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Mac Mojo is Moving

As of January 15th, 2008 Mac Mojo has moved to http://www.officeformac.com/blog/.

We love bringing you the official blog of the Macintosh Business Unit (Mac BU) so you can read and discuss insights from the team here at Microsoft that creates Office for Mac. But with Office for Mac about to make its big debut and a brand new website on the way, we decided to give Mac Mojo a new home in the heart of Mactopia, the hub of all things Mac at Microsoft. So stay tuned for a bigger and better Mac Mojo coming to you on January 15th while we're showcasing Office 2008 at Macworld 2008 in San Francisco.

We'll be live from Macworld 2008 with a brand new look for the Mac BU blog. Your RSS feeds will be redirected starting Tuesday and over the next weeks we'll transfer all of the Mac Mojo content to its new home.

Tune in for all the news fresh from Macworld 2008 and the latest about Microsoft for Mac products, including the new Office 2008 for Mac.
 
The Mac Mojo Team

To Do or Not To Do... That is the Question

That really is the quintessential question and it’s one that people have to answer multiple times each day. The ability to quickly mark items for follow-up, to have easily accessible ToDo lists and to have clear and useful views into deliverables is essential for effective time management and productivity. To this end, I’d like to share some of the significant investments we’ve made with Tasks and ToDos in Entourage 2008. Our work is by no means done – items like Task syncing with Exchange is definitely on our ToDo list but we hope you find the enhancements to Entourage 2008 as valuable as we do and that they go a long way in streamlining your day and making your time management and workflow that much more efficient.

First up is the concept of ToDos. We changed our approach to the flagging of messages and contacts – flagging these items now additionally classifies them as a ToDo. ToDos encapsulate the notion of time and include attributes such as a start date, due date and reminders. We felt that the ToDo concept made sense since a flagged message or contact is something you need to act on, something you need to do. ToDos are useful in a variety of situations. If you have to call a customer next Tuesday, you can easily flag the corresponding contact in your Address Book and set the due date for next Tuesday with a reminder for the day before. If you’re perusing your mail and need to re-read or reply to a message later on, you can flag the message and set the ToDo properties that are relevant for you.

ToDos are accompanied by infrastructure to help you organize, track and manage them effectively. The ToDos and Tasks views are integrated together resulting in a holistic view of your day and action items. I find this at-a-glance view super useful and use it frequently. I’ve also created custom views of Tasks and ToDos – these help me keep track of my work items in a way that’s manageable and compartmentalized.

  

Speaking of Tasks, Task creation is easier than ever before. We consider Tasks a first class citizen alongside Mail and Contacts. The ability to set due dates and reminders is integrated in the Task creation process, making the whole experience fast and seamless.

  

Tasks can be accessed from within the Calendar view as in Entourage’s earlier incarnation. However, the new filter options and the new Task creation bar afford greater flexibility and utility – I’ve often looked at the events on my calendar and remembered something I needed to follow up on. I find that instantaneously creating a Task from the Calendar view saves me valuable time.

 

We also have some cool integration of Tasks and ToDos with various other Mac Office 2008 apps. MyDay displays Tasks and ToDos which are associated with the particular day you’re viewing in MyDay. I can print out my day from MyDay and it lists not only my meetings but also all the deliverables which I need to get done on that particular day. Totally useful for times when I’m on the run. The integration with the Notebook Layout View in Mac Word 2008 is handy for situations when you’re jotting something down and know you’ll need to follow-up. Creating a Task on the fly and associating it with that document ensures that you’ll have a placeholder for tracking that item and also ensures that it won’t slip through the cracks.

Since we’re all about productivity, information management and making your life easier, I’d like to offer a couple of tips to help keep things sane. When you’re finished with a Task, mark it as complete. When you’re finished with a ToDo item, mark it as complete or unflag it. This may seem really minor, but believe me, it adds up. In our research, we’ve found that people don’t cultivate these habits and the end result is large and unwieldy Tasks and ToDo lists. It’s less distracting and much less taxing on the brain to deal with fewer items on your todo lists (you know you agree with me about that!) so try these tips out and see how you go!

As you might have read on recent blog posts, we’ve reached RTM and our launch at Macworld is fast approaching, so it’s only a matter of days before you’ll be able to explore Mac Office 2008 firsthand. And by taking advantage of the new features in Tasks and ToDos, we hope you’ll spend less time wondering whether To Do or not To Do and more time wondering what to do with all that free time :-) .

Sumitra Sujanani

Take Note on Word



Greetings from MacBU and Happy New Year!  As you probably know by now, Office 2008 RTM’ed last month and we’re thrilled to start off 2008 with our product launch at Macworld Expo San Francisco.  Next week, we’ll be awaiting everyone at our Macworld booth with demo stations, theatre presentations, and insider tips-and-tricks on Office 2008.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to provide in-depth postings on how we developed Office 2008.  Thus far, we’ve provided details on new suite-wide innovations and application-specific features in Office 2008.  However, developing new features is only part of our efforts --- we also invest in improving existing features based on customer feedback.  One example is Notebook Layout View, first introduced in Word 2004 and now further enhanced in Word 2008.  In this post, I will begin with a brief history of this feature and take you behind the scenes on how it was designed, developed, and further improved upon over the course of two releases of Word for Mac.

So first, what is Notebook Layout View?  Simply put, Notebook Layout View is a specialized workspace that resembles a spiral paper-based notebook, in which you can take notes, flag items, and record audio.  Below is a screenshot of the latest reincarnation of this feature in Word 2008.

