Friday, 27 August 2010

Why I'm Not Buying An Ipad

To start with, I think that Apple makes great products, but they are a bit beyond my price range. If I did have lots of money, I still probably wouldn't buy an iPad, here's why. 

First of all, there are no USB ports. For a device with a maximum storage capacity of 64 GB (for $749 or $879 !!), file transfers are a necessity. I think it's totally ridiculous that there's not at least 1 USB port, and if you want one, you have to pay $35 for an adapter. iTunes can be used for transfers, but it's terribly slow. Second, I like buttons. I own an iPod touch, which works great, and has some excellent features,  but playing games on it is brutal (with the exception of games involving a lot of tilting). I can't imagine typing long documents on an iPad, it would be finger-cramp hell. Third, lightweight netbooks/notebooks that can do more and come with better specs can be bought for less than $500, why would I spend money on something that's more expensive and can do less? Fourth, there's no camera(s). Finally, I really hate how slow iTunes works on windows, I want to keep my iTunes time to a minimum. 

Apple releases great products, for me this isn't one of them. 

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The New Hotmail

Since the release of Gmail, Hotmail has felt dated and sluggish; with this new update we can say this no more. I won't go into the fine details of the update, but here are the best new features:

  1. Sweep: This allows you to delete all messages from 1 sender and to continue doing this in the future.
  2. 10 GB Attachments: Wowzers!! These are tied into your Skydrive account and for any photos, they appear as a slideshow within the account. 
  3. Content Within Emails: YouTube links appear as videos that can be played within the email and flickr links as slideshows.
  4. Tracking Numbers: Hotmail will automatically recognize a tracking ID and give you all of the information within the email.
  5. Office Integration: Simply put, it does an awesome job at working with Microsoft Office documents. 
The new update also makes Hotmail feel snappier. For a comparison of Gmail with Hotmail, head on over to Lifehacker

Photos in the new Hotmail

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Windows Live Documents Is Live!!

This past Monday, Windows Live documents was finally opened up to public use, and after spending about 1 hr using it, I'm thinking the big M should have spent some more time developing it. It's not that its a bad suite web app, its just looks and feels ancient, like its from 2008!

Signing up was easy and can be done with any email address which is great since I really dislike hotmail (even the name bothers me). The opening documents home screen is rather plain (see slideshow below) and documents can't be sorted but they can be shared and there is the option to edit them in the browser or desktop program. Also, your given a hefty 25 GB of space.

The first web app that I opened was Word which had basic editing features, but did not have features found in Google Docs or Zoho such as Find and Replace, Thesaurus, Equations, and so on. Also only images stored on the hard drive could be inserted and drawings could not be produced. Next on the list was the Excel Web App which again had basic features such as sorting and number formatting, but graphs can't be produced which is surprising since this is one of the basic needs of a spreadsheet user. Finally, I gave the PowerPoint web app a quick whirl. It had a decent selection of themes, again the formatting was limited and there was no option to created embedding code. Like the Word web app, only images stored on the computer could be inserted and there was no drawings feature although there is a Smartart feature that wasn't working. Windows Live documents also has a OneNote app, it seemed OK. 

The Windows Live documents suite is definitely meant for light editing, anything more serious requires a desktop program or another web office suite such as Zoho or Google Docs. The big M has a lot of catching up to do

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Demo Of Google Docs

Not everyone out there knows what "the cloud" or "Web 2.0" is and even with videos/images, people may still not know what the heck these terms are. Google tries to solve this problem for people curious about Google Docs by offering users the ability to use Google Docs without having a Google account. Curious users just have to visit to give it a whirl. This is not a game changing feature but will probably help increase the number of docs users. 

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Search Those Zoho Apps

Zoho added an "actionable" search feature to their productivity suite today. This allows a user to search across an organizations entire suite of Zoho products such as Zoho Mail, Docs, Writer, Show, Discussions, etc. It works the same as any search engine whereby users can search by keyword and results can be grouped (i.e. based on application). What's really great about this feature is that users can edit documetns, reply to emails, and update contact information within search. Zoho continues to push the envelope for web based office tools. 

