How to Use Microsoft Word to Type Organized and Efficient College Notes

Hello, there!

The other day I posted in a facebook group my class notes using my iPad, I was surprised to learn that many students don’t know how to efficiently use Microsoft Word to take notes.

I am a big advocate of technology, it saves time, patience, and trees.

On this blog post, I’m going to teach you my tips and tricks to take notes in Microsoft Word.

1. Save

The first thing you should do is give a title to your document and save it! A couple of semesters ago, I had to write a 12-page history paper. I started writing my paper but never “saved it as”. Something happened to my computer that made Microsoft Word quit unexpectedly, I only recovered a portion of all the things I wrote.

I learned my lesson and from that day on, the first thing I do is rename my paper and save it. While I keep adding more information to the document, I constantly click “comand+S”. I am terrified of losing all my work lol.


I am a big fan of DropBox, it syncs faster than Google Drive or OneDrive. Create a folder in your favorite cloud drive and put all your documents there. I have all my classes color coded to find them faster.


You can even set the autosave in Word to 1 minute. It means that every minute your word will be autosaved. If something happens to Word and you need to re-open the application, your latest work will come back.

Word > preferences > save



2. Take advantage of the whole page

Write more by changing the size of the paper. Not only does it gives you more space, it also helps you organize your titles, pictures, and ideas.



3. Assign a folder for all your pictures

I usually use my iPad and an app to write what my teacher says during the lecture, later on, I type the power point information and my information in a Word document and add important pictures from the power point.

Here is how you customize images: Word > preferences > edit > click the option for insert/paste picture as > choose tight.

This option keeps your text organized and your pictures aligned correctly along the text.




Now, choose a specific folder where all your screenshots or google images are going to be. Since I’m a science major, I’m constantly googling chemical structures to paste/insert them in my notes. This folder keeps my laptop organized, clean, and all pictures in one place.

Word > preferences >


file locations >



select “clipart pictures” > modify > select the folder that you want to assign for pictures.



4. Customize your keyboard

The best way to use Word to take notes faster is by customizing the keyboard. To insert a text box I have my keyboard set up to “command+option+t”, to insert a picture I just click “command+option+i”

Here is how you can customize your keyboard: tools > customize keyboard >


 in categories scroll down to “all commands” > in the search box type what you want to customize.


Search all the terms you need and customize them. Select what you want to customize > in the “press new keyboard shortcut” press the keys that you want to assign to that command.

I suggest you customize the most used tools:

  • InsertPicture (command+option+i)
    • In the previous step, we selected a folder for all the pictures that you want to insert in a Word document. With this shortcut, the folder will immediately open and you’ll be able to choose the picture faster.
  • TextBox (command+option+t)
  • CropImage (control+command+c)

Please keep in mind, that a shortcut that you choose might already be assigned to another tool. Choose a different shortcut. For example, crop Image was already assigned to some other tool, so I had to type something else. Instead of using (command+option+c) I use: (control+command+c)


You can also customize the top toolbar to find your most used tools faster


Just click the arrow beside the toolbar > more commands > choose all commands > now you’ll see more options. Add all the commands that you want. Keep in mind, some of them will work and some will not (since we selected all commands)



5. Highlight important Titles

My main titles are yellow, my subtitles are green and any extra title that belongs to the subtitle section are blue. It helps my brain remember information faster and whenever I take a test I can remember what information was under what title. I also associate the titles and the pictures I include in my notes.

Here is an example of my notes:

I try to keep them simple, easy to read, and organized.


You know how Word comes with really dark highlighting colors? I don’t like those colors. When I use them, I can hardly see the text.


Here is cool trick to select/use any highlighter color that you want:

Select the text that you want to highlight > format > borders and shading >


 shading > make sure to select: “apply to text” > click fill >


 choose a color or click choose more colors >





Here is an example of 2 shades of green:


6. Assign a Specific font and font size to all your future documents

Here is how you can make a font and a font size default in Word:

format > font > don’t worry about the Adian text font (unless you really need to use it) > choose the font that you want for all your documents in “Latin text font” > choose a size, size 10.5 is the perfect size for me, not too big and not too small. Even when I print my notes, the font is not small to read > once you have a font and size click “default”, is going to ask you to confirm, just click yes.

Now, every time you start a document is going to automatically have your desired font and font size.




Final thoughts

Just like any software or application, you need to play with the settings and become familiar with them. On this blog post, I gave you the main tools and ideas to take advantage of Word.  The more you use it, the better you become at it.

If you would like to read more tips, tricks, or ideas to take better note sin college leave me a comment. If I know how to do it, I’ll definitely write a tutorial about it.

Thank you for reading my post!
Jenniffer life is messy and brilliant signature

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7 thoughts on “How to Use Microsoft Word to Type Organized and Efficient College Notes

  1. katepierce10 says:

    That was interesting- I haven’t really done the customizing keyboard thing before- I may need to give that a shot.

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