Archive for Software

Software Subscriptions: Way of the Future or Money Making Tactic?

When Microsoft unveiled their new Office suite earlier this year, they made significant changes to their Microsoft Office offerings.They eliminated all multi-license packs and  unveiled their new Microsoft 365 subscription offering.  Microsoft also increased the price of the single license purchase a fair amount by about $30 and can only be installed on a single machine. Finally, Office is no longer available on DVD but instead only as product key requiring users to download the trial from the the internet to install and activate with their product code.

Although Microsoft Office 365 sounds much more expensive $100 per year, it has some added value over traditional versions of Office. First, 365 can be installed on up to 5 computer and/or tablets Macs, PCs, and tablets, right now only Microsoft Surface tablet, but there is talk of iOS and Android versions coming soon. This is exciting for those who may have both Mac and Windows machines in their household or business because that subscription will cover both operating systems which previously would require two separate purchases.  The Home and Student version of 365 also includes Outlook, Publisher and Access while, the single license  of Home and Student only has Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Onenote. Probably the biggest advantage to the subscription is that subscribers get the newest version of Office at no additional charge which usually would be $100 at least to upgrade. As an added bonuses, Office 365 Subscribers get 60 minutes of Skype credit and 20 GB of Skydrive storage space for the primary users.

Microsoft isn’t alone in their subscription efforts, Adobe offers their Creative Suite as a monthly subscription in their Creative Cloud. This is great for the brief projects where someone may need Photoshop or After Effects for a couple months only, so instead of paying for over $1,000 for the Creative suite, they could just pay for the few months they need and save hundreds of dollars.  It seems like many more expensive applications are now moving towards a subscription model instead of a one-time purchase. This is beneficial, in that all the updates are free which, in high-end professional applications like Adobe Creative Suite cost hundred if not thousands of dollars to upgrade normally. However, many consumers might be caught in the sticker-shock of having to pay every month or every year as long as they want to use that software, which of course in the case of Microsoft Office is forever. However for those who want to buy a piece of software and keep it as long as possible it will seem much more expensive than a one-time purchase leaving consumers skeptical.

Personally, I was very skeptical of the Microsoft 365 subscription model thinking it was a just a way for Microsoft to make more money off the users, taking advantage of their practical monopoly over the Office Suite market. I have now realized that there is a value in this subscription model, forget about all the additional applications you may or may not use, the Skype credit and the Skydrive storage space, upgrading Microsoft Office typically costs around $100 per computer, of course it cost less when they offered Family packs for 3 computers. But now, with 365 for that $100 per year, you are getting 5 licenses for Mac or Windows, although Mac users are still getting Office 2011, but that includes any updates as long as the subscription is active, so when they release the next version for Mac, the update is included. Microsoft no longer has discounted upgrade pricing, so getting the newest version of Office requires re-purchasing Office all over again.  Of course many users don’t upgrade Office every time there is an upgrade.

This subscription model is also known as software as a service (SaS) and while it is new in the desktop software world, it is the norm in cloud computing. Take Google apps for example, for businesses to use the Google Apps suite, it is $5 per user per month, there is no one time purchase, it’s a service that is paid for as long as it needs to be used. Dropbox and other cloud-storage services are another great example, while they offer a certain amount of storage for free, if users need more storage, it is a monthly or annual fee as long as they want the premium service.

Office 365 also includes a cloud service called “Office on Demand” which allows you to “stream” Microsoft Office on any Internet connected Windows PC, sadly this is not yet available on Macs. So for those who may travel and have to use computers other than their own that may or may not have Office installed, 365 subscribers can simply use Office in their web browser without having to install it. The cloud is definitely going to be a big part of future application development maybe even over taking native desktop applications one day, but how many services will people pay for before they decide they are spending too much money each year on subscriptions?

My other big question was what about the App Store ecosystem that began on mobile devices and has now spread to our desktop operating systems? App Stores are the easiest way to buy and maintain our software collections in my opinion. What happens if the software ecosystem moves into more subscription-based and less one-time purchases? Well the easy answer is nothing, in fact, despite my initial concerns, I realized subscriptions might be beneficial to App Store users. Here’s why: users could download the free, limited version of the software and then if they want to get the full version they can subscribe using an in-app purchase every year or whatever the term of the subscription is. App stores will probably need to add some features to make this easier for the consumer and developers but that would give the added convience of the App Store to subscription-based software.

