Office 2007 upgrade part 3: Something worth a note…

office 2007 logoWhen you think of Microsoft Office the same old applications always come to mind: Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access (maybe Outlook if you use it for your mail client). But what about the other applications packaged in the Office suite? Many have come and gone (Frontpage anyone?) but very few become regular additions. Publisher was probably the first big application to be added to the “core four”. Originally a standalone app, Publisher finally became proper part of the office suite with Office 2000 and has remained there ever since. So what will be the next application to make the jump and become an Office regular?

If I were a betting man then my money would be firmly staked on OneNote. In case you haven’t encountered it before OneNote is a virtual notebook application designed to simulate a filofax notebook for jotting down information and brainstorming. Now while I can’t see it replacing our lovely Edge Hill diaries (aren’t the new ones slick?!) I do think it could become an important part of our note keeping processes. I have been playing with the software for a few weeks now and using it for keeping track of several projects we have in the works (including the office 2007 rollout) and I have found it to be very useful. As with most new software the biggest problem is remembering to use it all of the time. When it is so easy to just scribble on a post it note why do we need software like this at all? Well if your office is anything like mine then I’m sure you are familiar with the post it note graveyard that soon forms. I often lose little bits of paper (sometime with import things on!) so taking a few seconds to type it up and have it permanently saved on my F drive is making all the difference!

OneNote tabs

So let us have a little look at OneNote. Above you can see the tabbed layout of the virtual notebook, each of these tabs represents a single section which can contain multiple pages (think of them as dividers in a folder that split up the pages into sections). These tabs form the basis of organising the notebook, in my notebook I have different tabs for each project I’m working on and then pages of notes stored under each one. This is a very effective way of organising your notes and lets you keep all of the information relevant to a single project or task all in one place. There are also options for having a rough area for random thoughts or quick notes. Maybe you could have a section for meeting minutes or for brainstorming, the options are very open.

While I have yet to test the function out there is also an option for creating shared notebooks. These allow a team of people to all share the notebook on the G drive and collaborate on the notes inside. To me this is a brilliant way of working on large projects or for keeping staff or procedure guidelines. IT Services use a wiki based system for sharing technical documentation and it has been very useful for keeping track of what we are working on and for leaving instructions on how to perform specific tasks. OneNote could allow for a similar system with any team around the Campus with extensive (and searchable) notes allowing a new member of staff to have easy access to a huge library of useful information. Whatever happens I hope that people will try out this fantastic piece of software and have a look at what it can offer for themselves and their teams.

OneNote small

Office 2007 upgrade part 2: The Ribbon Effect

office 2007 logoIn this post I wanted to talk a bit about the most significant change in Office 2007, the newly “ribbon” user interface. As I mentioned in my previous post the ribbon is designed to make Office products more accessible to new users but can take a little getting used to for MS Office veterans. There is however nothing to worry about, all of your favourite functions are in there somewhere and for most people it’s just a case of finding out where the button or menu you want has been moved to. In most cases the location of a specific function is much, much more logical. So take a step back and forget everything you know about Office for a moment (well maybe not everything..)

Excel Ribbon

Here is our nice new ribbon in all of its glory, isn’t it lovely? Kudos to Microsoft for their nice design, as with Windows Vista the interface is looking pretty slick. For this example I’m going to show you the ribbon interface specifically for Excel. Click the picture above to have a proper look.

The first thing I would like to draw your eye to is the “Office Button” in the top left corner. This button represents the old “File” menu from previous versions of Office and is Microsoft’s attempt to create a Start Menu style interface for Office. This button will probably be the most important change for people to get used to as behind it we have a lot of the most vital functions of any Office application. I am of course referring to the “New Document”, “Open”, “Save” and “Print” buttons which will be used by everyone who has the application. Again click the picture for a better look.

Ok so we have found the File menu.. what about everything else? Well I’m not going to show you where every single function has been moved to. Luckily for me Microsoft have created some rather handy tools to help users find a specific function. You can download these tutorials here: Word | Excel | Powerpoint
Each one runs an interactive window that lets you click a button or menu option in Office 2003 and then shows you where this feature has moved to in 2007. Once we start installing Office 2007 on staff computers I’ll make sure these tutorials are available on our network for quick reference.

