OneNote Shared Sessions


It’s been awhile since I have had time to update my blog, but it looks like I may be able to spend a little time on it for the next little while. I thought I’d try to do a series of posts on good or clever or original ways to use OneNote. Please feel free to share your stories with me – I LOVE hearing about how people use the product, and I will share the best ones with the team.

 

In my opinion, one of the cooler features of OneNote 2003 is “Shared Sessions” (this requires you to have Sp1 installed, as I know most of you have done already.)

 

A shared session is a peer-to-peer shared note-taking experience. “peer-to-peer” means you don’t need some fancy server or web site. You just have to have a network where your machine can connect to other machines running OneNote.

 

You can set up a shared session with as many other people as you want – we have tried over 70 in our testing, but most people do it with 10 or less. It works best on an intranet, but you can also run a shared session over the internet or through firewalls, provided your firewall allows such connections.

 

The experience is kind of freaky at first – anyone can type or write or paste stuff onto the page(s) being shared, without waiting for other people to save or “pass the baton” or whatever. You just do what you want, and so does everyone else. It is a little like IM, except that instead of a conversation where everything goes one after the other with two or more discussions being jumbled together and the comments disappearing off the top of the screen, you can use the whole page and people can work on their own stuff. It is a little like a giant whiteboard that everyone can stand at and write stuff on, since just like a whiteboard, you spend more time reading what other people write than writing yourself. Plus rather than just handwriting or diagrams, you can type, paste in pictures, charts, graphs, etc. You can also add additional pages at any time, for supporting material, etc.

 

At first you may think this is just a trick that isn’t really useful, but you have to explore it to see the possibilities. For example, on the OneNote team every week we have a status meeting where development, testing, program management, marketing, user assistance (help, documentation), localization, support, planning, etc. come together to update each other on what is going on. In the “old” days, we’d all sit at a table and go around the room, with each representative saying their bit for 5min or so. The meeting usually took the full scheduled hour, and we often didn’t have time for the important discussion after the status where we wanted to talk about what we were going to do. Some people never got to give their status since we got stuck on one topic.

 

In the “new” world with shared sessions, things are very different. First, one of us sends out a shared session invitation via email. This is easy enough – you just use File/Share with others, then choose to “Start a session…”, which offers to share the current page. Click “Start Shared Session”, then Invite Participants…, and send that invitation. Within a minute or so, people have joined.

 

Now, it is good to start with a template of some kind to provide structure. In our case, we have the team logo at the top, then we have sections like this:

 

Agenda

Dev Status

Test Status

PM Status

Etc.

 

The meeting organizer can fill in some meeting agenda items that he wants to make sure we discuss. So can others – at any time. This is great to start the meeting with, since everyone can see that there is this set of topics that we need to cover. That helps with pacing the meeting – how many meetings have you been to that ended with the time running out and people saying “But I wanted to talk about X…”?

 

At the same time, anyone can start to fill in the relevant section for their team. So right before your eyes, all 8 or 10 sections start filling themselves out, like some kind of magic book from Harry Potter. In 3 minutes or so, the entire team status has been entered, and you can read it all there, without waiting for people to verbally repeat all of it. This is so much faster than the old way that even with questions and people clarifying what they have written, the status part of the meeting is usually over in 20min instead of the 60+ min of the old way. In our meeting, the test team brings a whole set of charts such as our bug trends over time, support issues, stability trend, etc. They add a second page for these, and dump them all in there, ready made (copy/Paste from Excel). Each person can read those at their leisure, zoom in, etc. Way better than handouts (Color! Zoom!), and you have a permanent record.

 

If we adjourned there, we’d have saved time and it would be worth it. But what we find is that we can now use the rest of our shared time to talk strategy, or project management plan, or whatever other burning question that actually needs to be resolved. This makes the whole meeting much more valuable than in the past, since rather than just reporting information we are actually making decisions.

 

But it gets better. Sometimes one of us is late to the meeting, since they are stuck in some other activity. They arrive, having missed the first 20min. They open the email invitation to the shared session, and in seconds they have all the notes written so far. A quick scan and they are up to speed – now they didn’t miss much at all, especially of the status reporting part. Even cooler, a few times I have not been able to make the meeting since I was stuck in some other meeting or conference call where my full attention was not required, so I opened the invitation in that meeting and was able to see what was going on. I was even able to ask questions by typing them on the shared page, even though I wasn’t in the room, and was in fact attending a different meeting. “Freaky deaky!”, you’re saying.

