Trying to use OneNote to go 100% paperless on a trip, and not hitting that goal


For the first time in a long time, I had some time away from work and did NOT write an addin for OneNote.  For the record, the Gutenberg addin was written on a plane to and in a tent in Korea.  The text importer was written on a flight to Orlando and during a poorly planned day in which I wound up working remotely instead of vacationing.  I had the chance to go to Sacramento last week and took it. 


Instead of creating and addin, I tried to use OneNote as a paper replacement for the trip.  I printed my itinerary to OneNote, kept a list of important phone numbers on a separate page and planned my daily activities in OneNote and Outlook.  I used my browser to get directions to the different places I had to drive and printed them to OneNote.  I installed Streets and Trips on  a whim.  All this work paid off when the battery in the rental car died: I had my tablet with the emergency phone number and gave them a call.  Also, during the two times I took a wrong turn I was able to use Streets and Trips to straighten myself out. 


Keeping track of my eticket numbers for the flight also worked, but not as well as I had hoped.  While it helped with the self checkin kiosks,  I did not want to simply type in my confirmation number.  I could not get the laser scanner to read the bar code off the screen, though.  And yes, I looked silly trying to get it to work like that. 


The point is that I couldn’t quite go on a paperless trip despite my best efforts.  In our lingo when we talk about the competitors to OneNote, we use the phrase “Paper sometimes wins.”  The best example of that is a developer I with whom I spoke who said he uses OneNote for everything except debugging.  He writes on paper at that point.  We talked a bit about why he found that easier, and finally decided the nature of the information he writes is very temporary, with a life of only a minute or five while he makes changes and renders the last data meaningless.  It’s pretty easy to understand why paper wins in this case.  It’s easy, cheap, portable and transitory.  No need to archive the data written on it.


Comments, concerns, questions?




Comments (5)

  1. "The best example of that is a developer I with whom I spoke who said he uses OneNote for everything except debugging.  He writes on paper at that point. "

    Whereas I use Notepad for such.   A quick copy and past to store things such as variable names I need from a form in code or values of variables or whatever.  

    But I love OneNote for the rest of my notes.  For example if I know I’m going to need to update some logic in a few hours or two I’ll put a three or five word note in my current project page in OneNote.  Once I’ve done it I’ll use the font strikethrough to indicate it’s done.  (I added the strikethrough font button to the toolbar. If it wasn’t already there.) Then once I’ve ocmpleted the block of work I review all those notes to see if I should go back and double check some logic.

  2. Seth says:

    I agree with your final conclusion.  Everything has an optimal purpose, of course, beyond which the overhead isn’t worth it.   Some of limitations in using OneNote vs. paper isn’t software-related, it is the relative "cumbersomeness" of getting the hardware out and running, LCD screens aren’t so great in all situations, etc.  The "whole system" just isn’t responsive enough for all situations you would face "on the run."  

    Plus, if you sketch a map for someone else in ON vs. paper, compare the time it takes to give the other person a copy. If you are in an airport.

    Paper also doesn’t run out of batteries.  So when I travel, I like having printouts of phone numbers and other critical information even if it is redundant with the laptop.  I’ve had laptops fail and everything else.   Not onenote related but another example:  I almost always carry a redundant powerpoint presentations on paper (for presentations in small groups), even though my presentation is going to be on screen.   Smoothest recovery from a technical glitch in front of an audience you will ever see, is to shut off the monitor.

    At some point, they probably compared MS Word to a typewriter, but the limitations of a typewriter soon became apparant.   Typewriters didn’t get fully replaced for a long time, though. You still sometimes had to type something onto someone else’s form. But I’m glad they never tried to program this capability into Word, just in the name of replacing everything a typewriter did.

    Thanks for a great product (for what it does well).  

  3. When checking in through the self-check kiosks, you probably don’t need paper there either.  All the ones I’ve used in the last few years allow you to swipe the credit card used to purchase the ticket in order to print a boarding pass.

    I do use ON for debugging but sometimes do so on a temporary page that I throw away when not needed.  It’s nice to have even my intermediate notes sometimes when I need to review what I’ve done while chasing a difficult bug.

  4. JohnGuin says:

    I did not know about the credit card trick.  Thanks for the trip.  Since I booked through expedia, I’m not sure it would have worked for me.  But anything to save time at the airport is worth trying.


  5. Back in October , I made the statement that I had to transition from being an enthusiastic user of OneNote