Software Quality

October 16, 2014

Why I love Microsoft OneNote – it helps me be more effective

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Allen @ 12:16 pm

Why I love Microsoft OneNote

1. It works well for a person on the go (mobile traveler or a Work-From-Home employee)

I can take it on my laptop, access lots of info while offline (perhaps on the plane or in a restaurant without WiFi), and then when I am connected to my network, it synchs up reliably and quickly, without drama.

3. It has quick and effective search tools

4. It works well for taking notes during a meeting.

You can easily flag things that need attention elsewhere later without losing your engagement from the meeting. I  find it very annoying when others are taking notes and are so distracted by their program (Word, Excel, whatever) that they become disengaged from the conversation. Though you can still be distracted while using OneNote, I find it is the easiest program so far for taking notes and doing research during a meeting with the least amount of distraction penalty.

5. It has ways to easily organize large amounts of data (notebooks, section groups, sections, pages, sub-pages)

6. It runs on all my platforms (PC at work, PC at home, iPhone)

I especially enjoy being able to get o OneNote on my iPhone.

And here are some of my favorite features

Below is a list of my favorite OneNote 2013 features. There are many more, features but I didn’t waste the space on obvious features. I listed things you might not notice when you first start using it. The list is concise, so if you don’t see the value, play with the feature a bit or lookup the feature in Online Help for more details.

Quick Access Toolbar

Back, Dock to Desktop


Export page/section/notebook to Word, PDF, …

Send page to E-Mail, Word, Blog

Go to

and you will see a version of this page that I posted from OneNote.


Tags – WAY more than just visual indicators.

Tag something

Try “Find Tags”

Search results span entire notebook

Example use:

I take notes in OneNote for every meeting.

I mark any to-do items with the To Do tag.

Later, when I have quiet time,

I Find Tags

Click each To Do tag, which navigates to the item

Then I copy the item to my main worklist, where I can prioritize it.

If I were to switch over to my main task list during a meeting, it distracts me from reading the agenda and taking notes. I know, I started out that way.

Shortcut to “Email Page”



Or just type something and press the “tab” key and it will make a table.

Screen Clipping

Or use the Send-To-OneNote tool (shortcut: Windows Key – S)

Send to a page, then annotate it as desired.



’nuff said


Recent Edits

Did you note something recently but can’t even remember a search term or the search term is too prevalent to be useful?


Recycle Bin



Dock to Desktop

Cool for taking notes about some other application you have open.

Restore with one click

How can I keep a LOT of data well-organized?

Otherwise, it becomes a jumbled mess  

  1. Learn the basic data containers and rearrange stuff as you learn more. The basic data containers are
    1. Notebook
    2. Section Group
    3. Section
    4. Page
    5. Subpage
  2. You can easily move pages and sections around. Right-click on a page and check out the options.

Example of how well this tool scales:

If you had 10 notebooks, each with 10 section groups, each with 10 section groups, each with 20 pages, each with 10 subpages, you would have 200,000 pages of information.

In my role, I have personal agendas for 2 subteams, a dozen groups, 30 people, and a couple dozen projects.

How to hire good talent

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Allen @ 12:02 pm

I love this article on How to hire good talent. I’ve worked has a hiring manager for several years. In those roles, I have observed that the best people for the job are not necessarily those who have the exact skills. In our technical field, where technology changes so swiftly, and where technology is so diverse, it is difficult to find someone who is an expert in the particular toy you happen to own. If that is your main critierion, then you may be disappointed with whom you hire. I love simply being transparent with them, posing the problems we face, and asking them how they will tackle them. It gives me an idea whether they have a clue, and it gives them a clue about what they will face.

May 11, 2013

Process Conflict – a Manager’s role to resolve

Filed under: Management — David Allen @ 9:21 pm

In a workplace, conflict between people arises for many reasons.  It results in frustration and unhappiness for the people and poor performance for the organization.  In many cases, we expect employees to avoid and resolve conflict on their own. In those cases, managers are responsible for identifying when employees have trouble managing conflict and helping staff learn to resolve conflicts.

However, there are several cases in which the employees cannot reasonably be expect to resolve the conflict on their own. These are cases in which the manager must take an active part in the solution.  This article discusses one such source of conflict and how it can be easily remedied and prevented.  The source of human conflict described here is due to process conflicts. It has many possible causal factors and many possible solutions. A problem map of these factors is shown below.

