Unless you are a very fast touch typist, it is faster to speak notes than to type them and talking is effortless and not prone to typing slips. You can create one long audio note or you can create several short ones.
They don’t need to be created all at the same time and like all notes in OneNote, you can return to your audio recordings and add more, delete old ones, listen to them and more.
The only downside of creating audio notes in OneNote is that you cannot copy the text and paste it elsewhere as you can with typed notes. That would require speech recognition. Cortana can perform speech recognition and you might try that for storing notes. You can, but only in a very limited way.
There are several versions of OneNote and this article is mostly about the free app that runs in Windows 10. If you do not already have it, open the Windows 10 Store app and search for it. Run it by clicking the tile on the Start menu.
There are also free OneNote apps for phones and tablets, whether you use iOS or Android. I will briefly cover the mobile apps too.
Record audio notes
Open OneNote and create a new note by clicking the + Page button at the bottom of the sidebar. Audio notes can be added to any note, but in this instance I will insert them into a new note.
There are two methods and one is to select the Insert tab and then click Audio. Recording starts immediately and you can just start speaking. Alternatively, click the Audio tab and then click the Record button.
While recording, the Audio tab is selected and this displays a toolbar with buttons for various functions. Click the Stop button when you have finished.
Listen to audio notes
The audio file appears as an icon on the page and has the time and date when the recording was started. This might be useful if you record notes on different days and you can easily return to a specific day and time and listen to the note.
Just double click the audio icon to listen to it. Alternatively, select a note and click the Play button in the toolbar on the Audio tab. There are buttons to pause or stop, skip forward or back 15 seconds or five minutes. This is useful for navigating long audio recordings or to hear again something you didn’t quite catch.
Audio note actions
Right click an audio note for a menu. It can be cut, copied and pasted elsewhere, such as to a different note. It can also be saved to disk as a .m4a audio file if you need to get the audio out of OneNote.
The File menu lets you open the audio file with a different program, such as VLC. An Alt Text option enables a title and description to be added to the audio clip.
Audio quality settings
The audio quality depends on the computer and the microphone. I found I got a whirring sound in the background, possibly from the computer’s fan or disk drive. An external microphone would solve that problem.
Right click the speaker icon at the right side of the taskbar and select Recording Devices to select the microphone and configure the recording properties.
Record audio notes on your phone
This is where it got a bit weird and Microsoft needs to sort this out. Run the free OneNote app on an Android phone for example, and you can tap the microphone icon in the toolbar at the bottom to record an audio note.
That is a great way to create notes on the go. However, the audio file is added to a new note and you cannot insert it into an existing one. The way around this is to cut and paste the audio file into the note you want on the phone or on the PC - they both sync.
A really weird thing is that an audio note recorded on a phone is synced to the PC, but it cannot be played within OneNote like the recording you make. Double click the audio icon and it will open in the default audio player, such as Groove Music. Right click it and you can choose Open with to select an app like VLC to play it.
It’s not too much hassle to listen to notes in another app, but you would think OneNote would play the file.
Even stranger is that audio notes created on the PC in OneNote cannot be played on the phone. They can only be cut, copied or pasted, not played. Microsoft needs to fix this.
Create audio notes with Cortana
Click the microphone next to the search box on the Windows 10 taskbar and Cortana asks what it can do for you. Say ‘Create a note’ and you can then speak the note and it is automatically inserted into a OneNote note.
Even better is that it also stores the text too. This means you can either read the text or listen to the recording in OneNotes.
There is a major limitation and this is that Cortana stores only one sentence notes. I tried reading this article and Cortana stopped after the title. Although Cortana has speech recognition and OneNote access, it seems unable to work for longer than a few seconds.
That’s a shame. It would have been useful to store text and audio notes.