Designs, anyone?

Excellent. Lots of feedback. But almost all from developers it seems. Having an API for OneNote is certainly the plan, so it is good to hear how people hope it would be used. No need to convince me that it is necessary. And I agree with all the sentiments about bloat, etc.

The add-in argument I think is missing some key factors: add-ins done for fun are not really industrial strength code, or UI design, and are not available in different languages. They haven't been security reviewed. The developer who built it might move on to something else since they are just doing it as a hobby anyway.

Remember that for people who can't code, an API is not providing them value directly. If you tell a customer that they bought a product, but they need to write an add-in to get the functionality they want, or track down on the net something someone else wrote in their spare time, that isn't too customer-friendly. For the great majority of people the feature does not really exist and never will. The Office family of products go to a large audience and not just the sophisticated users you find here who would write or search out and download code. The ordinary person wants things packaged up nicely, debugged, in their language and so on. Of course, you could argue that only the sophisticated users would blog, so no problem. But then there are people who say that blogs are taking off and becoming mainstream - there are millions of them already after all...

FWIW there is a rich API for Word2003, and rich XML support, and even some blogging add-ins, but most people aren’t aware of them. Even with hundreds of custom-use add-ins available for different uses the total number of users do not add up to a great majority of users taking advantage of them. It is still a small minority really even taken collectively, given the huge numbers of units involved with Word.

I'm curious about the lack of interest in blogging support from the people who commented. Is this because there is a belief it wouldn't age well, given that blogs are evolving quickly? Or is it because there's a sense that there are already too many blogging tools available? Or is it that the app is not suited for this? Where's Scoble when you need him?

Today you can use OneNote for blogging if you have a blog site that supports receiving blog entries via email. Greg Hughes is doing that here.

OneNote has an edge over other tools for blogging in that you can post multimedia entries, including handwriting, ink-annotated photos, audio, etc. It is also a natural place to manage a lot of different entries you are working on, especially if like me you tend to write on different topics and take some time on each entry and don't simply post whatever floats across your brain at the moment (not that there's anything wrong with that :-))

I'm surprised that the people commenting were not offering any designs - even of a potential add-in. To me it is too simplistic to say that selecting some text and posting it is what is meant by blogging support in OneNote. Offline use is interesting I think. Also being able to view all my past posts while offline is useful. What about blogging internal to a corporation, where their might be a little more interactive or collaborative use of blogs?

OneNote is used by many people as a research tool even more than as a note-taking tool. People grab stuff off the web and paste it into OneNote to gather info on a topic. Handling RSS feeds seems a natural to me to extend that (as Brian noted in the feedback).  It is a nice complement to manual information gathering.

So, any thoughts on what the design of blogging or RSS support would be? Even if you would do it via an add-in, how would it work? Blow me away, please...

Comments (22)
  1. Julian Gall says:

    It seems to me the main difference between my use of OneNote and my use of blogs (that I read) is in the permanence of the information. What I enter into OneNote stays there for me to look at later. 99% of what I read in blogs lasts for less than a few seconds. For blog reading to work in OneNote, this difference in the type of information needs to be addressed.

    So, if you want a design, here’s mine:

    1. Have a new type of top tab in addition to the existing two types (folder and section). This is the "Blogreader" tab.

    2. When on the Blogreader tab, there are page tabs down the side for each subscribed blog. Also a tab at the top showing the latest posts from all subscribed blogs.

    3. The blog items on the blog pages look like OneNote items. They can be expanded, contracted and deleted in the same way. They may need to be read-only. They have hyperlinks to the original entries, comments etc.

    4. Items on blog pages might also have a mechanism for them to be moved or copied to note pages, if this would be easier than cut and paste.

    For blog writing, there should be another type of top tab, a Blogwriter. Dragging items from elsewhere to here would cause them to be published to the blog. Offline creation with automatic synchronisation would be good but not essential. You could always create your blog entries on a note page and drag them to the Blogwriter tab when online.

  2. RoudyBob says:

    It’s not that I don’t think OneNote wouldn’t make an excellent blogging tool. You bring up several characteristics that would set it apart from others – ink, cut/paste HTML, etc.

