So long 712!

Brand New BroomAs you may know, for the last few weeks Dickson and I have been moving out of the office. It was early 2005 that we decided we needed a central place to setup shop and started looking around for one. We ended up at the Empire Building on 101st Street and Jasper Avenue, a building I had been in before. We moved into Suite 712 in late April. There were lots of reasons we chose this particular building – among other things, it is secure, renovated, and well-connected (can get any kind of Internet connection in there).

The biggest positive about the location is also the biggest negative – you can’t get more central than the Empire Building.

I loved being right smack dab in the middle of downtown Edmonton. The Jasper Avenue address looks good on marketing materials, for one thing. It feels like the place a business should be. More importantly, it is easy to get to from pretty much anywhere in the city. The office was more than a place for Dickson and I to code…it became a meeting place for us and our friends. Going to the hockey game? Let’s meet at the office and take the train. Out for dinner? Meet at the office and then we’ll go. It was quite handy!

But being so central has it’s drawbacks too. Parking is pretty much nonexistent…I don’t want to think about how much gas I wasted driving around looking for a meter. There’s also the issue of Edmonton’s street people – not a major problem, but sometimes an annoyance. And the biggest drawback of all – cost.

That’s the main reason we decided to bid farewell to the office. We’ve changed quite a bit in the last two and a half years, and we just couldn’t justify the cost any longer. Our servers are in a data center now, and we’ve been working remotely more and more frequently. As an Internet+software company, we don’t really have visitors in meatspace.

That said, I still think there is value in having an office, and we may find a new one before long. Being in the same room usually can’t be beat when you’re working to solve a problem. We certainly accomplished a lot in 712 over the years. A new office will certainly be somewhere else though, with a smaller monthly bill and lots of free parking 🙂

Moving is hard work. It feels like we have been moving out of the office for months! Tonight I finally handed over the keys and access cards, making it official. The broom in the picture above was one of the last things we moved out. It’s kind of funny, because neither of us remembers buying it, and it clearly hasn’t been used (the building had a cleaning staff). Moving is definitely a good opportunity to clean house.

Now it’s finally finished. Nothing left to move, and we’re officially a virtual company again. So long 712!

Outlook 2007 on Vista with RDC is driving me crazy

I have written about Outlook 2007 here before, usually in relation to performance. The hotfix that was released back in April has mostly fixed that problem for me, but I have a new problem.

Outlook 2007 on Windows Vista is a piece of shit when it comes to accessing it through Remote Desktop.

I haven’t been able to take a screenshot of this yet, but essentially it renders the computer (or at least the remote desktop session) unusable. Outlook 2007 works fine for a while, but minimize it one too many times, and the next time you try to bring it up the screen is washed out with windows appearing all over the place and everything is just garbled. You can’t see the start bar either, so figuring out how to close it or get rid of it is problematic. I have to close the session and sometimes restart Outlook on the actual computer before it’ll work again.

I don’t understand what the problem is. I have tried messing with all of the RDC settings, and I am running the latest version. All the updates are installed, on both machines. The only application I have this issue with is Outlook 2007. A search on Google for ‘why does outlook 2007 on vista suck using remote desktop‘ didn’t return anything helpful either. Heh.

It’s driving me crazy. I love Outlook, but the latest version has been a real pain in the ass at times.

Any suggestions on this one? Any softies out there reading this? Help!

Mini-Microsoft on Outlook 2007

Post ImageI have talked about Outlook 2007 a couple of times before, and in neither post was I singing Outlook’s praises. Nope, I love the interface tweaks, but Outlook 2007 is terribly slow. Almost so slow that it is unusable. I wonder if it would be any faster if I had 4 GB of RAM…probably not. Anyway, here’s what Mini-Microsoft had to say about Outlook 2007 recently:

I’ve learned to meditate while Outlook ruminates over ten incoming POP messages of 69K. Perhaps it takes a few seconds over each incoming message or RSS feed to contribute to solving a Grand Challenge. Or it and Desktop Search have to play 333 iterations of rock-paper-scissors everytime a change has to be written. I don’t know.

I have wondered the same thing. It has to be doing something when it’s not doing what I want it to, right? He continues:

For our customers’ sake, I hope that I’m the only one and that there is just something funky about my setup…

Sorry, no. Outlook 2007 sucks when it comes to performance, plain and simple. It can’t be your setup, because there’s thousands of threads on the Internet in which people are complaining. Please Mini, use your power to get someone to fix it!

Read: Mini-Microsoft

Goodbye Acrobat, Hello Office 12

Post ImageLongtime readers of my blog will know that I have often complained about Adobe Acrobat and how terribly slow it is. The program uses too many resources, loads too much stuff, and runs far too slow. Unfortunately, there aren’t many other applications that support PDF so completely, so I’ve been stuck with it. That looks to change with Office 12 though, as Tablet PC MVP Rob Bushway notes:

This afternoon Steven Sinofsky announced to our MVPs that we will build in native support for the PDF format in Office “12”. I constantly get asked by customers if we can build in this support for publishing documents as PDF files, and now I can thankfully say “yes!” It’s something we’ve been hearing about for years, and earlier in this project we decided that while there were already existing third party tools for doing this, we should do the work to build the functionality natively into the product.

