What’s next for Microsoft Sticky Notes?

The desktop version of Windows has included Sticky Notes for a while; the Tablet PC edition of Windows XP included a Sticky Notes application, Vista included a Sticky Notes gadget, and then Windows 7 introduced the Sticky Notes app that most people are familiar with. This version was also included with Windows 8, 8.1 and the first version of Windows 10.

The Windows 10 Anniversary Update featured a number of improvements with the Windows Ink Workspace. One of the new features included was an updated Sticky Notes app, now rebuilt for the Windows Store and upgraded with ink and some basic integration with Cortana and Bing.

It’s worth mentioning that some users of the original Windows 10 Sticky Notes may have been a bit grumpy as the new app didn’t migrate notes properly. It also uses different fonts and generally behaves differently to the previous version. Overall, this upgrade wasn’t completely welcome to existing users and therefore the app store ratings are fairly low (1.8 out of 5 at time of writing).

sticky

I used the original Sticky Notes occasionally, but after the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, it became a bit of a curiosity of mine and I’ve been wondering what future it has in store for this kind of short term digital note taking.

Right now, the features are as follows:

  • Create Sticky Notes – A simple and smart design that makes capturing all your notes – small and big – easy, quick and fun.
  • One click access – Access your Sticky Notes with just a click of your Surface Pen to bring up the Windows 10 Ink Workspace.
  • Type or write, the choice is yours – Use your Surface Pen with Sticky Notes to capture your ideas in your very own handwriting or if you prefer to type, tap away.
  • Create Cortana Reminders – Never forget a note again with Cortana. Simply jot down a time or date with your note and it will be highlighted. You can then tap on it to create a Cortana reminder.
  • Added intelligence – Get to where you need to go with one click. Sticky Notes detects addresses, emails and cell numbers so all you have to do is tap the highlighted text to open Maps, Mail or Skype.
  • Track your flights & stocks – Keep an eye on an upcoming flight or stock option by typing a flight No. or stock ticker with ‘$’ at the front. Bing then delivers the information you need to your note.

Something new is coming…

Recently, the development of the Sticky Notes application has moved into a new Notes team over at Microsoft. According to the Microsoft Careers website, the Notes Team has been founded by some of the creators of OneNote and Wunderlist, and they are working on a new service to power new mobile apps and a web experience.

The Notes team also seems to be on GitHub, which makes me wonder if they’ll be open sourcing any of their next generation app.

By the sounds of it, their focus is on short-term note taking. I’m thinking this is just a continuation of Sticky Notes up in to the cloud and mobile devices.

Hopefully, this new Sticky Notes will bring some of the following features I’d be interested in seeing:

  • Synchronisation across machines
  • Mobile apps (including Windows 10 Mobile)
  • Move a note into OneNote or Wunderlist
  • Integration with other upcoming productivity offerings

As well as a next generation of Sticky Notes, I’d be interested to how it all fits together with Microsoft’s next generation to-do app (Project Cheshire?) and their upcoming universal clipboard / collection app (Cache?).

Keep in mind all of this is yet-unreleased and speculative. I get the feeling that Microsoft is trying a lot of different things in an effort re-enforce their desire to be known as the productivity company.

Using Windows 7

I have used Windows 7 since the early betas, as is always the case with new Windows releases – I was very interested in what new features were coming. Over the years I’ve come to rely on these features quite heavily, and like millions of other people I’m currently use it as my primary operating system.

My use of Windows 7 has changed quite a lot over the years – from simply changing themes to using totally different applications. But as Windows 7 is coming to the end of its life (for me anyway) I’m interested to see how my computer usage will change and evolve when Windows 8 takes over as my primary operating system.

So I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on how I’m using Windows on my MacBook today…

I like to keep things simple, a trend that will no doubt continue to Windows 8. As part of this I usually keep the number of applications I pin to the taskbar to absolute minimum. On my home computer this is PowerShell, Outlook and OneNote.

In the notification area I tend to have only power, networking, and volume icons, as well as the awesome Process Explorer. This is pretty much all I want to see down there, and everything else gets hidden away. (Remember when we couldn’t hide stuff down there? Ugh!)

Because this is a laptop, I tend to run a lot of my programs either maximised or side-by-side using Aero Snap. This is by far one of my favourite features in Windows 7, and I use it all the time. Just grab the title bar of any window and drag it to the top, left or right of the screen to snap the window into place.

