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What OneNote's Math and Replay features say about the spotty state of Windows Ink

Mark Hachman | Oct. 26, 2016
Windows Ink is a great idea struggling with the realities of handwriting recognition and data wrangling.

3. The FluidMath Windows 10 app ($14.99 for one year) is what OneNote Math should be: FluidMath supports digital inking and seems to do a better job than OneNote at interpreting your jottings (though it’s still finicky). Like Nebo, FluidMath shows you what it’s “seeing” as you’re inking it.

fluidmath

FluidMath’s ink interpretation isn’t great, either, but the app is simple and relatively easy to use.

A few things I particularly like about FluidMath: It considers all of the equations on the page, so you can ink a series of linear equations with, say, three variables. At the end, you can ink a solution set and it will fill in the answers. Alternatively, you can also ink an equation—then with a gesture, graph it. Finally, I like FluidMath’s liberal trialware system: While you only get a few minutes to try it (and it erases your work when the trial expires), you can open it up again and ink another equation. 

4. Finally, there’s an oldie-but-goodie: Microsoft Mathematics. Dating from the Windows 7 days and boasting a nostalgic Windows CE-style interface, Microsoft Mathematics seems perfectly functional in Windows 10, albeit more like a graphing calculator than a direct rival to OneNote Math.

microsoft mathematics

Microsoft Mathematics looks a little clunky, but seems surprisingly useful. Note the “business calculator” UI to the right, which stacks results on top of one another.

On the other hand, it’s free, extremely functional, and has a wealth of information under the hood, including common equations. About the only thing I couldn’t do with Microsoft Mathematics was ink: For some reason, the built-in inking function wouldn’t recognize my Surface Book stylus. Still, I was much more productive here than when I was using the early version of OneNote Math. Microsoft may be onto something with OneNote Math, but a reliance on ink is currently holding it back.

OneNote Replay: The promise, the reality

Not everyone can remember the details of a meeting the next day, let alone the next month—which is why there are note-taking apps like Microsoft OneNote. A new Replay feature lets you track the origin of whiteboarded visual ideas, too, though the concept needs some work.

As you might guess, Replay records the digital ink applied to a OneNote notebook as one or more people draw upon it. The end result is a stop-motion progression of still images, which you can scrub through like a movie, as an idea moves from concept to reality. Digital whiteboards like the KappIQ have talked about replay features, but Microsoft, its Surface Hub, and OneNote appear to have beaten everyone to the punch. 

 

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