Using OneNote for Research

Updated 5/7/16

Microsoft OneNote is not just a powerful tool for note taking, but it is also a powerful tool for researching information about those notes, cases, matters or other issues you encounter.

Let's take an example.  Let's say you're working on a matter for a client that involves a piece of property for sale.  Below I've pasted in the content from a sample OneNote page that I created for our fictitious property matter.  At the top you can see a photograph of the property - I took that picture with a standard Canon PowerShot Digital camera and copied it from the SD card directly into OneNote just like you might copy a photo of your vacation or your child.  Nothing to it.

Using OneNote for Research

To the right of the image we have content from telling us facts about the piece of property, including a rough estimate of its value.  Notice the link at the bottom of that content?  If you select content on a webpage (with your mouse) then drag and drop that content into a OneNote page OneNote will automatically build a link for you that points back to the originating website!

Below that we have more Zillow content plus Google Maps and a satellite picture from Google, showing the location of the property.  I grabbed that content with OneNote's screen capture tool (Windows Key + S) and pasted it directly into the file.

If I wanted to take this even further I could look up the property in the MLS (Multiple Listings Service), I could look up the tax records, I could paste in more images of the property, I could interview one or more persons familiar with the property and paste the audio or even video files of those conversations into the OneNote page.

I could create links in the page that connect to documents in my system relating to this matter.

I can annotate all of these items using digital ink (if I have a Tablet PC) or just using text and bits created from my keyboard and/or mouse.

Best of all, most of the original links and formatting are preserved - if I want to go back to the source material I can click the link to go back to that website.

The possibilities are immense. 

* Doing a Personal Injury case?  How about a OneNote page with photos of the damage, the injuries, copies of the X-rays, photos and diagrams of where the accident occurred, Google Maps showing the site of the accident, links to news stories from the local newspaper archives showing that there have been 11 accidents at that intersection in the last 3 years...

* Family Law/Divorce?  Photos of property in dispute, tables showing the assets of each party, links to sites showing the appraised value of various assets...

Anything you can find online or any kind of media you can produce in-house (photos, scanned documents, audio or video recordings...) you can gather into a OneNote notebook and arrange for easy reference.

Insert a photograph or image that has readable text in it and OneNote 2007 can OCR (Optical Character Recognition) that image and make that text searchable like any other piece of text in your notebook.  Yes, business cards too.

How cool is that?

Give OneNote a try.  If you don't already have it you can download it for free from

Search Google for more information on this (or any other) topic: