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Tips, Tricks, & Hacks

Posted On
July 26, 2021
Featured In
October 10, 2022
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Tips, Tricks, & Hacks

Here are some cool things you should know about PowerNotes to make it more useful:

  • Changing highlight color and contrast
  • Faster and fine highlighting
  • Using Topics to create Hierarchy in your Outline
  • Applying Promo Codes
  • Highlighting on HTML vs. PDF
  • Opening saved PDFs in Chrome
  • Setting Chrome to automatically open PDFs in Chrome rather than downloading them
  • Using your personal email address and linking it to your school’s premium access
  • Problems installing the extension - administrator issues for students

If you find an interesting new hack, share it with us here.

Changing Highlight Color and Contrast

The color of your highlights can all default to yellow or they can be set to match the color of your topics. To select a preference, right-click on the PowerNotes extension icon in your browser’s tool bar. In the menu, click “Options”. A setting page will appear.

On this page you can also change PowerNotes to be displayed in High Contrast mode.

Faster and fine highlighting

By default, PowerNotes highlights whole words with a minimum of 2 words per highlight. We did this so you can highlight quickly without the need to be precise about the beginning or end of your highlight. So just make sure you get part of the first and last word you want to save and you should be all set.

To highlight less than 2 words, even one character, hold down CTRL (on a PC) or COMMAND (on a Mac) when you highlight.

Using Topics to create Hierarchy in your Outline

When you have done enough research and have an idea of how your paper might be structured, you can use PowerNotes’ flexible topic naming to create hierarchy. Simply add an outline heading letter or number to the beginning of your topic name to indicate its place in your paper’s hierarchy.

For an example of how you might use this in practice, check out this blog post on how to transform your organically created topical outline into a structural outline that matches the structure of your paper.

Applying Promo Codes

You have a PowerNotes promo code. Now what?

Promo codes can be applied to new and existing PowerNotes accounts. If you’re creating a PowerNotes account, you can enter your code just below the password when you sign up.

Existing PowerNotes users can also apply a promo code through the pop-up that appears when the yellow “Get More Projects” button is clicked on the Project Dashboard.

In the pop-up, click on the “Have a code?” link on the bottom left and enter your code.

Some promo codes will provide you with a price discount, others will give you free, premium access (unlimited projects) for a specific amount of time.

If you use a promo code, your premium access may expire at some point. When this happens, your account will be downgraded back to the free version. You’ll be prompted to select one project to keep active, additional projects will be archived. We recommend downloading your work for the projects you will archive via the Project Outline.

If you’re having issues with a promo code or have any questions, please contact us.

Highlighting on HTML vs. PDF

A lot of your school’s academic databases (EBSCO, ProQuest, etc.) provide most of their documents in both HTML and PDF formats. We recommend that you use the HTML version when highlighting with PowerNotes. HTML is consistent and will provide a better highlighting experience. PDFs can behave very differently depending on how they were scanned, how old they are, and what character recognition software was used on them.

So if you have a decision to make with whether to choose HTML or PDF for a database article, we recommend using the HTML version.

Opening saved PDFs in Chrome

If you would like to use PowerNotes on a PDF that's located on your computer's hard drive, you will need to give the browser permission to access stuff on your hard drive. To do this:

  • go to (you can copy/paste this into your search bar): chrome://extensions/
  • scroll to: PowerNotes and check the "Allow access to file URLs" box


PowerNotes settings for opening PDFs in Google Chrome Image

Then just open the PDF you want in the Chrome browser by using CTRL+O (for a PC) or COMMAND+O (for a Mac) in a browser window. You can also find the PDF in your computer’s windowing interface, right-click, and select “open with” Chrome.

Opening Online PDFs in Chrome

You can make sure all of your online PDFs are opened in Chrome (so you can more easily highlight them with PowerNotes) by going to: chrome://settings/content/pdfDocuments

Then make sure the “Download PDF files instead of automatically opening them in Chrome” switch is in the off position.


Opening PDFs in Chrome for PowerNotes Image

Linking a personal email address to you school account

If your school is a PowerNotes partner, but you don’t want to use your school email address to create your account (perhaps it’s really long or you can’t remember it), go ahead and create your account using your personal email address. After that, go through these steps to link that account with your school’s PowerNotes license:

  1. Go to your project dashboard: powernotes.com/project
  2. Click the "Get more Projects" button
  3. Enter your institution email address on the left side of the screen and hit the "Submit" button.
  4. An email will be sent to your institutional email account. Open this email and click on the validation link.


Claim Institutional Account in PowerNotes Image


Now, your account will be associated with your institution and you can create an unlimited number of projects in PowerNotes.

Note that you will still log in with your personal email address and original password.

Problems installing the extension

If you are going to school and having trouble installing the PowerNotes extension in Chrome, try logging into Chrome under a different user. Sometimes schools restrict what students can install in Chrome if they are logged in with their school email address. If this occurs, you may get a “blocked by administrator” or similar error. Just follow these steps to fix the problem:

  • Make sure you are using Chrome.
  • The "administrator," which is the account that is logged into Google Chrome should not be your school email address because your school may block installation of the PowerNotes Extension.
  • Log into Google Chrome using your personal email address. To change users in Google Chrome, click on the name that appears on the top right of the browser (sometimes shown as your first initial). Multiple accounts can be managed here.
  • Once you have logged in with your personal email address, the extension should install correctly.  

If you find an interesting new hack, share it with us here