Custom Toolbar (QAT) for OneNote

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OneNote custom toolbar - Dr. Nitin Paranjape

Estimated reading time 7 min

What is QAT

It is the small toolbar you see next on the title bar of Office tools.
Here is the QAT for OneNote (may look different based upon version of OneNote).


It is a custom toolbar where you SHOULD add commonly used buttons which do not provide keyboard shortcuts. Right click on any button and choose Add to Quick Access Toolbar to add it to QAT.

There are hundreds of options available. To add options which are not visible in the ribbon (because there is no space to show all options in the ribbon), you must right click on the ribbon and choose Customize Quick Access Toolbar.

Now it shows you all commands. Choose the ones you want and add them to QAT.

I have already created it

The issue is that most of us do not know about QAT. And even if we know about it, we never end up taking that extra effort to create a nice and handy custom toolbar for ourselves.

Here is a toolbar which I have created for OneNote over the Years. I am sure you will find it useful.

Save your existing toolbar configuration first

Right click on the ribbon in OneNote and choose Customize Quick Access Toolbar.

In the dialog which opens, choose Import/Export button at the bottom right corner.

Choose Export all Customizations. Specify a filename.
The default file name will be OneNote Customizations.exportedui
Change it if required. Save the file.

In case something goes wrong after you import my QAT, you can bring back your existing Ribbon structure by importing this file.

How to install my custom toolbar

Now you need to import it into OneNote. Here is how…

  1. Unzip the file
  2. The file Nitin OneNote Customizations V1.exportedUI will now be available
  3. Open OneNote
  4. Right click on the ribbon and choose Customize Quick Access Toolbar
  5. From the bottom right side of the dialog,
    choose Import / Export Import Customization file
  6. Choose the file we just unzipped
  7. Click Ok

Now the Quick Access Toolbar should look like this.


Disclaimer: Please use it at your own risk. I (Dr. Nitin) am not responsible for any untoward effects. QAT only changes the menus. It does not affect the content of the notebooks or data in any way. Of course it is a very useful and safe feature – has been available since 8 years across all Office products.

You can customize it as per your needs

This is just the starting point. Right click on ribbon, choose Customize Quick access toolbar and then you can add, reorder or delete any items from the toolbar.

Back and Next buttons

Back button is there by default. But next button is also useful. Why?

Because OneNote tends to have lots of notebooks, sections and pages. While working, you tend to jump around across this large collection.

Like a browser you may want to go to a previously visited page. But just back button is not enough. After you have finished referring to an earlier page, you want to come back to the current page. That is where the NEXT button is required.

It is just like a browser. But OneNote remembers many pages. I have not tried to find out how much of history it remembers. But it is good enough for day to day use.

Of course when you close and restart OneNote, it forgets the history.

Undo button

Everyone knows that Ctrl Z is the shortcut for UNDO. Therefore, it is not necessary to have this button. It is useful if you have a touch device. Otherwise remove it.

Zoom buttons

Unlike other Office products, OneNote does not have a zoom slider in the status bar. You can use Ctrl and Mouse Wheel to zoom or use pinch zoom on touch devices. However, it is a good idea to have a toolbar button to zoom in and out.

I have also added a page width button for convenience.

OneNote does not show the current zoom level while you click on the zoom in and out buttons. That is why I have added the zoom level drop down. It is more an indicator rather than a interactive element.

Panning Hand

OneNote pages can be very long and very wide. (There is no practical limit).

Due to this, once you zoom in, moving around in the page becomes difficult. If you use a touch device there is no problem. You just move the page by dragging with your finger. But on a non-touch device this is a difficult thing to do. You have to struggle with horizontal and vertical scroll bars to find the area of interest.

That is when the pan hand becomes useful. Click on it and now the mouse cursor becomes a hand. Just drag it around the page to review the content or location the area of interest.

Very handy Smile

Dock to Desktop

You must know the brilliant feature called Linked Notes in order to appreciate this feature. Read these articles for details.

Dock to Desktop is a ONE CLICK way of starting a Linked Notes session.

Always on Top

Relatively unknown feature. But it is quite useful if you want to take notes about something which is happening in another window. Mind you, these are not linked notes. Just that you want the OneNote notebook to be always available without Alt-Tab.

Very useful with touch devices because there is no keyboard to press Alt Tab!

I find it useful for taking notes while watching videos.

Bullets and Numbering

Useful while taking notes.

But remember that if you type <Number one><period><Spacebar> on a new paragraph it will automatically start numbering.

Similarly <asterisk (*)><spacebar> will start a bulleted list.

If you know these shortcuts, you can remove these two buttons.

Favorite Pens

This is useful if you have a touch device with a stylus. Usually we need to go and choose the pen size and color from Draw menu. But for quick editing it is good to have few pre-configured pens in QAT. I have added favorite pens 1 and 2. Up to 8 favorite pens can be added.

How to add your custom pen to Favorites?

Go to Draw tab. Choose a color and thickness for the pen. It will be added – automatically – to favorite pens area. What is that? See below…


Right click on a built-in pen to add it to favorites. If you create a custom pen, it is added automatically.

Unfortunately there may already be pens in favorite area. The pen we just added (the think purple one, is favorite pen number 16 – and therefore, cannot be added to QAT.

You will have to struggle to move the pen upwards (right click menu) to get it into the first 8 favorite slots and then add it to QAT.

Ruler lines

If you use handwritten notes, it is important for the written text to be horizontal. Diagonal text is not recognized for Search or Conversion to Text easily. To help us take horizontally aligned notes, ruler lines are useful.

But if you are typing the notes, ruler lines are not required. So this is a good button to have in the QAT.

Show / Hide Authors

In a shared notebook, showing or Hiding Authors is useful. Author names are shown as initials with color coding. Using this button you can toggle this on or off.


Next Unread change

This is also useful in a shared notebook. If multiple team members have done lot of changes to the notebook, knowing where the changes are is difficult. This button takes you to the next change which you have not read. Very useful feature to quickly understand what has changed. More options are available in the History tab.

Show QAT below the ribbon

If the screen size is small or if you have audio or video in a particular OneNote page, all the buttons in this custom toolbar will not be seen. The toolbar will be truncated as shown below.


In that case right click on the ribbon and choose Show Quick Access Toolbar below the Ribbon.

Now the toolbar button visibility is not affected by what happens in the title bar.



Hope you find this useful. Do post your feedback here.

*** Enjoy ***

3 thoughts on “Custom Toolbar (QAT) for OneNote”

  1. Is there any way to have the Quick Access Toolbar visible while in Full Screen Mode? It’s irritating to have to come out of Full Screen to be able to switch pens or to go back & forth between pages.

    1. Hi Cal Armstrong
      You DO NOT have to quit full screen to choose any option (QAT or regular Ribbon). Just take mouse cursor to the top of the screen, the ribbon will appear. Choose whatever you want and then the ribbon disappears automatically.
      Alternatively, remember the position of the favorite pens in the QAT. Make sure you have these pens in the first 9 QAT options. You can then press ALT – to choose the required pen (or any other relevant option). Press Esc to come out of the Pen mode to regular selection cursor.

Comments? Suggestions? Wish list?