 

Now, this bit about not having to be in the room but still being able to see the shared notes, diagrams, charts, etc is key. We sometimes have people attending remotely, from California or Japan. In the old way, these people had to listen to speakerphone. If you’ve ever done this, you know that it is very hard to listen to a meeting this way, since the people physically in the room forget about you, speak quietly, draw on the whiteboard, etc and you can’t follow. Now, with a shared session, you see everything they are drawing, and you also see the summary notes that someone (or multiple people) are capturing in real-time so it is much easier to follow. You can also draw a diagram yourself if necessary or just highlight part of a chart so you are not stuck having to explain your concept in words over the phone.

 

Ever had the experience of attending a meeting and then finding out later that all the things you discussed and decided were remembered differently by the other people in the room? Another great effect of shared notes is that you have a live record of the meeting that you can verify is accurate and even edit yourself before the meeting ends. That way things are very clear about what was decided, and you don’t have to get some “minutes-taker” to understand a clarification you want to make to the notes – just edit it yourself. At the end of the meeting it is easy for everyone to review the written record of decisions made, so there is no confusion.

 

Wait, it gets even slicker. Sometimes you are in a meeting where you have “sides” (as in Group A is negotiating with Group B). During the meeting, it is really hard for the members of each group to stay in sync regarding their position, since they can’t read each others’ minds to determine how the others are reacting to new information unveiled at the meeting. But with shared notes you can set up a session just for your “side” of the meeting, and each of you can contribute. If any of you are taking notes, rather than have all five of your team take the same notes just take shared notes so more of you can listen at a time. You are going to have more complete notes with more time to participate yourself. You can also type things like “be sure to ask about X”, or “let’s be careful not to mention Y” or “what do we think of their plan?” (and get responses). That way you can manage your side’s strategy much more effectively. If you are a consultancy, sometimes your client can ask you point blank for your opinions immediately after presenting their situation, and if you disagree with each other in your answers you’re going to look silly. Well, just write down your thoughts in the shared notes as the client is presenting their situation to you, and you can be sure to know what all the members of your consultant team are thinking before any of you have to open your mouths.

 

So those are a few examples of using shared sessions. How are you all using it?

Comments (54)

  1. Adam says:

    I just want a shared session with myself. I want my onenote database to live in the cached outlook database so that no matter where i am, my notes are there.

    Otherwise, i’m lugging my laptop around when i don’t need it. The shared session scenario is way less useful than that.

  2. zzz says:

    That’s certainly interesting. Now if we just had a ultra slim and light 14" tablet pc for $500 .. To accommodate your powerhorse notebook. Perhaps in two years?

  3. Adam,

    That’s a different feature from shared sessions. When you say you don’t want to lug your laptop around, how are you using the Outlook cached offline folder?

    Did you know you can use Windows offline folders with OneNote? If your notes are on a desktop, share out the folder that has your notes, then connect to that from your laptop, and set that folder to be available offline. Then point your laptop copy of Onenote to use that folder as the notebook. Presto – you have offline access to your notes, and these sync back to your desktop.

  4. Wally says:

    I have a couple of queries:

    – How does the meeting work? Is there a leader? A facilitator?

    – If many participants are in their cubicles, how do they get answers to any questions they put on the notes? Maybe the person questioned doesn’t want to answer!

    – Do you actually schedule a physical room for the meeting? If so why, it all seems so virtual!

    – IS it easy to make decisions? Even unpopular ones?

    Regds, W.

  5. Nice write-up, Chris. Can you elaborate a little more on the firewall issues and what can be done to share a session? I have never been able to share a session over the internet with OneNote (even though a myriad of other programs have no problem through my firewall) and would love to get this working. When I try to share a session it just errors out with no real indication why.

    Thanks.

  6. Like most other users of OneNote (college students), basic functions are enough. But I really do wish that there was a ‘mapping’ feature – tree-like, Windows Explorer-like – so that I can view and move my files easily.

  7. Adam says:

    I should’ve been more specific and more clear.

    I see the same view of my mail (via exchange) everywhere i go. Even if i’m offline, because the data is cached. Heck it even works over http now so i don’t even need to pull out my smart card that often anymore. And it deals adequately with stuff being authored at multiple places where i use my same exchange account.

    I want onenote to use that "universallly available mailbox" as a store or at least provide those semantics.

    If i use windows offline folders for this — how does it deal with the conflict issues if i go into work today, don’t take my laptop, edit some notes ,go home and edit some notes before going online. I now could have conflicting updates.

