Meet the Windows 10 app that has barely changed since 1999

Windows Journal

When Windows 10 launches in a few weeks' time, deep inside its lines of code is concealed a nifty little application that seems to have been teleported from the 1990's.

While Calc, Paint or even Notepad have had a lick of paint to prepare them for Microsoft's new flagship operating system, the same can't be said about a little known Microsoft app, Journal, which looks almost exactly the same as the original version launched on Windows XP nearly 14 years ago.

Journal, which allows users to create and organise their handwritten notes, could be rightly considered the forerunner of OneNote, Microsoft's de facto note taking application, and was launched at a time when the company was trying to position tablet devices as the next big thing.

Missed opportunities

Windows XP tablet edition was supposed to be the OS driving that but it all ended a little bit miserably as its poor hardware keyboard dependent OS yielded abysmal sales.

Fast forward to 2015 and Journal joins WordPad and Notepad as the default note-taking applications on Windows 10 with Live Writer, One Note and Microsoft Word Mobile Preview being available for download for free.

These two are arguably superior than the three aforementioned applications but their reliance on the cloud as well as their relatively large memory/processor requirements mean that in some cases, a simple word processor is more responsive than its bigger siblings.

An ideal open source candidate?

Journal embraces a rudimentary skeuomorphic design, offering what looks like a paper notepad (with lines). Basic functionalities like being able to choose between writing tools (pen or highlighter) or converting your scribbles into text (via a useful lasso tool) are there but that's it.

Windows Journal

Windows Journal

The fact that it exports in a proprietary file type (Journal Note) and can only export in two (Web Archive or TIFF) means that it has little appeal for mainstream users other than irreducible aficionados. For now, Journal remains an unsolved mystery; why would Microsoft allow such an antiquated application, one whose functionality is replicated elsewhere in the system, to exist in its flagship OS? No one knows.

For the rest of us, Journal will only ever be an object of curiosity, the vestige of an era of untapped potential when Microsoft could have owned the market for touch devices, one which ultimately fell in Apple's hands.

Maybe Microsoft should open source it, just as it did for Live Writer.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.