GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010 – Collection

May 27, 2010

by Michael Wheatfill

Table of Contents: GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010

In Part 3 of the GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010 Series, we setup OneNote to work with GTD. Now that we have Outlook and OneNote setup, we can begin using our GTD system. With GTD, the very first thing we must be able to do is capture and record all of our inputs. We’ll eventually process these inputs and decide what to do with them, but for now we’ll focus on making sure we understand the tools and features that allow us to capture all the information that we come across each and every day.

A brief note on Outlook as a GTD capture device

I don’t really look at Outlook as a capture device per say. As it pertains to collecting our stuff, Outlook is simply a bucket, or an Inbox for gathering our email. It plays a much larger role in other steps in the GTD process, but not for capturing.

What it is good at is corralling our email. All my email gets sent straight to my Inbox for processing later. Since that’s about all it does in the collection process, we’ll spend the majority of our time focusing on OneNote and how it can help us capture and collect all of our “digital stuff.”

Without further ado…

The single greatest life altering OneNote feature ever

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But seriously, if you aren’t using this feature today, you’ll want to after seeing just how cool it is. I’m talking about the Docked OneNote feature. What it does is dock OneNote to the right side of your screen along side other applications such as web browsers, Word, PowerPoint, etc. You can take notes while still being able to view the content in the other applications. And best of all, OneNote automatically creates hyperlinks that point back to the web page or application you were viewing at the time. Let’s give it a try.

In OneNote 2010, click the Dock to Desktop button in the Quick Access toolbar in the top left corner. You can also use the shortcut Ctrl + Alt + D.

OneNote docks itself to the right hand side of your screen in a narrow format. The rest of your application windows automatically adjust in size, and text in the Docked OneNote window automatically wraps so you don’t have to scroll side to side. Want to stop taking linked notes and return to good ‘ol regular OneNote? No problem, just click the Dock to Desktop button again or push Ctrl + Alt + D to restore OneNote to the normal view.

But we don’t want to stop now do we? Let’s try taking some notes…but not just any notes. Linked Notes! Linked Notes is the feature that enables us to take notes that link back to the content we are viewing in our applications. You’ll want to make sure Linked Notes are enabled by clicking the Linked Notes icon in the left corner of the OneNote content area. You can enable Linked Notes by selecting Start Taking Linked Notes or disable Linked Notes by selecting Stop Taking Linked Notes. You can enable and disable any time you like while OneNote is docked.

Since you are already in a web browser if you are reading this, place your cursor in the OneNote window to start typing. Here I’ve taken some notes on a forum I visited. Simply by having the web browser page active and typing notes in OneNote, I’ve created a reference back to the website I was viewing. Hover over the text in OneNote which will show an icon of the application the notes are linking to. Click the icon to be taken to the web page.

Cool, huh? Now try this with another application such as Word or PowerPoint. Clicking the linked note should take you to the exact page or PowerPoint slide you were viewing when you typed the note.

Tip! There’s a Linked Notes in OneNote button on the Review tab of the ribbon in Word, PowerPoint and Internet Explorer which gives you another option to start taking Linked Notes.

Note on Application Compatibility: Linked Notes do not work with every application. You’ll know that it works when a small icon appears to the left of your note. If you try taking linked notes in Outlook, Excel or Adobe Reader for instance, no icon will appear, signifying that these applications aren’t supported for taking linked notes.

Now, if you want to pass this linked note on to a friend in an email, it doesn’t appear to be that easy to extract the hyperlink out, but it quite simple in fact. Right click the link icon for the note, and select Copy Link. You can paste this into an email now that it is available as a URL.

Capturing Everything

Docked OneNote and Linked Notes are awesome, however there are a plethora of ways to capture information with OneNote. We’ll cover many of these ways and how they can help us corral our digital “stuff”.

Make sure you have OneNote setup to send all of your “stuff” to your Inbox section. That way we can work on capturing things at light speed instead of being caught up in the act of processing and organizing everything we capture. Visit Part 3 of the GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010 Series if you need help setting up OneNote for our GTD system.

From Outlook

Meeting Details – Capture meeting notes with context, without leaving OneNote!

In OneNote, create a new page in your inbox, then click Meeting Details in the Outlook section of the Home ribbon. Choose a meeting for the current day.

Or choose a meeting from another day by selecting Choose a Meeting from Another Day… and selecting the day and meeting of your choice. Click Insert Details to insert the meeting into OneNote.
image image

Sending to OneNote – Take notes, keep as reference, and bring the attachments over too!

In Outlook, select an email to view in the reading pane, or open an email in a separate window. Go to the Move section of the Home tab (or the Message tab if you have the message open in a separate window) and select the Send to OneNote button. The message magically appears in your OneNote Inbox section.

Now try it with a message that has an attachment. You guessed it, the attachment comes along with it and can now be opened from OneNote.

Want just the attachment from the message? We can do that too! Right click the attachment and choose Copy or select the attachment and press Ctrl + C. Then step over to OneNote, select the page you want to paste the attachment to, and select the Paste button from the Home tab on the ribbon or press Ctrl + V.