  8. Shared Sessions – Very Handy for Conferences -especially when you are the MC or Chair etc.. can have your people at the back of the room monitoring the audience and suggesting, reminding, solving, issues and keeping the Chair in the picture .. also great for workshops and Q &A sessions… everyone usually misses one question – or the context of the question… or all the listeners take the same emphasis.. now they can arrange to listen for different things and help each other with note-taking- used it recently at a conferece and it worked a dream… used it across a Hosted Sharepoint solution so at the end of the conference we had all of our Notes, Suggestions, Q&A and speaker notes .. invaluable material for the next conference!

  9. Oliver Sturm says:

    I just tried this fantastic feature with a PC, a laptop and my tablet pc. Great! Thanks for the hint, I had never tried that feature.

    One issue, though: I played around a bit with different shared sessions. Originally, a page was shared by one system, then the others joined. All three made changes to the page, then the original host system left the session. The other two made further changes to the session. Now, when the first host system reconnected to the session, a copy of the original page was created! Fine, no data lost here… but now I have two slightly different versions of the same original page in my notebook… and it’s not even easy to see how that came to be. Any experience with that scenario?

  10. Oliver Sturm says:

    And moments later, another problem: I was trying to use a marker pen in conjunction with the "Use the pen as a pointer" function to highlight a piece of text. Surprisingly, this doesn’t work because the yellow mark that the pen leaves appears at different locations on all three systems! Certainly something to be aware of when sharing with other real people.

  11. Ian Wong says:

    Hi Chris, stumbled across your website while trying to solve my problems… so here’s my info/feedback on how I use OneNote:

    I’m a highschool teacher, use an LCD projector in class to give notes (often, my pages have clippings of old exam quesitons that I demo how to solve).

    I want to post the class notes so that students can focus on what I’m doing in class rather than frantically copy notes (or if someone is away, they have access to what we covered). BUT I’m finding this REALLY diffcult to do. Here’s what I’ve tried:

    .PDF’s Doesn’t really work. I do a lot of highlighting and when converting to pdf, the highligted areas mask out the text underneath. (I know this isn’t a OneNote problem… but it ends up being "my" prolem 🙂

    .mht Couple problems: Mac users can’t view them (And I’m a Mac fan), AND the files don’t work when hosted on an Apache server (there is a fix/workaround, but because .mht isn’t that popular, nobody’s really fixing it) The mht files don’t work when hosted on .Mac or from the inbox of a gMail account (both Apache servers).

    REALLY what I need is for microsoft (and the MS MacBU) to write a OneNote viewer. (like the journal viewer) (AND don’t leave the Mac users out in the cold 😉

    Hope my feedback was useful. It seems like a typical and growing situation for tablets and OneNote (teacher use).

    I’m figuring that inthe next 10 years,… tablets/OneNote (or at least Journal) will replace the overhead projector.

    thanks ian 🙂

  12. Ok, some bulk replies:

    Wally: shared sessions don’t completely replace the need for a physical meeting. You still have to talk to each other, for example! They are meant to make meetings (or teleconferences) better. There is not necessarily a leader, although the originator of the meeting can lock others out from modifying the page if desired (we haven’t found this necessary in our usage, but it might matter in a presentation case if you have an unruly audience). People who are not able to attend even by phone get answers by having people type or write the answer right below where they typed their question. But without audio you are mainly reduced to "lurking" in the meeting, seeing what is talked about, and can pose your question if things really seem to be going off track.

    James: if you are having trouble with your firewall, then you should check Tools/Options/Shared Sessions in OneNote and switch the port OneNote is using (2302 by default) to something your firewall allows, or allow port 2302 in your firewall. If you have a UP&P firewall this is all automatic. If you are using Windows XP Sp2, be sure to choose "unblock" when the Windows firewall asks if you want to allow OneNote to communicate.

    Adam – gotcha – we consider "my notes anywhere" to be a different feature than this one. I agree it would be cool for a future release. Most likely it would build on the shared session technology to achieve this.

    Tim: Cool. Actually, at the G8 summit last year in Alabama the world leaders used OneNote shared sessions exactly like this. Actually, their aides did – they shared a session with a group of advisors who were not allowed in the room, and the lone aide for each leader was able to type queries and get loads of data in real time from "the back room" to help with negotiations.

    Oliver: if you disconnect and reconnect, we don’t have an option but to give you an up-to-date copy of the original in case you have modified your copy. We think this is soemthing worth exploring improvements in. As for the highlighter pen not lining up with text for some people, this can happen when the screen dpi is different across machines (e.g. 96dpi vs 120dpi – set in Display Control panel). We’re looking into it. It is only an issue for this sort of "overlay". If you use the text highlighter (a separate button from ink highlighting), there is no issue.

    Ian: you have a few options.

