Windows Essentials are Dead – Part 2

Formerly called Windows Live Essentials, this great group of MS created and maintained apps died on 2017-01-10.

Introduction
As I mentioned last time, Microsoft has recently discontinued the download and support of a set of add-on apps that were formally part of its “essentials” brand, as these add-on apps were considered an “essential” part of the Windows Live experience; and while they were supported, life on the Windows side of the fence was pretty good.

Unfortunately, Microsoft killed these applications as of 2017-01-10, meaning that new installations of Windows Live Essentials are no longer possible through its web based installation program. While the installation app is available through Microsoft and via any number of download sites, any attempt to actually run the install app is met with a download error. Here is the official statement from Microsoft:

As of January 10, 2017, Windows Essentials 2012 is no longer supported on Windows 10, and is unavailable for download. Windows Essentials 2012 included Windows Movie Maker, Windows Photo Gallery, Windows Live Writer, Windows Live Mail, Windows Live Family Safety and the OneDrive desktop app for Windows.

Last time, I covered almost all of Windows Essentials; and they included the following applications

  • Photo Gallery
  • Movie Maker
  • Mail
  • Windows Messenger
  • Windows Live Writer
  • OneDrive – Formerly both Windows Live Mesh and SkyDrive
  • Family Safety – Windows 7 only

While there are apps included with Windows 10 meant to replace Photo Gallery and Mail, there aren’t replacements for Movie Maker or Family Safety (the latter was meant for Windows 7, only). Windows Messenger was replaced with Skype when Microsoft purchased it; and OneDrive took on a life of its own. It’s now available as part of Windows 10 and includes 5GB of free storage. Additional storage can be purchased as part of Office 365. Users can also purchase up to 50GB of storage for $0.99 (99 cents) USD, per month.

Windows Live Writer
Most users of Windows Live Writer have a few poignant things to say about it. Thankfully, most of them are positive. In contrast, while Microsoft Word can be used to create and edit HTML files, most people that need a “real” HTML editor will tell you – actually they’ll plead with you –choose a different editor. Word inserts a lot of unnecessary – as well as other – tags in the HTML it creates, and HTML edited with it, is considered dirty and “expensive” (meaning that it requires more processing power to crunch through the unnecessary HTML tags than cleaner HTML written in a different editor). Most websites won’t use documents or articles written in Word HTML. A number of years ago, I had more than one publication turn down or reject HTML written with Word. Having a tool like Live Writer to compose and post articles directly to one or more online publications is the closest thing you’re going to have to an offline CMS for the masses.

Windows Live Writer first came out to support Windows Live Spaces. Live Spaces were Microsoft’s answer to GeoCities. GeoCities was Microsoft’s answer to Yahoo’s mass attempt at getting the world to claim their slice of the digital frontier, if you will. GeoCities was a place where just about anyone could create a website and create some kind of presence on the web. It was also an attempt at competing with additional properties like MySpace and Xanga. The big difference with Microsoft’s solution is that they provided a tool in Live writer that had a familiar WYSIWYG interface, like the one found in Word.

Live Writer made it very easy to post to Live Space. Thankfully, the app also worked with other popular blogging platforms, including WordPress, SharePoint, Blogger and TypePad, among others, meaning you can write and automatically post to sites built on these supported platforms. You can also use WLW to create HTML that may be used by other CMS’ (Content Management Systems).

Unfortunately, Windows Live Writer died with the rest of the Windows Essentials on 2017-01-10.

Open Live Writer

Thankfully, prior to its death, Microsoft decided to release the application to the open source community. Windows Live Writer was replaced with Open Live Writer; and strangely enough, the open sourced version of WLW, is completely identical to the Microsoft branded app.

Interestingly enough, the new version of the app supports the same blogging services. The only difference with OLW is that you already have to have the blog started somewhere (meaning, it has to have a URL and the ability to post articles prior to you writing one).

I’ve been using the app for just a little bit now, and quite honestly, I’m pleased and VERY relieved. When I picked up a Surface Book earlier this year, I wanted to install Windows Live Essentials on it. Unfortunately, it was after 2017-01-10, and as I mentioned previously, attempts to install after that date will be met with installation/ download errors (even though you can still download the installation program. Searching for “windows live essentials download” on your search engine of choice should bring up a number of different download links from reputable download sites all OVER the internet. Thankfully (and rightfully so), Soft32 doesn’t have it in its download catalog.

