Microsoft’s OneNote is an easy-to-use electronic notebook and organizational system (Windows, Mac, iPad, Android, Windows Phone and Kindle) that is one of the most useful tools in my electronic arsenal. Heavy in features, OneNote is totally integrated with the Microsoft Office suite, so you likely already have it installed if you use a Windows PC with Outlook. If it is not installed or you use a Mac, you can download it for free using this link.
Envision a shelf of hard copy case notebooks, divided into labeled sections and organized for efficient access to case materials. OneNote works the same way, only the notebooks are electronic. The way I use OneNote, each notebook is a case or matter file that contains the usual sections of a litigation notebook such as general information, pleadings, discovery, witness files, motions and orders, attorney’s notes, etc. You can also create sub-notebooks.
Practically any type of file can be drag and dropped into these OneNote sections for ready access. With OneNote, there is no more searching for one of the ten legal pads I have used over time to take notes in a particular case. My notes (and key case documents) are neatly filed by matter, date, subject, witness, or any other criteria I want to choose. Alternatively, I can do a word searches across all of my OneNote matters to find anything in the database. OneNote’s integration with Outlook allows for the easy and intuitive transfer of emails to appropriate OneNote notebooks. You can also email almost anything directly from the notebooks (e.g., sharing notes with a colleague). Task and calendar functions can also be linked and cross-referenced between OneNote and Outlook.
One of my favorite features is a screen capture function which provides “what you see is what you get” snapshots of your computer screen with optional reference stamp (date/time/source). OneNote then prompts you for instructions for an appropriate place in one of your case notebooks to store the screen clipping, or you can send it to your clipboard for pasting into documents, emails, etc. I used this feature to capture the screen shots for this article.
OneNote can also record audio and video (camera required) and insert these into your case files in real-time. OneNote can even correlate your typed notes with recorded video/audio in real time. This allows you to click on a particular portion of your notes and go directly to the audio/video that corresponds with the notes.
As you might expect, you can use OneNote on the go, synching across all of your mobile devices—iPad, Android, Windows Phone and even the Kindle with the free OneNote Apps. You can take handwritten notes on touch-enabled devices and save them in your OneNote files. OneNote notebooks can be shared with others for online collaboration with your case team.
I have created a simple litigation template to give you an idea of how a typical trial lawyer’s OneNote notebook might be set up. You can download it with my compliments then modify it to fit your needs. The template is a OneNote file designed to be opened in Windows. If you have OneNote installed, it should open right up. If not, install OneNote and then try again.
This article has just scratched the surface of the many possible uses of OneNote for attorneys or anyone that needs to organize large amounts of information and have ready access to it, any time, any place. Highly Recommended!