    1. when highlighting, see of you can use the text highlighter, not the ink highlighter – I think the PDF printer driver will handle this better

    2. you can use the OneNote trial as a viewer. It is free, and not only views Onenote files, but it even lets you use the entire feature set of the product for 60days. After that you can only view unless you purchase. It is at: http://www.microsoft.com/office/onenote/trial

    3. You can print your notes as TIF files. If you have the Microsoft Office Document Imager (available in office2003), you can configure that in options to print to TIF.

    4. If your notes are not particularly 2D you could try exporting as Word document (you need Office2003 for this)

    I’m not sure what I can do to get MacBU to do OneNote support work. You can take it up with Rick Schaut maybe. (http://blogs.msdn.com/rick_schaut)

  13. Oliver Sturm says:

    About the highlighter thing: You are right, of course. I had forgotten about this function because I mostly use the pen on my tablet pc.

    About disconnecting and reconnecting: I’m with you and I like the way the page is copied to avoid problems. But it would be really good if I could see exactly when and why this has happened… like a per-page information somewhere saying "page has been copied on 10/10/2005, 14:15 pm when joining shared session at address XXX with participants Walter, Bert and John."

  14. Anonymous says:

    Oliver Sturm’s weblog – Shared sessions in OneNote

  15. Sudhir M says:

    We’re in the entertainment business and we used OneNote extensively to plan and deliver a CD album for a recording artist. We used it to keep our thoughts flowing and still make sense of it all afterwards.

    Now, we’re using it to conduct meetings with our partners in Africa and California to hold creative meetings in conjuction with a conference call.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The TabletPC, OneNote, SharePoint and another application have changed my life.

  16. Oliver Sturm says:

    Any chance you’d have an answer to this question: I can add additional pages while in a shared session, but I can’t find a way to remove a page from the session again. Can I do this somehow?

    I thought it would be a good idea if I wanted to distribute a page (that I had previously prepared) to other participants, I could simply share it for a moment and then "unshare" it, so nobody could fool around with it.

  17. Sudhir: that is extremely cool. What sort of things do you put in the shared notes?

    Oliver: Currently there is no way to unshare a page from the middle of the session. Once you share the page, everyone will have a copy on their machine. You can uncheck the box to not allow participants to edit if you want. But bear in mind that after the session ends, everyone will have a copy of the notes and can do what they want to their private copies. Another workaround for you is to copy everything on your page (Ctrl-A enough times to get everything on the page), then copy it to a new page that you are sharing. After the session ends, delete that new page.

  18. PJ says:

    Quick note to say great blog entry. Very useful. Is there a MS knowledgebase with this "real world" type stuff in ?

  19. PJ: Yes, there are loads of articles about great ways to use OneNote on the Office web site. From OneNote, try Help/Microsoft Office Online, then click OneNote on the left. You can also try this: http://tc23.iponet.net/en-us/FX010858031033.aspx

  20. I don’t use it for class notes, since the printing options seem freaky – setting the page for 8.5×11 means the first page looks OK on the screen and the rest of it is on a hard-to-read gray background, and leaving it on automatic means slicing off the last letter or two of the text until I fool around with it for a while and figure out just how wide the text can be. Exporting exactly the page I want in MHT is also clunky and sometimes hideous. So I gave up and use Word for handouts.

    What is more helpful to me is to use OneNote as an organizer for my students. See http://www.psychpage.com/tech/onenote_images/onenote1.gif for an example. I can track progress, drafts, todos, emails… and keep it all organized. For me, that’s better than any PIM I’ve seen. Yes I could dumpt them in a directory, but having them on-screen at a quick glance is faster.

    My wishes? 1) Export to HTML 2) Internal links, 3) Make some containers like scrolling DIVs-set the container box size and text inside it can scroll forever.

    OTHERWISE I’m thrilled with it and brag about it to colleagues all the time!

    Richard

  21. Sudhir M says:

    Chris: On the shared notes side, as executive producers of the CD, my business partner and I, would be in the studio listening to the artist record, and take notes of our comments on the fly. Then, we showed them to the producer. The other thing that was really cool was being able to use the audio record function in OneNote to pinpoint the location that our note was referring to. All we did was take the a monitor feed from the producers console and plug it into the mic port on one Tablet.

    It was also kind of cool to see us writing the same comment about a particular phrase from time-to-time. Though I am not a writer, I do know that the other executive producer used a shared session to write and modify lyrics as well.

    All our work was stored on a hosted SharePoint site. This included graphics, photos, lyrics, label copy, ISRC numbers, schedules, etc.

    We’re on our second album now and the same process is happening except, that in a few instances, where I have not been in the studio, I simply take the other executive producers notes with audio and append my comments. Ultra cool way of doing this.

