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Microsoft Explains the OneNote Send-To 64 Bit Decision



Last week, I posted an update on the OneNote 2007 Send-To printer not being available on 64-bit OS, and the fact that Microsoft wouldn’t be releasing a 64-bit version of the printer until Office 14 releases.

I wasn’t at liberty to go in to details, but David Rasmussen, the Group Program Manager for OneNote, just posted a reply about why they made the decision they did. I’ve pasted it below for everyone to read.

My name is David Rasmussen. I am the Group Program Manager for OneNote. Before you all decide we should be burnt at the stake, let me explain a little. We fully understand how important the print to OneNote feature is, and we apologize for this transition period.

For the print to OneNote feature in OneNote 2003 and 2007, we are dependent on a piece of technology called MODI, or Microsoft Office Document Imaging component. It’s a very, very large amount of code, and quite an old piece of code that is difficult to support.

Drivers must be fully ported from 32 bit to 64 bit to work on 64 bit OSes. 32 bit Application code works on 64 bit OSes on top of an emulation layer (called WOW64 or Windows on Windows 64), so getting the application code to work is not too hard. Drivers are a whole different story though because they hook into the OS at a lower level and can’t run on WOW64 emulation. Also, older drivers tend to contain a lot of low level code and often assembly code that is not easy to port.

Given the size of the code, and the issues above, porting the MODI print driver for OneNote 2007 would be a LOT of work. Work that we would have to trade off directly against other improvements, and features that many users such as yourselves have been asking us for. That makes it a difficult decision. One we thought about a lot.

The solution we have is we think a better one for OneNote users in the long run. We will be moving the print driver component to a new technology in our next release of OneNote. One that has several benefits including the quality of the users experience, the quality of the printout rendering and some others I can’t detail right now. This new technology also supports 64 bit natively, so we kill two birds with one stone. We’re quite confident that is the right decision, but unfortunately because of the nature of this technology, we couldn’t back port it to make it work in OneNote 2007. That left us in a difficult position. We could either do lots of work to port MODI AND transition to this better, easier to maintain technology for the future, but that would have been at the cost of perhaps most of the features and improvements you’ve all been asking for.

Ultimately, given the current market data on take up rate of 64 bit client OSes, we concluded we were better off aiming for the best experience for the next release of OneNote when 64 bit OS penetration will start to be significant. The benefits of running 64 bit OSes at the moment are pretty slim. There are very few desktop applications yet that need or can take advantage of the address space (servers sure can though…). So you won’t really notice a performance improvement with a 64 bit OS on your desktop, but that will change over time, and we want to be ready for it with the best possible solution.

Unfortunately, great software development is full of such difficult trade offs. We’re not idiots (we hope). And we’re not malicious (we love our product and want our users to love it too). We just have finite resources, and are trying to make the best trade off decisions to deliver the best possible product.


David Rasmussen

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