Free Office 365 for all Palomarites

Office 365 icon

Yes I am serious, and no this is not a scam. All students and employees of Palomar College are already licensed to use Office 365 for free. In fact, we are licensed to have up to five copies of Office installed on our computers, as well as full access to the full-featured versions of all the online Office applications. Oh, plus 1024 Gb of storage space on the OneDrive cloud storage system.

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Office 2013: Ribbon Display Options

If you are new to Office 2013, you will notice a new control button joining the familiar help, minimize, maximize and close buttons in the upper right of each Office program.  The new button is the Ribbon Display Options button.

Windows Control Buttons

The functions of Help (F1 is still the help shortcut key), minimize, maximize/resize and close buttons have not changed and are familiar to all Windows users.  Since the ribbon is now the standard interface across all the Office apps, a more obvious, standardized way of controlling the appearance of the ribbon has been introduced.  Clicking the Ribbon Display Options button reveals the following choices: Auto-hide Ribbon, Show Tabs, and Show Tabs and Commands.

Ribbon Choices

The last of these is what we are used to seeing in the Office programs, Show Tabs and Commands.  In Office 2010 it was possible to double-click one of the familiar tabs, and hide the commands, but not to hide the tabs themselves.  Now this functionality has been expanded and moved to a control button.

Auto-hide Ribbon causes the tabs, ribbons and quick access toolbar to completely disappear, giving you the maximum amount of space to edit documents.  When the ribbon is needed, simply move the mouse to the top of the screen and click.  The ribbon, and quick access toolbar, including ribbon commands, will reappear and remain in place.

Show Tabs now has the same effect as double clicking a tab in Office 2010 did, and still does in Office 2013.  It shows only tabs, along with the quick access toolbar, but without their associated ribbon commands.  Double clicking a tab when tabs only are visible brings back all the commands beneath the tabs.

Show Tabs and Commands is, as always, the default.

With the advent of multiple devices with very small screens, with or without touch, the new Ribbon options make a lot of sense, thus the new control button.

Office 2013 – Office 365

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The latest version of Microsoft Office has been released to general consumers this week.  Office 2013 became available on Tuesday, January 29.  Many will have been working with beta copies that have been freely distributed by Microsoft over the last 9 months or so, and some may have been working with copies licensed by businesses, because the product became available to business licensees last fall.  But if you are the average Joe consumer, or are just now hearing about the latest version, it is finally here.

This will probably be the final version of Office that will be obtainable on physical media.  You still can buy a boxed set with physical media, but if you do you will pay way more than you want to, even at Costco.  Only a fool would pay top dollar for a limited version of the product when she could get it far peanuts.  Here’s how.

Purchase through the FCCC (Foundation for California Community Colleges)

You cannot get physical media through the foundation, but you can get a downloadable installation of Office 2013 pro for $40 if you are a faculty or staff member, or $80 if you are a student, including, of course, an official license key.  Here is how:

Go to http://www.collegebuys.org/ (for faculty or staff).  This is the official Foundation purchasing site.

Click on the Yes, I qualify button under the For Faculty/Staff link:

YesIQualify

Click the Go button under “Take advantage of our exclusive software prices…”:

Go

Click the “Shop Now” button on the collegebuys.org rotating ad on the next screen:

ShopNow

Now, here is where you might run into a bit of trouble, depending on which browser you are using and your security settings.  If the page does not display, reload it and allow it, as in this Firefox dialog:

Firefoxmsg

In any event, you will see a page that allows you selection of State, School and Status .  Select CA, Palomar College, and Faculty/Staff.  then click Submit.

StatusCheck

The only version of Office 2013 available from the Foundation site at this time is a digital download of Office Plus.

OfficePlusDigitalDownload

Though it says you can choose either digital download or CD, I sure couldn’t figure out how to specify CD.  Maybe it is on the final purchasing screen, where you pay in the shopping cart, but I didn’t want to go that far to find out, and I suspect from viewing the details that you can really only get a digital download.

In any event, you will be prompted via email to submit verification of status as a faculty or staff member to the company that manages the download, Kivuto, and then be able to download your licensed copy onto a single PC.  The mac version does not seem to be available yet.

The Plus version of Office contains the usual suspects: Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote, Access and Infopath and Lync.  The home premium version (discussed below) does not contain Infopath and Lync, but these are useless pieces of software anyway unless you have very specific needs.  I have never met anyone outside of professional web designers who even knows what inforpath or lync can do.

If this package meets your needs for a stand-alone home version Office, however, you can’t beat the price.

A Better Way

There is a far better way, however, and that is Office 365.  As I mentioned above, this is probably the last version of Office that will be released with the option to obtain physical distribution media.  Microsoft not only wants to move us to a downloadable distribution model, but is even more eager to move us to a subscription-based downloadable model.  In fact they want it so much, that they are sweetening the deal for those who do.

