Microsoft Office for iPad – It’s About Freaking Time

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Yep, it’s finally here. After lots of promises and years of delay, Microsoft has finally released a true Office for iPad suite (no more emulations from third parties). Maybe this move is to counter Apple’s semi-recent decision to bundle its iLife apps (Pages, Numbers  and Keynote) for free. Maybe they just finally got around to it. Who knows? But here it is, so I figured I should check out exactly what Microsoft is offering to Apple users.

As expected, Office for iPad is a collection of three apps  - Word, Excel and Powerpoint, of course, in addition to the previously available Microsoft – iPad offerings.  The apps are free, but there is a catch – to do more than view (in other words, to create or edit) docs, you will need the Office 365 subscription, ranging from $6.99 to $9.99 per month for Home Personal or Premium, or one of their business subscriptions. Then, the tablet will have access to the same material available through Office Online, including use of OneDrive for storage.  With an Office 365 subscription, you get five tablet set ups and five desktop setups of the suite.

The apps for iPad are more robust than one might think – they do look like their desktop counterparts to a degree. Of course, with the emphasis on touch interface. Most common features are included in the iPad version, while more arcane features remain desktop only (for example, you can footnote on the iPad, but forget about Mailings and Reference tools). Manipulating text follows the usual iOS protocols for selecting, cutting, pasting, etc. You can track changes, co-author docs, and spell check (although there is no grammar checking or thesaurus tools). There are 16 templates in Excel for iPad, which should cover most of the scenarios you would need on a mobile basis.

For free, you can read, view and present. For a monthly fee, you can create and edit. I would imagine the cost would be justified in the business setting if you are a heavily Office-oriented firm. You can get a 30 day free trial of Office 365, so you can assess whether the new mobile / desktop setup would work well for you. Make sure you are running iOS 7 or later. Oh, and they have versions for your iPhone and Android device as well.

Check out the promo video and screenshots below. The apps are nothing if not beautiful to look at.

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CloudOn 2.5 Getting Closer to the Full Office on the iPad

Back in January, Microsoft Office users rejoiced with the introduction of CloudOn, an iPad app that ran a virtualized Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel & PowerPoint) on the iconic tablet. Not content to sit on their laurels, CloudOn’s developers have added new features to the app that makes it more appealing and useful. CloudOn 2.5 adds the ability to annotate and track to its iOS app. But don’t worry,  Android support is coming. In addition to the previously available tools for managing, creating and editing files, you will be able to add shapes and lines in Word with your fingers, type a note and preserve those markups in the files themselves. You can save to Dropbox, Box, or  Google Drive accounts. The new CloudOn FileSpace feature reveals a real-time stream of data on changes to your documents so that you can effectively track changes across platforms. The ribbon toolbar is optimized for touch gestures for editing and spell checking. While it is running a version that is akin to 2010, rather than 2013, it is more than sufficient to give that virtualized Office experience. While it’s a bummer that it isn’t yet retina supported, it is a great tool for those longing for Office on their iPad or Android-powered device. It also bears noting that, through partnerships with both Microsoft and Adobe, CloudOn lets you open and view a variety of file types with the built-in Adobe Reader and File Viewer, including PDF, JPG, PNG, GIF, etc. And its all for free.


Not ANOTHER Social Network? Microsoft's So.cl

Yup. You heard that right. Microsoft is getting into the act too with its own social network called So.cl (pronounced So-shull). Do we really need another social network? Well, maybe, if it can bring something new to the table. So.cl’s angle is the ability to share your searching, presumably via Bing, with others in order to elicit commentary and maybe help someone else who might be looking for the same thing. Hence the “Find what you need and Share what you know” tagline. The status update box is actually titled “what are you searching for?” You can toggle the box to a more traditional style update as well. When you enter text in the box, the text hits your feed with related search results, also presumably via Bing.

 

 

You can add tags to save the search terms to a list, much like a favorites or bookmark tool. Items in the news feed can also be commented on or tagged by others. Another slightly different twist is the Video Party function – you can watch YouTube (and only YouTube at this time) videos with friends and chat about what you are watching. It also has a question feature, not quite so robust as Quora, and the ability to find and follow people with similar interests or topics of interest.

 

 

The interface is clean and you can make rich posts with montages of images and links from Bing when you search. Very sharp looking. People can comment on your posts – very social indeed.

 

The idea of saving your search results in a visually-appealing way sure sounds a lot like Pinterest, but it isn’t quite the same as a visual bookmarking service. The idea appears to be the creation of micro-resource posts for your friends and for yourself.

