How to Use OneNote Templates to Be More Organized

If you’ve already integrated OneNote into your workflow, making full use of templates can help you super-charge your usage. For those of you not yet using it, there are plenty of reasons to try OneNote.

The key to good note-taking is a foundation that lets you quickly and efficiently take down the information that’s most important. Sometimes, a blank page does that job just fine, but there are situations where a well-made template can grease the wheels. Spending time creating a template can reap great rewards in the long term, but even using the pre-made templates included can improve your notes.

Here is everything you need to know to get started using templates to fulfill your note-taking potential in OneNote.

Use a Template

To use a template as a new page in OneNote, first make sure you’re in the correct section of the Notebook you want to place the new page into. Then, choose the Insert tab in the Ribbon and navigate to Page > Page Templates.

page templates

You’ll be presented with several different categories of templates that serve difference purposes. There are blank pages that simply add a shade of color or change the paper size you’re working with, as well as more detailed templates for specific usage cases, like to-do lists and skeletons for lecture notes.

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template choices

Note the Always use a specific template field at the bottom of the Templates window. If you want to use a template on every new page that you make in the current section of your Notebook, it can save you some legwork.

Editing Templates

You may find a template that would work better with a few of your own tweaks. Thankfully, OneNote makes it very easy to customize templates to your liking. First, open up the template that you like and create a new page with it in place.

For the purposes of this guide, I will take the History Class Notes template and change it so that it’s a bit more suitable for printing. To do so, I’ll need to remove the background to reduce on ink costs and change the paper size. To get rid of the image, right-click it and uncheck the option that reads Set Picture as Background. With that done, you can move and delete it as normal.

remove image

To change the paper size, navigate to the View tab via the Ribbon. Select Paper Size in the Page Setup section, and you’ll be presented with options to change both its size, as well as the margins in place. If you’re planning to print off your notes at a later date, changing this before you start writing can help keep your layouts in check.

paper size

Finally, re-open the Templates menu that we started with, if you’ve already closed it. At the bottom, there’s the option to Save current page as a template. Click on this, then choose a sensible name to save it under when prompted to. Now, you’ll be able to select your customized template just as you would any other.

save as template

Creating Your Own Templates

Once you’re comfortable with using and editing pre-existing templates, you can start creating your own from scratch. The basics are largely the same as customizing a pre-existing template, but think beforehand about exactly what you want your template to accomplish. You will want to specialize it towards a particular task, but making its design too specific might prevent it from being as useful as it could be.

I’m going to produce a template that I can use each month to reflect on my MakeUseOf articles and start thinking about what I’ll write next. First, I’ll need a blank canvas, which I can access by selecting a Notebook that doesn’t use a template and adding in a new page.

The first thing I will do is add in a MakeUseOf watermark and change the default page color. To insert an image, head to the Insert tab on the Ribbon and choose the appropriate option from the Images section. Once it’s positioned where you want it, right-click it and make Set picture as background is selected—this will prevent you from accidentally moving it around when you’re using the template.

image background

To change the page color, select the View tab in the Ribbon and use the Page Color drop-down in the Page Setup section. This is also a good opportunity to add rule lines or grid lines, and adjust the paper size you want to work with.

Now it’s time to begin structuring your template for the notes you will make in it. This will vary depending on your usage, but the general idea is to build a foundation that makes sure the only thing you need to add to the template is your notes. For my needs, that means going through and making sections that will house whatever I might want to jot down.

template example

As you can see, I’ve split the page up into sensible sections. I’ve also used italics and bold type to make sure that all of the notes I’m going to take are properly organized, as well as using some of OneNote’s to-do list functionality to make the template even more useful. Obviously, it’s important to think about your note-taking habits when you construct your template, but try to think about how you look back on your notes as well. That’s a big part of finding an organizational structure that works for you.

Once you’re happy with your template, it’s time to save it for future usage. You can do this exactly as before, by opening the Templates window and selecting Save current page as a template at the bottom. However, your template is never truly “finished”—if you have an idea for a tweak later on, just use the steps towards customizing a template outlined above to make your changes to the template we just built.

Do you have a tip on creating powerful templates in OneNote? Have you had an idea for a particular template that you’re eager to share? Let us know about it in the comments section below.

Image Credits: big piles of paper via Shutterstock

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