OneNote: A hidden gem in Microsoft Office

Gavin Livingstone, Bryley Systems Inc., January 2016

Microsoft first introduced OneNote with Microsoft Office 2003; since then, it has gone through five iterations and has become a useful utility to record free-form ideas and collaborate with others on any device, from Windows to iOS to Android. (See Wikipedia’s write-up on OneNote.)

Microsoft says that OneNote is “…a digital notebook for your to-do lists, lecture and meeting notes, vacation plans, or anything you want to organize.”

Key benefits:

  • Use anywhere, on any device
  • Work collaboratively with others
  • Keep all your ideas, notes, images, everything together in one place

I have been using OneNote for the past two months to replace my old, spiral-bound notebook. I setup my major groupings by Tabs (Executive, Meetings, Archive, etc.) and I then setup Pages within each Tab for my major task-groupings (Planning, Setup KPIs, ToDo, etc.). Within each Page, I setup a task list with task items.

For example, within my Executive Tab in the Page named “Planning –2016” I have:

  • Five-year plan:
    • 2016
    • 2017
    • 2018
    • 2019
    • 2020
  • Quarterly-plan
    • Q1
    • Q2
    • Q3
    • Q4

Each item within a task-list has a checkbox (called a To Do Tag), so that I can check it off when completed. When all items within all task-lists are completed, I move the Page to my Tab that I named Archive.

Within OneNote, I move Tabs left-to-right to arrange by priority. Likewise, within a Tab, I constantly shift higher-priority task-groupings (Pages) upward as their urgency increases.

I can include emails, documents, handwritten notes, and graphics within each Page.

Because it syncs securely and works with different devices, I have OneNote on my Ultrabook and on my Android tablet to allow use anywhere, anytime.

Can Windows 10 revitalize the PC?

With the introduction of Windows 10 this summer past, Microsoft (and its PC vendors like HP, Inc., Dell, Lenovo, etc.) are hoping for a significant surge in the sales of Windows-based desktops, notebooks, and tablets. However, the results to date have been modest at best.

Microsoft seems to have done a good job with Windows 10:

  • The update process is free (for a year), reasonably easy (for individuals, but not as much for organizations), and somewhat user-friendly. Also, updates are now “continuous”, mimicking the operating system-update policies of competitors Google and Apple. 1
  • Windows 10 is more secure with enhanced security features and improved look/touch login via Windows Hello.
  • There are new, useful features like Cortana (voice-activated assistant) and Edge (Internet browser replacing the old Internet Explorer).
  • Microsoft added built-in apps like Maps, Photos, Groove, Movies & TV, etc.
  • There are many, new, mostly free apps by third-party developers. 2
  • Reset and Refresh have been optimized for SSD drives.3
  • Some of the wrongs with Windows 8 (ie: no Start Menu) are now righted.

Windows is also somewhat of a player in mobile devices with increasing sales in Microsoft Surface (now a $1B business) and Lumina phones (purchased from Nokia), which contributes about $2B quarterly. (Although growing, these sales represent only 3% of the sales of mobile devices worldwide.) 4

These improvements seem to be part of Microsoft’s two-part mission:

  • Have Windows 10 run across as many devices and screens as possible, and
  • Make consumers love Windows 10, rather than just need it.

On the positive side:

  • Microsoft reports that Windows 10 is installed on over 110M devices to date.
  • Gartner predicts that Windows 10 installations will eclipse Windows XP and Windows 7 by 2019.

However, Windows is losing market share (and has been for some time) to other mobile devices like smartphones and tablets; there are over 2B people running Google Android or Apple iOS-based devices compared to about 1.5B running Microsoft Windows. 5

Another troubling trend: Although PC ownership is relatively stable among adults (at about 73%), PC ownership among 18 to 29 year olds dropped from 89% in 2012 to 78% in 2015. (This may change as these younger folk enter the workforce and require a full-sized keyboard and large or multiple monitors.) 6

Basically, Windows 10 is off to a good start, but only time will tell if the Windows franchise will retain its powerhouse status.

