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Saturday, 13 March 2010

Windows Live Writer Wave 4, some more screen grabs.

Of all the leaked screen grabs of the upcoming Windows Live Wave 4 updates posted on the Internet so far  Windows Live  Live Writer certainly seems to be the furthest ahead in terms of development judging by these pictures.

windows_live_writer_wave4_image_editThe screen grab above shows the Picture tab choices across the ribbon complete with all the obvious choices available to the user in easy to click on (and find!) icons which are really simple to understand for even the most novice user. These are divided into seperate areas across the ribbon as follows, Size, Rotate, Picture Styles, Properties, Settings, Alignment  (complete with easy to understand icons of each picture position in relation to the text) and lastly Margins. (which I find that most Writer users don’t make enough use of.) Also note that the Set Category and Set Publish date are now placed just below the ribbon so the user isn’t constantly having to scroll down to the bottom of the edit/compose screen in order to access any feature.  Good thinking team!  Note also that the right hand side bar is now no longer needed as every choice and feature that it contained is now easily available via the ribbon interface thereby allowing the full width of the screen for a users blog post.

Wave 4 Live Writer ribbon

This next screen grab shows the Home tab on the ribbon. There does seem to be one area  of this screen grab that I feel is not needed on the Home ribbon and that is the Insert area.  The Home tab ribbon is divided into Clipboard, Publish, Font, Paragraph (which also contains tabs,numbering, quotes and align) HTML styles reminiscent of those found in the Word ribbon and which appears to work in a similar way, Insert which is not necessary in this Home ribbon seeing as it has its own tab and so is surplus to requirements in this part of the Ribbon Interface, and lastly Editing which contains the inbuilt spelling checker, word count, find and Select All. Note everyone that lovely wide area now available for your composing and editing!  Brilliant!

Smileys in Writer wave 4 1

Lastly a much closer view of the Insert tab ribbon showing everything that you can insert into your post. Firstly we have the all new singing and dancing Breaks consisting of Horizontal line (Hurrah!) Clear break and Split post followed by Tables, Media which naturally includes Hyperlink, Picture, Video, Photo Album, Map, Post Tags and some cool new Emoticons, and lastly Plug-ins containing Add a plug-in and Manage plug-ins. I just wish I had my mitts on it all!

My grateful thanks to for these fantastic screen grabs which only serve to make me more excited about trying all of the new Wave 4 updates out myself.


Friday, 12 March 2010

The Ribbon Interface, love it or hate it?

My recent post over on my Windows Live blog concerning the new screen grabs that  posted of the Wave 4 version of Windows Live Mail and its ribbon interface has prompted a very heated discussion regarding the merits (or lack of) of using the ribbon interface  in any applications and particularly its usage in Office 2007.

Cropped Ribbon for Windows Live Mail Wave 4Most of the complainers were  obviously very adept at using Office 2003 and  have resisted the usage of the new interface for mainly that reason.  As I am a computer user who is an advocate and champion for anyone who is either new to computing or using any application, then I am all for the ribbon. I applaud the reasoning behind its use and consider that it’s one of the very best ideas to ever emerge from Microsoft.

Word ribbon in Office 2007 I have requested that those who are complaining about it take a look at this video, where Jensen Harris explains the reasoning behind the introduction of the ribbon in Office 2007. If you take the time to watch the video, then try and imagine exactly what Office 2010 would be looking like now that even more features have been added, and also how difficult it would be to learn for any newcomer without the use of the ribbon interface then I think you will agree that it would be an absolute nightmare to get to grips with.

 I never attempted to learn to use  Office 2003 (thank goodness!) but I did beta test Office 2007 and was amazed how someone like me who hadn’t used Office previously could so easily create some very attractive looking documents so quickly and without having to ‘dig down’ numerous menu’s and toolbars in order to do so. It was all so intuitive.  How can anyone disagree with the aim to make any program or application easier to use? For a business using that software,  it saves you time when training  any new staff and it also helps to  increase production.  The other side of the argument is that it must be an annoyance to find that users don’t know about or ever use lot’s of the features that you have included in your program simply because its so hard to find them.

