Note-Taking App Joins Office Family

Bill Gates introduced a new Office application for taking notes and organizing them during his Comdex keynote this week. The application, called Microsoft OneNote, is scheduled for a mid-2003 release.

Following recent Office family introductions including Data Analyzer and XDocs, OneNote brings the Office family to 13 products. The next version of the Office suite, Office 11, is also supposed to ship in mid-2003, along with a new version of the Exchange Server, code-named "Titanium."

According to Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, the product will let customers "capture, organize, and reuse your notes the way you want."

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer previewed the product's release with a comment in a speech last week at the Brookings Institution, when he noted that most of the attendees who were taking notes were using paper. Ballmer said Microsoft needed to do a better job at making software that makes note taking more natural on laptops and Tablet PCs.

In a statement following the Gates' keynote, Microsoft group vice president of productivity and business services, Jeff Raikes, said, "Note taking is a highly personal process that has not been well supported by computer software. OneNote complements individual styles for capturing and organizing thoughts. It pairs the flexibility of a paper notebook with the organizational efficiency of digital content."

The interface will allow for notes to be typed with a keyboard or written with a stylus. A tabbed interface will allow users to create and maintain several notebooks at once and flip back and forth between them easily. The application will be designed to launch at the last point where notes were taken. An obvious benefit of digital notes is the capability to search for a keyword throughout the notebook.

During the Gates keynote, Bobby Moore of the Office group used a Tablet PC to show how a user could point anywhere on the display and begin typing. He grabbed an item that he entered and related it to other items on the page and organized his notes through the system of tabs.

He also demonstrated the ability to capture audio text and link it to written text, to capture and drag a Web page into his notes, and to collect several notes together and send them off in an e-mail from within the OneNote interface.

Microsoft is targeting information workers and students with the product. Microsoft provided a screenshot of the OneNote interface on its Web site, highlighting an example of how a student might use the application (

Other Office products are Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access, FrontPage, Publisher, Microsoft Project, Visio and MapPoint.

About the Author

Dian L. Schaffhauser is a freelance writer based in Northern California.