By Mark Niemann-Ross | Friday, October 26, 2012
The user interface for Windows 8 blurs the line between tablet, desktop, and smartphone. That’s a good thing.
The Microsoft Build conference starts October 30. For a week developers will be exposed to the latest Windows technologies, analysts will write megabytes of blogs, pundits will tweet reactions both pro and con, and the way we experience computers will change in dramatic and obvious ways.
For developers and users alike, the Windows 8 interface is an in-your-face change. No longer based around overlapping windows and desktops, information and applications are now presented as colored tiles. It is possible to slip back into the traditional Windows interface where each running application is visually separated with windows that can be dragged on top of each other, hidden, and closed; but most of the time the new Windows looks, and functions, very much like a well-designed webpage.
Opinions are harsh. Windows traditionalists miss familiar icons such as the Start menu, Control Panel, File Explorer, and Close button, and are finding the years they spent deciphering the nuances of utilities to now be irrelevant and useless. Worse, users stumble into the traditional Windows interface, but have no idea how to return to the new tiled interface, and developers find creating applications now requires new ways of programming, use of new interfaces, and new ways of thinking about interacting with users. What was Microsoft thinking?
DOS to Windows, windows to tiles, desktop to phone
In 2011, computer vendors shipped more smartphones than desktop computers further supporting the idea that handheld devices—such as smartphones and tablets—are pushing desktop and laptop computers into obsolescence. Apple and Android are battling for first place, with Microsoft scrambling for a piece of the action. Dell, the king of laptop manufacturers, has lost almost half of its value in eight months. The future is painfully clear, and it looks like a handheld device, or smaller.
Microsoft correctly reasons that making improvements to an interface that depends on a keyboard and mouse is corporate suicide, but what about our former Windows Vista user futilely searching for the Windows Start button? Is there nothing to be done for them?
Short answer: The pain is only temporary.
Long answer: We’ve done this before. New interfaces, like apps or tiles, are simply normal innovation. They’re disruptive, sometimes annoying, and the first iteration is often clumsy, but the process is normal, expected, and necessary.
lynda.com is working on a collection of classes for developers and users of Windows 8. In the early part of 2013, you can expect to see courses that show how to get started with the Windows 8 developer tools, as well as more in-depth training intended to assist with advanced developer questions.
Nobody on Star Trek uses a mouse
Science fiction explores a possible future, and most science fiction computers don’t use keyboards or mice; they use gestures and voice recognition. Our grandchildren will think our computers are quaint.
Personally, I have enough years under my belt to remember the jump from CPM, to DOS, to Windows 3, and the jump from my beloved Apple IIe to Macintosh OS X. Each was a move away from a known paradigm to something better. Everything changed for the traditionalists invested in the existing technology, and boy, did they complain.
But the number of people using the new tools soon outweighed the traditionalists. New users with curiosity about how the system does work, rather than assumptions about how the system should work took over.
Here’s to a lifetime of learning!
Interested in more?
• The full Windows 8 Preview First Lookcourse on lynda.com
• All operating systems courses on lynda.com
Suggested courses to watch next:•Windows 8 Metro App First Look
• Windows 7 Essential Training•Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7
By Bonnie Bills | Thursday, July 8, 2010
lynda.com has been rolling out courses on Office 2010 since the suite launched in May, and there are already more than 50 hours of Office 2010 training in the lynda.com Online Training Library® covering all the core applications and SharePoint! I have been talking with our incredibly talented and enthusiastic group of Office 2010 authors about their experiences with this latest version. Today’s Q&A, the last in the series, features Alicia Katz Pollock, author ofAccess 2010 New Features, Access 2010 Essential Training, and Access 2010 Real World Projects.
Q: Access 2010 is touted as a simple product that you can use even if you’re not a database expert. What features can inexperienced users take advantage of to get up and running with Access?
