Bridging the gap, getting others to love OneNote too

The other day I got an email from an old high school friend, Rob who uses OneNote and reads this blog (hi Rob). It was pretty cool to get in touch with someone I knew because of OneNote and to hear that they liked it was even better! It got me thinking about something that we are thinking about on the OneNote team: bridging the gap. Let's look at the current OneNote users:

#1 Avid Fans – people who grok OneNote

One great think about working on this team is that we have a large amount of users who are in love with OneNote and use it all of the time. We know based on the customer improvement program that OneNote is open longer than all Office apps except for Outlook. Just think about it from my own usage as well as talking with customers they leave Outlook and OneNote open all day long! I can't live without those apps open, whereas I only open Excel or Word occasionally (though I tend to keep Word open for a while as I write specs and such).

The avid fans already love OneNote and know what it is all about. They can see the value in keeping track of things, using tags, taking meeting notes and more (heck people use OneNote in so many different ways).

#2 People who use OneNote because they have to

Then there is a second class of people out there, albeit much smaller who are 'forced' to use OneNote. These are people who are using OneNote because they have to so that they can be part of a community or share with others. Some people on their team are using OneNote and they too do because they need to use it. For these people we have found that they only use OneNote occasionally and don't really use it much for their own personal information or research.

#3 People who used OneNote and rejected it

These are the people who knew about OneNote, installed it and still didn't like it. Maybe they evaluated OneNote for a collaboration project on their team or maybe they just wanted to see what this OneNote program actually was installed on their computer. They ran the application took a look around and said to themselves, "This isn't right for me." They closed the program and never used it again. More on these people later…

#4 People who have never used OneNote

Then the final classification of people out there who have never used OneNote before and maybe they haven't even heard of it before. I guess when you think about the world population as a whole this bucket #4 is pretty big, eh? But there are a large amount of computer users who just haven't heard about OneNote before and therefore they haven't used it even though they may or may not have a need to use OneNote.


Okay now that I have outlined what I feel the main 4 buckets out there I wanted to touch on a couple of them:

Telling more people

With regards to bucket #4 I wish that more people knew about OneNote. Often times we hear from customers who say that they wish OneNote was marketed more to them. Interestingly there were marketing campaigns (for example: and it was given to college students across North America during recruiting events as well as partnership with laptop manufactures (such as Toshiba). However there still isn't a lot of awareness about OneNote which I hope is solved now that OneNote is part of a SKU. Still though we need to reach out to more people so that they know what OneNote is and that they have a great tool for their needs.

Bridging the Gap

Lastly we need to bridge the gap. How many people out there are in buckets #3 & #2? How many people use OneNote and just reject it? And from our standpoint why are they rejecting OneNote? I am sure there are a large number of people out there who just don't use OneNote because it isn't for them. They don't want to keep meeting notes and maybe they don't keep things and file them away. I get that and I wish them well even though I still think OneNote would make their lives better : )

There are still people for whom OneNote would be a great solution but they don't use OneNote. Why? Is the question that I want to know! Was it something small like when you typed it didn't act as you wanted? Did you want a save button? Was Word really better for you? How come?

Call to arms for fans: when you tell people about OneNote, why do they reject it? What is their feedback? "I just don't need that" or was it "I didn't like X feature" or "Y feature was missing so I couldn't use OneNote". Or if you yourself rejected OneNote let us know why (though I wonder why you would be reading a OneNote blog, hehe). If you have feature ideas please submit them to our OneNote Connect site. If you have testimonials about why you don't like OneNote or how your coworkers/friends didn't like OneNote please email those testimonials to me or post a comment below.

If any of you have read Crossing the Chasm (Amazon) there is a lot of discussion about this from moving from early adopters to mainstream usage. I firmly believe that OneNote is a tool for everyone and we just need to bridge that gap and cross it.

Comments (9)

  1. Erik says:

    I agree with you that the gap needs to be bridged, and upon doing so, people will be more effective.  

    Here is what I have found.  First, I have converted (well, ON has converted) over 60 students in less than a year at my medical school.  People love the organization and with the crazy amount of notes we take, it is awesome to have every note taken in medical school at my fingertips.

    Second, those that have heard about it, yet rejected it…most did so without even opening the application.  They don’t feel that they can do the "Computer" thing in medical school.  Most say "I just need to have paper notes".  I tell them they can take notes on the computer, then print them, but, that doesn’t go very far.