    The issue is more that unless we can also make OneNote a RSS reader, it wouldn’t be much use to me as a blogging tool. Take for example the three types of entries I make:

    1. I get an email or see a post and want to post that to my blog with comments. Since I’m using Newsgator, I can do this very easily. If OneNote were also where I read mail and read RSS feeds, then it would be a good fit. But today, it isn’t. OneNote is an EXCELLENT note taking tool – would it also be a good RSS reader? I don’t know…

    2. I see something while browsing the web that I want to post. BlogJet makes this very easy. I click a toolbar button and add my comments. Post.

    3. I am creating entirely new content – starting from scratch. This is one situation where I think OneNote would actually beat every other solution hands-down. I can collect my thoughts, pull in different types of content, etc.

    So, I guess I’m saying that it’s not that OneNote wouldn’t make a good blogging tool. I just am saying that most bloggers tend to do #1 and #2 far more than #3. Am I way off base here?

  3. KC Lemson says:

    I tend to be a #3 kind of blogger (and have been keeping my "stuff to blog about" list in OneNote since I started blogging), so for me the high-level concept of blogging directly from OneNote is pretty useful.

    As far as blogging directly from one-note goes… one of the reasons this wouldn’t be useful for me personally is that I can’t host files on my blog server ( So while I’d love to be able to blog the ink/audio/video, I don’t see how OneNote could easily upload that content for me.

    Right now, I do most of my blogging from Outlook (with a newsgator posting plugin for .Text) or the web interface.

    If OneNote were to support posting to blogs in some way, I would suggest something similar to what newsgator has done (and I know this gets back to the API discussion…): an infrastructure where you can plug in different blog posters depending on what software the server is running. But then ship with several in the box by default (maybe even developed by partners), so that end users don’t need to scour the web to find them. And in a service pack, you could potentially add support for a new blog server.

    As for UI, I think something like mimicking the Send to Email functionality would be good – select one or more blocks of content, File | Send To Blog | (expanded menu). As Scott mentioned on the other thread, this would require some sort of config UI too.

    Anyway, I do like the idea of blogging directly from onenote, but if I had "feature dollars" to spend, I would put it in other features instead, such as better integration of OneNote with Outlook (associate notes with a meeting, for example, much like the ‘activities’ task on a contact), or support for drawing tables in OneNote.

    Or fixing the multiple &C accelerators when you right click on a section in order to create a new section. That drives me nuts! πŸ™‚

  4. D. Brian Ellis says:


    I think the feature for consuming blog posts is a step in the right direction. To go a little further on what I see OneNote becoming in the future, I would love Wiki support to go in the same area. This comes from my personal experience.

    I read a number of blogs regularly (Eric Gunnerson, shaykatc, Christa Carpentiere, etc.) specifically for information, hints, and tips on the the the tools I am using now. When I see something that looks interesting, I don’t delete. Later on I’ll go back and read it through. If it’s worth my time, I’ll save the information for future reference. On top of that I spend time on the internet (CodeProject, MSDN, Experts-Exchange) and consistently come up with scattered information to solve my current or future problems.

    When I first started doing this, I had a large set of notes, maybe a few bookmarks and some printed pages. Now it has progressed to the point that I use a program called WikidPad to handle my info. It lets me keep notes and drill down from the top level (C#) to the article I saved (Generics), to the source (blog x), to the author’s personal information (Guy x invented spam. How cool…).

    This fails however when I need anything besides text. I don’t have a copy of OneNote at work but I have one at home. I need an aggregate source to combine my rssReader, WikidPad, and the scalability of Word to handle tables, pictures, etc., with the linking features of WikidPad, and the design of OneNote. THIS is my dream. Possible? Probably not right away. However, it’s something to shoot for and I think the current OneNote development is a step in the right direction.


    If you have critiques on these ideas or would care to discuss it more:


  5. I think this was kind of a non-optimal example:

    "<i>FWIW there is a rich API for Word2003, and rich XML support, and even some blogging add-ins, but most people aren’t aware of them.</i>"

    OK, fair enough… but Outlook has an equally rich API, and the result has been a huge number of successful add-ins. I use (and couldn’t live without) NewsGator, but that isn’t the only blogging/RSS add-in for Outlook– there are several. Unlike the ones for Word that you speak of, though, these don’t wallow in obscurity. Why? because a blogging tool integrated in your email client <i>makes sense</i>, while one integrated into your word processor makes less sense. (OK, writing posts makes sense in Word, but I’m speaking more of RSS integration points.)

