OneNote PowerToys


Since there are a lot of developers reading this, how about a brief moment to discuss extensibility in OneNote SP1? First, there is a draft of the some documentation available now. Check it out here.



Now, the first thing many of you will say is “That’s all!? Don’t you understand that OneNote needs a (insert description of baroque object model here) to be taken seriously!?”.



Well, my usual caveats apply. Our approach is to enable what we know is useful, limited by what we have resources to implement. And as I have written before, just because it isn’t in the product doesn’t mean we haven’t thought about it – quite the opposite usually.



The top requests we got for integrating with OneNote were for ways to put other types of information into OneNote programmatically than what we had built ourselves. Meeting related tools, self-contained electronic note-taking pens, etc were looking for a place to deposit the results of a meeting or a note taking session with the pen.



If you want to get real specific details on the extensibility, you can ask Donovan.



For now, I’ll just discuss a few examples of cool things you can do with the SimpleImporter API.



It is an easy matter to build an add-in for an application that takes content from that application and stores it in OneNote. This was our most common request, since OneNote is a sort of personal storage used for research. So, some ideas that I’d like to see people build (some of these I know people are working on, such as Omar)




  1. An add-in for IE or other browser that lets you copy the selected content on a page, or the entire page into OneNote, in a section you choose. This is great for research, and saves the steps f having to drag/drop or copy paste stuff into OneNote.



  1. An add-in for Outlook to copy multiple emails, contacts, etc to OneNote, to keep these together with notes in OneNote, usually about a project



  1. An RSS PowerToy that allows you to browse selected feeds, and dump them into OneNote for future reference



  1. An add-in to PowerPoint, Word, or other apps that lets you just “print” the document to OneNote, perhaps picking where you want the document to go.


There are many other possibilities – just use your imagination. Or, maybe you have a need to collect info from other sources that we haven’t thought of, such as patient records at a hospital, or customer data from a CRM tool before a visit with the customer – if so, this should help.



We’re also interested in hearing details of any kind of extensibility you would actually use if we were to add it. The details are important – we plan to add extensibility only to support real scenarios, not just allow anything to be extended. It’s not only cheaper that way, it allows us to remain secure. So, a detailed description of what you would do (even mailed to me privately) would be great. That will help us design the more complete extensibility in the next release.

Comments (28)

  1. Greg Hughes says:

    Chris, this is great stuff. I like all four ideas. On the browser add-in, would be nice to have a link back to the original content source (web page or similar) as well, in case it changes. Maybe even a way to query the original source and update the notebook if it changes (or maybe that’s the beauty of your third RSS idea, come to think of it). The Outlook idea is cool, and it sounds like someone’s started work on a similar add-in. I would definitely use the RSS feature – it would be useful to be able to schedule how and when it updates the specified RSS feeds, for sure. And the Print-to-OneNote concept is one I would use a lot, especially when running graphical reports from say our (Non-Microsoft) help desk software that cannot otherwise be added to OneNote. Would be nice for periodic status reports. I’d like to be able to choose from an existing notebook section and page or choose to create a new one.

  2. I now of one of the solutions that might work for all of what you want. Ping me when you are free and I will show you.

    Buzz

    buzz@activewords.com

    407.539.1177

  3. The Print-to-OneNote feature is probably the only feature that I REALLY feel that OneNote is missing. I want to replicate the concept of Project Folders. I have folders of handwritten notes, printed e-mails, printed web pages, etc. I want a way to print those documents to one place and mark them up using my tablet PC just like I would if they were paper. I can print them to Journal and then mark them up, but then I can’t organize them and browse them like I can in OneNote. Franklin Covey’s TabletPlanner has the concept right, but they are missing most of the great features of OneNote, like the hyper-linking to pasted web content, etc. If I could just print SEARCHABLE documents to the OneNote printer and then pick the folder I wanted them dumped into, I would have the perfect solution.

    Right now, I am printing them to Journal, marking them up and then dragging them into a OneNote document as a hyperlink. This works OK, but it is far from complete. :-)

    Good Job on an amazing program and I look forward to figuring out ways to use the SimpleImporter API in our custom .NET framework apps.

    Kiere El-Shafie

    Director of Technology

    StyleCraft Homes

  4. I see Joshua Allen has built an OPML import tool for OneNote using the new API. Check it out here: http://www.netcrucible.com/blog/PermaLink.aspx?guid=57939c1e-9d53-4d19-b9e6-7b6e2e852934

  5. I wrote a little PowerPoint importer, using the new API. Take a look at:

    http://www.borlik.net/blog/archives/000097.html

  6. Darren Lock says:

    How about an Export API.

    I use OneNote to capture meeting items & actions. I would like to be able to scan my notes via an API and call our API for generating Actions, Issues etc in our system

  7. Export and other options will come in the next full version. In the meantime, any specific details of what you imagine you would do with the "API of yoru dreams" are much appreciated.

  8. I’ve been using OneNote for a while now and its great. In fact I’m typing this into OneNote right now. The one thing that really annoys me, though, is the lack of an insert hyperlink command. Now, this does not need to be as advanced as Word, although as common parts of the Office System it would have been nice, but even some simple functionality would have been a huge improvement over none. I decided to do something about it…

  9. Omar has a PowerToy for RSS feeds into OneNote:

    http://weblogs.asp.net/omars/archive/2004/05/01/124426.aspx.

