Declutter Your Email Experience with

Microsoft is currently previewing its new modern approach to email called Microsoft This new service combines all the elements one would expect from a first rate email service. connects you to your social networks like Twitter and Facebook. You can work smarter with online versions of Office web apps and SkyDrive storage for your documents. This does not require you to have a local version of Microsoft Office, by the way. It also sports the fresh Windows 8 tiled design which is very clean and intuitive to use. is a great way to declutter your email experience.


Pictured in the image above, you will notice the new interface. If you look across the top of the image, you will probably notice what isn’t there. As you can see, there is only a small icon labeled “New” with a plus sign beside it. One of the first things the team set out to do was declutter the user interface. The bar at the top is contextual, meaning it doesn’t show you unnecessary options. However, if you click on an email you will be given a set of options at that time. An example of these options is pictured below. You will also notice how nicely all the menu items and individual emails are spaced. This really makes the visual experience of using much easier on the eyes.


Organizing messages in the new is extremely easy. If you look at the picture above, you will notice one of my favorite tools – “Sweep”. The “Sweep” tool has incredible inbox cleaning capabilities. Let’ say for instance, you select a message from a newsletter subscription. Using “Sweep” you can automatically select and delete all similar messages from your inbox. You can also use it to move these messages to a particular folder, or delete all of the old messages and keep only the current one.


One last feature I am totally impressed with is the way handles ads. I know that may be the last thing one would consider, but I consider it a great feature for two reasons. First of all, the ads are very low key and blend in nicely with the rest of the theme. This is truly a “customer’s first” approach to advertising if you ask me. Look at the area highlighted in red in the picture above and you will see what I mean. This is the one of only two places you will see ads in your email. The other is when you view an email that is not a personal contact. They don’t splash pictures everywhere and try to force you into accidental clicks to look at their ads. There is no doubt in my mind that this will affect ad revenue for Microsoft which is why I say this is a “customer’s first” approach.

The second thing that impresses me about’s ads is the way they go about contextualizing the ads for their users. “Why is this so important?” you ask. You may not realize that many online email providers actually read every word of your emails to gather specific information about you. They use this information to target ads toward you. While this is largely done in an automated way, if you’re like me, you have to be concerned about privacy and security. has taken the approach that it will only use the information you give it. As much, or as little, information that you are willing to put on your profile is what is used to generate the context for ads. does not read your emails to gather information about you. This, to me, is a huge benefit for the end user, especially if they are security conscious.

As you can see, there are some great benefits to switching to the new Take a moment to visit their website and take advantage of their preview. is a preview of modern email from Microsoft. It has a fresh and intuitive design, connects your email to useful information from Facebook and Twitter, and gives you a smarter inbox with the power of Office and SkyDrive. Visit to learn more and connect with us at @Outlook on Twitter.

Full Disclosure: This was a paid review of and its services. More information can be found about via

How to Check Compatibility of Apps and Devices with Windows 8

The biggest decision before you make your upgrade decision or the hardest chore after an upgrade is checking compatibility of apps that you use daily or have bought licenses of and the peripheral devices that you’ve purchased already. Windows Compatibility Center is the perfect resource for information on the same. The Windows Compatibility Center lists thousands of the most popular apps and devices to help you easily identify what will or won’t work with various versions of Windows.

While the site has been there before, it has been revamped for Windows 8 now. You can check compatibility of apps across different categories and diverse range of devices with Windows 7, Windows RT, and Windows 8.

The compatibility is determined in two ways. One, when the product has passed Windows certification requirements and received a logo, which indicates it has met Microsoft testing requirements for compatibility with either Windows 8, Windows RT and/or Windows 7. Second, when the app publisher or device manufacturer states that the product works with Windows 8, Windows RT and/or Windows 7.

The Compatible icon means the product is expected to work with the specified version of Windows. Usually, you won’t need to do anything to ensure compatibility, however, if a manufacturer or publisher offers a newer version or extra software is required, you’ll find an additional link to the publisher’s website. Certain devices (like my HP PhotoSmart Plus B210 All-in-One Printer) are indicated to have limited functionality on Windows RT, and you’d be pointed to specific details regarding the same.

