One percent for art: Napkin Math a.k.a. The Calculator in OneNote 2007


I like to love the software I use.  I gather many of you do too. In the process of designing a new release of OneNote its important to keep this in mind, since it is easy to make a product that meets a lot of business criteria but has no soul.


For example, our product development process uses a fixed development budget (days, not dollars) and a (relatively) fixed ship date. We also have a high minimum bar for quality. So the only variable we are able to play with is what we do with our budget.


One way we could use the budget would be to gather the list of customer requests and simply list them in order of frequency. “Gee, a lot of people ask for drag and drop of section and page tabs, let’s put that at the top”. Maybe we also throw in a sense of how serious a problem each one is (its “severity”), not just how common it is (frequency). Then we just add up the cost of each until the budget is used up. You could say this is a great strategy because it is responsive to customers. But you could also say it is backwards looking, or lacking in vision, with a tendency to scatter the product all over the place and lead to bloat since we end up with essentially an unconnected laundry list of features to add.


Another way might be to look forward at where you want the product to be in 5-10 years. If you have a “roadmap”, you can plan a path to achieve various milestones on it, and have a plan to get you to the type of functionality you want and thereby the business you want. For example, we want OneNote to be used by nearly everybody for “high value” activities (i.e. we are so useful they are all willing to pay us well for the product). Part of that vision for us is to be an application where it is as easy to share thoughts and project info with others as it is to use it yourself – i.e. we want to revolutionize the idea of “collaboration”. This sort of long term goal tends not to show up on user request lists because they are looking at flaws in the current product. Obviously if you do this exclusively, you risk alienating your user base since the current users were attracted to your product by what it does (or almost does) today and not so much by what it might do in the future.


We naturally take a blend of both of these strategies to give enough customer love but also stay on our mission. But that isn’t quite enough. There’s not necessarily a spark there which provides the soul of the product.


Consider the municipal budget for your community. It is no doubt full of pragmatic line items such as school funding, pothole filling, park maintenance, sewer upkeep, and so on. But many municipalities know that if they spent their whole budget on these things then life for their citizens would be a dull (albeit pleasant) existence. So a lot of communities have a philosophy called “1% for art”. The idea is that if you simply grind down the list of priorities for the community you will run out of budget before you ever get to items such as “make our community more stimulating to live in” or “provide exciting experiences for our citizens”. You probably won’t even make it out of schools and sewer maintenance. So rather than just have a long list of items ranked by universal priority, these municipalities appropriate “1%” of their budget to spend only on these whimsical things that make life interesting, such as public art or festivities. The theory is that 1% isn’t going to have a material impact on those other budget items but it achieves a wholly different goal.


So it goes with OneNote. We try to balance priorities around making existing customers happy with our longer term vision for the product (which involves having way more customers than we do now, also happy). Then we have some priorities whose future value likely exceeds their current value to us so we “over-invest” in them, such as Tablet PC support. Then we come to our version of “1% for art”.  With this budget category we can fund features which would not survive if they had to be directly traded off against other features in the main categories. But they serve to add soul to the product (or cool, or sex appeal, or whatever tingly word works for you). Some examples include the linked audio notes in the first release, video recording and screen clipping in 2003Sp1, audio search and OCR/search of images in OneNote 2007. And then there’s a little favourite of mine in 2007 which reinforces the difference between OneNote and any other tool, as well as our focus on what people do in an app like ours: quick of-the-moment activities. That feature is Napkin Math (a.k.a. the Calculator)


When I am sitting in a meeting or just at my desk trying to work my thoughts out it often happens that I need to do a little math. In these cases I am already in OneNote, either taking notes or capturing my thoughts in some way. Now I need to know what our install size is going to be if we remove a few components, or what % of our dev budget the napkin math feature will be. So I could reach for a calculator or try to find the one built in to Windows, or maybe launch Excel. If I did, it would take awhile, it’s a context switch, and I might get “the answer” but I would have no record of the calculation or how I did it unless I typed it into OneNote. Hmm. What if I just type it in to OneNote right there in my notes? These aren’t the actual numbers, but for example here’s 88.7MB total install size minus three components of varying size; 4.6MB, 2.9MB, and 11.3MB, oh, and we might need to add a 6.5MB component:


88.7-4.6-2.9-11.3+6.5=


Now I just hit Space bar or Enter and I get:


88.7-4.6-2.9-11.3+6.5=76.4


Well, that was nice. What about the % of effort calculation? These aren’t real numbers either but let’s say there are 11 developers who work for 4 milestones each 7 weeks long (a week is 5 days), minus 30 days each of security work, minus 7 days each of service pack work, and the total cost of the napkin math feature is 5 days, the cost of OCR is 14days, and audio search is 9 days. Let’s do it:


(5+14+9)/(11*4*7*5-30*11-7*11)%= 2.47


Ok, we’re at 2.5%. More than 1% but in line with what we want to spend on this category.


