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April 10, 2022

Introducing Microsoft’s new ink-first app, Journal

Microsoft tends to incorporate what works in apps like Journal into other parts of Windows.

If you’re a Surface tablet owner or just someone who prefers to use ink over a keyboard, you might be looking for an app that prioritizes the pen. There is a new Microsoft app for that: Journal.

Microsoft Journal Windows 11 design
Source: Microsoft

Journal isn’t just a new Microsoft app, it’s a new Windows app. This week Microsoft released Microsoft Journal in Windows 11 style with all new colors and materials. This new release will roll out between April 5 and April 8, according to Microsoft. If you want it now, you can download it from the Microsoft Store .

Journal is important for two reasons. First, Microsoft tries to offer everything pen and paper does, plus more. And second, Microsoft tends to migrate features — or gestures in this case — that it develops within individual apps to the larger Windows and app environment. Journal may represent a future version of Windows.

Technically, Microsoft Journal is part of the Microsoft Garage, an app incubator that sometimes (but not always) produces a full-fledged application. Journal is notable because Microsoft designed it as an ink-first application. In reality, that means eliminating certain conventions: erasing e-ink by, for example, turning the pen or pressing a button. Journal’s user interface is also page-based. Finally, Journal “looks” at what you write, tries to figure out what you’re inking, and offers suggestions for manipulating that text.

Microsoft Journal
Journal is divided into a main ink page and a search box on the right.

That’s the difference between Journal and, say, OneNote, which relies rather on typed text and supplements it with inked notes and drawings. As you write, Journal recognizes what you write, much like the updated Microsoft Lens app that was recently introduced, and can translate it into text behind the scenes. Since Journal is connected to Microsoft 365, a block of text can then be copied to Word. Journal is also integrated into the Calendar app so you can scribble notes during meetings.

Using Journal seems to be slightly different from Microsoft’s other apps. First, there is no pan and zoom- Journal provides you with a page and you can only scroll up and down.

More important, however, are the new gestures. Circle or lasso a block of text and Journal knows you’re selecting it. Errors are scrawled out, not erased, and Journal will then remove the eliminated characters. Put dots in front of a list and Journal knows it’s bulleted text. It also appears that Journal can also import and markup PDF files. That was a feature the first Edge browser offered, but is slowly getting up to speed within the “new” Edge.

Microsoft Journal
Text is “erased” in Journal by scribbling it out.

For now, however, the Journal Ink page occupies only one part of the page. The other can be reserved for a search box, including saved journals you’ve previously inked, as well as a search box (in which characters can be inked). Here, Microsoft is trying to move away from document names to make you think about object types: a list or an outline. Microsoft also replaces the term “search” with “filter”, as in “filtering on” a sketch, rather than searching for it. We’ll have to see if that sticks.

Journal looks like one of those apps that can get off the ground among a devoted group of e-inkers… or not. Like many things within Windows, Journal is there if you choose to use it.

Microsoft Journal will now be part of the main Windows apps.

source: pcworld

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