7 days in App Store. We have some stats.

We are very exited about the release of Outline+. This is an amazing moment when you release the result of your 1.5-year work and it is met so well.

We have some numbers we are proud of. All data is for US App Store:

  1. Just after we released Outline+, it ate some fraction of downloads of the free version. Rating of Outline (free) was about 90-100 in Productivity Free category, now it is around 130. To compare, Microsoft OneNote Mobile for iPad has been around the 11th place in this category  for the last several months.
  2. The new app – Outline+  – was around the 40th place in Productivity Paid list in the first few days, now it is at 48th.
  3. The most interesting is Productivity Top Grossing list. We are in top 30 here! The top rating we had was 23, now it is 27th. To compare, Microsoft OneNote Mobile for iPad is at 65 place now. This means that with the significantly lower numbers of downloads (probably 10 times lower) we are significantly outselling them. The other encouraging thing is that we left behind such veterans as Awesome Note, 2Do and Things.



We are very thankful to our customers for the good feedback and the warm reviews. We continue working on the product and soon there will be a release with bug fixes (Chinese support!) and some new features that were most wanted (nested outlines support). We are also working on larger features such as SkyDrive support, inking and UI improvements. These should take some more time.

OneNote MX UI Review

OneNote MX Preview

Funny enough, OneNote has become the first app fully redesigned for Microsoft’s new Metro UI. It can be installed for free on Windows 8, which is also free while in preview status.

You can download Windows 8 from Microsoft website and install it as a virtual OS using free Oracle VM VirtualBox

Then you go to Store, type OneNote in Search (it opens when you move your mouse to right side of the screen) and download it.

OneNote MX first note

OneNote MX is…interesting! We can expect its interface will be a guideline for all future Windows 8 applications. Unlike OneNote 2013, which is just partly touch-optimized, the MX version goes an extra mile in making the old good OneNote finger-friendly. The core UI element is its radial menu. See that violet circle?

OneNote MX menu

This is a touch control that opens radial menu – totally new concept in OneNote. It previously has been seen only in Microsoft Labs prototype apps. So it seems MS took the plunge and decided to change the UI radically.

This button moves as you type. It is always at some short distance of the cursor at the right side of it (what about left handed people?)


OneNote MX menu

Radial menu is a context menu, so it looks different depending on a situation (selected object for instance). The image inside the violet circle also changes depending on what is selected.

OneNote MX radial menu

When you select entire outline (note container) the menu changes and looks like below.

OneNote MX radial menu

And if you select some text only the image inside the circle is different but options are still the same.OneNote MX radial menu

For table the options are different though.

OneNote MX radial menu

Not so many options for images…

OneNote MX radial menu

Same for drawings.

OneNote MX radial menu

The radial menu looks interesting when you choose font size:

OneNote MX radial menu

And just beautiful when you choose font color:

OneNote MX radial menu

However, changing fonts seems unfinished yet.

OneNote MX font select

There is a UX pattern OneNote 2010 users will have to learn after switching to OneNote MX. If you right-click on selected text, you will see the following black menu at the bottom of the app. We would expect that radial menu would popup as it behaves like a context menu, which is called by right click in desktop world.

OneNote MX bottom black menu

If you click on “Notebooks” menu item in this menu you are shown with a list of your notebooks and sections in the current notebook. The same happens if you click on “Quick Notes” in the left top corner.

OneNote MX sections

If you click/tap on a notebook you see some additional actions in the menu.

OneNote MX menu

By the way, here is how the corresponding screen (options of a notebook) looks in Outline 2.0

Outline 2.0 notebook options

Hierarchy of sections and section groups created in desktop version of OneNote is clear but no way to create groups of sections.

OneNote MX

Compare to OneNote 2013:

OneNote 2013 structure

In a nutshell, the new radial menu:

  • Looks cool and fresh
  • Doesn’t clutter the UI and fits the minimalistic concept of metro very well
  • Born for touch screens
  • Will take some time to get used to it
  • Logic of the Radial Menu can be improved. For instance, you will find alignment controls inside “Bullets” menu item and Font setting inside “Bold” menu item. The whole approach seems to be too simple (constraining) for the complex editing menu MS wants to fit into it.
  • Not optimized (yet?) for left-handed people.

OneNote 2013 In-depth Review

New Microsoft Office is on its way and now everyone can download Office 2013 Preview for free and use all features and all applications (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote etc) without any limits.

We do recommend you to try this new Office at least because of its new installation mechanism. Today you don’t have to download a huge installer, then wait for half an hour for installation to complete and fight weird error messages. Imagine you can get all Office apps running in a couple of minutes, error-free. Here is how:

1. Go to http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en

2. Click on any application (of course we clicked on OneNote).

3. Click Try it (or you can go directly to http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en/try-office-preview)

4. Click Try it on any version once again.

Now you can click Install if you have a 32-bit Windows. Microsoft does not detect your version of Windows (anyway it did not detect our Windows 7 64-bit) so if you are on 64-bit, click Language and install options and choose Office (64-bit). Otherwise it won’t install a 32-bit Office on a 64-bit machine.