While software subscriptions may make consumers concerned about paying for their software every year and while it may be costly, it does have many benefits. Microsoft has already said that they expect within 10 years, Office 365 will be the only way people will be purchasing Microsoft Office. This could easily be a self-fulfilling prophecy if Microsoft were to discontinue the single license, one-time purchase versions of Office. This prediction will also be aided by the growth of the cloud and software as a service which is on the rise in business and by home users. Office 365 may be easier for consumers to adopt as they get used to paying for software on a recurring basis and dismiss their initial sticker shock of the annual fee.

New Final Cut Pro Thoughts

On Tuesday, Apple gave a preview of the all new version of Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Pro X. This version was rewritten from  from the ground-up and has a brand new user interface. When I first saw the interface, I have to admit that I was a bit concerned because it looks a lot like the new iMovie that was very unpopular.  But they said this is a professional program for professional editors. The new version has a host of new features starting with the import process. In Final Cut Pro X, you can now stabilize shots, color correct, detect people in shots, detect the types of shots and automatically clean-up audio all as you import your footage, you can also edit as you import. This is going to save a lot of time and will let the editor spend more time being creative and less time fixing footage. The new version of Final Cut also supports playback up to 4K and most importantly Final Cut Pro X renders in the background, so no more waiting to render to playback which is a huge time saver. You can also add keywords to clips or parts of clips to make finding that perfect shot easy to find with a quick search and it prevents audio and video from going out of sync which is another huge nuisance. The timeline also lets you slide clips without colliding with the other clips and they have a built-in inline precision editor to easily ripple and roll the clip’s in and out points. You can also audition clips to non-destructively try a clip in the timeline before adding it and you can merge clips to simply the timeline and make rearranging easier.

This new version makes many processes simpler than they used to be, for example, cleaning up audio used to be a multi-step process and involved sending to Soundtrack Pro and using several tools and equalizing, but now it can be done as you import the clips. I’m sure you still could do it the old way, but this makes it much easier. Like I said when I saw the iMovie-esque interface I was worried that they dumbed Final Cut down for more consumer use, but it has all the power-features the last version did and then some.

Final Cut Pro X will be released in June in the Mac App store $299. They said to stay tuned for the rest of the suite. I hope they release new versions of the rest of the sutie (Soundtrack Pro, Motion, Livetype, DVD Studio and Compressor) I think they will cost less than Final Cut Pro and they will be sold individually and hopefully as a suite also and hopefully for less than the current price of $1,000. Even though I like the Mac App Store a lot, for major software like Final Cut, I still would prefer to have actual media to install from especially if it is still 50 GB of content.  But this new price of $299 for Final Cut Pro gives people access to a great non-linear editor which is all a lot of people need for a lot less without having to drop $1,000 for the whole suite. It also gives them more features than the $199 Final Cut Express the same is true about other consumer and prosumer editing systems, so, people who don’t need Motion and Soundtrack can get a professional video editing program for $300 which is great! There are still a lot of questions about the rest of the suite, upgrading, bundling, education discount and more but I think this is a great new way to edit.

Lock Desktop for Mac Review

*****DISCLAIMER: PLEASE NOTE THAT I WAS CONTACTED BY THE DEVELOPER AND GIVEN A FREE COPY OF THE APPLICATION TO REVIEW. THIS HAS NO EFFECT ON MY REVIEW OR OPINION****

Lock desktop is a simple to use program on the Mac App Store to quickly lock your password to prevent unauthorized access to your computer. This is good if you are about to walk away from your computer, even for a few seconds and be sure your computer is safe and your data is safe.  Once you buy the 99 cent app, you just click the app icon in the dock or in  the Applications folder and your computer will go to the login screen. It is just that simple. There is no options or preferences just click and lock.  This is good for the sake of simplicity since it is a single-use application, but it also limits the users’ control. The application does exactly what it says it does and it is worth the 99 cents to make sure your computer is safe from unwanted users. The only thing I wish the application had was a keyboard shortcut so that, instead of having to click a icon for the app,  you could just use a hotkey and lock your screen, like the Windows-L shortcut on Windows. This is one thing I wish Mac OS had built-in.