For those unfamiliar with such diagrams, see the original problem map which includes tips on how to read one:

In the cases shown in the problem map, the manager is often required to provide training or process changes in order to create an environment in which workers can work with less conflict. Without manager intervention, the conflicts become frustrating for the workers and may recur again and again.  It is not uncommon for employees to make unfair assumptions and think their colleague just has a “bad attitude” when in fact, they are simply operating by another process and those processes are in tension.

Managers who understand these problems and apply the solutions can continually adjust the policies to reduce conflict and make it easier for staff to work together.  Managers can go even further and teach these ideas to their staff so the staff can understand when a conflict is a process conflict. In such cases, they get less frustrated because they know that they can escalate the problem to their manager who will work with other managers to resolve the process tension.  Short-term solutions may be negotiating exceptions. Long-term solutions may involve  collaboration across departments. Such cross-departmental collaborations naturally require more effort and time than localized process changes that can be unilaterally decreed by a single manager.  In any case, it is unlikely that an organization will accidentally work in harmony without managers who continually and deliberately tune the processes for harmony.

Sources of interpersonal conflict at work

And of course, there is a rich body of literature on how to manage conflict among people in the general case. That is the first node in the diagram and you can seek out those resources for those issues. This brief article simply clarifies when process is the problem, a manager can solve it.

January 29, 2013

Update on treadmill desk use

Filed under: Health and Exercise — David Allen @ 7:34 pm

I have now been using my treadmill desks for over a year. I have continued to use it on and off throughout the year. I find that sometimes I’m in the mood for walking and sometimes I’m not. So I keep an ordinary desk next to the treadmill desk so I can sit down when I feel tired. It’s funny how you get used to something. I often have breakfast standing up and walking on the treadmill desk while I read the news. This is not as difficult as you would think since I’m normally going a half a mile an hour.

As usual, I’m dictating this post while I’m strolling on the treadmill. I seem to have adapted to the equipment totally. I can step on and off of it with comfort and confidence even while it is moving. I’m not recommending this. That’s a legal disclaimer so somebody does not sue me. I’m not responsible for any accidents you have because you may be uncoordinated.

At this point, I really don’t have anything dramatic or interesting to report. I use the treadmill desk sometimes. And sometimes I don’t. It works just fine. I hardly think about it anymore.

Just to set your expectations to a realistic level: I’ve not lost any weight since I bought the treadmill desk and started using it. However, if it really is bad for you to sit down for several hours every evening after sitting at a desk job most of the day, then this treadmill desk is a good thing for me. It allows me to read the news, check my email, and possibly read a book online or watch a movie while taking a stroll.

November 3, 2012

Calling all Visual Studio coders! – NCrunch is cool!

Filed under: Testing, Visual Studio 2012 — David Allen @ 7:30 pm

My friend Brad just turned me onto this amazing tool. It is NCrunch I have played with it for several days, and I am buying it when my trial period expires. It is really nice. In their words

“It intelligently runs automated tests so that you don’t have to, and gives you a huge amount of useful information about your tested code, such as code coverage and performance metrics, inline in your IDE while you type.”

I am using Visual Studio 2012. And the unit testing experience, although slightly improved, is still pretty clumsy and slow. But now that I have NCrunch, I don’t mind. I know Microsoft worked hard and are proud of their improvements. But this takes it so much further than they dared to go, that I bet you their own people will soon be using this. It’s that good.

I am not even disappointed in Microsoft. Instead, I am pleased that their tool is so easily extend by so many partners. (“easily? easy for me to say. I don’t code these things).   This whole arrangement smells like a healthy IDE ecosystem. As long as the total package is good, I am cool. By the way, I am also using ReSharper at the same time without problems. I love that tool too.

The key is SPEED and immediate visual feedback. This tool allows you to configure how many CPU cores you can allocate to it in the background. And every time you change a line of code, it is running these background threads that test your code and show you code coverage.

I am telling you, it just FEELS right. I am doing TDD, getting this instant Red/Green feedback and instant Code coverage feedback. Using Visual studio by itself feels absolutely primitive.

Downsides? Brad tells me he had some slowdowns and hiccups. But I don’t know what hardware he used. I am using a plain old Dell desktop with 8 cores and 8 GB of RAM. It also runs fine on my virtual machines on my server. But that is cheating cause it’s a bit overpowered. I can see you might have slowdowns on a weak PC or a starved VM.

Go get it, now!

And tell me what you think.

October 31, 2012

Learning Windows 8 takes 15 minutes or less

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Allen @ 8:42 pm

Just read this official Microsoft document.

It’s 12 easy pages.

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