    I think one of the major reasons people are interested in seeing OneNote as a blogging tool might be the integration of ink and drawing support, simple inclusion of web-based content (which it does FAR better than Word or Outlook) and a simple, ad-hoc metaphor that meshes well with how most people think of blogging.

    For me, though, I want OneNote to be where I keep all my research, notes, and journal-type entries… much of which is currently tightly interwoven with my blogs and the blogs I read on a regular basis.

    Keep it up– great product, great blog.

  6. Gordon Watts says:


    So — I wrote a nice long comment and it doesn’t look like it showed up. πŸ™ So I’ll try again.

    –> Using OneNote as a blog reader.

    I don’t fancy this much. The data in OneNote remains with me forever. 99% of the data in blogs I don’t want to

    remain with me forever… I’d much prefer the model of cut/paste into OneNote. The current readers are quite efficient at processing large numbers of items (filters, search folders, etc. — I use RSSBandit). There isn’t something compelling I see in OneNote’s interface that would make me want to switch.

    I would like to see a perma-link for each blog entry I cut/paste from appear in OneNote, much the way a link

    appears when you paste an image, etc., from IE.

    1. Cut some text from RSSReader.

    2. Paste it into OneNote.

    3. Appears there, with a small http link that is the permalink for the blog entry.

    I suppose that is somethign that the blog readers have to implement.

    –> OneNote as a blog Server

    By these comments I took it to mean you could access my OneNote notebook over teh web directly. I don’t lik ethis

    so much; my tablet PC is often offline. I’d rather see OneNote interface to blogging software and post thay way.

    –> OneNote as a generator of blog entries

    – All postings would idealy contain all pictures, text, ink, and files.

    – User could have as many log entries in progress at one time as they wished.

    – Posting offline would be possible. πŸ™‚

    BLogging Page:

    Similar in idea to the blog page just posted (while was writing my first entry — :-)).

    There are currently two types of pages in OneNote — a note book page, and a subpage. The note book page has a title area. Add a third type of page, a blog entry page. The UI for this page would look very similar to the current note book page. It would have a different icon and woudl also have some different boarders to make it visually apparent it was a different beast. Also, the tab on the rigtht side of the page would have a special icon so the user could look at the list of pages in their notbook and see which ones were entries right away.

    1. User clicks the new blog page tab ont he right size of the screen. A new blog page is created and inserted in the notebook.

    2. User interacts with this page as they would with a normal note book page. Fills in title, fills in text, pictures, adds files, etc.

    3. User can flip to other pages, work on other tasks, shutdown/startup OneNote.

    4. When user is ready to post, they select eh page and right click, or select menu item from Tools menu "Post Web Log Entry".

    5. User is presented with a "Posting Dialog" (see below). If they accept the posting, then the page changes UI somehwo to indicate it has been posted (background, boarders, etc.). Also, the page tag on the right changes — so the user can quickly scan their OneNote and tells the idfference between posted entries and unposted entries.

    –> Now that I’ve typed this, there isn’t an obvious need for the different UI. However, if the user is going to have several going at once, they may want to be able to find the entries in their notebook that are entries-in-progress quickly…

    –> If user posts lots of little two lines entries, this will fill the notebook up with lots of pages. Current OneNOte interface for looking at pages does not scale well.

    –> Is user allowed to change the page once it has been posted? How are they told they can’t if they can’t? If they can, how do you tell difference between blog? Perhaps you just append to page: page posted to blog on datae xxyy, and give a web link. πŸ™‚

    –> I also like the previous idea of dragging to a blog icon or something like that to post.

    BLogging Selection:

    1. User interacts with OneNote exactly as they are doing now. Write, add pictures, etc.

    2. User has written witty text they would like to blog.

    3. User right clicks with mouse/pen and drags selecting the ink groups they want to post.

    4. User moves mouse to center of ink groups and right clicks and selects the drop-down menu item "Post Web Log Entry". The user is presented with the posting dialog box (below). If they accept the ink groups are marked as posted (turn a funny color, perhaps the title bar for them does??).

    –> How does user select "title" for the posting? An ink friendly entry in the posting dialog box?

    –> Can user modify (or write over) these posted ink groups?