Chris Pratley on the OneNote team also confirmed the news:

One big smile was when Steven Sinofsky announced during his wrap-up Q&A this morning that Office 12 apps (OneNote included) will support “Save as PDF” natively. He then went through a demo of most of the apps showing each of them saving to PDF. Publisher (another app whose design team I manage) will even support CMYK output for professional pre-press work. Actually, the Publisher team did most of the work to support PDF over the last year. Then the other teams hooked up to the core PDF generator that they wrote from scratch.

This is big, big news that has been a long time coming. Finally I should be able to ditch Acrobat. I mean if you think about it, what applications do you create PDF files from? For myself, it’s Word and Publisher. Goodbye Acrobat!

OneNote 12

Post ImageI really love OneNote. I think it’s probably one of the single most useful applications ever created. Of course, it works best on a Tablet PC because you have a pen and are thus able to handwrite notes, but there are ways to handwrite using your PC too. So what’s coming in the next version of OneNote? Chris Pratley, one of the application’s designers shares some of the new features:

One of the long term visions for OneNote is to bring together “your information” and make it findable and reusable, regardless of format. When we look at the types of info we try to help people organize, it is obvious that a lot of it lives outside the digital realm: Business cards, handouts, receipts. People always have a collection of paper that accompanies their PC because it is hard to include that stuff in their digital storage. Beyond paper, there are other analog forms of information such as speeches (audio) and “performances” (video). You hear and see things today, but all you have are your memories of that, or maybe a recording on tape or mini-recorder. As you know from the current release of OneNote, there’s a lot of value in just being able to capture various kinds of information in one place: text, HTML, ink, photos, audio/video recordings. In OneNote “12”, we’re going to go even farther.

More or less, anything you put into OneNote 12 becomes searchable.

I was instantly amazed that OneNote could search my handwriting without having to first convert it to text – definitely a major wow feature. Now it’s going to be able to search everything else too? Crazy. If you read his full post, there are more details on how the various searches work, and he mentions that OneNote 12 will in fact use the new Windows Desktop indexed search engine, which means a search should be pretty much instant.

If you haven’t yet tried OneNote, I highly suggest that you do. You can download a free trial here.

Read: Chris Pratley

The new look of Microsoft Office

Post ImageI wish I was at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC) this week, but fortunately there are tons of announcements and resources and information being posted online. One such announcement was the first public demo of Office 12, with a completely redesigned user interface:

Thousands of software developers at the sold-out Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2005 today got a preview of a new, redesigned user interface (UI) that will debut in several core applications of the next version of Microsoft Office, code-named Office “12.”

While the Office applications have increased tremendously in power and added functionality in response to customer needs, the core UI has remained substantially unchanged for nearly 20 years. The command bar in Microsoft Office Word 2003, for example, looks much the same as the command bar in Word 2.0 did in 1998. In fact, the new UI is the biggest, most visible change to the way the core Office applications work since the introduction of the toolbar in 1997.

The first thing I saw related to the new UI was this PressPass article and screenshots. And to be honest, my very first reaction was “what?!” I didn’t like the new look of the applications based on the screenshots, but I think that’s mostly because I didn’t understand how it worked. After I checked out the Channel9 video, my opinion completely changed. Screenshots just don’t do the new interface justice. It is, quite simply, amazing! Check out the video and see what I mean – demos start around 10 minutes in. Office 12 has no drop down menus or toolbars. Instead, there is a new “ribbon” control along the top that makes the commands in each application readily available in an organized manner. There’s also live previewing – hover over an option, and it will appear in the document before you make the change so you can see what it looks like.

So far Outlook only makes use of the new interface for writing emails, not in the main application. I can see why, but I don’t think it’s a great idea for Outlook to be different from the other applications. I also wonder if OneNote and other Office-family members will make use of the new interface too. I hope so.

It’s still a bit shocking, but I think Office needed a new interface. Far too many commands made the interface cluttered and difficult to use. Menus and toolbars are familiar, but they aren’t the most powerful interface in the world. The new “ribbon” controls are just sweet, and definitely a useful improvement. And who knows, maybe the new interface will finally convince corporations to upgrade.

I can’t wait to play with the new Office now!

Read: Microsoft PressPass

Office 12 Feature Request!

Post ImageAccording to Scoble, there’s a ton of cool stuff that will be announced at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference (PDC) next week. One of the new applications that we should find out a lot more about is Office 12, the successor to Office 2003.

I haven’t been paying attention to Office development at all lately, as it’s just really outside the day-to-day stuff for me. Working in Word 2003 this afternoon though caused me to think of something I want to see in Office 12: every single Office application should have OneNote style “saving”. If I am working on a document in Word, I shouldn’t have to click save, or have the application attempt to auto-save every now and then. It should work exactly like OneNote! As soon as you type it, it’s saved.

Also, Visual Studio Tools for Office should be extended to every application in the family, not just Word and Excel! It will be interesting to see what is announced next week.

Read: Microsoft Office