Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Windows 10 Apps

Windows 10 - Post Upgrade Application Notes

Almost a week has passed since my first PC was upgraded with Windows 10. Whenever a device is upgraded I spend some time on new settings, configuring apps (mostly password and permissions) and culling out any older apps. The Windows 10 upgrade from Windows 8 was easy, with a single exception -- see the: Windows 10 Upgrade article.  This post will cover impressions of the base applications and general User Experience.

Disclaimer, Because: Lawyers 

Since 2007 I have worked at both Dell and Microsoft. I do not build PCs, nor do I develop operating systems. The views in this post are mine. I have not been compensated for my opinion, but will gladly accept piles of cash once my post is up. (FAQ).

Quick Grades of Windows 10 Applications


Edge Browser

The Windows 10 design mantra is "flat". Digital Trends gives a great overview in their Technical Preview's New Design. Applications should look and feel the same on any device and the Edge browser certainly demonstrates flat. Users of the old Firefox browser might feel right at home. 

I use IE11 at work, so the jump backwards(?) is still growing on me. Edge is fast, but compatibility is a question - especially for users in work environments. My IE11 doesn't work with many corporate apps, so I suspect Edge will need a bit of tweaking. SoftPedia covers the topic: Microsoft Edge Compatibility Warnings. The upgrade does not remove IE from your system.

The absence of Extensions is almost nice. Edge rendered PDF files and XML file quickly and easily. I really (terribly) miss my LastPass extension. I'm reluctant to store passwords in Windows, so the inability to load the LastPass extension makes me do gymnastics to login to sites. 


Cortana is enabled right in the Start Menu. Voice recognition for search is really very good. The collection/assortment of search results, via Bing, is solid. Cortana was so good it made me review the Firefly app on my Amazon phone. Also of note, the Search feature looks at Apps, Files on your local device and the web. So, brush up on your Search syntax for best results.

Firefly was able to listen to 4-5 seconds of a song, recognize the song and album and return the details with a link to purchase the album. Microsoft has not really closed the sales loop with Amazon effectiveness. Expect more work in this area.

Start Menu, Tray and Notifications

The return of the Start Menu is worth the price of the upgrade. OK, the upgrade as free, but I would have paid money to get this feature. The Start Menu and Task trays make up the best part of Windows 10. Search and Cortana are readily available. The Settings menu can be reached from several different locations, and a Notifications icon brings phone and table features onto the desktop.

Some tap actions are still a bit tricky - requiring multiple attempts. My big fingers need a bit more precision to work the Calculator app in desktop mode. Be careful about trying to close an app by swiping down from the top of the screen... it is easy to throw the window below the task bar. 

If you used ALT-Tab to switch between apps, Windows 10 adds an icon to the task tray to provide this feature. Tap, and open apps will tile on the screen for you to jump between apps.

eMail App 

The eMail app has not impressed me. It does have easy setup for multiple accounts. I setup Outlook mail and Google mail and was able to connect and download messages. But it has extra taps to switch between accounts (click on Menu, then Accounts, then the email account). Ugh. Someone need to rethink the extra steps. The eMail app has a link to the Calendar app, but no direct link to People / Contacts. Sure, it has an icon that looks like a head/shoulders, but it takes you to a feedback window. Again, the User Experience misses by a fraction. 


I am a very long time OneNote user, and have to say that the Windows 10 version is hideous in the new Flat layout. It was so hideous that I deleted it immediately and reinstalled the full OneNote client. Other Win10 features and functions need me to adjust a bit... but I spend a lot of time in OneNote, and the Windows 10 version did not work for me. 

Reading List (App)

The Reading List should be a beautiful, simple app. When visiting a web page you can click the STAR icon to save to Favorites or to Reading list. Imagine, spending your day surfing, discovering new sites, saving full pages of info into categories for offline reading, syncing the list across your devices. Amazing! But, not really. Only works with the Metro version of Internet Explorer, and not with Edge. I'll continue using Feedly and Favorites, and "Send to OneNote", but hope this app gets some love.

Windows 10 Functionality - Quick Hits

Using Split Screen with Twitter makes staying in the Twitter stream easy. Dock Twitter to the left, Edge to the right, then links that are clicked in Twitter will appear on the right. You don;t lose you place in the Twitter stream. Nice. 

Touch icons/elements - some require more than one attempt to invoke. Designers will catch up. In the meantime, those crappy pop-up ads that were hard to close in Win7 and Win8, are still hard to close. 