    This modiy question comes down to "are you making a copy of the data to the blog or are you mirroring the blog in OneNote).

    Posting Dialog:

    Dialog box with a preview area so user can see what the posting will look for (espcially important for the blogging selection version, I suspect).

    Drop down dialog box with all the blogs the user has configured to post to.

    "Post" and "Cancel" buttons. πŸ™‚

    Optiosn Dialog:

    New tab, "Web Log Posting" with config info and lists of blogs (the parameters are going to be API dependent I suspect).

    Optiosn — shoudl rule lines be included, for example.

    I can argue both ways for either doing BLogging Selection or BLogging pages above. I like the selection verison just because if I want to post somethign short I hate getting lots of pages.

    To give you some context. I read lots of blogs but don’t maintian one right now. Ipretend to do science, and I use OneNote as a replacement for my logbooks (very helpful as I fly a bunch). I mostly use OneNote when my tablet is in tablet mode, and I cut on my main desk top machine(s), and then paste into OneNote using a networked clipboard (I’m currently trying out Clipboard Rover for this). My most desired feature is better date granularity and spinning entries by date.


    Gordon (

    P.S. Please excuse spelling. Too lazy to put into Word. Mom a english prof, you should see how red my high school papers were when she reviewed them. πŸ™‚

  7. Steele Price says:

    As a reader, OneNote is not the right place for reading, drag and drop the entry from SharpReader, NewsGator, etc. into OneNote an easier method I think. In SharpReader, if I open the Article (in SharpReader) it saves the permalink for me in OneNote.

    I must use OneNote completely different than other people. This gets into the meat of why I use OneNote as a "notekeeping and research tool" and not a composition tool.

    Composition in OneNote leaves alot to be desired… Dragging anything around to reposition it on my Tablet is next to impossible, whereas on my desktop it seems really easy. I have frequently "cleaned up" pages on my desktop because it was easier and this seems like it should be quite the opposite. In fact, I move back and forth from Tablet to desktop to reformat the layout on my desktop a lot more than I would like to. I am constantly composing documents in several other tools and then dropping them all into OneNote (as attachments) to annotate, organize ideas and track progress.

    This isn’t going to change much because OneNote is just not made to be a composition tool (like Word, Visio and Photoshop are). I refuse to post the .MHT file OneNote exports, it just adds far to much markup garbage and reformats jpgs as gif images. I don’t use Word to blog for the exact same reason, .xml markup files added to every post is bad, it defeats the whole purpose of my consistently formatted blog with all the text stored in a database.

    It would be really great if OneNote supported "Insert Object" so I could drop in a Document and annotate it as an onion skin like I can do for pictures. Maybe a sizeable thumbnail would be useful in this respect as opposed to just a text link to the file (which doesn’t export to the .MHT by the way). Export a very clean XHTML post with linked annotation images positioned correctly by using only the CSS of my blog. A configurable base location for attached files would be essential. If that is what we are talking about here, then great.

    I also drag/drop alot of code from Visual Studio into OneNote to write up comments, this loses all it color formatting. If I open Word, d/d VS.NET to Word, then Word to OneNote all the formatting is retained… go figure πŸ™‚

    I can see some usefulness in moving OneNote outline specific format to blog post, but not as a general layout tool for blog posts right now.

    Here’s a thought… How about a freeform Scratchpad Section Tab (that is essentially Journal with a better convert to shape similar to Grafigo) embedded into OneNote, then have the ability to drag or right-click the Freeform Layout from the Scratchpad onto a OneNote Page and have it embed like it was written directly on the page. I do this with Journal now even though it doesn’t import as ink, then I also have to add a file link to the .jnt. I don’t see how that could possibly detract from OneNote’s ability on a Desktop, but would remarkably improve its ability on a Tablet. Then having the ability to move that from OneNote to a Blog Post might be essential.

  8. Tobias says:


    found your site via google while looking for possible workarounds for a onenote problem I have (and others have as well, it appears): Cut & Paste text with links and tables in OneNote isn’t working.

    I’m also testing Onfolio and their snippets are exactly like I would want HTML notes to be in onenote, designed or not, but always with hyperlinks. Except that OneNote is fast, and Onfolio feels like a C64.

    I’m sure you will remind me to read your posts about the process of software design at Microsoft, which I haven’t – but will do later, seems like an interesting thing to know.

