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OneNote: Notebooks, Sections, and Pages August 3, 2011

Posted by shwaldman in Technology, Work.
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I have been looking for a good solution to keeping my thoughts in a place where I am not always wondering what I am forgetting. Before computers, people carried around these books called day timers or planners. It was a place to see your calendar and take notes. Now, many people carry around computers and don’t want another book to carry. But the computer is too big to pull out every time you have something to jot down. So, we (the collective we here does not included me, yet, though I do sometimes count my iPod touch) have smart phones that have computer capabilities in a small form factor. But there are still obvious space/size limitations of their screens.

On my iPod, I have tried using simple list programs, but they are often too simple. I have also heard lots of people talk about EverNote and I tried it but found it too complex and it requires an Internet connection to view or update content (which I do not always have with my iPod). I also could not find an easy way to integrate it into my desktop computing. I am looking for something that is JUST RIGHT. I finally think I have found something that meets MANY of my needs. So, I want to talk a little about OneNote.

It is a Microsoft “add-on” to the Office Suite (I am using Office 2010 now at work). It is integrated into all the main products, Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It has the same menu ribbon and common icons which are important when looking for how to do things, especially in a new product.

I am still getting used to this application, but I have some tips for anyone just starting out, especially if you want to use the full integration like I do. Essentially, this application allows you to maintain notebooks with sections (tabs across the top) and pages within each section. OneNote lets you attach multimedia to your heart’s connect, such pictures, videos, and other types of documents (like Word or Excel). As someone who likes to manage documents at the file level (in Windows Explorer or command prompt), I find it very interesting that Microsoft only creates a different directory using the notebook’s name. Within that directory, there is always a file named “Open Notebook.onetoc2” as well as a “.one” file for each section. If you want to rename a Notebook, expect to have to do some manually file management. This is reason number one that using this product requires some forethought.

When using OneNote, it is very easy to add content. You can send messages from Outlook with the dedicate icon in the ribbon (but the section must exist first). OneNote also installs a “Printer” that allows you to send a file to a notebook through the print function in ANY application. And with Windows 7 at least, you can drag and drop anything (text, images, etc) right into a notebook/page.

So, what do you do if you don’t have access to your computer all the time? (for now, let’s skip the smartphone). Microsoft recently rolled their versions of the Office Suite products into online applications. Much like the Google Docs that came out first, you can now manage Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files through a web browser. The way this works is that you need a MS Live account, which includes Hotmail, MSN, Xbox, or Live mail accounts online. You can store all kinds of files in these accounts and now have access to these files from anywhere you have a computer. This service is called “SkyDrive”.

You can sync (or share) your desktop OneNote notebooks through your SkyDrive. Once this is done, the desktop application will try to Sync these files to the web, although I have found it to be buggy and that is required some time to manually sync at times. However, once you have these files are “in the cloud” you can manage your notebooks through the web applications which have the same interface as the desktop application. Unfortunately, the web apps do not have all the same functionality, but the core functionality appears to be there to create, update and format your notebooks. This will work well for me, when I am working on my OS X laptop that does not have the Microsoft Office application installed.

Now, what about when you don’t have a computer in front of you. If you have an iPhone or Windows Phone (6.5 or 7), you can also utilize the OneNote app on the go. As of August 1, 2011, there was still no release of Android or Blackberry versions, but I am sure someone is working on it. However, for those of you on Android or Blackberry don’t fret too badly, because you are not missing much. I can only speak to the iOS version, and I can say for certainly it is lacking majorly. I would certainly hope the Window Phone version is much better.

You can not Create notebooks in the iOS version. You can also not create Sections. This is the second reason you need to plan ahad before you start getting too far into using this application. I suggest setting up your primary structure tree (notebooks and sections) on your desktop application before using the iOS app too much. You can go back and add sections using the desktop or web apps if you need to do so. You can create Pages, however you have to be very careful, since it is very easy to create something that is not categorized and therefore goes into an “Unfiled” notebook that you will need to sort out later in the web or desktop version. The icon at the bottom right (page with folded corner and plus sign) only creates “unfiled” items. I recommend using the large plus sign within the section you want to create the new pages. And this is the only real functionality too. You can view recently viewed items and you can search items. If you created a page or when editing an existing page, you can add check boxes or bulleted lists. You can also pull in photo from your iOS photo album, but that is it. Oh, you can delete a page, too. I was happy to find that the syncing back to SkyDrive seems to work flawlessly and quickly.

All in all, I am hoping that the version 1.2 of the iOS app that I downloaded has some much needed improvements coming. But I think it is a good start and I am going to continue to try using it. I will allow me to access my notes from different places without too much planning. Of course, if I continue to have problems with the desktop application syncing to SkyDrive and I have to manually do this, I will walk-away and look for something else again. If you have any experience with OneNote, EverNote or something else, please add your thoughts to this post. Thanks for readiing.

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Today’s Run – A New Way with @gdgt April 16, 2010

Posted by shwaldman in Fitness, Technology.
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This is my ninth posting for the week. Wow! I am closing in on 200 blog posts. If only I was getting that many hits! But it is fun nonetheless and people are definitely finding my writings interesting (I think). Thanks for everyone that keeps coming back and welcome to first timers.

This afternoon’s lunch run was a new route. Instead of heading to the local park, I opted to circle the County Administrative campus. Having run into an employee over there that is a fellow runner, I thought it would be interesting to see what types of options he has available to him. It was also good to get out there exploring and try something new. The run itself was good up until the end. As the graph below shows, I had to stop at the end for a short bathroom break before adding another 1/2 miles. It was good to get over 5 miles again.

