Wednesday, 19 January 2011 09:14

Microsoft brings OneNote to iPhone


As much as Microsoft would like everyone to have a Windows Phone 7 handset, it realises a lot of people have chosen the iPhone. The company's latest app for Apple's mobile devices is a mobile version of OneNote.

OneNote isn't the most widely used component of Microsoft Office even though it is part of all three versions of Office 2010. But by and large, those who do use it seem to love the program for taking and organising notes, lists and other types of unstructured data.


One of the important features of OneNote 2010 is its ability to synchronise via Windows Live SkyDrive with copies running on other computers, the OneNote Web App, or OneNote Mobile on Windows Mobile smartphones (including Windows Phone 7).

What's been missing is an iPhone/iPad version. Microsoft has this week plugged that gap with the (initially) free OneNote app. It also runs on the iPod touch, but at this stage appears to be available only in the US App Store.

Features include creating lists with bullets or checkboxes, adding photos directly from the iPhone camera or from the album, and synchronisation via Windows Live.

There are some limitations. According to Microsoft officials, creation of new notebooks and the reorganisation of a notebook's contents must be done in OneNote 2010 or the Web App. And judging by early comments from users, OneNote hasn't been optimised for use on the iPad.

There's an initial fly in the ointment - see page two.

Another issue raised by several users is the '400' error when trying to log in to Windows Live. According to OneNote program manager Daniel Escapa, "the underlying cause is an intermittent issue, due to overwhelming interest in the app." The OneNote team is working on an update, he said, but gave no indication of timing. The workaround is to keep trying to sign in until you're successful.

Some commenters have questioned why a Windows Live account is necessary to use the program, but synchronisation is a central feature of the app. If you want a standalone note taker, there are alternatives.

These two issues help account for the extreme polarisation of customer ratings at the App Store. At the time of writing, 78 people had rated OneNote, 38 giving it five stars and 26 giving it one star.

Questions remaining include when will Microsoft make the app available in the rest of the world (probably not until the login problem is fixed), how much will it cost after the introductory "free for a limited time" offer ends, and is an Android version under development (probably not, but you never know)?


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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