OneNote: The Note-Taking Program You Didn’t Know You Had

Look in your Microsoft Office folder, you know, where you go to open Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. There’s a program in there called OneNote. It’s an organization machine.


In OneNote, the notebook is the top level of organization, much like folders. In the image below you can see 6 of my notebooks on the left side of the screen: APA, Conferences, Work Notebook, STP, Technology, and Personal Notebook.

Each notebook is divided into sections. My conferences notebook has 16 sections. You can see them on the left as “subfolders” of the conferences notebook, and you can also see the first ones as tabs along the top of the screen.

Each section has pages. In this example, I have the NITOP section selected, and the pages associated with that section appear on the right side of the screen.

With the “Thursday” page selected, the center of the screen shows the notes I took on the Thursday of the conference.

Working with pages

I want you to get a sense that the power OneNote has.

When you create a new page by clicking “new page” in the top right corner, OneNote will automatically add an “untitled page” to the bottom of your list of pages in that particular section of your notebook.

OneNote will automatically time and date stamp the page, but those can be changed. Clicking on the date will highlight it and generate a calendar icon. Click on the icon to change the date. Clicking on the time will highlight it and generate a clock icon. Click on it to change the time.

In the dotted box, type in the name of your page. OneNote automatically updates the title in the page list on the right side of the screen.

To enter your content on the page, click anywhere on the page. OneNote will generate a textbox. Just type. To move it, grab the bar at the top, and drag anywhere on the page.

You can tag anything you’d like with whatever tag you’d like. Here I’ve tagged content as important (yellow star), as a question (purple question mark), as a book I want to read (book), and check boxes for things I need to do. The first item I’ve already done, so I clicked in the box to check it off.

To get to the list of tags, click the little down arrow to the right of the short list of tags at the top of the OneNote screen.

Here are some of my OneNote’s tags. OneNote gives you a bunch by default, but they are fully customizable. Just right-click on one to modify it.

Why use tags? Because OneNote makes it easy for you to see them all in one place. Click on “Find Tags.”

This calls up the “Tags Summary” pane. You can see it on the right side of the image below. You can see all of the tags I’ve used. Near the bottom of the pane, I can decide the location of the tags I’m interested in. In this case, I’ve only asked to see the tags in this section of this notebook.


One of the more powerful features of OneNote is searching. In the top right corner, type in what you’re searching for. Search all notebooks by default, but if you click the little down arrow on the far right side of the search box, you can opt to search just this section or this page, for example.

Pasting stuff from the Internet

Here I’ve copied some content from a recent blog post. OneNote automatically added the “pasted from” and link at the end; that URL is clickable. Oh, and the blue “” in the copied text? That’s a live link. In OneNote, I can click on it to go directly to that webpage. OneNote handles images just fine, too. I included the keyword/name/direct link image when I copied the text. It appeared when I pasted.

Adding files

Drag and drop a file from your desktop or any file folder onto a OneNote page. You’ll be asked how you want to attach the file to the page.

If you choose the middle option, you’ll see the file type icon with the name of the file under it. If you don’t like where OneNote put it, click and drag it anywhere you’d like.


Outlook integration

I know that some of you don’t quite know what to do with that important email you’ve been receiving around some sort of project you’re working on, so you just keep it in your mailbox’s inbox. How about you move it to someplace more useful?

Here’s an email – complete with attachment – I just received in Outlook. I’m going to copy it to a OneNote page. In the Outlook toolbar, there’s a OneNote button.

That generates this screen where OneNote asks where I’d like to put it. At the bottom of the “recent picks” section is the OneNote page that I currently have open. If I don’t like any of those options, I can navigate through my notebooks to find the spot I want.

I clicked on the “Important Stuff” page and clicked “OK” to make this little piece of magic happen. And, yes, that Word icon is the file that was attached to my email. The file is named Join. Double-clicking on that will open the file in Word.


Mobile app

OneNote Mobile (free) uses SkyDrive (also free) to sync your OneNote notebooks across devices. You can find information on how to set up OneNote Mobile here.

Try it!

It’s already installed on your computer. Play with it. This post just scratched the surface of what OneNote can do. Use only as many features as make sense for you.