You can either choose to copy the file onto the page, which will display an icon that you can double-click to open, or you can insert the file as a printout so you can notate it directly within OneNote. Cool!

Linked Notes from Outlook – Linking is the bees knees!

Remember our Linked Notes topic from above? Well we aren’t done with Linked Notes quite yet. We can also send Calendar items, Contacts and Tasks to OneNote and the OneNote pages will automatically link back to the Outlook item we sent to OneNote. Let’s see how it works.

In Outlook, select a Contact, select a Task (either from the Tasks screens or the To Do bar) or select a Calendar item (either from the Calendar screen or the To Do bar) and then click the Linked Notes button in the Actions section of the ribbon (If it’s a calendar item, the button is on the Appointment tab of the ribbon).

Back in OneNote, we see that a new page has been created in our Inbox. This page has a hyperlink called Link to OneNote item. Click this hyperlink to open the Outlook item you originally sent to OneNote.

From Internet Explorer

Send to OneNote

Ever want to capture an entire webpage in all it’s glory so you can take notes, reference or read it offline? All you have to do is click the Send to OneNote button and the web page will be sent to a new OneNote page in your Inbox. Now, you may be wondering…where the heck is this button anyway? By default in IE 8, it’s usually hidden because it’s an extra icon that just won’t fit on the toolbar. Access it by clicking on the fly out arrow to the right.

Feel like this is too hard to get to? You have a couple of options. You can either unlock the toolbars and drag out the toolbar to include these icons, which will give less room to your tabs….

Right click on the toolbars, choose Lock the Toolbars (which deselects the option and really unlocks them). Then grab the handle for the Toolbar and drag it to the left until the OneNote icons appear. Then right click and choose Lock the Toolbars.

You also have the option of customizing the toolbar and moving the OneNote buttons up in the order, so they appear first. Right-click the toolbar and choose Customize –> Add or Remove Commands… Then select the OneNote buttons and click the Move Up button until they are in a position of your choice. Click Close to finish.
image image

Copy and Paste – Old and Faithful!

Yep, we can still copy and paste text, pictures and hyperlinks from IE. Give it a try and you’ll notice that at the bottom of the pasted information you’ll see a hyperlink reference back to the page you copied the information from. It’s very useful if you want to copy an excerpt or certain element from a page, but would still like to know where it originated from.

All the other stuff

Screen clippings

Hit the Windows + S keys to take a screen clipping of anything on your screen. This will automatically get sent to a new page in your Inbox section. Just make sure your OneNote icon is in the tray or the Windows + S key combo won’t work!

Print to OneNote

Any application that has print capabilities can print right into OneNote. Try it out. Open up a PDF in Adobe Reader as an example. Go to Print your PDF document, and instead of printing to your normal printer, select the Send to OneNote 2010 printer. You can print all the pages or just a range of pages and these will be sent directly to your Inbox section in OneNote. Neato!

Scan to OneNote

Yes, you can scan too! Click the Insert tab on the ribbon and select the Scanner Printout button. If you have a scanner connected, your scanning software will launch and allow you to scan directly into OneNote.

Record Audio

Too lazy to type or want to record some audio? It’s easy to capture audio directly to OneNote. Head over to the Insert tab on the ribbon and click Record Audio which will begin recording right away in the page you have selected, or right click your OneNote icon and choose Start Recording Audio. This will pop up a side note and place the audio on a new page within your OneNote Inbox section. You can pause or stop your recordings, and play them back when they are finished. Best of all, you can take notes on them!
image image

Attach Files and File Printouts

You can attach files and file printouts which we briefly covered in the Outlook section earlier in this post. Attaching files is often useful when we want to take some notes on the file, but don’t want to embed them within the file, or remember where the file is in our file system.

Go to the Insert tab on the ribbon and choose Attach File. Browse and select the file you want to attach and select Insert. Or better yet, simply drag and drop the file into OneNote from Windows Explorer!

You can also attach a file printout from within OneNote. On the Insert tab, choose File Printout. Browse and select the file you want to insert as a printout and it will be inserted into OneNote. It looks sort of like one long image, but the cool thing about it is that the text within the printout is fully searchable within OneNote. Super sweet!

Insert Pictures

Of course you can insert pictures! There’s a few ways of doing it. You can copy and paste from a web browser, you can drag and drop the picture file as shown above in the “Attach Files and File Printouts” section, or you can click the Picture button on the Insert tab and select your picture, then click Open.

Collecting your thoughts

In closing, I hope this post shows you some of the many ways we can capture information and bring it into OneNote. The idea is that we spend less time worrying about how to capture the information, less time about what exactly we do with that information, and more time on simply capturing and collecting all the stuff that is important or of interest to us.

Coming up…

In our next post in the series, we’ll cover how to process all of the information we gather throughout the day.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to post your comments or thoughts. They are much appreciated!

Continue to Part 5: GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010 – Processing and Organizing Your Outlook Inbox

24 Responses to “GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010 – Collection”

  1. Roland Rodriguez Says:

    Awesome! Keep ’em coming!


  2. Chintan Parikh Says:

    This is great information! Keep these posts going.

