Unifying the analog and the digital with OneNote

One of the long term visions for OneNote is to bring together "your information" and make it findable and reusable, regardless of format. When we look at the types of info we try to help people organize, it is obvious that a lot of it lives outside the digital realm: Business cards, handouts, receipts. People always have a collection of paper that accompanies their PC because it is hard to include that stuff in their digital storage. Beyond paper, there are other analog forms of information such as speeches (audio) and "performances" (video). You hear and see things today, but all you have are your memories of that, or maybe a recording on tape or mini-recorder. As you know from the current release of OneNote, there's a lot of value in just being able to capture various kinds of information in one place: text, HTML, ink, photos, audio/video recordings. In OneNote "12", we're going to go even farther.

More or less, anything you put into OneNote 12 becomes searchable.

Printed documents: today, you can print a document or PDF or whatever into OneNote using the OneNote ImageWriter PowerToy (thanks Darron!) . OneNote 12 includes its own "OneNote Import Printer Driver" which captures the text of any document that is printed to it, and stores it with the images of the pages you print into OneNote. This lets you have not only images of printed pages, but you can search through the text in those images. This printer driver works for anything that can be printed, not just Microsoft applications or documents.

Scanned documents: if you scan a document or business card into OneNote, or just drag an existing image of a document (such as a fax) into OneNote, we'll recreate the text "underneath" the image and make it searchable more or less as if you had printed the document into us - even though you never had the text in digital form. That is, we run an "OCR" (optical character recognition) pass on the image (thanks MSR!), figure out what the text is, and put that as meta data on the image. Pretty slick. BTW, this even works for PDFs that consist of scanned documents. So those PDFs of product brochures, or PDFs someone created on their new office copier that scans to PDF will become searchable. For you existing OneNote users, that means the documents you have printed into OneNote already will all automatically become searchable!

Photos of documents: you can also take a digital camera photo of just about anything with text in it, put it in OneNote, and we'll make it searchable. The poor-man's scanner. Of course cameras are portable, so you can capture documents while travelling, shopping, etc. I find taking pictures of things a great way of taking "notes"...

Screen clippings: When you use the screen clippings feature in OneNote (Windows-S shortcut), you can insert a screenshot of an area of the screen you choose. This image is then OCR'd just like those other images. In fact, we're including about four different OCR engines in OneNote, each one optimized for different types of images that contain text. We sniff the type of image and use the appropriate one automatically.

Audio/Video: Audio and Video you have recorded or placed in OneNote will also get indexed (Video is indexed by the audio stream). This is some cool MSR technology from our lab in Beijing that we're quite pleased to have. The way this works is pretty cool. The audio is converted from waveforms to phonetic equivalents, and those are indexed. You can type your search term, then this is converted by OneNote into a phonetic equivalent which searches against the phonetic index of the audio. Actually this is a gross oversimplification but you get the idea. You can use this to search your notes for a particular voice note you took, or to find the point in an hour-long interview when a particular word is mentioned (way better than fast forwarding and rewinding to find a spot)

Of course handwriting is also searchable (on a Tablet PC) - that was our first example of taking analog data and making it part of your digital world.

Oh, and I should mention that OneNote12 uses the new Windows Desktop indexed search engine, so all searches are instantaneous! Sweet! Dude!