OneNote Online – The Best Way to Move Notes to the Cloud

The OneNote online app gives you the ability to capture and create a series of notes, all from within a web browser. You can add text, drawings, screenshots, and audio files into the OneNote app to share with other people or to keep for your own information.

Within the OneNote app, you have the ability to create multiple layers of information, ensuring you can organize it in any structure that makes sense to you. Think of OneNote as being similar to an outline you might create before starting an essay, helping you organize your thoughts.

With OneNote online though, the entire process of organizing your notes and thoughts occurs digitally, allowing you to easily rearrange and organize the data. We will help you understand exactly what benefits you can receive when using the OneNote app.

Why Use the Online Version of OneNote?

If you are a Microsoft 365 subscriber, you have the option of running OneNote directly from your local hard drive. However, the OneNote app may be easier to use separately in certain situations.

Using OneNote for Free

If you do not have a Microsoft 365 subscription, you can choose to download and run the OneNote app for free. You never have to pay anything for OneNote’s online version, no matter whether you are using it on a web browser with your computer or on a mobile device.

Beyond using it in a web browser, the OneNote app exists for iOS mobile devices and Android mobile devices. There’s even a version of the OneNote app that will work with an Apple watch.

Being able to make use of the OneNote app completely independently from Microsoft 365 is a significant advantage of using the app, as it simplifies things for those who don’t need a word processor or spreadsheet app.

Carry Your Notes Anywhere

When using the online version of OneNote, your files and data exist within your OneDrive cloud storage account. When you have a Microsoft account, it works for all of the apps and features from Microsoft that you’re using, including OneDrive and OneNote.

By storing your OneNote data and files in the cloud with OneDrive, you can access them anywhere and at any time, as long as you have a web browser. If you’re storing your OneNote files on your local hard drive, you will only have access to those items whenever you have access to your computer.

If you are using the free version of OneDrive to store your OneNote app data and notebooks, remember that you only have 5 GB of storage capacity available. If you are storing a lot of items that require a large amount of storage in your notebooks, such as high resolution photographs and videos, you may end up filling up your OneDrive storage capacity in the free version. At that point, you may have to purchase a OneDrive tier with a larger amount of storage.

Easier for Sketching and Taking Handwritten Notes

If you are using the OneNote app on a touchscreen mobile device, such as a tablet, a smartphone, or a two-in-one computer, you will have the ability to take handwritten notes or to make sketches in your OneNote notebooks, using either your fingertip or a stylus.

When using the OneNote desktop version on a laptop or desktop computer, where you do not have access to a touchscreen display, you will only be able to take notes by typing them or by inserting items.

Sharing Notes With Others

When you are using the OneNote app and are sharing your notes and data with others, perhaps for a collaborative effort on a project, you will want your notebooks, files, and data stored inside OneDrive, rather than on your local hard drive. You will not be able to share your notes as easily unless your data exists in the cloud and unless you’re using the OneNote app version.

Is There Anything Missing in the OneNote Online Version?

The two versions of OneNote have very similar basic features, although the desktop version has a few extra features. Additionally, the interfaces between the two versions will be slightly different. The differences are subtle enough that some people may not even notice them.

The navigation pane in the desktop version will be on the left-hand side, while the app has the navigation pane on the right-hand side. The navigation panes allow you to sort through the hierarchical items in your notebooks, including pages and sections. Even though the navigation panes look a little different in the two versions, they have similar types of information for you and perform in a similar manner.

The two primary extra features that you’ll find in the desktop version include two extra menu options.

History Menu

Within the History menu on the desktop version of OneNote, you can see quite a bit of data about your notebooks and how the various editing changes occurred over time.

  • Recent Edits submenu. Using the Recent Edits submenu allows you to see any changes to the file over a certain period of time, including today, since yesterday, over the past seven days, or during another preset time period. You’ll then be able to look at versions of the file from a previous date, determining whether you want to revert back to an older version.
  • Find By Author submenu. When using the Find By Author submenu, you have the option of seeing all of the changes and comments that any particular person on your team added to the file. This is an important feature for those who are sharing the file with others, helping you track specific changes to the file.
  • Page Versions submenu. You can use the Page Versions submenu in the desktop version of OneNote to track the various changes you or your collaborators make to the notebook file. If you want to return to an older version of the notebook, abandoning changes made over the past several minutes, several hours, or several days, you can click the Page Versions submenu under the History menu to essentially go backward in time.
  • Notebook Recycle Bin submenu. With this submenu, you can see versions of the notebook that you may have deleted in the past. You can use this submenu to restore those deleted versions.