Writer ribbon I use Windows Live Writer to post to my blogs. I have used it from the very beginning and find it essential. However, I have been amazed at how many use it but aren’t aware of all the features that it contains and therefore don’t fully realise its potential.  The main reason for this is that I don’t think that they know certain features are available to them because you simply have to dig down into the menu’s/taskbar to find them.  The same can be applied to any program or application that contains lot’s of features and choices inside it, such as Windows Live Mail and also Live Photo Gallery.

The other advantage of course is that using the ribbon for your user interface then enables you to ‘do away’ with any  sidebar usage that is necessary without the ribbon,  thereby gaining real estate for your actual ‘work area’  a big plus in my opinion.

What do you think of the ribbon interface? Best thing since sliced bread or do you dislike it and if so, why?


What is Windows Live?

What is Windows Live?  Perhaps some of you reading this post might not have even heard of Windows Live, or come across it in your travels around the internet.  Some may think of it as a Suite of programs that you need to download to your recently bought computer simply because you need them in order to access your emails in Windows 7.  Others might have stumbled across the Windows Live site, gone and taken a look, tried to join it  and then after finding it far too hard to get to grips with and navigate, moseyed off somewhere else. As a Windows Live user and fan, I readily admit its a hard site to find your way around  if you are a new to it.  Its also a site that doesn’t seem to be able to make its mind up quite what its there for and in which direction its going.

Windows Live Home PageA Social networking site a la Facebook?  Well, let’s take a look at the similarities of them both shall we?  Both contain a users Profile and a Home page in tabs at the top of the page which in turn contain other choices in drop down lists. . Also Friends are easy to access as well as Messages. (In the case of Windows Live this is of course Live Hotmail and the Friends tab in Facebook is replaced with People)  So far they are pretty similar. In both, you can set up your Profile/Account and any Settings/Permissions that you wish to set and have more or less total control over who has access to what.

In the usage of Facebook,  you remain on the Home page for the majority of time unless you are using one of the Applications of course. Also you now have both a Live feed and a News feed to access from that Home page.  If someone posts an update you can react to that update by either liking it or joining in and commenting on it.  In that way,  Facebook  allows you to be ‘interactive’ with your friends and family as if you were actually in the room with them discussing something.  Not only that, Facebook added a ‘chat’ facility to the excellent Facebook ‘bar’ at the bottom of the page.  Similar in concept to Messenger, this allows you to chat to someone when they are online at the same time as you.

Facebook Home page Unfortunately, Windows Live does not allow this ‘interactivity’ at all with your friends and family, unless you count being able to place a comment on their blog posts and in a note on their profile page.  The ‘What’s new with your Network’ feed on your Home page doesn’t allow you to do anything with it apart from read it and then click on it to go to that particular site. You can’t like/dislike it if the friend has posted some remark somewhere, you can’t comment on it, its a passive update and not  a socially interactive update.  So for someone like me who wants to interact with my Windows Live friends and family when they do something somewhere, but do so whilst remaining on Windows Live, then the ‘What’s new with your Network’ feed is practically useless because all it does is allow me to leave the site completely in order to react to it, unless the update is about some activity that is carried out on Windows Live itself such  as a comment on someone’s blog or a note posted on someone's profile on Windows Live.

What's new updates. Can't reply,comment or likeThe other big problem is that the feed is currently only accessible for the last 50 updates made to it.  You can’t run through any past updates before then in order to check who has been  doing what whilst you have been asleep for example. There is no limitless  ‘earlier posts’ button at the bottom as on Facebook.  If you are offline for a number of hours and someone on your Network does something somewhere whilst you are offline, you will be really lucky to be aware of it.  For me, it renders the whole idea of the ‘What’s new with your Network’ more or less useless seeing as I don’t want to really move onto another site in order to react to them in any way, added to the fact that I miss seeing most of them anyway.