  22. Ian M says:

    Chris, I am glad you are writing again. Keep your insightful entries coming, we read on.

  23. View from the Isle - Professional Blogging & says:

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  24. Clifford says:

    Chris,

    Welcome back. It’s been too long. As a freelance writer, OneNote has been integral in keeping my projects on track. I’ve never used the shared session feature, but can see how it would make meetings run smoother.

    I too would like to see another means of saving a page or section, internal links, and true tables. But be careful you don’t become too feature-rich as it still needs to be easy to remain an effective tool.

    Finally, though I’m glad to have you back, I hope it doesn’t mean that the next versions of ON has been pushed back. I’m eager to see what you’ll throw at us next!

  25. Kyle B says:

    Thanks for the great write up. I find myself using it and evangelising it quite a bit. For many, the hierarchical nature of the My Notebook, Folder, and Sections is not immediately clear.

    I would love to see richer support for tables. The ability to sort/filter in a one-note table while keeping it light weight (non-Word like) would be great!

    Keep up the great work,

    Kyle

  26. David says:

    Since you are asking, the main use I have for ON is in preparing courses and lectures.

    I am a University Prof. and I tend to prepare my courses from scratch (ie not from a textbook).

    I collect lots of info, from all over the place, and sometime paste, sometimes link to files I download, sometime scan some stuff, always with some comments on why this seems important and how I might use it.

    When things being to emerge, I give a page to each topic that I have identified, and copy all the relevant bits there. I rearrange the pages until they become class-session sized .

    At the same time, I build a list of papers I want students to read and why.

    Ultimately, I have one page per class session, from which I build the actual lecture plan, and write the lecture up. At that time I use the links to recoved the complete info.

    In parallel with defining the pages, I define subdirectories in Windows explorer that correspond to the successive topics (though one directory may cover more than one class session). and of course, include links to those too.

    As others before, I would be happy to have a better tool to handle links of all types: easier to enter, better looking…

  27. It may already be here and I can’t find it.

    What does OneNote open when you open the program? What I want to do is have OneNote, like Outlook, resident most of the time on a desktop, but easily transferred to a laptop (which in my case is a TabletPC), preferably by running a batch file that copies files from the desktop to the laptop, then viceversa when I come back and dock the laptop.

    But I can’t seem to do that. My desktop has one note file and my laptop has another, and they have nothing to do with each other. It is probably insufficient study on my part, but it does seem horribly unintuitive that I can’t just DELETE one of those files, copy the other to where it used to be, and now have the same file.

    Or, if I can have a situation where I save the files on a third computer when I bring the laptop back, but so long as it’s not connected to my network it is keeping copies of its files.

    I think this lack of normal save features is too clever by half. There must be a good reason for it, but I don’t understand it, and it’s driving me nuts. The files seem to be stored in some mysterious place because no matter what I do when I open OneNote I get a file opened that is peculiar to that computer. My laptop has one OneNote file and my desktop has another, and there is no health in us…

    Help?

    Jerry Pournelle

    jerryp@jerrypournelle.com

  28. This really sucks.

    I try to save as on a third computer. What I save is not what opens. I get some old random stuff from last year when I try to open the file I saved. This is stupid.

    Is there no sane and rational way to force this to open and close files? Why must I trick the system (assuming I can)? Why can’t I just save what I see, and open it in another computer?

    What am I doing wrong and why is one note another of those things that works to make me feel stupid?

  29. Jerry,

    I’m sorry you’re frustrated with the product. We’re trying to make tricky things like auto-syncing between machines easier in the future. Fortunately, once you get it set up it is pretty straightforward.

    First, OneNote just uses normal files. Each section (the tabs on the top) is a file in "My Documents/My notebook". You can change the location of the notebook on a machine in Tools/Options, but most people use the default. When you start OneNote, we open the last section you were using when you closed us.

    Like any program, when you install it on a new machine, it has no idea that you have another machine. So you need to make a change if you want to access the exact same notes on two machines.

    There are several methods, but if your two machines at least occasionally have a network connection with each other, you can try making the "My Notebook" folder a shared folder on one machine, then access that folder from your second machine and set it to be available offline (this is the key step). Then on your second machine, set the notebook location in OneNote’s Tools/Options to point to that folder you made available offline. In this configuration, be careful not to modify the same section on both machines before syncing the two of them otherwise you will have a conflict that is tricky to resolve.

    Another way is to have one or more sections that you simply copy as files between machines. Just drop them in the My Notebook folder on each machine before starting OneNote. This is all the same as say, Word. The fact that OneNote saves all the time doesn’t affect any of this. It is similar to hitting ctrl-S in Word every 30sec and again automatically when you close OneNote – we just do it for you.

