Living life with OneNote: OneNote at school

As a senior in the computer science program at California State University and summer 2013 intern on the OneNote team,William Devereux uses OneNote to keep track of every aspect of his life. Here’s what he had to say about how he puts OneNote to work to manage his entire college career in a single notebook.

As a college student, my school notebook is absolutely crucial to my academic success. Each semester is represented as a section group, allowing me to store the lecture notes for my entire college career in a single notebook. This also allows each class to have its own section, with pages for every lecture and any assorted projects. OneNote keeps track of the page creation date, but I also note the week and lecture number in the page title. For example, the first lecture (typically on a Monday or Tuesday) during the fifth week of the semester would be 5:1.

I also have a special section titled simply “CSUS” (the name of my university) in each semester which contains a number of important general-use pages. This includes an overview page with my student ID and various important links, my graduation plan, a list of fellow students in each class, and the Current Assignments page.

A lot of my time is spent on the Current Assignments page, since it’s where I keep track of the due dates for assignments, required reading, and other notes. The assignments are organized by date and they’re checked off as they’re completed. Once the assignment has been turned in, it is removed from the page.


I make heavy use of headings in lecture notes in order to differentiate the various topics covered by my professor, and I’m constantly adding tables, bullets, and various forms of indentation. If something is crucial, I’ll also use OneNote’s tags to add a star or exclamation mark next to the paragraph.


Computer science classes contain a lot of code samples, equations, and diagrams. Thankfully, OneNote includes a special formatting option for code and supports a number of ways to input math equations. Napkin math allows you to type an equation such as “2 + 2 =” and have it automatically display the answer–this has allowed me to beat my professor to the result on multiple occasions–while more complex equations can be created using the equation tools. You can even ink an equation and have OneNote convert it to text.


Speaking of ink, OneNote excels in this area as well. Using a laptop or tablet with a stylus–or your finger with a touch screen–is just as easy as pen and paper, yet much faster and more convenient. Your handwritten notes are still searchable and it’s easy to convert them from ink to text. And if you’re someone who likes ruled paper, you can always turn on rule or grid lines.


There are a number of other great features for academic use as well, from linked note-taking (which automatically associates everything you type with whatever web page or document you were viewing) to audio and video recordings. Best of all, playing back these recordings shows you exactly what you were writing at that point in time. You can also import files into OneNote, allowing you to ink or type directly on Word documents or PDFs, PowerPoint slides, Excel tables, and more.

OneNote is a fantastic tool for students, whether you’re taking notes for yourself or collaborating with a group using a shared notebook on SkyDrive. And since all of your notes are digital and stored in the cloud, it’s easy to share your lecture notes with a classmate who is ill.

Do you use OneNote for school? Let us know in the comments!

–William Devereux


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