It’s not just arithmetic. You might want some other things like trigonometry:


39*sin(30)= 19.5


Or simple functions like:


Sqrt(256)= 16


Maybe you want to force more precision. If so, just make sure one of the numbers includes the number of decimals you would like to see in the result:


4/7.0000= 0.5714


The nice thing about napkin math is that it is right there where you need it. It is just “smart paper”.  No need to jump to another tool, and of course your calculation is preserved for you or others to refer to later. Very handy for back of the envelope (or napkin!) estimates of market size, likely GPA, attendance at an event, budget, etc. I do want to emphasize that this is not an “equation solver” – it won’t “solve for x” or iterate or anything like that. Strictly simple arithmetic and functions. Naturally if you need something heavier duty you go to Excel or Mathematica, but this is right where you need it.


Napkin math falls into the “art” category because it clearly isn’t a top priority for our customers (zero people asked for it) or the vision for the product or any other budget category. But it is cool, it works just as I want when I need it, it is different, and it makes me love my software. We’ve already got a few smiles from our beta users about it.


A friend of mine told me an interesting anecdote today. One of the designers of the Windows interface prototypes (for the release *after* Vista) was showing him a cool effect where sliding a window over a background image of a bush “rustled” the leaves of the bush. My friend instinctively smiled, then found his hard headed Microsoft program manager habit came back and he almost involuntarily said “nice, but what’s the point?”. The designer said, “You smiled, right? That’s the point”.

Comments (44)

  1. Phylyp says:

    Chris,

    You’ve sold me on OneNote. This feature is awesome. This makes OneNote = Paper++

    Remember, users may not always ask for what they would find valuable. Sometimes it has to be provided to them (unasked for) for them to recognize/appreciate the value of it. Remember the ad that went: "Nobody asked for fluoride in toothpaste".

    Regards,

    Phylyp

  2. Erik Paul says:

    Chris,

    This will be useful to me, but not nearly as much as the OCR and linked audio.  I find the linked audio absolutely invaluable (I have had various co-students buy tablets for that very reason) and I am just dying for the 2007 release so that I can get the OCR.  

    For instance, last night we had a review for a dermatology final scheduled for this morning.  My friends and I reviewed the notes from that review and saw that I wrote something about Porphyria Cutanea Tarda.  We listened to what the professor had to say (ooohs and aaahs abounding) and then I searched all the notes for PCT.  Problem is, I have to use Google Desktop for this, and it only searches the PPT, not the ONE file.  Then, I have to find it in my notes in ONE, and then we can listen to what the professor said originally in class (weeks before the review) as well as read up on it.

    What am I saying?  I am very excited about the 1%.  It has made my life so much easier.  I wish it were 10%.  

    Can’t wait for the release of 2007.

    erik

  3. Chris Kenyon says:

    Chris,

    Another great post about the choices a Product Manager gets to make and how you try and steer a product over time.  – I particularly like the utility/magic analogy with local government.

    I was a doubting Thomas about OneNote to begin with but now use it all the time!

    Should there be a Product Managers’ Product manager or would that just be too geeky?  

    Is there someone out there that you think has done a particularly great job of steering a product or should we simply judge them by the final results?

    Chris K – http://www.chriskenyon.co.uk

  4. Chris, thanks for your wonderful program (it’s a G-dsend for people who work in government), and your illuminating blog entries.

    As the agency that manages the Percent for Art program in Rhode Island, I appreciated the wonderful analogy, and hope to use it often.

    Randy Rosenbaum

    Executive Director

    Rhode Island State Council on the Arts

  5. Antia says:

    I do not know why nobody has requested this particular feature but just today I was showing my colleagues my latest find of the tablet world which is "Calculator" from XThink. This does something very similar to what you describe but in a separate program. Yesterday I started testing this app and, while not perfect, I was really impressed and so were my colleagues. Today I kept wondering why I could not access this capability directly in OneNote. When using OneNote to prepare a set of draft undergraduate problems in physics it would be incredibly useful to be able to markup some ink as corresponding to a formula and be able to evaluate simple aritmetric expressions. In fact it would be great if it was possible to really mark it up as a mathematical expression so that it could be parsed as such by some interpreter. There is one PowerToy for tablets which does something similar but it  leaves the job half finished. After guessing what the formula should be it doesn’t produce an output in an editable format but rather just produces a picture. If the feature in OneNote was a bit more powerfull (or at least provided the necessary flexibility for third parties to take up the job) it would be fantastic. If OneNote implements a formula editing aspect it would gain a really devoted following from the scientific/technical community.

