I just read a very interesting article in Chris Pratley‘s OneNote blog, titled OneNote Shared Sessions. Although I’ve been using OneNote for a long time (and lately even more on my Motion Computing M1400 Tablet PC), I had never had a close look at that feature.
Now I tried it, I find it fantastic! Not only does it simply work very well, it’s really easy to use (there’s a nice introduction at OneNoteAnswers) and it tries to be easily compatible with your network setup by using only one UDP port that can be fixed or changed through the options dialog. A fantastic accomplishment for a piece of Microsoft software! Performance seems to be absolutely acceptable, I tried it with three systems on a local network, two of which use WLAN, and also through a VPN tunnel over the internet.
I found two usage issues while playing around with it that one should be aware of:
- When systems (or users) join a shared session, they get a copy of the shared pages created in their own notebooks. Under specific circumstances it’s obviously possible that the page is already on that system, like from an earlier session. In this case OneNote creates an additional copy of the page, which even has the exact same name and creation timestamp as the first copy. I find it hard to think of a much better solution, but still the user has to work out which page is which and where the various copies came from. Maybe using an additional copy timestamp would have been a solution?
- When using Ink (also from non-tablet system) to draw into or over text fields, like when using a markup pen, the ink strokes don’t always have the exact same location, relative to the text, as they have on the other systems. So marking up some text to say “look here, that’s what I mean” is virtually impossible.
Update: Chris Pratley commented on my comment regarding the second issue and he’s right, of course: Using the separate text highlighting function, there’s no problem. I was missing that because I work with the pen most often 🙂