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August 29 2013

The best Windows 8 Start menu programs

 

There are plenty of third-party Windows 8 Start Menu programs. Here are two of the best–with very different approaches.

I haven’t tested either of these with Windows 8.1, which isn’t available in its final form as I write this. I figure that if these programs fail to work with the update, the problem will be fixed quickly.

Return of Windows 7

If you really miss the Windows 7 Start menu, StartIsBack should be your first choice. Aside from the shamrock icon in place of the traditional Start button, it looks almost identical to Microsoft’s last official Start menu. And if you don’t like the Shamrock, you can change it.

StartisBack behaves like the Windows 7 Start menu, too. Recent and pinned programs take their same place on the left panel, with recent file lists for each application. The Search field behaves as you’d expect.

And yes, you can launch Modern Interface programs from this Start menu. You’ll find them in All Programs’ App submenu.

StartIsBack offers extensive configuration options. Many of them–such as the choice to display Control Panel as a link, a menu, or not at all–will be familiar to Windows 7 veterans. But you can also control whether to boot Windows 8 to the Start screen or the desktop, and which key brings up which environment.

After a 30-day free trial, you can buy StartIsBack for a very reasonable $3.

A Start menu for Windows 8

Start Menu Reviver isn’t really a Windows 7 Start menu replacement. It’s more like what Microsoft might have created if they had decided to make a new Start menu for Windows 8.

Like the Metro Start screen, it displays big, rectangular tiles. In other words, it’s touch friendly.

By default, the two big tiles on the top are My Computer and Internet Explorer. You can change them. Another, even bigger tile brings you to the Start screen. Below that are 16 tiles which you can set to any installed program–desktop or Modern.

This is the Start menu I would use on a tablet. It does a better job of integrating the two environments than Microsoft ever even tried.

But that’s not saying much.

August 7 2012

GroupWise to Exchange Migration Consulting

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ISInc is always one of the first in the industry to test and deploy new technologies. This gives us the opportunity to discover any potential gotchas and find solutions. ISInc has helped a number of organizations from stage one of their project proposals, to assessing, creating, testing, deploying, and training staff on the new technologies.

Having both the training and consulting ends covered, we are the regions premier one stop shop to get your project moving and completed in the most efficient manner possible. Our technical staff is also part of our training team. This enables them to communicate with the client and give them a sound understanding of the tasks being performed and why they are being performed.

ISInc, as a Gold Microsoft Partner, has demonstrated a mastery of Microsoft Best Practices in consulting. We are certified at the highest level for following Microsoft best practices for upgrades and migrations.

ISInc offers training and has extensive experience with Microsoft Project and the PMI “Body of Knowledge” courses and best practices. We follow current PMBOK guides and standards for all projects.

ISInc is a Microsoft Gold Certified Consulting Partner, with specializations in Advanced Network Infrastructure, Unified Communications Messaging and SharePoint. ISInc is part of a select few of Microsoft Partners that is invited to Redmond on an annual basis to learn of the new technologies from the experts.

ISInc also is a Microsoft Gold Learning Solutions Partner, providing the latest Microsoft Official Curriculum via our facility in Sacramento, CA, and also via our online learning platform. Our instructors are all certified by Microsoft, and are also consultants who bring their customer experiences into the classroom.

When new or updated versions of software applications are released, Innovative Solutions is typically the first to provide fully qualified training. Upgrades, of course, keep software technology on the leading edge. However, many upgrades change only a few features; therefore transition courses, which focus specifically on the features that change between software versions, without re-teaching the basics are regularly scheduled. These courses save our customers both time and money.