    One other difference in OneNote from other apps is that when you start OneNote, we remember the files you had open and show them on the section tab bar at the top. If you no longer need one of these, you can use File/Close to close it, although there is no penalty to leaving it there other than the visual space it takes, so I don’t recommend closing them if you’ll ever need it again.

  30. AH. Since I wrote that, I have been finding other ways to make things happen, but the revelation that SECTIONS are files is probably key.

    I still have the feeling that this is what I have been looking for all my life, but I can’t quite get it working the way it should work. But I think the real key is sections; I presume I can import them from one machine to another.

    Here is what I want to do: Open (and preferably keep open) OneNote on my main communications (desktop)machine. Use that to collect information, URL’s, write my daily journal, do paragraphs for upcoming essays, scenes for novels, whatever I used to do on paper.

    Now it’s time to walk the dog. I want to be able to pick up my TabletPC, which is docked and on my internal network, do something simple, and have my OneNote comprehensive file available on it. Now I go for a walk, stop at the local Starbucks, play with wireless email, etc., and be able to make OneNote notes. Now I go home. I dock the Tablet.

    With Outlook, in order to do all that, I must, before I leave, CLOSE OUTLOOK then copy the outlook.pst file over to the tablet. It’s enormous so that takes several minutes, and that long transfer time is one reason I don’t do this as often as I would like (but I always do before a trip). When I get back home the reverse happens: copy the outlook.pst back to the main desktop. This keeps Outlook 2003 synchronized between machines and incidentally makes a backup copy.

    With OneNote I am unsure what to do to accomplish this result.

    Finally: I need to learn the shared section trick. I haven’t been able to make it happen, possibly because I am logged on to each machine under the same user name? I would like to have OneNote open on the Tablet for ink notes taken while I am on the phone or get a sudden whim, and have those easily go over to the main deskptop. I wouldn’t really MIND having to cut and past but I am not even sure how to do that. Perhaps have a Section on the Tablet for that, save it, and import it to the desktop?

    It is all a bit confusing. With Word I sort of know how to move documents back and forth because each is a file. I used to do that a lot. But the notion of being able to keep a journal that is partly handwriting and partly typescript and includes pictures and other stuff is very interesting. We’re about to go to Italy for a research trip for a novel and I want to get this down cold before we go…

  31. I almost understand what you say below, but not quite:

    There are several methods, but if your two machines at least occasionally have a network connection with each other, you can try making the "My Notebook" folder a shared folder on one machine, then access that folder from your second machine and set it to be available offline (this is the key step). Then on your second machine, set the notebook location in OneNote’s Tools/Options to point to that folder you made available offline. In this configuration, be careful not to modify the same section on both machines before syncing the two of them otherwise you will have a conflict that is tricky to resolve.

    Another way is to have one or more sections that you simply copy as files between machines. Just drop them in the My Notebook folder on each machine before starting OneNote. This is all the same as say, Word. The fact that OneNote saves all the time doesn’t affect any of this. It is similar to hitting ctrl-S in Word every 30sec and again automatically when you close OneNote – we just do it for you.

    ===

    But the folder method may work. I keep thinking this is the program I have been looking for all my life, and if I can only understand how it works…

  32. How long are we talking before OneNote 2.0 is out?

  33. Jerry: what you want is to use the shared folder method I mentioned. You can read about it in detail including steps on how to set it up here: http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=831596. Keep in mind that this link provides the most secure steps to avoid any trouble. Most of the time everything works fine without being religious about closing and manually syncing. Best to follow the steps in the link though if you plan to do this a lot.

    Richard: I can’t talk about schedules, sorry.

  34. Kim Snider says:

    Chris- Just did my first shared session thanks to your write up. It works quite well and is a great facilitation tool for a de-centralized team like I have. Here is what we all agreed would be really helpful – in parentheses, next to each partipants name, show what page they are currently looking at. We were sharing about five pages and it sure would have helped to know who was where in the document.

    The other thing that would be really helpful to me is to see some more images of how people are creating their pages. The one by the psych professor above was really great. I have already looked at all the templates on Microsoft’s site but they are all pretty mundane. Would like to see what more users are doing with OneNote.

  35. Frank Gaeta says:

    Great to see some web space dedicated to OneNote, thanks.

    I wanted to share my experience with OneNote’s Shared Sessions, so here it goes. I’m am college student tutoring and majoring in math. When first implementing tablet pc technology into my tutoring sessions I’d constantly hover over a student guiding him/her through each step required to solve a problem. Certain steps almost demanded drawing a graph or simply jotting down a formula to spark some insight for solving a problem. Well, that meant every time my participation was required I had to produce hints on scratch paper or a separate tablet pc and then show the student. Such a small divergence was replaced with a smooth flowing shared session in OneNote.

