Using OneNote in the navy

    One of the things I don't think I have mentioned is that in addition to testing here at Microsoft, I am in the US Navy Reserves. This is the branch of the navy that performs the "2 days per month, 2 weeks per year" types of work. During our three week trip (cough, cough) to Korea last year I had a chance to use OneNote to help with some of the tasks on my plate.

    We took about 300 people to our campsite (in tents) at the main South Korean navy base in Pusan. I got put in charge of ensuring the camp was taken down on time, all our gear was cleaned, passed the agricultural inspection to get back to the US, packed, labeled and shipped to the states. There were many loose ends which I could not afford to drop, and I was glad to have OneNote to be my central repository for all this information.

    Getting the tents taken down was not as simple as it seemed. Our field was muddy (I wish I had a photo of me sitting on my cot in the tent with a centimeter of mud bubbling up through the holes in the tent floor as a I was working on, ironically enough, the Gutenberg addin for OneNote) so the tents had to be cleaned thoroughly before packing in our boxes. There was no way to clean them in the muddy field, so we found a cleaning facility halfway across town to use. The downside was only one tent could be cleaned at a time due to space limitations. We had about thirty five tents, and I used OneNote to plan breaking down the tents day by day.

    First, I started with a rough overhead view of the campsite:


    Then, I used the eraser to remove each tent as we broke them down. I would paste the updated image into a daily Powerpoint slide for our planning sessions. Not very complicated, but having a computer tool like the tablet made this very easy to get into electronic form.

    I also used ON to keep track of weather reports. Since mud was a concern, we needed to know daily rain updates. I would only get an internet connection for a few minutes per day, so "caching" the weather report to OneNote was a great time saver. Again, it made it very easy to quickly gather the data needed for the daily reports in one place.

    Getting information from others was a bit trickier. Some of the sailors there were "stuck" with Office 2003 so I would get updates from them via Word documents, Excel sheets, email items with phone numbers and other contact information, and occasionally Powerpoint slides with embedded bitmaps (hey, whatever works). I even found a scanner to scan the agricultural paperwork needed to label our containers. Using OneNote as a central repository made this very easy to keep track of all the loose ends to ensure nothing was dropped.

    We got all our equipment back on time. I honestly do not think this could have been done by one person with paper. OneNote was essential to track all the diverse information coming my way. Without it, I would have needed more people to track everything. With OneNote, I was able to stay on top of it all and even got a nice award for my work (a navy com, for those who speak the lingo). And having a tablet made it much easier as well.

    One last tool I used was the (free) ink desktop for Vista from Microsoft: It made it very easy to sketch drawings of the port we were in on the spur of the moment, plot where we wanted our boats to be and again I would paste the drawing into ON when done. Being able to set the blue background just made it more clear that we were looking at a drawing of water 🙂 The ink desktop really is a slick addin to Vista tablet users.

    Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,


Comments (5)

  1. Dave says:


    Thank you for your service to our country!

  2. Cliff says:

    John, do you think there’s any chance there will be an updated version of Ink Desktop? I love the concept, and I keep going back to it, but it seems to get glitchy over time and I end up deleted it. Okay, I know "glichy" is one of those terms that drives QA crazy, but right now, I can’t remember the exact events that caused me to remove it last time, but I think I was having problems with placement after switching back and froth between landscape and portrait orientation. Hmm…maybe it’s time to try again.

  3. JohnGuin says:

    I have no idea what the chances for updating the Ink Desktop are.  Switching portrait to landscape caused a few layout problems for me, but (from a computer science point of view), the behavior was predictable, and I didn’t switch modes that often once I was inking anyway.


  4. tim says:

    Ink desktop generates an error when I try to run it on Vista Ultimate x64 and doesn’t work.

Skip to main content