Case studies:

  • ISInc migrated clients 100+ mailboxes from GroupWise to Exchange 2010 in less than a week to fall under the necessary budget restrictions. ISInc designed and completed the migration process that provided zero downtime and end user disruption.
  • ISInc migrated client from Novell GroupWise 7.5 to Microsoft Exchange 2007. There were 600 mailboxes to be migrated to their new Exchange 2007 environment. Their environment also consisted of multiple mobile devices such as BlackBerry and Palm. ISInc completed this migration in half the time allotted for the project and with half the budget they expected to spend for completion.
  • Client had budget restrictions that we were able to work under to help migrate 1500+ mailboxes to Exchange 2007. As part of this migration, we also moved departmental file shares from Novell to Microsoft File Servers. ISInc moved 100 mailboxes as a proof of concept. We then trained the staff on the process that allowed them to move the remaining 1500+ mailboxes. We successfully designed a migration process and coexistence plan that provided minimal end user disruption. ISInc designed a completely fault tolerant Exchange deployment to handle the final load of 2000+ mailboxes. We configured and moved the AV, SPAM filtering gateway to Forefront Online Protection for Exchange. We designed the backup and restore process. ISInc provided additional support after the proof of concept to migrate additional mailboxes as the budget allowed. Once the staff was comfortable in the process, they moved the remaining county mailboxes.

Email Us Today!

July 27 2012

Remote Training Connection Test

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If you are planning on attending one of ISInc’s classes remotely, connect to our test conference to ensure connectivity.

1. Click on the following link to start:

Join online meeting

2. Download plugin that it tells you to install

3. You will be Joined into a conference looking similar to the following screen shot:

4.
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5. This concludes this portion of the test; please click the “Exit Meeting” button in upper right hand corner.

July 23 2012

Three Reasons You Should Switch to Office 365

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Office 2013 will soon be here, along with a new and improved version of the cloud-based Office 365. If you’re looking to upgrade, you have to decide whether the traditional desktop version of Office is the way to go, or if Office 365 is a better fit for your needs.

Office 2013 is impressive, but Office 365 is a better value in most cases.

1. Cost
Microsoft hasn’t yet shared what the price tag will be for the new Office 2013. But, unless it follows the same bold path laid out in offering Windows 8 for a mere $40, history suggests the new productivity suite will start somewhere in the $150 neighborhood.

Office 365 plans start at $4 per month. Small businesses can get access to Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync in addition to the core Office productivity applications for only $6 per month. Larger businesses that want to take advantage of Active Directory integration can do so for $8 per user per month.

Breaking those down, it takes more than three years to reach $150 based on the $4 per month plan, and more than 18 months under the $8 per month plan. The 18 months is less time than a business typically gets out of an investment in the desktop Office software, but it also comes with more than the software itself.

Of course, those are the current subscription prices and plans for Office 365, so those figures are subject to change as well.

2. Updates and Maintenance
What else do you get with your Office 365 subscription? An IT department. Sure, you can set up your own Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Lync infrastructure. You can manage and maintain the desktop Microsoft Office software, and install the patches and updates every month yourself. How much will that cost?

Consider that implementing the same capabilities in-house requires servers, and network infrastructure, and IT personnel to install, manage, update, and maintain it all. Plus, you still have to buy and maintain the Office software itself.

With Office 365, Microsoft takes care of all the dirty work so you don’t have to. Updates, patches, and upgrades just happen in the background without you needing to worry about it. When the server crashes, its Microsoft’s problem. When a hard drive needs to be replaced, Microsoft will handle it. You get the benefits of using Office without any of the headaches of updating and maintaining it all.

3. Accessibility
Office 365 lives in the cloud. That means you have access to Word, Excel, Outlook, and other Microsoft Office tools from anywhere you can get a Web connection, and from virtually any device–Windows or Mac desktops and laptops, Android devices, iPhones, iPads, and other smartphones and tablets.

Office Web Apps provide basic features and functions for free.This isn’t quite the selling point it once was for a couple reasons. First, even with the desktop Office 2013 suite Microsoft is pushing users to save files to the cloud-based SkyDrive, or to a SharePoint server by default. So, there’s no reason the data can’t be accessible regardless of whether you choose Office 2013 or Office 365.

The second reason it may not be all that compelling is that Office Web Apps are already available for free from the SkyDrive site. So, even without Office 365 users can create, view, and edit Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files from the Web.

For businesses, though, SharePoint, Active Directory, and other elements of Office 365 that go beyond simply creating and editing Office documents still make Office 365 a better value.

Your mileage will vary of course. There are a number of factors involved in calculating the cost of purchasing, installing, configuring, updating, and maintaining Microsoft Office and the accompanying back-end services versus the ongoing subscription costs associated with Office 365. Office 365 is a solid service providing tremendous bang for the buck, though, so it won’t be easy to beat the value it brings to the table.