    Third, those that tried ON at my school, and then rejected it (truthfully, there is only 1) did so because it was too slow.  It is sad that this student didn’t try out ON 2007 (he was using 2003).  There were just too many bugs for him, and it was too slow.

    Fourth, those that have never heard about it–they don’t use it for obvious reasons.  How do we contact them?  I don’t know.  I think the new Student Edition should help.  However, there are many students that just won’t click on the application file.  What might be good is a window that pops up upon the Microsoft Student Edition installation that highlights how a student can take notes in ON.


    btw, I’ve been using ON without my pen lately, and I just love it as much.  I didn’t think I would, but I do.  I just had to figure out how to quickly switch from a highlighter to the text select tool (to type).  I noticed that by pressing the shift key, it would switch me.  It is nice to have my notes open on a 19 inch monitor, instead of a 14.1 incher.

  2. I talked a bit about how to show OneNote to others here:

    I think the awareness problem is really difficult and can’t be "solved" by any particular solution. Being in a suite helps with distribution (just as being on every Toshiba machine) but it doesn’t mean people will use it or even launch it, even if people paid for it. Sometimes people wish we had a big "marketing" campaign (by which they mean advertising). but you can spend a lot of money on that and barely move the needle.

    Awareness is something you chip away at over time. Word of mouth (thanks Erik!) is very powerful but takes some time. As more people use the product that leads to more people who can tell others about it, so we are heading towards critical mass.

    That said, a new app is going to be good enough for some people and not for others. With each new version as we listen to feedback it will be good enough for larger numbers of people. Of course I think 2007 is there for most people, but there will always be some that have issues. And that’s all about getting feedback and making the product better.

  3. Claudia says:

    I actually found out about OneNote through someone who had rejected it. My sister’s in law school and apparently almost everyone else in her class uses OneNote (none have tablet PC’s — nor do I) so she asked me if I had heard of it (she’s not very computer savvy and wanted some input). I hadn’t, so I looked it up and was amazed.

    She and I both downloaded it and although I explored it first, she started trying to use it first. Basically, she then told me that she didn’t like the way it worked and switched back to word (btw, she says she doesn’t use pictures/drawings/etc. so doesn’t see why she would need it especially since she couldn’t print each page easily at the time (ON 2003) — though she really liked the organization of it all).

    On the other hand, I don’t know how I ever lived without it. Maybe it’s just more suitable for Science subjects (I’m doing Bio and Psych so there’s always stuff to draw/diagrams/pictures/etc.) .

  4. Joachim Schirra says:

    Dear Dan,

    do not worry, OneNote will be a success in the near future. I am very sure. I remember slightly that I tested Onenote 2003 a long time ago for the first time. Exactly the effect described above happened. I did not understand the "philosophy" at all – or to put it simple – the idea behind it. It seemed to be another kind of wrting app, but with much more functional limitations. Of course I compared it with MS Word. And the actual benefit compared to Word has not become obvious to me for a long long time. So what did I do? I de – installed the application again.

    You may be surprised, that I am a very big Onenote Fan since around one year now (Onenote 2003 instead of 2007, because in Germany the newest release is still not available and I am really desparately waiting for it πŸ˜‰ What actually happened? What triggered this surprising change?

    Well, you may kill me for my bad memory now… πŸ˜‰ But the only detail I still remember very well is, that I came into contact with some of your competitive products (some of them freeware) but also by pure chance. And I was really amazed by the idea behind it. I suddenly understood the idea behind THESE (!) OTHER (!) products and I started to get a big fan of them and used it. Honestly, it was a very small, unknown german freeware which impressed me so much. It has been develloped by a german SAP consultant in his spare time for free to support charity purposes with the money people can give voluntarily. I used it several weeks until this unfamous day when my harddisk crashed. I lost the software, the data (oh yeah… you always should create backups… I know… but I did not do that for more than years…) and then I worked a certain time without that new type of software. After a further period of time – I think it was somewhere in September 2005 – I came into contact with OneNote again and suddenly I realised that this "unfamous" new Microsoft product which I already had tested some time ago so unsuccessfully was really absolutely identical with these other products which I liked so much. I gave Onenote a chance again, and I suddenly became aware that the functionality was not only better than I actually expected, no it was even much better than these competitive products. Funny for me to find out that my first impression of Onenote was so misleading, so wrong and I was so amazed about the product. I can imagine that you now are listening very interested to find out what I will say, what was the triggering event, was it word to mouth, was it a marketing campaign and how did it happen that I tested it again…?