    Just an additional comment. I generally keep a real old fashioned calculator on my desk because it is a lot simpler to use that in parallel with my text processing than to search for the windows equivalent on my laptop. Math Napkin would address that issue.

  6. Chris Brandt says:

    You mention using the spacebar or Enter to calculate the result — does this work with a tablet and Ink? if so, Wow!

    Chris

  7. Alan Fleming says:

    Hit space or press enter? I hope there’s an alternative.

    I’m a slate form factor user, and I use OneNote maximised – an entire page of intelligent paper, which I love. I hope I can use this new functionality without re-atttaching a keyboard <i>or</i> losing screenspace to the soft keyboard.

  8. as other commenters have noted, the keyboard version seems great, but i can’t wait to hear about the ink version.

    can I write a verticle list of numbers, then draw a line under them to add them up?  can i write:

      ______

    4|  100

    and have it automatically put "25" above the division bar?

  9. mazzorca says:

    I don´t know were I can ask this, so here I´m.

    Can be possible on OneNote 2007 to have some kind of hot Folder were you put images and Onenote insert in a note at the same time?

    I ask this becouse I imagine using some of those new WIFI digital cameras that send images to a folder in the right time you take it. so this can become a sync between images and notes as the sync with audio.

    that will be helpfull in mettings and and lectures so you can have all the media in the same place to reference. or make it read the exif data to add it later right in the position of the note was taken.

  10. Chris_Pratley says:

    Regarding ink equations, solving ink arithmetic, etc. Nearly anything with "understanding ink" is terribly expensive relative to text from a dev point of view, so that immediately puts it out of contention for this sort of feature. We do have a separate budget for "support Tablet" which also gets separate priority, but there equation support didn’t make it relative to other more critical things we had to do for OneNote 2007 (such as fix the ink model, as I talked about here:http://blogs.msdn.com/chris_pratley/archive/2006/02/02/523852.aspx).

    Some day when we have more of the basics out of the way we’d like to turn towards more esoteric ink stuff such as equations and diagram recognition. In the meantime we still gets lots of requests for more basic improvements even beyond what we do for OneNote 2007. That said, if something with ink comes up that fits in the "1%" category, we’d definitely consider it.

    mazzorca: I could imagine someone writing a PowerToy to do what you describe. It would be a matter of importing from this directory (probably after you’re finished taking pictures) and matching the creation time of the photo with the creation time of each note and inserting the photo in the right place. Quite doable.

    Also keep in mind that this sort of scenario is what we have tried to make work with OneNote Mobile (http://blogs.msdn.com/chris_pratley/archive/2005/11/21/494990.aspx) – take photos with your phone and they are automatically added to your PC OneNote notes. Of course phone photos aren’t as high quality as those of dedicated digicams. Bear in mind that OneNote 2003 already syncs with video, so unless you are wedded to still photos you can get a linked visual notes experience today.

  11. Rick Jeffries says:

    Chris — what an excellent post, combining the artistry of developing the newest version of the most useful application of all time with the real-life business constraints that come with it.

    I think part of your job on the OneNote development team is to always think of that 1% or the thing that zero users asked for but all of them will love about the product.  

    I had to put together a meeting agenda the other day for some colleagues.  I put it in OneNote.  The meeting required us to all have reference to the same set of documents (which I put in as subpages to the agenda) and stowed it all in a shared folder.  (I could have done a shared session, but these were newbies.)  Everyone thrashed around in their agenda, almost too mesmerized in their notebooks to pay attention in the meeting.

    One of my colleagues wrote me later and said "Now I understand why your office is so clean.  OneNote."  People don’t understand what this tool can do for them until they experience it.  As long as OneNote has you to say "we need to spend 1% thinking of the feature nobody asked for and everybody wants," it will continue to be the most important software application of my adult life.  

    Congratulations.

  12. The Buzz says:

    Chris describes the math feature in OneNote 2007.