Conclusion
As an HTML editor and web article creation tool, Open Live Writer is just as effective and good at its job as Windows Live Writer was. To be very honest, those that depend on or prefer this tool to others have a great deal to be thankful for. Open Live Writer satisfies the need for a posting tool for just about any and every website out there, plus it creates some of the cleanest HTML, the same as any of the bigger, paid tools on the market.

Windows Essentials had some of the best Microsoft applets ever created. They covered a great deal of holes in the OS. With the advance of Windows to more sophisticated versions, Microsoft has finally retired the suite.

Its components may have been replaced, but can still be used, provided you already have them installed. After 2017-01-10, they can no longer be installed on any computer, regardless of operating system.

Some of their replacements can be installed and/ or used at your convenience; and if you’re curious, or interested, they’re a good move and good choice of applet to address the needs they fulfill.

Are you currently using Windows Essentials? Which version of Windows are using them on? What is it that you find most valuable about them? Are there better apps out there, in your opinion?

If there are, I need you to tell me all about it. Meet me in the Discussion area, below, and give me all the information you have. I’d love to hear it.

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Why I Ultimately Dumped my Surface Pro 3

There comes a time when enough, is just enough…

Surface pro 3

Its hard to know where to start with this one.  I’ve been a Windows guy for so long – nearly 20 years – that in the end… I feel like I abandoned my post, or something.  However, there comes a time when you know you’ve fought the good fight and that you just can’t fight any more. I never thought I would ever say this, but personally, I really think I’m done with Windows and Windows 10. So much so, that I’ve sold my Surface Pro 3.

Over the past year, I’ve written a bit on how much of a problem OneNote and Windows 10 can be together. Funny thing is, I thought it was limited to Office 2013.  Unfortunately, its not.

Even with OneNote 2016 ink still disappears on all Surface Pro tablets running both Windows 10 and OneNote.

I’ve also noticed that while things should be getting more and more stable on Windows 10, they aren’t.  They just aren’t.  Not on my Surface Pro 3.

And to be quite honest, I was willing to live with it. I was going to figure out some way to work through it. I wasn’t going to be easy, but I was resigned to it, in a sense.

That is until I found this thread.

This is not going to end during the life cycle of this device. Period.

The problem exists on the Surface Pro 4. Though it’s a bit different, it’s the same type of problem.

It became clear to me after reading through that thread, that its not going to end. So… I sold my Surface Pro 3. What have I replaced it with?

Nothing yet.

Honestly, I’m not certain what I should do at this point.

The Surface Pro line is proving to be a bit unstable and honestly, unreliable for what I need it to do.  Its also a bit more expensive than I want or need it to be.  I am looking for a way to take hand written, notes in meetings.  The Surface Pro 3 was perfect for that, to a point. It ran OneNote 2013 well enough.

So why not return my Surface Pro 3 to Windows 8.1?  That’s a fair question…

There are really two big issues here:

  1. Windows 8.1 is Clumsy
    Windows 8.1 still has the Windows 8 UI. While there are apps like Start8 and ModernMix that can help hide some of the issues and problems; but its really just a coat of paint for both the Start Screen and ModernUI based apps, nothing more.
  2. Windows 10 isn’t Going Away
    Microsoft is getting aggressive with Windows 10. Their Windows 10 upgrade stub that installs as part of a Windows Update component.  While you can defer it for a while, its going to do its best to assert itself on your computer. I’m not entirely certain you can say no forever. I may be wrong – I hope I am – but it may be true.The OS has been downloading to computers without the consent of their owners. It could install itself overnight, also without their consent.

I thought long and hard about just taking my Surface Pro 3 back to Windows 8.1 and just using Office 2013 or Office 2016 (and ultimately OneNote) there. However, in the end, I decided against that, largely because of number 2, above.

So, out the door it went.  I just wasn’t willing to deal with its problems and issues any longer. I had had enough.