A: While getting started with Microsoft Access isn’t as easy as sitting down and typing a document in Word, Access provides you a variety of tools to get started building your own database solution. First, take advantage of the sample database templates, such as the contact management tools. If you’re starting from scratch, Access’s Application Parts and Quick Start menus have predesigned tables and forms to provide the most common fields and configurations. And last, a new feature is that field data types and validation options are now available right on the Ribbon so you can easily see them and take advantage of proper database techniques.
Q: An issue most businesses wrestle with is how to get data out of databases and into the hands of busy managers in a format they can use and understand. What kind of tools does Access 2010 have for presenting data to the decision makers who need to act on it?
A: It’s easy to create an attractive, modern-looking report just by clicking a few buttons. Click on a table or a query containing the information you want on the printed report, and click the Report button. Voilà, a report ready to send to the printer. And if you want more control, including subtotals or your logo, click on the Report Wizard and answer its questions. Once you’re done, you can further refine the appearance by dragging the reports table cells to rearrange and resize them. Last, if you need the data moved into another data reporting tool, it’s easy to export into .xls, .csv, .txt, .xml, and .html using the Data ribbon.
Q: For users migrating from Access 2003 to Access 2010, they’ll have a new interface experience. What can you tell folks who might be nervous about the Ribbon interface? How has the Ribbon improved from 2007 to 2010?
A: The Ribbon is one of the best things to ever happen to Microsoft Office. In fact, when Microsoft polled users about what features they wanted to see, 90 percent of them were already in the program, but buried three menus deep. The Ribbons give you instant access to just about every feature in the program, yet are nice to look at and easy to understand.
One of the best Ribbon improvements from 2007 to 2010 is that they unburied all your table-building tools, so that you don’t have to go into Design view to use techniques like data types and validation rules.
Q: What’s your favorite feature in Access 2010 and why?
A: My favorite feature in Access 2010 is the new Record Validation tool. You’ve always been able to determine if acceptable data was entered into one field, but now you can compare data within two fields in a record to make sure your data was entered correctly. For example, you can now confirm that the “End Date” is after the “Start Date.” For us nitpicky data analysts, that brings comfort and security.
But on second thought, my favorite feature may just be the new and improved Macro builder interface. You no longer have to know code to build macros!
By Bonnie Bills | Sunday, October 31, 2010
Office for Mac 2011 is now available, and it is a step forward for Microsoft’s suite of office productivity apps for Mac users. Notable features include a new-to-the-Mac Ribbon interface, which creates a more seamless experience for folks who also use Office 2007 or Office 2010 for Windows, the brand-new Cocoa-based Outlook for the Mac, and reinstated Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) support. If you’re upgrading from Office for Mac 2008, or new to Office for the Mac, lynda.com has comprehensive training on the suite’s four main apps.
In Excel for Mac 2011 Essential Training, Curt Frye covers the ins and outs of Excel for the Mac, including features borrowed from the Windows version like Sparklines for easy data visualization, enhanced Pivot Table reports, and the ability to automate workbooks with macros.
In PowerPoint for Mac 2011 Essential Training, David Rivers gives in-depth tutorials in PowerPoint 2011, including using and customizing the new Ribbon, editing photos within PowerPoint, and broadcasting presentations over the web. The course also provides detailed instructions for changing the look of presentations: using built-in and custom themes, formatting text, inserting tables and charts, adding pictures and SmartArt drawings, and adding animation.
In Word for Mac 2011 Essential Training, Maria Langer shows how to build outlines, format text and pages, work with headers and footers, use themes and styles, add multimedia, and more. It also shows how to customize and automate Word 2011, including how to record macros.
And in Outlook for Mac 2011 Essential Training, Alicia Katz Pollock offers complete coverage of the long-awaited Entourage replacement, including migrating from other email applications, setting up IMAP, POP, and Exchange accounts, syncing Address Book contacts, and taking advantage of organizational features like Conversation View and My Day.
By Bonnie Bills | Tuesday, June 22, 2010
lynda.com has been rolling out courses on Office 2010 since the suite launched to business customers last month, and I’ve been talking with our Office 2010 authors about their experiences with this latest version. In today’s Q&A, I talk with David Diskin, author of PowerPoint 2010 New Features and PowerPoint 2010 Essential Training.