During today’s run, I started with Dvorak’s Tech 5 – a five minute daily summary of technology new stories. I think I am pretty over this one. I like his other show with is a weekly round table to discuss the big topics. But in this summary show, he does no research and often provides mis-information. For example, recently he mentioned Netflix coming to Wii as being able to rent games from the movie delivery service. As seen in my last post, this is obviously just plain wrong.

But the majority of the run was with Peter Rojas and Ryan Block at GDGT.com. This is another gadget podcast much like Engadget that covers recent new stories and trends in the world of tech and gadgets. They talked a bit about a new feature on their site that allows for easier cross posting of information to discuss multiple tech toys. It is definitely a required feature for such a complex and robust site like their’s. Their talk also turned to the announcement from Microsoft that they are coming out with branded phones with the Danger (think Sidekick) platform. Of course, this is in addition to the Windows Phone 7 OS that should be out by year end. Add to that the conversation going to Palm’s recent poor financial recents and the rumors that they are looking for a buyer, potentially HTC.

Now, I have noted several time my displeasure with the cell phone industry. During this podcast, I was able to solidify what I want from the market. Now, the Kin products are being marketed to tweens (15-25 yr olds) that want to focus on social networking like Twitter and Facebook, but not apps and productivity tools. These phones are coming to Verizon (my current service company) and clearly these are things that are going have them require data plans, but the question remains if it will require the $10 or the $30 plan.

For me, I still fall into a different category. I love my ipod Touch and have it with me most of the time. It obviously has no phone features (but 100s of thousands of apps available), so I have to carry my basic cell phone. I can access the web through my Touch on wireless or pay the fees to use my cell phone. I rarely have a true NEED to get to the Internet when wireless is not available. So, for me, what I want Verizon to do is stop forcing people onto the data plan when all they want is wireless. My dream is for Apple to come to Verizon this summer with this option… I did say it was a dream!

Friday Run… Cold! March 26, 2010

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I generated enough will power to head out into the cold today. It is about 40 degrees, which is still my lower limit on going out in shorts. It felt cold for a few minutes, but after a while only my hands and thigh stayed cold throughout. It was a bit windy, so that did not help.

But I decided that I will try to write one blog for each run to cover the music, podcast or TV show that I listen to during the run. Here is my Nike+ update from Twitter about today’s run: ran 4.57 mi on 3/26/2010 at 12:16 PM with a pace of 9’30″/mi

It was a good run. I tried to keep it light and not push too hard, but my heart rate monitor did not work right for the first half. It slide down to my stomach and registered up to 210 BPM. After I got it situated, I managed to keep it under 160 for the remainder of the run. Assuming that is right, it is about 10 points lower than normal.

On today’s podcast, I listened to Engadget’s audio podcast #188. I am actually three episodes behind, but listened to this thanks to the outstanding buggy ipod Touch/iTunes software. Unfortunately, you can not control the sort order on Smart Playlists. I have four special playlists that allow me to only sync the podcasts that I have not listened to yet. That is a nice feature, but I would like to listen to them in chronological order… thanks Apple!

Anyway, the podcast is over an hour long and I only ran for 43 minutes. In the parts I listened to, they talked about Windows Mobile Phone Series 7 operating system… nice name Microsoft. It sounds like it is going to be a Vista like improvement over the prior version. They have built it from scratch, so rather than just make version 6.5 better, they started over and left some key and touted functionality out, like cut and paste… really? Did you learn from Apple?

By the time I finished the run, the guys had moved onto Palm’s current financial status, which does not sound good. They have been getting tremendous reviews on the Pre Plus, so it is a shame. This really just goes to show that the cell phone market has gotten way to fragmented. Let’s take a look just at the number of operating systems: Palm WebOS, Google Android, Microsoft Windows Mobile Phone Series 7, Nokia Symbian, RIM Blackberry, and of course Apple iPhone… that is big list. Now, add to that the diverse set of phones from each carrier and phone manufacturers. It is too complex. I think the cell market is at a tipping point.

As they tout the roll out of 4th Generation cellular networks, it will add even more confusion. And the problem I have most with the cell services and manufacturers is they are ignoring the feature phone market. While they have added 5MP cameras on the expensive smartphones, they refused to move away from VGA and 1.3MP cameras on the feature phones. A year from now, they will still be at the same feature set and ultimately force people move up to the more expensive phones and services… that, to me, is unfair business practices.

Microsoft always playing catch-up… marketing! September 8, 2009

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Zune vs iTouch

This month, Microsoft will release a new personal media player, the Zune HD. It is the equivalent of Apple’s move from iPod to iTouch. It is touted to be technically superior to Apple’s iTouch hardware. Of course, it will likely not fair nearly as well in the mass market all because of marketing. Microsoft has the most widely accepted operating system and office productivity software. But developers and hackers do not like Microsoft. Therefore, there will not be nearly as many applications developed for the Zune stores.

Apple will anounce their new line of updated media players on September 9th, generation #3. Microsoft finally releases its Zune HD on September 15th. So far, it looks like there will be nearly $75 difference on the highest 32 GB models (in Microsoft’s favor). They both will obviously have wireless networking and touch screens. Word on the street is the iTouch will add a digital camera. But for me, the big draw in interest to the Zune is the HD output as well as the HD radio. I think that is huge. There are very few portable HD radios on the market and this is essentially a computer plus the HD radio. Now, let’s hope the Zune supports flash and java players so any online content can be relayed onto the big screen!

(Note: a few hours after I posted this, Apple dropped its prices – the 32GB iTouch went from $399 to $279 (practically the same as the proposed Zune HD 32 GB) – in preparation for it’s big 9/9/09 annoucements.)