At the end, when I went to take my Surface Pro 3 back to Factory fresh with Windows 10, I had all sorts of trouble, too. Windows 10 would not reset itself on my Surface Pro 3.  Most of the time, it prepped itself and then simply restarted and went back to my Windows 10 account. When I tried to use the Advanced Restart Settings – which booted to the UEFI where you can also refresh, reset and even wipe the drive if you wanted – my Surface Pro 3 froze when trying to reset itself… more than once (I know because it sat at that screen for over three hours each time I tried. I tried three times…).

I had to pull the Windows 8.1 recovery USB I made many months ago and use it; and even then, it wasn’t smooth sailing with that either. I had trouble resetting the device with that too. I had to try ore than once with it, and then ultimately I had to wipe the drive to get MY data off when it sold.

What does this mean for you?

Probably not too much, unless you’re having similar ink and stability issues with Windows 10 on your Surface Pro device (the thread that I’ve been referencing with disappearing ink has a couple posts in it which indicate that it also happens with the original Surface Pro and the Surface Pro 2 as well).

If you are, then you have some kind of decision to make – either put up with it, stay on or move back to Windows 8.1, or sell yours, like I did.

Do you have a Surface Pro device?  Are you having issues with disappearing ink?  Is yours unstable?  Are you using Windows 8.1 or Windows 10? Are you using Office 2013 or Office 2016? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your thoughts on this and tell me what you think you’re going to do?

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Microsoft Changes OneDrive Storage Options

Now this truly sucks, as it was one of the reasons why I bought Office 365 in the first place...

In a surprise move that took many off guard, Microsoft has announced sweeping storage changes to its OneDrive online storage product, which is similar in function and scope to both Dropbox and to Google Drive. Users will now be limited to 1TB of storage. Here is the complete list of changes that users can find on the OneDrive Blog.

  • We’re no longer planning to offer unlimited storage to Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers. Starting now, those subscriptions will include 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
  • 100 GB and 200 GB paid plans are going away as an option for new users and will be replaced with a 50 GB plan for $1.99 per month in early 2016.
  • Free OneDrive storage will decrease from 15 GB to 5 GB for all users, current and new. The 15 GB camera roll storage bonus will also be discontinued. These changes will start rolling out in early 2016.

Microsoft is taking the following actions to help users make the transition:

  • If you are an Office 365 consumer subscriber and have stored in excess of 1 TB, you will be notified of this change and will be able to keep your increased storage for at least 12 months.
  • If you are an Office 365 consumer subscriber and find that Office 365 no longer meets your needs, a pro-rated refund will be given.
  • If you are using more than 5 GB of free storage, you will continue to have access to all files for at least 12 months after these changes go into effect in early 2016. In addition, you can redeem a free one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (credit card required), which includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage.
  • Current customers of standalone OneDrive storage plans (such as a 100 or 200 GB plans) are not affected by these changes.

onedrive-logo-microsoft-212x212Like all things in life that get ruined, Microsoft is blaming a “small number of users” who had more than the “average” of 1TB. In these cases, it was found that these users had pushed over 75TB of space (or 14,000 times the normal user). These users pushed files like PC backups, DVR collections, or their entire digital movie collection up to OneDrive.

And who could blame them – Microsoft had PROMISED, and users had paid for (via their paid Office 365 subscription), unlimited storage. I’m not certain why Microsoft seems to be taking this retaliatory step against its users. Isn’t unlimited, unlimited??

To be honest, I never saw unlimited storage. To be honest, I called Microsoft and they ASSURED me (after unlimited storage was announced earlier this year) that I had unlimited storage space. I didn’t buy it then… and I’m OBVIOUSLY seeing the end results very clearly – NO UNLIMITED STORAGE FOR YOU!

I honestly do NOT think that this is a case of a few bad apples (spoiling the whole bunch girl). I honestly think this is a case of someone finally waking up and having, what I like to call, a V8 moment.

If you offer unlimited (and people have purchased it) people are going to make use of unlimited . It’s stupid to think that someone would not put all of this content in OneDrive if they could.

I mean, is “unlimited” unlimited or not?

It’s a simple yes or no question. One year ago, the answer was yes. Today’s move seems to say, “Psych! We weren’t really serious. Did y’all think we were serious?!”

While I’m being, perhaps a bit sarcastic and maybe a bit callous, the move to unlimited storage was a huge benefit for Office 365 Home and Business users (users of Office 365 Personal got only one (1) account with unlimited storage, even though they could share their subscription benefits). As I mentioned earlier, it’s what finally pushed me over the edge and made me bite. It was a better deal than Dropbox (still is) and a better deal than Google Drive.

