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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Ballmer – Office for iPad – Kinda, sorta, maybe, not really…

Office for iPadYour guess on whether MS will release Office for iPad is as good as anyone’s…

What follows is a brief rant on the Office for iPad rumors that have been circulating for a few years.

First there was a screen shot, then a denial, and then a confirmation. Then a retraction and then the rumors started up again with the release of Office 2013 and Office 365. The latest word on the street is that Office for iPad – thought to be called Office Mobile – is a definite maybe; and Ballmer may be the one to put the kibosh on the whole ordeal.

I’m sorry… at this point, Microsoft needs to come out and either say yes or no to the Office for iOS rumors and put the speculation to rest. They aren’t doing themselves any favors, and with the way some of the headlines and tag lines are reading, Steve Ballmer isn’t doing himself any favors either.

According to an article by ComputerWorld, Steve Ballmer is putting the kibosh on the whole project himself. Apparently, Microsoft has an issue with Apple taking 30% of the cut on the app. While I don’t blame them – who would want to give another company 30 cents on every dollar they make on the sale of any given product – all of the speculation around MS Office for iOS really needs to stop.

In my opinion, Microsoft needs to come out with a firm statement on the development of the app. Is it in the works or not? Then they need to figure out a way of delivering it. The problem is obviously Apple’s 30% cut on the sale of the app as well as 30% of all in-app purchases. There’s probably a way to crack that nut; but I’m not 100% familiar with Apple’s rules on paid vs. free apps, subscriptions in apps, etc. in their iOS Developer Agreement.

I think the easiest way around this is to make Office Mobile a free Office document reader. If you want to edit, documents, you’ll need to sign into your Office 365 account, which will, of course, require a subscription. If that’s not 100% compliant, then there may not be a way for Microsoft to deliver the solution without paying Apple 30%, or negotiating a new deal for the app, which I’m nearly certain Apple isn’t going to do.

Any way you slice it, Microsoft needs to make a decision – Office Mobile for iOS yes, or Office Mobile for iOS no. Either way, they need to make a decision, communicate it and then follow through. All of the rumor crap that’s going on and the “Office through a browser” crap that Ballmer is currently suggesting needs to get resolved.

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Office 365 – Is Office Online the Right Choice for You?

Office 2013 and the latest release of Office 365, Microsoft’s Online Office Suite, are available starting today. Are they right for you?

I’ve been using Microsoft Office 2013 since it became available for Microsoft TechNET subscribers in the Summer of 2012.  The suite is pretty decent, with updates to all of the major apps in the suite.  The big question though – is it worth the upgrade price?

The answer is actually simpler than you might think – That depends.  You have a couple different choices with the latest incarnations of Microsoft’s cash cow that give you some decent flexibility. I take a quick look at both of these from a very high level in this two part blog series.

Office 2013

3With office 2013, you get the traditional experience you’re used to with the MS Office suite, including the price points.  Office 2013 Home & Student is $139.99, Home & Business is $219.99, and Professional Plus is $499.99. While the most reliable options, in terms of access and use, they are the most expensive.  This has been, perhaps the single biggest problem with Microsoft Office – its cost; and Microsoft has been searching for pricing alternatives for quite some time.

All of the applications have received considerable updates from their 2010 counterparts.  The single, largest noticeable feature is that they are skinned for Windows 8.  Their flat 2D look clashes with the Aero powered desktop of Windows 7 and Windows Vista. However, all the apps seemed to have gotten huge performance boost with the 2013 edition, even on Windows 7.

Of all the aps, I use Outlook the most.  I think Outlook 2013 for Windows is perhaps the best version of Outlook I’ve ever used.  The app is clean, responsive, and stable.  It works like you’d expect Outlook to work, and doesn’t seem to have any strange or unusual bugs, though the Exchange Server I connect to doesn’t have all of the services (like booking meeting resources and rooms) active.

If you used the preview version of Office 2013 at all, then you’re going to see pretty much the same experience with the released version as in the Preview.  It was stable to begin with.  The released version really did nothing more than add fit and polish to an already stable code base.