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Interview With Google Docs Product Manager Dave Girouard

I just came across this great article over at cnet. Google Docs Product Manager Dave Girouard was interviewed and he basically tells consumers not to upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010, instead use an old version of Office and complement it with Google Docs. Below is a preview of the article (I love Daves' comparison of desktop vs. online apps):
"What is really the goal with Google Docs? I imagine it is not to take the existing types of tools and bring those exact same features online and stop there?

Girouard: We're really creating a platform (where) everybody really can contribute to the Web, whether that means in the confines of a company or as a consumer to their family. I think that pretty core to all of our apps-related services is (allowing) everybody to contribute and work together to create content. The essence of our platform, and I think of cloud computing in general, is about people working together as opposed to an individual being productive on their own.I think that's what the PC era was about, a single person on a single computer doing things you couldn't do before, like creating a fancy brochure, you would have otherwise had to go to a printer before. That was really compelling in the 80s and 90s. I think this era of computing is about how people get things done together. The Web is that platform to enable that."

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Microsoft and Facebook Partner Up With

At the f8 conference about 2 weeks ago, facebook announced a way of sharing Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets, and presentation files named (not very original). It is very similar to Google Docs; documents can be created, edited, and shared (through facebook) online, but so far there is no simultaneous editing in, which is a very powerful feature of Google Docs (and Zoho Docs). Check out the video below for more details.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Google Docs Gets A Major Update

Google Docs has been around for about 4 years and has come a long way in terms of features. In order to keep up with today's web (Yay for HTML5), a major update has become available to most users during the past 24 hrs. This update is called "a new Google Docs" and offers some great features, (make sure to checkout the slideshow at the bottom of this post).
  • Drawings: Users have been able to add drawings to documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, now there is a standalone application. Drawings can be edited with others, can be exported as .pdf, .svg, .jpg, and .png, can be pasted into other Google Docs and vice versa. I gave it a quick try and it was very responsive and intuitive.

  • New Document Editor: This is  faster and offers a better real-time editing experience. Other updates include sidebar chatting,  real margins and tab stops, a better insert image window, improved commenting and footnote tools, better image handling, a more user friendly equation editor and improved importing of documents (this works really great). The current "new" version available to users has some problems such as lack of drawings, symbols, dictionary, thesaurus and a slew of other options. I guess that's why preview has been placed on this update.

  • Faster Spreadsheets: The old spreadsheets editor loaded very slow, especially for large files. This new version is must faster and offers auto-complete, better navigation between sheets, and a formula bar. 
To access these features, all you have to do is click on "New Version" in the top right hand corner of any spreadsheet or visit the "Document Settings" page and click "New Version of Google Docs." Google Gears is not compatible with these versions, and will be replaced with the HTML5 Offline feature. Also, all modern browsers will run these new versions, and if your using IE (not modern?), you need to use Google Frame. Finally, no updates were made to Google Presentations. 

In summary, this update really shows the power of web apps and how great working/living in the cloud is. I expect more businesses/schools will sign on to use Google Apps, as they should since their in-house email hosting and use of MS office is costing them a lot of $money$. Competition is great. 


Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Google Apps Gets Ready For A Disaster

How safe is our data in the cloud? This is a question that all cloud users and non-users have asked. Google has addressed this in a recent blog post that gets into some of the fine details of the data backup process. If a Google data center is disrupted/destroyed, Google's backup system is set up such that no data should be lost (Recovery Point Objective) and the time without access to Google Apps services is zero (Recovery Time Objective).  They achieve this with high speed simultaneous replication of Google Apps user's actions at two data centers; and this is done for the major apps in Google's Apps suite: Calendar, Sites, Docs, and Gmail. 

This is great to know since we are investing so much more time in the cloud. Hopefully the other cloud vendors will release information on their backup procedures to ensure that their customers feel safe using their product.

Note: As an extra security measure, I export my documents to one of my hard drives, it's a "just-in-case" thing.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Apps Script Comes To Google Docs Users

Google Apps Scripts, which are strings of commands that produce various spreadsheet functions, are now available to all Google Docs users. These easy to execute commands are accessed by simply clicking on Insert -and then Script. As displayed in the video below, this feature has huge potential by combining the power of spreadsheets with the vast amount of information available on the web. 

