Microsoft Office Lite – Microsoft’s solution for a lower-end MS Office?

People have been begging Microsoft to make a lower-end version of Office, without making it as awful as Microsoft Works.

                                                                                

Maybe soon, Microsoft will offer such a thing.

So what could be expect in Microsoft Office Lite? Well here’s what I think:

  • Ads – Of course, there has to be ads when it’s free. I’m guessing maybe a banner ad at the bottom (text ads are too annoying when creating docs). Worst would be one of those ads where you hover over text, and a ad display pops out. Ugh.
  • Most Office 2003 features, with an Office 07′ look – The simplish functionality of Office 2003 (or older), with a more modern twist. Some sort of Ribbon-eque look and maybe some new themes.
  • Works right in a browser – All you need is a Live ID, and you’re info. can work just anywhere there’s a browser or Lite program. Full support for IE, Firefox, Opera, and Safari.
  • Easy synchronization to Live Mesh – One-click saving to Live Mesh to easily share and collaborate with people.
  • Save in the popular Office formats – No more .wks (spreadsheets), .wdb (database), and .wps (processor). Just plain regular .xlsx, .docx, .pptx., and other OOXML formats for better standards.
  • Free – Most basic thing of course. Completely free. The only "pro" upgrade is Microsoft Office.
  • Integration with other Live services – At least some things. Like the Outlook alternative would probably be Windows Live Mail. Live search box in a corner. Simple solutions like that.
  • Add-ons and extensions – Let them be available.
  • Lightweight – These are rather simple, so why make it complex?

That’s what I basically would hope to see in Office Lite. Any other suggestions?

Live Mesh came out

                                                                 

A bit late, but I’m going to cover Live Mesh. So Live Mesh came out earlier this week. From what I’ve seen, I would state it as a service where users can easily synchronize their devices, and be able to access most content from these devices.

                                                                   

Nice service, though I’m not particularly interested. Probably because I don’t really have a lot of devices worth synchronizing.

Most people have had a positive view on what Microsoft’s offering in Live Mesh. Live Mesh isn’t just a service, it’s a platform. It’ll be opened up for a lot of people to work with, and mobile and Mac support is coming soon. I’m not going to bother with screenshots and everything, but I’ll hand out some good useful links:

Official Live Mesh site : http://mesh.com/

Basic info. about Live Mesh : http://www.liveside.net/blogs/main/archive/2008/04/23/live-mesh-it-s-everything-we-told-you-about-and-a-lot-more.aspx

First look at Live Mesh : http://www.liveside.net/blogs/main/archive/2008/04/23/live-mesh-technology-preview-first-look.aspx

Find or share Live Mesh invites : http://sharemesh.com/

Mary Jo Foley’s list of 10 things she think we oughta know about Live Mesh : http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1355

MSR Video – Sneak preview at Live Mesh, Surface Sphere, Windows Search, and other goodies

A new MSR video got on the web, and it’s pretty fascinating to see some of the the things that the video shows.

I like to point out Live Mesh, Surface Sphere, and Windows Search. First, Live Mesh.

In the video, you can see some screenshots of Live Mesh. At 3:54:

                                                                   

                                           

@3:56:

                                                                           

                                            

                                            

Interesting, huh? Then there’s the whole Surface sphere. @3:08 :

                                                               

@3:56 :

                                                                                 

@3:57 :

                                         

                                       

Then there looks like a new Windows Search (WinFX?). @1:35 :

                                              

                                                

                                           

Really interesting, eh? I hope that some of the screenshots will be a dream come true sometime soon. Here were other things I thought worth noting:

Social Networking:

          

WorldWide Telescope:

                    

Others:

                                           

   NOTE: The times I posted my not be accurate for this embedded player. The one directly on YouTube has an option to turn on better quality and view in full time. So go ahead, and give it a watch yourself.                                                         

I hate CAPTCHA! Bring out reCAPTCHA and ASIRRA

I’ve always had a strong dislike when a site requires you to enter in a CAPTCHA code to verify you’re not a spam bot or something. Why do I not like it?

Mainly because I can’t read it sometimes. It’s so encrypted that you can’t even read it. Then you have to enter in a different CAPTCHA, and then sometimes you have to do it again. It’s an amazing waste of time is what it is. Here’s an example of one of those stupid CAPTCHA’s.

                                                                               

Really, can anyone guess what the code is? I have none. I tried bcqr3 and got it wrong. What a joke. Instead, there’s been some newer technologies that do better than this. Such as reCAPTCHA. reCAPTCHA is developed by Carnegie Mellon University as a way to help digitize books, at the same time keeping bots off the sites. The text is much more readable than conventional CAPTCHA’s, and has proven to be more safe. It also helps with the book digitization system. Here’s a typical reCAPTCHA from Dopplr:

                                               

Can you read it? It says now unbeaten. Makes perfect sense now, doesn’t it? It also lets you choose another reCAPTCHA just in case you couldn’t read this one. There’s also an audio option, along with a help button. It’s a great solution, and I wish the Live team would go for this system instead of the old way.

There’s another way of human verification developed by MSR called ASIRRA. Instead of text, it’s images that you have to identify. Like for example on their site, there’s 12 pictures, some with cats, some with dogs. You’re suppose to hover over all the images, and select them if they’re cats. When you select, they get an outline around them. The site claims that systems like reCAPTCHA among others "have a common weakness: they use relatively small image databases". I don’t know if this really makes ASPIRRA any safer, but it’s just as easy to use. I just wished they would limit the amount of images that comes up (no more than 6 please), and make sure the photos are clear enough to distinguish. Here’s a screenshot:

                                                                                                        

Anything would be better than the usual junky CAPTCHA in the first image.