Review Menu

If you are familiar with Microsoft 365 apps like Word and Excel, you probably know about the Review menu, which contains access to features that help you with spell checking, changing the universal language settings, and file protection.

  • Spelling submenu. This submenu gives you access to the spell check feature in OneNote.
  • Research submenu. When selecting the Research submenu, you’ll see a navigation pane on the right side of the window. Search for a term in this pane, and you can find links to additional information on your search term that you can use for research purposes.
  • Thesaurus submenu. When you are seeking a different word with a similar meaning for your notes, the Thesaurus submenu gives you some ideas.
  • Translate submenu. Use the Translate submenu to translate some of your notes into a different language.
  • Language submenu. Select the default language settings you want to use with your OneNote notebooks through this submenu.
  • Password submenu. You can set a password for different sections of your notebook or for the entire notebook through this submenu, preventing others from accessing or editing it.

How to Use OneNote Online

To access OneNote online, open the OneNote web page. You’ll sign in to the browser app by using your Microsoft account information. If you do not have a Microsoft account, you will need to sign up for one. (Those who use other Microsoft services, such as OneDrive or Microsoft 365, should already have a Microsoft account.)

Here are some of the most important tasks you can complete in the OneNote online app.

Creating a Notebook

To create a new notebook, click the dropdown Notebooks menu in the upper left corner of the app (and below the main menu ribbon), followed by Add Notebook. (Instead of the Notebooks label in the menu area, you might see the name of the currently open notebook in this menu area.)

In the popup window, give the new notebook a unique name that clearly describes the project. OneNote will create the notebook for you, displaying the name of your new notebook near the upper left corner of the window (replacing the Notebooks label).

Creating a Section and Page Name

In your new notebook, click in the area of the blank page, and you’ll see a popup window that tells you to enter a name for the section. Type a name here and click OK.

Now add a name for the page on the blank line near the top of the blank window. Within OneNote, you can have multiple pages within each section and multiple sections within each notebook.

To add a new section or page within the current notebook, right-click on the left-side navigation pane that lists the current section and page. Then left-click on New Section or New Page from the popup menu to create a new item. Give it a name in the popup window or on the blank line.

Add Notes and Other Items

To add a note on the page, just click on the location of the page for the note. You’ll see a box appear. Start typing in the box to add a text note. You can adjust the text settings using the text popup menu.

If you’d prefer to add an audio file, an image, a file, or a link, click on the page to make the box appear. Then click the Insert menu at the top of the window, followed by the submenu for the type of item you want to add. Find the file or link to add and click the Insert button.

To add items you’ve copied from elsewhere, right-click on the area of the page where you want to add the item. In the popup menu, left-click on Paste to add the item to the page.

OneNote Extensions

Extensions available within the OneNote app will enhance its usability, providing extra features that third-party developers created for the app. Some of the most beneficial extensions for OneNote include the following.


The Gem for OneNote extension delivers hundreds of tools to OneNote, making the app far more usable for those users who access OneNote regularly for a variety of tasks.

This is not a free app, so using the 30-day free trial is a smart way to determine whether the features included within Gem will be worth the price for you.

Office Lens

Use the Office Lens extension to shoot photographs with a smartphone or another connected device that has a camera, and you can save the photo directly into one of your notebooks.

Office Lens has other benefits for those who use Microsoft 365 apps, including converting images to PDFs or Word documents.


The Onetastic extension provides the ability to add a calendar to your OneNote app, making it easier to see exactly when you created different notebooks.

Additionally, Onetastic contains some image editing features that can be handy to use when adding images to your notebooks.

Web Clipper

The Web Clipper extension provides the ability to capture a screenshot of a web page, placing it into your OneNote notebook. You then can edit it, saving only certain items from the web page, or you can add notes and annotations to it.


The Zapier extension helps you automate the process of adding data to your OneNote notebooks by connecting certain apps with each other. You can instruct Zapier to pass data from some of your apps directly into OneNote.

Just choose the origination app and choose the event that will trigger sharing the app’s data with OneNote. Each time that event occurs, Zapier will take care of passing the data into OneNote.

Zapier has a limited free version and a full-feature pay version.

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Bryan Wise
Bryan Wise,
Former VP of IT at GitLab

Incredible companies use Nira