Lexicon Systems, LLC Blog

lex'•i•con: the vocabulary of a branch of knowledge. Thoughts on environment, health & safety (EHS), sustainability and information technology to support them.


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Office 2016 for Mac available to Cloud subscribers

Late last week, Microsoft made the long-awaited Office 2016 for Mac available to Office 365 subscribers. The last Mac version was in 2011. Is the new software suite worth the five-year wait?

Microsoft says the software is “unmistakably Office, designed for Mac.”

Microsoft’s July 9 announcement: Office 2016 for Mac is here!

Per Microsoft’s blog post, Office for Mac is now available to Office 365 subscribers (annual subscription fee) , and will be available for stand-alone purchase (one-time license fee) in September.

Simple installation

This afternoon, I installed the software on my MacBook Pro Retina. The installation package

  • includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote,
  • requires less than 2 GB of hard disk space, and
  • takes less than five minutes to install.
Install Office 2016 for Mac from the Microsoft Office 365 portal

Install Office 2016 for Mac from the Microsoft Office 365 portal

The new Office applications integrate with the OneDrive Cloud app. Through Cloud integration, you can start a document or spreadsheet on one device–say your laptop–and then view or edit it on your tablet or smartphone. You can share files and collaborate with others. When you save files to the Cloud, you do not have to worry about which version is the latest.

Decades of experience demand full-featured software

I have used Microsoft Office more than any other office productivity suite. Having used PCs of all shapes and sizes for decades, I have tried a number of office productivity software suites. I started with VisiWord/VisiCalc and Lotus 1-2-3. I graduated to IBM DisplayWrite and WordPerfect. Then I earned my “Master’s” in Microsoft Office. And, most recently, I learned Apple iWork (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) and Apple Mail basics.

I am a recent Mac convert. We Mac users like the clean, simple-to-use hardware, and want full-featured software that provides a great user experience.

I eagerly loaded the Office 2016 for Mac beta onto my MacBook Pro this spring. Its interface was, very Windows-like and familiar. That was good. But the software lacked several features I thought should be standard all users–Windows and Mac. With Macs becoming more and more popular in the business world, it’s time for feature equality.

Microsoft says that they received significant input from Mac users during the Office for Mac redesign.

My MacBook, which rarely crashes, did just that repeatedly with the Office 2016 beta. When my expense report spreadsheet–a simple Excel table–was corrupted by the beta, I could not open it with Excel of any version. I opened it with Apple’s Numbers, and reconverted it to Excel. A major inconvenience with time lost, but I did not lose the data altogether. I had to revert to the Office 2011 for Mac software. Ugh!

First impressions

Will Office 2016 for Mac live up to my expectations as a person who cut my teeth on the Windows versions? Time will tell…

You can read TechRepublic’s first impressions on the new software here and see what’s new here.

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What’s the best use for an iPad if you’re savvy with a laptop and smartphone?

When you get an iPad, you think, “Hey, I can replace my laptop with this small tablet!” 

Technology stack with overlapping functions

I look at my “technology stack,” and see a Windows 7 PC, a MacBook Pro, an iPad and an iPhone. These devices all help me get through my daily routine, with overlapping capabilities:

  • Read content
  • Read and compose email
  • Read and create documents, spreadsheets and presentations
  • Participate in social networks
  • Attend Web meetings
  • Visit Web sites
  • View photos and graphics.

Depending upon what I want to achieve, these four devices are not totally interchangeable.

I can use my smartphone to create a presentation, but anything but a simple presentation is best created on a laptop or tablet. I can sort through hundreds of emails on my tablet or smartphone, but must use a laptop for powerful sorting and cleanup. Likewise, I can create complex spreadsheets on the tablet, but likely would use my MacBook or PC with a keyboard and full functionality.

Rethinking the tablet

If you’re already quite comfortable with a laptop and a smartphone, and a tablet falls into your hands, what’s the best way to use it? Here’s an interesting perspective on the use of tablets, worth reading: Rethinking the iPad

My take—Tip #1: I DO use the iPad for mail and social apps; Tip #2: I use the iPad to catch up on reading; Tip #3: I turn off MOST notifications; Tip #4: I change SOME of the settings to improve battery life.

Let me hear how you use your tablet!


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Five simple things we can do to reduce our environmental footprint

Today we celebrate the 45th anniversary of Earth Day in the U.S. On the first Earth Day(s) in 1970, 20 million people celebrated in the U.S.; in 1990, 200 million celebrated globally: in 2014 the number is even greater.

In honor of Earth Day—and every day—we can reduce our environmental footprint.

Image of Earth from space

Image: NASA

Each of us can do five simple things for a more sustainable environment.

  1. Drive less. Walk, share a ride, or combine several errands on a single “run.” Work from home 1-2 days a week, if your employer allows it, and if you can be productive.
  2. Conserve electricity. Turn off lights when you don’t need them or install switches that  automatically turn off the lights if there is no motion after a few minutes. Replace light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones.
  3. Conserve water. Install low-flow shower heads and efficient toilets. Use the dishwasher—when full—rather than hand-washing items under running water. If you have lawn sprinklers, use a timer and don’t over-water.
  4. Mimimize waste. Forego shopping bags and packaging that you don’t need. Employ washable, reusable shopping bags. Select food and consumer products with reduced or recyclable packaging.
  5. Recycle. If you must drink bottled and canned beverages, recycle the containers. If you read newspapers, recycle them. At our home, we recycle about two to three times as much as we discard.


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With Windows XP End of Support, Chromebooks are a popular option to Windows PCs

Now that Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft, organizations that still use the 13-year-old operating system (OS) must face reality–at some point, they must upgrade their OS, and likely their computer. When Microsoft released Windows XP to market, more organizations provided desktop than laptop computers. Using a laptop meant sacrificing features and forking over more dollars to gain mobility.

