Windows Key – N

November 13, 2006

So simple. Yet not made as evident as it ought.

At least, not in OneNote 2003. (For now, I’m still hanging on by my fingernails waiting for OneNote 2007.)

For the converts I’ve made in the two weeks since I got hooked, my advice has been that the first thing for a OneNote newbie to do after installation is to hold down the Windows Logo Key, then press N.

That’s not listed in OneNote 2003’s help file listing of keyboard shortcuts. In those help files, you have to have graduated far enough in OneNote to have found out what a side note is; and even then the easiest shortcut in the door is not emphasized. The three OneNote books I’ve read the past two weeks send you straight from installation to opening notebooks; and the mindset of OneNote is so different, the newbie too often has to struggle with it for hours before the light breaks through, if ever.

But I’m far from being the only business person who for years has wanted a good electronic version of stick-em notes or scratchpad or telephone message memos. So as distant as side notes are from the dreamiest horizons of OneNote, they’re as good as any place to go for that first bite of it after installation.

Links to Individual Notes

November 12, 2006

Links to individual notes are said to have been by far the number one request for enhancement to OneNote 2003; and as I read the development traffic, I’m expecting to see that present in OneNote 2007. Along with links to external files and websites, the 2003 version permits links to entire notebooks and to sections within those notebooks, but not to pages, subpages, or notes within those notebooks.

 

Me too. Upon my latecomer’s arrival at the party on November 1, 2006, even without yet having read traffic on OneNote development, my business work is so intensely driven by non-linear links between different pieces of information that I was hardly a dozen notes into my first hour of work with OneNote before I knew of this critical OneNote 2003 shortcoming.

 

Except that quickly the rest of OneNote 2003 had so quickly emerged as a shot of caffeine straight into my work’s veins that I hardly paused, rather within minutes was moving forward again with one of a thousand workarounds that have long been intrinsic to the kind of pellmell workflow I’ve dealt with. Workarounds that I’ll be expecting OneNote 2007 to turn into straight killer app for me.

 

One of many illustrations of my workaround that I’ve shifted smoothly to during the mere two weeks I’ve been using OneNote 2003: the pension disclosures project I work on. Currently I maintain and analyze data on the pension plan disclosures made in the financial statements of some 1,100 companies. And if that brief background description doesn’t sound like much, try it yourself: pull the 10-Ks from the SEC website for a few companies and pull together an Excel workbook, a Word document report, a PowerPoint presentation, and assorted background items like task lists and managerial reports and all, and you’ll quickly see why there are only a handful of units like mine in the world who do this project. OK, so all along I know I’ve wanted something like OneNote, so in the ignorance that persisted until two weeks ago built up an elaborate internal system of bookmarks within all of the Word and Excel documents in the project. And since Excel can so easily manage those bookmarks, together with links to external pages like the 10-K websites, press reports, and the like, I already had a system that could easily be sorted and filtered pretty much at will. And although yes, OneNote 2003 is also deficient in its table capabilities, I didn’t need all that much: presto, before the end of my first day with OneNote 2003 on November 1, I had that project’s lists of over 100,000 bookmarks dumped into OneNote, from where I’ve been managing them all in the two weeks since, with a distinct improvement in the flow of the project. And so yes, although I’ll look forward more than most to being able to have links coming the other direction, back into a specific OneNote note or page or subpage, I can do OK during the next two weeks as is, without even holding any note or new material until then or worrying about wasting anything: as before, I continue to put my new notes and data into the existing Office 2003 products I’d been using, bookmark them as I’d been doing, then bring that bookmark back up into my OneNote pages, and for now at least that works “as if” I’d put that note in OneNote itself with full linking capability.

 

Same sermon I’ve preached these past two weeks since my late discovery of OneNote: Get OneNote 2007 the very minute it hits the streets. But don’t wait until then to start using the OneNote 2003 you already have now, even if it means you need to go out and get it now.

A Brief History

November 12, 2006

My own history with OneNote has been quite brief so far.

 

A new laptop purchased for me at work in April 2006 came with OneNote 2003 installed, and I did ever so briefly look in on the product when familiarizing myself with the new equipment, but was not immediately impressed, to say the least. Last month, when a hospital stint had my company pressuring me to slow down, I took a few minutes out of my short time off to look in on OneNote 2003 again, for no particular reason other than to try to relax with a diversion of any sort. I was again left unimpressed, but did promise myself to give it a more serious attempt during November 2006, then to clear it from my laptop completely if that attempt failed. Throughout this time I was completely unaware that OneNote 2007 was near availability. And it’s not just me: everyone I’ve talked to in my business about OneNote since then is even less aware of its existence than I’ve been. To put it rather mildly, I’m far less impressed with Microsoft’s marketing here than I was early on with the product itself. So I can hardly be faulted for making it to November 2006 as such a OneNote newbie. Most of the business world is the same; and even the sheer muscle of OneNote 2007 won’t change that without a drastic shift in the pitiful marketing and packaging of this gem.

