OneNote Surface Pen Hack

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As I’ve mentioned several time on the Surface Smiths Podcast, If you have a Surface and use OneNote desktop regularly should be aware, if you upgrade to Windows 10, you will lose the ability to launch the Desktop OneNote with the button on the top of the stylus. For some reason you can only launch the Modern version of OneNote that comes with Windows 10. This version is very basic (not even as good as the Windows 8.1 version with the impressive context sensitive radial menus). You can try setting default app Settings>System>Default apps but that doesn’t work. Neither does the Surface App. In fact, the sometimes useful but also laughable Surface App was updated in August with a new interface. It no longer has the option to set the version of OneNote that launches with the pen top button.

Figure 1 – Example of just one of the laughable settings in the Surface App

So what’s missing in the Modern version of OneNote? Lots of things but most importantly for Surface users that rely on the stylus, the ability to convert ink to text or ink to math.

So what’s a OneNote power user to do? There have been many complaints about this in the various forums that Surface users frequent but Microsoft has yet to issue an official statement or fix that I am aware of. Fortunately buried in the comments of one of Paul Thurrot’s posts about how to choose the right version on OneNote for you, One clever reader named Mark Wibaux provided a hack that walks you through setting the desktop version of OneNote as the default for the pen button.

Here is a summary of his instructions:

  1. Uninstall Universal OneNote by starting an elevated PowerShell session and running the following command:

    Get-AppxPackage *OneNote* | Remove-AppxPackage

  2. Launch regedit and go to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\onenote-cmd
  3. Create a new Key “Shell”
  4. Under shell create a new key “Open”
  5. Under open create a new key “Command”
  6. Under command edit the (Default) REG_SZ entry and enter path to the OneNote desktop executable. The easiest way I found was to open up the “OneNoteDesktop\Shell\Open\Command” registry key that was right below the onenote-cmd key and copy the string from there (without the /hyperlink “%1” ending) to the entry.

Since this is not something that all users can or should do by themselves, I’ve worked with Sean Kearney to create a short command file to automate the process. Here’s a step-by-step on how to run the script:

  1. Download FixOnNote.Zip
  2. Extract the contents to a folder on your system
  3. Navigate to the folder and verify that it contains the file FixOneNote.CMD
  4. Right click on the FixOneNote.CMD and select Run as administrator

Figure 1 – Run the command file

The command file be read with any text reader such as notepad. I recommend you inspect it before you run it. As always the standard disclaimers apply. Run at your own risk. No guarantees warranties etc.

Enjoy your resurrected OneNote experience. I know I do.

10 thoughts on “OneNote Surface Pen Hack

    s said:
    September 15, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    hi this doesnt work for me.
    Remove-AppxPackageGet-AppxPackage : The term ‘Remove-AppxPackageGet-AppxPackage’ is not recognized as the name of a
    cmdlet, function, script file, or operable program. Check the spelling of the name, or if a path was included, verify
    that the path is correct and try again.
    At line:1 char:29
    + Get-AppxPackage *OneNote* | Remove-AppxPackageGet-AppxPackage *OneNot …
    + ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo : ObjectNotFound: (Remove-AppxPackageGet-AppxPackage:String) [], CommandNotFoundException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : CommandNotFoundException

      Colin Smith responded:
      September 15, 2015 at 10:41 pm

      See the note from EnergizedTech below. He summarizes what I believe your issue to be. Let me know if that works better for you.

        s said:
        September 16, 2015 at 2:33 am

        it runs now but doesnt fix the issue. have to wait for microsoft i guess 😦

    EnergizedTech said:
    September 15, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    The error message you received shows the line that ran in PowerShell was this

    Get-AppxPackage *OneNote* | Remove-AppxPackageGet-AppxPackage *OneNote* | Remove-AppxPackage

    It appears you were the victim of a “Double Paste” in the console. It should actually look like this

    Get-AppxPackage *OneNote* | Remove-AppxPackage

    Alternately, download the .ZIP file provided which has a Single CMD file to do the dirty work. You may just need to edit the path to your One Note application first.


    The Energized Tech
    Windows PowerShell MVP

    Mark Wibaux said:
    October 16, 2015 at 3:16 am

    Glad to see this out here and hope it helped a few people.
    Of course now that Office 2016 is out, once you upgrade this will stop working as the location for OneNote 2016 is different to 2013.
    Easy fix just go in an update the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\onenote-cmd\Shell\Open\Command\(Default) entry to point to the new path of the OneNote executable.

    Nathan said:
    October 16, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    The only thing this doesn’t fix is the double-click import of what you’re looking at, which is too bad! Also seems to be a little less stable than launching the metro with the button.

    mark said:
    January 7, 2016 at 8:34 am


    Does anyone know how to change back the registry edit after you’ve used the fixonenote script. I have run this and it works as intended, opens onenote 2013 with click of top botton. However on hindsight losing the screen clipping feature makes this not worth it and the user would prefer to have that and open in the onenote app than just have the onenote 2013 open. Need to reverse this regedit please, any help would be appreciated.

    kind regards

      Colin Smith responded:
      January 7, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Have you tried reinstalling the OneNote Appx?

    CD said:
    July 25, 2016 at 5:12 am

    It works for the note icon o the action center screen but when I use the pen it opens the original note again and reinstalls it.

    sean said:
    May 29, 2017 at 2:21 am

    Can I add keyboard short cut instead of location of onenote desktop
    I just wanna insert windows key+shift+s(it is onenote desktop’ clipping short cut) in default of command
    How can I add line to implentment this?

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