Friday, July 07, 2006

Office 2007 Beta

I’m writing this post using Word 2007, part of Microsoft’s flagship office suite. This is the second Beta release, and it’s my first look at the software.

The first thing I have to say is that Microsoft are taking a big gamble. They have totally overhauled the user interface. Gone are the familiar menus at the top of the screen – File, Edit etc. These are replaced by 8 tabs:

  • Home, which brings up a selection of buttons relating to basic text editing, such as fonts, emphasis, alignment, styles and search/replace.
  • Insert, where you will find the shapes that used to be on the drawing toolbar, tables, objects, page breaks etc. Here you will also find headers and footers, Word Art, and the equation editor.
  • Page Layout, which is fairly self explanatory, and contains all the options which used to be in the Page Setup dialog box, and the paragraph formatting.
  • References – Here are table of contents, footnotes, citations, captions and indexes.
  • Mailings covers mailing labels, envelope printing and mail merge.
  • The Review tab is all about tracking changes, adding comments and proofing.
  • View has the controls for different page views, options for showing rulers, the zoom level and window arrangement.
  • The last tab is Add-Ins, which is where, remarkably enough, you control any add-ins.

Notice that nowhere have I mentioned opening files. It took me 2 minutes to find the open file dialogue. It is cunningly hidden in a dropdown menu that is opened by clicking on the Office logo at the top left!

Looking at this completely new interface, the first thing that occurred to me was that Microsoft have removed a major barrier to switching to People are afraid of change. Replace Office 2003 with and you will get complaints about not being able to find things. You’ll get far more complaints with Office 2007. bears far more resemblance to past versions of Microsoft Office than this does.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the new interface, just that it is so radically different that your average user will take some considerable time to get used to it. In an SME, you may find the IT support staff find it simpler to give everyone than deal with the fall-out from this upgrade.

So, what else has changed? Well for a start, the default font is now Calibri, a nice, clean looking sans-serif font, replacing the horribly old fashioned Times New Roman. Also, it wouldn’t be an office upgrade without a new file format. The default now bears the extension .docx, and is Microsoft’s OpenXML format. You can still use the Office 2003 file structure though.

A new option is to create a PDF (OOo got there first), but this is no great shakes as there were plenty of free tools to do this already, it just makes it slightly more convenient. Also, creating blog posts, such as this. Word will link to a variety of blog sites, enabling easy uploading of posts. I’ll find out shortly how well that works!

What really prompted me to download this Beta was the news that Microsoft are working on Open Document compatibility. Prompted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts plan to move document storage across to Open Document format, Microsoft has been forced to embrace the competing standard. There is a plugin available to download from Sourceforge, which is fully open source. At the moment it only seems to support importing, rather than exporting. The option is there now, but not selectable.

So far I’ve only looked briefly at Word. I don’t use Powerpoint much, but I will be looking more closely at Excel and Access in the future.

Poker Sites Compared.

I've now played on three different sites, Pokerstars, Titan Poker and Party Poker. The difference between the three is very pronounced.

The first one I joined was Pokerstars. Until this weeks update, the interface was very basic, but, I like that - No annoying avatars, no distractions. Even after the update, the interface is still very clean, you just get some skins to customize the table and the cards. You can now resize the window. Theres a quite a lot of chat between players, most of it good natured, and I find the standard of play is pretty good. Buy-ins for SNGs and tournaments start at $1, and in the cash games start at £0.01/0.02, so you can get going fairly cheaply.

Over at Party Poker, you've got chairs and avatars (though you can switch the avatars off). The window isn't resizable. The lowest buy-in is a huge $6, and cash games start at $0.10/$0.25, so it can get expensive. There's very little chat that I've seen. The best thing about Party is the standard of play seems significantly lower than 'Stars.

The last site I joined was Titan, and that was simply because I had a code for $50. I've played a bit loosely here, as I'm playing for free, so to speak. More chairs and avatars. There is a single button to click to go all in, which can be dangerous, but this can be switched off. The standard of player here seems to vary much more widely. The thing I really don't like about this site is it seems underpopulated - I have sometimes waited half an hour for a 20 player SNG to fill up. On 'Stars or Party, this would take no more than 5 minutes. Buy-ins and limits start low like Pokerstars.

So, where do I prefer to play? Probably Pokerstars - it seems more friendly than either of the others, there is more choice of games than Party Poker, and a better population than Titan. I'll just have to keep improving my game.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A dog's best friend

They say a dog is man's best friend, but here is somebody who gives back just as much.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pokerstars Re-sizes

At last, the promised upgrade to Pokerstars client software is here, with re-sizable windows! No longer is the table stuck filling just half of that lovely 19" TFT, or, if you are multi-tabling, you can now tile your windows, so you can see all of both tables at once.
Also, you can now download new themes, from a nice basic "Hyper-Simple" theme with different coloured card backgrounds for each suit, to the "Renaissance theme", having your card table stood on a tesselated floor, with engraved name plates for each player.