My Tags.
  2. In the Customize My Tags task pane, under Current tags, click the tag you want to change or define, and then click Modify. You can change the name, symbol, font color, and highlight color.

 Note   Customizations do not affect notes that you previously tagged.

Assign note tags

When you have customized your list of note tags the way you want, you can easily assign your tags to your notes. Click on any line of text that you want to tag. On the Insert menu, point to Tag, and then click the note tag you want to assign. You can also do this by clicking the arrow next to the Tag button on the toolbar.

Note tags menu

 Tip   You can see all of your available note tags and assign them more easily by displaying the optional Tags toolbar. In OneNote, right-click any toolbar, and then click Tags on the shortcut menu.

Particularly helpful to me is the fact that I can assign more than one note tag to a specific note. For those times when I can't remember the exact keyword, it allows me to search by note tag classification.

Alphabetize page tabs

Finally, I like to alphabetize all of my page tabs. The hidden benefit is that now my page list is also in alphabetical order.

Here's how:

  1. Click a page tab and drag it sideways until a small triangle appears next to the page tab.

Drag a page tab to a new position

To select more than one page, hold down CTRL and click the tab for each page you want.

  1. Drag the page tab up or down until the triangle indicator is at the location where you want to move the page.

 Tip   In addition to dragging page tabs, you can also drag section tabs and notebook tabs in any order you want them to appear. For more information, see Organize multiple page tabs, section tabs, and notebooks.

Keeping in sync

Maybe you need to keep information synchronized between a laptop and a desktop computer, both of which you use for teaching. Because all OneNote files are stored in the OneNote Notebooks folder (which is stored in the Documents folder on Windows Vista or the My Documents folder on Windows XP), it's easy to use an external drive or a network to transfer and synchronize between computers by copying your OneNote Notebooks folder or keeping it in a shared location. This is where a removable USB flash drive can really come in handy! For more information, see Create a new shared notebook.

Want to take notes for teaching on your Windows Mobile-based smartphone or Pocket PC? When you connect your mobile device to OneNote 2007 on your computer, notes taken on that device are automatically synchronized with a special section of your notebook. Taking notes on a mobile device is a great way to capture thoughts throughout the day that you may want to use later while constructing your class plans in OneNote. For more information, see the OneNote Mobile 2007 quick start guide (Windows XP).

We all know students want to be entertained, and OneNote gives me a quiet advantage by providing immediate access to information. You can use OneNote to jot down all the tidbits of information you use to spice up your lectures. "Never Let Them See You Sweat" is the instructor's battle cry. With OneNote, you'll be sweating a whole lot less. For the on-the-spot instructor, OneNote delivers!


Mona Slaven has MCSE, MCDBA, MCSA, Security, A+, Network+, and Microsoft Office Specialist certifications. She is an independent contractor who teaches A+ and Network+ Certification at the college and corporate level. She is also co-founder of Huntsville Office Systems Users Group in Huntsville, AL.

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Applies to:
OneNote 2007