    The nice thing about napkin math is that it is right…

  13. Steve S says:

    <<Regarding ink equations, solving ink arithmetic, etc. Nearly anything with "understanding ink" is terribly expensive relative to text from a dev point of view

    Chris, if I’m not mistaken, isn’t xThink already a Microsoft ISV?  If so, why wouldn’t you simply have them develop a version of their xCalculator app that could plug in to OneNote to provide a full function napkin math function?

    Since they’ve already developed a math recognition engine, why recreate that wheel?

  14. mazzorca says:

    Thanks Chirs for the response.

    I know wath you mean about the video sync stuff, but my real usage is in lectures and mettings I go to take pictures of the whiteboard to late reference. Could be cool some of those features that cleans photo images from pages and boards.

    But that is a little off today, maybe for the next version of OneNote.

    I´m really happy if I will can put images directly without pressing all the insert-select-search-put in place-repeat process.

    I keep telling me……you need learn to make programs.

    Thanks again. and keep the good work.

  15. Perfect example of why you can’t only develop what you’re asked for because we haven’t throught of everything we might want.

    will the basic maths work on tablet if i write 25+4+92=? if you’re already catching taht what I’m writing is numbers not letters? If not, perhaps a ‘calcuate as a sum’ lassoo as a PowerToy?

  16. drtigerlilly says:

    I think its a cool feature. Its nice not to have to leave the application you’re in & disturb the whole flow to do something else. I honestly think thats where pc software on a whole needs to go integration of the things & tasks that you’d do or need as you carry out your usual tasks.

    I’m not sure you can comment, or if its been mentioned in the listings of the features before, but it would be really helpful for students, if there was some kind of integration with a calendar, scheduling etc. so that you could put in when assignments are due, exams etc and have the program remind you when these dates are coming up.  I know features like that already exist in Outlook, but you know, back to the integration line of thought 😉 Off course these things would have to be optional, not everybody might appreciate them.

    Just a thought

  17. cuekwe says:

    Napkin Math seems sorta’ cool, though I doubt I would ever use it. Also, as critical as I am about OneNote, I love it to death and complain only with the goal of making it as outstanding as humanly possible. For example, I totally appreciate the difficulty you folks must face in carving out a new feature set. It is next to impossible… wait, no… it is *logically impossible* to be all things to all people.

    Thus, I wonder if MS has considered a roadmap that splits off into various specialty products or addons? In other words, if you had a "OneNote for Students," or better yet, "OneNote for grad-level science students who want better symbol features," it becomes much easier to keep your constituency happy.

    I realize that this increases the development, test, maintenance, advertising, etc., etc. burden. But I’m curious to know; there must be a point when such a strategy becomes more profitable than keeping things general. Do you ever think we will see this day of OneNote specialty products (or perhaps addons)???

  18. Chris_Pratley says:

    Steve S: Well, xThink is an ISV, so the "I" part means they can decide what they want to do. OneNote does not support OLE so they cannot host a control in OneNote. They could have a toolbar button that snags selected ink and does their magic then inserts the result back. I’d love that.

    Mary: no, recognizing vector strokes of ink as anything is all dependent on the Tablet platform and they do not offer this yet (unless we roll our own). This is strictly a text feature – otherwise we couldn’t have done it.

    drtigerlilly: sometime Real Soon Now I will blog about our Outlook integration. We do not intend to duplicate functionality found in Outlook since most of our customers already use Outlook for that (I understand that this is not everyone).

    cuekwe: Maybe we’re already doing that. One could argue that OneNote and Infopath are specializations of Word. Maybe even Powerpoint, which could be a view in Word if we tried (not really).  At some point specializations should not be done in code but in content. OneNote 2007 will ship with the ability to set up notebooks for specialized use, so we get partway there with that approach. There is also a broader PowerToy capability with 2007 so you can add buttons that insert physics symbols, for example. (someone would of course have to write this tool).

  19. Neil MacInnes says:

    "or better yet, "OneNote for grad-level science students who want better symbol features,"

    Exactly what’s needed – I have to go into Character Map just to get the √ sign!  Surly it isn’t too hard to integrate all the symbols from the Character Map into the Symbol box in OneNote?

    Also, after discovering the fantastic new equation editor in Word 12, I was rather disappointed that the only way I could enter it into OneNote was to paste it as a picture, which for reasons unknown to me has a tiny equation in the middle, with an extortionate and unnecessary amount of white space!  Please change this!