    Kill me, but honestly, I do not remember clearly anymore. This time was very stressfull for me from a professional perspective, but I think that I read somewhere in the press about the product and that has been the main reason for me to give it a try again. I was so amazed – and at the same time I was desperately missing some features – that  I started to research about OneNote in the Internet and suddenly I became aware of Chris Prately´s Onenote Blog which became more and more active in this time.

    By pure chance, around this time he wrote in a blog about the misleading and wrong positioning of Onenote in the past, being positioned as a Tablet PC product. And as I am writing this now and I am thinking more and more about it, I could imagine that in my first trial I also was captured by this image. Onenote is an application only for uses with a tablet PC. Yes, I remember now more and more. The first time I tested it, I did that on a PC, with a certain attitude in my mind. This attitude "told" me, that I actually can only test a very small portion of the functionality since I had no tablet PC. So I guessed, I can not use the most important features of OneNote, the Tablet PC features. Maybe this lead me wrong and I was so focused on Onenote beeing a Tablet PC App, that I did not test the features in depth. I actually was disappointed about the "limited" writing & formatting functionality that I could not understand the concept the first time. Chris in his blog made it very clear to me, that the Tablet PC functionality was a strong functional goal for the software, but definitely not the primary and most dominating one. In a certain way, he cleared my mind, my attitudes and repositioned the product in my awareness.

    And this is maybe the most important message for you: I realized suddenly that Microsoft is willing to push this product much stronger and that some of the greatest functional deficits would be solved in the newest release. This finally convinced me and converted me to a true and big fan of Onenote 2007 who is now really desparately waiting for Microsoft Germany to get this damned good software localized quickly. I believe that the OneNote Blog is a very good Marketing tool for the installed customer base – not so much for new ones.

    Since some of the other persons above mentioned the suspicion of scientist being the only target group probably… No I don´t think so. I am a consultant and I definitely can tell you that Onenote is a great innovation for people like me, working with two or three customers mostly in parallel and the traditional paper based writing pads can be painful to be handled. Either you use one for all customers (have fun when you are looking for a specific information especially when your customer observes you πŸ˜‰ or you use several ones, one for each customer. This is also fun. πŸ˜‰ No, believe me, Onenote, especially the newest release is exactly the (note taking) world has waited for such a long time. Now, the only problem is, that the world needs to get aware of that "sleeping" need. πŸ˜‰

    Please, keep up the very good work.

    Best regards,


    P.S.: Sorry for the bad grammar (the tenses, I know…), but I am not a native speaker…

    P.S.S.: Any chance to get a functional support to write formulas in OneNote in future easily? Could imagine that especially students need it desparately, but guess who else..? Consultants? Yes… πŸ™‚ At least some of them.

  5. David says:

    I recently (Dec 31st) started using OneNote and like someone above said, I cannot believe that I have made it this far in life without. If I had this app 5 or 10 years ago, I cannot imagine where my life would be today. That is how good of a program this is.

    I used to love MS Binder. I thought is was the greatest thing. I was heartbroken when MS dropped it a year or so later.

    I heard about OneNote a few years back but never (due mainly to not being very organized) followed up on it.

    I cannot recall why i decided to download the trail of ON2007 but I am glad I did.

    Plus, I do not even have a tablet PC so all of my notebooks (3 – 1 Personal, and one for each company I run) consist of typed notes, clippings (awesome feature), pictures, links, and anything that can be printed into OneNote.

    I can proudly say that as of today, I no longer have one piece of paper on my desk. I have been in business for almost 20 years and believe me when i say not having paper on my desk is wild.

    I’ve already told 2 people about it and they will be test driving it soon. When they do I am sure you will gain more users as these guys are very Insturamental in the software apps their companies run.

    Guys and Gals, Please keep up the good work. This really is one of the best apps available today!!



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  9. The other day I got an email from an old high school friend, Rob who uses OneNote and reads this blog (hi Rob). It was pretty cool to get in touch with someone I knew because of OneNote and to hear that they liked it was even better! It got me thinkin

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