Microsoft Office OneNote 2003

Microsoft Office OneNote 2003

According to Microsoft, more than 90 percent of all American adults take notes regularly. Of course, most of those note-takers simply scribble thoughts on Post-its and have no real need for digital assistance. But journalists, personal assistants, attorneys, students, and researchers could probably use a hearty note-taking application to make the process faster, more accurate, and better organized. Also, the cursively challenged would welcome a way to transcribe and share tidy, organized, legible notes.

Enter OneNote, one of the first programs we've seen that lets you write, record, and edit notes in a single interface. Sound like a dream app? If you'd like to find out for yourself, you can. Microsoft just released the second beta of this new, standalone app along with its beta of Microsoft Office 2003. Even if you're not an authorized beta tester, you can pay a few shipping fees to get a beta kit. (Before you do, however, remember that CNET doesn't recommend installing beta software, particularly without backing up your system. Do so at your own risk.) We've taken OneNote out for a test-run already, and based on our limited experience, OneNote gets and A for concept, and a C for execution. Microsoft needs to greatly simplify this app for the final release, so OneNote has a chance to be as indispensable to note-takers as Microsoft Word is to just about everyone.

A cool concept
The main screen has a familiar look; it sports many of the same menus and keyboard shortcuts as Microsoft Office apps. Unlike any of Microsoft's other apps, however, OneNote feels more like a word processor mixed with a design program--imagine an older version of Photoshop mated with Microsoft Word. Clicking anywhere on the screen, for instance, creates a blue box (similar to a text or picture box in a design program) wherein you can type, draw a chart, or scrawl a note. As you write, and afterwards, you can edit and format your work to your heart's content. To take handwritten notes, just use a pen or a mouse or a Wacom tablet and stylus. Tablet PC users don't need any extra equipment; OneNote is optimized for that platform.

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