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Preview Microsoft Office and Vista
Are you considering a transition to Vista or the new Microsoft Office suite and wondering if your current computer can handle it? Are you thinking about making the investment into a new computer and want to make sure that it can support the Vista and Office in six months? Are you wondering how long you can wait to make the change, and what you will have to deal with if you stay with the current operation system and applications? These top ten tips are designed to give you an informed perspective of the current step in the transition of technology.
1. Vista Minimum System Requirements
The minimum system requirements to be classified as Vista compatible is an 800 Megahertz processor and 512 megabytes of system memory. However, you will probably want to use your computer for more than running an operating system. If you plan on running multiple applications, and do not want time to run out for coffee while your computer opens email, your minimum requirements should meet the Vista Premium Ready designation requirements of a minimum 1 Gigahertz processor and 1 Gigabyte of system memory. To put is simply, if you are shopping for computer hardware in 2007, think “1 Giga x 1 Giga” Minimum. “More really is better.”
2. The difference between Vista Capable and Vista Premium Ready
Vista capable computers have the absolute minimum system requirements. Unfortunately, 800 Megahertz and 512 megabytes will not support the “Aero” interface with glass tabs and see-through windows. You might not think that these slick features are important right now, but after six months you will experience computer envy as the person sitting next to you on the plane, train or coffee shop is using the new features to browse the web or layered applications. Vista Premium Ready requires the “1 Giga x 1 Giga” processor and system memory. Don’t be lured by slightly lower cost systems that have inferior processor power or memory. It would be like putting bicycle tires on your new Mercedes, it might look good from the right angle but you aren’t going to get anywhere very fast. Look for the Premium logo and fill your tank with a double dose of Giga power.
3. Vista Security
Microsoft Vista is the most secure operating system from Microsoft to date. It includes restrictive firewalls, tools to block spyware and phishing, and blocks some email scams intended to steal personal data. Internet Explorer 7 has three levels of warnings about potential phishing sites. The IE7 browser also quarantines malicious viruses. You can count on Microsoft to release updates and patches to continually maximize security and protection against new worms and viruses.
4. Vista Ease of Use
We have more access to data, images, music and files than ever before. As technology continues to advance, the access to information expands exponentially. This creates new challenges in finding the data, images, music and files that you have stored, and this is one of the benefits of Vista. Use your mouse to scroll through folders like flipping cards in a poker game, searching your hard drive, network and the Internet quickly and efficiently. Vista is a very visually stimulating environment, and as such it has special features for digital camera aficionados as well.
5. Vista Mobility
When Windows XP was released five years ago, most businesses used desktop computers. Now nearly two-thirds of US business workers use laptops, and nearly 750,000 laptops were lost or stolen last year. Mobility increases productivity and convenience, but it also requires greater security. Vista includes Windows Bit-Locker, which encrypts data on the hard drive in a manner that makes it extremely difficult for someone to access your valuable data if the laptop is lost or stolen. If you have customer contact data, sales forecasts, budget information, passwords, personnel files or even your personal banking information stored on your laptop, you can imagine how valuable this encryption could be for you.
This is the best least used application from Microsoft. This is the digital version of the notebooks and binders that most of us used to take notes throughout school. The program is organized into tabbed notebook sections and pages. Like other Office applications, you can type text, copy and paste from other applications, do calculations and use Outlook contacts. What makes this more versatile if the option to take written notes and drawings from a pen enabled device (tablet PC), treating your handwritten notes like regular files. You can even use the microphone on your computer to capture audio, and the notes you take are associated with the specific section of recorded audio at the time the note was made. Imagine being in a lecture and making short notes like, “this will be on the final exam”, then searching the audio and text files for all instances of that notation (wow!). Playback on your computer speakers, share files with friends who skipped the class, and refer to your notes at the end of the semester. This same concept could easily apply to contract negotiations and other business applications. To take full advantage of this application you need a pen enabled (Tablet) PC with microphone, speakers and OneNote. Once you experience OneNote, you will become more versatile than you never imagined, and it is as easy as using a pen on paper.
7. Ribbons Replace Toolbars
Get ready for a learning curve with the new Office applications. The familiar Toolbars are replaced with intelligent Ribbons. The good news is that the intelligent ribbons only show icons and options that apply for the application and embedded objects. For example, if you insert a chart, then the chart functions will be visible. If you do not have a chart, the chart options will not be visible. While this eliminates clutter, it will also initially create some confusion while learning the new buttons. Sometimes icons will appear and sometimes they will not, based on the objects in your document or file. This can create a “where did that go?” syndrome while you learn the new Office suite of applications. The best advice is that “you like what you are used to”, so get used to the new Office Ribbons and you will like them just fine.
The new version of Excel is just what you would expect for bean counters, it is bigger and prettier. The revamped spreadsheet can now support more the one million rows and 16,000 columns, as if preparing the budget and forecast was not long enough already. Three dimensional, shadowed and transparent effects make charts fancier. “Conditional formatting” makes it easy to apply icons or colors to cells based on the content or value, so it is much easier to spot trends. These are important features to the people who need to review and approve your budget for new hardware!
If you were not yet convinced about making the transition to the new Office Suite, consider this, the file extensions have changed again. You may remember the last significant transition of Office when you had to save your Word documents in a format that your friends, colleagues and customers could read with their old versions of office. Well, happy days are here again. The new version of Word saves files as compressed, efficient and secure XML files with a “.docx” extension. If you want to share your new “.docx” file with one of the magnitude of users who have the current version of office, you will need to “Save As” a “.doc” file by selecting “Word 97-2003 Document” for each file that you want to share. If you think that this is inconvenient, just imagine being one of the “Word 97-2003 . doc” users when everyone else has started to migrate to the new XML “docx” file format. If you do not upgrade, you will need to download a compatibility pack just to view and edit the new docx files. However, if you upgrade to the new version of Word, you can open and edit old and new file formats seamlessly. This is rather important.
Outlook also has a facelift and more security under the hood, The new version includes revamped junk email controls and anti-phishing technology. It also includes enhanced search functions that search your files and emails. Improved tools for calendar functions, flagging tasks and highlighting messages with assigned colors make Outlook a more effective integrated tool for consolidating management of schedules and communications. For example, use an email message to create a task, associate a level of priority and assign the task to resources. Then you can associate the task with a calendar reminder for automated email alert reminders, meeting notices, and track timeliness or delinquency if applicable. Spending ten minutes to tour Outlook tools can improve hours of collaborative performance, communication and schedules in the long run.
With these top ten tips you can be the 1 Giga Guru. It is always a personal challenge to determine when to make the next technology investment in hardware or software. Being aware of trends and prepared for transitions can help you to gain additional satisfaction from your hardware or software purchases. For more information on Vista and Office products, please visit the Microsoft web site.
Words of Wisdom
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
– Norman Vincent Peale
“Participate, communicate, collaborate and change the course of the world around you, or simply wait and your life will be assigned to you.”
– John Mehrmann
“If you want your life to be more rewarding, you have to change the way you think.”
– Oprah Winfrey
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