Windows itself is just the shell that works around the applications, and right now the applications I tend to use the most (other than the web browser) are:

  • PowerShell
  • Office
  • Visual Studio
  • Expression Studio
  • WebMatrix
  • Windows Live Essentials
  • Zune
  • WorldWide Telescope

All of these applications are made by the same company as the operating system they are running on, so you’d think that they’d all behave exactly the same. This is not the case – each one tends to have its own UX and personality. Something that’s probably going to change in Windows 8 thanks to the advent of the Metro design language.

There are plenty of other smaller applications that I also use, including (but not limited to):

  • Paint.NET
  • EOS Utility
  • FileZilla
  • Flux
  • KatMouse

Oh and as for the browser? My current choice is actually Google Chrome. Mostly because of the spell checking functionality. I’ve used Internet Explorer 10 pretty extensively on the preview versions of Windows 8 and I quite like it, so the chances are I’ll probably move back to IE when it comes out at the end of the year.

Finally I also spend a large amount of time in PowerShell console windows. I have a lot of applications and scripts that I use in this environment, and I’m really hoping we get some kind of full screen Metro treatment to PowerShell – until then I’m probably going to have to use the Desktop to run these kinds of apps.

Windows 8 will definitely let me work in exactly the same way I do today – you can get access to all of the desktop and features of Windows 7 (with more stuff) so there’s no doubt about that. But will things change?

Eventually Metro-style applications will take over from the desktop applications we are using today. It just might take a while.

Still Missing in Task Managment for Windows Phone Mango

So a while ago I wrote about some exciting additions to task management in Windows Phone Mango, and I thought I’d touch on what I still think is missing.

OneNote

OneNote for Windows Phone is pretty good and I use it all the time, I especially like the fact that To Do tags can be shown in notes.

But unfortunately other types of tags that you can add in OneNote for the PC still don’t turn up. They do turn up on the web client though. The same happens with tables and ink and other formatting.

Also you still can’t pin a section to the home screen, but you can pin a notebook or a shortcut to creating a new note.

Tasks

Tasks in Windows Phone Mango are great, and even support different exchange accounts with highlight colours that match the calendar…

But tasks are hidden away inside the Calendar app. I’d much prefer to be able to pin the tasks directly to the home screen, with a count of tasks due. I’d also like to see a way of pinning ‘new task’ much like you can pin a ‘new note’ in OneNote – unfortunately this hasn’t been implemented in the current release of Windows Phone.

What else is missing

On the topic of being unable to pin things – here’s a selection of things that I’d like to see pinnable in future versions:

  • Wireless Settings (on and off)
  • Flightmode Settings (on and off)
  • Blueooth Settings (on and off)
  • Task List
  • Individual Tasks
  • New Outlook Task
  • A OneNote Notebook Section
  • Individual Pictures (you can pin an album though)
  • Individual Calendars

While this is not a list of everything anyone could possibly want to pin (I’m sure there are lots) these are just the things I’d like to be able to pin today.

Note Taking in Windows Phone Mango

One of the nice new features in OneNote for Windows Phone Mango is the ability to pin a ‘new note’ tile to the start screen. I absolutely love this feature, and I don’t remember reading about this anywhere else – so it was a bit of a surprise. When you tap on this tile you are taken to a brand new note inside your default OneNote location. For me this is synchronised with SkyDrive and is accessible from my any of my other computers. Very handy for capturing information when on the move.

Another new addition when it comes to pinning, is the ability to pin a whole OneNote notebook. Currently missing (in this build) is the ability to pin a OneNote section.

When you tap on the notebook tile you’re taken directly into the list of sections just as expected. Here you can make sure you have the latest changes from SkyDrive or pick your default location for new notes.

Once you are inside a section you can see the pages. Above you can see a few of my pages are actually nested. I don’t recall seeing the nesting like this on the previous version of Windows Phone – but it might have been there!

Once you’re actually editing a page you can now create to-do items which can be ticked off. This mirrors the functionality on the desktop version of OneNote. I’m pretty sure this feature was actually available in OneNote for the older Windows Mobile 6 operating system, so I don’t know why it wasn’t in the initial release of Windows Phone 7. I actually use these to-do widgets for simple project management, so I’m very pleased to have the feature back.

Finally, as in the previous version of Windows Phone, you can also pin a note itself directly on the start screen. All of the OneNote tiles now match the colour of the icon on the desktop version of the product, unlike the ‘Office orange’ that was used last time.