Cool Stuff

Getting organized in a digital age

I’ve always been a visual learner. Couple that with a diminished capacity to remember anything other than which son likes cheese and which prefers vanilla yogurt over blueberry, and I tend to forget anything that I haven’t written down. Hearing it isn’t enough, I need to see the words to take it in. Better yet, see the words and visualize the scenario or object in my head – then it’s in the vault.

For years I carried around paper notebooks of various sizes and shapes. These helped me remember things, although having to flip through them to refer back to the details I had written was always bothersome. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I left Microsoft and started my new job with Compugen that I fully embraced a digital solution. Sure, I had dabbled in OneNote while at Microsoft but I never gotten into it for my own personal day to day work.

However, in my new role I attend a lot of meetings. A *lot* of meetings. Many of these are customer meetings and so I quickly adopted OneNote as my go to tool for keeping track of who attended, which customer it was about and the salient points for later recall. And from there, I started adding to and organizing my digital notebook into something that makes sense and works really well for me.

So now I’m a OneNote junkie who can’t function without it. I live in it every day. However, whenever I’ve espoused the wonders of OneNote to others in the past, I’ve always been aware that there are free tools like Evernote that do an ok job too. They may not be as feature rich as OneNote, but hey they’re free – that’s hard to compete with. Until now!

This week, Microsoft made a few exciting announcements:

  1. OneNote is now a free download – yay!
  2. OneNote is now available for the Mac. So now it doesn’t matter if you are on a PC, Mac, Windows tablet, Windows phone, iPad, iPhone, Android or using a web browser. You can use OneNote and each device will always be in sync.
  3. There is a cloud API for OneNote which means that OneNote apps can be created in the cloud, compared to add-ins which are installed and used locally on each OneNote installation.

If you’re looking to try it out or you’re already using OneNote and would like some ideas of how to use it better, I’ll share how I do it. This may not be the best method for everyone but it definately keeps me sane.

I keep one notebook for work and one for personal activities (vacation planning, shopping lists, volunteer work, etc.) and save both to OneDrive so that I can access them from anywhere. I’ve organized my work one by types of meetings – customer meetings, 1:1 meetings with my manager, meetings with partners, etc., and activities – event notes, blog ideas, etc. Below is a screen shot of my Compugen notebook opened to the Blog tab, where I jot down and develop ideas to write about on the corporate blog (click for larger image).

Screenshot of my OneNote workbook

Along the right hand side are the titles of each idea, but also there is a Submitted page, with several blog idea pages as subpages under it.  I can show or hide subpages as needed. On my customer tab (which I can’t post here for obvious reasons!), this allows me to have a main page for each customer with sub-pages organized by date underneath for each meeting or conversation about that customer.

One more thing I have to show you. For any free form folks reading this, OneNote also works great with a stylus. Here is an example of an intense brainstorming team meeting I participated in. As most doodlers know, far from being distracting, doodling can help focus concentration and increase retention so every once in a while, I break out my stylus and go to town!

OneNote Doodle

Any other OneNote aficionados out there that would like to share how they use it? I’d love to hear your methods, tips or tricks.

Shiny new toy–Nokia Lumia 900

Not too long ago, I wrote about the unboxing of my Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone. I was fairly impressed with it at the time, however, since then it’s been sitting on my desk unused. Why? Partly because it requires a micro SIM to use and I hadn’t gotten around to getting one. But a lot of the functionality is still usable without the SIM card as long as wifi is available, so that wasn’t entirely the reason. I still think it’s a sleek looking phone, but there isn’t enough compellingly different about the experience of using it to make me want to switch from my trusty Samsung Focus.

However, recently each Microsoft Canada employee was given a Nokia Lumia 900 and I am totally thrilled with it. It doesn’t hurt that it came with a pre-configured micro SIM so I could activate and use it almost immediately. But it’s also bigger than either the 800 or the Focus and as you can see from the photo below, the screen size (outlined in orange on each phone) is quite a bit larger and the colours are much more vibrant.


Now that I’ve started using it, I’ve found that the unmarked buttons along the side that I wasn’t sure about in my unboxing post are actually very well designed. Unlike the Focus which has buttons on both sides of the phone, the Nokia phones only have them on one side. Which means that once I figure out that the volume is at the top, the power is in the middle and the camera is on the bottom, it’s simple to remember as I don’t have to also remember which side they’re on. I didn’t realize how often I was getting the buttons on the Focus mixed up until I started using the Lumia.

One downside however, is that the larger form factor doesn’t fit in my purse pocket as well. The upside…I now have a good excuse to go buy a new purse!


The dishes are dirty but that’s okay, I’m rediscovering my passion

Over the years, being a wife, running a business, dealing with infertility, giving birth (finally!) and now trying to be an attentive mother while keeping up with a demanding job have left me feeling like I’ve lost touch with myself a bit. I’ve been trying to regain that creative side of myself which has long been neglected and regulated to the back shelf while life was too crazy. I set up my craft table in the basement and have started painting again (perhaps I’ll post pictures later of some of my projects) but my desire has always been to marry my 2 loves – technology and art.

I’ve played around with using PowerPoint to draw with and have done a few things which I’ve incorporated into my work at Microsoft:

thankyou4          thoushalt

But PowerPoint, while great for some things, is woefully inadequate for what I need to satisfy my creative itch. So today I downloaded GIMP – the GNU Image Manipulation Program. The first thing I worked on was a new logo for this blog:


I’ll likely change it several times as it’s a good simple project to work on while I get familiar with the tools. Although I’m using a tablet computer (a Lenovo X201) and a stylus, my lines look pretty shaky. I almost feel like I have to learn how to draw all over again. But I’m loving it!

So now when the dishes are sitting dirty in the sink and John has had to reheat leftovers for him and the boys yet again, I can show him my screen and say, “But, look what I drew!”.


Unboxing my Nokia Lumina 800 Windows phone

One of the great perks to my job is all the cool toys I get to play with. This week I was given one of the new Nokia phones running Windows Phone 7. It won’t be my main phone since it’s actually a European phone and my SIM card won’t work in it. But I’ll use it to show off Windows Phone on a Nokia device when I’m out and about and have access to wireless Internet. For my everyday phone, I have a Samsung Focus also running Windows Phone 7 which I love.

The Nokia is quite nice. I would have liked to have gotten one of the cyan blue ones, but beggars can’t be choosers, so basic black it is.




Nice box. Oooooo.








Opening the box. Aaaaaaaah.








Feels good in my hand. It has a nice weight to it even though it feels slightly heavier than my Samsung.










Shiny and smooth. Nice.

But they used the same types of buttons as the Samsung. That’s the one thing I’d change and was hoping manufacturers wouldn’t implement in future versions of Windows Phones. It’s too easy to accidently brush your finger over one of the buttons and find yourself back on the home page or staring at the Bing search field. Guess they didn’t get my memo.




It’s got really nice lines, although none of the buttons on the side aren’t marked. I have a hard time not hitting wrong buttons on my Samsung and they have distinguishing markings. Hmmm…perhaps I should look at the markings more often and then I wouldn’t hit the wrong buttons. With the Nokia though it’ll be the device’s fault, not mine. Smile





The accessories. It’s a European phone so hence the European power plug.










A rubber sheath to keep my new toy looking shiny for longer and to help me keep a grip on it. I like.









My new phone in it’s new rubber clothes.











Sleek new phone + sleek phone OS = awesome

Can’t wait to show it off.

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