Tag Archives: smartphone

The Case for OneNote on Your Smartphone

OneNote is a tool for taking notes. It is called OneNote because it allows you to keep all your notes in One place. If your notes are stored on OneDrive (which is the default) in the Cloud, you can access your notes from anywhere and using any computer, tablet or smartphone.

OneNote comes in several versions: OneNote 2016 for desktops, a OneNote app for tablets, and OneNote for smartphones. You can also access your notes using browser-based version of OneNote using the onenote.com website.

In this article, we will discuss why OneNote on your smartphone is an ideal tool for note taking.

Strength in Weakness

OneNote Desktop is a very powerful, complex program with many features. By contrast, the tablet version has fewer features, and OneNote on the smartphone has quite a limited set of features. That exactly is its strength!

That must be a handicap surely? Well no, 90% of note taking requires only 10% of OneNote’s features. You guessed it—those are the ones included in your smartphone’s OneNote. That makes OneNote ideal for note taking on your phone—there are no complex features to get in your way.

Add to that you are not likely to always carry your desktop or laptop with you, but you are likely to have your smartphone close at hand.

The Notebook Metaphor

If you are going to put all your notes in one place, you better have a way of organizing them. OneNote uses the traditional notebook as its metaphor for organizing notes.

A Traditional notebook

The notebook is divided into sections using coloured tabs. Each section can have as many pages as you like.

Your notes, obviously, are placed on pages. Each page has a title so that you can see at a glance what the notes are about that you put on that page.

When you create a note, OneNote automatically places the note in a container. You can place the container anywhere on the page that makes sense to you.

What Are Notes?

Notes are things you jot down so that you can remember later. When does one take notes?

  1. When you are thinking creatively
    • brainstorming
  2. When planning
    • Planning a project, a book, a vacation, a course
  3. General things you need to remember
    • Lists (shopping, books to read, movies to watch, things to do), passwords, expenses, bank accounts, how to instructions, etc.
  4. Doing research
    • Genealogy, assignments, reports, documentaries
  5. Remembering what was said
    • Meetings, lectures, church services
  6. Events
    • Tradeshows, exhibitions, accidents, news events, demonstrations, press conferences, etc.

Once you are familiar with OneNote, you will probably come up with novel applications of OneNote not listed here—and that’s ok too.

Generally, notes are for your benefit. They do not have to be perfect prose or even full sentences—as long as they help you to remember your thoughts and where o access information sources referred to.

The missing link

When creating notes, one often needs to refer to information in other documents or websites. Rather than repeating the entire document in your note, you simply provide a link to the document. All that is needed is to title the page and add a few lines of text why the document is important or relevant.

Many programs have Share option. When you choose Share with OneNote as the destination, this will generate a link to the information in OneNote, either as a new page or added as a note to an existing page.

Remember, OneNote was not intended for creating documents. For example, when you are doing research for your new book, you keep your notes in OneNote, but you lay out your book in Word or InDesign. Your notes would include things like the list of characters, sample copyright statements, the story out line, etc.

Smartphone Advantages

We now know that OneNote on a smartphone has a limited set of features compared to the desktop version. But it also has some unique advantages.

  1. So, you have a very creative brainstorming session with a friend or colleague. Now you have all these scribbles on a white board or Starbucks serviette. No problem—you can simply take a photo and it goes right into OneNote.
  2. No time to stop and take notes? Again, you can use your phone’s voice recorder.
  3. Is a procedure or demonstration complicated? Use your phone’s camera to record a video.
  4. You can view and edit notes almost anywhere, even if they were created in one of the other versions of OneNote.

A Caveat

Many people don’t like to type on a smartphone. However, typing is an essential part of note taking. There are three solutions for this:

  1. Use the WordFlow feature of the on-screen virtual keyboard. It needs practice, but if you persist, you will soon be able to type as fast as a traditional keyboard. There are many videos on YouTube that will show you how.
  2. Use a foldable Bluetooth keyboard. They are small and take up little space.
  3. If needed, you can use your earbuds’ microphone with your phone’s dictate tool.


  1. Although OneNote on a smartphone has fewer features than the desktop version, it has all the tools necessary for effective note taking.
  2. Your smartphone has the additional advantage that it is always available.
  3. Features unique to smartphones allow for ways of note taking not possible with other devices.

So yes, your smartphone and OneNote should be an essential part of your note taking workflow.