References

  1. Windows 10 is here and you can get it for free at Microsoft.com.
  2. 10 (mostly) free must-have Windows 10 apps by Paul Mah at ComputerWorld.
  3. Windows 10: Disk Optimization by Russell Smith at Petri.com.
  4. Microsoft gets hardware foothold as Surface, Lumina sales jump by Nick Statt at CNET on 1/26/2015.
  5. Windows 10 Launch Results: A Success or Fail? in the 7/31/2015 edition of The Gazette Review.
  6. Smartphones, Tablets Take Toll On PC Ownership Among Youth by Joseph Palencher from the November 3, 2015 edition of Twice.

Bryley Basics: Enabling GodMode in Windows 10 (and Windows 8)

With Windows 8 and Windows 10, Settings and Control Panel are separate entities with different functions; it would be nice to access both from the same folder when making configuration changes, rather than switching between the two.

GodMode is a simple and useful Windows shortcut:  It combines Settings and Control Panel into one folder on your desktop.

To enable GodMode:

  • Create a new folder on your desktop.
  • Copy and paste the following into the folder’s name: {ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
  • You will now have a folder named GodMode that contains all Settings and the Control Panel

Please review Sarah Jacobson Purewal’s article Activate GodMode in Windows 10 in the August 18, 2015 edition of CNet.

Introducing Microsoft Office 2016

Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows should launch on September 22nd; the Macintosh version released in July.  After this upcoming release, perpetual licenses of Office 2013 and earlier versions will be difficult to acquire legally.

Significant changes include:

  • Create, open, edit, and save Cloud-based documents
  • Real-time co-authoring
  • New Tell Me search tool

Not so significant features include:

  • Contextual-information via Insights
  • Data-loss prevention
  • Colorful themes

Requirements:

  • Microsoft Windows 7 or later
  • Exchange Server 2010, 2013, or the upcoming 2016

The last requirement, updating Exchange Server to support Microsoft Office 2016, will take some planning and effort and should be completed before deploying Microsoft Office 2016.  Note:  The Autodiscover service within Exchange Server 2010 and 2013, which has a default configuration suitable only for simple networks, may also need to be reconfigured and republished.  (For example:  An organization with VPN users will likely need to adjust the Autodiscover service on their Exchange Server.)

See the article Office 2016 for Windows expected to launch on September 22nd by Tom Warren of The Verge.

Migrating to Windows 10 – Now, later, or never?

Migrations bring about change in the lives of technology end-users, whether desired or not.  Often, the IT-support team receives undeserved blame for issues with a new operating system; although, they can help smooth the way by testing core software applications and devices for compatibility before upgrading.

So, here you are with new computers that ship with multiple versions of Windows; which to deploy?  You know there are going to be compatibility issues; there always are.  (Our current VPN client does not yet work with Windows 10 and I have heard of issues with Google’s Chrome on Windows 10.)  Also, there are individuals within your organization who will have trouble adapting to a new user environment.

These are the issues you will need to address when migrating to Windows 10:

  • Equipment compatibility
  • Application compatibility
  • User acceptance

Equipment compatibility

Equipment-compatibility issues exist because Windows has always been everything to everyone:  Windows supports most any printer, scanner, fax, camera, or device as long as the manufacturer conforms to Microsoft specifications, which might include creating a Windows device driver (a small application designed to translate instructions between the device and the operating system) to enable all features.

Likewise, your desktop or notebook computer might not be compatible with Windows 10; you will need (at a minimum):

  • 1GHz processor
  • 1Gb of RAM for 32-bit deployment or 2Gb for 64-bit deployment
  • 20Gb of disk space
  • DirectX9 display with 800×600 display

Please see the Windows 10 specifications for details.

Applications compatibility

Software applications must also conform to Microsoft specifications; however, updating applications to work with a new operating system takes time and effort.  So, older, legacy applications not built to current-day Windows standards can be slow to comply, particularly those from smaller developers, who might not have the resources necessary to make them compatible.  These developers might suggest: “Don’t upgrade now” or “Use XP Compatibility mode”, but usually offer no specific timetable or long-term work-around.

