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.

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