After my first law school semester, a friend tried to convince me to leave Microsoft Word and instead take notes with Microsoft OneNote 2003 (Old Version). I refused. Finally, I decided to give OneNote a try as a 2L. I had no idea it would be this good.
OneNote has every feature that a student would use in Microsoft Word plus so much more!
Record Your Professor Synchronized to Your Notes. One of the coolest features is how it can record your professor while you take notes. Then later when you click on a note, you can play the audio of your professor talking exactly when you typed that note. So on take-home exams, you can just scan your notes for key concepts on your exam and re-listen to your professor discuss those concepts.
Search Your Audio Recordings. The new version, OneNote 2007, includes a feature to scan your audio recording for words. I assume the accuracy of the search depends on the quality of the audio recording. So now you can search for any time your professor discussed “contingent remainders” (a painful concept in property) even if you didn’t write this in your notes. For recording, I recommend this excellent, little, $10 Labtec Microphone.
Control Your Search. The other features of OneNote are just as amazing. You can quickly search your notes for words, easily deciding if OneNote should search just one document, multiple documents, or all your documents. The search is surprising fast.
Easily Manage Multiple Documents. OneNote also makes flipping between documents very easy. No longer will you have to open multiple documents in your startbar—for example, your class notes, notes from reading before class, and your outline. OneNote uses tabs on the side of the page to quickly flip between documents. Advanced OneNote users also use hyperlinks to quickly switch between note.
Mark-up Documents. Does your professor provide handouts by e-mail or online? If so, OneNote allows you to type your notes on top of your professor’s handouts, so you can add your comments while your professor discusses the handout in class.
Type Class Notes with Friends . One more feature that is very useful is the way you and your friends can share a page over the internet. I’ve used this with a friend: we took notes in two columns next to each other. His typing immediately appeared on my document. It was great to see what he was typing and we both ended up with much more comprehensive notes.
These are a few of the many features that makes OneNote so perfect for law students, or any college students for that matter. OneNote gives law students a competitive advantage. Students are eligible for the discounted student version, which is the exact same as the normal version, at Amazon.com here: OneNote 2007 (student version).
If you are a OneNote user with additional tips or ideas, tell us about them by adding a comment here. For more student software options, check out Legal Andrew‘s 52 Handy Tools and Sites for Students. Or read an overview of other notetaking software for students.
UPDATE: I was glad to see that the Reasonable Expectations blog listed OneNote as the best law school software.