Vector image of taking notes with a pencil scribbling lines on yellow paper.

How I use Microsoft OneNote with low vision

Note taking with Microsoft OneNote with low vision. How I use OneNote in high school, college and how I organize my notebooks.

One of the most common questions I receive from students and teachers alike is how I take notes in the classroom with low vision and dysgraphia, and what my favorite notetaking apps are for iOS and Android devices.  I’ve been using the Microsoft OneNote app since I was a freshman in high school for taking notes across all of my subjects, and have found it to be perfect for not only writing my own notes but also for sharing notes with others and integrating classroom resources so that I can find everything I need all on one page. Here is how I use Microsoft OneNote with low vision and dysgraphia, and ways that I have used it in high school, college, and beyond the classroom.

What is OneNote?

OneNote is a free Microsoft Office software that allows users to create multimedia notebooks filled with text, images, videos, files, and more. OneNote goes beyond the standard Microsoft Word document and allows users to create an interactive notebook filled with content that can be accessed from almost any device.  The OneNote app can be downloaded on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android, though a (free) Microsoft account is required for use.

Related links

Organizing OneNote Notebooks

There are a few different options for organizing OneNote notebooks that I have used over the years. Before I explain these options though, it’s important to understand the different elements of a OneNote notebook:

One of the primary reasons I use Microsoft OneNote with low vision is because it is so easy for me to organize my notes. While users may have different methods for organizing that they prefer, some of the methods I have used include:

Related links

What can be added to OneNote Notebooks?


Text can be added by tapping anywhere on the page and beginning to type, or by copy and pasting text from an outside source. Just like in Microsoft Word, users can increase/decrease the font size, highlight text, add headings and special text formatting, and other tasks.

For users who are copy and pasting text from an outside source, the Format Painter tool can help make all of the text consistent. To use the Format Painter in Microsoft OneNote:

  1. Select the text that you want to copy the formatting of- this will copy the font type and size
  2. Use the keyboard shortcut Control-Shift-C, or select the Format Painter icon in the ribbon next to the font options, which looks like a small paintbrush
  3. Select the text you want to format- if the user clicked the Format Painter icon, the text formatting will be applied after the user selects the text
  4. Select the text you want to format and use the keyboard shortcut Control-Shift-V to apply the text formatting

Dictated text

For users that prefer to use dictation over typing, there is an option on the Home tab to dictate text, as well as set the dictation language. Users can also use the dictation shortcut on their keyboard if available, or use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key-H.


Have a Microsoft Word document that can be added to the notes? Need to link the latest PowerPoint?  Users can attach files to Microsoft OneNote notebooks and have all of the relevant class files in an easy-to-access location. This can be done by going to the Insert tab and selecting the File icon, which looks like a paperclip.


Printout will insert a copy of a PDF directly into a OneNote notebook, which is helpful for referencing documents while writing, however, the printout itself cannot be read by screen readers. Users can add a printout by going to the Insert tab and selecting Printout.


There are several options for inserting pictures in Microsoft OneNote:

Whenever possible, I prefer to save a copy of the image I am inserting into OneNote onto my device so that I can enlarge the image in other applications if needed, or so I can use a tool like Microsoft Seeing AI to get additional descriptive information.

Alt text

Alternative text, or alt text,  provides a text-based description of images for people who may otherwise have trouble seeing them. Alt text can be added in Microsoft OneNote by doing the following:

  1. On any page in OneNote, right-click or long press an image that has been inserted
  2. On the menu that appears, select Picture, and then select Alt Text.
  3. In the Alt Text dialog box, type a descriptive Title for the selected image, along with a short description of what is in the image.
  4. Select Done

Online video

OneNote allows users to embed online videos into their notebooks from several different web sources including YouTube, Flipgrid/Flip, and TED Talks. This can be done by selecting the “Insert Online Video” icon on the Insert tab, and there is no time limit for how long a video can be. However, users will need an internet connection to view the videos in a OneNote notebook, and videos cannot be uploaded from a device.


OneNote supports several different embedding options for web content, including Wakelet, Microsoft Forms, Quizlet,, and others. However, links from anywhere on the internet can be added to OneNote pages by selecting “Link” on the Insert tab. For websites that support embedding, users will be able to interact with web content directly within OneNote, while other websites will open with the default web browser.

Audio recording

Audio can be recorded in real-time and attached to OneNote pages so that users can read along with their notes, which is great for people with print disabilities. This can be done by selecting “Record Audio” on the Insert tab.

Equations and math

Equations can be added to OneNote pages by selecting Equations from the Insert tab. From there, users can add symbols from the Equations Tools menu or use standard MathType notation to add equations. This is different from the Math tool on the Insert tab, which converts written equations into math.


Users can hand-write text with a stylus such as the Apple Pencil or Surface Pen, and OneNote will automatically convert the handwriting to OCR so that users can search for the text at a later time. The Draw tab in the ribbon has several options for customizing the ink color and size. If a user does not have a stylus, they can use their finger or mouse to write- this can be enabled in the Draw tab.


Besides handwriting, users can also draw shapes, diagrams, and charts with their finger, mouse, or stylus and have the drawings added to their OneNote pages. Users can configure options for ink on the Draw tab.

Related links

Application integrations in OneNote for low vision

One of my favorite things about OneNote is that I can use it with a lot of my favorite applications and other tools. Some of the integrations that I use frequently include:

Related links

How I set up OneNote for low vision

When I am setting up a notebook or pages in OneNote for me to type notes in, I use the following settings/display preferences so that I can read my notes more easily:

Some people who use OneNote with low vision prefer to have Rule Lines on their page, which mimic notebook paper and can be configured in the View tab. However, I have poor contrast vision and can’t see these.

Related links

Taking notes in class with OneNote

With all of these options, it seems easy to get overwhelmed with using OneNote with low vision, as it can be difficult to figure out what should be inserted when. Here is my typical notetaking process for taking notes in class with OneNote:

Related links

Summary of how I use OneNote with low vision

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,

Updated August 2023; original post published September 2017.

Back to Paths to Technology’s Home page

evaluation checklist form

Instructor evaluations and low vision

Student fingers on the Monarch. APH's photo.

Making math more accessible: Monarch’s Word processor

simple nature picture with digital grab handles to enlarge the picture.

How to create high resolution images for users with low vision