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Finney: The OneNote tool you actually need

May 22, 2013
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FinneyIn this on-demand era of instant gratification, we expect that information should always be at our fingertips. Our time is precious and we all want others to respect that fact; in return doesn’t that mean we should all be respectful of the time that others give to us? Whether it be a mediator, a judge or a jury, they all expect us to be organized, to the point and conscientious of their time.

Weeks, months and even years of preparation go into organizing the selected documents and excerpts of testimony to substantiate our points. Oftentimes the selected items will be highlighted, annotated and even stuck with Post-It notes to help us remember the specific points that we desire to make. These items are then placed into file folders, grouped into corresponding Redweld folders, and packed into Banker’s Boxes. Despite all of this preparation, many attorneys continue to rummage through multiple file folders struggling to find what they need as they attempt to make their point on any given issue. There are few things more painful to watch, especially when their opponent appears completely organized and has everything at their fingertips in a moment’s notice. In the ever-changing, fast-paced environment of the courtroom, how does anyone manage to truly remain organized?

The onset of the tablet has had a great impact in helping attorneys to become more organized in such situations as various pieces of information can instantly be pulled up with a few key searches. Even still, much of the information available on the tablet continues to live in disparate locations, and many people are left wondering where exactly notes should be stored so they can easily be linked to these varied sources. Despite the vast assortment of note-taking apps available, working between a tablet on the go and a computer in the office often requires different note-taking applications for each device. This inconsistency impedes the ease of searching and is counterproductive to finding things all in one spot. Depending upon where the notes are stored, they may not be accessible when Internet access is unavailable and may not be compatible to effectively collaborate with others. However, there is one note tool that is able to tackle all of these issues and bring with it a surprising number of added benefits.

Microsoft OneNote is compatible across multiple tablet, phone and computer platforms making it the most convenient note tool on the market, not to the mention the fact that it is bundled with multiple versions of Microsoft Office so many actually already own it. OneNote is an easy-to-use electronic notebook that can be structured much like that of the file folder, Redweld and Banker Box system that most are already familiar with using. The benefit being that this structure is now completely searchable, allowing for immediate access to the information needed to make a point without spending time rifling through files.

As a central hub storing many types of information about a case, OneNote can be the one tool searched to find anything regardless of where the other data is stored. Notes can be typed, handwritten, spoken or a video recording. Unlike notes of the past where fragmented thoughts must later be deciphered, you can quickly jump back onto the correct train of thought via hyperlinks to the corresponding documents, depositions or even caselaw. These items can also be embedded directly into the notebook allowing them to be opened regardless of any Internet or network connection. Screenshots of the specific excerpt can be placed alongside the note allowing you to quickly quote from the source without skipping a beat.

Notes can also be classified with a variety of standard and custom tags. By identifying notes as a question, a to-do, marking it important, or labeling as an idea, these tagged items can easily be retrieved later by clicking the Find Tags button regardless of where the note was entered into the notebook. This allows users the flexibility to enter information in a freeform area as it randomly pops into their head, while still being able to group similar information together in a single search later.

The notebooks are automatically saved as changes are made and synchronized via Skydrive across connected platforms allowing files to be available offline, too. Notebooks can be shared in part or entirely with or without a password. A history is kept for each page, allowing users to search what has changed both by date and author in addition to being able to view prior versions of the page.

End the chaos and hassle of trying to find the needle in the haystack, and use the OneNote tool you actually need.•

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Deanna Finney (deanna.finney@miscindiana.com) is a co-owner of the Indianapolis based legal technology company, Modern Information Solutions LLC. Areas of service include traditional IT services, software training and litigation support including trial presentation services. www.miscindiana.com.

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  • Searching in OneNote
    I have a nagging problem with using OneNote 2010 in my law firm. (I'm on Windows 7): Documents in PDF, MS Word, and other formats that are embedded in OneNote (i.e., "inserted" but not "printed" with the OneNote printer) aren't searchable in the OneNote search box. Even more distressingly, those documents are no longer searchable with Windows Search. Am I doing something wrong? Is there a workaround? Is this problem fixed with Windows 8 and/or OneNote 2013?

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