The Myth

Myths are fun to believe in and perpetuate. Myths are also amazing in their immortality. But myths suck if you find yourself on the wrong side of them. Working at Microsoft on products like Word you run into a lot of myths which get repeated so often, they become treated as “fact” in the general population. Maybe I’ll talk about some of those someday (like the one where Word changes its file format every release – if people only knew how much we bend over backwards to keep that compatible).

It is sort of like having people start calling you “Bert” and then having them tell everyone they know your name is Bert, and continue to do this despite you telling them and anyone else you meet to their face that your name is Chris, not Bert. After awhile, people start to look at you funny. “My name is Chris, not Bert”. “Oh, are you going to change your name?” “Why are you lying?” “Do you have multiple personality disorder?” They even start to distrust you. But from your perspective you were always Chris, not Bert.

OneNote has one big fat myth. People think we only run on a TabletPC. If you use OneNote, you know how wrong this is. And don’t get me wrong – we run great on Tablets, we love the Tablet, and we built features to take advantage of Tablets. Every time I meet with the press or customers though, I make sure to mention that we are useful on laptops and desktops, as well as Tablets. Yet even after that, and a demo showing the power of OneNote with a keyboard and mouse, people still write that we are only available for TabletPC. Not that we are more useful on a Tablet – we ONLY run on a Tablet. Go figure. At first this was humorous, then annoying. Now though, it can be a big problem for a new business. We just did some internal research that shows the top reason why corporations don’t consider OneNote for deployment in their organization is that they do not have TabletPCs!

There are some reasons for this myth, and they are sort of self-reinforcing. For example, the Tablet was launched around the same time OneNote was announced. The word “notes” to many people means handwritten things on paper, so they think handwriting, hence Tablet. It is a testament to the power of the Tablet that when I or anyone else on the team does a demo of OneNote, we have to be careful to show all the non-Tablet features first (which people are really excited about), and then just show ink for 30sec at the end. When we didn’t do this, and showed ink first, people just got a glazed, drooling look and tuned out everything except the swoopy lines of ink on the screen. They’d walk away saying “what features”?

So the Tablet is a blessing and a curse – we thank it for making us appealing, but The Myth is killing us. So spread the word: 95% of real-life OneNote users use a laptop or desktop, and 95% of the features do not require a Tablet. Go forth and multiply that!

Comments (13)

  1. Colin Walker says:

    I’ve only ever used OneNote with a graphics tablet on my desktop and not a Tablet PC. OK some features are note availabel but it’s still a very nice app.

    Shame the graphics tablet is currently broken :o(

  2. Firstly, It is great to see you blogging so much! You are obviously enjoying it! I too use Word – not least because of the spell checker and then “copy”+“paste” into the appropriate box ?.

    And now to the point. To be honest, OneNote does take on a far deeper role when it has ink-enabled technology behind it. Using OneNote in a lecture on a laptop is not bad (you can record audio etc) but a using a Tablet PC is far easier- and discreet.. Still, I take your point: there is a terrible misconception.

    PS: Could you tell your collegues to add the word "Blog" and its variations in the default dictionary for the SP!?

  3. Michael Malinak says:

    The great thing about you using word is that you post alot and they aren’t all corrections to earlier posts. When you subscribe to all of it’s rough.

    Back to the topic at hand. I have to say I didn’t really appreciate OneNote until I started using it on my desktop rather than my tablet. I got really annoyed with alot of the drawbacks on Tablet: iffy layout/selection, find doesn’t seem to work as well, drawings mixing with text, etc. Once I started using it to organize notes on my desktop it became 10 times as useful.

  4. Ron Dunn says:

    Do you have demonstration scenarios for OneNote which, as you suggest, minimise the importance of the "ink" demonstration? If so, you might like to publish them to help people like me demonstrate OneNote more effectively.

  5. Martin Soles says:

    I’m very happy with OneNote, except for the handwriting part. See, I don’t write at the exact same height. When I do the convert to text, I end up with something that looks like a ransom or threat note made from newspaper clippings. I’d be happy if I could happily write my note in ink and have the app convert that to a uniform font size.

    As it is, I’ve given up with handwriting in there. I just flip the top on the tablet and type my notes.

  6. kip says:

    Which is why I was floored with the decision to not bundle One Note with Office 2003. Would have been a great opportunity to get your product known, and deflate the "myth" at the same time. Instead you’ve got to jump through hoops to find/get One Note without a tablet, thus perpetuating the "myth". Sad.

  7. Martin, we basically made the wrong choice when we decided to try to convert ink to text in place and at the same size you wrote your ink. By the time we realized it, it was too late. But an easy workaround is to select the whole page and change the font, or copy to Word and do it – that gets rid of the 2D positioning of what you wrote as well.

  8. James Cooper says:

    So, Chris, in regards to Martin’s comment, will a OneNote upgrade include more consistent text size on conversion? This too is a hard one for me when selling the capabilities of the program to faculty at the School of Law at Seattle University.


  9. That’s something we hope to address in a future version. In the meantime, you can select everything on the page and change the font size manually. Or copy/paste it all to Word and do it there. Or leave it as ink – that’s what most people do.

  10. First, let me point out that Owen Braun is blogging now. He’s the lead program manager on my team responsible