Microsoft Office 2013 is available through a number of brick and mortar and online stores and is currently for PC only. The comparable Mac version won’t be available for at least another 12-18
months.

next page

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Google Drive – A Foggy Cloud Experience

I’m in the middle of a love-hate relationship with Google Drive…

Google-DriveI’ve been living in the cloud for quite some time. I’ve had my Outlook contacts syncing with Plaxo since 2003 or so. I’ve also had accounts on Microsoft SkyDrive, Drop Box, and LiveDrive.  In some way, I’ve found all of these services wanting. But make no mistake, I’m very comfortable with my data in The Cloud. If you think about it, its very much like the dumb terminal-mainframe/mini computer model that everyone started using back in the 1970’s or so.

Most recently, I’ve switched to Google Drive; and there are some specific reasons for that. First and foremost, it works at the office.  The company I work at allows Google services through the firewall, and Google Drive works through Google’s standard Google Account authentication. None of the other client solutions I’ve used work the way they’re supposed to at the office. They’re all blocked.  Secondly, its nice to be able to have important files accessible on any the hard drive of connected machine, where and when I use them.

The biggest plus I have with the service is also the biggest problem I have – the client app. It keeps on crashing at the office.

The office PC runs Windows XP SP3; and while that’s hugely antiquated – its 3 major OS revisions (not releases) behind (Windows 7, Windows 7 SP1, and Windows 8) – it is what the organization trusts and is supporting as a whole throughout the enterprise.  I think Google Drives WinXP support is a bid dodgy. When Google Drive does crap out – and it errors out at LEAST once a day, if not more – I either get an error from Google Drive saying that its encountered an error and needs to close or Explorer itself crashes.

The first error is easy to recover from. All I have to do is restart Google Drive.  The second isn’t.  I have to wait for Windows to recover and then I have to bounce the PC.  If I don’t, I can’t access all of the previously running programs or System Tray extensions. The PC also becomes rather unstable.  This usually comes about because I’ve tried to browse to a deep, nested folder on my hard drive.

One of the things that I’ve learned to do is to quit the Google Drive client app before I browse my PC for files.  There’s no other way to prevent the app from erroring out.  Since the Windows 7 PC I have, doesn’t experience the problem, the only thing I can assume is that is related to the OS.  My Mac also doesn’t have client issues.

I’m not sure if Google plans on doing anything about it, but my gut tells me no. Unfortunately, that leaves me with a very foggy Cloud based experience with my data.  I just hope that the errors I know I’m going to bump into don’t damage my data.

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Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012

I first discovered Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012 on Android for the first time, and my first impression was shocking… I had a feeling that I’ve stolen something… A high quality software… For FREE! My curiosity was hungry, so I downloaded and installed it on Windows. First impression was WOW! The download package was only 39.1 MB…I wondered what kind of Microsoft Office alternative software would have that little space? Certainly there was an explanation. Kingsoft Office Suite consists only of Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets modules, the equivalent of Word, Excel and Power Point modules from Microsoft Office. But considering the free aspect, they do what they are made to do!

Many times I tried to make a document in MS Word and the text was messing with my nerves, and the text formatting was giving me the impression that it has a mind of its own that is meant to piss me off, especially if I was trying to add an in-text image or any other graphics. I really got myself consoled with the idea that this is it, and there is nothing better than that. Until I found Kingsoft Office Suite! It’s the best alternative, and it is FREE! I played with a long text (lorem ipsum samples) and with some images in the text, also paragraphs, mathematic formulas and expression, and all you need, it’s there.

I got the feeling at the first use, that I have been using this software since forever. It’s easy, the text stays in place no matter where I drag the picture with the mouse (of course, select the proper wrapping option for the image), but for the first time, the text was not messed up by the position of the image! The paragraphs can be spaced with ease, and of course, it has the thing that made a revolution in the web browsers some good years ago: TABS. This means: all your documents can be opened in a single window, in different tabs. Plus, if you need you document to be safer, you now have the build-in feature to export your file to a PDF file, with just 3 clicks!

Another cool feature is the Homepage tab. Looks more like an online store, but most of the stuffs are free. You can find here many templates for presentations, background templates, business templates, resume templates and much more. Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012 it’s the best MS Office alternative. It is free, and it’s working as it should. Also it looks very familiar and you learn to use it very fast.

