Store files in OneNote, store files in OneDrive, store in both!

Did you know that you can store files in OneNote notebooks by storing them in OneDrive? Instead of bloating the size of notebooks, simply link to files stored in OneDrive and save space.

Microsoft OneNote is a great tool for collecting and storing notes for anything from complex work projects to personal shopping lists. It runs on Windows PC, Apple Mac, iPhone and Android phones and having everything you need in one place, synced across devices, is a great way to organize your work and personal activities.

One of its many uses is as a place to store all the bits of information you need and collect for a project. You can create a note or collection of notes (a section) and add text, checklists, hyperlinks to web content, images, Office documents, PDFs, other files and more.

Having everything you need in once place is a great way to organize your work or personal projects. If a project consists of many files, they can all be inserted into notes where they are easy to access and will not get lost.

However, the downside is that files stored in notes can make the OneNote notebook file very large and this might make it awkward to use. It might even slow it down. It depends how many files there are and how big they are.

There is another, more efficient way to store files in OneNote notes and that is to actually store them on OneDrive and simply link to them in OneNote. OneDrive has gigabytes of space for files (5 GB for free, 1 TB for paid accounts), but you can collect them and organize them from inside a OneNote note. It is very easy and you will probably switch to this method once you have tried it because it works so well.

I will be using the free Windows 10 OneNote app, free OneDrive storage and free Office web apps for this guide, but this also works on the Apple Mac and is almost identical.

1 Create a note, insert a file

A note in the free Microsoft OneNote app in Windows 10

Open the OneNote app on the computer and create a new note or select an existing one that you want to add one or more files to. Position the cursor in the note and then click the File button in the toolbar.

2 Select a file to insert

Open file window in Windows 10

The usual Open file window appears and you can browse the computer’s drive and select the file to insert into the note. It can be any type of file, but here I will choose a Word document in the Downloads folder on the disk. Click Open after selecting it.

3 Choose how to insert the file

Insert a file in a OneNote note

The options above are then presented to you. There are three ways to insert a file into a OneNote note and the first one is the one I want to look at here: Upload to OneDrive and insert link. Inserting a link adds very little to the notebook size and is the preferred method.

The second option inserts the file into the note as an attachment and the OneNote notebook size will expand with the size of the file.

See how to print to Onenote for information on the last option, Insert as printout. It uses OneNote as a printer, which is weird, but useful.

4 View files inserted as OneDrive links

A OneNote note with an embedded document

Many files that are inserted into OneNote notes as a link to OneDrive simply show the filename as a link. You can see the filename in the screenshot under the note title near the top – Project Report.docx

If the linked file is an Office file, like Word, Excel or PowerPoint, a preview is shown as you can see in the screenshot above. Click it to show handles at the corners and click and drag them to resize the preview.

You can even position the mouse over the preview and push up and down with two fingers on a laptop trackpad to scroll the document up and down.

5 View or edit a linked file in OneNote

A document in OneDrive

If the linked file is clicked in the OneNote note, it appears in a browser window at the OneDrive website. If the file is an Office file, like the Word Document above, click it and it opens in the Word web app in the browser so it can be viewed or edited. This means you can easily edit documents stored within OneNote notes.

If you can’t edit the document, sign in to OneDrive in the top right corner. Close the window when you have finished viewing or editing and the document is automatically updated.

If you don’t see the updated document in the OneNote note, select another note, then return and the preview is refreshed.

6 Where are OneNote files in OneDrive?

OneDrive files in Explorer in Windows 10

After using Upload to OneDrive and insert link, to add a file to a OneNote note, you will find a new folder in OneDrive. It can be seen at the OneDrive website in a browser or if you have OneDrive synced to your PC or Mac, it can be seen in the OneDrive folder on the disk. All attached files are stored in the same folder – OneNote Uploads.

The main benefit of this is that you can store any number and any size files in OneNote note without bloating the OneNote notebook size.

A side benefit is that all the files are in OneDrive, which has lots of space and you can view them, sort them by various attributes, copy them, share them and so on, like other OneDrive files.

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