Magic tricks with OneNote and Surface Pro 3

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Nicole Steinbok is a Program Manager on the OneNote team. She loves the color purple, her family, and working on the team that created the magical experiences in this post.

I’m so excited to be writing about OneNote on the new Surface Pro 3 integration. I’ve worked with brilliant people from the Windows, Surface and OneNote teams to create this instant note-taking experience that’s like taking notes on paper–but way better.

In the video below you’ll see how to take a note whenever you want, have your notes with you all the time, clip and write on whatever you see on your screen, and how to customize your note-taking experience using OneNote.

In summary:

  • To take a note whenever you want, click the Surface Pen and then write your note. It doesn’t matter if your Surface Pro 3 is locked or unlocked, or if your screen is off or on. Clicking the pen will always let you take a note.
  • To take a clip of whatever you see, double-click the Surface Pen, and then select the region you want to clip. The selection is placed in your Quick Notes in OneNote and is ready for you to write on. You also can search for text in the clips you take, which is great if you’re clipping articles and research.
  • Your Surface Pro 3 will come with the OneNote Windows Store App. If you prefer, you can use the desktop version, OneNote 2013 – get it free at You’ll be prompted to choose if you want to use it. Or you can configure which version to use in OneNote 2013: Click File, click Options, click Advanced, and then select Default OneNote Application.
  • To have all of the notes you take on your Surface Pro 3 with you all the time, get OneNote on all your devices for free. We offer Windows, Windows Phone, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android apps. You also can access your notes in your web browser at

I’d love to hear about how you plan to use OneNote on your Surface Pro 3—tell us what you think in the comments below.  Happy clicking!


Tip: Windows and OneNote recently released updates to add the finishing touches, including the ability to double-click the pen to take a clip. So when you get your Surface Pro 3, make sure you update Windows and OneNote. 

To update Windows: Search on your Surface for Windows Update. Launch it, click Check for updates, and then install all the updates.

To update the OneNote Windows Store App: Launch the Windows Store, and swipe right to see the Charms. Click Settings, click App Updates, click Check for updates, and then install the updates. 

To update OneNote 2013: Start OneNote, then click File, click Account, click Office Updates, and then select Update Now.


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  1. Looks real cool! Can’t wait till September…..
    AND please do a 4G version asap. Connection is king and WLAN is not everywhere.

    BR, Fritz

  2. Seems like the OneNote team is really trying to get as close to the notepad feel as possible and I completely agree with this!

    Is there a way to flip pages with finger gestures? I’m not sure if Surface Pro 3 has remappable gestures, but I feel that that would complete the OneNote experience. Mapping two finger swipe down to CTRL+PGUP and two finger swipe up to CTRL+PGDN and a conditional swipe up to CTRL+N when you hit the end.

      • A simple way of flipping between pages of the same section would indeed be welcome…but, please:
        Keep it simple! 😉

  3. I’m thinking of buying the new SP3 when it will be aviable, and one of the main reason is OneNote and pen input.
    As a graduate student in economics I have used OneNote 2013 a lot this years for taking notes with my laptop, but sometimes with only a keyboard, without a touch screen and a pen input is a little messy.
    I like the app version of onenote, but I prefer the desktop version: It can records lecture and It has useful function to write down math and graph.
    The double click on the surface looks awsome, I hope it works well with desktop application.

    • Yes Perry the pen integration works with the desktop version of OneNote. There is a setting (details in the post) to configure which version is used.

  4. instead of creating a new note page when I click the pen, can I instead have the click action open the last page I was writing on?

    • Hi alph – if you are using the OneNote Windows Store app that is what happens, Recent Notes are shown when you click the pen. OneNote 2013 doesn’t have a Recent Notes view so we create a new page in your Quick Notes.

