When I first came to the OneNote team, I got sent links to no less than 15 notebooks, had my monitor "upgraded" from a CRT to an LCD, was issued a Tablet PC, had the COM API dropped on me and had to make the transition from enthusiastic user to tester on the team.  One of my first tasks was to give the program manager team my thoughts on initially encountering OneNote.  It's pretty easy to fall into the trap of only designing for people who already use your application, but we don't want to forget about first time users either.  This is especially true for OneNote, which is, in many ways, still the "new kid on the block."

 

My feedback went something like this:

  1. I loved not having to press Save.  Literally, this is a terrific feature.  Can't say enough good things about it.
  2. OneNote 2003 was about all I had used before coming to the ON team.  Making the transition from that application (which used folders instead of notebooks) was a bit confusing.  Couple that with 15(!) notebook links on day 1 and I got lost.
  3. This is a problem with many computer applications: once the amount of data cannot be displayed on one screen, navigation becomes a huge problem.  In our case, once the number of sections becomes more than what can be displayed along the top, information gets hard to find.  Couple that with the truncation of notebook names that occurs on the Notebook list on the left of the screen and navigating around with that many notebooks became very confusing very quickly.  And since I had so many notebooks, the names did not appear because they are too big - I would only get icons to differentiate the notebooks.
  4. It doesn’t help that the default notebook colors look very washed out and similar on an LCD monitor…
  5. I wish new pages were created at the top of a section so I would be able to tell where the new content was.  (This was bogus feedback - since most of my notebooks are shared, new content can appear anywhere.  There is a powertoy which helps with this.  I still wish we had that option for notebooks only I use).
  6. Tagging is excellent!
  7. Since we do not have an object model, perhaps we need to consider white box automation.  More on this to come…
  8. We need an object model.  In the best interest of Microsoft behavior, this was essentially given back to me with a comment "You're right.  Do something about it."  So we did.

 

The other thing I've noticed is that many of the problems that annoy me or anyone at Microsoft are just about exactly the same as what the computer populace as a whole point out.  For instance, I'm not the only person who wants new pages at the top.  Nani's tool really helps here, and it's nice to see I'm not completely off base with my thoughts on how OneNote should work.  This helps validate my scenario based testing.  It gives me an extra level of confidence that the tests I design for new features are an accurate method of the way in which people will use OneNote.  They reflect the real world use of OneNote and are not too focused on minimal path types of work flows.

 

Questions, comments, concerns and criticism always welcome,

John