Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Ok… so… this is where I’m at…

Sometimes being me can be difficult and frustrating.

Given the current state of consumer computing, finding a business solution for me and my needs at the office has been really difficult. As such, I’m finding myself stuck between a rock and hard place.

This area of no man’s land where I shuttle myself between two different ecosystems just to get critical work done is getting to be a pain. I honestly hate what’s going on, and I’ve got to come to some sort of resolution, soon, or I may just decide to pack it all in…

Problem:
Okokokok… so, my problem is that I’m a little OCD when it comes to meeting notes. I don’t like using a standard, paper note pad. In the past, I’ve misplaced them by either leaving them in a conference room, or have accidentally thrown them away or accidentally stuck them in a drawer or filing cabinet when trying to organize and straighten up either my home office or my desk at work.

A Rock…
As such, I made the switch to electronic notes. Originally, I chose Evernote, as it was available for Windows as well as Mac. Typed notes are great – and since I type 65 to 85 words a minute, I was able to keep up with the discussion. However, I got the ol’ stink-eye from a lot of other meeting attendees who complained that the noise from my notebook’s keyboard was distracting. So much for Evernote.

When TabletPC was popular between 2007 and 2010, I switched to OneNote and digital inking. It took me a while to OCR my handwriting, but there were ways around that. This lasted until the TabletPC died. I moved back to this solution when I had a Surface Pro and a Surface Pro 3.

With some of the issues I’ve been having with OneNote recently, continuing to use a Windows PC + Touch + OneNote combination has presented a number of different unresolvable challenges, especially when it comes to a Surface branded PC. They just don’t seem to be very reliable.

Some have asked why I have chosen to stick with a Surface branded PC, when something like a Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2 in 1 laptop would do the trick. Dell PC’s have their own issues, in my opinion, including the bundling of crapware and other undesirable software like MacAfee Live Safe. Removal of this software isn’t easy and takes a lot of time. Other Windows PC’s also have their own issues when it comes to drivers; and unfortunately, graphic drivers are always high on the hit list. I don’t know a Windows PC that doesn’t suffer from some sort of graphics driver gotcha.

A Hard Place
At this point, I know a bunch of you are trying to jump through your computers wanting to throttle me, saying, “you switched to an iPad Pro. Why are you still kvetching over this?!” and you’d be right.

I did switch about a year ago. The inking on an iPad Pro, especially with an Apple Pencil, solves all of my inking issues. So what’s all the hullaballoo about? That’s simple – OneNote for iOS.

OneNote for iOS doesn’t work ANYTHING like the desktop version of OneNote for Windows. It also doesn’t work anything like OneNote for macOS (but please, pleASE don’t get me started on a feature comparison between the Windows and macOS versions… you’re just gonna make me cry).

In short – OneNote for iOS is feature deprecated. The iOS version is missing features from both desktop versions; and the features that it does have, work somewhat differently than on either desktop side.

Because things work differently, you run into some serious synchronization bugs that make working with the software rather difficult.

For example, the iOS version of OneNote doesn’t allow you to insert meeting headers into any of your notes. (i.e. it won’t pull meeting information from your calendar and auto insert that into a note page via the Meeting Details button.

winonenote-00

Instead, you must do this on the Windows desktop side.

winonenote-01

When do you this, you MUST insure that you expand all of the collapsed links in the header that is inserted.

winonenote-02

They will appear auto expanded in OneNote for iOS. If you don’t do this, depending on how your handwritten notes are inked and where and how OneNote recognizes those ink strokes – as a contiguous flow of ink or as separate ink strokes – OneNote will move your inking down the page. It is possible, depending on how OneNote sees your ink that your hand written ink may get separated from the rest of your notes, thereby becoming illegible chicken scratch.

If your writing is recognized as continuous word objects, this won’t happen, but you won’t know this until you either try to select a block of ink and move it yourself, or until the header or other object from the desktop side gets inserted via sync from your desktop copy.

I’ve had this happen to me, and unfortunately, trying to piece things back together again is really difficult, and your notes end up ruined. I shouldn’t have to completely change the way I write just to make certain my digital inked notes synch correctly with all of the required meeting information.

