Office Web Apps Get A Metro Facelift

Last week Steve Ballmer unveiled the next version of Microsoft’s Office suite and as it turns out that wasn’t all the Office news for the week. With 50 Million users and negligible press love, we can now try out the Metro Office Web Apps version. The team has announced a preview for the upcoming changes introducing new features and the cleaner Metro UI.

The update makes Office Web Apps look like an extension of Office 15 and a part of Windows 8. The metro interface for Office Web Apps looks gorgeous; some of the new features introduced across Office Web Apps are:

  • Different UIs that are focused on mouse and touch
  • Co-authoring
  • Mobile optimized UI
  • Discussions through comments
  • Various performance enhancements
  • Picture and drawing tools

Here’s a quick look at the new Metro Office Web Apps:

OneNote

OneNote has remained the same with search being the new addition.

Word

New features include the ability to manipulate paragraphs and pages that will reduce the reliance on Office desktop. Some of these features are changing page size, indentations, Word count, and orientation.

PowerPoint

New features include adding animations, transitions and viewing embedded videos.

Excel

Excel is one of those tools that organizations cannot live without. New features have improved working with data considerably. According to Microsoft’s blog post some of the key feature additions are:

  • New slicers
  • PivotTable editing (this is awesome)
  • Better charts
  • Excel Surveys

You can try the new version by heading to SkyDrive.com and accepting the invitation or by heading here.

Acunote Launches Real-Time Online Project Management And Scrum Software

If you are team of 10 members or an enterprise consisting of 3000 individuals, Acunote is the latest entrant in the online project management and scrum software category that can provide you with a simple(akin to Gmail) yet robust tool for the tasks at hand. Founded by a YCombinator alum (from Winter 2011 class) the new startup aims to make project management a real-time job with better capabilities.

acunote-intro

Start with a project and tasks can assigned to people which can then be bundled into sprints that pertain to specific group of people responsible for a role in the project. As in real scenario, during the period any project is under process tasks are often needed to be re-assigned(to a team or member) or rescheduled. The drag and drop assignment of task is a healer, while any change that is made to any section of the project is precisely reflected in real time across the network. Now if you have tasks that are meant to be performed for successful project completion but hasn’t yet been scheduled goes into the backlog section to be taken care of when a member/group/time is available.

acunote-codeview

Code view and commenting on pieces of codes being worked upon (or completed) provides an all-in-one interface for the coding team. Integration of other useful tools like Google Apps, source control systems (Subversion, Github, Perforce), bugtrackers (JIRA, Trac, FogBugz, Bugzilla, Mantis) helps make Acunote a complete solution for the coding folks.

acunote-analytics

Every task has a status which clearly depict whether it is in progress or completed or has not been acted upon. Aided by the task progress data, brilliant burndown and analytics charts as well as ETA predictions are shown with which the managerial team can easily make decisions for future. Wiki for tasks, timeline(log of events) and access control, keyboard shortcuts are also some key features to take advantage of this online tool.

acunote-plans

Plans start from $49/month for small teams while bigger teams can opt for $99/month or $149/month with added advantages. While all the accounts are free for 30days with all the features, the company only accepts credit cards(Paypal payment not supported) for all sorts of payment. Acunote also has a free plan in place for small teams with 1-5 members. Although officially launched a little late, the company has been in action for quite some time already has an impressive clientele to brag about.

acunote-customers

Compared to those obstreperous project management tools Acunote offers a wieldy interface that any Gmail user can familiarize with. Acunote provides flexibility for numerous iterative and incremental methodologies implemented for software development. So if you have a project at hand and need a hassle-free mechanism to manage it, Acunote is a great choice.

Microsoft: A Better Valentines With Office Web Apps & Windows Phone

For Valentines day Microsoft is showing no love for Google. The company’s Why Microsoft blog has shared a video making fun of Google Docs while promoting Office Web Apps. Microsoft’s mildly funny Office Web Apps Valentines video:

Back in 2011, Tony Tai compared Google Docs and Office Web Apps on the Why Microsoft blog

Microsoft is also using Valentines day to promote their Windows Phone devices. On the Windows Phone blog, Michael Stroh has shared a story of a Windows Phone app developer who used a Windows Phone exclusive app (Wordament) for a marriage proposal. The company wants you to Dump Your Droid for a Windows Phone; for this, Microsoft also announced a Twitter promotion where Microsoft will be handing out two Windows Phone devices. The Twitter campaign is aimed squarely at Android owners. Microsoft wants Android owners to tweet why they dislike their Android phones (#DumpingMyDroid). Existing Windows Phone owners can also participate by sharing why they love their Windows Phone devices.