Q: PowerPoint 2010 released to the general public last week. Why should users consider upgrading?
A: There are actually quite a few reasons. In fact, of all the new Office 2010 apps, I think PowerPoint got the best enhancements. Features that a lot of users have been asking for are finally here. For example, one of the most common questions I get asked as a trainer is How can I convert my slideshow into a DVD or put it on YouTube? Before, you couldn’t without expensive, buggy third-party tools. Now, it’s built right into the Save menu and is super easy to do.
There are a bunch of other enhancements, too, and many of them are subtle. One of them is the new way transitions are rendered—transitions are the animations you see when going from one slide to the next. PowerPoint 2010 takes advantage of your fancy video card to make the movement smoother, less jagged, and gives you a bunch of new 3D options which are really neat to look at.
Q: What’s the best new feature in PowerPoint 2010 for making presentations more visually compelling?
A: Just one? Alright. It’s the new background removal tool for images. You know how you bring a photo or logo onto a slide, and it’s got a background that you don’t want—like a white square or other artifacts like a skyline or the rest of the scene? PowerPoint 2010 offers a slick new feature to remove the background from an image in just a few clicks. It lets you get really creative with your own photos, stock photos, or logos by removing the parts you don’t want. It’s amazing to see it in action and so easy to use.
Q: PowerPoint 2010 has new capabilities for sharing a presentation over the web. What are the issues to be aware of when using this feature?
A: That’s right, you can now upload your presentation temporarily to Microsoft’s servers and send a link to anyone you want for a live presentation over the web while you do a conference call. When you click next on your PC, everyone’s screen automatically slides forward too.
This feature has a few limitations, though. For example, it doesn’t yet work with embedded video or audio, and your transitions are all converted to Fade. Animations work, and so do all your images, graphics, charts, and diagrams. And there are no worries about fonts. But the problem most people will see right away is that your mouse pointer (plus the pen, laser, and highlight features) don’t broadcast. So, you can’t point with your mouse to the connected audience.
I think for their first attempt at something like this, they’ve done a good job, and I’m sure we can expect some enhancements down the road.
Q: In addition to training people in how to use Office, you help businesses craft PowerPoint presentations. What’s your top tip for making more effective presentations?
A: Keep the slides simple. I always see slides crammed with too much content and that just doesn’t work. The audience doesn’t know whether to listen to the speaker or read the slide. If you have a lot to say, summarize it on the slide and give the audience handouts or refer them to your website for the details.
By Bonnie Bills | Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Microsoft finished rolling out Office 2010 to customers this week, making the suite available to purchase in retail stores and online. lynda.com has been rolling out courses on Office 2010 since it launched to business customers last month, and I’ve been talking with our Office 2010 authors about their experiences with this latest version. Today’s Q&A features David Rivers, author of many lynda.com courses including OneNote 2010 New Features and the upcoming OneNote 2010 Essential Training.
Q: What’s your favorite new feature in OneNote 2010?
A: I would have to say my favorite new feature in OneNote 2010 is actually two features that work well together. First, there’s the new functionality that allows you to share a OneNote notebook over the web. With your free Windows Live account, you can share a notebook using SkyDrive. With your notebook stored and shared on SkyDrive, you can access it from any computer that is connected to the Internet.
Second, with the new OneNote Web App, you don’t even need to have OneNote installed to view and edit the notebook shared on SkyDrive. You can even create new notebooks with the OneNote Web App.
By Bonnie Bills | Wednesday, June 9, 2010
lynda.com has been rolling out Office 2010 courses since its launch last month, and I’ve been talking with our Office 2010 authors about their experiences with the latest version of Microsoft Office. Today’s Q&A features Karen Fredricks, Customer Relationship Management expert and author of the lynda.com course Outlook 2010 New Features.
Q: An overcrowded inbox is something most people wrestle with. Does Office 2010 have features that make this easier?