 

So.cl is being designed with educational institutions in mind, but it is currently open to the public for testing – it’s a product of Microsoft’s Fusion Labs. Who knows how long it will last or whether it will hit the prime time. But, I think it might have a chance. The social search angle hasn’t been fully developed yet and it seems an easy way to share knowledge and expertise. Why not head on over and try it out. Then head back here and post your feedback and your best guess as to whether this newcomer can survive in the dog-eat-dog world that is social networking.

 

Sharepoint on the iPad? Yes, with Harmon.ie

 

We use Sharepoint at my company. And, we’re not alone. Better than 78% of corporate America uses Sharepoint, the web application platform developed by Microsoft that handles web content management, document management, collaboration, document management and report creation. It feels a bit like an internal enterprise social network, with not so much of the social elements, but heavy on the information sharing.

 

When more  than three-quarters of corporate America uses Sharepoint and about 94 percent of the Fortune 500 are either testing or deploying the iPad in business, it makes some sense to marry the two. Harmon.ie has done just that – the app makes Sharepoint accessible on the iPad via HTML5, making it possible for users to enjoy the same SharePoint experience on the  iPad as on a desktop.

 

View the Sharepoint site on your iPad, get real-time updates, access and share information with colleagues while on the go, and access Microsoft Office Online.

 

There are three pricing tiers: Free, Premium and Enterprise. The biggest difference between Free and Premium is the ability to upload and edit documents and manage email. Check out the comparison chart here. Premium costs $19.99; Harmon.ie Enterprise edition for the iPad is coming soon.

 

It is a great, business and iPad-friendly addition to your mobile Microsoft experience. Check out the screenshots below for more details on what you can expect from Harmon.ie mobile.

 

 

 

Slapping Microsoft Word Into Shape

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Microsoft Word is a necessary evil. I still miss WordPerfect but have been forced by my corporate overlords to adopt Word. Just because I have to use it, though, doesn’t mean I have to like it.

As MS has updated Word, and the Office suite generally, they have added more and more geegaws to the interface, making it look more and more like a victim of Orange County Choppers. TUAW to the rescue here with a bunch of great tweaks for stripping it back down to its elements. I already employ many of these tweaks, such as turning off tool bars and using full screen mode. But did you know you could disable the status bar, set your default folder for new files to DropBox, and even set your visual preference to return your view to the old DOS blue-screen-white-text? Now there’s a throwback for you!

Thanks TUAW for the great Word Improvement tips!

Windows Live SkyDrive Offers 25GB On Your iPhone

Want to expand your virtual real estate on your mobile phone? If you haven’t already gotten your free Windows Live account, now is the time to do it. Sneaking under my radar during the holiday crazies was this announcement from the fine folks at Windows Live – you can now access SkyDrive’s 25GB of storage via apps on your iPhone or Windows Phone. Pretty darn cool. Dropbox is nice, but it can’t hold a candle to the size of SkyDrive.

Of course, Microsoft has baked SkyDrive fairly deeply into Windows Phone 7.5. With the Windows Phone app, you can store documents, notes, photos, videos and access them from your phone. Share photos stored on SkyDrive by email, text, or IM, use Office apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with SkyDrive files, and keep your phone’s camera roll up-to-date on SkyDrive automatically. SkyDrive is integrated directly into the apps as well as core phone functions. Of particular use on mobile, you can browse your entire SkyDrive. share files and manage your storage.

The “extra extra” though is an iPhone app! In addition to their OneNote notebooks, iPhone users can access their files in SkyDrive, create folders, delete files, and share links to folders and files directly using the Mail app. Much of the functionality is the same between the Windows Phone and iPhone apps – tailored to the particular phone’s user experience. This is very very cool indeed – kudos to Microsoft for not leaving us iPhone users hanging!

Read more about these apps and SkyDrive and check out some vids over at the Windows Live site. And get an extra 25GB of useful storage on your mobile device. Thanks Microsoft.

 

Microsoft versus Apple – A Timeline

Who rightfully should wear the crown of Emperor in the Tech world? It’s always fun to measure tech giants and an Apple / Microsoft duel at 50 paces is hard to resist. Check out the stock values and key events in the history of both companies with this (very) long infographic. And remember back to the good old days when the Apple I was built in a garage and Bill Gates was writing Tic Tac Toe programs in BASIC.

Hat tip to BGR.

Wowza! Microsoft OneNote for iPhone! Christmas already?