Only 11 App Scripts are currently available

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The Cloud Becomes Stronger: Google App Marketplace

Yesterday Google announced the release of Google Apps Marketplace- an app store for cloud-based enterprise apps that is available to the 25 million people or 2 million businesses using Google Apps.  Applications are added very easily with just 4 clicks (as Google claims), logins are done using Open ID (awesome) and some of the apps are used directly in Google products (the image editor Aviary is used directly within Docs). There are currently 50 apps available but expect more since Google is giving 80% of the sales revenue to developers which is high compared to the 70% for Android and Apple developers.

The Google Marketplace App Store

This is a great move by Google. There has been an explosion of development in the cloud but it has become very fragmented with many apps available for a particular tool. For example, a search at Go2Web20 for business collaboration tools brings up 23 apps, can you imagine having to know login information for all of of these? Google Apps Marketplace brings a lot of the great cloud tools (including a couple from Zoho) together with benefits to all included. Hopefully those who are not using Google Apps (without a domain address) will have access to the marketplace sometime in the near future.....I really want to use Aviary in Google Docs!!

Adding an app is super easy

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Slide Transitions and Animations In Zoho Show

Slide transition effects and animations are key components of any presentation and until this week, these were only available in the flash-based presentation apps (Sliderocket) and not Zoho Show or Google Presentations. Show now has 5 in-slide animations and 30-slide transitions and amazingly, these remain when the file is exported. There are also a few more embedding options such as size selection and Show can now be used in Google Chrome. Great update.  

Friday, 5 March 2010

$Google$ Keeps Spending The Casholla: Today's Acquisition is DocVerse

DocVerse, the company that brought collaborative editing to Microsoft Office through a plug-in has been officially acquired by Google. This is an interesting acquisition since Google is in the cloud, Microsoft wants to be in the cloud, and DocVerse sort of brings Microsoft Office into the cloud  (editing occurs on the desktop, viewing in the cloud). It defifinely heats up the battle with Microsoft and raises some interesting questions:

  • Will DocVerse continue to be a plug-in or will it move totally to the cloud?
  • If it does exist as a plugin, will Microsoft "challenge" it with compatibility issues?
  • The GDocs team are suspending signups until "until we’re ready to share what's next", what could this be?
  • Will users still have to pay for DocVerse?
  • Is Google realizing that some people still want to store their data on their computers and not the cloud?
  • When will the Google spending-spree stop?
2010 is turning out to be an exciting year in the world of Web 2.0 office apps. 

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Graduates and Failures In Gmail Labs

Gmail was recently voted the best Email Client over at Lifehacker. Part of the reason for it's success is its growing set of features known as Gmail labs. There are now over 60 features and some of these have been quite useful (Google Docs Preview), others not useful (Back to Beta), and others quite fun (Old Snakey). This week the Gmail team graduated 6 of these; Search Autocomplete, Go To Label, Forgotten Attachment Detector, YouTube Previews, Custom Label Colors, and Vacation Dates. Those that have been officially cut from the lineup are; Muzzle, Fixed Width Font, Email Addict, Location in Signature, and Random Signature.

    My favorite two graduates are Search Autocomplete and Forgotten Attachment Detector. As your typing in the search box, Gmail suggests search terms; it looks and works just like a normal Google search. With Forgotten Attachment detector, Gmail scans your message for keywords indicating an attachment (i.e., "attached"). If the send button is clicked and no attachment is present, a warning message will appear.

    Gmail has evolved significantly since the early days when it was invitation only. Labs has and will continue to accelerate this evolution. 

    Thursday, 25 February 2010

    Ubuntu: A Great Change For A Windows User

    Recently I enjoyed the wonderful experience of the Ubuntu operating system. This happened accidentally as my home computer died, and I was given a loaner computer with no installed OS. Since I didn't want to spend any money, I decided with the free, user-frinedly, and open-source Ubuntu.

    Installing Ubuntu was very easy, anyone that knows how to insert a CD and click a mouse can do it.

