Breaking Up Again, OneNote and I Must Go Separate Ways

Ok, psychologically one is supposed to tell the good news last and the bad news first. Well, I’m doing that backwards with this article. First things first, all the awesome about Microsoft’s OneNote App.

Microsoft OneNote

The cool thing is, after more than a few years, OneNote runs on most mobile and desktop systems. When I say most, what that equates to is: Windows, iOS and OS-X. Now, I wouldn’t doubt if it works on some other things that I’ve missed, but those are the places I know it works because that is where I’ve used the application the most.

OneNote does a number of things that are pretty cool. The first is simply look pleasant and make it easy to add notes, images, sound or other objects into any notebook in the app. This makes note taking extremely easy. There are also a lot of features around note history to move back and forward, play things back and more. This interaction with the notes across all of the devices is pretty seem-less, when the features are similar across all of the devices.

I actually really like the interfaces built specifically for the device that OneNote is running on. If I’m running the iOS iPhone App it is oriented to small screen touch and interactions of that sort. The iOS version is focused on creating notes, not on managing or organizing the actual notebooks and related structures.

On the iPad iOS App it’s oriented toward a larger workspace and more navigation between each notebook and and a little to the management of these notebooks and the respective notes. The iPad version is a happy middle ground between the note creating focus of the iPhone App and the full blown OS-X and Windows Desktop versions.

Speaking of that, it’s been about 3+ years since I’ve used OneNote on Windows and about 2 years since I actually used Windows for anything relevant. So when One Note was released on OS-X I was all over that. I’d always been a fan of the product, but it was limited since it only ran on Windows for the longest time. So when I switched off of Windows as my core operating system years ago, it went away. I had a list of top apps I lost when leaving Windows.

  1. LiveWriter for blogging because it hooked up to all the blogs I wrote to at the time; WordPress, DotNetBlogEngine and Blogger. So it was hugely useful.
  2. ReSharper for Visual Studio. Note I did NOT say Visual Studio, but just ReSharper. I’ve got a lot of this power back via WebStorm and IntelliJ, but I still miss the robustness of refactoring options with ReSharper.
  3. OneNote with Office. Note, again the specifics of just missing OneNote and not Office. The Office Suite, especially when I moved to non-MS Operating Systems was already useless to me. It was stuck in the 90s world of files and file systems. I’d already moved on to web options where the files were always where I needed them and versioned appropriately.

When I got down to this list, I assumed I could go ahead and switch. I did, haven’t regretted it for a moment and will still tell anybody that’s good at adopting to tools and finding the best for the job, the grass is indeed greener being not on Windows.

But I sure was happy to get OneNote back, but as I used it I realized…

…and now OneNote dies to me again.

…that I’d moved on form the paradigm that OneNote has to offer. I use more than just merely the iOS or OS-X or Windows Version. I need an option to see and retrieve my information beyond that medium. I needed to be able to use these tools sometimes disconnected and this also created a huge problem, as they’re all tightly coupled to the skydrive style service. In addition to this, if one uses any of the other iOS Office Suite Apps from Microsoft those are also tied to skydrive, but one has to get a monthly account to use those.

Overall the OneNote app was elegant, nice and worked well, but the connectivity issues and the tightly coupled service to skydrive left it removed from the other tools that I use to get work done. I suppose, if one is a full on fanbois and using all the Microsoft tooling running on Windows it likely has some integration to those tools. However I use a wide variety of tools across more than one operating system. In the end it seemed like Microsoft was endeavoring to lock me into their online presence with their offer of free OneNote as a gateway to their Office Product.

Albeit I’ve used it now for 2 weeks, I’ve made tons of notes in it, I’m just going to go back to Evernote. The access is better, the apps are clunkier and not as pretty (I realize that’s subjective), and overall I’d rather use OneNote as an interface to files I put in Dropbox or Google Drive or Evernote or something, but alas, it hasn’t worked out. So if you’re looking for a note taking app, OneNote might still be fore you, but otherwise if you want full across the board support across many platforms, Evernote is still a more capable option.

Sorry OneNote, but even though it was nice to have a second fling, we have to go our separate ways again. I guess it’s time to fire Evernote back up.

Office Applications, Cloud Office Applications: An Open Letter

Alright, there are a dozen office suites out there that sit in various places on one’s computer, in the cloud, can do X, Y, and Z and the list goes on. However, I don’t want to talk about any of those suites. I want to talk about the suite we all want, the suite that actually gets the jobs done across the spectrum of online, offline, or on Mars! So with that I start an open letter to…

Dear Microsoft, Google, and All Office Suite Makers,

Please accept this letter as a clear message about what we want. This details not some fuzzy idea about what we want, it is what we want, need, and desire to remove the legacy environments of today and to move on with the work of the future.

Installation

We need office apps that can execute from the browser, because simply, there is no reason they need to be an installed application anymore. It is absolutely absurd to install a gigabyte or more locally (MS Office, yeah, I’m looking at you) anymore! There should be zero install. If anything is needed, it should be cached and utilize a transparent, seamless, uninterrupted user experience. In other words, I should never need to install anything and be able to use things offline whenever I need to (now I’m looking at you Google Docs).

Deployment

For large enterprises that need to keep control of their environments and content, deployment should be clean, policy based, and managed through a single sign on mechanism like oauth. Possibly with some clean integration into LDAP or whatever other primary authentication mechanisms a company may user. I reiterate though, no software to install, it needs to run in the browser, and it must deploy cleanly through policy management and verification of user identification.

Ease of Use, UX, and UI

This is simple. You each have unique user interfaces that can be replicated I the browser with today’s technology. Do NOT use Silverlight, Flash, or some embedded proprietary software, use the web based technology of HTML5, Javascript, jQuery, etc the tools are available and ready for use, use them!

Online, Offline

Already there are offline features for installed packages, but that isn’t what we want. HTML5 enables offline capabilities NOW. Get them built please, already. Cheers! As for online capabilities, this is easy because they pretty much exist now.

Collaboration

If I can’t update a document, spreadsheet, slide deck, or other office suite application document in real time with other users that I’m collaborating with it has failed. All office applications must have real-time, collaboration capabilities, with chat built in, sharing, and other capabilities. End of story, this is as fundamental now as being able to type stings of characters in a document.

Welcome to the demands of the future, I’ll leave you to get back to work office suite teams!

Thanks,

Future Document Creators