Learning Tools for OneNote - Getting Started and Frequently Asked Questions

Thanks for downloading the Learning Tools for OneNote! This readme will guide you through installing and using the software and provides instructions on troubleshooting any problems you may encounter. In the video below, Doug gives you a quick overview of what Learning Tools can do for you.

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  1. Installation

  2. Running the add-in

  3. Immersive Reader

  4. Dictate

  5. Settings

  6. Updating to a newer version

  7. Sending feedback

  8. Troubleshooting

  9. Release Notes

1. Installation

To get started with the Learning Tools add-in, simply run the installer at https://www.onenote.com/learningtools. This add-in works with OneNote 2013 and 2016. Make sure you have one of these versions installed before continuing. Close any running instance of OneNote before starting the installer.

Note: If you had any “Alpha” test version of the Learning Tools (0.0.1 or 0.0.2), you'll have to uninstall it first. Go to Start, type Add or remove programs and click the application that is found. On the screen that appears, look for Learning Tools for OneNote. Right click it and select Uninstall. After this has completed, run the installer. After uninstalling the Alpha build, restart your computer.

A few things to note:

  • If you have Windows 10, make sure you're using the desktop version of OneNote (OneNote 2013 or 2016), and not the OneNote store app (called simply OneNote).

  • If you don't see the Learning Tools tab in the OneNote Ribbon after installing, follow these steps:

    • If Learning Tools is listed under Inactive Application Add-ins, try to activate it.

      • If it still does not load , go back to the Manage: COM Add-ins, Go… dialog and take note of any error reported for the Learning Tools item that may be listed at the bottom next to the LoadBehavior label.

      • At the bottom of that page, click the Manage: COM Add-ins, Go… button. In the dialog that opens, enable the checkbox next to Learning Tools and click OK. The Learning Tools tab should load.

      • Check the status of the add-in under File > Options > Add-ins.

        • Go to Start, type Add or remove programs and click the application that is found. There you should click on the Microsoft Office or Microsoft OneNote entry. You should get the option to Change or Modify. Click the button, select Repair or Quick Repair and restart after the setup finishes.

        • You should see Learning Tools listed under the Active Application Add-ins section. If Learning Tools is Active, you should try to repair your OneNote/Office installation

    • If the above don’t work, there’s one more thing to try. Close OneNote and any lingering OneNote.exe and DllHost.exe processes using Task Manager and then restart OneNote. If Learning Tools still doesn’t appear, contact support at the email below.

      If Learning Tools still doesn't appear, contact support at the email below.

  • For other issues, please see the Troubleshooting section below in this article.

  • If you have any problems with setup, please contact LearningTools@OneNote.UserVoice.com for help, and let us know what you tried and the result.

2. Running the add-in

After you have everything installed, you should see a new tab on the OneNote ribbon named Learning Tools. If you can't see it, please consult steps above to fix installation issues.

3. Immersive Reader

3.1 Summary

The Immersive Reader (Reader) is a tool to help you focus on the content of your OneNote documents without worrying about the surrounding OneNote UI. Clicking the Reader button from the Learning Tools ribbon tab will bring up a full screen reading experience. Reader can take a few moments to load so don't worry if nothing happens immediately.

3.2 Navigation

When the Reader has loaded you'll see the text from your OneNote page. Text will be gathered from images as well, if they have legible text in them.

The Reader features a few controls to help you navigate OneNote. If you have multiple pages, you can use the Next and Previous page buttons in the center left and right of the screen to move between pages.

You can also use the Play button in the bottom center of the screen to have the OneNote page dictated to you. Each word is highlighted as the narrator recites the document aloud. You can change the voice and speed of the narrator from the Settings menu (see the Settings section below).

If you want to skip to a certain word in the text, simply click a word to have the narrator start reading from that point.

3.3 Grammar and reading aids

The Reader features several options to control grammar and syntax highlighting. Click the button with a picture of books in the top left to see what's available. If you click the button as the page loads, you may notice that some of the buttons in the window that appears won't be available to click yet. Don't worry. This means our grammar analysis tool is still working out what the content on the page means. After everything has loaded you will see the five options.

The Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives buttons, as might be expected, highlight all the nouns, verbs and adjectives on the page. They can be enabled and disabled individually. The color of the button corresponds to the color of the highlighted part of speech in the text.

The Comprehension button enables reading comprehension mode. In this mode, we display verbs and their dependent sub-clauses. Sub-clauses are enclosed within small, triangular brackets and verbs are displayed in their associated color. You can turn off verbs and just leave the sub-clause brackets if you wish.

Finally, the Syl-la-bles button will enable syllabification for the text. Every word will be split into its syllables and displayed on the screen with small demarcations between each part of the word.

3.4 Viewing options

The Reader has several options to help you consume the text on screen in the way that you want to.