Make Good Videos with Your Windows Phone – Part 2

VideoShop LogoIn the previous post, I stressed that one shoots video footage with your smartphone, but you make good video with your editing program.

In this post, I will discuss the editing process in more detail as it relates to smartphones.

Editing Basics

At its most basic, you would use your editing program to cut out unwanted portions of your video clips, then string them together in the proper sequence, add a title clip at the start, and an end clip (credits) at the end.

Finally, the editing program has to combine all these pieces into a single video in the desired format – this process is referred to as “rendering”.

Advanced Editing

The video clips that you shoot with your smartphone contain both video and audio. This may be enough for a simple project. More often than not you would like to add background music and narration, and even sound effects.

On the video side, you may want to superimpose text over the main video, or some extra video to illustrate what a person is talking about (called b-roll footage).

Clearly advanced editing requires a program that can manage many video and audio tracks.

Computer Resources

Even basic video editing requires considerable computing power. With an underpowered processor, editing actions can take forever to complete! Entry-level phones are simply not up to the task.

Memory (RAM)

While editing, your smartphone has to have the operating system, the editing program and the video you are working, in the memory. This can be quite a challenge for your phone!

For example, my Lumia 830 has only 1GB of memory – it is only possible to do very basic editing on this phone (there is a work around that I will discuss later). By contrast, my Lumia 950 has 3 GB of RAM and a much more powerful processor so it can do basic edits comfortably.

Screen Size

Video editing is a visual activity. The small screen of a smartphone makes it difficult to make edits accurately. This is particularly true if your project requires many video and audio tracks during editing.

The Bottom Line

It is best to bring any video clips shot with your phone, into a desktop computer with a large monitor for editing. If you need to edit on-the-go, use a powerful laptop.

That said, I do encourage you to become familiar with editing on your phone. Then if the need arises, you will be able to do it. On a Windows phone, you can use VideoShop or Movie Maker.

For the desktop, you have many more options. I recommend the Adobe Elements Suite as it is very powerful, yet affordable and easy to learn.

Now the work-around if you need to edit a complex project with a less powerful phone: use an online editor like YouTube Director or WeVideo.com.

You can shoot good video footage with your smartphone, and there are video editing tools to turn your smartphone footage into good videos.

Making Good Videos with a Windows Phone

Make Good Videos with Your Windows Phone

Whether you have a Windows, Android or iOS phone, it does not matter—you can make good videos with them. Smartphones can be used for making videos for both business and pleasure. In fact, full-length feature films have been shot entirely on smartphones.

Olive (shot on a Nokia phone)

In this post, I am going to discuss briefly what it takes to make good videos with your smartphone and how you can start.

Your smartphone is smart enough to make it easy to shoot high definition video footage, point your phone and press record. But that alone does not a good video make. Hence the title of this post, one makes good video—shooting the video footage is only a part of it.

The key

Good lighting and good sound are important, for sure. But the key to good video is having a story. You have to put your video footage together during editing in such a way that it tells an effective story. And you need to know what the story is going to be so that you will know what video footage to shoot.

The bottom line is, yes, your smartphone can cut it but there is a learning curve! The good news is that learning how to make good video with your smartphone is fun and free. Aim to shoot and edit a video each week. In the beginning most will be awful—remember the only way of getting experience is by going out and doing it.


There are excellent smartphone videography courses online:
• www.lynda.com

A must-read book is How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck by Steve Stockman – available from Amazon.

Whether you need to make promotional videos for your business or shoot your child’s birthday party, knowing how to make good video with your smartphone is a powerful skill to have.

Making Good Videos with a Windows Phone

Rainy Days Are Here

It is autumn and the dreary rainy days are upon us. What can you do? Go for a walk, “just singing in the rain? That gets old quickly. Fortunately, your smartphone can come to the rescue!

In this post I will describe just three ways of how your smartphone can take the dreary out of rainy days.

Learn a Language

My first suggestion is to learn a new language. What, that is hard work you’d say! Not so. With the Duolingo service  – it is not only easy, it is fun and free.

So maybe your neighbours all speak Polish, or your company is starting a branch in Turkey. Or perhaps Greek or Hebrew tickle your fancy—whatever, Duolingo has a course for you.

So take your brolley and smartphone, and head off to Starbucks. Over a large latte you can forget about the rain while you immerse yourself in your new language.