This is of course,  all  dependent on you using a strong password, it will take you to the login screen whether you have a password or not, but,  anyone could just click on your username and get in if you-don’t have a password. Also remember that you need to use a strong password meaning no easily guessed names, birthdays, etc. Strong passwords use capital letters, lower case letters and numbers.

Lock Desktop is a great application as long as you don’t mind clicking an icon. It does what needs to be done in order to protect your computer as long as you use a strong password. This is especially important if you are in a public place, live in a dorm or just don’t trust someone around you and will keep all your information safe.

Mac App Store Review

Early this morning, Apple launched their Mac App Store. This is a great new way to find and install Applications  for you mac! It has launched with over 1,000 applications to choose from in a variety of categories. I am glad that a lot of these applications are already existing OSX programs that now have a easier way to install  and for many of them, lower prices, instead of iPhone style single-purpose apps. Apple has each of the iLife apps available for $15 a piece and iWork apps for $20 a piece. I really wish they had some sort of bundle where you could buy the full suites with one click and for less than buying them individually. The one disappointment that I have with the app store is the lack of free apps and the lack of very popular free Mac apps such as Dropbox and Skype. I think a lot more  developers will join the App store as it gains momentum as we saw with the iOS app store. I also hope that it has a easy way to log into the app store after a OS reinstall so you can install all your apps quickly. I think that the Mac app store will quickly become the best way to install apps on OSX, if you want to try it, you must be running Snow Leopard and then just run Software updates to get OS 10.6.6 which includes the Mac App Store.

iPad Apps to Replace Netbooks

As Mentioned in my previous article, I think the iPad has the potential to replace netbooks. Here is a list of great applications that can do just that.

Evernote (Free)- Great note application with synchronization so notes can be edited your computer as well as you mobile device.

Zenbe List ($4.99)- List application with synchronization to the web .  Simple application and extremely easy to use. Great to keep organized.

Todo ($4.99)- Amazing To-Do list for people who want to get things done and well organized. It synchronized with ToodleDo’s web service as well as the app creator’s own  service.

QuickOffice  HD ($14.99) Although it is expensive, QuickOffice is a great Office suite for the iOS platform, it lets you create and edit local documents, Google Documents, Dropbox documents, box.net and more.

Reeder ($4.99) Great RSS feed reader that syncs with  Google Reader as well. It also integrates with social media like Delicious, Instapaper, Twitter and More!

Insapaper ($4.99) Combined with a browser bookmarklet, Instapaer lets you save webpages to read later and sync over to your iPad to read offline.

Kindle (Free) E-book reader to replace paper books just carry along with your iPad.

iBook (Free) Another great ebook reader.

Air Sharing ($9.99) Use your iPad as a networked storage device as well as document reader.

Potential Killer Apps for the iPad

Now that Apple has released the much anticipated iPad, and we know that all the applications in the iPhone App store can now run on iPad in regular size or in double size to fill the screen. There are certain applications that I think if they are developed for the iPad that will make the iPad an even more amazing device.

1. Dropbox with Editing

This would be great, although you can buy iWork of the iPad, this would work much better because you can edit documents and then synchronize them to all your computers.

2. Newspaper and Magazine Readers

During the Keynote, the New York Times showed an application to read their articles one the iPad in a full screen application. It would be really nice if there was an application that would allow you to subscribe to several Newspapers and Magazines and have them delivered to your iPad once they are released. The 10 inch screen, is a great size to carry and read newspapers and magazines especially for travel

3. Note taking Application

A Onenote-style notetaking application would be a great application for the iPad because users could either use the keyboard dock or a Bluetooth keyboard to take notes whether it is for class or for a business meeting.

Tips for Learning A Piece of Software

There are so many pieces of software available for personal computers and there are so many useful pieces of software with so many features it is hard to learn. I am currently learning how to use Final Cut Express and although I have taught myself how to basically use it, as I have done for many pieces of software before, I decided it was such an important program for me to learn that, I should fully learn it and learn everything so I can get the most use out of it! Here are some tips on how to master software.

1. Buy a Book

Books are probably the best way of learning so you have a tool that is organized in a logical fashion and make sense to learn from. It also gives you a reference to look back at if  you have any questions later on . One of my favorite series of these books is the Visual Quickstart Guides however, if you want to learn any Apple Software, then your best bet is the Apple Training Series because they are approved by Apple and have consulted with Apple when they were writing the books.

