Search in OneNote

Updated 15/11/2017

The ability to quickly retrieve notes in OneNote is one of its main advantage.

If you look for a note written recently, flipping your last pages, or using the “Recent note” is a solution. But when you are looking for an older note (or all notes mentionning a subject or word), the Search feature is essential.

All versions (UWP, desktop and Online) provide a search feature, with some slight differences as far as user interface and performance are concerned :

Search in OneNote desktop
OneNote Desktop search : lightning fast, and sorted results (recent, title, page)

In OneNote desktop, the search is super fast, even if you have several large notebooks opened !

If you want to browse across the found notes, you’d rather pin the result’ pane before clicking within each resulting page (otherwise the list of notes disappears).

The options are numerous : sort by modification date (by default), note’ title or section, ascending or descending order, or freely move the search window (may be useful when using two monitors ?).
Nevertheless, I feel rather confused with the results being sorted by modification date (by default), because most of my notes are organized by dates (with the date stated in the title of the note) :

Pinned search result pane in OneNote desktop
The pinned search result’s Pane shows notes sorted by modification date (by default), clustered by months.


OneNote UWP offers the same filtering options than its elder brother : you can search in all notebooks, current notebook, current section (but not in the current Section Group) or the current page.

OneNote UWP search demo.
Shortcuts in OneNote for W10

As shown in the above video, OneNote UWP needs more time to find the results, if you don’t limit the scope. While the results were available instanly in OneNote desktop, it took 4 seconds in OneNote UWP  (and more than 1 minute in OneNote Online !).

LIRE AUSSI  3D search

Update Nov. 2017 : thanks to an indexation process, search is now much quicker !


On the other side, navigating through OneNote UWP’ results is super easy :

  • the results’ pane remains anchored on the left until you close it, so you can skim each note, without loosing the results’ pane,
  • press TAB 3 times, and you’ll reach the first result of the list ; use top and down arrows to navigate through the results ; press ENTER to reach the selected page.
Shortcuts in OneNote for W10

I also noticed that OneNote UWP finds results which OneNote desktop don’t : in my company, the part numbers format is AB.70xxx.CDE. The “root” is 70xxx, and thus most of my search are at the “root” level :

  • In OneNote desktop, if I search for 70xxx, I don’t get any result
  • In OneNote UWP, I get 3 results.

That’s better, thanks to special character support in OneNote UWP !



Side Note : Ctrl E is the shortcut to search in all notes / Ctrl F to search in current page. Same in OneNote desktop and UWP. 

By the way, on a related topics : while you are in a note in OneNote UWP : Ctrl Alt F bring the focus to the note pane. Arrows (up and down) move across your note’ list, while right & left arrows expand or collapse sub-pages. Enter bring the focus back in the selected page.

Update 04/11/2017 : Search in OneNote UWP is now much faster thanks to an indexation process.

Update 15/11/2017 : See this interesting article (in German) from Stefan Wischner about the use of special characters in OneNote UWP – in combination with the search feature – to categorize.

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