Those who have yet to “sunset” Windows XP no longer need to be tethered to their desks (See: Windows XP Sails into the Sunset… Maybe). A world of technologies became available (and affordable) since 2001, notably:

  • Wireless networks (WiFi) and Mobile hotspots (MiFi)
  • Lightweight notebook computers
  • Smartphones, tablets and apps
  • Social networks, Cloud applications and data storage
  • More power-efficient chips and hours of operation between charges
  • Solid state “flash” drives
Image: hp

Image: hp

Windows XP End of Support lets organizations rethink their IT strategies. Businesses and educational institutions alike can consider alternative Windows , Mac and Google OS and hardware. Chromebooks are a popular option, with their simplicity and low entry cost of $275 to $300 USD.

Read 10 Reasons Today’s Chromebooks Look Like a Smart Mobile PC Buy.

 


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Too much email? This company offers a solution…

Has email taken over your life? Do you have so many email accounts, and receive so many messages that it seems you spend all day on email? Do you wish that it would all stop?

The average person receives over 100 emails a day, and many people in large organizations receive many more than that.

As the author of an IT column–and this blog–I read lots of tech publications and blogs. This takes me in interesting directions. A couple of days ago I read about SaneBox, an application that claims to help users save hours each week normally spent sifting through hundreds of Inbox messages.

laptop with email spilling out of mail slotSaneBox triages incoming emails into three folders:

Inbox – important 

BlackHole – spam – junk mail

Later – bacn – read later

What’s intriguing is that SaneBox takes a first stab at what goes into each of these three folders. Then you review SaneBox’s choices and “train” the application if you want to move emails from certain senders elsewhere. This is something that none of my email client apps can do. In MS Outlook, I can make rules, but it would be time-consuming to create a new rule each time I receive email from a new contact. In Apple mail and with Web versions of most common email providers, rules don’t exist.

SaneBox works with Google Apps, Microsoft Exchange, IBM Notes (fka Lotus Notes) and IMAP email accounts. By default, the application adds two new folders (@SaneBlackHole and @SaneLater), and you can add a couple more–but start with the default to keep things simple.

This is a subscription service. You can register for a free 14-day trial and $5 in SaneBox credit if you click here.

Email is here to stay, at least for a while.

Since email is here to stay, at least for the immediate future, it may be worth your time to  look at this application.


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Microsoft rebranded its Cloud service (again)

What’s in a name?

A couple of years ago I started to use the Microsoft #Live Cloud storage solution to collaborate with project team members across the U.S. Then Microsoft Live morphed into Microsoft #SkyDrive and used a nifty cloud logo. Microsoft was sued over copyright infringement and had to change the name. This month, Microsoft changed the name of its cloud service from SkyDrive to #OneDrive. I hope that the auto parts manufacturer with the same name does not take issue with Microsoft.

Microsoft OneDriveOneDrive is a cloud-based collaboration tool. It allows allows users to store and access files from virtually any internet-capable device–smartphone, laptop PC, tablet, ChromeBook, Mac, or desktop. Users can elect which “folders” to share with others. Microsoft Office 365 subscribers get 100 GB of OneDrive storage space free; those without Office 356 can get 7 GB free; subscribers can pay for additional storage space.

Good news, bad news

The bad news: repeated name changes confuse the market. The good news: Microsoft offered extra Gigabytes of free storage space to “legacy” users to compensate them for the inconvenience. And users can earn extra free storage space by referring friends.

View an eWeek slide show about #OneDrive here.


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The paperless office: are we there yet?

The other day I tackled overstuffed file drawers and the papers piled on my desk. I filed, recycled or shredded several reams of outdated documents. During this exercise (it was pretty physical), I noticed that my company saved fewer paper records in the last few years than when we started the business. Likely, we continue to retain more printed paper than needed. How much is enough?

office clutter

Image: USA Today

We are far from the “paperless office.” Running a management consulting firm with an environment, health & safety (EHS) IT focus, one might think that most transactions are electronic, not paper. We send essentially all work products electronically and print some of them. We use accounting software and print invoices and reports for our records, even if delivered electronically to clients. We receive electronic documents from others, and print some of those, too. Each party seems to save time, printing and postage costs. Are we reducing paper use, or just shifting the burden to others?

 “Less is More” aptly describes paper records. Lack of trust in electronic records may cause us to use more paper than necessary.

In businesses large and small, email remains the most common transmission method. Email is inefficient because it allows multiple document copies, versions and “message threads,” not to mention redundant storage. With so many email attachments, which version is the correct one?

I prefer shared workspaces to email and have promoted their use for many years. Collaboration tools like Google Documents, Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint and Zoho are gaining acceptance in large, global organizations. These tools are worth every penny when they

  • promote consistent business processes,
  • increase productivity,
  • make content readily available,
  • provide a “single version of the truth,”
  • have a user-friendly interface, and
  • offer a secure way for people to interact 24/7.

Collaboration tools are in their infancy and have limitations. Often, the tools seem easy to administer but require multiple attempts to properly set user permissions. Often, their interfaces and features are so simplistic that they do not meet user needs. For instance,

  • online document editors are simpler (read: less functional) than desktop office software.
  • document work spaces have limited functionality without customization.
  • calendars are rudimentary.
  • survey tools are rudimentary with few data analysis features.

Software vendors, please make tools more functional, yet keep them simple!  And offer me more FREE Cloud storage space, so I do not need several Cloud accounts to manage my work.

I welcome more mature, yet user-friendly collaboration tools.  With increasing content management in the Cloud, we can better manage day-to-day work. The result? Less paper, I hope!

Pixel This: No Paper! sums up the “paperless office” issue pretty well.