16 Tips and Tricks to Customize the OneNote 2016 User Interface

Make OneNote reflect your style and workflow preferences

Microsoft OneNote 2016 features several settings you can customize to maximize the user interface and experience. Below we share 18 easy ways to customize OneNote.

Keep in mind that the desktop version offers you the most options from this list (as opposed to the free mobile or online version, though many of these customizations apply to those as well). 

01
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Personalize Notes by Changing the Default Font Settings in Microsoft OneNote

Screenshots showing how to change the default font in OneNote 2016.

Desktop versions of Microsoft OneNote allow you to specify default font settings for notes. This means future notes will be created with your updated defaults.

Using the font you like most can go a long way to streamlining and maximizing your OneNote experience, because font is more automated – just one less thing to format each time you begin capturing your ideas.

  1. Go to File.
  2. Select Options.
  3. The OneNote Options dialog box opens. Be sure the General tab is selected, and then look for the Default font section.
  4. Choose your Font, Size, and Font color.
  5. When you're satisfied with your selections, click OK.
02
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Feature Key Tools in Microsoft OneNote by Customizing Default Display Settings

Screenshot of the OneNote 2016 Display Options.

You can rearrange whether certain navigational or organizational tools show in Microsoft OneNote. This can help you capture your ideas in note form even more effectively.

Select File > Options > Display to customize settings, such as whether Page Tabs, Navigation Tabs, or the Scroll Bar appear on the left side of the interface or if new pages have lines or not.

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Personalize Microsoft OneNote Through Background Header Art and Color Theme

A screenshot of the background settings in Microsoft OneNote 2016.

In the desktop version of Microsoft OneNote, you can choose from about a dozen illustrated background themes for the upper right corner.

You can also choose among several color themes for the program.

Select File > Account and then select the options that appeal to you.

04
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Get Started Faster in Microsoft OneNote by Changing Note Paper Size

Microsoft OneNote 2016 screenshot showing how to change the default paper size in Notes.

Microsoft OneNote notes are created with default sizing but you can adjust this. Your future notes will then follow this default sizing. 

This can be a great customization if you are used to a different program that featured a different note size, for example. Or, you can make notes on a desktop look the same way they will on a smartphone, by reducing note width.

Select View > Paper Size to change properties such as width and height.

05
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Set a Custom Default Zoom in Microsoft OneNote Using Fit Page Width to Window

Page width selections and example in Microsoft OneNote 2016.

OneNote notes are zoomed wider than note width by default, meaning you see extra space around the edges.

If this is a distraction, you may want to use a setting called Fit Page Width to Window.

To zoom to fit the page width to your window, select View > Page Width.

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Update Your Microsoft OneNote Experience by Changing Language Options

Screenshot of the language settings in Microsoft OneNote 2016.

Microsoft OneNote can be used in different languages, though you may need to install additional downloads depending on which languages you are interested in using.

It makes sense to set the default language you use most. To do that:

  1. Select File.
  2. Choose Options.
  3. Then in the OneNote Options dialog box, select Language.
  4. Adjust your language settings, and then click OK.

Note: If you do not see your language in the list of available languages, click How do I get more Display and Help languages from Office.com? 

07
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Take Notes More Easily by Customizing the Microsoft OneNote Tool Menu Ribbon

Screenshot with Ribbon customization options for OneNote 2016.

In  Microsoft OneNote, you can customize the tool menu, also known as the ribbon.

Select File > Options > Customize Ribbon. Once you do this, you can move certain menus from the main bank to your customized bank of tools.

Options include showing or hiding tools or inserting separator lines between tools, which can create a more organized appearance.

08
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Streamline Tasks in Microsoft OneNote by Customizing the Quick Access Toolbar

Screenshots from OneNote 2016 showing two ways to customize the Quick Access Toolbar.