Super-Fast Way to Compose a New Email

Did you know that if you type mailto: in your browser’s address bar and press enter, your default email program will give you a compose screen? [Thanks to a LifeHacker reader for this tip!]

Want to do it even faster?

With your browser screen open, CTRL-L will take your cursor to the address line, and highlight it. Just type mailto: and press enter.

Even faster?

Using (see this blog post), create a new Shortmark with ‘m’ (or whatever you’ll remember as the keyword. For the direct link, type ‘mailto:’. Then save.

Now, just typing m in the address bar and pressing enter is enough to launch a new compose message.

Or if you use a text expander like PhraseExpress (for Windows – see this blog post; Mac users try TextExpander or TypeIt4Me), you can create a keyboard shortcut. You could, for example, make ‘m’ be the hotkey for ‘mailto:’.


CTRL-L highlights the URL in my browser’s address bar. I type m, then hit enter, and Outlook (my default email client) opens a new compose message.

When the blank message opens, the cursor will be in the To: line. I’ll TAB to navigate from field to field. When I’m ready to send, in Outlook, CTRL-ENTER will do it. In Gmail, if I’m writing the body of the message, tabbing one more time takes me to the send button, then I hit enter to send.

Autofill ‘To:’ field

If you know the person’s email address, you can enter it directly in your browser’s address bar this way to automatically put the address in the email’s ‘To:’ field.

Or create a Shortmark for that person specifically. In this case, typing ms would open a new compose message with automatically entered in the ‘To:’ line.

Or create a keyboard shortcut using a text expander program.

Want to add more people? Separate multiple email addresses using whatever punctuation your email program uses. Outlook uses semicolons. I created a Shortmark with mpsych as the keyword, and the direct link box included everyone’s email address separated by semicolons. Now I just need to type mpsych in my browser’s address bar to start an email message to everyone in my department. How slick is that?

Autofill ‘Subject:’ field

Want to enter the subject line from your browser’s address bar?

mailto:?subject=Your Subject Line Content Here

If you use it frequently, you can create a Shortmark for it or a text expander keyboard shortcut.

Try it out

Practice using CTRL-L to highlight the URL in the address bar, typing mailto:, and pressing enter to create a new email message. If you’re really liking it, consider using Shortmarks or a text expander program to make you even more efficient.

Google Hangout: Meet with Students or Collaborators

Google Hangout is a quick and intuitive way to work with up to 9 others in a virtual environment. If you have a Google account, you can create a Hangout. Talk in real time over your computer’s microphone, see each other via webcam, and even share your desktop.

Starting a Hangout

In Gmail, you can click on the camera-in-the-callout box icon next to your photo to start a new Hangout.

Or if you look below your name, you’ll see your contacts that are currently available. Mouse over the ones with a video camera next to their names, and a card will popup. Click on the Hangout icon to start a Hangout and invite that person in one fell swoop.

You can also go to Google Plus and find the Hangout button in the top right corner of your screen.

After clicking “Start a hangout,” a screen pops up showing you some people you might choose to hang out with. Click on the top entry box to enter email addresses, names (if Google has them connected to you), or people you’re connected to in Google Plus, including entire circles if you’d like. Next give your Hangout a name, or not, and then click the “Hang out” button.

The Google Hangout window

Since I haven’t invited anyone, this isn’t very interesting. I’m going to “invite people,” specifically, my alter ego.

This is the invitation email that I received from myself. Everyone who is invited would get this email.

Now, this is a little weird, but there are two versions of me in this Hangout. This screenshot is taken from my computer. On my Xoom tablet, I’m in the Hangout using the Google Plus app.

When you enter a Hangout, your microphone and webcam are turned on by default. As soon as you enter, you can start talking. You can turn off the mic and webcam using the icons at the top of the screen.

If your participants are accessing your Hangout using a computer instead of a mobile device, your participants will have the same tools you have. Mobile devices do not have this toolbar – at least not as of this writing.

Click the chat button to open the chat window. The chat window will appear on the right side of the screen. No chat for mobile devices, either. To close chat, click the button again.

Click the screenshare button to share your screen. A window like this will pop up. Here I can choose to share my entire screen or just one of the programs that I have open. Mobile devices will show a screenshare, but mobile devices cannot share their screens. To stop sharing your screen, click the screenshare button again.