New Live Search games – Matt Lauer and Picture This

One game is great and easy to get points, while the other isn’t as good and you get very little points.

Matt Lauer is the good one. Even though Matt Lauer, from the Today show, just stands there and doesn’t say a word or anything, the games named after him. (personally, I would just call it Live Maps Trivia) So this games utilizes Live Maps and associates geography trivia questions with it. You can pan around the map to help find the answer, or use Live Search (the maps didn’t help that much).

You can get up to 20 points for each game. There’s usually 4 questions, with 3 multiple choices each. If you get a question wrong, you lose 2,500 points (points in this game aren’t associated with Club points). Get it wrong again, and you lose another 2,500 points. (HINT : you can’t get automatic Live Search help. You lose points if you press the search icon on the answers).

It’s a relatively super fast game, and offers a lot of useful points. Plus users get to try out Live Maps. Here is a screenshot:

                                                                                      

Then there’s Picture This. It’s basically a game to help improve the Live Image Search index. Very similar to Google Image Labeler. They’re both similar in that they’re both designed to help making the image search experience better. Two users selected at random are suppose to work together to pick the best picture results. Pick the same thing, and you and your partner earn some points. However, they both do it in different ways. On Google Image Labeler (GIL), a picture pops up and you and your partner are suppose to come up with labels or tags that best match with it. Get the same label and you guys receive points.

On Picture This, a search term has been entered and you and your partner pick the BEST picture, from a range of results. Just ONE picture that you think really matched the term. If you and your partner pick the same, you both get some points. Both games last 2 minutes long. Personally, I think GIL is better than Picture This. At least I think it will do better to improve the search results on Google than Live. Because on Picture This, many pictures are generally good at matching the search term, and there are a few bad ones you can report. With GIL, you can help add more tags so that if people search them, they’ll find it. That’s my opinion.

Anyways, you don’t really get a lot of points with Picture This, compared to the other Live Search Club games, but you can send them to charity or use it to earn prizes. GIL is basically Google’s way of getting free labor, in exchange for a "game".

Here’s some screenshots:

                                                                              

                                                                                       

Not too bad. I would improve it though by letting us add tags to these pictures, and we if partners get the same tag, there’s more points. And I think the minimum # of points for this game should be 10-15. Not a measly 3.

I just love getting sappy Customer Support e-mails from Microsoft, don’t you?

Just kidding. But I mentioned several times about the stupid spam on Live Spaces, so I thought I should do the right thing and report the naughty spammer.

I did, and I exchanged an e-mail from Microsoft, and this is what I got in return:

"Hello Michael,

Thank you for writing to Windows Live Spaces.

As the owner of the Space, you can allow or prohibit visitors to add comments in your blog using the Settings page. Please note that this setting applies to all visitors.

Here are the steps:
1. On your Space, click the Options tab.
2. Select the Space Settings tab.
3. Scroll down to Comments.
4. Do one of the following:
          – To allow visitors to add comments to your blog, select the "Allow visitors to post comments on blog entries" check box.
          – To disallow visitors to add comments to your blog, clear the "Allow visitors to post comments on blog entries" check box.
5. Click Save.

We would like to assure you that we will be monitoring the person responsible on this incident and we will take appropriate action depending on the result of our investigation.

We appreciate your continued support as we strive to provide you with the highest quality service available. Thank you for using Windows Live Spaces.

Sincerely,

Arlith
Windows Live Spaces Customer Support"

Ok, the letter wasn’t awful, but that’s it? So Live Spaces is suggesting I have NO comments at all? Wrong. I don’t want SPAM on this site. Not comments in general. I love getting comment. NOT SPAM.

He did not that the will be "monitoring the person responsible" but I’m not sure if that’s a promise, if their solution before that was simply disabling everything. I’m guessing Live Spaces just really doesn’t care about spammers. Kinda sad.

Live Search gets a new look – I don’t like it

Seems like Live Search is already getting another new look. I can’t say that I like it.

                                                                                    

Looks far worse than the nice simple one they have now:

                                                                                            

Let me point out why I have a dislike for the new one:

  • Search box isn’t directly in the center – I like my search box right in the center when the page comes up. It feels very organized and balanced there. The new box is slightly angled towards the upper left.
  • Ugly "Flair" comes back – I didn’t really much care for the Flair design, but now it’s coming back in a hideous way. It stands randomly on the right side of the page.
  • Unneeded bars – Notice the blue/green bars on the new page? Absolutely wasteful. We don’t need another link telling us to put them as their homepage, where most users would if they had wanted to. And we really don’t need another mini-Live advertisement telling us to try their services. At least in the older one, it was more subtle.
  • Ugly search box – Yikes. It’s rather ugly to me. I like the new updated search icon, but it belongs outside the box. Not inside where it crams. The search fields on top need a better looking arrangement.
  • Waste of space – Any good artwork doesn’t waste space. You fill as much as you can with the goods. But the odd positioning of the search box, the Flair sticking out, and the choice of color schemes won’t win any design awards for wasting this space with a yucky look.
  • Very top bar misses links – I liked have quick access to web Live Hotmail, and Spaces. I liked how the Live Orb had quick access, but it’s like they got rid of that quickly. Now it’s just plain dumb. How about putting the US flag instead of same old boring United States country link.

I don’t know if Microsoft will every get better designers to think things carefully and make them at least look nicer to work with. I’ve drawn my own concepts, though I doubt MS will ever take a look at them. I really hope that’s not the final version. The link was available at http://search.live.com/ but they reverted back to the original.