    Neil MacInnes

  20. Chris_Pratley says:

    Neil, you can insert *any* symbol at all into OneNote via Insert/Symbol. For square root, choose "mathematical operators" from the subset dropdown, then you should see it nearby (no need to select a special symbol font but note that the glyphs shown in the dialog are all drawn from the currently selected font so there can be more available if you choose other fonts). Once you insert a symbol it will appear in the recent symbols list at the bottom of the dialog for easy mouse access. It is Unicode 221a, so you can also enter it directly using 221a followed by Alt-x. If you like, create an AutoCorrect entry for it, and use something short like "xs" as the string to be replaced.

    The poor paste behavior of equations from Word beta 1 is because the feature in Word is incomplete and does not generate images for pasting correctly. That will be fixed for beta 2 or final release.

  21. Richard says:

    Hi Chris

    1) I am very interested in the Outlook integration, so plese DO blog about that soon… and I’m more interested in the PDA integration, so that would be another blog request….

    2) The napkin math is a neat little tool… and you keep saying someone could do a power tool… do you plan on making (or have you made and I missed) a tutorial or book for (.Net?) newbies that would teach us to make such OneNote tools?

    3) I liked using it for class notes, but I found the printing was so quirky… Sometimes it cut off text down the right margin, sometimes it shrank a bit or enlarged a bit, sometimes the preview didn’t match what printed… so I gave up and went back to Word for organizing handouts for my students… Any news on improvements in this area?

    Waiting for OneNote…

    Rich

  22. Victor Hooi says:

    heya,

    Another cool feature for OneNote, I’m definitely sold =). Like others here, I think a ink version of this would be cool, but I see your point about it being expensive and difficult to develop.

    So far, I’ve been attempting to use OneNote Beta 1 exclusively for taking all of my uni notes. It’s been pretty cool so far, barring a few odd quirks (couple of random crahses, I sent in data).

    Anyway, this is is kinda a continutation of my previous comment, but is there a way to prevent auto-extend along the right edge?

    As a student, I’m used to writing on A4, and I tend to write to the edge on the right-side, since I don’t see the point in leaving a one-inch gap. I know you mentioned that OneNote will scale when you print, but this is kinda annoying since you now have a useless one-inch gap on the right, and all my ink is now shruken down to a miniscule size

    If there isn’t a way to disable it for the right-edge, that’s fine, is there a way to cut out the space after? (I couldn’t find a tool to remove space that doesn’t shift elements around – add writing space does.)

    Also, re: the dates in 2003 vs. Beta1, here’s a png showing the difference.

    http://www.valeoftears.puffinhost.com/files/chris_pratley_onenote_blog/onenote_date_layout_comparison.png

    It’s probably a personal preference, but I find the header in 2003 to be much more professional looking, with the dropshadows =), larger pointsize and clearer looking typeface. Is there any way to emulate this look in Beta1, or will it be offered as an option/template?

    Or failing that, is there a way to move the date in Beta1? (Couldn’t seem to drag it).

    Thanks,

    Victor

  23. Anup says:

    This is really awesome, now we can retire the paper shredder.

  24. Neil MacInnes says:

    "Neil, you can insert *any* symbol at all into OneNote via Insert/Symbol. For square root, choose "mathematical operators" from the subset drop-down, then you should see it nearby (no need to select a special symbol font but note that the glyphs shown in the dialog are all drawn from the currently selected font so there can be more available if you choose other fonts). Once you insert a symbol it will appear in the recent symbols list at the bottom of the dialog for easy mouse access. It is Unicode 221a, so you can also enter it directly using 221a followed by Alt-x. If you like, create an AutoCorrect entry for it, and use something short like "xs" as the string to be replaced.

    The poor paste behavior of equations from Word beta 1 is because the feature in Word is incomplete and does not generate images for pasting correctly. That will be fixed for beta 2 or final release. "

    Thanks for the reply – I never knew about the code entry thing, its much more practical than Insert->Symbol.  I await beta 2 with its equation support eagerly…

    Neil MacInnes

  25. Steve says:

    May I suggest a variation on this Napkin Math theme? How about a time-lapse calculator? This would be useful for people who work on an hourly basis, or who otherwise want/need to account for their time. It might be as simple as enabling the Napkin Math function to calculate the difference between start and end times.

    Anyway, just a thought.

  26. LesC says:

    That’s really neat.

    Can I just point out one thing though that has bugged me for ages about the Windows calculator – and you appear to have replicated it here.