    I simply wanted to say what is truly limiting the usefulness of the programme at the time being.

    As for blogging – I don’t think "offline" is a huge concern for most bloggers when it comes to truly "logging" their surfing by republishing it. For writers, onenote would be almost perfect with useful HTML support and the ability to interact with other browsers than IE for drag & drop – when dragging from Firefox OneNote doesn’t even display an "inserted from" link. Or tell the IE people at Microsoft to once again become as innovative as they once were – and as your group appears to be now (abstracting from the HTML thing, of course ;)).

    Thanks for a (generally) great product!


  9. Blogs toolsets wouldn’t age well, would have to be an add-in, instead of a whole new OneNote version change, could just get the latest add-on. Too many apps? But always room for a better mousetrap. And OneNote is ideally suited, perfectly in fact, what lots of people were thinking from the get-go. And RSS support is natural, but then many formats, ATOM, and whatnot. Syndicators wouldn’t age well either, being that all in a flux. Today’s hot syndicator, could be tomorrow’s cold. But why think only low-level markup Blogs? I’d go a full Research Scheduling Groupware CMS, think Enterprise. OneNote data as full collaboration, all in sync.

    Designs? Look to the myriad of Outlook plug-ins. Outlook is more going platform, gear OneNote that way. Random ideas…

    1. Plug-in for PDA (Palm, Pocket PC, SmartPhone) use. OneNote transfer to PDAs? Would be nice. πŸ™‚

    2. Sign or encrypting OneNote info.

    3. NewsGator something-like for OneNote. I am sure once able, that team would be able to just flip things over to OneNote rather easy. RSS problem solved. Build it up, they will come. Had 1.0 had that from the start, NewsGator for OneNote might have already been a factor.

    4. OutlookMT plug-in like (Consult Scobie on that one). Drag and drop OneNote data, blog publishing. Emailing to Blog publish has never caught on.

    5. OneNote Advanced Folders Watch, Routing scheduler plug-in.

    6. Form creation. Survey. OneNote as groupware form tool. Passed around round-robin like.

    7. NNTP for OneNote.

    8. Project Tracker, MS Project hooks. Notes tied to a project.

    9. Third-party hooked plug-in’s, Filemaker Pro, Time and Chaos, Vertical/Health Care apps, custom back-end databases and etc.

    10. Editorial collaboration metadata (aka Word). But need a security kill-bit too. πŸ™‚

    11. OneNote permissional grouping. ie. This person here, can see this OneNote data, but not that person.

    12. Virtual Printer, as plug-in?

    And tons more…just what could think of off-top-of-head. Worry not about hobby plug-in’s, sure hasn’t slowed down things Outlook plug-in’s. The professional ones, end up being the only one’s used.


    Wow. Way Cool. =) Lonestar, OneNote 1.1, Dothan…

    "OneNote was released last October and the next version, 1.1, is planned for June this year."


    Also SP1 Preview for ONENOTE!! SharePoint, TWAIN, Pocket PC support, Better Office support. Sort of hits some of my plug-in issues, but will grep this one.

  10. Ahhh, Peter on the ball and checking it out, I am stuck on dial-up, sigh. πŸ˜‰

    You can now insert pictures from a TWAIN source (camera or scanner) – major thumbs up from us webcam users!

    Sections can be password protected

    Ability to insert screen clippings

    Better integration with Office – insert meeting details and create tasks, appointments, and contacts

    Insert a document as a picture

    Import notes and audio recordings from a Pocket PC – manually or automatically

    Export as a Word document

    Better sharing of sections – both through SharePoint and through a live note-taking session with others

    Record video

    Enable or disable the TIP on OneNote pages

    Ability to enhance performance by skipping shortcuts to sections stored remotely

    Improved page reordering

  11. Oh wait, this is all so confusing, is the press reported "1.1" in fact only SP1 Final? 1.1 as just SP1 wrongly named?