  5. Nicole one thing that we really need on OneNote is the parent workflow. That is, turning stacks on the kitchen counter to actionable items and reference materials. One thing I like about the free OneNote app is the camera integration– select camera on the wheel, then take a bunch of pictures and insert all. From there things can be stored. There are some limitations and annoyances though. One is that pages are pinch zoomable in the free app. Another is that the camera trick isn’t available in OneNote 2013. So I’m stuck switching back and forth between apps for workflow like this. I need to pinch and zoom pics, but I also need the camera tool. One thing that MS really got right with the SP3 is the click to note option; however, how about a tripple click to snap a picture or capture a document. This would be good for snapping photos of yourself to quickly filing the artwork your child has just brough home from school.

    • You can enable Pinch-Zooming in the OneNote app! Open the app preferences by pressing Win+I, then go to ‘Options’ and there set “Zoom” to ‘on’.

  6. That option is not available in OneNote on my SP3… I’m running Office 2013 (64-bit). I would LOVE this feature. Any guidance?

    • There are instructions in the post on how to update OneNote 2013, try that, restart and check again. Thanks!

  7. There is a drawback in the last scenario with the birthday party location map: Once you rearrange the map image the handwritten Cross (X) won’t follow. I would expect: whenever I write _on_ something e.g. an inserted photo or screenshot then my handwriting should align to or stick with the annotated resource.

    • Ah yes, totally agreed. We have received that feedback before, it is good to hear it again. Thank you!

  8. OneNote has been my single favourite piece of software for more than a decade. And it just gets better and better!

    A couple of minor gripes though:
    1. when a user created template is set as the default for a section, clicking on “add page” generates the new page correctly in OneNote 2013, but *not* in the OneNote app nor on the phone.
    On the app, a placeholder for any background images is shown with a little red cross;
    On the phone, more seriously, the page will not open at all
    This problem has been known for many years – for pity’s sake, someone fix this small bug.

    2. I like the open new page option with the click of the pen top but, when locked, the page created has no template and uses a default (fine) pen. I think it is good that erase and other functions are disabled (the machine is still “locked” but couldn’t the new page use the template of the most recently used section or page created?

    3. You rightly highlight the fact that you can rest your palm on the “page” while writing and OneNote will not confuse this as a gesture – this is excellent…however….when using in portrait mode, the windows button on the Surface is right under your wrist – OneNote magically disappeared several times before I realized what was happening and now I have to use portrait mode, somewhat counter intuitively, “upside down” – turned clockwise from the normal position not anti-clockwise. This strikes me as (for Microsoft) uncommonly poor UX decision.

  9. Unfortunately, the OneNote launch from the lockscreen is not working since the last update (as of 6/23/14, 9 am EST, I have all available Windows and OneNote updates installed). I assume this will be fixed in the next update since it is a BIG selling point. The launch from sleep mode does work, just not if it has timed out to a lockscreen. I am using OneNote Desktop as my default OneNote application. If the Pro 3 is completely “awake” and unlocked, one pen click launches OneNote Desktop. From the sleep mode, it launches OneNote Modern quicknotes with no page lines and a completely blank white background.

    I would LOVE to change the default background/template for the quicknotes launch from sleep/lockscreen to a lined yellow background (to replace all my legal pads). *Fingers Crossed* for next update!

    • So, no new update today, and the launch of OneNote using the pen seems to be working properly… most of the time… but only after an initial sign-in from restart. Here’s its behavior now:

      1. One-click from restart lockscreen, screen on — launches sign-in…. Hmmmm.
      2. One-click from restart lockscreen, screen off — launches turning on the screen…. Hmmmm.
      3. One-click from any active screen directly following sign-in from restart — sometimes launches OneNote Desktop…. Seems to work consistently after about 6-10 seconds from sign-in. Hmmmmm.

      After an initially sign-in from restart and about 6 seconds:

      1. One-click from lockscreen, screen off — launches OneNote Modern… But I sometimes get caught at the lockscreen and I can’t enter a PIN — password works. Hmmmm.
      2. One-click from sleep, screen off — launches OneNote Modern. No problem.
      3. One-click from lockscreen, screen on — launches OneNote Modern. No problem.
      4. One-click from sleep, screen on — launches OneNote Modern. No problem.
      5. One-click from any active screen — launches OneNote Desktop. No problem.
      6. Two-clicks from any active screen — launches OneNote snip-it tool to One Note Desktop. No problem.

