Getting Started with Notion: A Simple Guide for Beginners

This is a guide for beginners getting with started Notion, a powerful all-in-one tool that can be used for project management, note-taking, and more.

Getting Started with Notion

Notion is a multi-purpose digital application for organizing your work and personal life. If you’re new to Notion, this section will help you get started with sign-up and navigating the user interface.

Creating an Account

To get started with Notion, you can sign up for a free account. Here’s how:

  1. Go to notion.so in your web browser.
  2. Click on “Get Notion Free” in the top right corner of the screen.
  3. Choose whether you want to sign up with Google, Apple, or your email address.
  4. Follow the prompts to create your account.
Notion sign up page with arrows pointing to Get Notion Free
Notion sign up page

Understanding the Interface

Once you’ve created your account, you’ll be taken to the Notion dashboard. Here’s a quick overview of the interface (areas are numbered on the image):

Notion page view with sidebar
Notion interface showing items 1 – 5
Notion layout table view of a database
Notion interface showing items 6-7
  1. Sidebar: The sidebar is where you’ll find all of your pages, databases, and dashboards, and other content.
  2. Settings and members: This area is where you can adjust account level settings, such as appearance, notifications, privacy, and connections.
  3. Spaces: All accounts have a Private space. Teamspaces are optional and additional teamspaces can be added depending on your Notion plan.
  4. Page: A page is where you can create and organize content. You can add text, images, videos, and more to a page.
  5. Additional options: Additional options for a page can be accessed by clicking on the 3 dots at the top right corner of the web browser interface. Three dots also appear in other areas, such as the top right of a database and on items in the sidebar when you hover over them.
  6. Database: A database is a collection of related information. You can customize databases to fit your needs, and use them to track tasks, projects, and more. Think of databases as next-level Excel spreadsheets.
  7. Blocks: Blocks are the building blocks of Notion. You can add blocks to a page or database to create different types of content, such as text, images, to-do lists, and more.

When opening pages to view, there are several options:

  • Full page: takes up the entire width of the web browser
  • Side peek: an overlay panel on the right-side of the web browser
  • Center peek: an overlay panel in the middle of the web browser

To find content within Notion the quickest option is to use the search feature in the sidebar. There are also navigation breadcrumbs (path of pages and sub-pages) at the top left of the Notion interface.

Creating Your First Page

Everything in notion starts with a page, and there are several ways to create a new page. The easiest way is to click on the “+ New page” or “Add a page” button in the sidebar.

Adding Content

Once you’ve created your page, you can start adding content to it. Notion supports all the text styling features you’d expect from any word processor, such as bold, italic, and strikethrough. To access the various options, press forward slash on your keyboard to bring up a menu of items. The list is quite long, so you can start typing a few letters to jump to an item in the list instead of scrolling all the way down.

Moving Blocks

Blocks are the components of a page that can be moved around by hovering over the left side of text or image and then click on the 6 dots, hold and drag to the new position. This allows for easy rearranging of content on a page.

Using Markdown Format

Notion also supports all Markdown styling on desktop, web, and mobile. Markdown is a type of computer language that is common in plain text editing applications. Here’s a quick rundown of shortcuts:

  • Type ** on either side of your text to bold.
  • Type * on either side of your text to italicize.
  • Type ` on either side of your text to create inline code.
  • Type ~ on either side of your text to strikethrough.
  • Type # followed by a space to create an H1 header.
  • Type ## followed by a space to create an H2 sub-header.
  • Type ### followed by space to create an H3 sub-header.

Organizing Your Workspace

As a beginner, organizing your Notion workspace can seem daunting. However, with a few simple steps, you can create a personal dashboard that will make your workspace more efficient and convenient to use.

Using Notion Subpages

Notion doesn’t use folders that are found in apps like Google Drive or Windows File Explorer. So one way to organize your workspace is by creating subpages. Subpages are pages that are nested within another page, making them easy to access and organize. To create a subpage, simply click on the page you want to nest the subpage under and click the “Add a page” button. From there, you can select “Sub-page” to create a new subpage.

Using subpages can help you organize your workspace by grouping related pages together. For example, you could create a subpage for all of your project pages, or a subpage for all of your meeting notes. The top-level page can be collapsed or expanded to show its sub-pages.

