How Microsoft made Paper & Pen feel archaic (in 2003)

With all the hype around Windows 8 and the Metro Developer Preview, I thought I might review and explain a technology that Microsoft has had on the market for over 4 years now, and most people just ignore it.

(Before I do that, just a side note: Microsoft’s Metro UI will NOT be the only UI available to users. Classic Shell is still available, along with a hybrid that mixes the features from Classic, with some Metro UI components. Desktop users will still get the non-touch optimized interface.)

Read more to see what I’m on about with the whole Pen & paper thing though.So here’s the deal: Microsoft is focused on Education and Enterprise as much as the standard consumer. Because of this, there’s some Office programs aimed at the educator and enterprise person that your standard user won’t even get in a copy of Microsoft Home & Student (well… Office 2007 had the one I’ll be ranting about left out, but it’s now in the student edition of 2010)

In 2003, Microsoft released a new product onto the market: OneNote. Back then, it was a standalone application that you could get as an extra. I personally have never used the 2003 version, as it has proven difficult for me to get my hands on, but according to my Technet keys, I’ve got some for OneNote 2003, so I know it existed. OneNote was released as a place where your notes and other information could be gathered together in a singular location. This allowed for you to save notes, recordings, pictures, whatever really to your computer in a centralized location for organization. It gave you plenty of flexibility on everything, even giving the ability for multiple people to be editing it at once. Think of it like Wikipedia on steroids. Not only can tons of people collaborate via text, but they are able to share files, folders, weblinks, audio and video notes, everything.

In 2007, Microsoft released OneNote 2007 with the Office Suite. It came with Office ProPlus and better (basically Office ProPlus and Office Ultimate) and was aimed at the enterprise crowd. All the examples and tools that Microsoft demoed within the product were geared towards IT and Enterprise. This is where I got my hands wet using OneNote. Using it in an education setting, in part of a small class, it was a überWiki for the class. It gave us power to collaborate in real time, see where people were editing, adding new information, see new changes, share files, everything. If we needed a file to install on some computers, it was IN the notebook. Part of the whole file. Not just a link to it on one computer, it was THERE IN THE NOTEBOOK. As if someone had taped a CD into a physical notebook. We could save it to our own computer and edit or open it when we needed. It relied on only the fact that the notebook had been synced with the others. In this situation, we had the notebook on a centralized location. If the Server went down, we couldn’t share changes, but we weren’t in the dark. We had access to the files even with no internet.

Fast forward to Office 2010. Released in time for me to use my Technet subscription to get a copy of ProPlus, I was already addicted to OneNote. With OneNote 2010, you’ve got even more power at your fingertips. Have a Windows Live ID? (That includes Xbox Live) You’ve then got the ability to not only keep your notebook available ONLINE and use the OneNote Webapp when you’re not on your computer, it also syncs between devices. Those two features alone are enough to make it worth getting ProPlus Office. But there’s more! Microsoft replaced Outlook with OneNote in the Home & Student editions of Office. So even if you’re not in need of Office Access or Publisher or Sharepoint or InfoPath, you’re still getting OneNote.

Here’s the best way I can explain how this works:

I own a netbook, desktop, laptop, HP Touchpad, Windows Mobile phone, and a Rackmount server. Seeings as I’m now on my 2nd year of college, I take LOTS of notes in class. But, as any student will tell you, it’s difficult to get everything. This is where OneNote saves the day. My netbook has a Mic. OneNote has a feature to insert an AUDIO RECORDING into it. When I say Audio Recording, I mean an actual recording of what’s going on in class. Add a focal microphone that is external and clips to the side of the netbook, and you’ve got a powerhouse of a note-taking tool. The fun doesn’t end there. OneNote has a hand-written notes feature. A 5-subject notebook makes a good place to store a cheap graphics  tablet. (I’m still planning to get a slightly bigger one that I can slap into the remains of a notebook, but that’s another project.) Teachers will usually look at me funny the first few days of class as I scribble things down some times, but mostly type everything down. This isn’t a drawback, it’s a good thing. Curiosity always wins when it comes to showing new technology. They see it, see how I’ve got drawings that they’ve put on the whiteboard, plus typed notes, plus an audio recording, and it clicks. It’s a notebook on steroids. It makes a physical notebook look like a piece of junk compared to that is possible with a 1.6ghz netbook and a $20 graphics tablet.

BUT! The fun doesn’t stop there. OneNote links your drawings and notes to the time that you recorded the audio. You type down a point on a slide, and OneNote will allow you to jump to that point in the audio so you can listen to the teacher elaborate their point. It works also when the teachers are speaking fast and jumping slides really quickly, or when they’re explaining something that’s not on the whiteboard or projection.

But Wait! there’s even more! Microsoft’s Skydrive gives you that online storage thing. You can then add the notebook to as many devices as can support it. If my desktop is on when I’m in class, It’ll automagically update the notebook as I’m typing notes. If you’ve got other classmates who are working on a project with you, You can create a public notebook that everyone can edit at once. Written, typed, Video, Audio, pictures, you name it, it’s shared. Live.

It gets better though. Go to a website, and you want to save the whole page to your notes, you can “print to OneNote” and save a print copy.

The features are endless. On top of that, devices without a OneNote app can visit the webapp and edit on that. (HP Touchpad for me). You can’t do everything, but there’s enough available that you can still see your notes and make use of what you’ve got.


Anyways, that’s just a brief example, I”ll post some pictures when I get back from class. I’ll try some in-depth feature examples as well. It’ll change your idea of notes forever. (If you’re lucky enough to have a laptop with a rotating webcam, you can do video notes of class too! awesome!)


About Author
Someone who feels the need to help others using the information that I have discovered. If someone else finds it useful, I'm more than happy to have helped.

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