Insert a file in OneNote

Inserted files provide easy access to information from documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other sources by keeping everything together in one place. Instead of duplicating such information in multiple places, you can bring everything you need directly into OneNote — either as linked cloud files, as independent file attachments, or as virtual printouts whose pages you can view and annotate.

Note: The information in this article applies to the latest updates to OneNote for Windows 10 and OneNote for Mac.

Insert a file

To insert a file in OneNote, do the following:

  1. Place the cursor anywhere on the current page, and then click Insert > File.

  2. In the dialog box that appears, locate and select the file you want to insert, and then click Open.

  3. In the dialog box that appears, choose one of the three options, as outlined below.

Insert File option in OneNote for Windows 10

Upload to OneDrive and insert link

Selecting this option uploads a copy of one or more files to your OneDrive account (the same account on which you store your current OneNote notebook). A link to each file is then inserted on the current page in your notebook. Using this option can help to reduce the size of your notebooks by keeping the source files on OneDrive, and you can easily invite other people to view and contribute to those files.

Note: If you must frequently use OneNote offline because of limited or no Internet access (for example, during air travel), this option may limit your ability to maintain access to all of your information during such times.

For each uploaded file, OneNote inserts a clickable link that points back to the source file on OneDrive. For any inserted file that is associated with a Microsoft Office app (such as a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, or a PowerPoint presentation), OneNote also displays a live preview of the file contents in your notes. This lets you view and browse through the file contents quickly and easily, without having to open the file in the associated app.

Insert as attachment

Selecting this option inserts a copy of one or more files as separate attachments in OneNote. Once inserted, attached files have no link to their source files, so any changes you make to them in OneNote will exist only there. This option is a good choice for collecting static “snapshots” of information from multiple sources (for example, while doing research for a project) or to keep information available in OneNote even when you’re working offline.

Note: An attachment is an unlinked copy of the original source file. Any changes you make to the source file or to the copied attachment won’t be applied to the other.

For each attached file, OneNote inserts a file icon in your notes. Double-clicking the icon opens its contents for editing in the associated app (for example, Microsoft Word when opening a Word document).

Insert as printout

Selecting this option inserts the contents of a PDF (Portable Document Format) file as a virtual “printout” by importing the contents of the file as a series of images (one image per “page”). Once placed in your notes, each printout image can be selected, resized, moved, and annotated, but they can’t be edited like normal text. This option is a good choice for PDFs whose original formatting you want to preserve (for example, files containing elaborate tables and charts, diagrams, or richly formatted lists).

In OneNote for Windows 10, you can also choose to insert the contents of Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files as printouts. Support for these additional file types is currently rolling out to customers.

Note: The Insert as printout option is shown only when you have selected a single file in Step 2 of the “Insert a file” section, outlined earlier in this article.

If the source file is large, it may take a moment for the printout images to appear in your notes. When the images have been placed in your notes, click any image to resize it, move it elsewhere on the page, or right-click it to cut, copy, paste, save, or delete the image.

You can easily annotate a printout image by right-clicking it, clicking the Set Picture as Background button, and then typing or writing over the image.

Tip: Although the text in a printout image cannot be edited like the rest of your notes, you may be able to copy legible text from the image. Text that is successfully copied from images can be pasted elsewhere in your notes for editing and formatting. For more information, see Copy text from pictures in OneNote.

About file conversions using Microsoft online services

Before certain files can be inserted into your notes, OneNote may need to first convert them to a different format by using Microsoft online services.

If necessary, OneNote sends such files over the Internet to a secure Microsoft service for conversion. Converted files are immediately sent back to your computer or device, at which point OneNote will insert them into your notes.

Microsoft online services don’t store any of the contents of your files on its servers. You can use converted files in OneNote or in other Office applications even when you’re working offline.

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