If you’ve used any Windows program for a while, you’re likely to have figured out some of its keyboard shortcuts by now. Keyboard shortcuts are the combinations of special keystrokes that can give you much quicker access to commands than if you were to click through the long trail of menus, toolbars, and other parts of the user interface. Many of the basic shortcut key combinations work consistently across all Windows programs, which means you won’t have to learn different ones when switching from one program to the next and performing the same task.
 

What’s in it for you?

Computers were supposed to save us time, right? Keyboard shortcuts can be incredible time-savers, so the short amount of time it takes to learn them is time well spent. Surprisingly, not everyone gives keyboard shortcuts their due attention. Hardly a month goes by when I don’t hear somebody say that they’re “too busy” to learn a time-saver or two. The irony of that probably isn’t lost on anyone.

The truth is, we’ll always claim to be “too busy” for a lot of things that could really help us. For many, it’s simply an excuse to stick with what they know, or to slog through a task just to get it done, even if it’s the hard way. But imagine learning just a half-dozen keystrokes that could shave away more and more wasted time from all of the repetitive tasks that you perform every day. Over the span of a week or a month, the time you save can add up very quickly!
 

Discover keyboard shortcuts in OneNote menus

The easiest way to learn the most common keyboard shortcuts in OneNote 2007 is to look them up in the menus. For example, simply opening the Edit menu will show you its available keyboard shortcuts (outlined in red below) right next to each menu command:
 

Keyboard shortcuts in menus


  Some menu commands (such as the Snap to Grid command shown here) do not have keyboard shortcuts available. In most cases, this is because the commands in question are designed to be used infrequently.
 

Discover keyboard shortcuts in OneNote ScreenTips

You can also choose to display available keyboard shortcuts in the ScreenTips that appear when you mouse over buttons on the toolbar. Note that this is an optional setting, which means that you must first tell OneNote that you want to see keyboard shortcuts in your ScreenTips.

Here’s what ScreenTips on the toolbar look like before and after you enable their keyboard shortcut display:
 

ScreenTips without and with keyboard shortcut information
 
 

To turn on keyboard shortcuts in ScreenTips, follow these steps:

  1. In OneNote 2007, move the mouse pointer over any toolbar button and then right-click it to display the shortcut menu:
     
     
    Right-click on any toolbar to display the Customize command
     
  2. On the shortcut menu, click the Customize command.
     
  3. In the Customize dialog box that opens, make sure that the Show shortcut keys in ScreenTips box is checked:
     
     
    ScreenTip options in the Customize dialog box
     
      You must also have the Show ScreenTips on toolbars box checked, as shown here.
     

How to use keyboard shortcuts

I’ve seen many people immediately give up on trying out keyboard shortcuts because “they didn’t seem to work right.” This can happen when there’s no immediate, visible result to using the shortcut command (for example, when copying a selection of text, the command won’t seem to do anything until you actually paste the selection somewhere else). In this case, think through the completion of the greater task and then see if you get the result you expected. If not, try it with a different selection or on a different page in your notebook and start over.

If none of the keyboard shortcuts seem to work, make sure you only type the keys that are part of the command. For example, when you see “CTRL+C” documented as the shortcut for the Copy command, note that the “+” sign isn’t actually typed as part of the keystroke sequence. The “+” symbol merely indicates that you should press the surrounding keys simultaneously. So, “CTRL+C” means holding down the CTRL key and then pressing the C key on your keyboard. When you let go of both keys, the command is executed in the same way as if you clicked the Copy command on the Edit menu.

  Some keyboard shortcuts consist of more than two key sequences. For example, to insert a new column to the left in a table, the keyboard shortcut sequence is CTRL+ALT+E. Here again, neither “+” symbol is to be used. Hold down the CTRL key, then hold down the ALT key, and then press E. When you let go of all three keys, the command is executed.
 

Don’t be afraid to experiment!

If you make a mistake while trying out keyboard shortcuts, you can always use the Undo command (on the Edit menu) to go back to the way things were before the last thing you tried. This is useful whenever you try out a keyboard shortcut that did not give you the result you expected.

Tip  The Undo command has its own keyboard shortcut! You can press CTRL+Z to undo the last action, whatever it was. Try practicing this until you get used to it: On any page in your OneNote notebook, type some random text anywhere, and then press CTRL+Z. The text you just typed will disappear as if you never typed it. Note that you can step backwards multiple times, if needed, by using the Undo command repeatedly. If you go back too far, using the Redo command (CTRL+Y) will let you step forward again.
  

Look up all of the keyboard shortcuts in OneNote

Not all keyboard shortcuts are discoverable in the user interface. On the Office Online Web site, where my fellow tech writers and editors publish all of the free “Help & How-to” content for each Microsoft Office program, you can look up all of the keyboard shortcuts available for the various Office 2007 programs that you use, including OneNote.

For example, here’s what the reference article for the keyboard shortcuts in OneNote 2007 looks like: 

OneNote 2007 Keyboard Shortcuts reference
(Click here to view the full OneNote keyboard shortcuts reference article on Office Online.)


The information in this reference article is organized by several categories — from the standard Office-wide features, whose shortcuts are the same across all Office programs, to the specific features areas whose keyboard shortcuts apply specifically to the OneNote 2007 interface.

As you scroll through the main category headings (shown in orange), you can click the “+” symbol next to each sub-category whose list of shortcuts you want to view:
 

Expanding a category heading

Clicking the “+” symbol next to a sub-category expands the full table of shortcuts for that section.

If you know (or guess) that a specific keyboard shortcut exists for a particular OneNote feature, you can use your Web browser’s “Find on Page” feature to quickly look up a particular keyboard shortcut in the reference charts. To do this, you must first expand all of the subcategories in the reference article you are looking at. Don’t worry; you won’t have to click dozens of these one-by-one. There’s an easier way.

Near the top of the article, click the “Show All” link to expand all sections at once:
 

The "Show All" button in reference articles

Once all of the reference sections in the article have been expanded, press CTRL+F in your Web browser to bring up the “Find on Page” search box, which is built into Windows Internet Explorer and Firefox (check your Web browser’s documentation for details):

The Find command in Windows Internet Explorer 

Now just type a word or phrase describing a OneNote feature or user interface element that you want to find (for example, “side note”), and then press ENTER. If one or more matches are found, scroll through the highlighted results in the text by clicking Next. This is an easy way to discover all of the keyboard shortcuts associated with your particular search term.

Tip  If you’re not having any luck with your search right away, try again by entering a different word or phrase.
 

Quick access to the keyboard shortcuts in OneNote

If you forget to bookmark the reference article for OneNote keyboard shortcuts, you can easily recall it from the Help menu, which is located at the far right of the menu bar in the OneNote 2007 program window:
 

The Help menu in OneNote 2007
 
  Make sure you are connected to the Internet to see the most up-to-date version of the article.
 

Please post your feedback!

Was this walkthrough useful to you? Have you experimented with keyboard shortcuts in OneNote? If so, what are your favorites? Are there any features for which you wish we had keyboard shortcuts? Have you discovered any shortcuts that aren’t documented in the reference article? Post a comment here and let me know!

Lastly, I’m always interested in your feedback about OneNote (and Office) documentation. If you think there’s a better way to document keyboard shortcuts, I would love to hear your ideas!