    Oh, I love it. My tutoring now has me sitting away from the student; sometimes I’ll go as far as into the next room, and still be able to help the student. This seems to produce a testing environment where the student feels alone, yet I can always paste that significant graph or write in an essential point to pull a student out of confusion. Shared Sessions allows for more of those "aha!" moments under this method of tutoring. A few regular students have mathematically matured in part, I believe, because of this unique avenue of providing hints. The students begin to produce their own "aha!" moments during exams due in part to being trained in such an environment.

    A future thought came to me over an email. That thought is the day when the students I’m tutoring all have OneNote in their own home along with a tablet pc or maybe a Wacom tablet so that tutoring can take place over the phone while sharing a session. This would mean lower fees for my students since they wouldn’t be required to pay for my traveling expenses, or I could dedicate more time to studying myself or tutoring if driving around all weekend from house to house is no long necessary.

    I recently entertained purchasing OneNote licenses to provide regular students/clients with this sharing capability, but then the hardware would be another issue. One thing is for sure though; should I start a formal math tutoring business on the side I’d sure invest in the both OneNote and the hardware.

    Thanks for allowing me to share my Shared Sessions….

    And before I forget, how about shape recognition in OneNote’s future release? Math/Science fields would love the OneNote team even more–if that is possible.

  36. Richard says:

    OK, so no schedule talk…. but are you guys planning a better Pocket PC interaction? I know you can bring information from Pocket PC into OneNote, but the ability to copy some or all of the information in OneNote to my Pocket PC (which is coming in the next three days!!!) even just for reference would be GREAT!

    Thanks

    Richard

  37. frank, that is a truly cool story. I love the idea of people struggling with math and having the "paper" sort of ‘pop out’ little hints and diagrams to help them as they get stuck…

    Richard, I can’t talk about the next release with specifics. If we did do a sync from OneNote to the PPC, would it be OK with you that the stuff on your pages got moved around and reformatted to fit the small screen? It might mess up drawings you made, and some formatting might be lost because the PPC can’t handle it. Also we couldn’t reasonably fit your entire notebook on the device – it doesn’t have the capacity. Would it be Ok to do just, say, one section? What sort of data would you expect to see on the PPC?

  38. Richard says:

    Well… some ideas of the kinds of things I would like to carry around would be:

    1) a page of important school dates, database passwords, and a link to an excel spreadsheet with everyone’s office number and phone (the link might make it complex, but this information would change only once or twice a semester, while the spreadsheet itself might be updated every month)

    2) or a single page of my most recent meeting notes from a committee that I could work on away from my desk (that would entail dynamic syncing with changes on the PocketPC being transfered to the Laptop and vice-versa, but I could make notes on how to attack action items when ever they occurred to me between meetings for example, or review and update my lecture notes on the train before going to class)

    3) or a page with advisee’s names, pics, and current issues for discussion during student review meetings I could review instead of bringing the laptop or 20 printed pages (this would be mostly static but would include small pictures, and I could delete it after the meeting).

    The reformating to fit the Pocket PC screen would be fine since most of the images I use are small, and the rest is text. An automatic "ignore background images" option would be good. If it’s too much to sync pages here and there from more than one section, I could pretty easily keep a "PocketPC" tab with just the info I wanted to carry around (subpages under it would be nice, but not necessary), and that way limit complexity and size so we could sync only one section *and* keep it small.

    Basically *ANY* solid connection would be nice and helpful – simple static text for short- or longer-term use, static text with pics and links, or dynamic text with two way syncing.

    I know I could do most of this now with manually exporting information to Word, then tidying it up for a small screen, then syncing the file to the PocketPC, but an automated process would be sweet.

    I sort of did this with the Palm in an ISilo format, creating OneNote sections that organized hyperlinked documents, and then making an html page for ISilo that linked to those documents too, so that updating the hyperlinked documents meant OneNote and the ISilo document were both up to date.

    However, an automated process that would let me cut and paste from OneNote sections proper into a special, simplified, PocketPC section would be excellent!

    I know at its best, that’s a lot to do, but like I said, any level of it would be appreciated!