In Microsoft OneNote, the Quick Access Toolbar is found in the upper right and features picture icons for engaging certain tools you use a lot. You can customize which tools show there, which streamlines common tasks. 

Select File > Options > Quick Access Toolbar. Then move the desired tools from the main bank to your customized bank.

Alternatively, you can also click the downward arrow on the Quick Access toolbar to add and remove buttons. Just select desired menu items to add them. A checkmark appears next to the item and it is displayed on your toolbar. Select the item again to remove the checkmark and remove it from the menu. 

09
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Work With Microsoft OneNote Alongside Other Programs Using Dock to Desktop

Screenshot of the View toolbar in Microsoft OneNote 2016.

Microsoft OneNote can be docked to one side of your desktop thanks to the Dock to Desktop feature.

This allows the program to be easily accessible as you work on your projects in various applications. In fact, you can dock several OneNote windows to your desktop.

Select View > Dock to Desktop or New Docked Window.

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Multitask Like a Pro in Microsoft OneNote by Leveraging Multiple Windows

Multitask in OneNote 2016 by creating New Windows.

You can multitask by having more than one window open in some versions of Microsoft OneNote, making it easier to compare or link notes, for example.

Select View > New Window. This command will duplicate the note you are active in, but you can always switch to another note for each new window. 

11
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Jump Into Favorite Microsoft OneNote Notes Quickly Using Keep a Note on Top

Screenshot of the OneNote 2016 menu with Always on Top highlighted.

When working in multiple windows, it can get annoying for the smaller one to keep hiding behind the larger one.

Use Microsoft OneNote's feature for keeping that smaller window on top.

Find this Keep a Note feature on the far right side of the View menu.

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Switch Up Your Notetaking Experience in Microsoft OneNote by Setting Page Color

Change the Page Color in Microsoft OneNote 2016.

Changing page color in Microsoft OneNote goes beyond cosmetic preference – it also makes it easier to keep track of different files when working in multiple windows, for example.

Or, you may prefer one default page color over another because it helps text feel more readable.

To apply this customization, select View > Color

13
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Get More Organized in Microsoft OneNote by Customizing Section Colors

Recolor the section tabs in your OneNote 2016 notebooks.

In Microsoft OneNote, notes can be organized into sections. You can color-code those sections to make your notes even more easy to find.

To recolor your section tabs:

  1. Right click the section you want to recolor.
  2. Then select Section Color.
  3. In the menu that appears, choose the desired color.
    Note: You can also choose None if you prefer not to use any of the colors that are available in the Color Picker. 
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Align Objects in Microsoft OneNote Using Custom Color Rule or Grid Lines

Customize the rule lines that appear on pages in Microsoft OneNote 2016.

By default, the Microsoft OneNote interface is blank white. This is great for general notetaking, but if you need to work with images and other objects as well, you can show and customize rule lines or grid lines. These do not print, but serve as guides while you create or design your notes.

You can even customize the color of the lines or have all future notes feature your custom line settings.

Find these options on the View tab.

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Simplify Your Microsoft OneNote Experience by Hiding Note Page Titles

How to hide a page title, date, and time from a page in OneNote 2016.

If it bothers you to see the note title, time, and date in a given Microsoft OneNote note, you can choose to hide it. This actually removes the title, time, and date, however, so pay attention to the warning box that pops up. 

To hide the page title and informaiton:

  1. Select View.
  2. Then choose Hide Page Title.
  3. A dialog box appears, warning you that this is permanent. Select Yes (but remember, once you delete it, you can't get it back).
    Note: Removing the page title does not remove the title from the section tab. To rename the section tab (or remove a name) right click the tab and select Rename.
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Take More Control of Notes in Microsoft OneNote by Changing Notebook Properties

How to change OneNote 2016 Notebook properties, including display name and notebook color.

Microsoft OneNote notebooks have a few properties you may want to adjust, such as display name, default saving location, and default version (2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 etc.).

To change these properties, right-click the notebook name then select Properties