    He also has an add-in he is preparing for Outlook to export all sorts of things to OneNote: http://www.shahine.com/omar/PermaLink,guid,cacf1202-7550-4cd8-aed2-f2283acf419c.aspx

  10. Deborah says:

    I just wanted to say, Chris, congratulations on your new baby, and thank you very much for doing this blog! I enjoy reading every entry.

    I’m a medical student with a tabletpc, and I use OneNote for all my notes. Mostly, I love it and look forward to future versions!

  11. I’ve been using OneNote for a while now and its great. In fact I’m typing this into OneNote right now. The one thing that really annoys me, though, is the lack of an insert hyperlink command. Now, this does not need to be as advanced as Word, although as common parts of the Office System it would have been nice, but even some simple functionality would have been a huge improvement over none. I decided to do something about it…

  12. Tracey-Anne Reeve says:

    I use onenote mostly for my writing as an author. As an other I have a massive amount of notes I make on characters, situations, ideas, and then of course rough and final drafts of chapters. Before One note I had most of these in seperate files (usually docs) which I used to have all attached into binder. Now upgrading to Office 2003, well I have lost that and gained OneNote.

    For most purposes I have found onenote to be excellent for my note taking, and keeping my indivdual notes together. However, as a word processor for my chapters, it is useless so I therefore continue using Word. But there comes the problem I have with One note.

    I don’t always want to load onenote everytime I want to start working on a chapter, especially since if I have linked a file into a onenote document it loads Word anyway. But, Onenote places all its "linked" files under its own Onenote directory – so, it becomes a pain when you want to find your document and load it with Word.

    It would be nice to be able to link files without it having to make a duplicate in its own directory. It appears that OneNote has only been created used for the collection of data, but not for any type of project of document management system that Binder used to be able to give you.

    So – if there was anything I would like to see, it would be the capability of linking to any file on your computer system, without it having to make a duplicate of that file within your "OneNote" document directory.

    Unless – I’m stupid and haven’t found it myself yet 😛

    Tracey

  13. Tracey-Anne Reeve says:

    Well In fact – I feel a little bit stupid now. One of the only things I had against OneNote was the inability to link files… and now I have figured out – in part how to finally do it.

    the <file:> command accepts relivant positions. So for example, I have my "OneNote" directory within "My Documents". So if I want to naviagate to something within my "Story" Directory which is also within "My Documents" directory I would put something like:

    <file:../../Story/NewNovel/Chapter1.doc>

    However, there is a limit from what I can tell. You can only do this to navigate any file which is located on the same harddrive as your OneNote Document Directory. Thus in my example I have everyone on E Drive. However, if I wanted to link a document on D Drive, I can’t do this.

    Tracey

  14. Tracey-Anne, actually, you can link to other files. You need to add the drive letter though, such as <file://E:StoryNewNovelChapter1.doc>.

    If you get the SP1 preview, you just have to drag/drop the file onto your note page and you will get the option to copy it into your notes or link it.

  15. Tracey-Anne Reeve says:

    Chris,

    Yeah – I just found that out myself today in fact. Just dragged something over, which I was planning on storing under the OneNote directory, and puff – along comes this dialogue Box.

    You know – if the OneNote team keep this up, I might just starting really liking Microsoft Products again 😀 (shock horror)

    Tracey

  16. Eric says:

    Chris,

    Onenote is a free-form database. You should take a look at askSam, it has been around since 1984. Just food for thought.

    askSam is a free-form database with 20 years of development and features that Onenote could learn from.

    Cheers,

    Eric

  17. Does anyone know what happened to Stuart Radcliffe’s Blog? I am wanting to get a copy of OneNoteInsertHyperlink program. When I click on the link above, I get a dead page.

  18. I’ve been using OneNote for a while now and its great. In fact I’m typing this into OneNote right now. The one thing that really annoys me, though, is the lack of an insert hyperlink command. Now, this does not need to be as advanced as Word, although as common parts of the Office System it would have been nice, but even some simple functionality would have been a huge improvement over none. I decided to do something about it…

  19. BTW, the official docs on the command line parameters and API for OneNote 2003 SP1 seem to be available now on MSDN:

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/odc_2003_ta/html/odc_landon03_ta.asp

  20. Alceste says:

    Using OneNote for a couple of days now, I realized how similar it is in many ways to another great program, the now defunct ECCO by NetManage, who allows now users to download it for free.

    One superb feature of Ecco is the much more developed use of Note Flags, which in the case of Ecco forms the basis for rich cross-categorization, searches, special views and what have you.

    The OneNote team could learn a great deal from some of those functions.

  21. Dave says:

    I agree with Eric in post http://blogs.msdn.com/chris_pratley/archive/2004/04/25/119909.aspx#144331 — OneNote could be more useful to many people that I know if it adopted several key features used in askSam (http://www.askSam.com/).

    I am looking to move away from askSam after several recent major problems with data loss caused by issues in askSam that the company is not and has not addressed.  The issues date back more than a year and no patch or fix has been issued, nor has the company addressed the issue, at all.

  22. Chris_Pratley says:

    Dave, it would be awesome if you could get specific about what you like in askSam that is missing from Onenote, and why exactly (what you use it for).