We’re all bombarded with documents and emails and other reading material every day, and some of it contains information we’d actually like to remember and make use of. I often download the free Microsoft books, especially the free downloadable SharePoint books, and each book may be hundreds of pages. I’m grateful for all the good free training, but I have struggled a bit on what’s the best way to keep up with it all – especially to remember those essential nuggets of information I want to refer to again.
I’ve tried writing notes by hand into a paper notebook, but that takes much too long – and then there’s the issue of being able to find what I need. As they say, you can’t grep a dead tree! I have tried creating separate documents or Evernote notes with lists or my own summaries, and that works for smaller topics such as lists of database permissions needed or installation checklists, but sometimes the fact or table is best left in place so that the context can also be seen later – just as it would in a paper book. Lately I have started highlighting these books and whitepapers directly in Microsoft Word, and it is a lot faster than trying to re-type or put things into my own words to keep separate notes. It also alleviates the problem of trying to find those separate notes I took!
If you highlight a downloaded book, be sure to save your changes often to be sure you get to keep the highlights you have made. Then, in Word 2010, if you want to go back and read all your highlighted text (or save it to a new document) you can just go to Find – Advanced Find – then click More to expose the Format section. Under Format select Highlight.
From here you can use Find Next to move from one highlighted section to the next highlighted section, if you just want to read all the highlighted sections of the book for a refresher. Or instead of Find Next you can use Find In – Main Document to select all of the highlighted text. Then if you want to you can copy and paste that highlighted text to a new document to have a nice little summary document.
Of course in the Review tab, Word also includes Comments you can insert into the document, sort of like you’d put a Post-It note along the margins of a paper book, and those have their own built-in Previous and Next functions.