Where are they heading with Windows Live?  In which direction? Just as an ‘update’ on where everyone in your network  is currently spending their time when online so that you can go and join them elsewhere?

The new OrkutFunnily enough, just as I am composing this blog, Google have just released a beta update to Orkut, their ‘Social Networking’ site, and its an  update that practically copies Facebook item by item, feature by feature. Why the incessant need for every social networking site to ape Facebook? Because its so popular?  I often  wonder though how many  use Facebook just  because most of their family members and close friends are on there as well.  Personally that’s why I am on there, and I can find lot’s of things about it I don’t like.

Those blasted applications and their intrusiveness for one!


Facebook, my pet peeves.

facebook-icon3 Along with the rest of the world and his dog, I am on Facebook. I first joined Facebook because a family member asked me to. At first it seemed okay. Another way to keep in touch with family and friends. Some of my family began asking me to join them in using certain applications on there. The first time I accepted  I was puzzled as to why the application needed not only all  of my details in order to work, but also requested that I  include a certain amount of my family/friends details as well. Why? Why does an application, whether it be a game or anything else on Facebook NEED all of your details and those of your friends before it will work?

If I download a game to my computer to play, it doesn’t need to know my life history before it allows me to download and play it? And more importantly, what do these applications do with all of the supplied data that they insist that they need?

Allow access

You could of course argue that they need all that data in order to spread themselves around Facebook (sounds like a virus doesn’t it?) thereby ending up being used by more people. I would argue that if your application or game is good enough, then your users would tell their family and friends about it anyway. What’s wrong with simply relying on ‘word of mouth’ to increase your usage?

Then following the build up on Facebook of these applications such as games and the like, we are all now inundated with  the downright annoying ‘nags’ about them in our feeds.  Despite posting to my feed countless times that I am NOT interested in joining ‘Farmhouse Families’ or ‘Mafia shoot up’ or anything else for that matter, I still get pestered to join this or that. So I block that particular application. Problem solved? NO! Because no sooner do you block one application than along comes another one in its wake! Grrr! There must be one new application born every few minutes on Facebook, or that’s how it seems to me!  I can’t keep up with the blocking and hiding!

Another bloody app There are other niggles I have with Facebook. How come you can’t use your nickname for example or the fact that it doesn’t use RSS feeds so that I can check any updates in my desktop email program?

I would close my account on there in a jiffy but most of my family also use Facebook  regularly and I also have some long term friends from Live Journal on there as well. Hmm. Think I might have to do some serious culling of contacts on there especially those who are always nagging me to join this or join that.


Windows 7, these are a few of my favourite things.

Well, its finally arrived! The new Windows 7 operating system which will hopefully encourage all those who still insist on remaining with Windows XP because they weren’t prepared to upgrade to Vista, a valid reason at last to move on.

I have been using Windows 7 since it became available in its beta form, and it is a fantastic operating system with some brilliant touches and ideas incorporated into it which are intended to make the users life a little easier. So here are just some of my favourite things in Windows 7.

1. The taskbar.

I have always preferred to have all of my favourite programs that I use the most displayed on my taskbar so that they are available to me at all times and are just one click away.  It just makes a lot of sense to me to have them there so that I can access them  even if I am online and reading a website for example.  But its how the new taskbar in Windows 7 actually works that is so fantastic. If a program or application is still open then that particular icon is slightly opaque so that you can see that open program at a glance.

Taskbar showing any open programs Not only that, but if you are downloading something in Internet Explorer for example, you can see the progress of the download in green  working its way across the Internet Explorer icon. If you have two windows open in a program or application, again this is shown by there being two opaque instances visible.  Want to be able to access a website that you have been browsing recently in Internet Explorer and go straight to it with one click? Or access a post you were recently working on in Live Writer? Easy, just right click on the icon to view ‘jump lists’ where you can then ‘jump’ to that website or recent post.  Jump lists as they are called, are not implemented with every application or program at this particular time, but eventually they will be.