The Office 2007 interface shouldn’t be that intimidating. Things really haven’t moved around that much so to finish this post I’ve put together pictures showing the same file open in both Excel 2003 and 2007. The last picture shows the interfaces side by side and I’ve highlighted a few random buttons and menus to show how they have been re-arranged. The only significant change in these examples comes from the insert menu. In Excel 2007 this has been split up into common functions (such as insert pictures or word art) and application specific functions (such as insert row or columns). Stay tuned for some more information shortly.

Excel 2003Excel 2007Excel Comparison

Office 2007 upgrade part 1:

office 2007 logo Over the next few weeks IT Services staff will be putting the finishing touches to our Office 2007 installation packages with a view having upgraded the majority of staff and student areas by August. Here is the official IT Services statement:

IT Services Update: Microsoft Office 2007 / Vista Operating System

The Information Strategy Group agreed at the last meeting in March that the University would upgrade to Microsoft Office 2007 during July and August this year.

MS Office 2007 has a significantly different look and feel to MS Office 2003 which is currently in use. Colleagues in Staff Development will be offering awareness sessions in due course for University staff.

There will be a phased roll-out by IT Services, including aninitial MS Office 2007 installation in one of the LINC IT rooms. This will provide an opportunity for colleagues to familiarise themselves with the product early on.

Please note that in line with other Universities, we shall not be deploying Vista this year, but will retain the XP Operating System as the standard University desktop environment. However, a small number of Vista installations will be available for staff engaged software evaluations, research and development, and those involved in supporting use/access from off-campus and non-university devices.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the IT Services Helpdesk on 01695 584424.

I wanted to post something to explain a bit more about the why and the how of this upgrade. As far back as I can remember Microsoft have consistently released new versions of Office every 2-3 years. I’ve used every version released in the last decade since Office 4.0 on Windows 3.1 and I have to admit it has changed quite a lot. So why is it constantly changing? How different does the application has to be to justify a new release and really do we need all these new improvements just so that we can type out a memo?

Office features have come and gone over the different versions (remember the annoying paperclip?) but the core components haven’t changed that significantly. Whatever version of Office you run you’ll be sure to see the familiar shortcuts for Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access. The applications might be called the same thing from one version to the next but there can be some quite drastic differences. Office 2007 introduces the first major rethink of the user interface in a long time, the new “ribbon” system shows a quite drastic redesign of all the menu systems everyone is familiar with, so why did Microsoft change it?

The Word 2003 user interface:
Word 2003

The Word 2007 user interface:
Word ribbon

Well as with most changes that have been made to software packages over the years, the main goal of this redesign was to rationalise all of the additions made over the last few versions and make the whole interface much more logical for new users. While this might mean that users of previous versions might take a while to get used to the interface, most people should find it easier too use and less time consuming to master. These changes are likely to be a part of Microsoft’s long term software strategy and from recent press releases it seems that the ribbon system is not only here to stay for Office but likely to become a core part of all new Microsoft software. With that in mind it makes good sense for everyone to become familiar with the new interface style sooner rather than later.

I’ll be posting some more information shortly and outlining some of the differences between Office 2003 and 2007, along with some of the benefits we can look forward to from the new release.

WSUS – Making Windows updates nice and simple

Back in June last year we started to look at the feasibility of implementing WSUS (Windows Server Update Services) on our network. We had originally hoped to implement the system during the last summer period but unfortunately other work and the approaching FOH moves over took us and the project was put on the side. Luckily summer is nearly here once again and WSUS is back on the agenda.