After that you’ll download a very small file, which appears to be a launcher for installer. Office 2013 uses a new technology called Office on Demand, which makes it possible to start using Office in a few minutes while something is still still being downloaded and installed.

Office 2013 streaming application features

After few moments you will see a License screen. You don’t even have to read it:

Office 2013 License screen - installation

…Then you watch a short cartoon about the entire planet using new Office…

Office 2013 installation cartoon

…after which you can login to your windows Live account…

Office 2013 installation - sign in

…then select appearance for your Office. In fact that is the screen you can spend most of time on because you don’t understand immediately what it is and why. Importance of this option during setup is arguable.

Office 2013 installation

A couple of more screens to go through…

Office 2013 installation - skydrive


Office 2013 installation - getting ready

And finally you can start using Office while the installer finishes some downloads.

Office 2013 installation - wrapping up

In fact, integration with Microsoft online services and SkyDrive is very tight. SkyDrive is always the first option for saving files and your account is always shown in the top right corner, next to two emoticons, a sad and a happy one. They are buttons for sending good or bad feedback:

Office 2013 - feedback

So we are starting OneNote now. It catches all your existing notebooks that were last time opened in OneNote, the interface looks much cleaner but familiar, no need to become a switcher. The ribbon is still there, pages, sections and notebooks are in their old places.

OneNote 2013

There are two main changes. One is File menu. It is redesigned and now includes just one step for creating new files:

OneNote 2013 - new notebook

Compare with OneNote 2010:

OneNote 2010 - new notebook

There is a new Account tab where you can add your Flickr and Youtube as image sources.

OneNote 2013 - Account menu

However, when you add Flickr, it launches the authorization dialog in Internet Explorer… Other apps usually open Flickr authorization page in your favorite browser.

OneNote 2013 - Flickr add

The other big change is improved tables. Now you can convert your tables in OneNote to Excel format, sort data, and change shading for individual cells. Still no way to move columns.

OneNote 2013 - improved table

Adding pages is improved. In addition to the old Add Page button, you can now click anywhere between existing pages to insert a new page there.

OneNote 2013 - adding pages

What format does OneNote 2013 use? Right-click on a notebook, choose Properties and it’s good news – the format is called OneNote 2010-2013, which means there are no significant changes to file format and Outline will be compatible with OneNote 2013. We’ll dig deeper for full compatibility report later.

OneNote 2013 - notebook properties

One more significant change is touch mode. You start it by clicking a small arrow and selecting Touch mode. Looks like Outline logo! With this mode enabled, OneNote adds a little more spaces to buttons so that they are easier to press with a finger. At the same time it eats up some space on your touch-enabled device that is – let me guess – not so huge. All other elements like sections and pages keep their normal sizes so they don’t become any easier to touch. That reminds of old days when Microsoft made an attempt to switch from stylus interfaces on Windows Mobile Pocket PCs to finger-friendly screens. It worked fine for simple actions but here and there you opened menus with tiny controls that could only be pressed with a stylus.

OneNote 2013 - touch mode

In about an hour Office will finish installing and you can go offline.

Office 2013 - setup complete

Interesting that the Office logo is similar in color and perspective to Andrew Kim’s idea of MS rebranding and his ‘Slate’ shape from http://www.minimallyminimal.com/journal/2012/7/3/the-next-microsoft.html

Office logo

Overall we can see that OneNote 2013 sports mainly cosmetic changes and little improvements. We are sure we will discover some new handy additions as we use it everyday, and the new colors and shapes for sections and notebooks are sexy but the tables improvement could have been supplied as update for OneNote at an earlier point. We foresee a confusion between Office 365 and Office 2013 as well as between Metro interface and old desktop in Windows 8 – a number of people commenting first reviews of Office 2013 pointed that already. We hope that Microsoft will find a way to deal with that because all people want is just Outlook, OneNote or Word.

Outline 2.0 will be 3x faster

We made a short video testing a very large page from Wikipedia about New York City both in Outline 1.5 and Outline 2.0 (which will be released soon). We were surprised by results because Outline 2.0 loaded the complete page in about 4 seconds while it took 12 seconds for Outline 1.5! Comparing two Outlines side by side we could see that page rendering is not so perfect in 1.5 – you can see that content loads with some delay as you scroll the page. 

Please watch this video, it is super short and the music is super addictive!

OneNote Compatibility: Get Your Poker Face On

Just one example illustrating how difficult it is to support reading and writing to OneNote format. During beta-testing of Outline 2.0 we noticed one weird thing: some images inserted in Outline on iPad caused corrupted sections in OneNote, some not. It happened regardless of image format, dimensions, for small and large images. Or did not happen.

After trying to associate corrupted sections to lunar phases (what a miserable idea!) we looked at exact file sizes of images that we tried to insert. And we saw that if an image file size can be divided by 8, a page containing that image gets corrupted. Further investigation showed: when OneNote finds an image with file size dividable by 8, it compresses its ‘address’ within a file by dividing – bingo! – by 8.

Probably that must be a legacy of OneNote development in the 2000’s but anyway we can see a bit of double game here: from one side it keeps all changes and revisions while at the same time it tries to compress even such technical data as addresses of objects within a file.