Create a team diary with OneNote shared sessions

By Stephanie Krieger

Would you like to communicate with your colleagues during a conference call without having to wait for the resulting e-mail volley to reach your Inbox? Want to assign a task to a junior associate or paralegal and know that everyone automatically has the same information? How about having important events of the day — from news releases that relate to your practice, to client questions and their resolutions — all saved together, in real time, in one place?

Just take the lead from one corporate attorney who instituted a team diary for her group by using Microsoft Office OneNote 2003 shared note-taking sessions.

Case study: An attorney's team in action

Michele Gibbons, a Senior Associate at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, started using OneNote a few months ago. Now, she and her team have replaced many impromptu chats, sticky-note reminders, and internal e-mail threads with a daily team diary, using OneNote shared sessions.

Michele and her team started using shared sessions initially as a faster and more easily-accessible alternative to e-mail threads for sharing notes from conference calls. Soon after, they began using shared sessions as a daily diary. That is, they keep a shared session active all day on their desktop computers and use it for shared notes, discussions, task assignments, reminders, and updates for their group that occur during the course of the day. With team members based in both New York and Texas offices, shared sessions help keep their team working together effectively.

Using shared note-taking sessions, Michele and her team:

  • Stay on the same page more quickly than with e-mail.
  • Have a shared record of discussions, unlike with phone calls, instant messaging, or paper notes.
  • Turn reminders, assignments, or document tasks into action by using the OneNote integration with Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 and Microsoft Office Word 2003.

What can you include in a team diary created in OneNote?

Your team diary can include any type of note that you can take by using OneNote, such as typed notes, audio notes, and screen clippings from any program on your computer. And for your colleagues who work on Tablet PCs, the team diary can also include handwritten notes — even if other members of your group are using desktop or portable computers.

One of the greatest benefits of keeping your team's internal communications in OneNote is that anything you add to a OneNote page is saved automatically, so you'll never lose a note or a discussion thread again.

In addition to the notes that you and your team take during the shared note-taking session, you can add unique note flags on items requiring action, such as task assignments and reminders. Members of your team can instantly see a summary of all active note flags at any time by opening the Note Flags Summary task pane.

Create your own team diary

So, how can you create a shared session notebook that will work effectively for your team? You might be surprised at how quick and easy it is to do.

Create an effective OneNote layout

To start your team diary, create a page layout that helps to organize the content logically for everyone in your group.

You can click anywhere on a OneNote page to begin typing. Because of this, you can easily allot portions of your page to elements such as a reminder list, a task assignment list, and an open discussion area.

In the following example, custom note flags have been used for reminders and assigned tasks.

Team diary stationery in OneNote

After you set up the page as you want it, you can save its layout to reuse it for each new shared session.

To save your page layout:

  1. On the Format menu, click Stationery.
  2. In the Stationery task pane, click Save current page as stationery.

Type a name for your stationery. To apply the stationery to any page, click the stationery name under My Stationery in the Stationery task pane. My Stationery appears in the task pane after the first time that you save your own stationery. Note that if you have previously downloaded stationery from Microsoft Office Online, the My Stationery category might not appear, but your custom stationery is still saved. Find it in the Stationery task pane under the first Office Online stationery that you saved.

Start a shared note-taking session

To start a shared note-taking session:

  1. On the File menu, click Share with Others.
  2. In the Share with Others task pane, click Start a Session.
  3. In the Start Shared Session task pane, select the pages to share, and add a password if you want one. Then click Start Shared Session.

Invite your colleagues to join the session

After a session is active, the Current Shared Session task pane opens. Here you can invite participants to join. Participants can be within your company's network or can join the session over the Internet.

To invite participants to join your team-diary shared session:

  1. At the bottom of the Current Shared Session task pane, make sure that the Allow participants to edit check box is selected. (This allows team members to view and modify the selected shared pages.)
  2. Click Invite Participants.
  3. OneNote automatically creates an Outlook e-mail message containing the information that participants need to join the session. Add the e-mail addresses of the intended participants just as you would when creating any e-mail message, and then click Send.

Identify participants and discussion threads in a shared note-taking session

When several people are collaborating on the same page, it can be difficult to distinguish the author of individual notes. You can easily avoid this complication, however, by assigning a unique text color to each participant.

In the following example, which is another part of the team notebook stationery shown earlier, the color options used are available for both typed and written text.

Different ink colors assigned to individual shared session participants

In the preceding example, note the references to the keyboard shortcuts for inserting the current date and time. Recommending that participants time-stamp their notes can help to keep individual discussion threads organized within a diary page.

Manage tasks and reminders

As mentioned earlier, tasks, reminders, or any similar items that use note flags can be seen at a glance in the Note Flags Summary task pane. When tasks and other to-do items extend beyond the active notebook, you can easily create Outlook tasks and appointments directly from notes on your OneNote page.

To create tasks and appointments:

  1. Select the text that you want to add to an Outlook task or appointment.
  2. On the Tools menu, point to Create Outlook Item, and then click either Create Outlook Appointment or Create Outlook Task.

Proceed as you normally would when scheduling an appointment or creating a task in Outlook. You can send those tasks and appointments to others on your team by e-mail and even set reminders.

Turn notes into documents

When notes from a conference call or discussion thread need to be used to create a document, remember that your team diary exists to save you work. You don't need to retype your notes or even to copy and paste them into Word.

Instead, do the following:

  1. Select the notes that you need.
  2. On the File menu, point to Send to, and then click Microsoft Office Word.

A new Word document containing your selected text is created.

Keep content of past shared note-taking sessions accessible

To ensure that everyone on your team always has the same information available for reference, save completed team diaries to a shared location, such as a Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services Web site.

To save a team diary to a shared location:

  1. On the File menu, click Share with Others.
  2. Under Share this section, click a location.

Help your team work efficiently with shared note-taking sessions

Regardless of your practice type, and regardless of whether your team members are across the hall or across an ocean, creating your own team diary by using OneNote shared note-taking sessions can help you to easily and effectively stay on the same page.

About the author    Stephanie Krieger is a Microsoft MVP and a document production expert with more than 10 years of consulting experience, as well as the author of the book Microsoft Office Document Designer. Stephanie writes for several pages on the Microsoft Web site, including Microsoft At Work and Office Online, and regularly delivers Microsoft Office tips and tricks webcasts.

Applies to:
OneNote 2003, Outlook 2003