Microsoft has recently released a new addition to its Office suite called OneNote. It’s a “free form” text entry tool with a tabbed interface, outliner, and built-in search engine. I have been evaluating the product for about 30 days and like it so far. I think this is software that many lawyers are likely to find quite useful. 

I am not generally a fan of Microsoft and have complaints about their products and market behavior. But I must admit that for a version 1.0, OneNote seems pretty good. I am using it to store miscellaneous information that formerly would be scattered across Word documents, Outlook, and other applications.

The “tabbed interface” across the top makes it easy to create multiple topics (e.g., for different clients or projects). Each tab allows creating an unlimited number of named “pages” down the right side of the screen, allowing quick access to multiple subjects by topic. On each page, you can arbitrarily click and start entering text or other data in it’s own “block.” A quick look at the outlining feature suggests that it is much easier to outline in OneNote than in Word. (I still miss PC Outline from the DOS days! OneNote may be the answer.)

From the reviews and articles I’ve read about it, I believe that Microsoft intends OneNote to be particularly useful and optimized for tablet PCs. I have not explored these features (I don’t use a tablet), but I can see from the design of the software and my experiences using a friend’s tablet that OneNote would work nicely with that hardware platform.

OneNote creates multiple files, one per tab. I think you can keep tabs at different places in your directory structure and access them from OneNote by navigating via the directory structure. I found this aspect a bit confusing, but did not fully explore because I decided it was best to keep all the tabs in a single sub-directory. The one peculiarity (I have not encountered any serious bugs yet with OneNote) is that when my automated back-up runs nightly (I back-up to a secure, web-based service), the log file shows a lot of OneNote files being updated that I don’t see listed in Windows file explorer. I’m not sure what that means, but it seems innocuous.

If you have experience with or insights into OneNote, I would be grateful if you would leave a comment.