The Action recommended icon indicates that you may need a solution to ensure that a product will work properly with Windows. Below ‘Action recommended’ you’ll find a link to the publisher’s website. The Not compatible icon, of course, means that the product is not compatible, or is not expected to work with Windows and the No info icon means that the compatibility information is yet to be confirmed.

On a product page, you can vote the product as compatible or not compatible. The product listing includes the community rating of the compatibility which would indicate the real-world scenario. The page also pulls discussions on the products from Microsoft Community (formerly Microsoft Answers). You can also click anywhere on the product listing to bring up a product details page to get downloads for drivers and software updates.

AT&T Lumia 920 And Lumia 820 Coming For $99 And $49 On November 9th

The Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 are important handsets for Microsoft and Nokia. With the Finnish giant suffering huge losses every quarter, the company has offered the best of everything it can with the Lumia 920 which includes an 8.7MP PureView Camera with optical image stabilization and Windows Phone 8.

While Nokia announced the Lumia 920 and 820 back in September, it has been mum on the final pricing and availability of the handset, especially in the United States. The Lumia 920 is already available for sale in certain regions of the world, including Russia where Nokia’s CEO, Elop, himself is at the store greeting customers.

Today, Nokia and AT&T announced the availability and pricing of the Lumia 920 and 820 in the United States on the carrier’s LTE network. The Lumia 920 will set users back by $99 on a two-year contract, while the Lumia 820 will cost them only $49.99. The pre-orders for both the handsets start on November 7th, with the phone hitting the retail stores on November 9th. For a limited time, AT&T will also be offering a wireless charging backplate with the Lumia 920.

The Lumia 920 is going to remain an AT&T exclusive for sometime, but the Lumia 820 will be available on Verizon’s network albeit with some slight radio changes and a different name – Lumia 822.

Via – The Verge

How to Order a Surface in India

While Microsoft has made it’s flagship Windows RT tablet – Surface – available in seven countries, India has been left out from the list. Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India gave no definite answers on the availability when I put the question to him at the launch event of Windows 8. While the strategic decision to keep Surface off India might please the OEMs in India, it certainly is irking the Windows 8 fans and early technology adopters in the country. 

Unless you have an uncle or a good friend travelling from the US who can carry a Surface for you, here are all the ways to buy a Surface RT online in India. While all the three options promise a similar delivery time-frame (around two weeks), there is no option yet to buy either the Type Cover or other Surface accessories.

eBay India

The premier shopping portal for anything that’s not available on the retail shelves, eBay of course was the first to have Surface listings. The price starts at INR 38,490 for the base 32GB model without a cover. The popular seller also lists Surface with Touch Cover in different colors. Amongst the three options, eBay is the only one that provides EMI facility for certain credit cards.

Tradus, another one of India’s growing online malls, also lists Surface at a similar price of INR 38,840 (Link). There is no listing for the product with keyboard cover though.


ShopYourWorld, an online store that offers Indian consumers the ability to shop from a wide range of products from the US and the UK, also lists the base 32GB model for INR 36,783 (Link). Again, like Tradus, there is no option to buy the tablet with the keyboard cover.

Patent Troll Sues Microsoft Over Windows Live Tiles

Microsoft has just launched Windows 8 and it has already been downloaded over 4 million times in four days. With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft has also attracted a patent troll that claims its rights over the Live Tiles used on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and the Surface tablet.


A company called SurfCast that claims to design operating systems is suing Microsoft for the use of Live Tiles. If you visit the SurfCast website, you will clearly see that their technical expertise is still stuck in the 1990’s but their legal and patent-trolling expertise seems to have kept pace with the industry. SurfCast owns four patents, one of which deals with Live Tiles. The verge writes,

SurfCast owns US Patent #6,724,403, which was filed in October 2000 and issued in April 2004. Broadly, the patent covers selecting a variety of information sources, assigning each of those sources to a tile, and updating those tiles at variable refresh rates.

SurfCast defines its own patent as,

Tiles can be thought of as dynamically updating icons. A Tile is different from an icon because it can be both selectable and live — containing refreshed content that provides a real-time or near-real-time view of the underlying information.