Keyboard focus is still not perfect. You will often have to call the keyboard by double/triple tap into a field, or invoking from the tray. It even happens at the login screen, so I'm blaming the OS and not the apps. Hiding the keyboard is also more obvious.

No SWYPE keyboard - I've caught myself trying to Swype more than once. At least the predictive speller is more consistent in Windows 10. 

Lack of DVD Support seems to make sense since the desktop or tower PC is dead (Note to Microsoft: the desktop form factor is not dead yet). If you are going to dump the DVD, then provide a full set of drivers for other video file types. Some video formats fail to play in Windows 10. Media conversion apps and work arounds are already on the web.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Windows 10

Windows 10 Upgrade - Surprisingly Simple

Over the past two weeks I upgraded several desktops, laptops, even a Windows tablet to Windows 10.  Easy, with a couple of small exceptions. This is a review of the install process on equipment that ranges from an 8 year old desktop that refuses to die, to a brand new Inspiron 3000 two-in-one.
Dell Inspiron 11 2-In-1, even more amazing after upgrade.


Disclaimer, because: lawyers.

Since 2007 I have worked at both Dell and Microsoft. I do not build PCs, nor do I develop operating systems. The views in this post are mine. I have not been compensated for my opinion, but will gladly accept piles of cash once my post is up. (FAQ).


Equipment List

  • Dell Dimension E521 (Windows 7)
  • Dell Studio Slim (Windows 8.1)
  • Dell XPS 420 (Windows 8.1)
  • Dell Inspiron 15 (Windows 8.1)
  • Dell Inspiron 11 2-in1 (Windows 8.1, touch and keyboard)
  • Dell Venue Tablet (32GB, Windows 8.1, touch)


The Good

The Inspirons, Studio and XPS all upgraded without issue. Other than a bit of time to complete downloads, apply the changes and reboot a few times, the entire experience was really good. The most important tip from these devices: Login as ADMIN to make upgrades and do any clean up work. I tried to clean up my son's computer from his account and had to re-enter ADMIN credentials over-and-over while purging old software. All user profiles, files and apps carry-over without issue.


The Bad

As part of the upgrade process, Microsoft checks the system hardware to make sure it is compatible. The Dell E521 (ship date: 5/2007) had an incompatible video card. So the decision is: buy a new video card (about $40 from Amazon) for an eight year old PC, or, leave it as Windows 7. So, I consulted an expert (my 12 year old daughter). "Dad, I don't need an upgrade". OK, settled. A (substantially better) replacement would cost under $400. 

Without straying too far from the topic: the new Edge browser is not my favorite, and no integrated DVD support... I guess the DVD is really dead.


The Ugly 

Dell Venue - Plan your upgrade.

Ever notice how TV screen and hard disk drives are rounded up to a standard specification? The HDD in the Dell Venue was just slightly too small to allow Windows 10 to install (it needs a little over 5GB). So, pulled all photos, music and docs. Pulled all unessential apps. Pulled several essential apps. Uninstalled MS Office (which took a long time to install, ugh). Finally, enough room to upgrade. The processing speed, and maybe the speed across my Wi-Fi, and lack of space on the HDD, caused this upgrade to take over-night (just under 10 hours). All of the other devices were about an hour from "Upgrade" to "Configure Your Settings". 

Then, More Ugly...

When the upgrade was complete, I wanted to add some of my apps back to the Venue. Nope, no space. A perfectly good (actually, really good) tablet with no apps. Opened Control panel and went to clean up temporary files. Then, found the answer. 


Most Important Tablet Tip - Purge the Win8 Backup

Microsoft kept a copy of the Win8 OS on my Venue tablet. This would allow me to revert to Windows 8. I liked Windows 8 (Win 8.1), but the rest of my family didn't like it (is hate too strong a word?). I made sure the OS installed properly - changed a variety of settings, tried some of the new features, then clicked "Delete". 

Purging the backup OS, and the temp files, relieved nearly 7 GB of space. Plenty of room for a few apps (MS Office was reinstalled) and a few files, but not enough room for movies or videos. Streaming is the only option for the Venue, and I made sure to setup SkyDrive on the Venue. 


Bottom Line

Easy upgrade, unless drive space is tight, or the device is really old. Everyone likes the upgrade - yes, I'm totally shocked. The Inspiron 2-in-1 is amazing with Windows 10, highlighting the significant bridge built between the keyboard-mouse and touch experience.