Click on Google effects to do things like add a snorkel and facemask to your own image. And, yes, the other people in the Hangout will see it, too. Just click on what you’d like to add, and the object will automatically be added to your image. Click the object again to turn it off, or click the “Remove all effects” button at the bottom of the effects panel. To close the Google effects panel, click the Google effects button again.


Now before you dismiss this as totally frivolous, at Klutz Press, at one time anyway, they said that any time there were disagreements among the employees, the employees in question had to put on Groucho Marx glasses before discussing the issue in question. I sincerely hope that they really did this – and that they still do. Picture using this technique virtually with a self-destructing student group. Or with those two faculty members in your department who are renowned for their bickering at each other.

It certainly seems like it would help keep people from taking themselves too seriously.

When you’re done laughing, let’s get back to work. Click on Google Drive to collectively edit a Google Drive file or open a new document for notes or even a sketchpad to draw on. Unfortunately someone using the app on a mobile device won’t be able to see your Google Drive documents. To switch off Google Drive, click the “Google Drive” button again.

Click on View more apps to discover other nifty additions. I just added Symphonical. It’s a drag and drop task organizer. When you have your plan together, email a copy to everyone. It’s tied to your account so the next time you go into a Hangout and open Symphonical, it will be there. Have more than one project? Click the green “Add wall” button in the top left corner. Adding Symphonical to a Hangout will automatically get you access to your walls at You’ll get an email from them about that. And, no, this doesn’t show up in the mobile app either.

Try it out

Saving a Gmail Message as a Google Calendar Event

Did you know that you can ‘import’ a gmail message into a new Google calendar event? Did you know that what most of us call appointments, Google calls events? “I have an event scheduled with my dentist.” That makes it sound way more serious than an annual checkup should sound.

I don’t really know what ProjectX is, but it certainly sounds worthy of the “event” designation, however.

Here I’ve received a message about needing to meet to discuss ProjectX in my gmail account. When I click on the “More” button, I get a dropdown menu where I can select “Create event.”

This generates a new Google calendar appointment, where the subject line of the email becomes the subject line of the new event and the body of the message becomes the event description. The time and date default to just minutes from now so I need to manually change those. Google also includes me, the person who sent me the message, and anyone who was also included in the message as guests to the event. If you don’t want them as guests, click the “x” to the right of each person’s name to delete them.

Click save. Now you have the meeting agenda in your calendar.

DropIt: Quick File Organization

I’ve seen a lot of faculty desktops – both computer desktops and actual desk tops. It seems that for many of you, your approach to organization is to just toss it all on your desktop (or desk top) and hope for the best. And you swear that you’ll get both cleaned up over the summer, the same promise you’ve made to yourself (and the fire marshal) for the last 10 years. I can’t help with your desk top – actually I can. Just put it all in the trash and call it good. Really afraid you’ll need something that’s in that mess? Put it all in a box, date it with a magic marker, and store it above your garage.

Now let’s do something about your computer’s desktop.

DropIt is a wonderful little organizational tool.

I’m working on fictional ProjectX. The first thing I’m going to do is create a folder for ProjectX in my folder; of course I could put the folder anywhere.

Here’s a ProjectX document that I’ve saved on my desktop. When I click the document icon and drag it onto the DropIt icon…

… I get this popup telling me that I haven’t set up any rules yet that work for this particular file. I click “Yes,” I want to create an “association.”

The next popup appears. The “Name” box is the name of the rule (or “association”). It defaults to the name of the file. Here I’ve just changed it to “ProjectX.” The rule is that any filename that contains the word ProjectX will be moved to the ProjectX folder in my Dropbox folder. The asterisks that bracket the word ProjectX mean that this rule will be applied to any filename that contains the word ProjectX. Maybe I just want the files that begin with the word ProjectX to be filed here, in which case I would enter ProjectX* in the “Rules” box. When this screen comes up for you, click on the “i” (for information) to learn what the different possibilities are. Click the funnel icon to add more filters. Maybe I just want this rule applied to files I haven’t opened in over 2 weeks, for example. When you’re set, click “Save.”