2. Get Online Video Tutorials

Search around for tutorials on the web, some may be free while others require you to pay for them. However when learning something visual, video tutorials are very helpful. I know that when I found these great, free Final Cut Express tutorials, they helped me tremendously in learning Final Cut because I can watch them do the work in real time and see the techniques so I can learn them better.
Podcasts/li>
Similar to Video tutorials, podcasts both audio and video will also enhance your learning of the software and will help you better learn the software.

3. Forums and Community Sites

The final resources are just forums and other community sites where users can help each other as well as list problems that they may experience. Many software creators like Apple have offical forums on their website so theirusers can help each other and report problesm they experience.

Powerpoint/ Keynote Presentation tips

Now that computers are standard in business and are used for presentations, in schools and other settings as well. However, there are certain things that should be thoguht of and certain things that should be avoided during a  presentation because they look bad and cause people to be uninterested in what you are presenting. These apply to both Microsoft Office’s Powerpoint as well as iWork’s Keynote software, and any other presentation software, it is just theories for computer slide shows.

1. Don’t Over Use Transitions/Effect

Although there are plenty of slide transitions and special effects that you could put into your slideshow, they should be used sparingly because they look extremely unprofessional and get annoying after a while. Only use them when you need to emphasize a point and make sure you do not use an effect each slide or item.

2. Limit your Words

When you use a slideshow, it is meant to accompany your presentation and not to have every word you plan to say. Just write key points or words on the slide and say everything else.

3. Make sure you have a Good Color Scheme

When giving a presentation, you need to make sure that you the background colors of the slide and the font text don’t clash with each other and that the words are easily read. Also, make sure you keep your colr theme consistent.

4. Never use Pictures as backgrounds

Pictures are great and should be used in any good presentation, but never have words over pictures because it is near impossible to read and looks horrible. Backgrounds are best left to either a solid color or a slight gradient, as long as it works with the text color.

5. Don’t open your presentation From Your Email

Never, ever open your presentation file from an email, that makes you appear to be unprepared and wastes time that should be spent giving your presentation. Use a thumb drive so you can just insert the drive into the USB port and open it up.

6. Make Sure Elements don’t overlap

Unless you are going for a collage appearance, the elements in you slide show should never overlap and instead or the presentation will look sloppy and will distract the viewers from the point of the presentation.

7. Never use a Plain White Background

Good Powerpoint presentations should have some kind of a background color but, never make it plain white because it will cause the viewers to loose interest in the topic.

8. Never end on content

When you are about to end make sure you don’t go from your final content side to the black end of show screen. You should either have a summary slide to wrap up your presentation or you could simpily have a  slide that says “The End” so it doesn’t just cut out to black.

iWork 09 Review

For those who are sick of Microsoft Office for Mac, which is extremely bulky and slow, iWork is a great alternatives for Mac users. The current version of iWork, iWork 09 only costs $79 for one license and $99 for a family pack that you can install on five computers, which in my opinion is totally worth while if you only have more than one Mac. While Microsoft Office has Word, Excel and Powerpoint, iWork has: Pages, Numbers and Keynote which are the respective alternatives to their MS Office counterparts. Pages is a very well designed and well made Word Processor and does everything that I would need a word processor to do, including opening Microsoft Word documents. Numbers, the newest addition to iWork is a great spreadsheet tool and although it may not have many of the advanced features of Excel, for most people it is more than you need! Finally, is Keynote which I and many others believe is the killer app for iWork it is an amazing presentation tool that surpasses the standard Powerpoint. All three applications have a stunning  template gallery with many templates which helps make documents much easier.

For the price, which is a lot less than what you would pay for MS Office, I highly recommend iWork over Office for the Mac. That said there are a few disadvantages to iWork. First, and probably the most important disadvantage is that you can not automatically save to Office formats making it a little annoying to use Office formats because they are standards many people would like to continue using them. There is however, a modification that you can do to make pages save to .Doc automatically and makes at least one application easier to use. The other disadvantage is that unlike Office, iWork does not have a full email client, like Entourage. However, OSX’s built-in mail client is extremly good and could fill in.

All-in-all, iWork is a great, easy to use office suite for the Mac and is definitely a great replacement for the slow Office for the Mac. I have made the switch out of frustration with Office and I recommend making the switch to this great suite.

Video: Evernote Tour and Review

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Mike Gdovin gives a review and tour of the great Cloud software, Evernote

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