  3. Shelia Says:

    This is exactly what I ahve been looking for! We are converting from Office 2003 to 2010 so I am looking forward to revamping my fledgling GTD system.. Thanks again

    • Michael Wheatfill Says:


      You are very welcome and thanks for reading! I’ll be releasing another post on Processing this evening. Stay tuned!

  4. […] 18, 2010 In Part 4 of the GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010 Series, we covered how we utilize Outlook and OneNote 2010 to collect all of our digital stuff, thoughts […]

  5. […] even have files embedded directly within pages. If you want to know more about this, check out Part Four on Collection using […]

  6. Janet Says:

    When I copy/paste, I don’t always get that hyperlink – why is that? It seems to work with text, but not with pictures. I would like to have that reference to anything I’ve copied from the web.

  7. Jose Burke Says:

    Excellent, excellent, excellent! Thank you very much.

  8. Patricia Holler Says:

    Michael–Thank you, thank you so much for this series of articles on implementing GTD/Outlook/OneNote! (I have 2007 version, but could adapt the 2010 instructions to accommodate that quite easily.) I have been reading a variety of postings all over the web, trying to get a start on digital GTD. Mostly what I found was confusion, till I stumbled upon your site. I’m retired from the work world, but wish I’d found GTD years ago. We live in two different places, plus I have a lifetime of “open loops” to deal with, along with a busy schedule as a retiree. I followed your instructions & now have my Outlook/One Note 2007 all set up and ready to work on “collecting” now. Thank you for your clear & practical style of writing, and for sharing all your info. Keep up the good work.

    • Michael Wheatfill Says:


      Thank you so much for your response! I’m glad to see the GTD setup is working out for you! OneNote 2007 is perfect and I used this for years before 2010 came out. If you are able to get your hands on OneNote 2010, I think you’ll love it even more! Thanks for reading Patricia!

  9. Niels Says:

    Very great page, I have put it on my Facebook page.
    You have explain every step, so it’s total clear, how to do it.

    Thanks, I’m putting my GTD projects in OneNote now.
    you’re making it all work 😉

    • Michael Wheatfill Says:

      Thank you for the kind words Niels. Thank you for reading and I’m glad to hear about your success with GTD!

  10. […] generated)GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010 – Processing and Organizing Your O…GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010 – CollectionEnhance Productivity With OneNote 2007OneNote Know-How: The Notebook Reincarnated Posted […]

  11. […] Part 4: GTD with Outlook 2010 and OneNote 2010 – Collection Details the capture and collection process of GTD, and to use OneNote to be the collection bucket for all things digital […]

  12. Andre Fix Says:

    I´ve just found a firefox add-on (

    I’m still trying to configured it in order to work with yours “inbox setup”.

    I’d like to thank you for your articles.


  13. Jim Smithson Says:

    Great series. How does everyone capture notes from meetings and place them into OneNote or Outlook? I cannot have my laptop open to type during all meetings, bad etiquette. maybe those electronic pens? Otherwise I can take notes and retype them in or scan I guess.

    Other thoughts/ideas?

    • Michael Wheatfill Says:

      There are a lot of theories on note taking, especially from an academic standpoint. From a GTD perspective, use the capture device that’s most effective for you and your particular situation. From those notes, regardless of medium, extract out the action items and stick those into OneNote/Outlook. If the rest is “reference”, then you have several options. You may be able to provide a summarized context of the meeting in OneNote and reference the notebook/page/date the notes were taken on paper.

      As a quicker alternative to scanning, you could try taking a picture of the notes with your mobile phone if you have a camera on your device. I just tried this with my Windows Phone 7, which allows me to capture a picture directly into OneNote and sync to my SkyDrive, which is then synced to my other PC’s, and it worked out surprisingly well. As long as the camera is decent and the lighting is decent, picture quality is pretty dang good.

  14. Jessica Says:

    Thank you so much for this post Michael. Obviously, months after you wrote this, it has been found invaluable. I have been searching and searching for a solution to capture and manage everything in my life, and had no idea that OneNote was such an elegant solution. I am now trying to puzzle through using OneNote and synchronizing Outlook tasks and calendar items with my Android phones. If you’ve got any good links for that, I’d love to know!

  15. abhishek Says:

    When I try to dock onenote window to desktop, instead of sideways, it sets horizontally across on the top of application. How do I bring it back to right side of application?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Michael Wheatfill Says:

      Just click on the OneNote title bar and drag it over to the right and let go of your mouse. When I tried it wasn’t apparent that OneNote was “re-positioning” itself, but when I clicked and dragged my mouse in the general direction of the right hand side, it worked. HTH.

  16. Charlotte Says:

    I just want to thank you for this invaluable series. I am just starting out in the real world as an attorney and I’ve been overwhelmed with things coming at me. I was desperate for a simple GTD system and your posts have been unbelievably helpful. Thank you!!

  17. Debbie smith Says:

    This is wonderful information. Thank you for taking the time to give this free tutorial. It was extremely helpful.

  18. Kerri Says:

    My brother recommended I might like this website.
    He was entirely right. This post truly made my day.

    You cann’t imagine just how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

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