My file has suddenly disappeared from my desktop and is enjoying life in its cozy new folder safely tucked away out of sight.

The next file that contains the word ProjectX that I drag and drop from any folder, not just the desktop, will automatically be filed in that same ProjectX folder I created. Once the rule is created, the file will automatically be moved. You only need to go through the process of creating rules if DropIt doesn’t have any rules that apply to the file or folder dropped onto it.

Other actions

While it’s the move function that I most appreciate, it’s not the only function DropIt has. Click the button under “Action” to see other options, such as renaming, copying, and uploading.

When rules conflict

Here I have one file where I have two rules that could apply. DropIt asks me which one I want and if I want this decision to hold for all files that meet these criteria.

Deleting/editing rules

Clicking on the DropIt icon on the desktop generates another DropIt icon that floats on top of any windows you have open. Right-click on it and select “Associations.” You’ll see all of the rules you have created. Right-click on any rule to edit, copy, or delete it.

Enough procrastination

Download DropIt. Get the files that you’re not currently working on off your desktop and into folders. Don’t wait until this summer. Or winter break. Or spring break. Now’s a good time. Really.

MagPointer: PowerPoint Add-on

MagPointer is a PowerPoint add-on (Windows only) that allows you to highlight certain areas of your PowerPoint slides on the fly. Although designed with web-based presentations in mind, it works well in the face-to-face classroom.

In the screenshot below you can see a PowerPoint slide with the MagPointer toolbar on the right – 5 colored squares. Sometimes when I run MagPointer, I get the black border you see here. Other times the slide covers the entire screen, and the MagPointer icons overlap the slide. It works fine in either case, just an fyi.

MagPointer at work

Mouse over any element to see the dotted outline of that element.

Click on the dotted outline to highlight that element. How cool is that?

Mousing over any of the squares on the right shows the MagPointer icons. The top two squares allow you to advance or reverse through your slides. Be aware that MagPointer is still in beta, so all the bugs haven’t been worked out yet. In version, when I use these icons to advance a slide with multiple bullet points, sometimes I get the next bullet point, and sometimes I get the next slide.

You can highlight any part of the slide; you’re not limited to your PowerPoint elements. Pick a spot on your slide, click once, then move your mouse anywhere on your slide to create a frame. To make the highlight disappear, click inside the frame.

Want to highlight multiple areas of a slide? Click the second icon from the bottom. Now you can click and drag anywhere on the screen, multiple times. To clear the frames, click inside each frame, or mouse over the MagPointer icons and click on the red X at the top, or simply right-click on the slide.

You can zoom in on sections of the slide. The fourth icon is a magnifying glass. Click on the icon (or right-click your mouse), then click and drag on the slide to create the size of magnifier you want. Now you can move it around the slide, magnifying as you move. When done, click the red X on the right side of the slide. In the version I was using, the magnifier would go beyond the top, left, and bottom edges, magnifying everything there. The magnifier wouldn’t go beyond the right edge, so anything on the right edge could not be magnified.

MagPointer is portable.

Portability means that you can put it on a flashdrive, carry it with you into your classroom, and run the program from there. No need to fight with your IT department to get it installed on your classroom computer. The MagPointer developers are hoping that they’ll be able to eventually sell site licenses to educational institutions. Keep an eye on that. When you download MagPointer, it will, by default, install itself on your computer. If you’d like to try out the portable version, contact the MagPointer developers directly through their webform.


Right-click on the MagPointer icon in the system tray (lower, right corner of your screen), and select “Configuration.” Here you can change how the program behaves. Set it up in a way that works for you.

Try it out

While in beta, MagPointer is free.

Gmail: Canned Responses

I use Phrase Express for all of my canned response needs (see this post, for example), but for those of you who just want canned responses in Gmail, check out this Google Labs option.

Enabling Canned Responses

In Gmail, go to settings by clicking on the cog icon on the far right, and select “Settings”.

Click on the “Labs” tab.

Scroll down to “Canned Responses” and check “Enable”.

Creating a Canned Response

Compose a new email. Type up whatever you’d like to save as a response.

Click on “Canned responses”.

Add a “New canned response…”. Selecting it generates a popup that asks you to name it. I’ll call it “rude email”

Click “OK”.