Conclusion
I may be whining about this a bit, and I’m willing to accept that; but this is getting to be a little silly. There are three (3) different, disconnected teams writing OneNote software – the Desktop Windows Team, the macOS Team and the iOS Team. Why they are working on different feature sets? Why are feature basic sets deprecated between the three versions? Why are the teams working from appears to be a different vision for each version of the app on separate platforms? Shouldn’t this at least be unified? Shouldn’t this all be on the same page with the same feature sets?

Hint-hint… Bring the iOS, macOS and Android versions all up to feature parity with the Desktop Windows version of OneNote.

To be very honest, working with the iOS version of OneNote isn’t easy. The object selection tools are difficult to work with. Items often don’t get selected correctly, or fall off during a drag and drop and need to be reselected or grabbed again. Dragged objects or group of objects often don’t drop in the right place, and I end up arguing with OneNote for iOS on where and how objects get placed on a page.

Inking..? Oh yeah… it’s generally fine; but starting at the right point on the page so that when meeting information is inserted in the page there’s enough room for any collapsed text or graphics (whatever was in the body of the invitation when it was sent/ received) fits when it syncs over to the iOS version (and is auto expanded) without messing up any of your inking can be very challenging.

I find myself working around all of the issues more than actually getting any work done with OneNote for iOS.

…and THAT’S why I’m seriously considering a Windows touch device purchase.

I know right…?!

It seems crazy with all of the issues I’ve outlined above. However, in a Microsoft dominated and driven corporate world, what else am I supposed to do? Microsoft drives businesses. It drives industries. The entire world uses is office suite components. How do you switch to something else, when you need to integrate with other Office files? It seems a bit silly to switch to something else…some other kind of note taking tool at this point.

Where do you sit with all of this? Are you a OneNote user? Are you using OneNote for iOS? Do you use inking in OneNote on ANY platform? What has your experience been with it? I’d love to hear what you have to say; or if any of you have any recommendations for me. Why don’t you join me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts on all of this.

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Microsoft Releases OneNote for Mac

Microsoft formally responds to cross platform notes app challengers like Evernote.

OneNoteI’ve used Evernote for years. It really became popular in 2008-2009 when it released desktop and mobile device versions for most of the popular platforms of the day. Evernote came to the Mac in 2011.  Since then, they’ve been traveling at warp speed at the front of the cross-platform note taking app race. The strategy with them has been to give users one common place to collaborate with teammates and to hold their information. You can access your information from just about any device, on any platform anywhere.

Until the last few years, Microsoft’s been a bit absent from the party. OneNote was pretty good on a PC, but until recently, getting access to the information you may have stored there has been challenging.  OneNote for iOS solved some of those issues. Up until now, Office for Mac has been missing some big pieces – Access, Project, Publisher, and Visio are among those in the office that are still among the most missed.  However, Microsoft today removed OneNote from that list and has released OneNote for Mac.

Microsoft is rumored to be planning a new release of Office for Mac later this year. OneNote for Mac looks a LOT like its Windows counterpart, bringing UI standardization (within the suite at least) to the Mac version. It clearly makes you wonder if the new version of Office for Mac will share the same look and feel as its Windows counterpart, or if it will still have the standard Mac UI elements.  With all of the Office development teams now part of the same group (something that didn’t exist before – Microsoft had previously, purposefully from what my MS sources have said – put them in different groups with different goals and objectives), it’s clear that a standardized, cross-platform look and feel may actually be possible with this next release. It will also be interesting to know whether Microsoft makes OneNote for Mac part of the standard Mac Office install, or if they will make you download and install it separately.  We should know in a few months when the new version of Office for Mac is rumored to be released, nearly four years from its last update in 2010.

OneNote for Mac makes extensive use of Microsoft OneDrive. All versions of OneNote will be able to store notebooks there and sync them across all platforms, including OneNote for iOS. Users can also share notebooks with friends and coworkers, with near real time editing. This way, users will be able to share and collaborate with other remote users. Notes and notebooks will maintain a standardized look and feel regardless of what platform they are opened or edited on.

Are you interested in OneNote for Mac? Do you use OneNote on other platforms, or on an iOS device? Do you think it will become part of the standard Office for Mac install, or will it always be a separate app to install? Will the other missing Office apps – Access, Project, Publisher and Visio – be included with future Office for Mac updates or will the two suites forever be separate?  Why don’t you chime in in the discussion area and let me know what you think? I’d love to get your opinion on this, as Office has always been a favorite app suite and topic for me.