    THANKS

    Richard

  39. Peter says:

    With respect to your answer to Richard, with SD and CF cards coming down in price, storage issues on PPC devices are becoming moot. I just got a IPAQ HX4705 w/512 SD Card and would love to see a PPC version of OneNote. The fact that you can rotate the screen should make some of the drawings/formatting a little easier on the eyes, though probably still not great. Just my $.02…

  40. Nektar says:

    Sharing applications has been a feature of MSN Messenger and other messaging products for a long time. From what I know it has not been so successful. Not many people share applications it seems. Even in MSN Messenger 7 beta the feature has been hidden more under Activities. Ok, I know that Onenote sharing is not the same but what I want to ask is:

    A. Why hasn’t application sharing been so successful Are you researching the reasons? in other products Like MSN Messenger? What are the top issues. For example, why wasn’t browsing the web together been successful? Why has the Browsing the Web Together feature been removed? (Browsing the web together allows many persons to view a single IE window and well browse together in MSN Messenger).

    B. Is the OneNote team considering the issues that customers face in these messaging products and are they dealing with them in their design of OneNote?

    C. Why not implement sharing in other more popular products in Office like Word. Word should have had this feature for a long time now. What I mean is that sharing in OneNote is only the beginning. It should have been in other products much before.

    I hope that you will work on that. And while talking about sharing, you should make sharing info amongst the different Office apps better. What about notes that you store in Office Outlook for example? Why should they be isolated from OneNote. More integration please.

    And a marketing question: Why don’t you bundle OneNote with any Office edition, like the Student Edition. Isn’t that a wrong move on your part. Nobody knows about OneNote now.

  41. Peter: good point.

    Nektar: lots of questions. I don’t know the actual state of app sharing in MSN Messenger. I do know that the scenario of starting an IM session and then deciding to share an app doesn’t seem all that compelling to me. It seems more likely I might be in the app and then want to share. Also, the sharing works via Netmeeting, which is not able to traverse firewalls as Messenger can, so often app sharing will fail even though IM works. Another question – what scenario calls for sharing office apps, e.g. Powerpoint or Word? Are you going to present or co-author in real-time, without a way to talk? Maybe, but it still seems odd to start this from Messenger , which isn’t yet widespread in business settings – at least not so much for business use, where most of Office is used. The OneNote scenarios as I described above seem to make more sense to me – you’re in a meeting anyway, which is real-time already. And people want notes. And onenote is a better place to capture drawings and text and so on than Word or PPT. It seems a more natural fit for what OneNote does.

    App sharing and what OneNote does are two different technologies. In App sharing, there is one app running, and the other people get pictures of what the app is doing. When they take control, their mouse and keyboard commands are sent to the other machine to remotely control the app. With Onenote, everyone has their own copy of Onenote running, so they can work on the shared surface, or access other notes, or whatever. Also, at the end of the meeting, they have a copy of what happeneed. When app sharing ends they have nothing, so the incentive to participate is lower. Onenote was architected to enable multi-user editing and file sharing/merging, and other apps were not. So it is pretty hard to add this feature to other apps the way OneNote does it. The "app sharing" method is one of the only ways to do it.

    Finally, tighter integration with Outlook is on our roadmap to be sure. As to why we are not in the Office suite, you can read more about that here: http://blogs.msdn.com/chris_pratley/archive/2004/01/30/65463.aspx

  42. Chris:

    Hey, some of us are using OneNote to share meeting notes as you’ve described here (in concert with hosting the file on SharePoint), but an issue we’ve noticed is the following.. If we are continually re-creating the session, the pages get dumped to all parties involved every time. Our current "solution" is to have meeting "attendees" delete all the pages before they join the shared session (updating offline is taboo-ish).

    We’re wondering if there’s a possibility for a persistance feature to the shared sessions? Obviously this would require something more than a P2P approach, but we’re considering leaving someone’s spare computer logged in and hosting the session that we can all come in and out of as needed to handle this.

    Your thoughts?

  43. Mario – yes, that’s the logical next step for the future. In 2003SP1, we do the following to get both persistence and real-time:

    1. put a section on Sharepoint (or file share)

    2. have everyone open it so they each see the same notes on each machine.

    3. the person who has the write lock (i.e. can type in the sharepoint-based section) starts a shared session from a page in that section.

    4. The others open the invitation while viewing a different section (any section, since they will be throwing away the shared pages afterward)

    5. work on the shared pages during the meeting as normal. At the end of the meeting, the person who started the session will keep the shared page since for them it is in the right place. Everyone else deletes it (not required, but it reduces confusion for them). Those people can then click into the sharepoint-based section and see the page there since the originator’s machine put it there for all of them.

    Of course if you don’t care about real-time, just shared content, you can just use the sharepoint-based section and as long as you aren’t trying to use it at the same time it should work pretty well (using it within a minute of each other causes someone to get locked out from editing it). Marrying this with realtime or even just no write-locks would be very cool – I agree.

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