When spring comes you’ll be chatting with your neighbours—in Polish.

Read a Book

My second suggestion is rather traditional—read a book, but with a difference. Amazon has millions of eBooks in their Kindle library. With a free Kindle reader app on your phone you can literally carry dozens of books with you, right on your phone.

Personally, I like to curl up on my couch with a murder mystery. But perhaps romance or a historical novel is more up your street—Amazon will have something for you, either free or for just a few dollars.

The beauty is that you can whip out your phone wherever and carry on reading where you left off. This can be at the doctor, while you wait at the bus stop, or at your favourite coffee shop. Rain, what rain?

Edit Your Photos

Summer is over, now is the time to edit those photos. Creating good graphics is a valuable skill to have, whether it is an illustration for a report or presentation, or just tweaking photos for your scrapbook. You will be surprised what you can create with the powerful PicsArt app!

Doing all those fancy photo edits is difficult, right? It can be, but PicsArt have you covered. On their website they have many step-by-step video tutorials arranged from Easy to Advanced. You will be amazed how quickly the rainy day hours go by while you learn how to do fancy edits with your phone.

So spend a little time each day with PicsArt and, when spring comes, you’ll be quite an expert phone graphic artist!

In Summary

These three, quite different smartphone suggestions, will help you chase the rainy day blues away. In fact the graphic at the top of the post was inspired by a recent spell of rainy days, and was create on my phone with PicsArt.

You don’t have to do just one of these, you can do all three – I do.

The Future is Continuum

I just had an unexpected “ah ha” moment. It was particularly unexpected as I was not looking for it. It started with a post on computers for seniors.
In this post I will describe how I came to believe that continuum is the future of smartphones.

What is Continuum?
Continuum can mean different things at different levels. At one level it means your Windows experience is the same no matter which size of device you are working on as the code is the same. On another level it means if you connect your phone to a large monitor, the display adapts accordingly (see Microsoft’s explanation here…)

I think this video of Jamie Ramsay illustrates it well:

My Experience
No, I have not actually used continuum. My old Lumia 830, even though it runs Windows 10, its hardware is not continuum-capable, however…
A while back in a post on computers for seniors I stated that if I could only afford one device it would be my Lumia smartphone! I was already using my Lumia extensively but then set about creating a series of online courses to formalize what I knew. The result is a spectrum of courses covering both everyday fun stuff as well as work-related stuff.

For the sake of completeness, I added a Bluetooth keyboard to make entering lots of text in Word easier. I was surprised how well it worked. Then for the Excel course I added a Bluetooth mouse and again I was pleasantly surprised.

At the end of the PowerPoint course, I felt I needed to show how one would actually do the presentation. For that I got a wireless display adapter for a large monitor.

It was then that it hit me—even though my Lumia 830 is a very basic smartphone by today’s standards, I was actually using it in “continuum” mode, and I liked it!

The Future
As manufacturers become more acquainted with continuum, I can imagine a range of accessories and services becoming available for continuum-ready phones. At the same time the corresponding continuum-ready programs will become more prevalent.

I have seen that I can be entirely productive with just my Lumia 830 on its own. Adding the Bluetooth accessories, when needed, enhanced what I could do.

New Smartphone Courses

After my comment in a recent post, that if I had to limit myself to just one device, I would choose my smartphone – I decided to create  courses for my smartphone.

It does not look like a phone because it isn’t

The starting point was that a smartphone was not really a phone but indeed a portable personal computer, that can also take photos.

The difficulty

When I started planning for these courses, I soon discovered just how difficult it was to videotape a smartphone screen successfully!

If the focus is not spot on, then the text on the Lumia screen becomes blurry. Add to that reflections on the Lumia screen and that my head accidentally getting in the way of the camcorder.

The Solution

Fortunately, I found a better way. Microsoft has created a marvelous desktop program: Project My Screen. This program allows one to mirror what is on the Lumia screen on the desktop screen.


100_0717wAs the photo shows, the Lumia is plugged into the desktop USB port and its screen is mirrored on the desktop monitor.

Not only that, I can operate the Lumia normally using my finger and the desktop monitor follows. Also, I can use the desktop mouse on the monitor and the Lumia follows!

Now I can use my regular screen capture program (Camtasia) on the desktop to record the course videos—the result is clear text, no reflections and my head never getting into the video.