I’ve been reading and researching information on this on and off all day. The biggest possible reasons behind a change in product alignment may be

  1. The marketing promotion on OneDrive and Office 365 that offered unlimited storage may have ended.
  2. Microsoft may have realized that they can’t sustain an “unlimited storage” offering. It may be too costly or too unwieldly to manage (or both)
  3. With the 2015 Holidays on the horizon, they may see a wave of new, potential Office 365 subscribers coming, and may not want or be able to provide unlimited storage to existing and new customers.

Any way you cut it, though, this is not being received very well.

This doesn’t affect me much. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 35GB of documents and files on OneDrive. The new 1TB limit doesn’t affect me much, as I am not likely to put all of my photos or other media files on OneDrive, though I had been considering placing some of my unboxing videos there. That likely won’t happen now.

What’s still up in the air about all of this is OneDrive for Business.

At one point, Microsoft said they would extend the unlimited storage option to OneDrive for Business customers. That didn’t happen, and at this point, Microsoft isn’t saying whether or not OneDrive for Business will get unlimited storage or not. Their Office 365 roadmap still shows that offering as “in development.”

Users are truly up in arms about this , as Microsoft was effectively offering (depending on how you look at it) unlimited OneDrive storage with free Office 365 use for $11 per month or the other way around. That is huge compared to companies like Dropbox, iCloud and Google whose product offerings can be seen in the table below:

OneDrive Dropbox Google Drive iCloud
Free

5GB

2GB

30GB

5GB

30GB

N/A

N/A

Free

N/A

50GB

$2

N/A

N/A

$1

100GB

N/A

N/A

$2

N/A

200GB

N/A

N/A

N/A

$3

1TB

$7/ $10*

$10

$10

$10

10TB

N/A

N/A

$100

N/A

20TB

N/A

N/A

$200

N/A

30TB

N/A

N/A

$300

N/A

*Office 365 Personal is $7 a month, and gives a single user access to 1TB of OneDrive Storage. Office 365 Home is $10 a month and gives up to five (5) users access to 1TB of OneDrive Storage.
All costs are rounded to the nearest US Dollar, and are charged monthly.

These are the big storage players out there. Given that OneDrive was really the one to start the cloud storage war, their retreat back to such a small product offering seems a bit strange. Given the costs outlined above, Google Drive is back on top as the most cost effective STORAGE plan out there. However, Microsoft still offers both Office 2016 (or the most current version) plus the online/ cloud based storage amounts I’ve noted. How that plays out and what that might actually mean to you in terms of monthly cost, clearly falls under the “your mileage may vary” category.

What does this actually mean for Microsoft??

That’s a very good question. At this point, it’s all up in the air.

However, you have to think of a few things, here.

  1. Microsoft realized they bit off more than they could chew with unlimited storage and decided that the bad PR was worth what they estimated they could save in storage costs
  2. Bandwidth and enterprise storage is expensive, even for someone like Microsoft who decided to get into the storage business, when they started offering what is now called OneDrive a few years ago
  3. Microsoft has focused the identification of their target customer as either an Office 365 Home or Office 365 Personal customer who isn’t storing more than 1TB of data (obviously) in the cloud.
  4. Microsoft is likely fine/ ok with losing customers who do not fit this mold and doesn’t seem to be concerned about
  5. Microsoft doesn’t seem concerned with the bad press they are likely to get as a result of these decisions
  6. Given Microsoft’s track record in the “bad decision department,” I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see them reverse this decision within the next week or so

What do you make of all of this? Are you an Office 365 Home or Personal customer? Are you one of the naughty users who had more than 1TB of data in OneDrive? Are you a OneDrive for Business customer? Do you expect Microsoft to make good on the unlimited storage offer still on their roadmap, or will that also fall victim to this new product refinement?

Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts on the matter?

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Office for Mac 2016 Public Preview

Well, it’s about frickin’ time that this got some attention…

office2016

I’m a patient person, but I’ve been waiting a LONG time for this.

Back in 2010, I was all over the beta and preview releases of Office 2011 for Mac. I’ve been an avid Office user and beta tester since the implementation of Office 95 back in 1994 and 1995. To say that I’ve been using Office since it became…Office is an understatement. Yeah… I’ve been around since the beginning.

