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23 February 2018

How You Can Use Microsoft OneNote for Project Management

OneNote is more than a note taking program. It’s the ideal collaboration tool for managing simple projects in small teams. And unlike Evernote, OneNote is completely free.

We’ll show you how you can use OneNote for project management, either by yourself or with your team, and we’ll demonstrate basic and advanced OneNote features along the way.

1. Use Notebooks, Sections, and Pages

With OneNote, you can create as many notebooks as you want. Within each notebook, you can keep multiple sections (tabs listed on top). And within each section, you can create sub-pages (listed on the right-hand side). This structure is ideal for collecting and organizing information.

I recommend creating separate notebooks for all your projects. You can use sections to keep track of each project’s major deliverables or phases. Pages allow you to further sub-divide each section.

OneNote Project Example

Let’s say one of your projects is to organize an event and you need to find a venue, a caterer, and a band. Each of these are deliverables — i.e. sections.

When you do your research for each of these items, you can store your results on a page of the respective section. Other pages under the same section may be dedicated to lists of your next steps, contact information, booking details etc.

2. Share Notebooks

OneNote is cross-platform. It’s available on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, and on the Web. Chrome users can use OneNote Clipper to capture material from any website.

Want to capture and share anything on your Windows desktop screen? Use the convenient Windows + Shift + S shortcut key for the Screen Clipping feature on OneNote.

Information can easily be shared and accessed from almost any device.

When you’re working in a team, you can share notebooks and let the whole team contribute. Staying with the event example from above, several members of your team could help research the venue, caterer, and band, while others might use the finalized information to get in touch with the potential candidates to request quotes, discuss the details, and make bookings.

When you create a new notebook, OneNote will ask you whether you want to invite people.

Invite People to OneNote

To share an existing notebook, go to File > Share. Here you can Share with People individually or Get a Sharing Link, either for viewing or editing the notebook, which you can send to your team.

Share OneNote Notebook

3. Organize Data in Lists & Tables

Everything is easier to digest when it’s presented in a structured way. You can use lists to collect ideas or outline project goals. Tables can help you keep track of stakeholders, resources, or schedules.

Insert a Table

To create a table, go to Insert > Table and select the size. You can add additional rows and columns later: right-click the table and go to Table > Insert… Here you will find more table formatting features, such as sorting, shading, or hiding borders.

OneNote Insert Table

Create Lists

OneNote supports three types of lists: bulleted, numbered, and checklists. The specific formatting of bullets and numbers can be customized. Checklists can be combined with bulleted or numbered lists.

To create a list, type out some items, and highlight them. The floating formatting menu should show up. If not right-click the list, then select Bullets, Numbering, or Tag as To Do (aka checklist).

OneNote To Do List

OneNote keyboard shortcuts :

  • CTRL +1 = checklists
  • CTRL + . = bullets
  • CTRL + / = numbers

Note: While you can create To-Do lists with OneNote, it’s a poor tool to keep track of time sensitive tasks, unless you link OneNote with Outlook.

As Ryan’s article shows, OneNote offers seamless integration with Microsoft Outlook. For example, you can create “to-do” items from meeting minutes in OneNote. Linking OneNote to Outlook enables you to organize all these daily to-do items in one place.

Tasks can be collected in Outlook from all project pages in your OneNote notebooks. When you complete a task in Outlook, the corresponding task is marked as completed in the respective OneNote page.

4. Track Emails & Share Information

Email is an effective communication tool for projects, but it’s a poor way to keep track of important information or files. Moreover, not everyone needs to be CCed while a conversation leading up to a decision is taking place. How then do you keep everyone informed?

To share information, you can use Outlook’s Send to OneNote Ribbon button or you can manually drag emails into a shared notebook. This way anyone can catch up on the conversation or find details when needed.

Send to OneNote

In addition to Outlook emails you can share content from other sources. To customize how OneNote handles incoming content, go to File > Options > Send to OneNote. You can choose custom settings for Outlook Items, Web content, Print to OneNote, and screen clippings. The default setting is Always ask where to send.

Send to OneNote Settings

You can even forward emails or email content directly to OneNote using from an authorized email account. Head to your OneNote Email Settings page to add and select email addresses and choose the default destination for incoming content.

5. Set Up a Team Wiki

Whether you want to keep track of team contacts, record your lessons learned across multiple projects, or offer an outline of specific processes, OneNote works incredibly well as a shared and collaboratively edited wiki. One feature you’ll need to make this work, is linking to notebooks, sections, pages, and paragraphs.

Right-click on a notebook, section, page, or area on a page and select Copy Link to… Now paste the link anywhere in your notebook. Alternatively, you can highlight and right-click an item, select Link…, choose the notebook, section, or page you would like to link to, and click OK to add it.

OneNote Internal Links

A quick way to link to a page is to type [[name of page]]. If the page doesn’t exist, it will be created instantly.

6. Make Meetings More Productive

It’s impossible to work with a team and not have meetings. To get the best out of your meetings, prepare an agenda and take meeting minutes. This will help you make best use of the meeting time and keep track of everything that was said and decided.

The benefits of keeping meeting notes in OneNote are manifold:

  • You can import meeting details from Outlook via Home > Meeting Details.
  • You can take notes or record audio from multiple devices.
  • You can even hand-write notes on your tablet and convert them to text using OneNote’s OCR.
  • When you work from a shared project notebook, everyone has access automatically; otherwise it’s easy to share.
  • Finally, you don’t have to create your agenda or notes from scratch every time because OneNote supports templates.

7. Use Project Templates

For iterative projects with recurring processes, it can be a huge help to have tried and trusted templates to work from. When you make things like checklists or work schedules available as a template, your team will save time. It’s less likely that an item will be missed, and consistency across your team will increase.

OneNote comes with a selection of preset templates, including several different ones for meeting notes.

Find them under Insert > Page Templates… > Business. Whenever you’re planning a meeting, use one of those templates to create the agenda and base your meeting notes on it.

OneNote Meeting Notes Template

To create a custom template, prepare your preferred layout in OneNote, then go to Insert > Page Templates… and click Save current page as a template at the very bottom.

OneNote will ask you to add a template name and if desired, you can set it as default template for new pages in the current section.

OneNote Meeting Agenda Template

Next time you need your template, fetch it from the list under Insert > Page Templates… > My Templates.

Are You Joining Team OneNote?

OneNote won’t be able to replace professional project management software like Microsoft Project. However, it can be a powerful tool for simple projects and small teams. And it’s free.

Are you using Microsoft OneNote for managing projects? What other uses have you discovered and which features have been most helpful?

Please share your experiences in the comments so others can benefit!

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