Paper wins again


    I received an email a week or so ago from Jeffrey and he made this comment: "I have TODO lists in Outlook, OneNote, and in my back pocket at all times, with the latter being the most effective (go figure). " I agree with him about the paper list in the back pocket being most effective. It never runs out of power, doesn’t crash, is relatively easy to share, doesn’t require a large financial investment to start and can be carried everywhere (just to name a few advantages). We use the phrase "Sometimes paper wins" to acknowledge this simple truth. Our job at OneNote is take our product as competitive as we can. We do this by emphasizing the strengths we have – searching notebooks stands out, as does integration with Outlook, sharing notebooks with people worldwide, etc… All of these are hard to do with paper, if not downright impossible.

    Each Monday we have a test team status meeting. We cover topics like our highest priority team work items for the week, status of collateral tasks, new tools we need to be aware of and items like that. Pretty standard stuff, really. We use a shared notebook to hold the information (I imagine the PowerPoint team uses slide shows and Excel uses workbooks), and most of the team members bring their tablets to follow along with the projected image. Also, if you need to give a status of a project on your plate, you can reference your own OneNote notebook with your status. We encourage, require and cajole ourselves into using OneNote in every conceivable way.

    Except one nameless tester, of course. This was someone’s tablet for our meeting last week:


    Sigh. Sometimes paper wins.

    Questions, comments, concerns and criticisms always welcome,


Comments (9)

  1. Patrick says:

    To my mind the immediacy of paper is where it holds its greatest advantage. I do however think this could be seriously eroded by OneNote if  the mobile OneNote offer could be fast-tracked in the direction EverNote seems to be heading. A recent survey showed the item we’re most likely to leave home with is now the mobile phone. With its always on/no battery/no boot up issues to worry about it should be almost as natural to scrawl a note on your mobile as that scrap of paper in your back pocket.

    So please hurry up and get ink enabled on ONM especially given the number of phones now incorpotaing touch screens.

  2. Seth says:

    If your to-do list can fit on a post-it note, then yes paper wins.

    But my to do list consists of stuff I have to do, and stuff that I’m responsible for that other people have, as well as deadlines, and notes on current progress.  The "I’m responsible" and the "Other people have" lists are two on two separate tables on a single page.  I can easily move tasks between the two lists when stuff gets passed back and forth to me, and alt-shift-d lets me track the timing.  I have a third table of completed tasks, and when something is completed I drag it down to that list and date it.  This lets me easily can look back over and see when something was completed, which helps with billing.

    I have other pages in OneNote dedicated to single projects where I can keep relevant e-mails, documents, etc., specific to each project we’re working on.  My to-do list in OneNote has hyperlinks to project pages, or pages with other information, which gives me fast access to everything.

    Best tip on the to do list:  I have a windows desktop icon that points to my to-do list page.  I have a specific keystroke that activates the icon.  So anytime I want to call up my to-do list, I just hit "ctrl-alt-p", and up comes my to do list.

    Sorry, paper loses, big time.

  3. JohnGuin says:

    I like the distinction of "I’m responsible" vs. "other people have."  Outlook uses tasks vs. task requests for this and I wrote a simple addin to bring one facet of that to OneNote (task requests from meeting notes).  There is much more that can be done here – for instance, how to assign a task to a group, or jsut throw it out there for anyone to take ownership?  Hmm…


  4. Paper wins – but only for stuff that I never want to see again. Anything I write on paper, is as good as lost. So paper works for scribbles, but for anything permanent OneNote wins 🙂 … but paper wins every time I go to my professor’s office hours, many of whom are reluctant to write on my tablet. I had a funny experience once with one of my professors. I asked him a question, and offered him my tablet pen. He promptly whips out his pad and tries to write on that, while I sheepishly explain that it works only on my tablet. I then start hunting for a pen ( which I obviously don’t have) before he finds his own. Now if only my tablet pen could write on paper as well wouldn’t that be cool 😉

  5. John Guin says:

    For me, I prefer paper if the data is expected to last less than 4 days.


  6. Before OneNote came along, I would typically attend a meeting, bring a pen, and take lots of notes right

  7. TonV says:

    I have never left my tablet pc in my pants pocket and see it go through the laundry..

    My paper to-do lists however, regularly come back in tiny flakes. Nice and warm from the dryer but not that useful..

  8. JohnGuin says:

    I laundered my wallet.  Three times.  

    In one week…