    Pick up any desktop calculator and look at the buttons

    + – x ÷ =

    Now look at the Windows Calculator

    + – * / =

    Notice the difference?

    It’s not just academic either. I had someone recently ask me "where is the divide button"?

    When I write I always use x for multiply and

    a



    b

    for divide.

    Granted, you use * and / in Excel, but that calculator still bugs me!

  27. Chris_Pratley says:

    LesC: There is no ÷ key on the keyboard so supporting it is pointless, but the calculator in OneNote 2007 does support using "x" as well as "*" for multiplication.

  28. Ken says:

    Maybe you could use a "1% for Plays Nice with Others" budget line. You mention doing a blog on Outlook integration and on past comment lists you’ve already gotten deluged by PPC integration requests. What about Desktop Search? Having to search in one place (say Google Desktop) for non-OneNote content and then separately for OneNote content gets more and more frustrating as OneNote becomes one of a person’s core tools. But if you forget exactly where the text is and you have to search both ways, you have that same nagging sense that something is not working right that you have when you have to leave OneNote to open a calculator. Is there anything particularly challenging about getting the various desktop search providers to support .one files?  

  29. Chris_Pratley says:

    Ken, interesting idea. "1% to help competitors" :-)

    Seriously though, if something is a useful defacto standard we try to work with it (e.g. supporting PDF output). Google desktop search is simply one of many search options out there – hardly a standard. Rather than us trying to support them, we support a standard interface (iFilter) that search tools can use to read our files.

    Because the OneNote binary format is extremely convoluted and still evolving (to enable some of the fancy merge and incremental save stuff we do plus multiple alternate results for ink content, etc), we provide an ifilter. This ifilter is a well-defined and documented interface that does not change even if our format changes underneath and is perfect for this probem of rapidly evolving file formats. Desktop search tools can support the stable ifilter interface and then use the ifilter to parse our files rather than try to figure out the format from some as-yet hard to imagine writing documentation.  Our format is changing and evolving as we discover new needs, so we use the ifilter approach to isolate 3rd parties from having to follow all its changes.

    If you use MSN or Windows Desktop Search, then you can find OneNote content directly because it uses this ifilter. For other desktop search tools, if they do not choose to use the ifilter, you should ask them to.

    PPC support for OneNote Mobile is on the roadmap – there is no contention on that one. It’s just a matter of timing.

  30. thadk says:

    This feature is appreciated but I must admit that it is mighty annoying to be typing an equation that starts with E= and getting E=2 mc^2 or E= 2.718 mc^2. There needs to be some interface or code to correct this sort of thing.

  31. Chris_Pratley says:

    Thad: Thanks for the bug report. BTW, it is best to send these through the beta feedback channels since they get handled better that way.

  32. Ed says:

    Another vote for an ink version of this napkin math. After all, when actually doing math on a napkin, you use a pen not a keyboard :-)

  33. Nathan says:

    Oh my, I love this idea of napkin math, but the fact that it’s missing the ‘solve’ feature so treasured on my Ti-89 kills it!  I have no idea how difficult solving for variables really is when it comes to programming, but it would certainly be one of those ‘art’ features I can’t live without.  

    Something like… (x+1)*2=8, x=

    OneNote could recognize the existence of a ‘solve’ problem as soon as it sees the variable in the equation, then it would wait for input after the first ‘=’ and attempt an answer after the second ‘=’.  Otherwise, if the first part of the equation lacks variables, the solve feature could be preceded with another symbol such as ‘->’ or simply ‘solve(‘.

    Can we ever expect to see such a feature?  You’d think that if it can be programmed into a calculator, it should be feasible in a computer program!  I hope that’s really the case.

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  35. Edward W says:

    I like the Napkin Maths interface and have used it a few times.  However, I can sympathise with ‘thadk’ and the E= problem.  Perhaps it should have a special pre-character or post character (e.g. it calculates if you type =? rather than just =space).

    What I really need is the ability to write equations quickly and tidily.  The MS Equation editor is horrid, the one I love is called Rapid-Pi, and allows you to type equations through an intuitive interface.  Perhaps some research in this area would give a good, quick, equation system?  I don’t have a tablet PC (yet ….) so it’s a nightmare doing my best with a mouse and digital ink otherwise …

  36. Chris_Pratley says:

    For the e= problem, we decided to just not evaluate single letter constants. (pi= still works)

    For serious equations, you should check out the all-new built-in equation capability in Word2007 – it’s totally different from the old "equation editor", native to Word, has a "direct input" capability, etc. Take a look.

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