Office 2016 Crosses Multiple Platforms

If you find working across multiple platforms problematic, Microsoft has your solution with Office 2016. The new version is now in preview for IT specialists and developers, and we like how it will be consistent across PC and Mac platforms and on all devices.

Consistency is a big deal, especially for on-the-go business users who switch between Windows and Mac operating systems as well as switching among computers and devices. There have been differences in application-use options and appearances when opening Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, and your annoyance has increased with your level of urgency when you need to work.

Some nice touches for Office 2016 include color-coded headers that correspond to the apps you have open. That’s a great little convenience when you’re working with a Word doc and Excel file – and maybe with a PowerPoint presentation open, too. As you get into working with an app, the ribbon will have a “Tell Me What You Want to Do” box where you can type in your request, such as inserting a table or a picture. You’ll get a list of options.

Outlook will be more customizable to your computer’s or device’s screen, and the photo application within Office 2016 will automatically orient any photo you insert to the portrait or landscape mode so that you’re no longer stuck with an upside-down or sideways view.

Office 2016 should also be better at keeping data from falling into the wrong hands. Expanded use of the “Data Loss Protection” feature, previously found only in Outlook, Exchange, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint allows administrators to create rules to prevent things like leaks of personally identifying information, such as emails that appear to contain social security numbers.

Office 2016 is available for the Mac, while the Windows version is for developers and IT professionals. Following the Microsoft trend, it’s available by subscription, which we like because it keeps the program up to date for all performance and security solutions.

Those of you who have Office 365 will be able to get Office 2016 as part of your update rights. That’s one of the benefits of the subscription. If we’re holding volume licenses for your business, we’ll give you your upgrade when we can both maximize installation efficiency.

We’ll keep you updated on how we like working with our version of Office 2016, but if you’re ready for an office update, don’t wait. We can help you buy and install Office 365 now and then guide you smoothly through the transition to the latest version. If you’re not sure whether you should use the subscription version of Office or buy it outright, we can present the pros and cons of each for you. Just remember, if you buy it outright, we can’t install or reinstall your software without the disk and serial number.

Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us with any questions you have about Office 365 and what’s coming in Office 2016. We can help you install it and sync it for all of your licensed computers and devices.

Windows 10: Our Initial Evaluation

We just installed a test version of Windows 10 on one of our laptops to put it through its paces. Based on first impressions, we like a lot of what we’re seeing – unlike Windows 8.

For our businesses, which need to accommodate a wide range of technical knowledge among their users, getting everyone up to speed will be much faster. While Windows 10 has some features of Windows 8, it has much more in common with Windows 7 and XP.

The new Start menu gets back to the efficiency many users became accustomed to with Windows 7 and XP, beginning with its location at the bottom left corner of the screen. But it will have some of the visual cues from Windows 8 that made that OS more adaptable to tablets and smart phones. You’ll be able to customize the application programs you want to activate from the Start menu by adjusting the size and location of tiles to click and launch. If your computer is set up with a touchscreen, you’ll be able to tap and swipe just like you do on a device. That feature may prove useful for people who go back and forth between computers and devices.

Windows 10 will let you click a button to see all of your open apps and windows, and a black box running along the bottom of the display will prompt you to create a virtual desktop to keep everything you open there as an independent work space. Users who like to run several different types of programs will be able to create separate desktops for each. Business users will be able to create one desktop for specific applications related to one type of business task. Home office users will be able to separate work and personal-use applications, and home users will be able to group all sort of uses such as shopping, entertainment and gaming.

Microsoft will be getting closer to how we work and play in many other areas. It will include Cortana, its virtual assistant, which will be able to run in the background and offer assistance as you browse. That will be more useful on mobile devices, especially if you need something like a review and directions for a restaurant on your browser.

The new Photos app will scan your devices and OneDrive account for photos and arrange them into a giant collection. It will also automatically enhance all of the photos it finds, fixing red-eye and exposure levels if you like. It will be completely optional, and works on raw files, too — if you don’t like a change, you can undo it so you can undo changes without affecting the original file.

These are just some general improvements we like for Windows 10. What are some features or capabilities you’d like to see in the new OS? Let us know by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email. We can see if they’re included and help you access them.