Cloud-based applications have an advantage over most legacy applications; they are likely browser-dependent (and operating-system independent) and are updated continually.  However, you can run into compatibility issues with different browser versions and even different browsers.

User acceptance

An often under-appreciated issue is the changes to the user interface, particularly its look-and-feel; Microsoft received significant criticism with Windows 8.x and the fundamental changes in how it interacts with the end-users.

 

Migration techniques

The safe method, one that many organizations adopt, is to delay migration until:

  • All computers are known to have sufficient resources to run Windows 10.
  • Hardware compatibility issues are identified and resolved, either through updates or hardware replacement.
  • All applications are tested and compatibility issues are either resolved, the application is replaced, or a work-around is established.
  • Training is budgeted and approved.
  • Proper planning is completed to ensure a smooth transition.

However, organizations with limited budgets might not be able to invest fully in this process; they likely need to add a computer or two, right now.

For those already using Windows 8.x:

  • Applications and device drivers that work with Windows 8.x will likely work with Windows 10 (since the underlying framework is similar in both editions).
  • You can use the Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant to help identify application- compatibility issues with Windows 8.1, which will also be an issue with Windows 10.

Unfortunately, there is no substitute for testing; put in the time and do it right!

Often, it can be more effective to replace an aging printer (or similar device) than to try and make it work with a new version of Windows; the time to research, locate, install new device drivers (if they exist), test, and then update all migrated workstations can easily exceed the cost of deploying a new, modern device (with more features and greater functionality).

Training is necessary:  Group sessions to introduce the basics and answer questions are effective in getting things started.  Follow-up, small-group training or individual hand-holding can alleviate fears and improve productivity.

For training, Microsoft offers these free, Windows 10 training resources:

Now, later, or never

Basically, if you use Windows-based applications, you main options are:

  • Upgrade to Windows 10 without charge by July 29, 2016
  • Leave Windows-desktop entirely
  • Don’t change anything, ever

Microsoft is allowing anyone with a qualified and genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 to upgrade to Windows 10 for free through July 29, 2016.  So, you can upgrade your existing equipment without licensing fees once you have completed compatibility testing, training, etc.

The second option, leave Windows, suggests one of two courses of action:

  • Switch to a non-Microsoft-dependent application.
  • Use a virtual environment to provide Windows-based applications. You can deploy these applications through a virtual server, either on-premise or remotely (i.e.:  via Bryley’s Hosted Cloud Server) that can provide access to your Windows-based application by running it on an older, Windows-based operating system.

The last option is extreme; it can work for a number of years, particularly if you are not replacing desktop computers, but will eventually require a change.  Basically, you are avoiding the inevitable.

We have begun the planning and application testing for our Windows 10 rollout; I’ll update our progress in future issues.

Visit How to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 8.1 by Ed Tittle in the February 12th edition of CIO and Preston Gralla’s article: Excited about the imminent release of Windows 10? You might want to wait in the July 21st issue of ComputerWorld.

Microsoft Windows 10

Microsoft is releasing Windows 10 on July 29th.  It is available as a free upgrade to licensed users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 through the Get Windows 10 (GWX) application which is part of Windows Updates.  (Note: Some companies, including Bryley Systems, are temporarily blocking this update to permit a controlled migration to Windows 10.)

To minimize bandwidth and processing disruptions, those who reserve now for this 3Gb upgrade periodically receive parts of it until the entire upgrade is downloaded and ready for installation on 7/29/2015.

Windows 10 will run most Windows XP applications.  The Windows 10 Home Edition will likely sell at $119; the Pro edition at $199.

View the article from Mark Hachman at PCWorld It’s official: Microsoft says you can download the final version of Windows 10 on July 29

Microsoft is discontinuing Internet Explorer

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) was first included with Microsoft Windows 95; it is a much-maligned Internet browser, primarily due to its intermittent security issues and declining user base.

