More OneNote 12 Goodness

I thought I would discuss a few new capabilities of "OneNote 12" that I think many current users are dying to see appear. Certainly each of these has appeared many times in our newsgroups and in our suggestion lists in the OneNote community site. Remember that "OneNote 12" is a codename, and we use 12 because we share code with Office and Office is on version "12". Of course this is by no means an exhaustive list - there's plenty more to come!

Tables are a no-brainer feature for OneNote 12. We support creating them the typical ways (like Word). You can also paste tables from the web, Word, Excel, etc into OneNote and they will remain tables (yay!). Our tables are not super-fancy though, so too much cell merging or fancy gradient backgrounds will get you in trouble - we don’t support that stuff.

One thing that is new in OneNote with respect to tables however is our focus on rapid note taking with the keyboard. Anyone familiar with OneNote should know that we take keyboard-only usage (no mouse, no pen) very seriously. We have a huge pile of keyboard shortcuts (See Help/Keyboard shortcuts). We also felt that people needed to be able to create tables "on-the-fly". So here's how that works.

If you are trying to rapidly capture notes and you reach a point where you want to put some information in a grid, with Word or a typical text editor you need to grab the mouse and use the menus to insert a table (or use a lot of shortcuts to pull up a dialog and insert some values like #rows and #columns). You also have to think about how many columns and rows you need before you get going capturing the data. This all gets in the way if you are in the heat of note taking.

In OneNote 12, tables are a snap to make with the keyboard. Let's say you want to make a comparison table of goals and how well they are met by "Plan A" and "Plan B". You might start with the title of the columns, hitting TAB after the first title:

Goal <TAB>

At the moment you hit TAB, OneNote will create a simple table with one row and two columns, with your typed text in the first column and your insertion point in the second column, like this:

Now, type the next column title "plan A" and TAB to get a third column. Again type a title and hit ENTER to finish the row. This also defines the number of columns in the table. You end up with a table like this:

Now you can type the first goal and how each plan scores, using TAB to move between the cells as you would in Word or Excel. When you hit the last column, TAB adds another row as in Word. To finish, just hit ENTER a couple of times and we wrap up the table for you:

Pretty nifty, eh? You can also see that as text was typed OneNote automatically resized the column sensibly. We'll balance the columns for you as you add content so that you always end up with a "reasonable" table, which of course you can tweak in the usual ways if you prefer something else. All this in the name of just capturing the information using a keyboard and not messing with the UI when you are in a hurry.

Embedding Documents
You can now place documents on a page of notes as icons. These are the real documents in original format. You can double click to edit them, make changes and save, which saves the changes back into OneNote. And they move with the page if you move the page inside OneNote to another Section or Notebook. They also get packaged up with the page if you email it. It's pretty handy to keep several documents related to a project on a page or a set of pages in a section, and make annotations around them about things you still need to work on. This also makes it easy to email a "project" to colleagues - a section full of annotations, documents, notes, etc. Much more useful than just the documents themselves. When the recipient gets the "project" as a single OneNote file, they can just open it and the project is added to their notes. From there they can move it to any notebook they desire if they want to keep it.

Drag and Drop
I mentioned briefly elsewhere that we have implemented the most asked for feature in OneNote: drag and drop of pages and sections! Although in OneNote 2003 it is possible to drag pages up or down in the list on the right to reorder them, it is a little tricky (you need to click and drag the page left or right out of the "stack" first, then up or down. In OneNote 12, this is just a simple click and drag to move it where you want. You can also drag it onto the tab for a different section or folder and we'll automatically switch to that section (or open that folder) and let you choose a place to drop the page. Likewise you can re-order sections this way too. Since we now allow more than one notebook (see Owen's new blog where he talks about that), you can also drag pages or sections or folders to other notebooks, and rearrange notebooks themselves this way. All pretty much what you'd expect - and it rocks all the same.

Subpages get their own titles
We get asked for this one a lot. We have finally switched the design of subpages away from "continuation pages" that share the same title as their "master" page to being regular pages that happen to be "underneath" the master page. This may seem small but we sure got a lot of requests for it. Actually it was the very first thing we did in the OneNote 12 project.

Search is indexed and instantaneous. Now everything in all your notebooks is indexed and can be found instantly, no matter how much stuff you have. We use the Windows Desktop search engine that is being shipped in Vista (but we also use it on Windows XP). Our search was always pretty fast, but this is faster and doesn’t slow down with the size of the notebook. We also can search remote notebooks (located on servers) instantly. We're still working on search stuff right now, so you may see more goodies in this space before we ship.

As I mentioned, there's plenty more to talk about, so stay tuned.