Project Austin's Windows 8 app takes notes from Courier

The Microsoft Visual C++ team has built a Windows 8 app that takes much of its inspiration and code from Redmond's never-realized Courier dual-screen tablet.

Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
Mary Jo Foley
2 min read
Microsoft Project Austin note-taking app for Windows 8
In Microsoft's Project Austin app for Windows 8, pages cast shadows on the background. Microsoft

A group inside Microsoft's C++ team has developed a digital note-taking application for Windows 8 that is codenamed "Project Austin."

The app allows users to add pages to a notebook, delete or move them, use digital ink to write or draw and add photos. Notes created in Austin can be shared with other Windows 8 apps, like e-mail and SkyDrive. Users can choose different types of "paper" and view the pages in a variety of ways, including leafing through them like a real paper book.

The Austin team wasn't trying to compete with Microsoft's more robust OneNote digital note-taking app, according to a September 20 post on the Visual C++ team blog about the new app. But they did take "much of the inspiration and code" from Courier, Microsoft's cancelled, dual-screen note-taking tablet.

"We believe in the beautiful simplicity of just a pen and a piece of paper, and that's what we tried to recreate with it. Much of the inspiration and code for the Austin app draws from an earlier project code-named Courier," blogged Visual C++ developer Jorge Pereira.

Courier was a Microsoft-developed dual-screen tablet that never made it out of incubation. It was shelved before it ever came to market back in 2010.

See also:
The inside story of how Microsoft killed its Courier tablet
How Windows 8 KO'd the innovative Courier tablet

Microsoft Project Austin note-taking app for Windows 8
Backyard landscaping a la Project Austin. Microsoft

The real reason behind the development of Austin wasn't so much to resurrect Courier as it was to showcase C++ and Visual Studio 2012 features like automatic code vectorization and C++ AMP, its built in parallel-computing technology, Pereira said.

"Austin aims to demonstrate with real code the kind of device-optimized, fluid and responsive user experience that can be built with our newest native tools on the Windows8 platform," he wrote.

The Austin team is making the majority of its source code available for download via CodePlex. The team also is planning to continue a series of blog posts about how they built Austin. Austin is built mostly on C++, and also uses C++/CX to interface with the Windows Runtime and XAML to display some user interface elements, according to the post. The graphics engine is built on DirectX.

Austin's code is structured with common functions grouped in a library, which the team has codenamed "Baja," inspired by modern modularity design principles.

There's no word in the post, designated part one of six, about when and if the team plans to make its app available in the Windows Store. If I get more information, I'll add it to this post.

(Thanks to @gregcons for tweeting the link to the Austin post.)

This story originally appeared at ZDNet under the headline "Microsoft Project Austin: A new Windows 8 note-taking app inspired by Courier.