2. The Action Centre.

I love the Action centre in Windows 7!  It brings together all of the security and maintenance areas concerned with looking after your computer neatly into one area which has a ‘safety flag’ icon visible at all times on your taskbar. If this icon is white, then everything is running fine,  if it turns red, then there is something that needs your immediate attention.  Under the Action Centre umbrella resides the two separate areas of Security and Maintenance, but there are also extras included besides those.  There’s the new addition of Troubleshooting where you can find and fix any problems as they occur, you can do a restore of your computer to an earlier time.

Action Centre areas and window Whenever and if ever a problem with your computer occurs, Action Centre will try and come up with a solution to that problem. If it can’t be resolved at that particular time, the problem is logged and then when a solution presents itself later, you will be informed that a solution has been found.  You can set up the Action Centre settings for receiving messages about problems as they occur (it constantly checks for these all the time) and you can stipulate which messages you wish to receive from Action Centre about various aspects of Security such as Windows Update, your Network firewall, you virus protection etc, and also your Maintenance messages regarding any backups, checks for updates or Windows Troubleshooting. You can turn any of these off if you wish.

Action Centre settings

So the Action Centre is constantly looking after your whole computer to make sure that it is running at its optimum best.


Again, this feature could have been introduced especially for me!  I am constantly changing my desktop background wallpapers and so the new ability to have  a slide show  of changing wallpapers on the desktop is fantastic.  In fact whilst testing Windows 7,  I have actually made some of my own themes to share with others as you can choose to save your theme as a Windows 7 theme file and then upload it to share with other users.  It’s fairly easy to create your own theme as well simply by choosing some of your favourite wallpapers, choosing a window colour and the sounds for your theme  and also to choose a Screen saver for it as well. You can also stipulate how often each wallpaper will change to the next one during the slide show.  I just hope that Microsoft sets up a Windows 7 theme sharing site for that purpose so that everyone who uses the new OS can then share themes with each other.

Themes in Windows 7

4. Connections.

Connecting  other equipment up to your computer is now a breeze with Windows 7.  With all my other equipment such as my Canon printer, my Samsung mobile phone, my daughters Nokia phone and my Samsung camera, I have not needed to use any of the relevant discs because Windows 7 has just found the drivers automatically as soon as I have plugged the external device into the computer.  It really has been made so much easier to use any external device with the computer, and XP users should upgrade to Windows 7 for this feature alone in my opinion!  Not only that, but all your devices are then visible on the Devices page so that you to see them all.

Devices page in Windows 7

5. Aero Snap.

Strange name I know, but believe you me, you will wonder how on earth you ever managed without this feature!  Its so handy when you are working in two different applications.  Before Windows 7 when I was composing my blogs in Writer, I was constantly having to go to and fro between either a web page as I worked my way through each step, or my pictures folder. Now, thanks to Aero snap I simply ‘snap’ the Live Writer screen to one side of the screen,  then ‘snap’ my pictures folder or the website screen that I am working through if doing a ‘how-to’ post to the other side of the screen, and then I can just drag and drop a picture into the text of my post from my picture files or alternatively work my way through each step on the website page as I write about it in the post inside  Writer.  It saves me so much time!

using the snap feature to write my blog

So there you are, just a few of my favourite things in Windows 7.





The ribbon and why others are applying it.

It is my firm belief as a user of many of Microsoft’s applications that one of the best ideas to ever to come out of the Microsoft stable is the absolutely brilliant ribbon interface. The reason why I feel this way about the ribbon interface is really quite simple. The ribbon interface enables a new user to learn how to use an application quickly and easily and additionally allows the new user to be able to discover and utilise features of that particular application that otherwise they might not have easily discovered or come across because they were hidden or buried under a multitude of menu’s and list’s and therefore would be be harder to discover.

