paper-noteThis is the next discussion in series on how attorneys can use Microsoft’s OneNote software in their practice. My last article looked at why lawyers should use Evernote over OneNote. While I think OneNote is a great piece of software, I find that Evernote offers the functionality one needs to have a truly paperless law office. In this post I’m going to look at a few other alternatives for OneNote. I would personally suggest attorneys use Evernote over the other applications which I’m about to list, but it’s good to know that you have other options.

Attorneys can use Google Keep or Apple Notes to take quick notes and memos

Google Keep is an application from the Big G which takes the idea of a post-it and puts it into digital form. This web based app is available through the web browser, on Android devices and on your iOS devices. Apple Notes is another option. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each:

Keep is an easy, easy, easy (easy) way to take quick notes that you would jot down on a sticky pad. Long form notes can also be typed into Google Keep. The application allows one to “tag” a note and you can then pull notes up according to tags. In other words, every note can be tagged with the name of a client and it can be pulled up quickly. Keep’s search functionality is excellent, which means that going back and finding something is a breeze. Using Keep gives you a place to store quick notes, to write your memos and longer notes, and to jot down general ideas. Notes can also be shared with others. This sharing functionality allows you to essentially replace the “notes and memo” file with something digital and your entire office will be able to access it. One of the biggest benefits of Keep? It will prevent you from looking like this:

post it notes

There are a few big drawbacks when it comes to Google Keep. First, you can’t attach files to notes. This means that you can’t use it for a paperless law firm option. Second, and more importantly, there’s no guarantee that this application will be around long-term (although it appears to be in Google’s plans for the time being). The reason I say that this is a problem is that the company had a previous note taking app called “Google Notebook.” That application was more similar in nature to OneNote or Evernote. That product, however, was discontinued in 20111. Given that Keep isn’t a “core product” of Google there’s really no guarantee that it will be around long-term.

Apple Notes is another alternative for a quick note taking application. Anyone who has used iOS is familiar with it. It is similar to Google Keep in many ways but with a few BIG drawbacks. First, while notes can be synced to a PC via iCloud, there’s no sync functionality for Android. This means that this application doesn’t really work if your goal is create digital notebooks which anyone in your office can access at any time. Second, it lacks the “tagging” feature which is present in Keep. If you want to go for a “lightweight” quick note option, which can replace your paper “notes and memo” file, then Google Keep is a much better option than Apple Notes. Again, however, you could simply keep such records in Evernote – our suggested product.

Simplenote is another option for lawyers who don’t want to use OneNote

Simplenote is a very lightweight note taking application which has much of the functionality described above in Google Keep. It has applications available on every major platform, including Linux and Kindle. As with Keep, you can’t attach files to a note but their sharing features are great. This makes the application another good option for creating a paperless “notes” folder. One big drawback to this application, however, is that it doesn’t support two-factor authentication. I discussed the importance of two-factor authentication in my post which outlined four steps for attorneys to secure their data. This is simply a deal-breaker for me. If you don’t care about security then……well…….ok.

My suggestion for making your firm more efficient is to utilize Evernote or OneNote, with Evernote being my first choice. If you’re looking for something more lightweight and meant for just taking quick notes then any of the above may fit the bill. Keep in mind, however, you cannot scan and store handwritten notes into these applications like you can with either Evernote or OneNote.

What note taking applications are you using in your practice? Please chime in through the comment section below.

1Google Notebook accessed via Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Notebook