Tag Archives | Microsoft Office

Office 2010: Desktop Heavyweight, Online Weakling

At an event this morning in New York, Microsoft is formally launching Office 2010, its accompanying Office Web Apps, and the SharePoint 2010 collaborative platform. The hoopla today is aimed at business customers–consumers won’t be able to buy Office in retail stores or get it preinstalled on PCs until June 15th, and while Microsoft hasn’t guaranteed a timetable for the consumer versions of the Web Apps, it says it expects them to arrive at the same time as the desktop suite.

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Central Desktop: Office Collaboration Without Office 2010

The biggest selling point for the soon-to-ship Microsoft Office 2010 is its new features for storing documents online and editing them with coworkers. At Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco this week, Central Desktop, whose business collaboration service competes with Microsoft’s SharePoint, was previewing a new service with an intriguing proposition: Get Office 2010-like collaboration without Office 2010.

Based on technology from OffiSync, Central Desktop for Office works with Office 2003 and 2007 as well as 2010. It’s a plug-in for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint which lets you open files saved on Central Desktop’s servers, edit them within the Office apps, manage changes from multiple colleagues, and save merged documents back to the cloud.  It certainly doesn’t eliminate the need for Office 2010–for one thing, it lacks anything like Microsoft’s new Office Web Apps file viewer/editors–but it’s worth a look if you’re allergic to big upgrades. (Unlike SharePoint, Central Desktop is hosted; unlike Office 2010, it offers team editing in Excel as well as Word and PowerPoint.)

Central Desktop for Office is due for release next month. Some of its features will be built into Central Desktop plans at various prices, and full access will cost around an extra $2 per user per month.


Microsoft Melds Office With Facebook

Facebook’s F8 developer conference kicked off today, so the Web is rife with Facebook-related news. One interesting tidbit: Microsoft is launching a beta version of something called Docs, which lets Facebook users collaborate on documents with their Facebook pals, in the browser or in the desktop versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. (The name “Docs” may prompt confusion with Google’s Office rival Google Docs, but Microsoft apparently owns Docs.com–and if I owned it, I’d want to use it for something like this, too.)

The beta as it’s been rolled out is semi-open: Anyone can view documents. But uploading, editing, and creating new ones requires an invite code. I’m don’t have full acess, so I can’t explore all of Docs’ features, but the idea doesn’t look so complicated: Basically, it’s a version of Office 2010’s workgroup features and Web-based apps that makes your Facebook friends your workgroup.

It’s tough to judge Docs until I get get full access to it, but it looks like it could be handy. One major question I still have: Even though this is clearly built on some of the Office 2010 Web technology, is it an entirely separate world–or can I create a document in an Office 2010 Web app and share it via Docs, and vice versa?


Bob and Beyond: A Microsoft Insider Remembers

(Tandy Trower spent 28 years at Microsoft, working on everything from Microsoft BASIC to Windows 1.0 to user interfaces to robotics. In this article–part of our commemoration of Microsoft Bob’s fifteenth anniversary–he recalls his initial reaction to Bob and the Bob-like Office Assistant, and his spearheading of Microsoft Agent, a later attempt to build a better “social interface” of the type that Bob represented.)

After I managed the first two releases of Windows, I shifted my focus to helping improve the design and usability of Microsoft’s products, founding the company’s first user interface design services team. For most products, my team’s efforts involved improving window and icon designs, providing usability testing, defining good design practices, and promoting consistency between products. One of my most unique challenges came with the development of the now infamous Microsoft Bob.

Bob was a very different kind of product than Microsoft had ever created before. It was developed out of motivation to improve and simplify Windows and Microsoft’s application user interfaces, and has somewhat unfairly been considered one of the company’s biggest failures.

Bob first came onto my radar after I received an email from Bill Gates asking me to check on a new project he wanted me to review. The message included a document written by Karen Fries, the Bob program manager. In that document, Karen discussed the motivation behind Bob: the increasing complexity of richly featured GUI applications. There were so many choices for the user in terms of commands and options that it was like going to the supermarket and looking down the cereal aisle and trying to make a choice, or visiting a restaurant with a vast menu.
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Office for the iPad? Maybe. Hopefully.

Gadget site T3 is reporting that Microsoft has dropped a “hint” that it may be working on a version of Office for the iPad. I hope so–it could be both cool and useful. But the evidence that it’s doing so is paper-thin so far. (I’ve probably asked Microsoft staffers about things they might be working on hundreds of times over the years, and they only rarely say “no comment” or issue a flat denial–their tendency is say that ideas of all sorts sound “interesting.”)

Last April, someone asked a Microsoft exec about Office for the iPhone, and some took his response (“Not yet–keep watching”) as evidence that such a suite was in the works. The only Office/iPhone news since then has been the fact that Office 2010’s Web features will include some basic tools designed to let people view documents on smartphones. Maybe the exec was talking about that. Or maybe Microsoft is working on an iPhone edition of Office. Or maybe he just meant what he said.

Of course, almost thirty years ago Microsoft did become a rabid fan of a new Apple platform, and released a bunch of applications for it. Its enthusiasm seems to have paid off for everybody involved that time around…


Microsoft Extends 50% Windows 7 Discount

Sometimes Microsoft’s biggest competitor is itself. Huge numbers of businesses are still using Windows XP, and Microsoft is acting aggressively to migrate them to Windows 7 by extending a promotion that offers Windows 7 and Office 2007 for half price.

Windows Vista is by many accounts a better operating system than XP, but nearly 90 percent of businesses bypassed the upgrade, and opted to stick with Windows XP, because it was “good enough” for them. Office XP presents Microsoft with a similar problem.

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Office 2003 Rights Management Bug Locks up Files

UPDATED: It’s a nightmare scenario: Imagine coming into the office and not being able to access any of your organization’s vital documents. That scenario became reality today for an untold number of Microsoft Office 2003 customers who use Microsoft’s Rights Management Service (RMS), a technology for controlling access to documents.

Office 2003 users receive the error, “Unexpected error occurred. Please try again later or contact your system administrator,” when they attempt to open or save protected documents. The bug affects Office 2003 products including Excel 2003, Outlook 2003, PowerPoint 2003, and Word 2003. It does not affect Office 2007 or Office 2010 Beta, according to Microsoft.

A spokesperson said that the bug was caused by a Information Rights Management (IRM) certificate expiring.

Microsoft has posted a bulletin to TechNet alerting customers to the problem, and says that it is working “as quickly as possible” to provide its customers with a solution. Further announcements will be posted to the blog.

Microsoft released a hotfix on Saturday. The Microsoft Office 2003 Service Pack 3 update is required for hotfixes to be installed.


Microsoft Opens Up the Office 2010 Beta

At its PDC developer shindig in Los Angeles, Microsoft is announcing that it’s putting Office 2010, which isn’t due to ship until the first half of next year, into a public beta. You can download the whole beta right here, and if you’re an Office user and are curious what’ll be new in Office 2010, the beta is worth a look. (You can install it alongside an existing earlier copy of Office and leap back and forth, although in my tests, my copy of Office 2007 briefly launched its install program whenever I returned to it after having used Office 2010.)

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