It is still a lot of work but it does open all kinds of possibilities as I believe smartphones will play an increasingly important role in every day business and play.

New Courses

So far I have developed two courses:

The first is an introductory course intended to give a sense of what is possible, while the second course covers a rather specific application for smartphones.

The thing that amazed me most was what could be achieved with the Lumia 830. A few years back it was an “affordable flagship” but by current standards it is more an entry-level phone.


The Smartphone Miracle

lumia 830 The phone that I use, is the Lumia 830. At its release Microsoft billed it as an “affordable flagship”. It was actually quite expensive but I closed my eyes and bought it—it was the only Windows flagship available in Canada at the time. Over time I learned what Microsoft has packed into to the phone, I was surprised that they could sell it for the price they did.

In this post we will look at what goes in to make a smartphone and why I think it is actually a technical miracle.

Under the Hood
Let’s look at the main components of the phone. As the diagram below shows, it is essentially the same as any computer.


If we take a look at the specifications on the Microsoft site, we see that the main memory is 1GB, the microprocessor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, and the main storage is 16GB.

Your operating system, Windows 10 in this case, as well as all your programs (called apps in mobile world) are stored in the C drive which is a solid state drive so it is fast and has no moving parts.

What is really amazing is what is packed into this small device. A quick look at the specs tells us that we have a graphics processor, global positioning (GPS), magnetometer, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, antennae for cell phone, Wi-Fi, Blue Tooth, a main camera with Zeiss lens and optical stabilization, an FM radio, noise cancelling microphones, and more.  In our diagram these are collectively represented by the Hardware Connections box.

Many of these components are included on the microprocessor chip, which is why it is called a SoC or system on a chip.

The most obvious hardware component is the high definition Corning Gorilla Glass display, which has 24bit true colour and a pixel density of almost 300 pixels per inch.

How It Works
When you turn your phone on, the essential core Windows modules are loaded into the main memory. The phone then displays the Start Screen. The icons on the Start Screen represents the programs (apps) you use most often. You can customize the Start Screen to suit your particular needs.

When you tap on an icon on the Start Screen, the corresponding app, is loaded into main memory and the microprocessor executes it. The program will talk to and activate the hardware components as needed.

For example, when you select the Phone app, the microphone and small speaker are activated, allowing you to speak and listen to the phone conversation.

You can load several apps into memory but because the main memory is only 1GB, only one app is active at a time. Open but inactive apps take up very little memory as only the essential information is stored. You can switch to the other open apps quite easily. The phone simply deactivates the current app, and loads the new app back into memory from the C drive.

So the main memory has the core Windows components, your selected app, and any data it uses. You can set the phone to store the data on the SD card (D drive). This is particularly helpful for big files like photos and videos. On my phone I have a 32GB card.

A Trade-off
When you put all these things into a smartphone, you still need to leave some space for a battery. The Lumia has a 2200 mAh battery which is adequate but does not last long when doing power intensive tasks like watching videos. The phone allows for wireless charging which is useful.

So the Miracle?
What I find a true miracle is that one gets a full PC in such a small 140mm package that can run full-featured programs, and then it can still do all the other things like shoot photos and videos, make phone calls, send text messages and emails, listen to music, and browse the web!

For more information, visit previous posts on the Lumia:

The Best Computer for Seniors

He’s looking smug, must have made the right choice!

What type of computer should a senior get? It depends!

Now that may not sound very helpful, does it? But please bear with me a little and it will become clear.

In this post I will discuss the pros and cons of various options to make your choice a little easier. All the options are computers that I personally own and use.

They all run the latest, easy-to-use Windows 10 operating system so it is easy to switch from the one to the other.

The Desktop

On the one end of the spectrum we have the traditional desktop PC (personal computer). It normally consists of a tower, a monitor, keyboard and mouse. So it is huge and typically requires a dedicated computer desk.

My workhorse on its desk. It is several years old and still chugging along.

A variant of the desktop is the “two in one”. Here the guts of the computer that is normally housed in the tower, is now built into the monitor. This is an elegant solution that frees up a little desk space for sure. They tend to be a bit more expensive and complicated to maintain.

A laptop, tablet, and smartphone.

The Portables

There is a wide range of options in this group. I will discuss three representative models (a mid-sized laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone).

Their main claim to fame is that they take up less space, consist of one unit and are portable.