  12. Ok, final final last one. Final SP1. πŸ™‚

    β€œand the next version, 1.1, is planned for June this year”

    THAT threw me off this morning, was thinking 1.1 after SP1. But in fact β€œ1.1” is a screw-up, only SP1, in line with Office 2003 SP1, Lonestar slash XP SP2. Confusion in the rush. πŸ™‚

    The Press Pass

  13. Paul Begley says:

    I’m duplicating some previous recommendations, but…

    1. Synch with PDA (ActiveSynch, SmartPhone)

    2. Publish to web site

    3. Publish to blog (Atom, RSS, etc)

    4. Export to Word, etc (XML?).

    I, for one, would NOT like to see OneNote become any (more) bloated. Rather than make it an all-in-one product, maybe it could have extended functionality via add-ins.

  14. The only reason I have not purchased OneNote and I have seriously considered it in the past is that run multiple weblogs I am only going to invest in software that is integrated to work seamlessly with blogs.

    You may consider this narrow minded but I will not be giving up office anytime soon. With all new versions of software coming out developers need to recoginze that people are storing there lives online and anything that will allow us to get our thoughts online without cut and paste needs to be implemented

  15. Peter Bailey says:

    Hi, I love OneNote, and am only using a fraction of its potential as yet. It’s great for organising notes and commentary. It doesn’t suffer from A9’s diary entry size limitations, so I’ve ended up annotating web pages in OneNote.

    As far as integration with blog tools goes, I think it’s a mistake to try and be all things to all people. There’s a very nice clean and usable interface in OneNote for organising random thoughts and ideas. I don’t want to start reading my email through OneNote – I like Outlook just fine for that.

    Similiarly, I don’t want to start reading and editing blog entries in OneNote – there’s a bunch of great tools out there for that already, and as you say, things move fast. (Our company has just been building one of them – Sauce Reader What I do want to be able to do though is have easy two-way integration between the two. We already have buttons for "Weblog this", and "Email this" – which allow us to move seamlessly between reading a blog entry and emailing it to someone, or writing our own weblog entry.

    I was really excited to hear that in SP1 there is an API which will allow us to add a "Note this" button as well. (I’ve asked our designers/developers if they can consider adding this facility for a future release.) That accounts for the pushing in to OneNote from a weblog entry, and then annotating it.

    I guess the next interesting question then is can you have a plug in facility in OneNote which allows you to export some content back out to a chosen product. (The plug in obviously allows you to export content into another products import API.) A hard question to solve is how to allow an elegant UI for the plug in facility to work for multiple products which might want to accept OneNote exports.

  16. Jeremy Marx says:

    Well, I don’t have time to read through all these comments, but I wanted to add my piece anyway..

    What I envision as an effective method for OneNote blogging would be an extension, rather a minimization, of the mht format. Have OneNote save a page to a simplified mht format that could easily be plugged into another webpage. Couple this with a simple output API so other blogging software can quickly pull a page out of OneNote in this mht format, and you have a solution that would work.

    Heck, you might as well scrap mht and make it XML. Talk about the possibilities for integration!

  17. William Kapes says:

    Nothing to do with blogging but…

    Export to PocketPC/Smartphone. There has got to be a way to format the mht format so it displays nicely on the handhelds.

    Photo import – importing a series of images for review and markup. Ideally, I’d like to take all of the pictures from a shoot, have them placed on a grid and then you can overlay them with comments and drawings.

    Remember Publish settings. When I export to mht files, I’d like to remember that this page, while being called "sample page 1" was saved as "samplepage1". Very often we need to adhere to stricter guidlines for naming web docs than our OneNote sections.

    I’ll probably put up some other ideas later… I’m sure I’ve got some notes around here somewhere…

    btw, thanks for the great product. πŸ™‚ It’s helped me finally start to get organized (no small feat)

    williamk at

  18. Art Nicholas says:

    The ability to import more file formats within OneNote

  19. Guy Charand says:

    I would like to be able to cross-link my notes, add links to external documents and relate them in a treelike structure as is possible in the <b>old</b> 2.5 version of Correlate [(<a href=""target="_blank"></a>) which like OneNote enables you to start typing anywhere in a page]. I would also like to see similar features as are available in DevonNote and DevonThink (<a href="" target="_blank"></a>).

  20. David Joyce says:

    You chaps have done a fantastic job – and the granularity of your audit trail is fantastic. One essential thing in the post SOX FDA regulated world I live in is audit of what is deleted by who and when.

    Change control is possible via the API but I cant see how I would attribute the delete events to a user.

    The best I could do would be to say XYZ item was deleted during this period..

    Is there a way around this for us regulated folk?

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