 

But following through on my promise to self back in mid-October, at 8:33am on November 1 I have a one-liner in one of my OneNote 2003 notebooks reading to the effect that it was time to pull weight or else. And as if actively responding to my challenge, OneNote immediately began taking over my work. Now less than two weeks later, I wouldn’t want to go through a business day without OneNote on hand. And as observed in my opening post, I know full well that I’m only working with the mere dream of the real thing, that OneNote 2007 will be what I really want. So my partners want me to slow down? I’ve pushed through more productivity during these past two weeks than I might have hoped to do during a whole month before I started using OneNote, and that’s hardcore work productivity above and beyond the learning curve of merging OneNote into my work routine (a learning curve that has seen me digesting 3 OneNote books cover to cover, along with heavy portions of web material on both the existing and future product).

 

So yes, I know maybe better than even heaviest lifters among the beta testers how much I’m missing by having to put up with OneNote 2003 while awaiting the real thing. I know because I’ve already injected OneNote right into the heart of my work and seen the sharp increase, and want more more more more more. But in a way, I’m glad I was so clueless. Had I become aware of OneNote 2007’s coming advent from computer trade press (although I find that woefully scant so far), I might too easily have not bothered with OneNote 2003 at all. And what an immense amount of good hard work I would have missed by that mistake! Seriously, repeating a comment I made in my first post, I don’t care if you’re a business person whose computer people can guarantee putting OneNote 2007 in your hands on December 1. Although you most definitely ought upgrade the minute you can, don’t let that deter you from using OneNote 2003 in the interim, even if your first touch of the product comes as late as Thanksgiving. For even a few days of use until you make it to the real thing, the dream alone is worth the time.

Get It?

November 12, 2006

Look, don’t get me wrong here: Get OneNote 2007 the very minute it’s available to you.

If you were like me and came to the party late and only recently started using OneNote 2003, it doesn’t matter. Graduate to OneNote 2007 the instant you can. Even if you were completely clueless and made the mistake of purchasing one of the stale copies of OneNote 2003 still left on your local CompUSA’s shelves just within the past month, just chalk that up to a worthwhile learning experience. OneNote 2007 would easily be worth twice what they’ll be charging you for it, so just go ahead and get the new version as soon as possible. Even if the only way you can get it immediately is to pick up the whole bag via Office 2007 Ultimate, shoot for it: the rest of it makes OneNote 2007 fly even higher, yet here’s a user who’d dole out that much for just OneNote 2007 itself if Ihad to.

Is that clear enough? Get OneNote 2007. Not the earliest possible day or hour, but rather at the earliest possible minute!

Except I almost feel like I need to put that in bold red italics at the head of every post I might make from now until formal OneNote 2007 release, because OneNote developers and beta testers laugh when they hear what I have to say next: don’t avoid OneNote 2003 in the interim. If you’re the overwhelmingly typical business user, Microsoft’s pitiful marketing of OneNote up to this point means that like me, you’ve made it to November 2006 without a clue about OneNote, with the first growing awareness being the articles pointing to the imminent release of Office 2007, and even those articles not really doing OneNote much justice. Even so, don’t wait. I don’t care if it’s as late as Thanksgiving and you have the power to armtwist your enterprise’s information services division into getting OneNote 2007 onto your hard drive as early as December 1. Even for those last few days, the productivity you gain from using OneNote 2003 even at the most elementary level will more than make up for the cost and the very little time it will take you to adapt.

So when I rave on about what OneNote 2003 has done for my work since just November 1 when I first began using it, make no mistake: I cursed missing the opportunity to beta test 2007, and I vowed quite quickly that I will be one of the first in line to get OneNote 2007, and I very emphatically advise the same for all, and am already quickly spreading that advice within my industry and to my clients and to all my family and friends. But when OneNote 2007 developers and beta testers laugh at me for not letting OneNote 2007 anticipation curb my enthusiasm for OneNote 2003 use in the meantime, I seriously have to wonder where they left their marketing mentality. I know, I know, I know, and their mirth makes me wonder if maybe I know better than they might because I’m a business person who can already use to the hilt what they shrug off: I do know that OneNote 2007 may be a thousand times more the software that OneNote 2003 has ever been. But when a business person who is one of the most respected in his business can be going around informing his contacts about the OneNote 2007 they hadn’t yet even heard about, yet at the same time be telling them that it’s no waste of their money to run with OneNote 2003 even if only for the last several weeks, how can Microsoft or any OneNote user not recognize that as anything but the most serious missed opportunity? Has there ever been any other software out there where any business user could fairly claim the same?

For the longest time since the earliest days, developers and users alike had been keeping an eye out for the next killer app. OneNote 2007 will be. To be sure, OneNote 2003 was only the most distant dream of it, yet it’s worth touching that dream, even if only for several weeks until you can have the reality.