So, back to the Office 2011 Preview for Mac – which consisted of just Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and for the first time, Outlook. The main three apps, Word, Excel and PowerPoint have their quirks, but all three are very usable. They may not look or feel like their Windows counterparts, but hey, the functionality is basically the same, if albeit a bit strangely implemented. The Office for Mac Team has been, I think, overly occupied with insuring that Office for Mac looks and feels like a real Mac app as opposed to a suite that was ported over from Windows.

Big surprise, kids… Office is a Windows suite. It’s always been a Windows suite. It’s always gonna be a Windows suite, and its origins AND its UI and are firmly rooted… in Windows. You’re just NOT going to get the UI to look and feel like a true Mac app. Get over it and move on. Folks that use Office for Windows at work want to come home and have the same UI greet them when they use Office for Mac.

They do.

Anyone who tells you differently has either a hidden agenda or is too deeply rooted in the Mac culture and ecosystem to be honest about it. (Yes, I use a Mac and OS X because I didn’t want a Window machine; but I’m not married to it, you know. I may prefer it, but I’d really rather Office look and work the way I’m used to seeing and working with it. I’m just sayin’…)

So, today, I was VERY pleased to see a write up from Mary Jo Foley on the release of the first public preview of Office 2016 for Mac. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m glad that the time is now here.

If you’re already an Office for Mac user and have Office for Mac 2011 installed, you can run it alongside of Office for Mac 2016 preview without “crossing the streams.” This is a big relief for many, as there was a great deal of confusion about the initial preview release of Outlook 2016 for Mac during the Fall of 2014. The original thought was you couldn’t run it and Outlook 2011 on the same machine. Apparently now you can.

From what I’ve been able to discover so far, Microsoft is planning on updating the suite often during the preview and will notify users of the updates automatically through the Office for Mac Auto-Update tool. So, pretty much the way we’re used to getting updates to Office; but at least the thought is… on a frequent basis. Each new preview build has a shelf life of 60 days, after which, the software will expire and not run any more. Updating to a new preview build buys you another 60 days during the Official Preview period. The final preview will function for about 30 days after the suite official RTMs.

The thought on THAT date is – some time (this) Summer 2015, several months ahead of Office 2016 for Windows (which is slotted for release during “late 2015.”

So, what do you get with the suite? I mean, besides revised/reworked versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook? Well, according to Microsoft, you get a suite that is more closely aligned with its Windows (and other platform) counterparts. It’s still supposed to look like a set of Mac apps; but will more of the same features from the Windows version. For example, you get a new Ribbon that looks like the Office for Windows Ribbon. Its tightly integrated with OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and Office 365. It also supports Mac’s Retina Display resolutions out of the box.

Because the suite works with all flavors of OneDrive and with SharePoint, you get to access your data where ever it lives and can save it back to the same location from within the app. No more downloading a copy to your Mac, updating, saving back to SharePoint manually and then deleting the “original” so your new version is the only version there.

Office for Mac 2016 also supports Office 365 accounts, so you get cross platform access to all your stuff no matter what device you’re using. It’s obvious that Microsoft is really trying to level the playing field between all of the platforms that it supports, and that the Windows version of everything is losing its “most favored nation” status, which is a good thing. There should be a consistent level of parity between all of Microsoft’s products on every supported platform.

Microsoft Office should be Microsoft Office whether you’re on a Mac, PC, smartphone or tablet (the latter two of any and all flavors). The only things we’re missing now are Access, Publisher, Project Standard/ Professional and Visio Standard/ Professional. Publisher seems like it would be a no-brainer on the Mac. I have no idea why the app isn’t part of the Mac suite. Access, Project and Visio have well carved out spots on the enterprise side of the things.

I can see why Microsoft has dragged their feet there in the past, but Nadella’s New Microsoft shouldn’t look at those four components that way. If they’re bringing parity to all of Office where Office lives, then we’re eventually going to need those apps. I have need of both Project and Visio on my Mac right now. Publisher would be a real nice to have, and Access… well, with Bento going off the market, there’s need of a decent consumer or SOHO database app, isn’t there??