Ribbon in Word

Yet to hear some users talk (and the disgruntled tend to be users who have used that particular program for quite some time prior to the introduction of the ribbon interface)  to make your applications easier to use for everyone  especially the newbie seems to be paramount  to committing some sort of crime. They seem to prefer that all users have to do things the hard way and continue having to use a cluttered up user interface requiring the user to need to drill down into menu’s and lists ad infinitum in order to find all the programs features, or alternatively use  so called  ‘keyboard shortcuts’ (which incidentally I find are never short or time saving at all and usually require the user be able to remember them all and to press either two or three keyboard buttons at the same time in order to enable  a feature that could just as easily be acquired with one click from a well designed user interface.)

Ribbon in Paint

So if its so unpopular with ‘old hands’ then why are other sites and other program makers  intending to use the ribbon interface  for their applications and programs?  Its really very simple.  Instead of having new users put off from ever using your program or application just because your complicated interface gets in the way, then it makes sense to make your program easier to use for everyone by utilising the Ribbon and thereby simplifying your user Interface.  The ribbon interface simplifies the use of any program or application simply by  presenting the user with only those  features  that they need at that particular time, without cluttering up the screen with unnecessary choices and options that are not required at that point in time.

Prototype UI for open office We have already heard that the Open Office bods are considering applying the ribbon interface to their Office suite (where in my opinion it would then make using Open Office far easier to use for everyone and I myself have been put off in the past from even considering using Open Office because of its ‘unfriendly and confusing interface)  and now the latest news we hear is that Mozilla are also considering applying it to the next version of Firefox.

Ribbon type interface for Firefox

I have no doubt that every Firefox fan  will be up in arms about it which makes this ordinary user ask why?  Why are long term users of any browser, application or program so against making that program easier to use for everyone concerned? Are they so set in their ways that they hate any change at all to the user interface? Do they want it to remain  as complicated to learn as possible for any user who is unfortunate enough to be a newbie?  Or is it simply because the original idea came from Microsoft?



Social Networking overload.

thumbnailCAH8WGQV Are you like me suffering from Social Networking overload? Lately I seem to be subscribing to more and  more social networking sites that profess to be the latest ‘must have’ to enable you to keep tabs on all of your online friends and contacts.  it’s got so bad that I now find myself subscribing to sites that  promise to amalgamate all of my social networking sites into one place and keep them all organized for me so that I can keep on top of it all!

windowslive icon I’ve completely lost track to be honest of just how many sites I am currently subscribed to and despite being retired and therefore able to spend a great deal of my available time online I just haven’t the time to contribute to them all.  Of course the answer is to stop joining any more but as soon as I tell myself not to join or sign up to any new sites I will often find that I’ll read someone’s tweet about a fantastic new site they have found  that is the next big thing or I’ll read someone's blog about a new ‘social networking’ service that’s the latest must have and next thing you know I’ve signed up and joined another one! 

Twitter_logo For my blogs I am now busy trying to find gadgets and plug-ins that  let my readers know just exactly which sites I use so that they can find me, although its highly unlikely they will come across me on any of them as I just don’t have the time, and lets be honest here, if a retired Granny hasn’t the time to contribute to lot’s of social networking sites  then who has?  I really will have to refrain from joining any more. It rather reminds me of those Sky users who pay out a huge amount every month so that they can have hundreds and hundreds of channels and then spend most of their time just watching the same old four or five they could get for free.  Besides which I have badly been neglecting my blogs of late, usually because I am too busy tweeting or else I am reading all the updates from my vast collection of  social networking sites!

friend_feed_logo_allrightsreserved Let’s face it, we can only be in one place at a time when we are online, no one can  be everywhere at once,  and I have realised this recently  having become aware of  just how many new services are becoming available just to help us keep on top of all that Social Networking we are all doing. The other downside of having all of these different Social Networking sites occurred recently  when I needed to upload  some photographs so that my family and friends  could  see them.  Instead of just uploading  them once  to one particular site, I found  myself having to upload them to my Windows Live SkyDrive, my flickr account and my Facebook account which meant that because I had  quite a few photos to upload the computer was  busy for up to an hour or more. (Is there a photo uploading service that you can upload your pictures to once and then it distributes your pics to all of your photo sites for you, and if not why not?)