    Getting used to ubuntu terminology and organization took some time and I'm still trying to get used to it. Anyways, below are the things that I really like about Ubuntu, and beneath that is a list of what still needs to be worked on:

    What I really like:
    1. Low RAM Usage: I have used Windows for 10 years and had though that every machine needed 4 GB of RAM and that an idling OS would use at least 700 MB. Boy was I surprised when I checked the system monitor in Ubuntu. I had Chrome, Google Earth, and FireFox running, and I was only using 400 MB of RAM. Unbelievable!!
    2. Custom Desktop Experience: Icons can be easily added to the tray, they can also be enlarged/reduced, and with CompizConfig windows can be grouped, previewed, snapped to a grid and so on. By far the coolest effect is the 3D desktop.
    3. Sharp Graphics/Fonts: I love the default fonts and the graphics seem to have a sharper look than Windows.
    4. Menu Organization: Another great feature is the grouping of programs. For example, all Internet apps are placed together so there is no need to search through a large menu for a particular program.
    5. Its Open Source: This means constant evolution. The Ubuntu team has stated that it will release a new version of its OS every six months. As a Windows person I had thought that an OS could only be updated about every 2-3 years, now I am wondering what all of those high paid engineers are doing as Microsoft.
    6. No Viruses: Its so nice not having to worry about some trojan or nasty piece of code destroying my machine and files. Now I truly understand what the Mac people have been boasting about for years. 
    What Needs To Be Worked On:
    1. Codecs: Ubuntu comes with some media players and there are a bunch of free ones to download. The problem with all of these is that they do not come with all of the codecs, and installing them wasn't as simple as downloading a file. I spent at least 3 hrs trying to get the codecs to play a illegally downloaded movie. 
    2. More User Friendly: It was very easy to get started with Ubuntu, but the installation of some programs was difficult. I love Google Earth but installing it on Ubuntu was a pain. I could not simply click on a link, download a file, and click on install. I had to search for a command and then enter it into the Ubuntu terminal, which never worked on the first three tries. 
    3. WINE: This program allows the running of Windows only programs in Ubuntu. I found this program really difficult to use and still only have it partially figured out. 
    4. iPod/iPhone management: There are millions of iPods and iPhones out there but I could not find an easy-to-use program to manage video and audio. I tried running iTunes in WINE but all I could get was errors. This is the main reason why I haven't switched completely to Ubuntu. 
    Since the 1st draft of this post I have gotten my computer back and it is working fine. I was going to buy another hard drive and change my computer to a dual-boot machine but the computer is getting old and I don't want to spend any unnessary money on it. So, I am now running Ubuntu within VMWare Player and am easily enjoying the best of both worlds. Hopefully Ubuntu can fix some of the above-mentioned mentioned issues in their next release. Living a Windows-free life may be just around the corner!!

    Tuesday, 23 February 2010

    Zoho Allows Sign-in With Facebook Connect

    Zoho is very open with sign-in options by allowing users to sign in with Google, Google Apps, or Yahoo accounts. Today they announced the biggie that users can sign-in to any of the Zoho apps with Facebook credentials
    Users can also share documents with all of their Facebook friends (even those without Zoho accounts) and your zoho/facebook accounts can be linked. 

    Zoho is making it so easy to use their product and this will definitely cause a huge increase in their numbers. This is truly a great feature and is a big leap forward towards an open web. Great work Team Zoho. 

    Zoho Writer Gets Page View For Editing

    One of the basic features of desktop word processors that wasn't present in their online counterparts was page view. Page preview was available, but this would only preview the document for printing, editing could not occur. Zoho Docs now has an editable page preview (View --> Page View) that indicates page separations with a dashed line. Its a simple solution that works great.

    Monday, 22 February 2010

    Zoho Mobile Gets Refresehed On iPhone and Android

    Zoho mobile's app for android and iPhone was updated today to allow sign-in with Google, Google Apps, and Yahoo accounts (the desktop version already had this) along with a redesigned home screen, the introduction of mobile Zoho Docs that is limited to viewing documents, and some performance tweaks. All of these are great improvements, but editing of any type of mobile document would have been a game changer. I have been expecting this feature from the Google Docs team but it hasn't arrived yet. Whoever (Zoho, Google, or Microsoft) introduces this feature first will definitely cause a spike in their number of users along with a drastic change in how we use our smartphones. 

    The New Mobile Zoho

    Saturday, 20 February 2010

    Goodbye Google Gears

    Google Gears, the offline sync tool, is being pushed out the door to make way for the offline capabilities of HTML 5. This is a great move  because all of these plugins have some sort of browser-specific bug. For example, using Chrome I could not view drawings in presentation mode with Google Presentations because of a conflict with Google Gears, I could see them in FireFox. As we get rid of these plugins, developers can spend more time of evolving the the web as a whole and lest time on bug fixing.

    RIP Google Gears.