I’ve pulled down the Office for Mac 2016 Preview and I will be going through it over the next few weeks or so. I will have a review of the suite up for everyone to read as soon as I can pull it together.

download Office for Mac 2016 Public Preview

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Touch Enabled Office Likely Coming to iPad Sooner than to Windows

Better late than never, I always say…

ipad_officeThere are a number of reports – in fact, I’d say that we were bombarded by them at the start of the weekend last Friday – that Microsoft is planning on releasing a touch enabled version of Office for iPad before it will be released on Windows. This really doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I’d say better late  – like more than three years too late – than never. Quite frankly, it’s about time.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lamented over the fact that a Microsoft version of Office doesn’t exist for iOS. Code named Miramar, the word on the street is that it’s going to hit before the touch enabled version for Windows, code named Gemini.  This version of Office, however, is likely to be for iPad only, so don’t’ think you’re going to be able to turn your iPhone on its edge, grab a wireless keyboard and edit your next manuscript. That likely won’t happen. The information I’ve seen has this version of Office working on the iPad.

How this all comes together is still up in the air. Mary Jo Foley quotes Steve Ballmer from a little while back saying that Miramar would appear after Gemini (the metro version of Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) hit the market; but that may have changed near the end of 2013. It seems that Microsoft is trying actively trying to get Office for iPad to market as early in 2014 as it can.  Whether that’s before the end of Q2 or not, remains to be seen… The original scuttle-butt had Office for iPad hitting sometime in calendar Q3 of 2014.

The big unknown is how this will get to end-users.  The original rumors of this program had the app tied to some kind of Office 365 subscription.  In other words, you had to have THAT in order to get the app.  I see that as problematic. What about users who have purchased a product code vs. a subscription? How Microsoft will allow them to have access, if at all, remains to be seen. Regardless of how its licensed, you can count on Microsoft’s other services – like OneDrive – being built in. It’s doubtful that Office for iPad will use iCloud for document storage.

This could be the biggest CoIT BYOD bone that Microsoft could throw its home users. We’ve been screaming for a version of Office for iOS for YEARS (as I mentioned earlier). I know I’ve tried to pull together an “Apple iPad at Work” series for years.  My biggest problem has been that either I’ve had the wrong iPad (I have a 32GB iPad 1 that I purchased myself for Christmas in December of 2010) or the lack of a good Microsoft Office replacement has prevented me from really giving it a go.

My work habits, like those of many, no doubt, revolve around Microsoft Office created and managed documents. While there may be Microsoft Office substitutes for iOS out there, I’ve learned over the years that “Office compatible” doesn’t always mean “Office compatible.” Moving back and forth between tools often kills formatting in documents that are heavily formatted. Remaking or reapplying that level of customization is not something that I’d recommend to anyone.  There’s also the issue of touch screen type. Handwritten notes don’t work well on an iPad, I’ve learned, and that means that you really need to have a decent keyboard in order to use OneNote (and now Word) in order to get the most use out of the tools.

This is likely to make a lot of people happy; but at the same time, I’m not certain it’s going to drive a lot of sales.  Tying the tool to an Office 365 subscription may not be the wisest choice.  As I said, what about Office users who bought a product code?  What do they do to get access to the app? What about users who just want to use the iOS version and don’t want a subscription to Office 365?  Again, while many users may want this app, I don’t think it’s going to be something that will drive sales of the larger Office suite product(s).

After thinking on this a bit more, I really do think that Microsoft needs to get a decent handle on licensing and figure out how they will allow users to make use of the product. Another possible in may be via purchasing a OneDrive subscription.  I really don’t think that this is going to work with iCloud. If that’s the case, Microsoft could allow ANY iPad user use of the app, provided they have a paid OneDrive account. That would at least give everyone the opportunity to download and use the app.  Many users have more than one cloud-based storage solution (i.e., Dropbox AND iCloud, or OneDrive AND Google Drive) on their computing devices, whether they be laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone.

What do you think, though?  Is Microsoft Office on iPad something that you want?  Do you have an Office 365 or a Microsoft OneDrive subscription? Is this something that should be tied to a Microsoft subscription product, or is it something that should exist as a standalone product?  If it doesn’t, do you think it will help drive sales of Microsoft’s Office suite, or is it just a nice to have? I’d really like to hear your thoughts on the issue. Why don’t you join us in the discussion below and give us your thoughts on the issue?