All three have touch screens which allows you to zoom and scroll with ease, even if you don’t have a mouse.

My-Computers4The Laptop

The laptop is the oldest portable computer design. Here everything is built-in: screen, computer and keyboard. It has been popular for years with people on the move like students and business people.

The advantage of a laptop for seniors is that it takes up less space than a desktop, and can be used anywhere. You can work on it in your study for example and later carry it to your bedroom to watch a movie.

The mid-sized 15” Dell model that I show here, while lovely to work on, is actually quite heavy and many seniors might find it at best “luggable”.

The Surface Pro 4 with keyboard

The Tablet

Tablets are smaller and much more portable. The model I show here is a 12” Surface Pro 4 from Microsoft and I use it with a detachable keyboard as shown.

It is certainly light and small enough to take with you to your local coffee shop, yet it is powerful enough to do some serious work on it.

Also included is a stylus which opens new possibilities of working. More on that in upcoming posts. Notice how sharp and accurate the screen is!

The Lumia 830 shown with the table for size comparison.

The Smartphone

Yes, the smartphone (in this case a 5” Lumia 830) is also a computer capable of doing serious work!

And it does pretty well as phone and a camera too.

It is also, obviously, the most portable of all the choices. I have with me all the time. The photo shows the smartphone alongside the tablet.

The Cost

These devices are not cheap. At the time of writing, they each cost $1000 CAD, give and take depending on the model and accessories. You can get cheaper but you will enjoy the pleasure of owning a quality device long after you have forgotten how much it cost you.

The hidden cost: to get the full benefit of computing for seniors you really need access to the Internet. For that you will have to talk to your phone or cable TV company. They will provide you with a router/modem and a hefty monthly fee that over time will add up to more than the cost of your computer.

An ADSL modem supplied by Telus

This will give your desktop a fast wired connection to the Internet (the yellow cable in the photo) and wireless connections for your mobile devices (the two antennas).

What to Get?

Finally, what do I recommend? It is comforting to know that you can’t go wrong. Any of the choices will work just fine.

  1. If you still want to do serious work, like writing your latest novel, or editing a documentary video, a desktop computer is a good choice. You will appreciate the large screen and keyboard.
  2. If you lean more to the entertainment side, like visiting websites, movies on Netflix, or reading ebooks, the tablet is the way to go. Remember, you still can do serious work on it,  but you can also watch a movie, in your favourite armchair, with it on your lap –  no problem.
  3. If you do want to do serious work needing computing horsepower, but space is a concern, then a high-end laptop would be a good choice.
  4. If you can only afford to get one device, go for the smartphone. In real life I own all of these devices, but in the end I spend most of my time on the smartphone. I do my emails, write articles like this one, read e-books, watch movies, check the news, shoot and edit videos, and do my banking. Even if I lost all three the other devices, I would still get along just fine. My phone is several years old—when my ship comes in, I am buying the latest model…

Dot’s Easy

Little DotI was looking into examples of movies shot using a smartphone, when I came across this little gem.

What I found truly amazing was how much work it took! Creativity is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration certainly applies here.


Behind the scenes
Professor Fletcher’s invention of the CellScope, which is a Nokia smartphone with a microscope attachment, was the inspiration for a teeny-tiny film created by Sumo Science at Aardman. It stars a 9mm girl called Dot as she struggles through a microscopic world. All the minuscule detail was shot using CellScope technology and a Nokia N8, with its 12 megapixel camera and Carl Zeiss optics

Here’s a little film that takes you behind the scenes at Aardman. It reveals what went in to making the world’s smallest character animated film and how it was shot using a Nokia N8.

What can I say—wow, thanks guys!

For more information about Aardman Animations…

Authors Take Note

onenote-iconThis has been a week of books for me. I delivered a lovely hardcover biography to a client, published an illustrated softcover through CreateSpace for a client, and published one of my own ebooks on Amazon Kindle.

As I grow older, keeping track of everything gets harder. That’s where OneNote comes in.

This is a wonderful program for many things, especially keeping track of writing projects.

So I would like to share some how-to links:

With OneNote, it is easy to keep track of files needed for a book, write-ups of characters under development, and even the financial side of things.

What makes it even more useful is that I have OneNote on my desktop computer but also on my phone. So when I am at Blenz enjoying a coffee and I get an inspiration, I simply whip out my phone and update using OneNote. Neat huh!