Remember, Microsoft will offer a “free upgrade” from Windows 7 when Windows 10 is released this summer, but as we’ve noted before, the free version is likely intended to get you into a subscription that will automatically update to maintain system performance and security. We can discuss that, too.


Internet Browsers and Speed

Internet service providers are waging a speed war, and the browser providers are battling, too. While Internet speed is getting most of the attention, browsers are important for attracting eyeballs, which translate into advertising revenues. But there’s more to it for you than meets the eye.

First, the speed war.

Comcast recently announced it would roll out its new Gigabit Pro, which the company claims can download at 2 GB per second. The first installation will be in Atlanta, where a lot of stuff to hype is happening. Google is establishing a new office and planning to roll out its 1GB Google Fiber service. AT&T’s U-Verse is also planning to roll out 1GB service there, too. Comcast and AT&T are technical partners for the baseball Braves and football Falcons, respectively. We’re not fans of either team on the field, but both are aiming to build the biggest and baddest wireless systems in a sports venue when their new stadiums open in 2017.

What does that speed mean to you? The short answer is: something and nothing.

The proposed 2 GB service would be 200 times faster than the average for U.S. homes. It would allow you to download an HD movie in about 12 seconds (as compared to eight minutes on a 50 MB per second speed), and families could simultaneously use multiple online connections for work and play with almost no delay.

The numbers sound cool, but even if you have 2 GB or 1 GB service – or even 50 MB service – it doesn’t mean you’re going to download that movie before you open your popcorn bag. The real determining factors will be the location of the server where the movie is stored and the number of hops – or routing stations – your download goes through. The site, for example, is not housed in the US. Your download is subject to any restrictions in the home country and any other country through which it passes.

If the movie is stored on a server that doesn’t have a high-speed connection, you’re not going to get that movie in a relative instant. And, if the movie has to go through a number of routing spots instead of a single run from the server to your computer, that will slow it down even more. Finally, if you have a small pipeline at your home – or office if you’re downloading application software and large data or video files – your feature movie may have to get in the queue along with a ballgame or the results of a Google search.

Another point to keep in mind when looking at pure speed is that your cable Internet provider doesn’t have to deliver, let’s say, 50 MB at all times. If you read the fine print, a cable provider that offers 20 MB download speeds and 5 MB upload speeds only needs to furnish 16 MB downstream and 2 MB upstream. Speed from a T-1 connection is typically 1.54 MB, and you can get a 10 MB service connection, which will deliver 10 MB per second no matter what.

Your choice of the type and speed of an Internet connection will depend on what providers in your location make available and then on the speed you need. The browser is strictly your choice.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is about to give way to Spartan. The new browser’s appearance will coincide with the release of the Windows 10 operating system. IE used to be the king of the browsers, but Firefox, Chrome and Safari have eaten deeply into its share. In addition, many users are accessing Internet content and shopping through their mobile devices.

Microsoft hopes Spartan will help its users tie together their browsing on desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones. Because browsers are still the way we get movies and go shopping, the pages you access through them can be monetized, so there is quite a bit at stake. Microsoft is betting that by making its browser experience more like those of devices, users will go to Spartan across all platforms.

Browser choice is really a matter of personal preference when it comes to IE-Spartan, Firefox or Chrome. It’s a matter of what you’re used to and how easily you can navigate and deal with pop-ups and pop-up blockers. AOL still has a large user base, but it dates back to when Internet content had a lot more text and hardly any video. The interesting note is that clients who still use it are very attached to it. We get more complaints from the children of AOL users who tell them to use another browser and Gmail. But anyone with AOL has no reason to switch as long as they’re happy.

Personally, I think Microsoft should have gotten out of the browser war. It would make life a lot easier for web developers, who must contend with the differences in how IE-Spartan, Firefox, Chrome and all browsers display on various-size monitors and across all types of devices. It would probably lower web development costs and get sites online faster if the browsers were standardized. In addition, its quirky way of handling pop-ups can be annoying.

We can help you decide which browser may be best-suited to how you use the Internet. More important, we can help you evaluate which type of connection and how much speed is best for your home or office – and we can make sure your systems are equipped and configured to take full advantage of your connection. Give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or drop us an email to talk about your needs and options.