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Apple to iWork Users – All Features will be Restored

I kinda figured this was the case. It’s good to know that Apple isn’t leaving users (totally) out in the cold.

iwork09090106-3

When Apple reworked iWork late last month and:

  • Made it 64bit
  • Leveled compatibility with iOS, iWork in iCloud and OS X
  • Made it free with the purchase of a new Mac

The update was huge; and it was the shot that restarted and won the Office Suite War  in a single volly; or so I thought. I later found out  that a number of features were missing, apparently removed, much to the chagrin of many iWork 9 users. The outcry had many pundits scratching their heads and users headed towards Office 365 or other alternatives.   Microsoft had fired back without even raising a finger.

Thankfully, Apple has heard the outcry of the masses and has responded.   The missing features were removed in order to insure file compatibility with iWork for iOS.   They will restore 18 of the missing features over the next 6 months.   According to Apple, “In rewriting these applications, some features from iWork ’09 were not available for the initial release.   We plan to reintroduce these features in the next few releases and will continue to add brand new features on an ongoing basis.”

Apple will restore 8 features to Pages, 6 to Numbers and 4 to Keynote, or 18 features in total.   This includes customizable toolbars, renewed Apple Script workflow automation support and thumbnail-based section management.   Unfortunately, once documents are converted in the new version of iWork, they can’t be opened in iWork ’09.

The biggest problem here is that the features will be restored over time and not in a single update after the 2013-10-22 initial release of the cross platform version of iWork.   Its nice that the features will be restored, but some are wondering why this message wasn’t delivered with the updated version of iWork in the first place.

The big question here is whether Apple intends to answer these questions or just gloss over them?   Will they accelerate their release schedule; or weather the storm and get them out there when they can? It wouldn’t mean the end of the world to a lot of people, as those that were dependent on the older features can still access the older software either after the update from an “archived” folder created during the installation routine of the newest version of iWork; or by not updating the software and continuing to use iWork ’09.

If you’re not an iWork user yet, but are interested in the new cross platform version, be aware that there are updates to be made. Existing users should watch for the updates and their missing features to be restored.

What do you think of the situation?   Did Apple stick it to its users, or is the situation something that will work itself out over time?   I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion area, below.

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Microsoft Windows 8.1 Delta Review

Introduction

Windows PC’s are some of the most affordable computers available today. Portable or not, they cost hundreds of dollars where Macs can cost thousands. If you want an affordable or budget PC, portable or not, its likely going to be a Windows machine. Unless there’s a Windows 7 offer, you can expect to have the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system on it.

Windows 8.1 has a few interesting changes in it. I’ve covered the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 for Soft32. There wasn’t a huge delta – or change – between the Consumer Preview and the version that hit the streets. There are some interesting changes between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Let’s check them out and see if Windows 8.1 is the version of Windows 8.x that we’ve been hoping for.

New Features

Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but please remember that Windows 8.1 is still very much Windows 8. There are some very, very good improvements to legacy usability that should make many users of non-touch enabled PC’s very happy; but Microsoft didn’t go quite as far as it could have – or should have – for a great many users. Windows 8.1 still has ModernUI throughout most of it.

However, that doesn’t mean that the improvements that were made weren’t valuable. They are. Windows 8.1 is a much better Windows 8 than Windows 8 was. Let’s take a look at what was done, and see how it all stacks up. Depending on the type of PC you have, you may find them more relevant than others.

Start Button – but no start Menu

The masses have not been happy with the lack of a Start Button and Start Menu in Windows 8. The Start Menu has been around since the early days of Windows XP, and as many will tell you, was optimized in Windows 7. Microsoft has heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth and has resolved the issue…sorta.

Win81-01 Start Button

The Start Button is back, but the Windows 8 Start Screen is still here. There’s no Start Menu any longer. So unless you replace the Live Tiles with the All Programs menu, you’re stuck with them. The functionality here is still very good, and Microsoft has included the new Search Everywhere option (which is the real value of the Start Menu) which includes searching SkyDrive as well as online, for the terms you’re looking for.

