Hi everyone -
I'm putting this thread together as a record of a recent project, in hopes that anyone who has to solve the same problem in the future can find it and benefit from my experience.
I'm an avid user of Microsoft OneNote, which you can read about at length elsewhere.
I have a Tablet PC which works great with OneNote. But it falls short as a note taking solution for me for several reasons, weight and battery life chief among them. Also, I look a bit weird lugging a huge tablet PC into meetings where everyone else just has a clipboard.
For a while I considered adding a digital tablet to my arsenal, such as the Adesso Cyberpad
. It's a bit more low-key, boasts a fantastic battery life. Pen & paper is still the king of simplified user experience, and this kind of device is only slightly less convenient than just taking notes on a paper pad.
I never took the plunge though, because the ink files recorded by the digital tablet (which are stored in .TOP
format) were not compatible with the kind of ink OneNote recognizes. For a while there was a product called CyberConverter from Blue Euclid Software that could convert the one type of ink to the other, but the company seems to have gone out of business and the software is no longer available.
Recently, however, I found a blog post
about a new tool - Top2OneNote
- that could do the conversion. What's more, it was free & open source.
So I finally took the plunge and picked up a CyberPad on eBay. I went to download Top2OneNote but only then discovered that it was not available in a form I could use. The developer had posted the source code for the tool, but not an executable binary file I could run. What's more, installing an add-in to OneNote is not a simple process without an installer program. (Every other OneNote add-in I've seen comes with its own installer.) Not being a programmer myself with a copy of Visual Studio handy to build the source code from CodePlex, I was out of luck getting my new toy to play nice.
Donationcoder to the rescue!
I put a out a plea for help from a developer
, and the excellent timns
rose to the occasion, not only compiling the needed binary for me, but creating the essential installer file
I installed the add in on my Tablet PC, imported a sample .TOP file, and I was in business!
The tool is not perfect. It imports any ink that looks like handwriting apparently without issue, but graphical elements such as underlines, circles, boxes, bullet points, etc. get left off for some reason. But since the handwritten notes are what I'm chiefly interested in, this isn't a deal breaker.
a deal breaker was that when I installed on my computer at the office (which is not
a Tablet PC) it didn't work at all
. After selecting the .TOP file to import, OneNote simply returned to a blank page. Fortunately, I'd already gotten it working on my home computer, so I knew it worked. I suspected the problem was that, while my home computer had built-in support for ink because it was running Windows XP for Tablet PC, my work computer with plain old XP Pro lacked the ink support needed by the plugin to do its conversion.
I'd come this far, so I wasn't about to give up. Some judicious googling found this thread about converting Windows XP into Windows XP for Tablet PC
on the WinMatrix web site. It's a long thread, but fortunately you don't have to follow all the steps and "convert" your OS. You just have to install some free applications from Microsoft.
that I have no idea if this process works or is even necessary on Vista or Windows 7, both of which have ink support built in.)
The essential elements are (in order):
Once I had completed these steps, I tried importing a .TOP file into OneNote again and it worked just as well as it had on my Tablet PC!
The .TOP file format is used by a lot of different digital notepads such as the DigiMemo and the Medion, so this method should work for a variety of devices.
Some other nice resources for this kind of tablet can be found in this blog posting
, including scripts and a Java application
for reading .TOP files and converting them into other formats such as SVG and PDF.
One more thing - this tool always imports ink at the top of the page, even if there's already ink there. So if you're importing multiple .TOP files and combining them onto a single page in OneNote, import each .TOP into a blank page, then cut/paste the ink to the page & position you want it to appear.
So that's all. Another Donationcoder success story!