Create Rich and Interactive Data Mashups with Excel

Microsoft has launched a new service that allows developers to quickly create rich and interactive data mashups for their sites.

Microsoft Excel

Follow three easy steps to develop mashups with Microsoft Excel web App on SkyDrive using JavaScript:

  • Upload your workbook on SkyDrive
  • Embed it on your web site
  • Mash it up with our JavaScript API

Before you can embed your Excel workbook on a web page, you need to upload it a folder on SkyDrive and then set permissions on the workbook. Once   you have your workbook uploaded to SkyDrive, you can use the SkyDrive Embed dialog box to get the HTML and JavaScript code that will embed the workbook on a Web page. Now, you can use the Excel Services JavaScript library to make rich data mashups using data from your embedded workbook.

While the iframe code only displays the spreadsheet on a Web page, Microsoft Excel Web App also generates a JavaScript snippet that you can paste into the HTML of your web page alternatively. This JavaScript snippet consists of an HTML div element that displays the spreadsheet and a script element that sets options for appearance and interactivity. You can add your own code to programmatically manipulate the embedded spreadsheet.

Excel Mashup

So You Want to Kick the Google Habit? [Editorial]

Google-Logo

 

Google Everywhere

It is hard to go online today without touching one or more Google products or services. If it is not search, it may be email, YouTube, Blogger, Picasa, Docs, or Calendar. Google has truly blanketed us with their web-based app offerings. Heck, even the Google Doodle is a conversation topic!

In this editorial, I shall discuss how you can kick the Google habit, what I am using now as alternatives and why you probably won’t be able to replace certain Google products today. Ready to move away from Google? First, some background.

Why un-Google?

Some of the reasons I personally decided to look for alternatives:

  • Google became a part of virtually everything I did online. I used GMail, Google Reader, Google Finance, Blogger, Picasa, Picasa Web, Google Docs, Google Search, Google Calendar and Google Maps. I felt uncomfortable putting such a large portion of my online life in Google’s hands.
  • Google morphed from the cool little startup building fun stuff for consumers, to a dominant public company whose revenues essentially came from just one product. That’s the key most (96%) of its revenues (and profits) came from search advertising. In other words, it needed other ways to make money. The most obvious way to do so would be to extend the arm of advertising, their main revenue-generating product, into other products. I realized I was the merchandise.
  • Google seemed to get Apple and Facebook envy. Apple was growing rapidly across all their product lines and at very high profit margins, and Facebook was taking eyeballs and key talent away from Google. This led to some bad attempts to mock Apple and Facebook publicly, which of course delighted the Google developer and enthusiast community but came off as being negative to me. If you make a great product, you don’t need a negative campaign.
  • Aside from philosophy, some of the competing products started becoming better, and Google’s products started getting worse (more on that within my descriptions) prompting me to start Project Un-Google which was an effort to use fewer and fewer Google products, hopefully reaching a point where I did not depend on any Google product at all.

Whether it is for philosophy, or hedging your web app bets, it is good to know there is life outside Google when it comes to products and services online and offline. There is usually a strong resistance to change, especially if you have a long history with a product. There is a high cost for transferring the old stuff, and learning your way around a new product/service. However, these challenges are not insurmountable, and I hope you take a look at some or all of the products I list here as an alternative to Google. If you have ideas of other products I may not have mentioned, please let me know!

Popular Google products

Here are some of the Google products/services I will be comparing to competition:

  • Search
  • Picasa
  • GMail
  • Calendar
  • Documents
  • Groups
  • Finance
  • Blogger
  • Chrome
  • Maps/Directions
  • Talk/Chat/Voice

I realize Google has many more products, appsand services, but I did not look at products like Book Search which are very niche. My attempt here is to look at the commonly used products and services only.

Microsoft Announces Office Web Apps And Facebook Messaging Collaboration

Today’s announcement of the messaging system was not just about Facebook. In addition to being able to view and send messages, users will also be able to view Microsoft documents in Facebook.

Office Web Apps

In a blog post Microsoft announced collaborating between Office Live Docs and Facebook. Facebook’s new messaging platform will allow users to view Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents with just one click, without having to install any additional software. This feature is similar to what has, where users can open attachments in instead of downloading it.

Along with the one-click integration, Office Web Apps will also allow you to quickly create and share documents with your friends on Facebook. Microsoft is really bullish about pushing it’s Office Web Apps to users considering how popular Google Docs turned out to be. However, will they be able to capture the market share back? With 500 million Facebook users, it could just be possible.

You can create new office documents online by visiting http://www.office.live.com/ and store all your files using the whooping 25GB free space provided with Windows Live SkyDrive.