This is as abstract as it gets, because this description matches all kinds of widgets.

Live Tiles constitutes the flagship UI of Windows Phone and Windows 8. Microsoft showed off the Windows 8 UI for the first time back in June 2011. It has been 16 months since then, and Microsoft has come a long way with Live Tiles. SurfCast on the other hand, own this patent for the last eight years, and has been sitting atop it all this time, waiting for someone to use it so that it can cry foul.

Microsoft: 4 Million Windows 8 Upgrades Sold in 4 Days

During a keynote at the BUILD developer conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that the company has sold 4 million individual upgrade licenses of Windows 8 in the four days that have passed since general availability last Friday. Emphasis on individual; this figure doesn’t include the corporate accounts which amount to tens of millions of additional users of the OS.

During the event, Microsoft showed off a number of different devices — on top of their own tablet, the Surface — to really promote the Windows 8 ecosystem. Both tablets and laptops built for Windows 8 were showcased, some of the latter coming in a convertible form factor, and/or offering a touchscreen. Microsoft also proudly announced that there were over 9,000 apps in the Windows Store by general availability.

It isn’t just about quantity though; they also celebrated quality apps on the platform, such as Skype, Netflix, and Angry Birds Space, while anticipating even more apps headed to Windows 8, such as Dropbox.

Skydrive Pictures Now Showing Inline on Twitter

Looks like there is some close work Microsoft is doing with Twitter. In addition to announcing a Windows Phone 8-specific Twitter application coming with Windows Phone 8, looks like the behind-the-scenes work is complete for showing SkyDrive pictures inline on Twitter.

If you use a Windows Phone and share pictures natively (select a picture > share > Twitter), it uploads the picture to SkyDrive and then publishes the SkyDrive link to Twitter along with the tweet message. Below is an example:

Tweet with SkyDrive picture link
Tweet with SkyDrive picture link

Until now, that “View Photo” link was not visible and as a result, expanding the tweet would not show the photo. In order to see the photo you’d have to click on the link which would take you to SkyDrive’s website and open it there. Compared to inline, that was a bad experience.

Now, you can see the picture inline by just clicking on “View Photo” as I did here:

SkyDrive picture inline on Twitter
SkyDrive picture inline on Twitter

It doesn’t look like SkyDrive pictures are integrated into Twitter’s “Recent Images” section on the profile page yet. Hopefully the Image Gallery update will roll out soon as well.

Regardless, it is a good thing that Twitter (with or without Microsoft) has worked out the technical stuff to make SkyDrive pictures show up inline. After all, we know that SkyDrive now has 200 million users and stores 11 billion photos so it is not a small operation. With Windows 8 and Windows RT (along with, of course, Windows Phone 8) relying heavily on SkyDrive as the personal cloud of choice, the usage will only go up.

A final note, given that Twitter’s iOS and Android apps behave much like the website, I suppose these pictures from SkyDrive will also show inline in those apps, although I have not been able to confirm that.

Tip: Skip Skydrive Initial Sync when Installing It on a New PC

Did you buy a new PC recently? Perhaps you are hopping on the Windows 8 bandwagon and have got yourself a new touchscreen PC? Do you use SkyDrive, and more specifically the SkyDrive (desktop) application? Do you have a PC with sync-ed SkyDrive application and a USB drive? Read on for a tip that may save you time and money.

Ed: I explain the following for a Windows PC, but it should be applicable for Macs as well.

If you use the SkyDrive service and have a lot of data stored there, you will notice it will take a lot of time to complete the initial sync when you install it on a new PC. Not just that, if you have 10-15GB of data stored there like I do, it will also chew up your data quota very quickly which would be a problem on networks with data caps.

I was recently in that position and I did the following to bypass the initial sync. Hope this helps.

Install the SkyDrive desktop app on the new PC: As usual, just go to and get the desktop app and installed it. Make a note of the designated SkyDrive folder. This is usually C:\Users\<username>\SkyDrive.

SkyDrive folder
SkyDrive folder


As soon as the installation completes, go to the system tray and exit the SkyDrive app by right-clicking and clicking Exit.