Notion sub-pages in the sidebar
Notion sub-pages in the sidebar

Using a Dashboard

Another way to organize your workspace is by using a dashboard. A dashboard is a page that acts as a “home base” for your workspace, giving you quick access to your most-used pages.

To create a dashboard, start by creating a new page. From there, you can add links to your most-used pages using the “Link to Page” block. This will allow you to quickly jump to any page in your workspace from your dashboard.

You can also use the “Link to Page” block to create nested links, which will show up in your sidebar. This allows you to keep your sidebar organized and uncluttered, while still having quick access to all of your pages.

Using a Notion Database

In addition to page links, you can also add linked databases to your dashboard. A each row in a database is a separate page, so these pages will not show up as sub-pages, and is an great way to keep the sidebar from getting too long.

Collaboration in Notion

Collaboration is one of the most powerful features of Notion. It allows you to work with others in real-time, share content, and communicate with your team seamlessly.

Members vs Guests

There are 2 types of collaborators in Notion:

  • Members – people that share your Notion workspace and are paid account holders. Members can be assigned various permissions by admins.
  • Guests – people that are invited via email to a specific Notion page in your workspace. If guests do not yet have a Notion account, they will be prompted to sign up for a free plan. Guests can be assigned various permissions by admins.

There is also an option to publish a page publicly on the web, for people you collaborate with that don’t have Notion accounts and just require read-only access.

Adding Members

To add members to your workspace, go to Settings & members in the sidebar. Then select members from the left menu, under Workspace. You can choose to:

  • send a generated-invite link
  • add members manually or
  • import member contact info from Slack.

Inviting Guests

To collaborate with others in Notion, you need to invite them to your workspace. To do this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Click on the “Share” button in the top-right corner of your page.
  2. Enter the email address of the person you want to invite.
  3. Choose the level of permission you want to give them (can view, can comment, or can edit).
  4. Click “Send.”
Notion page with arrow pointing to share link at top right corner
Notion page share at top right corner

Once you have invited someone to your workspace, they will receive an email invitation. They can then sign up for Notion and start collaborating with you.

Commenting

Notion allows you to leave comments on any page or block. This is a great way to discuss ideas, give feedback, and communicate with your team. To leave a comment, follow these steps:

  1. Highlight the text or block you want to comment on.
  2. Click on the “Comment” button that appears.
  3. Type in your comment and hit enter.

Your comment will appear in a thread below the block you commented on. You can reply to comments, mention team members, and even attach files to comments. Team members can adjust their Notion notification settings to get an email or in-app notification when they are mentioned on a page.

Notion Advanced Features

Notion is a powerful tool that offers many advanced features to help you organize your work and increase productivity. In this section, I will introduce two of the most useful advanced features of Notion: Using Databases and Integrating with Other Apps.

Creating Databases

Notion’s database feature allows you to store, organize, and view data in a structured way. Databases can be used for a variety of purposes, such as project management, customer relationship management, and content creation.

To create a database, simply click on the “Add a page” button and select “Table” or select a database type from the dropdown menu. You can then customize your database by adding properties, such as text, date, and checkbox fields. You can also add filters and sorting options to make it easier to find and organize your data.

Notion blank page with arrow pointing to table
Notion blank page with options to add new table

One of the most powerful features of Notion’s databases is the ability to create relationships between different pages. This allows you to link related pages together and create a more comprehensive view of your data.

Integrating with Other Apps

Notion offers a wide range of integrations with other apps, such as Google Calendar, Slack, and Figma. These integrations allow you to bring data from other apps into Notion and vice versa, making it easier to manage your work in one place.

To integrate with other apps, simply click on the “Integrations” button in the sidebar and select the app you want to integrate with. You can then authorize Notion to access your data in the other app and start using it in Notion.

One of the most useful integrations is with Zapier, which allows you to create automated workflows between Notion and other apps. For example, you can create a workflow that automatically adds new tasks from a Google Calendar to your Notion database, or sends a Slack notification when a new page is created in Notion.

Now you should be comfortable getting started with Notion. Check out my Notion review to find out the pros and cons.