I’m thinking of abandoning Office365

I’ve started thinking of abandoning Office365, and what I would need to do in order to replace what little remaining functionality there is.

  • Outlook design is too flat, and even the Outlook.com web interface is richer, with more contrast, colors and just as easy to work in. (In fact easier since it’s way much faster in responding)
  • Using contacts in Outlook 2016 is horrible, the old dialog box for adding details is gone, replaced with some flat strangeness, and even more important, to add pictures to my Outlook-contacts I still need to edit contact details through a web browser.
  • Beyond Outlook I’m mainly using OneNote. The rare few times I use Word and Excel are easily counted. And OneNote is free.

That leaves OneDrive as the key factor for safekeeping all my photos and documents. And while I could place them on my NAS the whole point of OneDrive was to have them roaming, available anywhere and safe offsite in case anything would happen to my home computers.

I’m thinking whether any other service could replace this, on the other hand that would mean I’d need to pick and choose software all over again, when all I wanted was one working bundle. But when the bundle goes in the direction of working less and less as needed it gets slightly frustrating.

I’m not sure it will happen yet, but it needs thinking about.

And there is still at least one glitch in a complete move to web-only, in that Outlook.com doesn’t support having contacts in iCloud. Which would mean I’d need to migrate entirely to iCloud email as well, which is really too much work in the way of updating my contact information across all places where I’ve used it.

Office 2016 was released today

Office 2016 was released today and I didn’t have the patience to wait for any automatic upgrades to kick in, so I logged in to my account page and launched the installation from there (with the added benefit that the page finally updated itself to show correct OS-version, previously it kept insisting I was still running Windows 8.1 even though I upgraded to Windows 10 as soon as it was released).

So far there’s not much to say, installation worked smoothly, launching Outlook and OneNote with retained settings and, well… if not the color schemes I had hoped for, then at least more color and more contrast.

Beyond that I’ve yet to experiment with the new online apps which are not downloaded, namely “Sway” and “Docs.com” which are linked from the Office365 homepage.

Sway at first glance looked like an enhanced Powerpoint-meets-Wordpress storyline kind of thing. Quite nice and possibly something I’ll test out more later on.

Docs.com I’ve still to understand what it really is, it requires a separate registration, so is it part of Microsofts Live.com or not? And it offers unlimited free space, how does that compete with OneDrive, and if it’s true what use do I have for a paid Office365 subscription? But I don’t think it’s actually free, few things are and they often come with commercials and ads instead, and then I prefer the small cost of my subscription.

But I still want more color schemes. (Preferrably the dark red one from outlook.com!)

Surface reflections

I’ve had my new Surface RT for nearly two weeks now and despite my best wishes to make it work I am about to give it up, as currently the feeling I get when trying to use it takes me back some 20 years to the early start of using Windows NT 3.1. Sure we ran the most secure PC of that time at the time of its release, but as we couldn’t run much more than Notepad there was little point to it, and the same goes here as OneNote, one of the few working apps, is really nice, but from functionality perspective I would compare it with a notebook app.

I won’t go as far as some friends (also testing Surface) suggested, as to donate it as a discus in the next Olympics, as for the time being it seems to serve well enough for children’s games, and I could sneak it in as a new toy for my daughters and re-conquer my two Windows 7 desktops…

There are several shortcomings as I see it but the overall greatest lack so far with the Surface is its lack of simplicity, user friendliness and total lack of apps.

It’s not going to compete with the iPad as long as it has no apps, and it will remain less than a normal PC since it can’t run standard x86/x64 applications either.

That sort of leaves it running OneNote, which is great but can quickly be replaced with other apps like Evernote (which incidentally takes less hassle to configure), running a few games, read some email and browse the web. All of these can be done on PC, iPhones and iPads as well, so there’s not really anything new.

The downside is the fight to get even the basic browsing to run.

– I have some 2600 favorites or bookmarks, of course not all are relevant, but I like to keep them for if (when) needed and have quite a big structure of groups to sort them into categories and use XMarks to sync them between PCs and between IE, Firefox and Chrome. (Sadly not Safari, but as most relevant sites comes as apps on iPad it’s no big problem anyway.) But Surface has neither favorites sync nor apps.

– I have about 170 websites using credentials, a few use tokens but most use user/password only. For a long time I used the same credentials everywhere but it became too high risk as it was a major task to change passwords everywhere if some site got compromised. So I use a password manager, in my case Password Safe, which works nicely on PC, iPad, iPhone and all other platforms I know except Surface. The lack of platform support makes it impossible to browse 95% of the sites as I don’t intend to manually type in 25 character long randomized passwords. And though I’ve found a competitor able to import Password Manager entries I’m not really keen in starting all over on all my devices simply for the sake of lacking password handling on the Surface.

So essentially it won’t do browsing either, beyond the most basic things like reading news and letting the kids browse the children’s channel on TV.

And it’s incredibly slow. Especially when browsing via Google Search, but IE is not directly lightning fast either. I assume I’m not supposed to browse the web via Google Search, but IE is so crippled it’s really of no use, it runs fullscreen and lacks all menues and favorites, and basically I prefer Google Search over Bing to get valid search results.

Then there’s also the general unfriendliness in getting stuff to work, like the Store, which for me at most shows 50 applications, total. And either there’s a serious lack of apps in the store, or it’s broken.

I suspect the latter, since searching for apps will turn up links pointing to the store which allows the apps to be installed while searching for the app inside the Store itself simply returns “no match” at in principle all searches.

At first I thought I had missed something and resorted to searching via IE and “Bing”, but again no matches whatsoever. But finally I found out that only searches via Google Search will return working apps from the MS Store. Microsofts own search engine does not. (Bing incidentally seems broken in other aspects too, as the Bingweather happily reports it to be raining while iPad weather and in fact a look out the window will tell you the sun is shining and not a cloud in the sky).

So, after two weeks of frustrated searches, I’ve come up with Dropbox, Citrix, a feeble early-bird of XMarks clone and a competitor password manager (MetroPass for KeePass).
It’s quite a way yet to compete with the AppStore which basically attacks you with (more or less but frankly rather good) recommendations of new apps, and where searches mostly return what you’re looking for, and usually with some additional related suggestions as well. (MS Store on the other hand most often shows only apps like the “1000 Sexy Girls in HD” whenever browsing categories, and no apparent way of permanently blocking them either…)

So, right now it seems the Surface either goes onto the shelf a few months until the app portfolio is larger, my concern is whether the apps will be enough in time for them to make any difference before the hardware on the Surface is outdated? Which is why I’m simply considering swapping it to the kids to play with for a while.

That just needs another round in locking it down, especially the Store, as they’re 6 and 3 and I don’t want them purchasing random stuff on their own just yet, for a few years…

Sad really, but I’m no longer finding the constant challenge of getting basic OS to work as fun as it used to be, nowadays I prefer actually having some time to even use the devices rather than just installing them. For now it’s back to laptop and iPad. I’ll check again closer to Tech-Ed if at that time it might be worth bringing along for the testing of it.

OneNote

Saturday evening. Cup of tea, some emails, and scome scribbling in OneNote.
It is really a great tool, but I’m still not entirely comfortable with the instant saving and there being no “Save”-button. I guess old habits die hard. 🙂