OneNote Mobile 2007

Posted by Garth on Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Over the last few days I've been using OneNote. It's really grown on me. Historically, when I wanted to take a quick note I'd:

  1. Picture of Windows logo key + r
  2. notepad
  3. [type type type]
  4. Alt+F4
  5. notes
When I had a new quick note to type the steps would repeat, except 5 would be "notes2", followed by "notes3", etc. Google Desktop Search helped me a ton with this, as prior to that I was manually opening and looking inside dozens of text files.

Well, with OneNote my steps are now:
  1. Picture of Windows logo key + n
  2. [type type type]
That's it! I could Alt+F4 if I want, but even if I don't my text is saved. This alone is enough for me to use it, and it doesn't even scratch the surface of the features. So, suffice it to say, OneNote is my new best friend. However, he brings with him a less desirable sort, his little bastard buddy OneNote Mobile.

You see, OneNote Mobile is for Windows Mobile devices. Since the "Notes" application on WinMo is, well, I'm not even sure one could call it an application. Basically it's useless. Has been since my first Pocket PC (iPAQ 3650), and just never improved. So really, anything is an improvement. But OneNote Mobile is not without its idiosyncrasies.

First of all, it requires an ActiveSync connection to sync. I'm assuming that this isn't really an issue for most, but I've become quite accustomed to never connecting my phone to my PC. In fact, I had never even installed the Windows Mobile Device Center under Vista. So, after some Bluetoothing and some sync'ing, I managed to get OneNote to sync with my phone. But this means that to keep stuff in sync I need to consciously perform an ActiveSync.

Now, I use Exchange for my email needs, and I use Exchange ActiveSync all the time. Why can't OneNote hook into that and bypass the need for the PC in the middle (for some reason when I was typing that I wanted to type "piggy in the middle" instead... and let me tell you, with Vista as the piggy, it's not a far off analogy). Who knows... maybe with Exchange 2007 and WinMo 6 it'll work this way. But somehow I doubt it.

You might think that I already talked about synchronization. And I did to some extent. However this is a different type of synchronization. Once you set up OneNote Mobile, a new Notebook is created within OneNote called OneNote Mobile. Within that Notebook is a Page called Notes from Devicename. Makes sense right? The problem is that the only things that sync with your device are pages underneath this Notes from Devicename. So, if I make a note on my PC I have to consciously move/copy it to that Notebook and Page if I want it to appear on my mobile device. And when I make a note on my mobile device I have to manually move it into the correct Notebook on my PC. Now, I can understand opting for this behavior if device storage is low or something, but I'd REALLY like to be able to blindly sync everything bi-directionally. To me, this is just another instance of a software developer trying to anticipate my needs... and getting it wrong. The cost of storage has dropped drastically (my buddy just bought an 8gb SD card for $90 CDN), so there's really no reason NOT to sync my entire OneNote setup. Or at least let ME define what I do and do not want to sync. Making that decision for me is ridiculous. Not to mention the whole advantage to OneNote is that it increases efficiency. If I was using Outlook Notes (which don't sync to a Smartphone, but that's another story) I'd create a note and it would sync. It would even sync over the air using Exchange ActiveSync. So why, why, why must OneNote tie my hands and treat me like a child?!

Thought I was done talking about syncs eh? Well, yet another oddity of OneNote Mobile is that when it syncs a note, it seems to do it by page. And when I say page (note the lower-case "p") I mean 8.5x11 printed page, or some fuzzy logic therein. For example, I sent a webpage to OneNote (very slick feature by the way) which created a Page in OneNote. This Page was probably two printed pages (were I to print it). I then added a text note and hyperlink to the Page. Well, when I sync'ed this over it showed up as three individual notes in OneNote Mobile (so much for "One" note :) ). These three notes, in alphabetical order, consisted of:
  1. page 2 of the sync'ed Page
  2. page 1 of the sync'ed Page
  3. notes and hyperlink from the sync'ed Page
WTF?! I mean, I could understand breaking it up, sortof, maybe. But if you're gonna do that, at least keep the order correct.

Honestly, that's about all I have to say on the subject for now. If I decide to add more in the future I'll just call this Part I and move on from there (and I'm sure I'll have more to say once I've used it some more). The one thing that seems really promising is the ability to take a pic from your cameraphone, throw it into a Note and sync it. Then you can index/copy the text in the pic using OCR once it's in OneNote. Neat, except that my cameraphone blows and even _I_ can't read the text in pics I take with it, so OCR doesn't have a chance in hell. Why do WinMo cameraphones suck so bad?


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