One of the big advantages of our virtualisation programme is that we are starting to free up spare physical servers that we can then use for new services such as WSUS. Core Services have kindly given me the loan of the old server “Lee” so that I can run up a WSUS test server. The WSUS plans became even more important when Microsoft released Pack 3 for Windows XP earlier this week. The prospect of having several thousand workstations all downloading a 300mb file and having to face nearly an hour long installation didn’t seem particularly appealing. WSUS can make this whole process a lot easier for both IT Services and Edge Hill staff/students. Once setup we will be able to control the update process and (in the first instance) stop Service Pack 3 from automatically installing. Every summer the IT staff spend a lot of time re-ghosting and updating the staff and student computers so that they have the latest software installed and ready for September. This year we will be rolling out Office 2007 so it seemed logical to update to Service Pack 3 at the same time. Once our manual re-ghosting has been completed we can then mop up any other computers by having the WSUS server force down the Service Pack 3 update. So how do we do that??

I wanted to give a little breakdown of how WSUS works. The package is installed on a Windows server (in our case 2003) and downloads the Windows Update catalogue to the server’s hard drive. We then attach computers to the server using registry or group policy settings and from there we get a report of their status. How is that useful you ask.. well from the console we can see which updates our computers have installed and which they are missing. We can then authorize new updates and then distribute them to all of the computers attached to the WSUS server. If you look at this picture you can see some my test clients connected to the server reporting their various update statuses.

wsus clients small

Once we have a number of clients reporting their status we can get more detailed reports so that we can identify which computers have no updated and keep an eye out for any that have had problems installing a certain update. On the image below you can see a simple report which tells us the number of updates successfully install, the number pending and other useful information such as the service pack status and pc name.

wsus report

A somewhat belated start to the new year

My word it’s been a while since I managed to get on here. The pace in Technical Services has certainly been high since our return from the Christmas break. January Flu aside everyone has been rushed off their feet pursuing different projects and trying to hold back the ever rising tide of helpdesk jobs. So with a somewhat belated introduction to the new year let me catch you up a little with what we have been doing….

Well the Faculty of Health continues to be a major part of our work with lots of tidying up still to be done. The new building now has wireless coverage, using more access points than any other single area on campus! The lecture theatres alone account for fire wireless access points. That’s more than we currently have deployed in the whole of the LRC. We also have introduced a trial of a new printing system for staff in the FOH, Using HP multi-function printer/copiers. The printers are very impressive and produce excellent quality print outs. They also have built in security which allows our users to retrieve a print job from any of the 3 printers (one on each floor) rather than have the printer automatically print the job out and risk having confidential documents sitting on a printer in the middle of a corridor. We have had a few teething troubles getting these printers up and running and we are expecting a firmware update from the manufacturer to fix the problems that remain.

On the Sun Ray front progress continues nicely. I’m sat in my office working on one right now as it happens and we are looking to introduce them to other areas of the campus. There are a few dotted around different departments as trials to see how people find them compared to their normal computers. We also have interesting developments in relation to student usage, with a raft of Sun Rays to be installed on the back of the seating areas by the ground floor cafe in the FOH. These will allow students to either have a full desktop session on a server (much the same way as our staff do) or to just load up a web browser and get online. I’ll be interested to hear feedback from the students once they start using these Sun Rays. We have also installed Mozilla Firefox onto our staff terminal servers to provide some more options for web browsing. Using our roaming profiles I was very happy to find my custom add-ons and themes travelling from one server to another

The LINC building has finally had its magicnet information screen installed (making it the 6th of its kind around campus!). We’ll be running powerpoint slideshows on there to provide information to staff and students in the building (and sorry folks no sky sports yet!).

Work has also started investigating Office 2007 with a view to a campus wide rollout this summer. I know that a lot of staff and student home equipment is running the latest version so it’s important for us to ensure that our software has the highest levels of compatibility for people bringing in work from the newest software packages. Hopefully with the promised release of service pack 1 for Windows Vista we will be able to look at it’s suitability as a desktop operating system for our users. I wouldn’t get too excited thou as a large Vista rollout is very unlikely this year.

We also have a lot of exciting things to look forward to with demolition well under way on the site of the new development (I have a lovely panoramic view of the building site from my office as it happens.) I have no idea of any anticipated completion date but I’m certain that our team will once again be heavily involved in both staff and student IT provision within the building.

Right then I’m going to go and prod our Core Services team into writing some updates about all their exciting work on VMware and other projects as I see they have been slacking on the blogging front too! Expect another update a little sooner than two months this time.