Notion Foundations: Starting Out With Notion

If you’re just starting out with Notion, you’re in the right place. In this Notion Foundations lesson, you’ll be introduced to the Notion workspace and some of the building blocks to get you started.

You can think about a workspace as your blank page where you can organize, edit and share your information and ideas.

Notion provides you with the tools to create a workspace that fits your needs and personality. It can be as simple or as complicated as you like. 

If you just need Notion to be your note-taking app, that works. If you need a workflow tool to help you run your business, that also works! Notion is your oyster (or canvas)!

The Notion Interface

The Notion user interface is split into two sections, the page editor and the sidebar menu.

Notion Interface

Page Editor

The page editor is the main body where all your content will live. You can think about each page as a blank notebook page. You can fill it with text like any other text editor or use the blocks to fill out the pages. You can call the blocks by hitting “/” on a page – we’ll go into more detail later.

You can make each page as simple or complex as you want. For example:

What sets Notion apart from other productivity apps is the flexibility it provides. You can design pages to act like a notebook, a task manager, a dashboard, etc.


The sidebar is your navigation system around your workspace. All the new pages and databases you create will show up here. You also have the ability to nest pages inside each other. 

The usual app settings, trash folder, and pre-made templates will also be found.

Customize Your Page

Page Settings

Before we dive into the advanced features of a page, I’ll quickly discuss some of the basic style features.

In the top right ellipsis (three dots), you can pull up a menu that allows you to adjust the font type, text size, and page container size (full width). The full-width option, when toggled, means the page will stretch over your screen’s resolution. When it’s off, it’s set to a specific size in the center of your page.

Page style

The “Customize page” (which is not very intuitive!) allows you to toggle comments and backlinks – we’ll cover this when we discuss linking databases and sharing your page with others.

The remaining options are pretty standard in most software, and we’ve got a detailed tip on how to lock Notion.

Page History

The Page History is another item to call out in the settings menu. This feature is available on all paid plans. Instead of saving multiple versions of the same page, this feature allows you to roll back to previous versions of the page.

As Notion stores your data on the cloud, it effectively takes various snapshots. Very handy if you re-write sections of your page and want to roll back!

Page Header

It will create a page like this:

New Page
  • Page Title – Add your page title where it says “Untitled.” This will be the label that also shows up in the sidebar menu
  • Add Icon – You can choose from a pre-defined list of emojis, icons, or upload your own
Add Icon
  • Add Cover – Again, Notion has provided a pre-defined list, or you can upload your own. There is also an Unsplash integration which links to a repository of stock photos you can use. You can edit your Cover page by clicking on “Change cover.”
Add cover

Basic Blocks

With the settings out of the way, we can start diving into designing your page. Begin by creating a new page – down the bottom left of the sidebar menu.

From here, you can start typing freely and use Notion as a text editor. While not as advanced as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, you can bold, italicize, underline, and color text. To pull up the entire formatting menu, highlight the text.

Format text

Don’t stop here though – you’ll miss out on all the goodies that the Notion team has jam-packed into this app!

To start using Blocks, type “/” into the body – this will open up a menu of options.

Basic blocks

Here are some of the key ones:

  • Page – this allows you to create a sub-page within the current page. This creates a nested page structure (that can go as deep as you want!). This is helpful when you cover a broad topic, say “Accounting,” and then you want to add specific notes to, say, Financial Accounting, Management Accounting, or Tax. An example of the nested structure is illustrated in the image below.
Nested page
  • To-do list – this will create a checkbox icon that you can tick once you complete a task
  • Heading 1-3 – This helps to format a page and will help automatically create a table of contents if you choose to add one.
  • Toggle list – Instead of adding a bullet or numbered list, you can create a toggle list that allows you to hide and show the contents as needed. More information on toggles is here.
  • Link to page – This helps to create a navigation structure across Notion. If you have information on a topic in another area of your Notion workspace, you can create links instead of trying to find that specific subpage again!

Now that you know how to navigate around Notion and have the basics of creating and customizing your page, it’s time to move on to learn more about the Blocks.

If you’d like to understand the power of Notion, check out this article, Maximize Your Productivity: 5 Surprising Notion Use Cases.

Other FAQ

How do I get started with Notion?

To get started with Notion, you’ll first need to create an account. You can sign up on Notion’s website or through the app available for download on various platforms.

Once you’ve set up an account, you can explore Notion’s features and set up your workspace to fit your needs.

Can I use Notion for free?

Notion does offer a free version, which provides a substantial number of features for individuals. 

For more advanced features or for team use, Notion offers several paid plans.

How does collaboration work in Notion?

Notion is designed for both individual and team use. You can invite others to your workspace and collaborate on pages in real-time.

Notion offers a comment feature so that you can discuss ideas directly on the page. In addition, permissions settings allow you to control who can view and edit each page, making it an excellent tool for team project management.

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