      • Now that it’s listed out, I think the one-click launch to OneNote issues upon restart are probably by-design. Makes sense that OneNote would only launch out of a lockscreen if you have at least signed in properly once, meaning that OneNote only launches from a lockscreen if it has locked due to a time-out.

        I hardly ever write online comments, I am only doing it now because I am so very excited about this product! Surface Pro 3 is awesome!!!

        • Thanks for the feedback!!! As you said, the user should be signed in to launch OneNote on the lockscreen.

          Are you still seeing the issue you reported in the first comment where OneNote didn’t launch if the device timed out to the lockscreen? Did that involve restarting the device?

          Again, thanks for the feedback. Love to hear what users think of our feature 🙂

          -Mavis (Microsoft, OneNote)

          • I haven’t had any more trouble with launching to OneNote with one-click from the lockscreen. I think that I just didn’t realize that the “problem” always occurred when I had a lockscreen right after a restart rather than after an actual timeout. It makes sense now.

            Just in case you are taking any requests… There are 2 improvements that I know a lot of the legal profession would salivate over if available:

            1. The ability to make a default template for the version of OneNote “Quick Notes” that opens with one-click on a lockscreen (to replace all those legal pads)…AND

            2. The ability for the double-click screen shot clip to open on to the current page rather than a new page each time (helps with the continuous flow related to a particular research topic).

            It is so close to perfection! But so great as it is! Awesome job!

  10. Been using OneNote 2013 on the SP3. How do you change the default notebook where notes are created. I use OneNote for everything but like to keep my work and personal notes separate. I know I can create separate notebooks but the pen click always creates note in the original notebook?

    • If you are using OneNote desktop as your default OneNote App…

      Go to File… Options… Save & Backup…

      Then under the “Save” list…
      Select “Quick Notes Section ….”
      Then “Modify….” then select where you want the default quick notes to be located.

      • In OneNote Modern, I believe you go to “Settings,” then “Options” and then “Choose a Notebook for Quick Notes.”

  11. So I bought a Surface 3 pro for my wife’s business and have identified what appear to be two huge flaws with the onenote app. Firstly, unlike the full version of onenote, you can not do ink-to-text (you can not convert your handwriting to text). From previous versions of onenote, we had a very reasonable expectation that this would be an included function. Secondly, you can not send your notes – email, etc. To do any of these functions, you have to close out of the app/wait until it sync’s up with the cloud, open the full version of onenote then do it from there. Does anyone know if this functionality exists but is just hidden somewhere??? If it is still there, it’s not very intuitive.

    • xing6666,

      It is true that some features found in the desktop version of onenote are not available in the ModernUI app yet (if ever). But you can download the desktop version of onenote for free at

  12. hi Nicole:

    I ordered the pro 3 partly based on ur vid on utube.

    I have just started to move all my notes to the surface 2(rt). but one feature is gravely missing.

    you cant search partial words. like xxxABCxxx

    you cannot find it if u search ABC

    I love what the team is doing w onenote, but can you please let the team know that partial wildcard word search is deadly needed?

    pls tell me you guys are working on this . . . pls help

    • what I mean to say is I have the 2(rt) right now, but the sp3 is coming this week.

      I really want to love and be loyal to onenote. can u please fix the lack of wildcard partial search?

      can you bring it up with the team and allow us to search xxxABCxxx by searching for ABC?

      This feature is a big omission becuae it is fundamental. lotus 1 2 3 from 1970 had this.

      pls pls pls

  13. Hi,

    I’m trying to get a graph paper background to use within onenote. I cannot figure it out…I’ve got the surfacepro 3.

    I don’t see any other options…am I missing something?


    • If you are using the Windows app version of OneNote, swipe up from the bottom of your screen and tap Paper. If you are using OneNote 2013, you can add grid lines under the View tab > Rule lines.

      Hope that helps!

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