Using Canned Responses

Now when you compose a new message and want to use that canned response, click on “Canned responses” to see the menu. The headings (Insert, Save, and Delete) are light, too light, in my opinion; I thought they were disabled options. Under the “insert” heading, click “Rude email” and watch the magic as your canned response appears.

Want to change your canned response? Edit it, then click “Canned responses”, and under the “Save” heading, click “Rude email”.

Repeat the process to add more canned responses.

PowerPoint: Animating Charts

I was recently putting together a PowerPoint 2010 presentation that had a lot of charts in it. I wanted to reveal the data gradually, so I looked for a way to animate. It’s easy to do, if not entirely intuitive.

After creating the chart, switch to the “Animations” tab. Click on the chart to select it, then click the “Add Animation” button. Choose the animation style you like; I chose “fade”.

Now, with the chart still selected, click “Effect Options.”

Here I can choose how I want the data to appear. When you mouse over each option, your chart will preview what it will look like as you step through your presentation. (Hats off to the PowerPoint 2010 team. I love this feature!)

In my sample chart, “By Series” will show the blue bars first, then the red, then the green. “By Category” will show all of the 5-minute bars first and then all of the 1-week bars. “By Element in Series” will show the 5-minute blue bar, then the 1-week blue bar, then the red bars in sequence, and finally the red bars in sequence. Lastly, “By Element in Category” will show the 5-minute blue bar, then the 5-minute red bar, then the 5-minute green bar, and this will repeat for the 1-week bars.

Click on “Animation Pane” to see the animations that were created. Click the down arrow next to the top animation in the animation pane to see all of the animations for the chart. The very first animation makes the chart itself appear. For my purposes, I wanted the chart already to be there when I advanced to this slide, so I clicked on the very top animation (“Chart 3: Background”) and hit delete on my keyboard. Done.

Side note

The data depicted on this slide comes from a nifty Roediger and Karpicke (2006) study. Participants in the study either had 4 opportunities to study a science passage (SSSS), 3 opportunities to study and 1 opportunity to do a free recall practice test of everything they remembered from the passage (SSST), or 1 opportunity to read the passage and 3 opportunities to do free recall practice tests (STTT). When they took the real test 5 minutes afterwards, the repeated study group remembered the most, but 1 week later, the practice test participants remembered quite a bit more. In psychology we call this the “testing effect” – the act of recalling information helps us remember it.

Roediger, H.L., III, & Karpicke, J.D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Psychological Science, 1, 181-210.

Google Calendar: Adding Attachments

I’m attending a workshop at a nearby college in a couple weeks, and the organizer has already emailed me a parking pass to print and bring with me. As I was thinking about where to save the parking pass so I won’t forget it, I thought, “I wish I could just save it in my calendar.” After a little investigation, you can do that in Google Calendar.

Go to settings by clicking on the cog icon, and select “Labs”.

Scroll down to “Event attachments” and click “Enable.”

Now when you create a new event or edit an existing one, you have an “Add attachment” option.

Clicking “Add attachment” generates a pop-up window. The initial view is your “My Drive”, formerly Google Docs. If the file you want to add isn’t in Google Docs, click on “Upload”.

If your file is on your desktop or in a folder, just click and drag it into this space. Click the “Upload” button, and the file will be automatically copied to Google Drive and attached to your calendar event.

Here’s what the event looks like with the attachment.

Other attendees

If there are “guests” associated with the calendar event and if you grant them access to the file by “sharing” it in Google Drive, then they’ll be able to download the file as well.

Closing note

I’ve also created a reminder for the day of the event that tells me to print out the parking pass that’s in my calendar. [Read more about in this earlier blog post.]

Create Your Own Website: Weebly

I’m often asked about the easiest way to set up a website. While the course management systems are fine for, well, managing courses, if you want students to access information before or after the course a personal website is a logical way to go. Last week I was at the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology (NITOP), the best psychology-focused teaching conference. During a participant idea exchange on favorite tech tools, one person suggested (I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name! If you read this, please email me. I want to give you proper credit.)

Go to, and set up an account. You can log in with the Facebook credentials or create a unique username and password for the site.

Next you’re asked for a title and choose the type of site you’re setting up.

