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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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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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