By Nerino Petro at 8 March, 2008, 8:12 pm
Microsoft Office OneNote is not a one-trick pony. True, Microsoft has had its share of software “misses,” so it is easy to overlook the useful software that Microsoft does produce. OneNote 2007 is definitely one such gem amongst the chaff, and it is quietly gaining a place in many lawyers’ software toolboxes.
As Microsoft sums it up, “Office OneNote 2007 is a digital notebook that provides people one place to gather their notes and information, powerful search to find what they are looking for quickly, and easy-to-use shared notebooks so that they can manage information overload and work together more effectively.”
If you think of OneNote as an electronic three-ring binder, you’ll begin to understand how this product works. A notebook in OneNote is the equivalent of a binder, with each notebook section being the equivalent of a paper tab, and the pages inside being places to write down notes and collect and organize your information. But OneNote goes far beyond traditional note-taking pads and three-ring binders—and also beyond other note-taking tools available for the computer.
OneNote allows users to collect a wide-ranging array of information to be placed on its pages, including text, graphics, Web pages, and video and audio files. It allows you to search not only text, but also text within graphic files and speech within audio and video files as well. Suddenly, all your information can be kept in one logical place that can be easily searched, changed and shared with others.
Sharing capabilities. As lawyers become increasingly mobile, it is very important to be able to keep your information with you at all times. To facilitate this, you can easily share OneNote notebooks between your desktop and your laptop computer. If you need to collaborate with others inside or outside your firm, you can effortlessly share OneNote notebooks with other OneNote users, with OneNote automatically handling any changes. You can even share with non-OneNote -users by sending your notes in HTML format to anyone who has an HTML-enabled e-mail client or Web browser. In addition, because OneNote 2007 is integrated with the 2007 Microsoft Office system, you can copy, paste and print information from OneNote into Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint, and vice versa. You can also print (convert) OneNote files much as you do when printing files to PDF in other software programs.
Plus, OneNote does not require you to save your work before moving on to another page, or when closing a notebook. Additions or changes are automatically saved, thus removing the worry of having to actively save your work—or of inadvertently losing it by clicking the wrong button.
From a legal perspective, OneNote can be used to compose trial notebooks or to manage all the information on a client’s file for such things as real estate purchases, business formations or estate planning. A number of legal-specific templates are available from Microsoft’s OneNote template page , including a trial notebook, legal client notebook, legal practice notebook, meeting minutes and more. One of the uses that I find myself making more and more is using OneNote as a repository for research on articles and papers. I can gather print, web, notes and other information such as graphics or images in one central location which makes keeping information organized and close to hand extremely easy. It also works well as a place to store all of those little tidbits of information that you would like to keep, but really aren't sure where to put them so you can find them in the future. I find the "side note" feature to be very useful for doing this.
Side notes and links. OneNote installs its “side note” feature into your Windows toolbar—and, just like in a OneNote page, you can place documents, text, graphics, audio and video files as well as Web information in the side notes. This feature allows the rapid addition of notes that can later be tagged and sorted within OneNote itself. Another particularly nice feature is that when using OneNote to gather information from any Web site, the program inserts a link to the site within the note, so you always know where the information came from. You can also create a link to another file on your system or embed the actual file on a page or within a side note in OneNote, and you can create hyperlinks between note pages and sections, too. For those who work on tablet PCs, the program also includes the ability to lasso text for handwriting recognition. The capabilities found within OneNote are truly amazing. But none are quite so amazing as the fact that this product can be purchased stand-alone for under $100. It also comes standard in many Microsoft Office 2007 versions.