5 things you wanted to know about OneNote 2010

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Now that the OneNote Web App has been released (the #1 thing everyone had been asking about), I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 other questions you’ve been asking about OneNote 2010.

1. How can I apply templates in OneNote 2010?

With the removal of the old Office 2003-style menus and toolbars, and the addition of the ribbon, many commands have been grouped together to make them more discoverable in OneNote 2010. Even so, many of you noticed that there’s no Templates command anywhere on the ribbon. Why is that?

Since it’s only possible to apply templates to new pages, the Templates interface has been integrated with the New Page button menu in OneNote 2010. Simply click the little downward-facing arrow tip next to the New Page button (located at the top of your page tabs), and then click Page Templates on the command menu. (Note: Once you apply a template, its name will appear on this menu so that you can quickly use it for future pages.)

Click the small arrow next to the New Page button to find the Page Templates command.
In the Templates task pane that opens, you can browse, apply, and download free templates.


In the Templates task pane that opens, you can browse, manage, and customize OneNote templates, which you can then apply to new pages. There’s also a link that takes you to the complete (and frequently updated) OneNote Templates catalog on As always, all of our template downloads on are free of charge.

2. Where’s the ribbon in OneNote 2010?

OneNote 2010 does, in fact, have the Office ribbon. But it’s also the only program in the Office suite that has the ribbon turned off as the default setting.

Why? Early product feedback indicated that you wanted maximum screen space for actual note-taking, instead of being overwhelmed by interface clutter. This seems especially important on laptops, Tablet PCs and netbooks, all of which typically have smaller screens. In its hidden state, the ribbon does briefly appear whenever you click one of its tabs (Home, Insert, Share, Draw, Review, and View), but it hides itself again as soon as you click a command.

If you prefer to always see the ribbon in OneNote 2010, click the little chevron icon near the top right corner of the program window. The first time you click this button, the ribbon remains visible. Clicking this button again turns the ribbon back off. (If you prefer to use a keyboard shortcut to toggle the ribbon on or off, press CTRL+F1 on your keyboard at any time). For more helpful ribbon tips, keep reading to the end of this blog post.

OneNote initially hides the ribbon to maximize your note-taking space on the current page.
Click the downward-facing chevron icon in the top right corner to show the full ribbon, not just its tabs.

To hide the ribbon again after you’ve made it visible, click the now upward-facing chevron icon.
If you prefer to do this with a keyboard shortcut, you can toggle the ribbon on or off by pressing CTRL+F1.

3. Do I need a converter to use my old notebooks in OneNote 2010?

First, determine whether you’re really working in an older notebook format. Open the notebook you want to check (or convert) and then look to the OneNote 2010 title bar to see if “[Compatibility Mode]” is shown after the page title. If you see this text, then the selected notebook was saved in an older format.

Watch for the [Compatibility Mode] suffix on the OneNote 2010 title bar
to signal you whenever you’re working in an older notebook format.


Although you can keep using your older notebooks with OneNote 2010, staying in Compatibility Mode will keep some of the new OneNote 2010 features disabled — including math equations, Linked Notes, multi-level subpages, page versioning, and the Recycle Bin. To use any of these new features in your older notebooks, you must first convert them to the new 2010 format.

The main benefit of staying in Compatibility Mode is that it’s the only way to continue sharing notebooks with people who may still be still using OneNote 2007. This is because OneNote 2007 cannot read or edit notes that are saved in the newer format. But if sharing notebooks is not an issue for you, then upgrading all of your existing notebooks to the new OneNote 2010 format is highly recommended.

To upgrade any older notebook to the new 2010 format, start by right-clicking the Navigation Bar icon of the notebook you want to convert, and then click Properties.

The Navigation Bar in OneNote 2010 shows you all of the notebooks that you have opened.
Right-click any notebook icon and then click Properties on the pop-up menu that appears.


In the Notebook Properties dialog box that opens, the Default Format field confirms the format that the notebook is currently saved in. The Convert to… buttons right next to it let you upgrade (or downgrade, if necessary) from one notebook format to the other.

The Notebook Properties dialog box lets you change notebook formats. The 2010 format lets you use all of the
features in OneNote 2010, but you should use the 2007 format if you share notebooks with OneNote 2007 users.

4. Can I use my OneNote 2007 powertoys with OneNote 2010?

So-called powertoys are small add-in programs that enhance the functionality of their host program — in this case, OneNote. These add-ins are often created by third-party developers and they’re generally provided for free. People in the OneNote user and development community have created some very useful powertoys in the past.

Will your favorite OneNote 2007 powertoy work in OneNote 2010? That depends. While some powertoys that were written specifically for OneNote 2007 have been proven to work just as well in OneNote 2010, some others are incompatible. In either case, you should contact the author or developer of any powertoys that you’ve downloaded and express your interest in an updated version of each. Another great place to ask about the availability of new powertoys is our Facebook fan page.

Naturally, we can’t make any guarantees about the availability, compatibility, and reliability of any third-party programs, as they are not part of the released version of OneNote 2010.

5. I’m still a newbie. How can I get started with OneNote?

If you’re brand-new to OneNote 2010, have a look at this all-too-brief introduction to OneNote and this 90-second tutorial.

For everyone who’s new to the ribbon interface, we’ve created free, interactive Menu-to-Ribbon guides for all Office 2010 programs, including OneNote. With the interactive guide, you can find your favorite menu and toolbar commands by clicking through a simulation of the old OneNote 2007 interface and then watching the guide show you where the same command can be found in in OneNote 2010.

If you don’t like the animated version for some reason, you can opt to download the static Menu-to-Ribbon reference workbook, which lets you quickly search for and find old OneNote 2007 commands in OneNote 2010. The workbook is saved in Microsoft Excel format. If don’t have Excel installed on your computer, you can download a free trial version to view and print the workbook.


Can’t find your favorite OneNote 2007 menu and toolbar commands in OneNote 2010?
Click the left image to download the free, interactive Menu-to-Ribbon guide, or
click the right image to download the free, static Menu-to-Ribbon workbook.


Later this month, I’ll be publishing a OneNote Migration Guide, which can help you discover and learn some of the other changes between the old and new versions of OneNote. I’ll be sure to share the download link with you as soon as it’s available.

New Help & How-to articles about OneNote 2010 features will become available here on my blog and on over the coming weeks and months. In addition, you’ll be able to reference all of the useful information on our Beta Documentation site until October of this year (which is when the Office 2010 Beta will expire). Lastly, don’t be shy about asking your fellow OneNote users a question or two on our Facebook fan page. Who knows… you might even be able to answer someone else’s questions while you’re there to ask yours.

Was this post helpful? Your feedback, comments, and suggestions are always welcome!

— Michael C. Oldenburg