Inaugural Post

First, the boring stuff: Hi, I'm Donovan.  I've been a developer on Microsoft Office OneNote since starting at Microsoft last June.  (As the latest addition to our developer team, people just call me the new guy.  That's "Mr. New Guy" to you. 🙂  This isn't my only blog -- from time to time, I've been known to question life's little inconsistencies in a less formal setting.


It's no coincidence that today marks my first post on MSDN.  If you were awake at 2am this morning, and also happened to be surfing by your favorite website, you may have been surprised to discover that Martians really do have wings.  Elsewhere on the internet, however, the floodgates were opening, and the OneNote SP1 Preview was released!


[And don't be deceived by the "Service Pack" title.  Like so many other things, the name can be deceptive.  Don't get me wrong; we did an unholy amount of bug exterminating for sure.  But it's the new features and usability tweaks that I think you're really going to enjoy.]


I'm responsible for several of the features making their debut in this release from the development side of things -- namely the new DataImport APIs, Password Protection, as well as some of the less noticeable UI tweaks such as Resizable Page Tabs, Folder Move, etc.


Now that you've had a chance to play with some of the new features… (What?  You haven't installed the preview yet?  *sigh* I'll wait. Ok, ready now?)  I'm curious to know what you think: what do you like?  Even more importantly, what do you dislike?  I'm not making any promises, but input really does helps us know what we need to change.  So be brutal.  You won't hurt my feelings.  I'm tough.  After all, that's why they call me Mr. New Guy.

Comments (9)
  1. Colin Walker says:

    Welcome to the blogosphere. It’s good to see another OneNote blogger hit the ether 🙂

    I look forward to future posts with great interest as I finally get my tablet in about 2 weeks ond OneNote will be the first thing installed.

    It’s just not the same on a desktop 😉

  2. Eric Eckberg says:

    Dear Mr. New Guy,

    If you had anything to do with time stamping in ON SP1, then you are Sir New Guy Sir!! as far as I’m concerned. 🙂

    It’s all fantastic so far! The new features are great. The speed seems to have picked up a notch too. Is the way ON handles files different? I posted a question about that on the newsgroup, but never received a reply. I was wondering if having a Hierarchy of folders is better than a lot of Sections.

    Thanks for the blog. I like being able to get an inside peek how the big boys do things. (I’m a developer but on a MUCH smaller scale).


  3. Benoit says:

    Curious to know which time stamping you prefer:

    1) The ability to change date/time on the title?

    2) The Insert Date/Time functionality?

    3) The Right-Click on a handle to know the creation date/time of the content? (Which, by the way, also works on older V1 notes)

    In any case, glad you like it 🙂

    (no, I didn’t implement each of these, but I am really glad we got them in SP1 myself)

  4. Unfortunately, I’m not responsible for time stamping; but I will be sure to pass along the compliment! (We’re suckers for positive feedback. 🙂

    The underlying file format hasn’t changed at all in SP1 (unless you encrypt a file) but there was a lot of performance work from other devs on the team to speed up boot, optimize access to slow network shares, speed up large notebooks, and decrease the amount of time we keep files open, hold write locks, etc. I think they did an amazing job.


  5. Offhand, I don’t believe that lots of sections will be that much slower than a folder hierarchy — although in the extreme case, I’m sure booting to an STS share with a thousand sections will in fact take a little longer to stat the directory, look for new sections, etc. However, I suspect that you’ll quickly find that the UI becomes the more limiting factor. (Lots of sections require lots of section tabs, which all get displayed in a single horizontal row — most of which are off screen; the move dialog will be a lot longer; etc.)

    At the end of the day, the goal of OneNote is to let you take notes whichever way you prefer. Are you more of a "Filer" or a "Piler"? I.E., are you constantly organizing everything into the right spot, or someone who just adds everything into a big pile?

    Me, I’m far more of a filer. I sleep better at night knowing my Notebook is pristinely organized. I generally tend to build up a couple of sections and then I try organize them into a system. I get pleasure from coming up with new filing system, each more devious than the last. But that’s just me.

    Of course, it goes without saying that I find it much easier to use folders with the nifty, new Folder Move dialog. But I’m a tad biased. ^_^

  6. Jeremy Marx says:

    Ok, ok.. what the heck? I can right click on a handle, and it shows the time/date that specific note was created? Do the wonders ever end???

    Donovan, I’d like to thank you for two of the new features you mentioned above:

    1. Password Protection

    I’ve had to restrain from keeping certain notes in OneNote. Until now. Thanks!

    2. Moving Folders

    As I mentioned on Chris’ blog, it’s great to be able to put my most frequented folders toward the front. Thanks!

  7. Hi, I should first say I have not yet downloaded SP1 but I have read the documentation. It looks as if my only requested feature is not there 🙁 Can you now add a link from one page to another? I want to be able to jump easily from one page to another without searching or traversing the hierarchy. For example, I want to be able to click on Michelangelo and jump straight to the page with all his info.

    I would also appreciate an easier way to create a table of images. It might sound odd but on a History of Art course you need to be able to pack a lot of labeled images close together and I find that separate image boxes keep wanting to jump and stick together.

    Apart from these minor complaints I think the product is great and use it for most things now – actions, meetings etc. Thanks.


  8. Thanks for the comments, Laurence!

    With an SP1 release, there were a lot of features that we couldn’t fit into the schedule. Given that your particular desires are pretty high on the requested features list, I suspect we’ll be tackling these issues soon. 🙂

  9. Bill Malone says:

    Timestamping is the only thing I care about. The reason? I want to use OneNote as a lab book. To do so, I need to put in a date which cannot be modified. So the timestamping thing is key. In a normal lab book, when you write something down in ink it cannot be changed. The problem with me using OneNote is that it fails to provide legal proof of the time/date of your work. (My advisor says this is necessary for me to get paid due to legal reasons such as if we were the first to do the research and aren’t making it all up, etc.)

    So what I need to an unmodifiable timestamping thing that allows you to edit below but not above the timestamp, just like a real lab notbook on each page.

    Command would be: insert timestamp. Once done, everything above the stamp is unmodifiable. Everything below is modifiable.

    Please include this trivial addition so that we can use this cool product in the lab here.

    Bill Malone

    P.S. After you get that done consider an encryption timestamp server to really go all the way.

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