Saturday, May 27, 2006
A Look at Microsoft OneNote Mobile (Beta) on the Pocket PC
Posted by Darius Wey in "SOFTWARE" @ 08:50 AM
Back in November, there was talk of a mobile version of OneNote for the Windows Mobile platform. All attention seemed focused on the Smartphone, which still holds true, though the application works fine on a Pocket PC - minus a few features, of course. In this article, I take a look at how OneNote Mobile looks and feels on a Pocket PC. Read on to find out more. <!>
A few days ago, Microsoft announced the public availability of Beta 2 of the 2007 Office System. In the package is a standalone installer for OneNote 2007, a digital notebook supporting text, ink, audio, video, and images. While the core of the application is designed to enhance the note-taking and sharing experience on the PC, it does include a number of improvements for Pocket PCs and Smartphones - not just with the provision of a mobile client, but also an enhanced sync experience that leaves the OneNote 2003 + Notes partnership out in the dust.
Figure 1: The OneNote Mobile notification bubble.
When you first synchronise a Pocket PC (or Smartphone) with a PC running OneNote 2007, a bubble appears in the system tray notifying you that OneNote Mobile is available for installation. The application consumes less than a megabyte, and similar to its other Office Mobile counterparts, it is readily identifiable in the Start menu via the purple OneNote icon.
Figure 2: OneNote Mobile, as it appears in the Start menu of a Pocket PC.
The main interface (or Notes Browser) of OneNote Mobile isn't graphically-rich. Being initially designed for the Smartphone, it lacks tap-and-hold support and is heavily reliant on the use of soft keys for navigation. Here, you can create, rename, delete, and modify the sorting options of notes.
Figure 3: It's all about the soft keys.
When creating or editing a note, the interface isn't significantly different. Again, no tap-and-hold support, and no toolbar either (unlike Word Mobile and Excel Mobile). You can format text and create lists in a number of ways, but the need to reach for the soft keys each time soon becomes a drag. You can also insert pictures (with camera support) and recordings as thumbnails, which can be viewed in its entirety simply by tapping on it. Images open in an embedded image viewer, while recordings simply play back. Both can also sync back to the PC.
Of course, one would think that ink support on a touchscreen-enabled device (Pocket PC) would be the most mind-blowing concept of OneNote Mobile. Sadly, there is no such support - further reaffirming that the version of OneNote Mobile that ships with Beta 2 of OneNote 2007 is in every way designed for the Smartphone. I don't know about you, but I feel that OneNote Mobile would have far greater value on a Pocket PC than a Smartphone, and I hope that Microsoft gets around to designing an exclusive Pocket PC version of the application by RTM.
Figure 4: OneNote Mobile includes a number of text formatting options (bold, italic, underline, and strikethrough) and list options (bullet points, and numbers).
On a more positive note, the OneNote 2007 + OneNote Mobile sync experience shines. Included in ActiveSync is a "OneNote Notes" sync option that keeps notes between the Windows Mobile-based device and the special mobile notebook section of OneNote 2007 synchronised. It supports two-way sync, so changes made on either the PC or mobile device can be reflected on the other when the two communicate.
Figure 5: The new "OneNote Notes" sync option in ActiveSync.
Much of the text formatting in the two-way sync remains intact, and in some cases, special formatting (for example, tables) still appears on the mobile device, even though it cannot be created on it.
Each set of notes from a device is kept in its own tab in OneNote 2007. This helps if you have multiple devices synchronising with the same computer. If a note has multiple containers, these will appear as separate notes on the mobile device. Annoying, yes, but if you factor in the limited screen space of a Pocket PC or Smartphone, it's easy to see why Microsoft has taken this approach.
Figure 6: The mobile notebook section of OneNote 2007. Click the image above for a larger version.
At the end of the day, OneNote Mobile on the Pocket PC has room for improvement. But just for that enhanced two-way sync experience, it's still worth installing, in my opinion. So, if you don't mind toying with beta software, download Beta 2 of the 2007 Office System to experience OneNote Mobile for yourself.