Today we had our ship party for OneNote 2003 SP1 down at Sammamish State Park (at the south end of Lake Sammamish in Issaquah for those who might know the greater Seattle area). Although we have signed off on the code, the process of building a patch, verifying it, and creating international versions continues so you won't see the final SP1 bits for a few more weeks.

Some highlights of SP1 for me (allow me to sing our own praises on this one day, please):

  1. It is super rock solid stable. The original version of OneNote was pretty darn stable, but for SP1 we have had the chance to collect Watson data for the last 9 months or so and have been able to fix a large % of the crashes and hangs people have seen. We measure "mean time to failure" for OneNote and we are now averaging about 900 hours of execution time between crashes for the original version. That means if you add up all the time that we are running for all users and divide by the number of crashes logged, we get a pretty big number.  The numbers for SP1 are still coming in but they are way ahead of the original release for the same pre-ship period, so we should be able to beat 900hours no problem. We are pretty happy with how stable we are - people expect version 1 of an application to be weak in this area and we have not fallen victim to that - quite the opposite.
  2. We were able to address most of the top user requests - as I have written before, we couldn't do everything, but we did a lot. It is fun to hear people who have not yet used the preview ask for improvements and be able to tell many of them that *everything* they have asked for is already in Sp1.
  3. Breakthrough experiences, like real-time note sharing. If you're the only person you know who has OneNote, then this is not of much use to you, but if you work with others, such as in a team, it is very powerful. We do our status meetings using this. One of us invites the others to a shared session, then everyone joins and adds their status to the status page - all at the same time. It is freaky to watch, since the whole page is filled in after about 2 min, with text and diagrams appearing all over the place. Then the whole meeting is way faster because you can read the status and not wait for each person to say all of it. Once I had to be at home and had to miss the meeting, and decided to join a shared session that was going on at work. I could see everything everyone else could see who was actually in the room, and could even add comments and ask questions silently by typing them into the shared note surface. Wow - try doing that over just the phone.
  4. Focus on end users, corporate team scenarios. We took the feedback we got from people not just on bugs but on how they wanted to use the product and tried to make their scenarios work. In particular, we worked with several corporate customers to help make OneNote work as a group collaboration tool, and it shows in the SP. Shared folders, SharePoint integration, real-time sharing, etc are all inspired by working with our “rapid adopter“ corporate customers. Some of these were questioning the value of OneNote to their organizations at first, but now they are enthusiasically embracing it thanks to SP1.
  5. Big focus on reducing annoyances. Some things are hard to work with such as the “offline files” system in Windows. It is just flaky, and bites OneNote especially hard because we do our constant-save thing. SP1 has improved on this experience tremendously due to the extreme dedication of a few people on the team to tracking down issues and working hard to get clear reproducible steps so the bug can get resolved or a workaroudn devised. Although we couldn’t do a radical overhaul of our ink user experience, the same sort of attention to detail went into tracking down obscure and annoying bugs that users would occasionally report (such as ink jumbling on a page for no apparent reason). We think we’ve managed to exorcise these problems due to a lot of hard work by a couple of people. Similarly, our already solid anti-file corruption code has been tweaked and tuned to the point where we're starting to feel like the Maytag repairman...
  6. FEATURES FEATURES FEATURES:
  • Insert Document as Picture (Word/Excel/PowerPoint/Pictures)
  • Shared Sessions – real-time peer-to-peer multi-user sessions (we had over 70 people once)
  • Share With Others Pane – e-mail/SharePoint/file share/real-time
  • Shared Folders for collaboration with others
  • Much better performance with SharePoint
  • Password Protection of sections
  • Send to/Save as/Publish as Word
  • New stationery pane – new stationery too!
  • Insert Screen Clipping
  • Insert Outlook Meeting Details
  • Create Outlook Contact & Appointment
  • Insert Date/Time (Ctrl-Shift-F)
  • Change date/time on page header
  • Names for subpages (they take the first text on the subpage)
  • Resizable page tabs (drag page edge)
  • Video Recording & linked notes
  • Copy text/ink/voice notes from Pocket PC/SmartPhone
  • Updated default notebook with out-of-the-box useful structure and "Helpful Tips" section
  • Updated online and offline help with top requests (thanks for the on-line feedback!)
  • You can specify scope of search before running it (drop-down next to green "go" button)
  • Better default notebook structure
  • Skip slow sections & folders during search
  • 10x perf fixes for Navigation drop-down and clicking on section & folders tabs are all faster
  • More note flags (25) and additional symbols
  • Tablet improvements
    • Added support for scratch-out gesture
    • New erasers (including point erase, like a pencil would do)
    • Erasing a word in a sentence and rewriting it puts the new word in the right place after converting the sentence to text
    • Customizable pens (color, thickness, name, etc)
    • You can now double-space your notes without getting a lot of separate containers
    • Better ink performance and responsiveness
    • Selection tool allows you to grab individual strokes in ink drawings
  • Can mark pictures as "background" for use in stationery
  • Improved sync support for offline files/Intellimirror
  • Can associate different default stationery with each section, create new pages from stationery using split new page button
  • Drag/drop files onto OneNote page allows link/copy-and-link/insert as picture
  • And loads more little tweaks and nasty things removed...

Now, on to the next version...