How I got the OneNote 2016 snipper back in the latest Windows Insider build

Power users lose another tool to the simple needs of the masses, but for now you can get it back by editing the registry.

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With Microsoft's One Note the simple needs of the masses are prevailing -- and power uses are losing tools.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Windows 10 is the operating system Microsoft wants to replace Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows XP all at the same time, so it has a very large audience to keep happy.

It's trying to take the best of Windows 8.1 and make it work for the huge Windows 7 audience that's going to arrive now that you really, really, really can't buy a Windows 7 PC any more.

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That includes the businesses who've said they'd move to Windows 10 within two years of it launching and will be doing that this year. It's meant losing controversial Windows 8 features like the charms bar and stripping out even useful features that caused people problems: I tracked some 20,000 votes asking Microsoft to put back OneDrive placeholders, but over two years later we still don't have the promised replacement.

Office 2016 had a similar clawback, with one of the monthly updates removing all the recently used folders from the Open and Save dialogs on the File menu. Want to save a document in the folder you created when you saved a document there an hour ago? Get ready to hunt through all your folders to find where you put it. After a good deal of complaint, the Office team finally restored recent folders to the list, and even added the option of pinning folders that you need frequently. If you don't have the feature back, make sure you have the update that Office Insiders got in November 2016.

OneNote is the latest to lose a feature to the march of simplification.

Many years ago, OneNote used the Win-S keyboard shortcut to let you drag a cursor around anything visible on screen to save it as an image in OneNote, or copy it to the clipboard. It replaced this so-called Windows Snipping tool that's been part of Windows since Vista because it had more options and Microsoft assumed that if you'd paid for the extra features in Office, you wanted to use them.

Windows 8 stole the Win-S shortcut for search -- even though you could hit the Windows key and just start typing to launch search, most people never thought to do that. OneNote users grumbled a bit and got used to the Win-Shift-S shortcut (with a confusing transition period when you couldn't easily get the new shortcut because it needed an update to OneNote).

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few -- or the OneNote

Now, Windows-Shift-S is going back to the Windows Snipping Tool, or a version of it that has no options at all apart from putting the area you select with the cursor into the clipboard.

Sharing screenshots is really, really useful. I do it dozens of times a day, to post something helpful, or funny, or annoying, on Twitter, or to include in email. Making that easier is great. I'm a fan of easier. The OneNote Windows 10 app didn't have its own snipper, so now you can paste into it -- and any other app, like EverNote -- after pressing Win-Shift-S.

But I'm not a fan of losing power features, even if most of us power users use the OneNote snipping tool to copy to the keyboard (hey, I do that dozens of times a day myself). I also use the snipping tool to snip the thing I'm saving into OneNote, right into the notebook where I need it -- or even appending it onto a page I've already made, just by typing the name of the page into the snipping dialog.

(The snipper has two buttons, Send to Selected Location and Copy to Clipboard, letting you choose what to do with the capture. The new snipper has no interface at all -- you just drag and the snip goes into the clipboard.)

I file screenshots and clips from web pages and apps. Need to save a long string of numbers and letters to put in a bug report? I snip it to the 'bug report' page where I can see if it's the same as last time. I can right-click on the image in OneNote and get the text from it -- very handy when most Windows 10 'about' dialogs don't let you copy information out of them for bug reports.

I want to keep that.

I'd love it if it worked with more apps too -- it would be like the Share charm, only in a form most people might actually use. Have the snipper show a list of open documents and common apps, so I could snip my screenshot and put it in a tweet straight from the snipping interface, or drop it into PowerPoint or Word or an email. But first, I need it to not take away the useful OneNote tool I've relied on for years.

Compare that to the OneNote clipper in Edge. Until the extension was available, I couldn't even consider making Edge my default browser because I used the Send to OneNote feature in IE even more than I use the OneNote clipper.

When it first arrived it was unreliable; every time I clicked the icon I sat wondering 'will it sign me in? will it clip the section of the page I want?' If I hadn't been able to fall back on the SendTo tool because Microsoft thought the new, simple tool was good enough, I'd have been lost.

Finally, it became reliable and now I actually prefer the way it snips -- it can strip all of the annoying cruft off a page and just keep a copy of the information. So I can save the Windows blog announcing a new build without all the thumbnail adverts for other blog posts cluttering up the page. But it doesn't let me search for the notebook I want to save the page in and I can't append to an existing page the way I could with the SendTo tool, so I want to see it keep improving.

So maybe a few iterations down the line, the new Windows snipper will be better: simple enough for everyone and powerful enough for me. But right now it's not.

Annoyingly, there isn't a way to choose which snipper I want from the Settings app. It would be nice if I could choose between the basic snipper, the OneNote snipper and other capture apps like Snagit or Camtasia or ClipMate, the way I can choose which browser is my default and which app opens PNG files.

Instead, you have to edit (or more likely create) a registry key, which means you have to be an admin user to run REGEDIT.EXE. First, pick what keyboard shortcut key you want to use. The OneNote team suggested Win-Shift-X -- that way there's one shortcut to file in OneNote and one to copy straight to the clipboard. The HEX value for that is 58.

(There aren't many choices because you need a key that you can press with the same hand as Shift and Windows, because you have to hold them all down together, but there's a list of all the options in this 2006 blog post explaining how to change the OneNote shortcut. I couldn't get Win-Shift-S to go back to being the OneNote snipper in build 15002, even though that used to work.)

If the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\OneNote\Options\Other key doesn't exist, create it (make sure you pick the right version of Office -- on a PC that's only ever had Office 2016 installed, I have registry folders for Office versions 11.0, 12.0, 14.0 and 15.0 as well).

Now create a new DWORD (Edit, New, DWORD), called ScreenClippingShortcutKey and set the Hexadecimal value data to 58. Take a second to add it to the Favorites menu, in case you want to come back and try another key. Close the Registry Editor then restart Windows and you can press Windows-Shift-X to get the OneNote snipper.

You can tell when the registry key has been applies, even without saving a clip. The OneNote 2016 snipper has a solid cursor; the new Windows 10 snipper has an outlined cursor -- but as it's not transparent, that doesn't help with positioning it more accurately.

Read more about Microsoft by Mary Branscombe

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