OneNote - get your shareware copy free? Surely Microsoft doesn't mean that ...

by Guy Kewney | posted on 30 June 2004

A new version of OneNote is due out July. Probably. You can download the "preview version" now, free. It tracks meetings, text, voice and (now) video too. Free, huh ... so will it time out when the final version is available?

Guy Kewney

Well, now, that's a good question!

OneNote is the ideal reporters' tool. That is to say, anybody with a mobile PC, but especially anybody with a Tablet PC, should have a copy. According to the New York Times IT maven, John Markoff, it's a product he defined for Microsoft and it's easy to believe that.

What it does for him, it can also do for the folk who have to keep minutes for a meeting. Why? Because it records the audio - and links it to the text. Type, or write, and your notes will create an index. Click on a word, and the audio will start playing from the point where you made those notes.

And now, with the release of Service Pack 1, it will play the video, too. Also, it will import any audio notes you made on your Windows Mobile Smartphone, or Pocket PC.

The trouble is, the phrase "service pack" implies a download of some patches; and SP1 isn't that. It's the complete product. Well, the preview is.

Check out the download details. It looks (I told the Microsoft marcomms rep) like you can download it, and as long as you can live with some of the "issues" surrounding it, you can probably use it indefinitely. There's nothing on the page saying: "Times out after two weeks" or "Valid until 2005" or anything like that.

What it says is: "If OneNote 2003 is currently installed, then after you try this Preview, you must have your original OneNote 2003 product CD if you want to install the OneNote 2003 SP1 Final Release - available later in 2004."

At that time, it warns, "you would need to uninstall the SP1 Preview, reinstall OneNote 2003 using your product CD, and then download the final OneNote 2003 SP1 patch."

But then it adds, cryptically: "Please note that the product CD is not necessary to install this Preview."

Playing with the SP1 variant here at TechEd, it appears to work. I don't have my Tablet here with me - my Viewsonic Tablet Edition PC is a pure slate, and for this job, I need a fast keyboard. But it's not a catch; the product is in good enough condition to try out.

So is Microsoft seeding the market with a freeware version? "I'll get back to you on that."

I'd advise you to download the preview version. It's not huge, and it appears to be fully functional. I don't think it times out.

But then again it's worth reminding you: when Microsoft announced Small Business Server 2003 late last year, it was the full release product, not a temporary eval version. And that timed out. It was not meant to, but it did. So, is this version going to time out?

Good question. I'll tell you when I know the answer ...

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