OneNote Customized Inking Pens Travel With You Across Devices and Office Programs

Opened up OneNote for Windows 10 as I found some fun new bullet journal inspiration on Pinterest that I wanted to try my hand at duplicating using the OneNote Inking pens. To my delight there was a new feature pop-up stating that customized pens will now travel with you across devices!

The announcement says: “Choose a personal set of pens and highlighters for inking. Your customized set is available on all your Windows PCs and iOS devices across OneNote, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.”

It is a feature for Everyone and does not require an Office 365 subscription to use it.

The “catch” is it states iOS devices (i.e. iPhones and iPads) so this of us that use Android devices will have to wait for this functionality.

To test this functionality out, I opened the OneNote App on both of my Windows PC devices (a Surface Pro 3 that I use for work and a Lenovo Yoga laptop that I use for personal)

Here is an image of the default set of drawing tools that come with OneNote for Windows 10:

Next I modified my set of drawing tools. I changed the black pen to a Green-Blue colour. I also added a new red pencil and a new green highlighter.  See:


I then opened up my Lenovo Yoga laptop and opened the OneNote App on that device to see if the pen changes matched. Nothing happened. I tried a WHOLE slew of troubleshooting steps (see the checklist at the bottom of this post) and still nothing happened.

(Why? Because I didn’t realize you had to open/close the App to make the changes appear.)

Finally I went back to the most basic of computer troubleshooting tips – and restarted the device. SUCCESS! You can see the Lenovo on the top, and the Surface on the bottom:

I tested changing the pens multiple times to see how quickly the pens will change… Notebooks sync had zero effect on the Inking Tools in my experiments. The sync across devices is triggered by closing and reopening the App.

I wasn’t able to find consistent results so I experimented with certain combinations. I discovered that you do not have to open/close the App on the device where you make the customization (i.e. Device #1).

To make the pen changes sync from Device #1 to Device #2, be prepared to Close/Open the OneNote for Windows 10 App on device #2 two times. Sometimes the Inking Tools would sync and match on the first try. Sometimes it would take two tries. I never had to try three times.

If you’re having trouble, I recommend the “Not seeing a new feature you’re expecting?” section of the Keep OneNote for Windows 10 up to date page. The Cliff Notes in sequential order are:

  1. Check your version number
  2. Do a manual update of the App in the Microsoft Store
  3. Check the Latest updates for OneNote for Windows 10 site to confirm the new feature is for Everyone or only for Office Insiders
  4. Check that the feature is not only available for users with an Office 365 subscription.
  5. Restart OneNote after sign-in to enable subscription features.
  6. Restart your device.  <— This is the final step where everything started working for me.

I’m looking forward to seeing how these Inking Tools sync across the other Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). Another experiment for another day.

To learn more about the Take your pens with you feature:

Check out the Latest updates for OneNote for Windows 10 site to see what’s new and improved in the March 2018 feature update (Version 17.9126.xxxx).

Check out the Microsoft Support article Write notes and draw in OneNote for Windows 10 which includes a one minute Draw with OneNote video tutorial.

3 responses to “OneNote Customized Inking Pens Travel With You Across Devices and Office Programs

  1. Thanks so much klaforest! Originally, your method did not work for me the first time I did it, but I figured out that it had to do with my Onenote having 3 accounts on it. I used the same account for my SP7 and my PC and bam! It worked! Thanks!

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