IE’s dominance came in the early 2000s, when it captured 95% of the market, but, with growing competition from Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome, declined to somewhere between 27% and 54% of the market late in 2012.

On March 17th, Microsoft announced that Spartan –, a new, improved, Internet browser – will replace IE as the default browser in Windows 10.

In addition, by January 2016, Microsoft will support only the current versions of Internet Explorer and will discontinue support for all non-current versions.  (The current version is IE 11.)

Bryley Basics: More of Anna’s Windows 8 tips

Those of you running Windows 8 have probably experienced the new Photosapp, which opens the image in the full-screen, hiding everything else on the screen. It is really inconvenient for me, and I am guessing I am not the only one.  Here’s how to change from the default photo-views application in Windows 8, Photos, back to the Windows 7 version, Photo Viewer:

  1. Once in Desktop Mode go to the Windows Icon winIcon, right-click, and then select Search.
  1. A search bar will open; type Default Programs and then select.

 

  1. Select Set your default programs.

scnShot_1

  1. Select Windows Photo Viewer, select Set this program as default, and then click OK.

scnShot_2

You can use the same procedure to change other default programs.  If there is some type of Windows 8 default application that you are not happy with, this is the place to make those changes.

Did you miss my earlier post on how to boot Windows 8 straight to desktop mode?  If so, check it out here.

Living with Windows XP

Microsoft has officially ended general support of Windows XP, but many have not updated or replaced their Windows XP PCs.  Although we recommend against continuing to use Windows XP, particularly in any Internet-facing role, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of remaining on this platform.

The easiest, but least practical solution would be to disconnect all Windows XP PCs from the Internet or to limit their access to the Internet.  This step could exclude exposure to outside sources, but reduces the effectiveness of these PCs.

The second-most effective strategy would be to replace older versions of Internet Explorer (IE) with a supported Internet browser; replacing IE with Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of using a Windows XP PC to browse the Internet.  (Windows XP originally released with IE 6, but most Windows XP systems are now running version 7 or 8.  The current version of IE is 11.)

Updating to Mozilla’s Firefox is easy:

Please see http://www.zdnet.com/windows-xp-support-ends-survival-tips-to-stay-safe-7000028188/ for more information from Charlie Osborn of ZDNet.  Or, visit http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9246877/US_CERT_urges_XP_users_to_dump_IE?source=CTWNLE_nlt_pm_2014-03-11 for a similar message from Gregg Keizer of ComputerWorld.

Additional steps to reduce Windows XP risk include:

  • Disable the ability to add new applications to a Windows XP PC
  • Remove administrative rights of all Windows XP users
  • Disable ports and drives on Windows XP PCs

See the article from Toby Wolpe of ZDNet at http://www.zdnet.com/windows-xp-support-end-10-steps-to-cut-security-risks-7000028193/.

Microsoft Office 365 Free To Qualifying Nonprofits

Microsoft now offers the entry-level, E1 plan of its Cloud-based, Office 365 service free to qualifying nonprofits. 

The Office 365 E1 plan includes Exchange Online (email, contacts, calendar, tasks), SharePoint Online (collaboration) and Lync Online (text and video conferencing).  To see our overview of Microsoft’s Office 365, visit Bryley Office 365 Presentation 4-24-2013.pdf.

The process to determine if your organization qualifies for this free service:

  • Sign-up for a free, 25-user trial of the Microsoft Office 365 E3 plan*
  • Fill-out the account information (name, organization, address)
  • Create a user ID (and agree to the Terms and Conditions)

Once the application is completed and the free-trial accepted, Microsoft will notify your organization if it qualifies as a non-profit.

*Note:  The E3 plan includes all of the features of the E1 plan plus the latest version of Microsoft Office desktop suite and other items.  It is not free, but is deeply discounted to qualifying non-profits.  Upon qualification, you may convert some or all of your users to the free, E1 plan.

Here is the site for Office 365 Enterprise E3 Nonprofits Trial.