Microsoft says 30,000 line up for OneNote beta

Microsoft said Tuesday that more than 30,000 people have signed up to test its forthcoming OneNote application when the final beta is released later this month.

The application, which aims to create a digital equivalent of a notepad and paper, was first shown in November and is due to ship mid-year as one of two new members in Microsoft's Office family of products.

With OneNote users can type or enter handwritten notes anywhere on a page, making document creation a less structured affair than with Microsoft Word. Users can also drag images or graphs onto a page and attach audio clips to their notes.

Information is saved automatically when it is entered, and notes can be organized using a 'tab' filing system. Searching for information in OneNote files is also supposed to be easier than with other applications, according to Microsoft.

Attracting 30,000 potential beta testers in four months shows how appealing the idea of a digital notepad is to users, according to Roan Kang, OneNote product manager. A notice about the program was posted on Microsoft's Web site in November.

One analyst said it's important for Microsoft that the application proves inspiring to users. It's being released along with an upgrade to Microsoft Office, code named Office 11, and users typically don't flock to an Office upgrade unless it's accompanied by a new operating system release, which will not be the case this time, said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group.

"People don't like to move to a new Office suite that's not tied to an OS release, those suites tend not to do so well. So Microsoft needs to put a lot of stuff in (Office 11) to make it compelling for people to move to," he said.

Also new to Office will be InfoPath, formerly known as XDocs, an application that allows users to save information in XML format so that it can be read by back end business applications.

As many people can take part in the OneNote beta program as want to, Kang said. Users will need a PC with Windows 2000 or a later version of operating system, the company said.

More information about OneNote and the beta program is at http://www.microsoft.com/office/onenote/default.asp.

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