A: Absolutely. First of all, if you find that there’s a lot of spam clogging up your inbox, you can change your spam filter settings. That will insure that those messages about your mortgage and various body parts will be automatically sent to the Junk email folder instead of to your inbox. You can also start “training” Outlook by marking individual messages as spam if you’re being bothered by a specific individual or organization. Quick Steps is another cool Outlook 2010 feature designed to whip your inbox into shape. For example, I can create a Quick Step to automatically move all messages with the word “sale” in the subject line to a specific folder and forward a copy to my boss once I’ve read it.
Q: You’re very experienced with contact management software solutions. How is Outlook as a contact manager?
A: Technically Outlook is not a contact manager, it’s a PIM (Personal Information Manager). A PIM allows the user to keep track of emails, addresses, appointments, notes, and tasks. A contact manager makes it easier to track the interactions between you and your contacts. For example, in Outlook you don’t associate an appointment with an individual; with a contact manager you do, which means you can cross-reference your appointments from either your calendar or from a contact record. Some Microsoft Office suites include Business Contact Manager, which adds true contact management functionality to Outlook.
Q: How does Business Contact Manager stack up against other contact management programs?
A: If your business consists of a single employee, or if you work for a large company that doesn’t need to share its contact information, thenBusiness Contact Manager is a nice choice for contact management. In addition to being free, Business Contact Manager adds in several true contact management functions, including relating contacts to appointments and notes, allowing for project management, creating a pipeline based on sales opportunities, and reporting. However, if you want to share your information with several members of your team, have true mail merge and e-market capabilities, and do a bit of advanced database customization then you’ll want to look at a true contact management system such as ACT!.
Q: What’s your favorite feature in Outlook 2010?
A: That’s an easy one! I absolutely love the new Outlook Social Connector. I’m a big fan of social networking. Now I am able to see directly from my incoming emails whether or not I am connected with the sender. My incoming emails include the photographs of the people I am connected to, as well as updates from their sites which makes emailing feel so much more personal. And, if we’re not already connected, I can send out an invitation at the click of a button. As an extra bonus, the incoming email now provides me with a list of the previous email I’ve received from the sender as well as a list of any attachments they might have previously sent. How cool is that?
By Bonnie Bills | Thursday, June 3, 2010
lynda.com has been rolling out training on Office 2010 since its launch last month. I’ve been talking with our Office 2010 authors about their experiences with the latest version of Microsoft Office. Today’s Q&A features Gini Courter, author of Word 2010 New Features.
Q: You’ve been working with Microsoft Word as a user and trainer for many years. How has Word evolved?
A: Although I’ve trained Word users for every version of Word, I moved (and only reluctantly) from WordPerfect to Word when Microsoft released Office 97, and I still used Quark or PageMaker for documents with complex design requirements. It always seemed that Word wasn’t quite enough to handle my publishing needs—which honestly, aren’t all that complex.
Then Word 2007 was released. Frustration with the ribbon at first, but wow! Finally, a Word version that has great publishing features: positioning that works for art, strong and easily accessible styles, and SmartArt so I don’t have to fire up Visio for simple illustrations. I’m not an artist, but with Word 2007′s picture styles and two or three good photos I can easily create a unique and immediately recognizable look—a brand of sorts—for my documents. The Manage Sources reference tool saves me hours constructing professional and academic articles as my library of sources expands. With Word 2010 the tool list is even richer.
By Crystal McCullough | Thursday, May 13, 2010
Click on any one of the following images to view the trailer for that course:
We’re happy to announce the release of three New Features courses covering Microsoft Office 2010 software: Excel 2010 New Features, Word 2010 New Features, and Access 2010 New Features.
Excel 2010 New Features covers Excel’s Backstage view, improved sharing and collaboration capabilities, its graphics features, and enhanced data analysis and visualization tools. Word 2010 New Features shows how to use the features in Microsoft Word 2010 to proficiently create professionally formatted and richly illustrated documents. Access 2010 New Features covers the Backstage view that replaces the File menu in Office 2010, shortcuts for building tables, new layout tools and navigation controls, and more.
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