I didn’t see THAT one coming! Just glanced over at my reader and caught this awesome bit of news for lovers of iPhones and MS OneNote, a Venn diagram that until recently showed very little area of intersection. I haven’t written about my deep and abiding admiration for OneNote in a while, but I have in fact crowed about it in the Studio before (link). OneNote, originally a powerful desktop note taking and organizational tool with amazing editing, search and collaboration features, made its way to the cloud via Microsoft’s Skydrive about six months ago (link). Now, through God-knows-what-sort-of-unholy-alliance, you can get OneNote on your iPhone free (for a limited time), with automatic sync and backup via the cloud-based SkyDrive. It bears noting that there is no native Mac application for OneNote, making this news all the more surreal.

For those unfamiliar with OneNote, I took the liberty of copying the description provided by Microsoft in the App Store for its shiny new app:

Microsoft OneNote Mobile is the easy-to-use, powerful note-taking application for all of your ideas, brought to you by Microsoft Office. OneNote Mobile lets you create and view notes and lists whenever you need them. Sync your notes with free Windows Live online storage and access them from virtually anywhere using your phone, PC, or almost any web browser.

With OneNote Mobile, you can:
▪ Create flexible notes that can include text, pictures, bullets, and checkboxes ▪ Check To Do items off on the go▪ Save time with quick access to your most recent notes▪ Work with confidence—OneNote Mobile automatically syncs your notes with Windows Live in the background▪ Organize your notes into sections or create new notebooks using OneNote 2010 or OneNote Web App and access them from your iPhone

Although Microsoft has other iPhone apps already, this is the first app I know of that directly relates to a paid Microsoft software product within its venerable Office suite.

From the chatter on the Web, it appears that the auto sync update via SkyDrive may not yet be working and is being addressed by Microsoft. I didn’t let that little glitch bother me – I have my app downloaded and can’t wait to dig in. Any edge Evernote may have had on OneNote based on its portability may now be gone!

I <3 OneNote + iPhone!

UPDATE : the SkyDrive sync is working – simply log in via the app to your Windows Live account.

Create Your Own Newspaper with Microsoft's Montage

News aggregators are all the rage. The options out there afford varying degrees of customization, but most take a feed and spit out a more visually appealing version of the links and information contained in the feed.

Microsoft Montage (link here) is a wee bit different. Starting with a search term, you can get your results spit back out you in a magazine-like layout, which in and of itself is easier to digest. But the really cool part is that your “front page” is highly customizable, allowing you to change the layout of each result, tweak animation,  delete or add result blurbs, add Twitter results, etc., until you are satisfied that your paper is a true expression of newsworthy reporting. The result is a page with news items and  relevant media, “picturing”  your subject from many angles. After you are satisfied with your page, you can save and share your “Montages” to your peeps on Facebook or Twitter, and publish it to its own URL.

The Web commentators are almost uniformly comparing Montage to Paper.li, the Twitter-based aggregator that selects tweet from your follows and presents them in a newspaper-like format. I don’t really see the comparison. Paper.li is limited to Twitter and does not involve the depth of editing that Montage does, and Montage does not automatically update – you have to manually keep your Montage’s content fresh via affirmative visit to your list of sites.

Mashable has a nice write up on Montage here. And you can check out this video for a more visual explanation of the service. Thanks to Microsoft’s Fuse Labs for this cool new way to cull and present web information and highlight expertise.

But, I do find Montage to be an interesting, web-based tool for purposes of collecting content and then sharing a very shiny version of it with your social net. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Microsoft Office Web Apps – Now Live & Free

Have you been waiting for Microsoft to finally put its Office applications into the cloud? Have you been waiting for Microsoft to put a “free” tag on those apps? Well, your time has come. Office Web Apps, MS’ free online version of its Office suite, is now live on SkyDrive and available for U.S., U.K., Ireland and Canada-based users.

With the simple creation of a Windows Live account, you can start playing with the new tools. You will find browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even OneNote that mimic much of the look and function of their desktop sibilings. Silverlight improves some of the experience (such as uploading multiple docs at the same time), but is unnecessary. All modern browsers will work with the tools. It’s not the desktop experience, for sure. But it meets Google Docs head on. You can upload (drag and drop!), collaborate with others, create within the web environment, print right from the browser and read docs on your smart phone. And, if you have Office 2010 installed locally (releasing next week), the web counterparts really sparkle with a seamless desktop / web experience. With 25GB of free storage on SkyDrive, this combination of features is nothing to sneeze at.

The Windows team is also promising lots of Office features will be integrated into Hotmail, so stay tuned to that.

Check out The Window Blog (link here) for more information and screenshots. All Hail the Cloud!