OneNote Sync To OneDrive Explained


To get the most power out of OneNote you want to be able to synchronise the contents of your notebooks between devices and possibly share them with other people.

Cloud based save, sync or sharing is a standard requirement for most software these days and OneNote is no exception by offering such a feature.

However, due to the smart way that OneNote handles synchronisation and coupled with the fact that it’s generally called OneDrive sync – OneDrive of course being Microsoft’s cloud storage platform – confusion can ensue when people start to migrate to using OneDrive for notebook sync.

What they tend to do is copy their notebooks from wherever they used to store them and then paste them into their OneDrive folder. This seems pretty sensible because it’s called OneDrive sync, so we just put the files into OneDrive, right?

Logical, yes. Correct, no.

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OneNote Synchronisation Strategy

Setting up OneNote to send screenshots and print-outs to a local notebook

Setting up OneNote to send screenshots and print-outs to a local (non-cloud) notebook

OneNote does some clever things under the hood to provide you with pain-free multi-user synchronisation across your devices.

However, a common complaint is that it can be slow to update if the notebook has lots of large embedded PDFs or files.

This is pretty understandable if you take a minute to think about it. Adding a lot of new class notes or handouts and then syncing them over dodgy WiFi (along with the rest of your class) is going to be slow; there’s a lot to update.

That said, I concede that you just want your technology to work, right? So, a good workaround is to be a bit more careful with how you organise your information.

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Hiding Text with OneNote

An entire section of text hidden using the collapse feature

An entire section of text hidden using the collapse feature. Note the small arrow/handle at the top left. Also note the little [+] which can be used to reveal the hidden text.

An often overlooked feature in OneNote is the ability to collapse and expand hierarchical text.

This allows you to free up valuable page space by hiding content that you don’t need to always see.

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A Productivity Tool Based on OneNote

I’ve been meaning to launch a productivity tool that hooks into Microsoft OneNote for some years now.

I got really far a few years back. I taught myself C# and made a good go of writing a windows desktop app which utilised the OneNote COM API to talk directly to notebooks and pull the specific information out that I needed.

I was also working on a mobile helper app using Ionic & Cordova that was 90% finished; it even had a website.

The desktop app was hard work. The documentation was minimal and nobody else seemed to be working on OneNote extensions so I was having to learn everything on my own, reverse engineering things as I went. I was also having to traverse the steep learning curve that is the C#/.NET/WPF/XAML/LINQ ecosystem.

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