Exit SkyDrive application
Exit SkyDrive application


Then, on the other PC/Mac with sync-ed SkyDrive app, insert the USB drive and copy the contents of the entire folder except the “.lock” file to the USB drive.

After the copy task completes, attach the USB drive to the new PC and copy the entire contents from the USB drive to the newly installed SkyDrive folder location.

Once that copy task is done, you can restart SkyDrive app on the new PC by going to Start and entering “SkyDrive”. The application will take a few seconds to sync up and will notify you that it is up to date.

That’s it. Time as well as precious bandwidth saved.


Video: Microsoft’s Newest Surface Commercial

On the heels of its special Surface launch event yesterday, Microsoft published yet another Surface commercial to its YouTube channel. While the ad doesn’t really show the device in use, it instead briefly shows off the primary aspects of the Surface: The Touch Cover (and all of the colors its available in), kickstand, and briefly, Windows 8. In that regard, it’s pretty similar to the ad that was released on Wednesday, but with a more futuristic setting (and no people.)

I say that it’s a pretty awesome ad. I’d also love to see a modified version of the initial Surface promo video make it on the air as well.

If you haven’t already pre-ordered your device, the Surface is available now at your nearest Microsoft Store (or holiday pop-up store), or online, if you’re willing to wait a couple of weeks.

Experiencing Windows 8: From Exasperating to Adoring

First of all, here’s some history. When Windows 8 was first shown in ‘Allthings D’ conference last year, I was skeptical  The interface was intuitive on a touch enabled device, but for a non-touch device, I was not so sure. And with that in mind, I tried the very first release for the public, the Developer Preview or DP and as expected, I was not impressed. It didn’t feel quite that well when used with a keyboard and mouse. I went back to Windows 7 in around three days. The same was the case with the Consumer Preview. And although I downloaded the Release Preview as soon it was released, for some reason, I didn’t even bother installing it.

Last month, I got access to the RTM version of Windows 8 via the Dreamspark subscription. Since it was the final version, I decided to give it a chance. And on September 29th, I finally installed Windows 8 on my primary system as the only OS. I was certain that if I had installed it along with Windows 7 as a dual boot setup, I would just keep on switching back and forth between the two operating systems and that wouldn’t be doing a fair assessment and would just lead to decrease in productivity. So, here’s my initial experience with Windows 8 RTM and how it has evolved over time.

Initial Setup

The installation was smooth with the need of minimal user interference. Microsoft has really worked on improving the installation experience through the years from Vista onwards. Unfortunately for me, the simplicity ended right there. I had to face some driver issues, particularly with the Wi-Fi driver. Since Windows 8 was not yet released, I couldn’t find drivers on the manufacturer’s website. And, there was no generic driver available. I tried installing Windows 7 driver, but it gave me an error. But ultimately, I was able to solve the issue by installing the same driver in compatibility mode.


The next thing to do after installing Windows was of course installing the required apps. Now I use a multitude of apps ranging from big software like Visual Studio and Photoshop to tiny applications like NetWorx. I could install all of them on the new setup without any hassle. But the big change here is the introduction of the new Modern (formerly metro) applications.  Although Windows 8 was not released, there were still around 4000+ apps in the Windows Store which I think is incredible. But how many of it were actually usable or more importantly, does it include the apps that I need was the real question. Windows 8 comes with a bunch of useful apps such as Mail, Messaging, Bing News and which are really nice. I was particularly fond of People Hub and Photos app. The People hub connects to various major social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and shows updates and notifications. The Photos app aggregate photos from various services including your photo library to one location.

Although I couldn’t find replacement for the majority of my software, there were quite a few nice apps that I liked. Being a heavy user of various social networks, the first few apps that I downloaded were the ones for various social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.  For Twitter, I am using MetroTwit which is very good. I used to have Fliptoast for Facebook, but recently it started crashing on me, even after doing a reinstall. So I am pretty much using the Facebook web interface as of now, until there’s a good app. Another important app that I required was a good reader for fetching feeds from Google Reader. I rely on Google Reader heavily for keeping up with the latest developments on technology as well as information security. Fortunately for me, I keep some good company. Ed Bott directed me to an excellent app called Feed Reader (which is a paid app). I also discovered a free app called Flux which was really nice, but didn’t have all the features that Feed Reader had. For browser, rather than using the default IE10 as my primary browser, I installed the metro version of Chrome. The metro is just in the name and it looks just like the original Chrome window maximized with the title-bar removed. But that did the job for me as I wanted a browser that would display the tabs by default whereas with IE10, one has to right click in order to see the open tabs.