    Google Docs Gets A New Clipboard

    Recently, Microsoft posted a series of videos touting its advanced copy/paste feature compared to Google Docs. Now Google Docs has answered back with a new and improved copy/pasting that uses a web clipboard to store copied items "in the cloud" for 30 days. Prior to the introduction of this feature, Google Docs had simple copy and pasting and worked quite well for placing information from websites into a document, but not so well for copying information between Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. As shown in the photos below, spreadsheet data can be copied and pasted into a presentation as a table.

    There are problems with this feature though. I tried copying images from a Google document into a presentation and vice versa, it simply wouldn't work, and the feature is very browser dependent (guess which one it works best in?). Also, the fact that clipboard storage only works for Google Docs and not other websites is a major let-down. Hopefully they will keep improving this feature. 

    Friday, 19 February 2010

    Is Microsoft Feeling Threated by Google Apps?

    I came across these videos by the Microsoft team promoting their Office suite vs. Google Apps. They compare the desktop version of Office with the web-only Google Docs (we'll have to wait and see what the web-version of Office will be like). They make the expected points that Google Docs has limited options and that formatting is lost when converted to Office documents. Interesting enough, Microsoft shows the limited copy and paste option in Google Docs , this has already been updated and vastly improved by the Docs team. Another interesting point, these pro-Microsoft-anti-Google videos are hosted on Google's service, YouTube

    I think that Microsoft is really worried about the Google Apps suite and they should be; there are currently 2 million businesses worldwide that have gone Google along with 7 million students, faculty, and staff. Most of my work is done in the cloud (like this blog posting) and although the formatting is limited compared with desktop applications, the advantages of collaboration, access from anywhere, and ease of publishing to the web are very strong. I love the cloud!!

    Uncool Microsoft Videos

    Cool Google Apps Video

    Thursday, 11 February 2010

    Create Panoramics Easily With AutoStitch

    To begin with, I love Picasa, the great photo organizing, editing, and sharing (much easier than sharing through Windows) program. So, I love taking photos but I am far from an expert; most of my photos are people-free, and if you take a glance through my Picasa Web Albums ( like this one) you'll see lots of outsidey-naturey-scenery shots. Recently I became interested in creating panoramic photos, this lead to the discovery that Picasa can create panoramics but it's through the collage tool which is really time consuming and results are poor. After visiting one of my favorite sites, Lifehacker, I gave  AutoStitch a try. This is a simple, free program that is very easy to use and does a great job at stitching photos together. The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words, well the following three photos are worth 3000 words. Not much else to say about this program, it works great and is extremely easy to use. 


    and after

    Tuesday, 12 January 2010

    GDrive Is Here

    GDrive is here...well kind of. Within the next two weeks, Google Docs users will be able to upload any type of file, up to 250 MB, to Google Docs. Storage is limited to 1 GB with additional storage costing $0.25 GB/year. Note that Google documents, presentations, or spreadsheets do not count towards this storage. All of these files will be searchable, sharable, and many viewable with the Google Docs viewer.

    The 1 GB storage limit is low considering that Dropbox offers 2 GB, Windows Skydrive users gives 25 GB for free and Gmail is 7.4 GB and increasing. As an interesting note, just yesterday the Windlows Live Team blogged about their high storage limit, did they know about the GDrive announcement in advance? The big advantage that Google Docs has over the other online  "drives" is that it can do more than act as a storage location; documents, presentations, and spreadsheets can be created and other file types viewed. Also, the extra storage rate for the GDrive is cheap, for the price of 1 coffee/year, users can have 7 GB of storage, and for a Big Mac Meal per year, 25 GB. 

    The GDrive is definitely going to be a hit with current Google Docs users, although I'm not sure how many new people this feature will attract. Expect to see many more of these Desktop meets Web announcements in the coming year as Google preps for the Chrome OS.

    Important Note: I'm going to post photos whenever this is activated for my account:

    Tuesday, 5 January 2010

    Google Docs Presentations Co-Editing Gets Updated

    Today I discovered something that I apparently missed (I've spent too much time reading about Nexus), real-time indication of editing in Google Presentations. Prior to this, editing a presentation with a friend was brutal because there was no indication of what was being edited. Now, when a slide element (i.e., image, text) is being edited, it will be highlighted and the username will also appear. This makes collaborative life much easier.