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11 must-have Android apps that are free and really cool

Watchdog Task Manager Lite – there is one thing people don’t know for sure about Android: it doesn’t need a task managers. We need to get ride of the mindset that killing off tasks is a good thing. Why? Because Android kernels have their own task manager and it should be left up to them to decide when to free up memory. What you really need is an app which monitors your device and when an application malfunctions and starts using all your CPU power (without a reason), to kill that single app. This is what Watchdog does and that’s all you really need.


Astro File Manager – this app allows you to manage files on your phone without the need for a PC. You can perform actions such as copy, paste, move, delete, open with other apps and create folders. Additionally, you can select multiple files to perform actions which is really useful sometimes.Talking about what’s oh-so-cool, this file manager has the ability to backup Android Apps to SD card and quite a few more nice features.


Beautiful Widgets – is one of the most popular standalone widgets for Android. Well, the Lite version sports less than half the features of the full version but still, it is better than most other free clock and weather widgets out there. Beautiful Widgets free comes with a total of six widgets. These include four Super Clock (weather and clock) widgets and two Weather widgets.


Backgrounds HD Wallpapers – is an app which helps you find amazing background wallpapers & contact themes.You can choice from a huge selection and great variety of high quality wallpaper. The only bad thing is that it takes a little while to change pages and load the images but still… I love it! Take a look through the categories (funny, cute, sunsets, cars, girly, games, sports, scary, music, movies, animals, etc) and find the right wallpaper for your smartphone, every time you get bored of the one which you have right now.


Launcher Pro – is a great alternative to your Android application launcher which adds some exciting features to your device such as 3-D app launcher, super-smooth screen switching, a suite of Sense UI-like widgets, a scrolling dock at the bottom of the screen, and much much more. I’ve been using it for the past few months and I have to say that I’ve never been this pleased with the smoothness of any other launcher. Simply fast & highly customizable.


Google Goggles – this app is really cool. Basically, it uses image recognition technology to recognize objects and return search results. You can use it to identify products, landmarks, artwork, and popular images found online. For example, while skimming through a magazine, you see the picture of an actress that you like but you can’t remember her name. Well, you can use Goggles to find her name. All you need is your phone to be equipped with an auto-focus camera.


ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner – I’ve been using this from the first day I bought my phone. You can use it to scan barcodes on CDs, books and so on, then look up prices and reviews. Also, with it, you’re at liberty to scan QR codes to download apps, add a contact to your phone or jump to a Web link such as Youtube or any other without having to write the link in your Android browser.


handyCalc Calculator – is by far one of the best calculator you can find on the Android Market and much better than the one that comes with your device. Do you need to perform complex mathematical equations or functions ? Well, you can do them all. My only complains is that the buttons are a little too small and sometimes they are not that easy to hit. Oh, one more thing, the app also has some other capabilities like currency and unit converter.


Evernote – is probably the best cloud-based app you can find to helps you remember things across all of the devices you use. Use it to take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders–and makes these notes completely searchable, whether you are at home, at work, or on the go.


mVideoPlayer – is what I personally use as a video player replacement for my Android-powered phone. It has a lot of useful and handy features and a nice and clean interface. Perfect if your watching movie on your phone or video podcast! It will play mkv, avi, mp4, m4v and 3gp files and will also add a subtitle track if there is one with the same name as the video file itself. One thing that I like quite the most is that mVideoPlayer remembers the moment you stopped watching a video file and also that you can gesture seek forwards and backwards while watching.


Titanium Backup – I like to try all sorts of Android ROMs. Cyanogen, MIUI, Darky’s rom, you name them. Well, all cool but every time I had to reinstall my apps which is quite annoying.. Well, thanks Titanium Backup, there is no need to do this anymore. You can use this app to backup system and paid apps as well as their associated data, plus all your non-market installed apps. So, for example, Inotia3 (the cool RPG game) saves the game progress in a system directory which you can’t backup when you decide to upgrade your firmware or try other ROM. Well, thanks to this app, you can backup the game + the associated data (Savegames) and restore everything back when you’re done. Drawbacks? Well, there is one: your phone must be rooted.


That’s all for now but I still have many other great apps in mind. If you’re interested, check back later please because I’ll update this article with them.

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