July 18 2012

Can’t wait for Office 2013? Try it now for free!

Office 2013 Customer Preview Installation Steps

The Customer Preview of Office 2013 can be installed in just a few minutes and co-exists side-by-side with an existing version of Office, so there’s no need to uninstall your existing Office. You will need either Windows 7 or Windows 8 as your installed operating system to get started. The final version of Office 2013 will be able to be deployed via the Office 365 cloud or traditional enterprise software deployment methods, but the Customer Preview steps below are designed to install from the cloud to make it quick and easy to get started with testing.

NOTE: Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013 Preview is also available for download using a traditional MSI-based installation package. Please note the traditional installation does not support fast cloud-based streaming of the installation or side-by-side operation with older versions of Office, and you will need to uninstall existing Office programs on your PC if you use the MSI-based installation approach. You can download the .MSI installation bits here if you prefer.

Before getting started, review the Office 2013 System Requirements, located here to make sure your system is capable of running Office 2013. The biggest change in terms of system requirements is the Operating System requirements – Windows 7 or Windows 8 is required on client machines to run Office 2013.

1.To start the Office 2013 Customer Preview installation, visit http://office.com/preview
2.If you are a home user, click on the “Sign Up” button. Business users can click on the “Office 365 Enterprise” link to test the most robust business version of the new Office.
3.Complete a new user profile and create a new Microsoft account. Note – If you are currently an Office 365 subscription user, you’ll need to sign up for a new Microsoft account that is different from your Office 365 login credentials to test the Customer Preview.
4.Once you’ve signed up for a new Microsoft account, login to http://portal.microsoftonline.com with your new ID.
5.From the Office 365 Admin home page, click the “Download Software” admin shortcut on the right side of the page
6.Click the “install” button. This will launch the new “Click-to-Run” installer. (What’s Click-to-Run? Here’s a technical overview of this new technology)
7.The new Office installer will launch via Click-to-Run technology.
8.Review the Microsoft Office licensing agreement and click the “Accept” button
9.Within a couple minutes, the core of Office will install and you’ll be greeted by a short introductory video explaining some of the new Office features.
10.Choose a look-and-feel to personalize the new Office client applications.

That’s it! Jump in and start using Office while the rest of Office 2013 installs in the background over the next few minutes via the Click-to-Run streaming installation.

What’s New in SharePoint 2013

When Microsoft officially introduced its coming version of Office on July 17, one of the quickly mentioned features that generated the most questions was something called SkyDrive Pro.

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SkyDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage mechanism for consumers. So will SkyDrive Pro be its complement for business users? Will SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro offer users two different cloud storage locales? Does SkyDrive Pro basically kill off Groove and/or SharePoint Workspace?

LiveSide.Net has a good rundown of some of the many unknowns around SkyDrive Pro.

Microsoft mentioned SkyDrive Pro a couple of times, very briefly, in its downloadable reviewers’ guide for the new Office. On July 17, officials offered a few more tidbits about the mysterious new version of SkyDrive.

SkyDrive Pro is considered to be both part of SharePoint Online in Office 365 and of SharePoint Server 2013. This is how Microsoft Corporate Vice President of SharePoint Jeff Teper defined SkyDrive Pro in a July 17 post on the new SharePoint:

“SkyDrive Pro makes it easy it to work with your documents in SharePoint – save, sync, share and collaborate are all drop-dead simple. The name conveys the simplicity and increased consistency with our SkyDrive consumer cloud service while reinforcing the ‘Pro’ features of SharePoint like social networking, collaboration, search, metadata, workflow and compliance. Click ‘Sync’ on a SharePoint library and you will get the documents offline in the Windows Explorer, Office applications and more. SkyDrive Pro is part of both the SharePoint service in Office 365 and server.”

A Microsoft spokesperson said that Microsoft does not consider SkyDrive Pro to be a replacement for SharePoint Workspace. The spokesperson also said users could opt to have two SkyDrives: One for work (SkyDrive Pro) and one personal (SkyDrive). It’s not clear to me whether the two would simply sync, or if users could opt to merge these into one. Hopefully things will become clearer as testers start weighing in about the Customer Preview of SharePoint 2013 and the new Office 365 bundles.