As I mentioned earlier, the majority of the software I am using are legacy desktop apps and although it is not really inconvenient to switch back and forth between desktop and start screen, when you are forced to use desktop for simple tasks like copying files, it feels like a compromise, something that Sinofsky had said you wouldn’t have to deal with.

So, what Microsoft has to do here is to maintain developer interest in the new OS and to make sure that Windows Store gets all those popular apps that people care about. How well the developers accept the new OS will have a huge impact on the market share for Windows, especially for Windows RT which will only be able to run Windows Store apps.


Once I had all the apps in order, the biggest challenge for me was to get used to the operating system itself, especially the Charms bar. For example, while using the Music app, I was foolishly looking for the volume changer while it was in the Charms bar (which had to be opened by swiping from the right edge of the screen or by hovering the mouse to the top/bottom right corner). Charms bar provides a set of commonly used commands and settings option that could change with the app that is currently open. For example, when you have a webpage open, you can share it on a social network or email it to a friend using the Charms bar. Once I got accustomed to Charms bar, it was much easier to use Windows 8. I knew exactly where to look and that made a hell lot of difference. For using general settings or for interacting between apps, use the Charms bar and for viewing the specific app settings or controls, you can right click the app or swipe down from top of the screen. Once you get hold of this, Windows 8 will be pretty much easy to use.

Then there are things that I hated first, but as I got to use it, I started loving it. The snapping of apps was one such feature. I was not a fan of the fact that you cannot snap two apps side by side like in Windows 7. One app will go into a minimized state whereas the other one will take the majority of the screen real estate. But after using Windows 8 for a few weeks, I have started loving this feature. I can read articles from Bing News or Feed Reader while the Music app or Metrotwit is snapped to the side for easy viewing of ‘Now Playing’ list or my Twitter feed. And when I need traditional multitasking, I just go to the desktop.

Some of the issues I had issues with Windows 8 were solved with driver updates. Previously, when I was using Windows 7, after I unplugged the HDMI cable that connected my laptop to an external display, the display would automatically reset to the default laptop panel. But that was not the case with Windows 8. I had to first change the display before unplugging the cable. This issue has since been solved after a driver update. Also the Synaptics driver for the touchpad still has some inconsistencies. Vertical scrolling is only present in desktop mode and doesn’t work with start screen for some reason. I’m hoping that this will also be fixed soon like the display driver.


It’s been a month since I started using Windows 8. And how has it affected my life? I can now safely say that it has transformed me from a web person into an app person. Previously, I just used Chrome to check my mail, Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader. I now use different apps for each of those tasks. My mornings now start with reading news using the Bing News app along with my morning coffee. I listen to my favourite albums using the Music app, surf twitter using Metrotwit and when I stumble on an article I feel like sharing, I just use the share option in the Charms bar. I use Feed Reader to keep up with the latest happening in the world of technology and when I need it, I head to desktop to use Word 2010 or Visual Studio 2012. It’s all good.

And what’s better? The performance of my computer has improved a lot from what was with Windows 7. Now my laptop takes just around 10 seconds to boot which is incredible considering the fact that Windows 7 took around a minute to boot.  The battery life has also increased but not by a great margin.

Wrapping up, I would say that Windows 8 is like a roller coaster rider. You might be a little bit afraid to get into one at first and might not feel comfortable during the initial climb, but once you get comfortable, it’s one hell of a joy ride.

It is fast, fluid and intuitive and has improved a lot from the early DP or CP stages that I had encountered earlier. Microsoft’s biggest challenge now would be to educate its user base and to make sure that they do not dump the OS before they realize how great it is. So my advice to everyone going to try Windows 8 is, give it a chance and give yourself a little bit of time to get accustomed to it. Because once you get the hang of it, there’s a very good chance that you are going to love it, just like I did.