The Text Size buttons will increase or decrease the size of the text, respectively. You can click these buttons to increase or decrease font size by a small amount, or click and hold to scroll the size up or down.

The Spacing buttons change how the font is spaced out. Regular spacing is the usual spacing seen in most books and documents. Wide spacing however increases the s p a c e b e t w e e n l e t t e r s, as well as the space between lines. Try this in combination with the text size and see what works for you.

The Font menu lets you select either Calibri or Sitka Small. These fonts have been designed by our font team as they are very legible and work particularly well for dyslexic readers. If you don't like black text on a white background, try using the one of the new Color Themes. Pick a theme that works best for you. The choice of theme comes down to personal preference.

The Speech menu drop down allows you to do a few things. The Speech Rate slider lets you control the playback speed of the narrator to your personal preference. You can also choose the Text-to-Speech voice that you like best. Learning Tools also supports the ability to play back multiple languages on the same page. For example, if you have the English and Spanish text-to-speech voices downloaded, Learning Tools seamlessly plays back a page that has both English and Spanish.

If you are practicing French, for example, you might want to set the narrator language to French to hear how certain words are pronounced. Changing the narrator language changes the voice. Some narrator languages have more than one voice. The English-US narrator language, for example, includes Microsoft David with a male narration voice and Microsoft Zira with a female narration voice. Choose the narrator language and voice you're most comfortable with. To learn how to download additional text-to-speech languages for the Immersive Reader, follow the link to Download more voices.

3.5 Shortcut keys

We have key shortcuts for within the Reader:

  • Up/Down Arrow scrolls line by line

  • Page Up/Down scrolls screen by screen

  • Left/Right Arrow goes to Previous/Next page

  • Esc key closes the reader

  • Tab changes the UI selection

  • Space clicks the current selection

4. Dictate

Looking back at the ribbon tab, you'll also see a button labeled Dictate. This button allows you to talk directly to the computer to input text into OneNote. This feature requires a good microphone (built-in laptop microphones are often inadequate; consider using a headset) and a relative lack of background noise in order to accurately understand what you are saying.

If you're running Windows 7, dictation isn't supported; you won't see the Dictate button on the ribbon.

Sign in

The first time you use dictation, you'll be asked to sign in with a valid account. You can use an Office 365 ID, such as student@contoso.edu, or you can use your Microsoft Account. If you don't yet have a Microsoft Account, you can get one at https://signup.live.com. After you've input your details the first time, you won't be prompted the next time you use dictation. After signing in successfully, the dictation will begin.


If everything is working properly, after a moment you'll hear an audio cue and see a highlighted piece of text on your OneNote document saying "Listening..." and the icon of the button will change to indicate its recording. If so, you are now ready to speak! If you don't see this, please check the Troubleshooting section of this article. Speak loud and clear for best results. When you're done dictating, either click the Dictate button again, or simply stop speaking and the dictation will end.

5. About

The About tab on the menu gives you a few options to learn more about Learning Tools. From here you can go to the Learning Tools homepage as well as see your license and privacy information. You can also send feedback to the product team.

6. Updating to a newer version

6.1 Summary

When a new version becomes available, a new Update button appears on the Ribbon.

6.2 Update Button

When a new version becomes available, a new button appears on the Ribbon. Clicking the Update button opens your default browser and downloads the installer for the newer version of Learning Tools. You can also choose to go to https://www.onenote.com/learningtools/ and download the new version.

6.3 Running the new setup

Close OneNote, go to the download location, and run the new setup.

After the install finishes, run OneNote again and you should see the Learning Tools tab in the ribbon. If the tab is not there, see the Installation section above for steps to fix the issue.

6.4 Checking your current updated version

After a successful update, the update button in the ribbon should disappear. Also, under Learning Tools > Settings > About, you should be able to see the current install version of Learning Tools. Also, you can go to the Programs and Features control panel. Look for Learning Tools for OneNote. The version column will show the version number.

7. Sending Feedback

7.1 Summary

Since this is a beta, we know there will be some parts that need more work! We'd love to hear from you and help to improve your experience. The final button on the ribbon (and the aforementioned link in the settings window) lets you send feedback directly to the development team. Click it, and your default mail client will open, ready to send us an email. If you don't have a mail client or want to use a web client, just send a mail directly to LearningTools@OneNote.UserVoice.com and we'll get back to you.

8. Troubleshooting

8.1 Summary

As mentioned, this is a beta, so, while we have worked hard to bring the best possible experience, we expect you may hit a few snags while using the software. A few common issues and their workarounds are mentioned here.

