Posted in OneNote, Tools

Three problems with tags in OneNote Online

If you’re a user of OneNote Online and OneNote desktop you’ll have noticed the inconsistency with which tags have been implemented between the two platforms. Let’s take a look at some of the differences between the two you need to keep in mind.

Custom tags

The desktop version of OneNote supports custom tags (creating your own). This is a powerful feature giving you control over how your information is marked and accessed quickly. Problem is custom tags do not carry over to OneNote Online at this time. If you even change around the order of tags on the desktop, these changes won’t be reflected online.  Personally I find this a huge limitation to the functionality between the two platforms (since I use both equally as often.)  At this time the only option is, if you are using both platforms, to limit yourself to the tags and order available online. This way you can be sure you’ll have the same tag experience on both platforms.

Finding tags

On the desktop application you can search across pages, sections, and notebooks for specific tags and generate lists and pages for easy reference. Unfortunately this functionality is not available online. I think this is something they should be able to implement in the near future, but then again when I look at the limitations of searching online notebooks I have to wonder. Online, tags are useful at the page level, but aggregation beyond that is just out of reach.

Tag Hotkeys

On the desktop you can access tags while writing by using hotkey combinations of Ctrl-1 through Ctrl-9. You can do the same online (though the application doesn’t tell you that fact in any obvious way). You are also limited to the default order of the tags and their hotkeys. This can cause a significant issue if you customize your tags at the desktop level as I mentioned in the first section.

What can you do?

If you’re using OneNote Online and OneNote desktop, just remember to stick to the functionality available online for now. If you’re going to be using both, remember many of the powerful aspects of tags just aren’t there yet online and you could be setting yourself and your team up for a disappointment.  Hopefully soon Microsoft will unify the tag functionality between both platforms.  Only time will tell.

Are you having a challenge with OneNote? Stop by at The Idea Pump and let me know!

Posted in OneNote

How well does OneNote work on a Chromebook?

Follow up article – Living with OneNote on a Chromebook

I’ve been an avid Chromebook user since they were released. I carry with me an Asus Chromebook every day and use it more frequently than even my full Windows laptop. As a OneNote user it was important to find out how well I could take advantage of OneNote on the Chromebook and what features I’d lose in the limited online version.

OneNote Online is the tool

When using OneNote on a Chromebook you’re limited to using the OneNote Online version of the application.  This means right away many of the features you may be used to on the desktop version (such as custom tags) are not available. However, if you use OneNote with these limitations in mind you will find it to be a useful note taking and personal information management tool.

Screen clipping requires a plug-in

I use the screen clipping tool on OneNote often, more often than any other on my computers. However, since you do not have the desktop capability for screen clipping with OneNote Online, you need to take other steps. One of the best things is to install the extension Clip to OneNote in your Chrome browser.  This extension allows for capturing entire pages, sections, articles, and even products directly to OneNote notebooks.

One Notebook at a time

Unlike the desktop, when you’re using the Online version you can only have one notebook open at a given time. However, you can get around this limitation by two-finger clicking (press the left and right mouse buttons at the same time) on the name of a notebook and then tell Chrome to open the notebook in a new tab.  You can do the same thing by holding down the CTRL key while left-clicking on a notebook name.

Search is limited

If you use the search box on the Notebooks page it is limited to the names of the notebooks, not the content of the notebooks as you find on the desktop version. If you use the search box in OneNote it will default to searching the page you are currently viewing.  However, if you press Ctrl-E you can tell OneNote to search the entire section you are in.  When OneNote Online is your primary tool, you’ll want to set up your notebooks and sections in such a way so you can leverage search in the most effective manners possible.

Another workaround for searching across notebooks is to click on Manage and Delete at the notebook page and then use the search in OneDrive to search all the contents of your notebooks.  This needs to be integrated into the OneNote Online tool by Microsoft, but for now it at least gives you a chance to find your content.

It’s not perfect but it’s not terrible either

For now, OneNote Online is a feature limited version of it’s big brother. Whether we’ll see more of the desktop capabilities migrate to the online version only time will tell.  All in all OneNote Online is an excellent addition to the collection of tools you can use to take advantage of the power and flexibility of your Chromebook.

Follow up article – Living with OneNote on a Chromebook

Posted in Office 365, OneNote

Sections, Section Groups, and Notebooks in OneNote

There’s a lot of interest around when is it right to use a section, section group, or notebook in OneNote to organize your information. I’ll admit it can be very confusing so here’s some rules of thumb I follow when managing my own.


  • Use when you’re likely to need to share content.
  • Allows you to isolate materials around large topic areas (work vs. home, large projects, etc.)
  • Good for materials you may not need to access all the time (open the notebook when you need it, close it when you don’t)


  • Useful for breaking down notebooks into logical groupings (work – meetings, notes, plans, schedules, etc.)
  • Can be secured by password for better protection
  • Can be color coded for easy reference Section Groups
  • When you need larger subdivisions in a notebook (Work – Projects (Section Group) – Project A (Section))
  • Helpful when archiving content into a master notebook

If you’re organizing your personal content, don’t worry about getting it right the first time. If you’re organizing collaborative content, adding a page showing the organizational structure can be a boon to anyone using your notebook.