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In this series, we explore organizational techniques, software and hardware that will help you clear the mess from your desk, be more productive, and cut office overhead.

This article presents an inexpensive software program that accomplishes multiple tasks through interconnectivity with Microsoft Office programs, Internet Explorer, and your imagination.



I do not usually extol Microsoft products, much as I use them. More likely I am cursing the loathsome Windows registry, which makes reinstalling Windows such a chore. But without Access, Word, Excel and Outlook, I would not be able to run my law practice. To these essential programs I have added OneNote, and wonder what I did before it.

If you missed previous Computer Corners:

A Case Management Adjunct
Create Your Own Medical Manager
Getting on Top of To-Dos
How to Calculate Settlement Values & Organize Issues & Evidence
How to Store It, How to Find It
How to Work Faster, More Efficiently and with Lower Overhead

“Microsoft Office OneNote 2007 is a digital notebook that provides a flexible way to gather notes and information, powerful search capabilities so users can find what they are looking for quickly, and easy-to-use shared notebooks that help teams work together more effectively.” That is how Microsoft describes this little-hyped Office Suite program mainly marketed to students and Tablet PC users. Yes, it is great for taking notes in courses and gathering data for term papers, but it does so much more and substitutes for the general office accumulata of notepads, Post-its, papers, receipts, and flyers.

For a good writeup on the features, and to purchase for under the retail price of $99, go to Amazon where the price is currently $72.49.

There is a demo worth watching on how OneNote helps with productivity.

Since it is part of the Office Suite, you probably already know many of the commands and how to customize the button bars. There is automatic backup, too. I suggest you change the file location to a second drive or at least some partition other than C, so everything will be preserved if C drive croaks or the OS gets corrupted.

You can create Outlook items (tasks, emails, contacts, appointments, meeting requests) from within OneNote. The built-in OCR (optical character recognition) lets you scan documents or take images of text and OneNote lets you make the text searchable. This saves a lot of typing and, using the screen clipping command or Snagit you can capture and convert text.

The “Send To” button in Internet Explorer captures entire webpages (there is a FireFox extension that does not work as well), and the “Send To” button in Outlook lets you send an email to OneNote (and the attachment with it), where you can annotate, develop into a detailed task, etc.

OneNote installs a “Send To OneNote 2007” printer, so anything can be printed to OneNote using the Print command in the File menu (or Ctrl+P). This will create an image in OneNote that can be copied and pasted or sent by email or made into a task. This works with all kinds of files, including PDFs.

A free add-in lets you export in PDF format, an obvious advantage in these days of risky metadata. For more free add-ins, check out OneNote Powertoys.

Try it free for 60 days

Getting on Top of To Dos

In a previous Computer Corner article, “Getting on Top of To-Dos,” I talked about using Microsoft Outlook to create tasks to keep work organized. As noted above, OneNote interacts with Outlook and lets you create emails, tasks, etc. from within the program, and to send an email to OneNote from Outlook.

To make this even easier, I created a customized toolbar and dragged it to the side of the OneNote screen. That toolbar has the commands I use most, such as inserting a subpage, a task, a tag, or deleting a page.

I now organize all to dos, for my practice and everything else, in a “ToDo” notebook. Because OneNote stores emails, web pages, pictures, spreadsheet cells, entire files, links to files, audio files, etc., I can quickly see a lot more than if I rely on Tasks or Appointments alone. The formatting in OneNote is far more extensive than anything in Outlook, so it is easy to highlight in yellow or other colors, color the text, and add images. I use Snagit to capture bits and pieces of webpages, parts of photos, and to create and edit the screenshots in this article.

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Organize your law practice

Where do you put all those bits and pieces of information relating to practice development, website development, malpractice insurance, advertising, MCLE, etc.? I put them in my “Law Practice” notebook so I can find things quickly.

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I also have an “Office” notebook for keeping track of equipment, software, etc. I use the “Send to OneNote” button to send orders to OneNote on line or received by email, and to keep track of registration keys, which I highlight in yellow. Reinstallations go faster, or reordering items like toner. With all receipts in one place, I can also add comments on the products, attach update information and the like.


Keep track of potential clients


Often I hear from potential new clients by phone or email, but it is too soon to undertake formal representation. I keep the notes and emails in a “PNC” section in my Law Practice notebook, with an easily recognizable launch bar button (a head icon). If further contacted, I have their information before me in seconds.

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If the potential client signs a fee agreement, I can then export the data to the folder I set up for them, as a Word or PDF file.


Research faster

Tired of looking for the Post-its, yellow pads and other bits and pieces of information on a research topic? Just save everything to a section in a notebook, or devote an entire notebook to legal research. You can link to files, annotate your work, highlight, and find everything quickly with the fast search engine. Here are examples of research from Med-Legal’s Quick Reference.

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It would be easy to add the actual cases, downloaded from Lexis, or snippets of holdings, and using OneNote’s tags, quickly linking the essential information.

If you want to send several pages of notes to Word as one file, simply hold down the control key, click on the desired pages, then in File menu, click on “Send To” button and select Word. If you want to combine some pages of notes in OneNote, use Ctrl+A and Ctrl+C to select and copy, then Ctrl+V to paste into the recipient page.


Collect and organize legal theories and facts,
then merge to Word


Preparing a letter to an AME, QME or PTP or preparing for a deposition? OneNote lets you get everything into a tabbed section and also is great for outlining.

Once you have gathered the data, you can reorganize your notes by dragging pages into the correct order, then highlight multiple pages by holding down the control key to select the pages, then use the ”Send To” button to send to Word or to a PDF file (if you installed the add-in mentioned above).

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Help for the hopelessly disorganized

If you feel you are too disorganized to deal with multiple notebooks and sections, pages and subpages, there is still a good reason to use OneNote: All unfiled notes, even if you never move them to another notebook or section, can be searched in an instant, and if you use Windows Search, a free desktop search engine, it will make the search amazingly fast.


Some parting thoughts

A search through the free templates for OneNote is inspiring. There are many kinds of stationery/templates, notebooks for many purposes, even notebooks for lawyers – for legal clients, law practice and a trial notebook. It is so easy to add sections, reorganize material, apply color coding. Once I got the hang of it, I made notebooks for my work, family mementos, friends, my pets, my art collection, and so on. I am not comfortable with disorganized notes and non-relational databases, but OneNote suits all types.


> Send in your tips for office organization or requests for solutions to office problems.


 

 

> Five Facts About Psych Injuries
> People Who Made a Difference
> Work Impairment & Disability
> Computer Corner: More Productive
> PD Pain Under SB 899, Part II
Computer Corner:
Be More Productive with
Office OneNote
by Marjory Harris, Esq.