A little over a year after his First versiona digital note-taking app called Journal is take the leap to be an experimental project hosted by Microsoft’s internal incubator, Microsoft Garage, to become a full-fledged Microsoft Windows application. The company this week announcement the new note-taking app will now be available as “Microsoft Journal”, allowing users to capture their thoughts and create drawings using their digital pen on Windows tablets, 2-in-1s and other pen-enabled devices.
The original idea behind Journal was to offer users an alternative to grabbing a pen and paper when inspiration strikes, while allowing them to express themselves through writing. The concept was familiar to the company, which first launched an ink-focused app called Journal on its Tablet PC in 2002 and went on to unleash “ink” capabilities in apps like Whiteboard, OneNote, PowerPoint and more, the the business explained at the time.
Journal, however, wanted to push the concept forward by combining digital ink input with AI technologies.
The team trained the app’s AI to automatically recognize and categorize what users write, including titles, favorites, keywords, and even designs. For some of the designs and headers, the app places a marker on the side of the page that users can tap to select content and then perform other actions such as “move” or “copy.”
AI has also helped improve the app’s search capabilities so you can retrieve your old notes, lists, sketches, and more, based on its understanding of your inked notes and content. And AI helped power new gestures, like scratch and instant lasso — tools you could move between more easily, without switching modes.
Beyond its AI focus, Journal included drag-and-drop support to move content to other pages or different apps; the ability to tag PDFs; keyword search with filters; Microsoft 365 integration for meeting notes; use touch to scroll pages or press ink to select text; and more.
“We are entering an era of computer-aided reasoning, where AI is speeding up the tasks people do and making us all more productive,” Stevie Bathiche, technical researcher and head of applied science at Microsoft, said of the leaving the Garage app. “Journal shows how powerful an experience can be when software anticipates your intentions. This is just the beginning.”
During its time as Project Garage, the team learned that users had their own individual preferences for how they interacted with content using touch and a digital pen, but there was no clear winner. as to the most preferred method. They also found document annotation to be one of Journal’s top use cases, with PDF imports accounting for more than half of the pages created in the app.
With the official app launch, Journal has been updated to look like Windows 11, with new colors and materials. The team says its short-term goal is to address user feedback and a backlog of new features. The app is rolling out to users from April 5-8, but can be downloaded directly from the Microsoft Store. It works on Windows 10 and 11 devices.