Meanwhile, what else is new in the coming SharePoint Server 2013/SharePoint Online service?

Based on what’s in the SharePoint Online 15/2013 technology preview, here are some of the features likely to be part of the release:

SharePoint Duet: A cloud version of the Duet add-on Developed by SAP and Microsoft that allows SharePoint to integrate with SAP applications Support for viewing business intelligence content on Apple iPad devices Improved Web Apps: With the 15 release, Office Web Apps won’t be running from the SharePoint “farm.” Instead the Webified versions of Microsoft’s Office apps will run from a new Office Web Apps Server. Third party developers will be able to tie into the Office Web Apps service and provide access to documents stored in IBM FileNet, OpenText, and Oracle Metro user interface: Tiles in site collections will display more information when you hover your mouse over them, in a Metro-like style Rights Management Services (RMS): RMS is being integrated directly into SharePoint Server 15 (and Exchange Server 15). Sounds like the same is happening with the cloud versions of these products. It seems RMS on the cloud side also might be available as an add-in or separate SKU Project Online: New Project site to manage lightweight projects. Microsoft officials and the company’s partners have been hinting about this one for the past year Visio Online: Sounds as though there will be a Visio cloud service component, too, as I hear last year, though in the tech preview it doesn’t seem to be available as a standalone entity. (Seems to be bundled with Project client)

This week, Microsoft officials and partners shared more details, including the more pervasive social-networking capabilities; the integration of FAST Search technology; and a new SharePoint Sites hub. There’s also a new feature called Shredded Storage, which removes file duplicates and reduces the amount of content sent across the wire.

SharePoint Training

July 16 2012

New Microsoft Office coming October 2012

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Today, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the customer preview of the new Microsoft Office. The next release features an intuitive design that works beautifully with touch, stylus, mouse or keyboard across new Windows devices, including tablets. The new Office is social and unlocks modern scenarios in reading, note-taking, meetings and communications and will be delivered to subscribers through a cloud service that is always up to date. Below are some new features you will find in various Microsoft Office programs:

SharePoint
The newest SharePoint is designed to help everyone in your organization share content and ideas, organize teams and projects, and discover connections to get work done.

  • Share documents easily from SharePoint or any Office application, and track the people you’ve shared them with.
  • Follow sites, documents, and people with updates delivered to your activity feed.
  • Share ideas and tap into the knowledge of specialists from across your organization.
  • Search for documents, people, discussions, and #tags from anywhere in SharePoint.
  • Discover and trial third party apps in the marketplace to customize your SharePoint sites.

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Exchange
The newest Exchange enables you to increase user productivity and keep your organization safe, while maintaining the control you need.

  • Move to the cloud on your terms with flexible migration options.
  • Help your users do more on any device, manage increasing volumes of email, and work together more effectively as teams.
  • Protect business communications and sensitive information as you meet internal and regulatory compliance requirements.

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Lync
The newest Lync is an enterprise-ready, unified communications platform that connects people everywhere on Windows 8 and other devices.

  • Use a single, unified client for real-time communications, including voice and video calls, Lync meetings, presence, instant messaging, and persistent chat.
  • Get HD video conferencing across a range of devices. The Lync video gallery allows Lync meeting attendees to simultaneously view up to 5 different participants, identify the active speaker, and associate names with faces.

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Office Web Apps Server
With Office Web Apps Server, your users get browser-based productivity from nearly any device on your terms and within your own private network.

  • Keep your users productive and working together, no matter where they are or what device or software they have, using browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
  • Manage updates to Web Apps Server independent of other products with standalone server deployment and configuration.
  • Get simple, seamless integration with your existing servers including Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, line-of-business applications and file shares.

Project
The new Project offers flexible service or on-premises solutions for project portfolio management (PPM) and everyday work. Try it in these three versions:

  • Project Online Preview is our online solution that gives you flexible options for achieving strategic priorities while helping your team deliver efficiently from virtually anywhere.
  • Try Project Server 2013 Preview, our on-premises solution to set clear strategic priorities and help your team execute effectively against them.
  • With Project Professional 2013 Preview you can call or instant message right from your project with Lync*—just two new ways to improve collaboration while keeping your team productive and on track. (* Requires Lync Online or Lync 2013, which are sold separately.)