Those of us used to using Windows in the Enterprise will also notice that the consumer version of Windows 8.1 also includes a log off/Sign Out option, accessible via a right click or by pressing Win-X, allowing users to take the PC back to an on, but not logged on status. This makes sharing PCs at home a bit easier as you truly DON’T have to share a single account with a spouse or siblings. All the instances of each app can truly be customized for any user of any account and you don’t have to share unless you want to.

This particular point is still a huge issue for many people. They really don’t like the Live Tile-based Start Screen on non-touch enabled and/or legacy PC’s. For those that just can’t live with the Start Screen, you can always install Start8.

Boot to Desktop

One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 is that it took you right to the Start Screen every time the PC finished the startup process. As part of the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft introduced a Boot to Desktop option for users who simply weren’t going to use ModernUI or who preferred to see the standard Windows Desktop. It *IS* where most users will do most of their work.

Win81-03 Boot Desktop

Interestingly enough, the options for this are connected to the Task Bar and not to your desktop (Personalization) or Display options. To get to these, right click your Task Bar, click Properties and then choose the Navigation tab.

Here, you’ll see a great many Windows 8.1 options, including the option to replace the Start Screen with the All Apps view. Take note of this tab and this dialog box. You’re likely going to become very familiar with the options here as you try to figure out the best set of “navigation options” for you.

This is one of the biggest advantages of Windows 8.1 over Windows 8. If your PC doesn’t have a touch interface and you aren’t going to be using it as a lean-back device (a tablet-like, content consumption device) then you may want to give serious consideration to using Boot to Desktop. Using this, along with options like the All Apps View go a long way to hiding ModernUI elements from users who really won’t make use of them.

IE11 Updates

Windows 8.1 comes with IE11, so you won’t need to update the browser via Windows update or any other manual process. The ModernUI version of the Microsoft’s web browser includes Reading View, which allows you to view and read content off line. It has settings that allow you to customize its look and feel with different fonts and colors choices. You can also turn Tracking Protection on and off and prevent sites from tracking you or from installing 3rd party cookies.

Win81-04 IE11

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From the Derp Department – Apple Screwed up iWork

OK… Maybe I spoke too soon. Someone pass me a fork for the crow pie I’m about to eat.

A few days ago I mentioned that Apple restarted and won the Office Suite War with its release of a new version of iWork and priced it for free, at least on new Macs.

I may have spoken too soon.

In an interesting development, a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth has been heard in the Apple Orchard after existing users upgraded to the latest version of iWork. Apparently, in order to insure cross platform compatibility, and have really one code base across iOS, Mavericks and the Web, Apple stripped a great many features out of the suite.

For example, Pages as had endnotes, outline view, selection of non-contiguous text, facing pages, saving files in RTF format, removed from the app. It also now contains significant limitations in automating workflow using AppleScript, and has lost more than 100 ready-to-use templates.

While Apple states this makes the software easier to maintain across platforms, most users aren’t going to care. It’s nice to be able to say you can use whatever device you have in front of you to do work, but reality is – most users do work on a specific device every time there’s work to do.

i dont work

For example – I listen to music and make calls on my iPhone. I watch movies and read books on my iPad. I write reports, columns and reviews on my Mac. While the new version of iWork will let me do that on both my iPhone and iPad, it’s not something that I’d do. Users just want the features back. Software upgrades are supposed to fix or enhance existing features and introduce new ones. They aren’t supposed to dumb software down so it’s easier for the publisher to maintain. That’s not a user’s concern and it will never be…

Unfortunately, Apple has a lot of fallout to address based on their 1000+ comments and over 50,000 page views of two threads in their Support Forums complaining about the mess that iWork has turned into.

So… what’s happening on the other end of the battle field? Quite simply, Microsoft is laughing all the way to the bank. Users who want to turn their Mac into a productivity tool can buy Office and get the features they want and need. They can also get an Office 365 subscription, work on their iPad via the online version.

So yeah… Apple may have restarted the war, but they didn’t end it like I thought they did because I didn’t think they’d be stupid enough to dumb the desktop version down so that both it and the iOS version could be compiled from a single code base. Microsoft fired back, and they didn’t have to make a single move. All they did was wait for users to discover how lacking iWork really is and then start laughing as they passed out trial versions of Office.

Now… if Microsoft wants to put this to bed for good… it will make the basic version of Office or Office 365 – Word, Excel, PowerPoint – available to “switchers” for free, say for a year. 

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