8.2 Learning Tools doesn't show up in the ribbon

Sometimes the add-in will be disabled by OneNote. If this happens, it won't be displayed in the ribbon. To re-enable the add-in, in OneNote, click File > Options > Add-ins and check to see if Learning Tools for OneNote is displayed. If you don't see it at all in the list, please check the installation section at the top of this article for Install issues. If you see Learning Tools for OneNote, but not in the Active section, press the Go... button at the bottom of the page. Select the check box in this list and then click OK. After a few moments, the ribbon item should be displayed. If it isn't, go back to the aforementioned add-ins Options screen and click Go... again. Click the Learning Tools for OneNote entry and check to see if an error is displayed at the bottom of the window. If it is, please contact the team at LearningTools@OneNote.UserVoice.com.

If you're running Windows 7, dictation isn't supported; you won't see the Dictate button on the ribbon.

8.3 OneNote won't restart

Occasionally, you may see a notification telling you the add-in has stopped working and asks you to restart OneNote. If you don't restart, it's possible that OneNote will never finish starting up (showing a loading bar on launch and then saying "Sorry OneNote was unable to start at this time"). If this happens, please perform the following steps.

  1. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del and select Task Manager.

  2. Click the Details tab.

  3. Click all the OneNote.exe processes and select End Task.

  4. Do the same for any instances of DllHost.exe (there may be none).

  5. Restart OneNote.

8.4 There are lots of strange rectangles on all the buttons in the Immersive Reader

If you're running Windows 7, it's possible that the Immersive Reader's buttons will have strange characters that look like rectangles. This is most likely because you don't have the latest Segoe UI Symbol font installed. You can download this font by applying the update available at https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2729094. Note that even though the buttons' symbols are missing, they will still work if you click them. If you are unable to install the font, the add-in will still work in this state.

8.5 Nothing happens when I press Play in the Immersive Reader

Listening to audio playback of your notes relies on having an audio device installed and enabled on Windows. If there's a problem with your audio device, then nothing will happen when you press Play (if words are highlighted but you don't hear any sound, check your volume settings). If you have speakers or headphones plugged in, check that they are also turned on in Windows. You can do this by right-clicking the speaker icon tray area in your task bar (typically the bottom right of the screen). Click Playback Devices and make sure that at least one of your devices is enabled. If none are, right-click one and select Enable. After this is done, restart OneNote and confirm the issue is fixed by pressing Play again.

8.6 Dictation doesn't record

If you click the Dictate button, complete sign-in (only shown if you sign-in for the first time), and nothing seems to happen, check your Windows microphone settings. To do so, right-click the icon of a speaker in the tray area in your task bar and then click Recording devices. In the Recording devices window make sure that you have at least one microphone enabled and that it's picking up your voice. Disable the other recording devices.

If, during dictation, you encounter a warning you about connectivity issues, check your network connection. If you're connected to the Internet and you see this message, it's typically because of slow upload speeds. There are free Internet speed tests on the web that you can use to confirm if this is the issue.

As always, feel free to reach out to the team via email.

8.7 Parts of Speech seems to be taking forever

Analyzing text for grammar and meaning is a computationally intensive process. To bring you a good offline experience we allow your computer to perform these calculations instead of performing them in the cloud. This means that if you have a slower computer, parts of speech may take a long time to load. The best way to mitigate this effect is by splitting any long pages in OneNote into sub-pages. For example, instead of having a whole chapter of a book on one page, consider having a few paragraphs on separate sub-pages.

Release Notes

Version (January 2016)

» View blog post about this version


  • Enhanced dictation

  • Focus mode

  • Immersive Reader

  • Font spacing and short lines

  • Parts of speech highlighting (nouns, verbs, and adjectives)

  • Syllabification

  • Comprehension mode (verbs and subordinate clauses)

  • OCR support in Immersive Reader (e.g., Office Lens text)

Version (April 2016)


  • Ink recognition and reading in Immersive Reader

  • Combination of 32-bit and 64-bit download

  • Reduced download size

  • Setup improvements

Version (July 2016)

Note: This is the General Available release of Learning Tools. The Learning Tools add-in is no longer in "Customer Preview" for English.


  • New languages supported in the Learning Tools user interface (34 languages).

  • Support for multiple text-to-speech languages on a single page of text (e.g. French and German). Any language will be read with a language-appropriate voice if installed.

  • Support for new Dictation languages, including English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. You can select dictation languages from an improved speech menu.

  • New color themes.

  • Improved ease of use to choose text-to-speech voices.

  • Improved accessibility and touch.

  • Bug fixes and performance improvements.

Most recent release

Version (January 2017)

Note: Features:

  • Added 6 new UI languages - Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Japanese, Korean, Thai and Hindi.

  • Added 3 new Dictation languages - Chinese (Simplified), Portuguese (Brazil) and Russian.

  • Updated the Reader Voice menu and Font Spacing button icons.

  • Improved the reading of Chinese text by falling back to more appropriate voices for the various language regions when the correct voices are not installed.

  • Add Dictation microphone-specific error message and only display the first error that occurs.

  • Changed the update check to not show the Update button on the ribbon for IT-based installs.

  • Added a new Update Prompt that shows Release Notes details

  • Bug fixes and performance improvements. 

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