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Visio
The new Visio lets you easily create professional, versatile diagrams that help you organize and make sense of complex information.

  • Create diagrams more intuitively—including new and updated shapes and stencils, improved effects, and themes.
  • Make your diagrams more dynamic by linking shapes to real-time data, and then share them with others via Visio Services in SharePoint—even if they don’t have Visio installed.
  • Simplify teamwork with new coauthoring features.

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Office Professional Plus 2013
For IT pros, you can also try the Office Professional Plus 2013 MSI-based installation, which includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, and Lync. Note that this is not the Click-to-Run installation used by Office 365 ProPlus and does not support fast streaming installation or side-by-side operation with older versions of Office. In addition, you must uninstall the existing version of Office on your PC to try Office Professional Plus 2013.

Office at Its Best on Windows 8

  • Touch everywhere: Office responds to touch as naturally as it does to keyboard and mouse. Swipe your finger across the screen or pinch and zoom to read your documents and presentations. Author new content and access features with the touch of a finger.
  • Inking: Use a stylus to create content, take notes and access features. Handwrite email responses and convert them automatically to text. Use your stylus as a laser pointer when presenting. Color your content and erase your mistakes with ease.
  • New Windows 8 applications: OneNote and Lync represent the first new Windows 8 style applications for Office. These applications are designed to deliver touch-first experiences on a tablet. A new radial menu in OneNote makes it easy to access features with your finger.
  • Included in Windows RT: Office Home and Student 2013 RT, which contains new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote applications, will be included on ARM-based Windows 8 devices, including Microsoft Surface.

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Office Is in the Cloud

  • SkyDrive: Office saves documents to SkyDrive by default, so your content is always available across your tablet, PC and phone. Your documents are also available offline and sync when you reconnect.
  • Roaming: Once signed in to Office, your personalized settings, including your most recently used files, templates and even your custom dictionary, roam with you across virtually all of your devices. Office even remembers where you last left off and brings you right back to that spot in a single click.
  • Office on Demand: With a subscription, you can access Office even when you are away from your PC by streaming full-featured applications to an Internet-connected Windows-based PC.
  • New subscription services: The new Office is available as a cloud-based subscription service. As subscribers, consumers automatically get future upgrades in addition to exciting cloud services including Skype world minutes and extra SkyDrive storage. Subscribers receive multiple installs for everyone in the family and across their devices.

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Office Is Social

  • Yammer: Yammer delivers a secure, private social network for businesses. You can sign up for free and begin using social networking instantly. Yammer offers integration with SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics.
  • Stay connected: Follow people, teams, documents and sites in SharePoint. View and embed pictures, videos and Office content in your activity feeds to stay current and update your colleagues.
  • People Card: Have an integrated view of your contacts everywhere in Office. The People Card includes presence information complete with pictures, status updates, contact information and activity feeds from Facebook and LinkedIn accounts.
  • Skype: The new Office comes with Skype. When you subscribe, you get 60 minutes of Skype world minutes every month. Integrate Skype contacts into Lync and call or instant message anyone on Skype.

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Office Unlocks New Scenarios

  • Digital note-taking: Keep your notes handy in the cloud and across multiple devices with OneNote. Use what feels most natural to you — take notes with touch, pen or keyboard, or use them together and switch easily back and forth.
  • Reading and markup: The Read Mode in Word provides a modern and easy-to-navigate reading experience that automatically adjusts for large and small screens. Zoom in and out of content, stream videos within documents, view revision marks and use touch to turn pages.
  • Meetings: PowerPoint features a new Presenter View that privately shows your current and upcoming slides, presentation time, and speaker notes in a single glance. While presenting, you can zoom, mark up and navigate your slides with touch and stylus. Lync includes multiparty HD video with presentations, shared OneNote notebooks and a virtual whiteboard for collaborative brainstorming.
  • Eighty-two-inch touch-enabled displays: Conduct more engaging meetings, presentations and lessons, whether in person or virtually, with these multitouch and stylus-enabled displays from Perceptive Pixel.