Tag Archive for mac

Office 2011 for Mac Gets Usability

A colleague recently wondered who would buy Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac, given the free cloud and desktop office applications available these days. For $80 (through TechHead), I would think that lots of people would. Office 2011 gets usability in a way that previous Office versions, Google Apps, and OpenOffice has not. One may conclude that Microsoft copied the elegant user interface of Apple’s iWork in places. Good usability is so critical to our users’ ability to adopt an application and use more than the most basic of its features.

Office 2011 for Mac places previously hard-to-find features in easy-to-find ribbons at the top of the screen.

  • Create a meeting invitation directly from the recipients of an email message.
  • Create and manage rules.
  • Mark a message as unread.
  • Mark a message with a category or follow-up flag.
  • View filtered views of mail, such as “only to me” and “flagged”.

  • Open another user’s calendar or a shared calendar object (if you have moved away from public folders)
  • Update your calendar’s permissions to share with others

  • Message window icons have grown in size, making them easier to notice when typing.

  • View messages in a unified inbox or separately by account.

  • Much improved network connection handling. Outlook now automatically resends one’s message when the network connection is restored.

  • Easy access to media objects

  • Now Word is actually useful for newsletters and other document templates. You know they got this idea from Apple Pages.

  • Should be a hit with our English and history teachers and librarians

  • Remember that picture of all of the MS Word toolbars visible at once? They took up practically the entire screen. Now take a look at how the ribbon has cleared away practically all of the toolbar clutter.

  • Try doing this with Google Apps. Just this week, I used this to create an awesome circular Venn diagram for an online conference presentation.

  • Automatically format table cells in Excel.

  • Excel function reference

  • Updated presentation themes. The previous ones were so 1996.

  • Second display presenter view and recording features, terrific for posting narrated slide shows to the Web

Isn’t good enough good enough? Why does one need these features? I see this less as a matter of need than of cost and benefit. Outlook alone is worth $80 to most of our users. Even upgrading Office sitewide is a good deal for the dollar, considering Microsoft’s heavily discounted education prices. Why not invest a few dollars in an application that is so essential for productive staff, teacher, and student work?

Macs and the Enterprise Network

Credit: vitroid on Flickr

Configuring Mac laptops for our new 802.1x network is proving more difficult than expected. It appears that only OS 10.6 is compatible with WPA2 Enterprise networks, and even then, they don’t always connect all of the time. At the moment, we are looking at the following:

10.6 clients: 802.1x system profile with saved user credentials

10.5 and below: WEP with pre-shared key

On startup, the process that authenticates a user via 802.1x does not always launch at the right time, leaving the user in no man’s land. The user than has to turn wireless off and on to get it to try again. If the user brings the computer from home to school and wakes it from sleep, then the process is not running and then cannot auth to 802.1x. Fortunately, once connected, the system seems able to reconnect reliably when waking from sleep. We have provided a small, custom app for users to easily reset the wireless card.

Too bad that Apple has not yet got this right. It feels so 2001 to run WEP for some of our users, especially on our brand new wireless network. Our Windows client setup has been flawless.