How to use tags in OneNote to organize and find notes fast

Make use of tags in Microsoft OneNote to find information

Top tips for Microsoft OneNote apps

Do you use Microsoft OneNote for taking notes and storing bits of information, images and other items? Tag notes and objects in notes to make them easier to find with tag search features.

OneNote tags are useful for marking notes or items in notes so that they can easily be found later. They are probably more useful than you might think and it makes finding information buried somewhere in a notebook much easier. It is basically a help with the OneNote search function, as we will see shortly.

Certain notes, text, images or other items within notes could be tagged as important, for example. A quick search for the tag will then reveal everything that has been marked as important in any note in the notebook.

Every time you store a telephone number in notes, you could add a Phone number tag to it. Listing all the phone numbers across all notes in the notebook is then a simple search for the Phone tag. It is a brilliant way to organize and find information stored in OneNote notes.

Tag features are different in the various versions of OneNote and the desktop apps for Windows PC and Apple Mac have the most features. iPhone and Android phone apps show tags added elsewhere, but there does not seem to be a way of adding them in the phone. OneNote is available at the onedrive.com website, but it does not have as many features as the desktop apps.

All versions on OneNote might eventually have the same features, but here I look at the Windows PC and Apple Mac OneNote apps – I could not see any difference in the way either of these handle tags and they seem to be the same.

Tag notes in OneNote

Tags in Microsoft OneNote PC and Mac app

Open a note in the OneNote app, click in the note title at the top and then click the Tag icon in the toolbar. There may be some tags already defined, such as Important. Select a tag to add it to the note title and the tag icon appears next to it. This makes it stand out from notes that are untagged, so it is an immediate improvement, but there is more.

Tags in Microsoft OneNote app for Windows PC and Apple Mac

Items within notes can also be tagged, such as text images, lists, checkbox lists and so on. In the example above, a list item has been selected and the Important tag applied to it. That list item stands out visually from the rest, but better still, it can be searched for, which we will see in a minute.

Using tags in the microsoft OneNote app for PC and Mac

The Remember for later tag is a bit different and as the icon suggests, it is a highlighter tool. Select some text, click the Tag icon in the toolbar to open the menu and select Remember for later. It is given a yellow background.

The Definition tag works in the same way.

Create your own OneNote tags

Create custom tags in OneNote for PC and Mac

Few tags may be available in the app, but this is not a problem because it is possible to create more. Click the Tag icon in the toolbar and select + Create New Tag.

  1. Enter a name for the tag
  2. Select Featured to see some popular icons to use for the tag
  3. Click All Icons and many more icons are displayed. Use the scrollbar to view them all
  4. Select an icon to use with your custom tag
  5. Click the Create button to add the tag to the menu.
Using custom tags in OneNote app for PC and Mac

You can now select notes or items within notes and apply the custom tag. Here I created a Phone tag, selected a phone number in a note and added the tag to it. The tag icon appears before it.

Search for tags in OneNote

Search for content, search for tags in OneNote app for PC and Mac

To find information in notes in OneNote, click the search icon on the left to open the search panel. Type something into the search box and suggestions appear below. If the text matches or even partially matches a tag (I could have typed ‘ph’ for example), then matching tags are displayed in the suggestions. Click the tag to search for it.

Search for tags in OneNote notes on the PC or Mac

The search results have two tabs, Pages and Tags. The Tags tab is automatically selected if you click a tag in the search suggestions and a list of matching notes or items within notes is displayed. When searching for ‘phone’ a list of phone numbers is displayed and clicking a search result shows that note with the tagged item highlighted in grey (not the yellow at the top, that’s a Remember for later tag).

Search for text in OneNote notes on the PC or Mac

You can switch to the Pages tab if you want to see a list of notes that contain the text in the search box. It produces a different set of results. Sometimes it is better to search for text anywhere and other times it is useful to search for tags. Switching between the two searches is easy enough.

Search for tags in OneNote on the PC or Mac

Here I searched for the Important tag and the results show both note titles and note items. They can be in different notes or the same note. Selecting the Pages tab would search for the word ‘important’ in the text of notes and would produce a different set of results.

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