Microsoft Office Mobile: Hands-On With the Productivity Suite

Microsoft's release of Windows Phone 7 brings updated Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote Mobile, to your fingertips. The touchscreen-friendly revamp of Office Mobile is radically different from the previous version. And files are supposed to resemble their appearance on the desktop more closely.

Shrinking Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote to fit in the palm of your hand is no easy feat. Microsoft does a decent, though not spectacular, job of placing basic editing features on the hand. You swipe and slide through the screens (which feature large, legible fonts), tapping on the touchscreen keyboard to type.

Office Mobile comes preinstalled on Windows Phone 7 phones. I tested the tools on an HTC Surround for AT&T. If you have a Windows Phone 6.5 device, you can download an Office Mobile upgrade from the Windows Marketplace

After answering a phone call and sending text messages, though, it was torture figuring out how to return to the last document. I went back to Hotmail, and the document was no longer open. I went to the Office menu, yet the document did not appear. (I thought the iOS, despite its lack of multitasking, to be more intuitive than Windows Phone 7 for finding your previous place after an interruption.)

From a desktop Web browser, a OneNote notebook I started on the smartphone displayed everything but a voice recording.
My lesson was to remember to save a document the moment you open it. When you do that, you can be sure it will appear in the Office Hub even if you get interrupted right away.

And wait, how did I get to the point of e-mailing files to myself again? I stopped doing that when Writely, the Google Docs predecessor, launched more than 5 years ago.

E-Mail

With Exchange, your Outlook e-mail inbox matches the one on your desktop at the office. Beefed up Exchange Server support lets IT administrators can set up one phone for multiple Exchange server accounts. (I wasn't able to test this by the time of posting, but I'm hoping to follow up in another story that explains how.)

You can set up POP3 and IMAP e-mail, and directly from third parties such as Google and Yahoo just by entering a user name and password.

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Google's Yellow Search Box Looks to the Cloud

Google's Search Appliance is a box that lets a company look behind and beyond its firewall.
Google's Search Appliance is a box that lets a company look behind and beyond its firewall.
Google's business search box will sift through data in the cloud and behind company firewalls with the Monday release of Google Search Appliance 6.8.

Google aims with its new Cloud Connect features to help workers find content in one step with universal search, a growing demand as move sensitive content moves to the cloud.

The bright yellow box lets you customize Google search for Websites and internally across 220 file types as well as intranets, apps, content management systems, databases, real-time data, and portals.

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New Facebook Features: Prepare for More Cliques

Facebook's new features will fundamentally change the way many people use the site. Revamped Groups and a control center for third-party applications will reassure users who want to play on Facebook without accidentally oversharing with the wrong audience.

The changes offer more control over who sees your activities and how applications access your profile, in addition to letting you zip up and download all your messages, videos, photos, and wall posts.

Facebook's 500 million users will see the new features roll out gradually, starting today.

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Choose the Right Tech Support for Your Business

Managing technology comes last on the to-do list for many small companies. You want to focus on front-end business while hardware and software magically work behind the scenes.

For your tech backbone to function, however, it needs steady support. Finding the right IT expert can not only save money over the long run but also make the difference between merely surviving an emergency and powering ahead for growth.

Tech support
Many mom-and-pop or home-based ventures rely on family and friends for tech help. In a crisis, some call a third-party service at a mall or big-box store. Larger companies may lean on an informal pool of on-staff "experts" or a part-time consultant.

What to Avoid

The nuts and bolts of tech support
When the consultant speaks in buzzwords and acronyms, don't be intimidated. But be ready to let that person go if they won't explain; efforts to bewilder you with jargon reflect arrogance or fear, not expertise.

Stay away from fly-by-night, crisis-based services that try to sell you the tech flavor of the month. They're not equipped to look at your operations as a whole for the long term.

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Twitter XSS Worm Holds Lessons for IT

The online world was all aflutter yesterday with news of a worm spreading through Twitter. The "onMouseOver" issue--which presented pop-up boxes and redirected users to porn sites--was quickly handled by Twitter, but the events that led up to it hold some valuable lessons for IT.

A blog post from the official Twitter blog explains the worm incident in more detail. "Early this morning, a user noticed the security hole and took advantage of it on Twitter.com. First, someone created an account that exploited the issue by turning tweets different colors and causing a pop-up box with text to appear when someone hovered over the link in the Tweet. This is why folks are referring to this an "onMouseOver" flaw -- the exploit occurred when someone moused over a link. Other users took this one step further and added code that caused people to retweet the original Tweet without their knowledge."

The flaw in question was a hole that allowed cross-site scripting. Cross-site scripting vulnerabilities allow attackers to insert code from untrusted or malicious Web sites in the context of another--in this case Twitter. The Twitter flaw enabled users to submit JavaScript code as plain text within a tweet, and have that code be executed by the viewing browser.

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Tablets Still Miss the Mark for Business

With the impending launch of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Android will finally have a tablet worthy of competing against the Apple iPad. Both camps will fight vigorously in support of their respective tablet platforms, but the reality is that tablets in general have some maturing to do in order to evolve from a niche extravagance to a mainstream mobile business tool.

The tablet revolution is in full swing, but it has some evolution to go through to become a mainstream business tool.
Don't get me wrong, I have used my iPad in place of a netbook or notebook for a wide variety of functions since it launched. I can get and send e-mail, surf the Web, instant message, participate in online conference sessions, stay engaged with my social networks, keep track of my calendar, and create content. In truth, there are very few things that I need to do with a mobile computing device that can't be done on the iPad.

The Galaxy Tab has many of the features and functions missing from the iPad--front and rear facing cameras, wireless phone capabilities, support for Adobe Flash, true multitasking, and an SD memory card slot. Even so, the Android tablet won't deliver all that businesses need from a mobile computing platform, either.

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Two-Factor Authentication More Reason to Try Google Apps

Google announced that it is implementing two-factor authentication for Google Apps to improve security. The introduction of more stringent authentication controls removes one of the hurdles for businesses to embrace Google Apps and makes the productivity suite a more viable option for organizations concerned with security in the cloud.

IT admins who have shied away from Web-based solutions like Google Apps can take another look thanks to two-factor authentication.
Security is one of the biggest obstacles for many organizations when it comes to considering cloud-based services. Web-based services have the benefit of being available from virtually anywhere rather than being shackled to the local storage of a specific machine, but if users can access the data from anywhere so can attackers.

Despite decades of user awareness efforts, passwords are often trivial to guess or crack. The compromise of passwords at RockYou.com provided a unique opportunity to examine actual passwords used in the real world. A study of the more than 30 million passwords exposed when RockYou.com was hacked found that almost half use names, common dictionary words, or sequential characters like "qwerty".

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