You can subscribe to  the Microsoft Office 2013 Pro version (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, OneNote,  and Access) through a program called Office 365 Home Premium for $99.99 per year or $9.99 per month.  What you get is the ability to download and install the PC or Mac version of these programs on up to 5 computers (and actually more than five, but only 5 of which can be activated at any one time) plus 20 additional GB of SkyDrive cloud-based storage (you can get a free SkyDrive account that will start you out with 7GB of storage; plus 60-minutes per month of free Skype national or international calling.

What makes this really nice is that in order to download the package you will use your Microsoft account.  You therefore login to the software that you install locally, with Internet access, and you always have the latest version of the software.  No more security or feature set patches, no more service packs or currency hassles.  It just works and its the latest version always.  Furthermore, since Office knows who you are it retains all of your customizations and configuration settings on whatever computer you are working on, and all you have to do is to login.  Better yet, if you store your documents in the cloud, you can open them from anywhere and pick up work right where you left off on another computer.  This extends to collaborative sessions too, if you use them.  It’s really impressive.

But Wait, There is Even a Better Deal for Us

I personally purchased the $10 per month version because I need the 5 installations, but if you can get away with 2 installations (either Mac or PC but not both) and you are a Palomar employee OR STUDENT, you can get Office 2013 University for the unbelievable price of $79.99 for a four year subscription.  That’s 1.67 a month for access to 2 full versions of Office Pro; less than a cheap cup of coffee per month.  This deal is renewable for up to 8 years.  This is by far the best deal going, provided you do not need more than the 2 installations.  And even if you do, purchasing two of these packages is even cheaper than going the subscription route.  The catch is you have to be a current student, faculty member or staff of an accredited institution.  It didn’t make sense for me, because I needed all five installs on the standard Office 365 package and I am about to retire, so would no longer be eligible for the University package—though there would be no way for Microsoft to actually know that.  Retirees and alumni or institutions are not eligible.

So what are you waiting for.  The product is great, the prices are low.  You might as well face the fact that the future of software distribution is going to be via subscription, like it or not.  This insures a dependable cash flow for the vendor and even more so, customer loyalty that is worth its weight in gold.

The Moving Line in PowerPoint

PowerPoint Icon

This post is for all you PowerPoint animators out there.  It’s a little more advanced than than beginning PowerPoint, but if you have never tried it I think you will be pleased with the results.  Here we go.

One of the most effective uses of animations in PowerPoint is to create a moving line.  PowerPoint lacks the sophisticated sorts of animations you can create using Flash, but a clever use of the standard Wipe animation, along with an adjustment to some PowerPoint timings, can result in a classy looking moving line animation.  The video below explains how to construct it.

Office 365

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I attended a webinar on Microsoft’s new Office 365 Home product today and can report on the near-finished feature set.

Programs included: Word, Access, Outlook, Publisher, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote.

Price: $99.99 per year.

Number of installs:  Install on up to five devices.  Installs can be deactivated on one device and activated on another, also.  Just so the total does not exceed 5.

Storage:  In addition to whatever storage you already have on SkyDrive, if any, you will receive 20 GB additional with the Office 365 subscription.  The storage is tied to an account, so it is only for one of the five installations.  The standard free amount of SkyDrive storage for Microsoft Live accounts is 7GB, but those who opted in some time ago may have an additional 25GB.

Extra incentive: 60 minutes of free Skype calls per month.

Limitations: for Windows 7 or 8 only.  Not supported on previous versions.

Preview:  Get it now at http://www.office.com/preview.  It is still in beta, but is nearing completion.

Microsoft clearly wants to move to the subscription-based software as a service (SaaS) model rather than the traditional product DVD distribution model.  They have sweetened the deal by allowing five installations on the same subscription, which will meet the needs of most households.

They also clearly want to move to a cloud-storage model, and must see it as a long-term profitable business.  If you are uncertain about cloud storage you can simply store things locally, but there is nothing like logging in to one computer, finding Word and Excel with the settings you have pre-configured, working on a document, and then going to another distant computer and finding the document at exactly the place you left off with the programs configured in just the same way.  It is a compelling product offering.

The Skype minutes will also be a motivator for some, though I remain at a loss about what people see in Skype.

In addition to retaining your Office settings and files across multiple platforms, one of the chief advantages is that Office will be upgraded (patched) by Microsoft as a matter of course.  You will no longer have to apply security patches or fiddle with service packs.  This has a lot of appeal to me.  Every time I login I’ll have the latest, most secure version of the product.

When the Office 365 Home product beta was first announced Microsoft included a monthly payment option, but they have backed off of that now.  It is only possible to pay annually, but the price is very good considering what you get.  It is unclear how the new model will relate to discounts and purchasing options through the FCCC for college faculty members, but I expect they will continue as always, but because the price is so competitive, and it includes 5 installations, I expect most faculty will opt for the Office 365 Home subscription rather than the stand-alone DVD install.

Please note that Office 365 is not a replacement for the free web versions of the core Office programs, which will remain available and free.  Anyone who has used them knows, however, that their feature sets are severely limited.  Note also that Office 365 can be used by Mac users (though the preview is not for them), but until the next version of Office is released for Mac the version available will be Office 2011 for Mac, while PC users will get the new Office 2013.