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Basics of OneNote

Maybe you are a list maker or note taker and never get your deepest thoughts or greatest ideas into an actual notebook. OneNote can help you organize all those thoughts and ideas and help you clean up all those sticky notes and bits of paper lying around and keep them stored in electronic form.

The same thing will work for all your genealogy records. I am working on becoming paperless genealogist. OneNote is helping me do that.

If you are a lover of 3-ring binders, you will easily grasp how OneNote can be a useful tool. A OneNote notebook works just like a 3-ring binder. In a physical binder, you can insert dividers with tabs on the right that you label to help you categorize, organize and store information. Behind each divider, you can insert multiple pages of information.

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In OneNote, the notebook dividers are called Sections. They run across the top of your notebook. Each notebook Section can have as many Pages and Subpages as you need. Pages run down the side of your notebook—either on the right or the left.


In OneNote, you can create as many notebooks as you need. Each notebook can have multiple Sections and Section groups. You can store notes of many different types on the Pages in your OneNote notebooks. The information can be arranged on the Page in any configuration you want it to be. Insert photos, maps, tables, task lists, web links, PDF files, emails, videos, voice files–any type of digital file. Arrange everything on the page in whatever way pleases you.


All text in your notebook is searchable. Notebooks are automatically saved with the Autosave feature


Cite This Page:

Erin Williamson Klein, “Basics of OneNote 2010.” My Family History Files, 2 April 2014 ( [access date]).

Please do not copy without attribution and link back to this page.

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Access OneNote Anywhere

I have been using Microsoft OneNote since 2007—long before I found other genealogists extolling its virtues for family history research. I have almost two dozen different OneNote notebooks for various projects, hobbies, and personal information. For my family history, I have a general Genealogy Notebook and one for each of my four grandparents’ surnames−Williamson, Buisch, Duthie and McEvoy and another notebook called Research that is a temporary holding place for information until it is ready to be organized.

One of the best features of OneNote, for me, is ease of access. I have access to my OneNote notebooks anywhere. Everything I store in OneNote is automatically saved for me on OneDrive (formally SkyDrive). The screen shot below shows a view with the Home Ribbon visible and a list of my Notebooks than can be pinned in place if you want to see all your notebooks at once. Normally, I work with both those things hidden in a drop-down menu so I have more white space to work with.


Because of where I might be staying any given week, there are times when I do not have Internet access. I can still use OneNote on my laptop during those times when the Internet is not available.


I can also view and edit my notebooks on my Windows phone. Being able to use Microsoft Office on my Windows phone was a main consideration when I chose it. However OneNote is now available across multiple platforms, so it no longer matters what kind of phone I have.

access3(Yes, it is 69°F at 6:16pm on 4 February 2015 here while the east coast is getting slammed with snow.
The weather is ridiculous.

When I am back in a location with Internet service, OneNote will sync my files with OneDrive when I open it. Because OneNote is storing my files on OneDrive, it will sync with my other computers and mobile devices also.


Since my notebooks are stored on OneDrive, I can view and edit my notebooks in my web browser.



What if you don’t have Microsoft Office on your computer or use a Windows 8 phone? There are options available for almost everyone, I think. Visit the OneNote page for free downloads for the following devices:

    • Windows 7 & 8
    • Windows 7 & 8 phones
    • Mac
    • ipad
    • iphone
    • Android

While the free versions may not have all the features of the paid versions, you can’t beat free if you want to give OneNote a try!

Sign up for OneDrive here.


This post was updated on 4 February 2015 with screenshots from OneNote 2013 and a few changes in wording.

Cite This Page:

Erin Williamson Klein, “Access OneNote Anywhere.” My Family History Files, 1 April 2014 ( [access date]).

Please do not copy without attribution and link back to this page.

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A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal



alphabet treeThe 2014 A to Z April Challenge is designed to challenge bloggers to post Monday through Saturday during the month of April resulting in 26 blog posts. If you can keep up. The A to Z part of the challenge consists of using the letters of the alphabet—one per day—on which to base your posts. It helps to have a theme to tie your posts together and I think it was easier to come up with 26 words to use as topics because I had an overall theme. Although I fudged a little and some of my words are actually phrases. (hehehe)

Since this is a blog about family history, my theme is Using Microsoft OneNote 2010 for Genealogy Research. My focus for the 2014 A to Z April Challenge will be explaining the way I use OneNote in my own family history research. I have 26 topics — A to Z — for OneNote. My posts will begin with the Letter A on 1 April and end with the Letter Z on 30 April. However I won’t be posting the rest of them in alphabetical order. (You will thank me later when the posts flow in order through the 26 topics rather than alphabetically.)

You can find a link to all the topics as they are posted listed on my OneNote A to Z tab above.