Download Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012

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Microsoft Project Professional the ultimate in project management

Arguably the ultimate in project management, Microsoft Project Professional is the solution for any manager who is tired of trying to get by with whiteboard scribblings, post-it notes and scraps of paper.

Ironically what makes Microsoft Project work so well is exactly what makes a project work: it deals with complexity in a simple manner. While the software has an impressively wide range of capabilities, it’s easy for the user to quickly get it to do exactly what they need.

Some rival organization software suffers from a fatal flaw: the user needs to know exactly what they intend on doing at the start of the project, and changing details such as scope, categories or output is impossible once its underway. Microsoft Project is clearly designed by people who’ve worked on real-life projects and know that things are always changing. As a result, adding new tasks or changing the organization of a project midway through is not a problem.

While there are dozens of neat little touches in the software, such as the handy “Ribbon” menu system familiar from other Microsoft Office programs, or auto-complete functions to save time and repetition, Project really works because it has the fundamentals right. It takes account of the fact that a project is based on juggling several resources (time, manpower, equipment, supplies) to produce the optimum result.

Perhaps thankfully for managers, Project can’t yet make decisions and take responsibility for them, but it does mean human users can be sure they always have a clear grasp of both the fine detail and the big picture and thus can be sure of making fully informed decisions throughout a project.

download Microsoft Project Professional

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Free alternatives to Microsoft Office

Tell people that you can get a legal copy of a word processor or spreadsheet program that’s compatible with Microsoft Office and many of them will disbelieve you. But that’s the case with a range of open source alternatives including LibreOffice and OpenOffice. There’s no charge for the software, and no limitations or trial restrictions: you just download it and use it. For casual users at least, it will do almost everything they need.

With this type of software, the issue for most users isn’t everything that works, but rather the few things that don’t. LibreOffice gets off to a great start by modelling itself on the “classic look” of Microsoft Office that should be familiar to anyone who’s resisted the upgrade to the latest editions. The package works intuitively and there’ll be little need for help guides for most basic features — which is fortunate as help is somewhat lacking for some features.

Download LibreOffice

OpenOffice.org is another great open-source office suite, and includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, and databases. It is available in many languages and works on all common computers. It stores all your data in a standard format and can also read and write files from other common office software packages, including Microsoft Office.

OpenOffice.org 3 is easy to learn. If you’ve used Microsoft Office, or a similar set of tools, OpenOffice.org will be familiar and comfortable to you. Best of all, OpenOffice.org 3 can be downloaded and used for free.

Having a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office, especially for budget conscious families and students is important. Though Microsoft has a student version of Office, it’s still somewhat expensive. OpenOffice and LibreOffice offers Microsoft Office (as well as other) suite compatibility in a familiar environment. The tools are intuitive and easy to use, especially if you’ve used Office Suite products before, and at this price point, it’s really hard to beat.

Download OpenOffice

 

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AbiWord a new contender for Microsoft Word

While many of you have already used OpenOffice, as a free replacement for Microsoft Office suite, in 2002 a new project began to rise up from the open source community. AbiWord is part of a larger project known as AbiSource, which was started by the SourceGear Corporation. The goal of the project was the development of a cross-platform, Open Source office suite beginning with AbiWord, the project’s word processor.

AbiWord released a new version (2.9.1) of its text processing software, a version that brings a lot of improvements and new features making it a true contender for Microsoft Word. I have to mention that this version is a development release, and is not considered ready for production use. For a stable version you are encouraged to download AbiWord 2.8.6.

Anyway, version 2.9.1 is worth mentioning because it represents a milestone for the next 3.0.0 stable version in terms of new features and improvements. For the first time AbiWord comes with paragraph borders and shading support. This can be controlled through a new Borders and Shading dialog. The Resource Description Framework  information can now be saved and loaded in both OpenDocument (.odt) and AbiWord (.abw) files.

With AbiWord you can now share online documents through the Telepathy service. By using any Jabber/XMPP account, you can collaborate in real-time with other users on a shared document. In addition you can also export any document into an e-book format thanks to the experimental EPUB plugin.

AbiWord 2.9.1 is a cross-platform application available at the moment for PCs running Windows 2000 or later, or Linux. The development team also mentioned that the next stable version will be also available for Mac OS X.

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