digg-logo_2 I know that I am not alone in experiencing ‘Social Networking overload.’ When the Windows Live teams introduced Web Activities to Windows Live, quite a few users on there turned most of the updates from their friends off after finding them to be ‘too noisy’. As a matter of fact, I was personally informed by someone in my Network on Windows Live that  my twitter updates  were  ‘too much’ and so I ended up disabling most of my updates on there so I didn’t annoy others in my Network.

We might all feel that we need to be constantly  broadcasting every move we make whilst we are online, every picture we take, every news article we read, every new ‘social networking’ must have we have stumbled upon, but do remember everyone,  it doesn’t necessarily mean that your online friends want to be constantly reminded of your online presence or what you are doing from one minute to the next,  and they just might go and turn you right off!


Monday, 8 March 2010

I’ve done a Googly Boob!

youtube-logo(2) Last week I had one of those stupid senior moments. I use Windows Live Mail on my desktop to read all of my emails, and I kept getting a few ‘spam’ emails arriving from my Gmail account. Strangely when I investigated further by going online to try to find those same spam emails they weren’t there. I then did a foolish thing. I deleted my Gmail account. Knee jerk reaction I know caused by my brain not being in gear. BIG MISTAKE!

Picasa Why? Because  that account was associated with my Picasa account, my YouTube account, my Google reader, my Google Buzz and two blogs on Blogger!   I have lost them all and all the followers associated with those accounts. I tried to contact Google to ask them to reinstate my account. Sensibly they requested that I provide some proof to establish whether or not the account was actually mine.  So I listed all the sites that were associated with that email address. I supplied the account password as well. They replied stating that they required more details such as the dates when I actually joined each site.  Of course as someone who finds it hard to remember what day it is today, I couldn’t hope to provide this information  in a million years!

gmail_icon Could you remember the dates that you joined each site that you are subscribed to? Could you even get close to it? Since then, I have been desperately trying to log into my YouTube account to retrieve my videos that I have stored up there, but to no avail. You see each time that I try it asks me for the associated Gmail address for my YouTube account and of course that doesn’t work anymore as its no longer available.

Nor can I ‘restart’ it using the same details. Yes its true that before I deleted it  it did warn me and showed all of the sites that email address was linked to, but you know knee jerk reactions don’t you?  I saw the warning but it didn’t register at the time that I would be saying my last goodbyes  to all my content. My fault yes but Google, you ask the impossible of this scatter brained Granny in asking me to provide all those details and dates!

I am not the only one who considers that its a bad idea to have to need a Google email address associated with your YouTube account either. Take a look at these complaints HERE!

The answer of course is to open another Gmail  account and set everything up again.  Oh well, I suppose the moral of this story  is think carefully before you act, don’t have a knee jerk reaction and get your brain into gear!


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Windows Live headers for Wave 4.

We recently saw some leaked screen grabs of some new headers for the Windows Live site which apparently will be introduced in the new Wave 4 updates.  Take a look at them all in the following picture. Most of them have been taken from the default Windows 7 themes. Trouble is I am not all that keen on any of them if I am honest.

Windows Live headers

So I thought it would be interesting (and also a bit of fun) to show you some of my headers that I would choose if I were allowed to be able to upload my own headers if the teams would grant us all that ability.  (or it was possible to do.)  Here they are.

Autumn coloursAutumn Leaves Black window headerBlue and Green Bright blue Daffodils Dreamy Fractuals HorizonIsleland Multicoloured Psycho Red Leaves Ripples Storm comingDistant Worlds

So there are my choice of headers for Windows Live. Do you like them?