If you select education, you’re give this choice of categories to select from.

Next, choose your domain. That’s going to be your URL. Since I already have a website, I chose to just go with a Weebly subdomain: If I didn’t already own the domain, under “register a new domain,” I would enter suefrantz in the box. If you want something other than .com, use the dropdown menu to pick a different extension. Since I own, if I wanted to move from my current host, I could enter in the box under “use a domain you already own.” Weebly would walk me through everything I needed so that visitors to would be directed to Weebly instead. Whatever decision you make here is not irreversible. More on that later.

With those decisions made, you’re now taken into the editor.

Paragraph with Title

It’s a drag-and-drop interface. Want to add a paragraph with a title, click on “paragraph with title” in the toolbar, drag it to where you want to put it, and unclick.

After dropping it in (below the default image), Weebly tells you what to do. Click on the big print to edit the title; click on the small print to edit the paragraph text.

After selecting “click here to edit” (either one), you get a familiar toolbar. The buttons are, from left to right:
Bold, italics, underline, font color, increase font size, decrease font size, remove formatting, add a link, align left, align center, align right, justified, undo, and redo.

When editing a paragraph instead of a title, you get two additional buttons on the toolbar: Bulleted list and numbered list.

Quick tip: Use TAB to move between elements. For example, when you’re done with the title, use TAB to move to the body of the paragraph. Use CTRL-A to select all of the text in that element. Typing will erase what was selected. If you added a second titled paragraph under it, hitting TAB again will move your cursor to the next title.

If you change your mind about an element, you can always delete it. Mouse over it and in the top right corner of the element you’ll see a little red circle with a white x in it. Click the red circle to delete.

Paragraph with Picture

After dragging this element onto the page, I can edit the title, the paragraph text, and add an image.

Clicking on the sample image, this box pops up. If the image is on your computer, open the image’s location, and drag and drop it to add it. Or, if you prefer, click on “upload a photo from your computer” to navigate to it the old-fashioned way. Click the search button to find photos, both professional ($5 each) and free. Mouse over the photos you want to mark as “favorites” or click “select” to choose it. Click the “favorites” button to see the photos you marked as such. For most images on the internet, you can right-click on it to “copy image URL”. If you go that route, be sure that you either own the copyright or that the copyright owner is fine with you using the image.

Custom HTML

When you drag this element on to the page, you can add any HTML content you’d like. Here’s where this comes in handy.

For most YouTube videos, you can get an embed code. Under the video, click “Share” and then “Embed”. Copy the code, and paste it your “Custom HTML” box. The video will play on the page.

You can do the same with TEDTalks. Click the “Embed” tab under any TEDTalk video. From the popup window, copy the code, and paste in your “Custom HTML” box.

Changing the default banner image

While we’re talking about images, let’s change the default image on the page.

Mousing over the image makes an “edit image” button appear. Click the down arrow to “edit image.”

Clicking the “add image” button gives you the image options discussed above. Or you can replace the image with text. Click the “add text” button multiple times to add multiple text boxes. If you decide you don’t like any of your changes even after saving them, click on “revert to original” in the top right corner to the left of the “Cancel” button.

Design Tab

Now that you have the idea of how the page elements work, let’s move on to design.

Flip through the filmstrip at the top to choose the layout you like. Click the arrow on the far right to see even more. Keep going. There are plenty to choose from!

Going social

At the very top of the page, are the social media icons. Mouse over them to add your contact information. Click the “x” to the right to delete it. To change the order, click the far left handle (the little box with the dots in it) and drag it. Click the “add more” button to add more.

Add a page

Since you may not want all of your content on one page, add a page. Click the “Pages” tab, then click the “Add page” button.

After adding a page title, click “Save” at the bottom. You’ll be redirected to the same page editor interface you started with.

Want to go back to editing your main page? Click on the “Pages” tab again, and select “Home,” and then click the “Edit Page” button at the top of the page.

Settings tab

Want to change the site address you set when you started this whole process? You can do that here.


When you’re ready to go live, click the orange “publish” button in the top right corner.

Pro version

For a reasonable sum of money, you can add a number of nifty features, such as the ability to password protect individual pages.


This is the drop-dead easiest way to create your own website.