I’ve been using Microsoft Office 2007 for over two years now and I still struggle to find things in the new menu bar also known as the ‘ribbon’. A recent minor breakthrough was the realisation that not all of the commands are actually displayed (if you click on the round home button, top-left, select ‘Word Options’, then ‘Customize’, you can list all the hidden commands by changing the ‘Choose commands from’ option to ‘Commands Not in the Ribbon’. I’m sure there are many commands in this list that you don’t recognise, equally the features of Microsoft Office are so vast that I’m sure you are not aware of some of the simple things you can do to improve your productivity. If you don’t have the time to attend your institutions MS Office training (if they still provide such a thing), you might want to try Microsoft Office Labs Ribbon Hero.
Ribbon Hero is a free Office add-on which allows you to learn about Word PowerPoint and Excel into more bite-sized chunks. By taking ‘challenges’ you can learn about increasing your Office productivity, and to motivate you towards Office mastery you are awarded points (with the option of comparing how you are getting on by uploading to a leaderboard on Facebook. The video below shows you how to ‘play the game’:
Microsoft Office 2010 isn’t due out until the 12th May and it will be some time more before it hits campus desktops. However, if you would like to get up to speed with the major changes in the new suite, the Microsoft Learning team have put together a free e-book, “First Look Microsoft Office 2010”. The book covers features which are directly relevant to education including broadcasting PowerPoint over the internet, and saving files ‘in the cloud’ via SkyDrive.
over it’s 186 pages it talks you through some of the most significant enhancements in the Office suite. I’m impressed with the collaboration that Office 2010 encourages, and have got very used to doing things like broadcasting PowerPoint over the internet, and the options to save my files to my SkyDrive on the web, rather than on my local hard disk.
Some of you maybe sick of the ‘social’ tag being used on virtual every new website start-up, and you maybe about to get sicker when you find out software developers want to ‘socialise’ your inbox.
Microsoft Outlook 2010
First we have Microsoft’s Social Connector add-on for Outlook 2010. This allows users to view and use information from other Microsoft products and third party sites (so far Linkedin, Facebook and MySpace), as part of you inbox. The video below demonstrates the features of the product:
Mozilla is the home of the Internet browser Firefox and other open source projects including their e-mail client Thunderbird and the more experimental communication tool, Raindrop. Just like Firefox Mozilla’s philosophy is to make it as easy as possible for third party developers to create additional functionality to their applications via add-ons. Social networking integration in Thunderbird is a little thin on the ground two example I’ve come across are WiseStamp – Email Signature and RapLeaf 4 Thunderbird add-on by DanielT. WiseStamp enables you to pull your existing social network information dynamically into your email signature, while the other integrates with the RapLeaf web service allowing you to see the senders registered social networks within the preview pane. Before you go rushing to sign up for Rapleaf their business is selling user behavioural patterns, which you can read more about in Mashable’s How Companies Are Using Your Social Media Data
RapLeaf 4 Thunderbird screenshot
Raindrop is perhaps more promising, but still in early development:
Raindrop is an experiment in designing for today’s messaging habits by collecting conversations from important messaging sources (email, twitter, …), understanding them, and organizing them for the user based on this understanding.
Your inbox is undoubtedly evolving, and reflects wider developments in the semantic web. As the world strives towards greater “data, information and knowledge exchange” communication tools like email will become enriched with information both purposely and surreptitiously pulled from the web. It should however be remembered that whilst many of us our inbox as the centre of our daily activities, can the same be said for students?
In a September ‘08 edition of RSC NewsFeed we highlighted the launch of Microsoft’s Photosynth technology which lets you build three-dimensional representations of places and objects using a series of digital images. One of the original developers from this project recently demonstrated how this technology was being integrated in Microsoft’s Bing Maps. The video below not only shows how static images can be overlaid in a ‘street-view’ but also demonstrates the ability to stream live video. The technology used isn’t available for general release yet but it highlights a number of opportunities to enhance areas like video conferencing or even augmenting student fieldwork.
The British Library and Microsoft Research have worked in partnership to design and develop a ‘virtual research environment’ that will provide a single easy-to-use interface enabling research teams to work collaboratively. The Research Information Centre (RIC) Framework will provide an environment in which users can create, share, discuss, manage, find and track articles, references, bookmarks, funding proposals, presentations and all the other digital information related to their research.
Built on top of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007, the RIC extends the core MOSS functionality to meet the needs to academic researchers engaged in collaborative research projects.
To see what this looks like the video below gives an overview of the project.
Getting the most out of your Microsoft campus deal? BlogMS, which picks the best from over 200 official Microsoft team blogs, has complied a long list of free Microsoft software and online services. For the techies there are some links to ‘powertoys‘ you might not have known about (I went for an ALT-TAB replacement which gives me a Windows Vista style preview of windows I might want to quickly jump to). There are also links to educational software including Encarta and Dreamspark (which we have previously highlighted in NewsFeed here)
In NewsFeed we recently featured Paul’s E-Learning Resource (a list of freely available tools and services for e-learning). In his latest update he highlights LiveWeb, a great free add-in for PowerPoint, which allows you to insert live web pages into your presentation. Inserted web pages are live so you can interact with them (navigate, input search terms etc), without the hassle of jumping between browser and slideshow).
Frustrated by the linear nature of PowerPoint? Would you like to navigate quickly between slides in different parts of your presentation? Microsoft Office Labs have come up with a free new plug-in for PowerPoint 2007 called pptPlex which allows you to tour your students through your presentation as a ‘zoomable canvas’. The video below produced by pptPlex shows you what this looks like:
I used pptPlex for a workshop recently and was impressed with the flexibility it allowed me. Having a visual overview of the next section of slides also helped me plan what I was going to say. The huge limitation of pptPlex is that currently you can’t embed video or slide animations [it would also be good if it was available for older versions of PowerPoint].
In the last issue of NewsFeed we highlighted Photosynth, an application from Microsoft that lets you create three-dimensional representations of places and objects using digital images. Well it appears some of you have already been busy ‘synthing’ over the summer because Mike Whyment from the University of Aberdeen recently won an amateur Photosynth competition being run by Ray Fleming at Microsoft’s UK Higher Education Blog. Mike Photosynthed Elphinstone Hall during a recent open day with almost 500 images winning himself a goody bag of a handful of 4GB memory sticks and a little pile of software boxes.
Ray has another goody bag to give away before the end of the month “for the best synth of either the room you spend your day in or a building on campus that you’re proud of (inside or out)”. This post by Ray has more details about the competition.