Super Bonus Tip

Almost every application (App) will need to be updated after the Windows 10 install. I noticed that each shows a Current Date in the Control Panel - Applications module. Finish the Windows 10 update, then run Windows Update, or go to the Store, a couple hours later to refresh all of your Apps.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Feedly and OneNote

Collecting Content Ideas - Feedly and OneNote

Feedly became my blog  consolidation tool of choice when Google Reader shut down in 2013. If you are still looking for a good alternative, see the LifeHacker post "Five Best Google ReaderAlternatives". Feedly allows me to track and read 132 different blogs. Blogs are organized into categories and each morning I get a count of fresh articles.

I collect ideas as small as a sentence, up to entire articles. OneNote is critical to my workflow, but it does not work with Feedly the way that you might expect.

Here is how to collect ideas leveraging Feedly and OneNote. 

Categories become Hashtags on Twitter

OneNote 101: Copy and Paste

PRO: Open an article on Feedly, select the text your want, right-click to copy, then move to OneNote and right-click to paste. The quick and easy method to capture ideas. The text is searchable and OneNote provides the URL pointing to the Feedly subscription.

Sample Text Snip: 

One of the best things about having a WordPress site is the ability to customize and enhance it using plugins. That is why I wanted to share some of my top picks for plugins for small business owners. I did this last year as well in my post, Top 21 WordPress Plugin Picks for 2014, […]

CON: Quick and Easy usually means something is missing. The URL (highlighted above) points to the Feedly subscription, not to the source article. If you collect notes and post on the same day this may not be an issue. But wait a few days, or mark the article as "read" and the link will not take you to the article. You will have to spend time searching for the information. OneNote provided a link to Feedly (correct functionality), but what you really want is a link to the source.

Quick Tip: Scroll to the bottom of the page in Feedly and click  "Visit Website" then copy and paste from the original source.


Feedly - Three Alternatives to Save and Share Content
+ 1 Bonus (IFTTT)

Option 1 - Save For Later

When reading an article Feedly has a small icon that will add a simple flag to indicate "Saved For Later". You can see all of your Saved For Later articles by clicking the menu link in the left navigation. In the All Content view the flag shows up in the first column. When you click the "All" menu item, Feedly returns the list of unread items, or if everything is read, returns the list of all articles - newest items at the top of the list. Flags work for quick and easy collection. 

Option 2 - OneNote Integration

CON: This function does not work for me (OneNote 2013, on a corporate network), and it requires a subscription. When you click the OneNote icon, Feedly will save your article directly to your notebook. I'll provide a free alternative below as a bonus.


Option 3 - Social Sharing

PRO: Several other sharing options live under the overflow menu (three vertical dots) on the far right. Select your favorite tools and they will appear under the menu. Sharing an entire article in your favorite social media channel is simple.

In the image above you can see an email icon and a the Twitter icon. When the email icon is clicked your email client is triggered and you can add contacts to the To: line. You can edit the Subject and the body, and Twitter inserts a link to the article.

When the Twitter icon is clicked Feedly creates a pop-up window with the title of the article, the URL, and if you chose it on the Preferences page, a hashtag based on the name of your grouping. You can edit prior to sending. 

Select your favorites, they are added to the Menu above Feedly articles.
(Click for larger image)

CON: Certain pop-up functionality may be blocked on a corporate network. For example, I cannot access external email accounts (Outlook.com, Gmail, etc), so the email feature cannot be used when I am at work. 


Option 4  - Bonus - If This, Then, That (IFTTT) Recipe

I hate paying for simple integration tools (like the OneNote link in Feedly). If This Then That (IFTTT) lets you design simple "Recipes" to perform these tasks. Plenty of pre-scripted recipes are available for Evernote, Google Docs, Gmail, Buffer… If you can’t find one you like, build your own!

My recipe takes any Feedly article that I mark "Saved for Later" and creates a new page in a OneNote notebook that I keep online. The Body of the recipe can be customized from a pick list. I capture ArticleTitle, ArticleURL, ArticleContent etc. and everything is stored in date order in my notebook.


Bottom Line

Feedly is my tool for managing blog subscriptions. Ideas enter the top of my workflow and are stored in OneNote. OneNote allows me to sort, tag, and recombine ideas for my blog. I can create content, provide proof from experts, and make proper attribution at the same time. Knowing how OneNote works with Feedly, and knowing a few alternatives to improve idea collection will make your workflow powerful.