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Crafting the Digital Notebook Experience: Can Microsoft and Apple Work in Harmony?

Over the years I have loved my pen and notebook. From my days at the university, I have been prolific note taker. I love the process of taking notes. But, taking notes is only one part of my daily routine. I also need to retrieve information that I have written. That’s a whole different story!

I have cataloged my notes in date sequence. To find the notes for a particular meeting I would go to my calendar, find the date of the meeting quickly to get the notes for that date. Still, I would not be able to search the notes unless I manually retyped the notes in applications like Microsoft OneNote or other note taking software. This was a cumbersome process of taking notes and then retyping them again just to have the search function work on them.

Being a tech addict, I have been searching for the replacement of the pen and notebook since the first palm pilot with its pen. Of course the palm pilot had me relearn how I scripted the alphabet. It was good for contacts but not good for note taking.

The advent of the first iPad and the stylus was cause of great excitement, finally a digital notebook would be a reality. Much to my disappointment though, the stylus experience was a disaster. You had to hold it in an unnatural way. Your hand couldn’t touch the iPad. You had to download apps that had their own document storage and format like Penultimate. You could not draw in Microsoft OneNote on the iPad and therefore could only type your notes and not use the stylus to enter them.

A Better Writing Experience
Soon after the original iPad, iPad 2 came along with the same experience. Every year the new release of iPad would bring up the question would I be able to replace the notebook with a digital notebook. iPad3, iPad air followed with no luck. Finally last year I started to read about the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. Early reviews promised a better experience. Would this be the era of a true digital notebook.

In December last year I got an IPad Pro. The size was really big. After being used to the size of other iPads, the iPad Pro size was intimidating. Luckily the iPad Pro for its size was thin and light. The size of the device made it bigger than a letter pad. The device  begged the question would this be convenient to take into meetings? I soon ordered the Apple Pencil. Much to my disappointment it was on back order and it took 4 weeks to get delivered.

Last week the Apple pencil finally arrived! I opened the package with great expectations. The packaging was simple. The Apple Pencil was easy to pair with my iPad Pro. I looked for applications that would allow me to use the stylus.In parallel I had read that Microsoft had finally updated their Microsoft OneNote app to be able to use the stylus across all iPads.

Handwriting Recognized
I opened up Microsoft OneNote. I started writing like I would naturally write, part of my hand resting on the iPad. I had quickly written a page quickly. The experience was natural. I stored the document as a new notebook. I used the draw function to erase words that I had written in error. I highlighted important part of my notes. The page looked better than most of my notes that I had taken with a normal pen and paper. Microsoft OneNote stores all the notebooks on the cloud. It synchronizes the notebook as I was writing. After finishing my notes I quit the application.

To test the retrieve feature I went back to my OneNote notebook. The Notebook had my handwritten pages and other electronic pages. I went to the search function and typed the words that I had highlighted to search for them. To my surprise not only did it take me to the page but it was able to recognize my handwriting and took me to the highlighted word.

A Powerful Digital Notebook
A successful digital notebook experience relies on both input as well as the ability to retrieve information. This perfect marriage between Microsoft and Apple created a compelling experience that can potentially have me keep my “real” notebook at home.

Now that I had a great experience, I am now trying to figure out how to carry my Apple Pencil with me like a pen. It is difficult as the pencil does not have a clip. I had to order a special cover which I can use to store my Apple pencil. I am also concerned about battery life of my pencil and iPad pro.

This is my first week without my notebook. I am getting used the experience. I will write and tell you if I survive the honeymoon phase and make this digital notebook (marriage of Microsoft and Apple) part of my everyday routine.


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Nagaraja Srivatsan
Nagaraja Srivatsan is Senior Vice President, Venture partner, Cognizant a leading provider of information technology, business consulting, enterprise applications and business process services.

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