 

For years Word has been used by our customers for a myriad of tasks, including note-taking.  Whether it is jotting down the occasional idea, keeping lecture notes, documenting meeting minutes, tracking action items, or simply keeping lists --- these all represent different variations of note-taking.   While many of our customers have used Word for note-taking, given the product’s origins as a word processor, the overall note-taking experience was not as optimal.  Basically, the traditional word processor metaphor did not lend well to the basic goals of note-taking: transcribe, organize, and follow-up.

In addition, some customers who hadn’t yet taken advantage of the convenience of electronic note-taking lamented over having scattered post-it notes or paper scribbles that were difficult to maintain, if not lost altogether.  Based on these findings, it became clear that we could offer improvements to Word 2004 to better serve these user needs --- hence what we referred to internally as “WordNotes” was born.
 

+ click to enlarge

When drawing up the initial prototypes, one of the most important design goals was that WordNotes resembled the most widely-used note-taking medium --- the paper-based notebook.   (Shown above is an early prototype of WordNotes in Word 2008).  Given the popularity of paper-based notebooks, adopting this metaphor ensured the feature was intuitive by virtue of being self-explanatory.  Any user familiar with the paper-based notebook should feel right at home with WordNotes. This meant WordNotes was to offer the following basic elements: Notebook Header, Rule Lines, and Notebook Tabs.

Sounds simple?  Well, not quite.  What sounded like a simple design goal presented a myriad of design challenges in light of the established user interfaces in age-old word processing applications like Word.   To make things more interesting, how do we add new functionality while remaining compatible with existing versions of Word?

After several weeks of evaluating the desired functionality in light of the underpinnings of Word, it turns out over the years we’ve already added most of the functionality needed to deliver WordNotes.  Prior to my role as the Word Program Manager Lead, I was the International Program Manager.  This past experience offered me insight into how a relatively unknown Word feature designed for our Japanese customers would come to form the structural basis of WordNotes: Document Grid (aka., Genko Yoshi).

The Japanese version of Word had long offered users to set the number of lines on a given page and their relative line spacing in between.  These lines weren’t just for cosmetic purposes, as their purpose was to ensure text laid out along the lines.  By leveraging this work, we were able to implement Notebook Rule Lines and ensure typed text stayed in sync with the lines. 

What about the Notebook Header and Notebook Tabs?  Again, we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.   Word’s traditional “Headers and Footers” functionality formed the basis of WordNotes’ Notebook Header, but with important usability enhancements.  One of such enhancements was that WordNote users could freely enter and exit the Notebook Header with a single click, without realizing that under the hood they actually entered Word’s regular “Header and Footer” mode (which was a “semi-modal” state for those familiar with the concept of modality). For Notebook tabs, we mapped them to Word “Sections” and further allowed them to be re-ordered as users re-ordered their corresponding Notebook tabs.  Given that WordNotes functionality was carefully built on top of existing Word document properties, WordNotes was therefore compatible with existing versions of Word.

Thus far, these all represented the overall UI framework of WordNotes.  What about that actual method of transcribing text in WordNotes?  For this, we turned to User Research for guidance.   Based on studies done on note-taking patterns of both professionals and students, we saw a high correlation between note-taking and outlining.  In particular, note-taking is typically done in the following four styles:
 

These studies demonstrated that the first two styles accounted for nearly all types of note-taking.  By preserving the hierarchical structure of an outline or list at the time of note-taking, end results were more organized and actionable, as opposed to simply being “a mess of notes”.  Based on these studies, we adopted an outlining method that best covers the first two note-taking styles. 

Again, to ensure WordNotes was compatible with all other versions of Word, we built the outlining functionality on existing Word properties, namely "Word Styles".  For those familiar with the inner-workings of Word, Styles are the backbone of the application.  Styles are present in every document and down to every typed character.  We created 9 new WordNotes-specific Styles --- each with unique paragraph, bullets, and level properties --- all of which could be viewed and edited in other Word Views.  

As noted earlier, one of main goals of note-taking is follow-up.   To this end, we provided a series of note flags and checkboxes that users can append to a given task or line item.  Items can be marked with High/Low Priority flags or checkboxes that can be checked off following their completion.  (Shown below)  Users can similarly mark an item as an Entourage Task by setting up a reminder that will appear on a user-specified date and time.



To further the goal of notes being actionable, we added advanced Search capabilities to WordNotes.  When typing in a keyword into the Search field on the Standard Toolbar, not only will the notebook tab of the corresponding section “light-up”, but the actual keyword in document will also be selected.  This is particularly useful when searching across lots of notes, whether it's a semester’s worth of lecture notes or long drawn out meeting minutes (not that I know of any such meetings...) 

Additionally, to help users more effectively capture notes in situations where one’s typing can’t keep up with the pace of say, a lecture or meeting, we’ve provided real-time Audio Recording.
 

Given that the audio is time-stamped at the time of text-entry, users can chose to listen to only a specific segment of the entire audio recording.  Students have found this to be a very useful feature --- some even export the audio recording onto their iPods to listen to.  A very creative way to use the product --- and in turn get good grades.J  (If only I had this feature when I was in school, it would have all turned out differently).

So that’s the development history of WordNotes, which was subsequently renamed “Notebook Layout View” prior to its official debut in Word 2004.

So, what did we improve in Word 2008?  Since the feature’s debut in Word 2004, we’ve received many feature requests, many of which we’ve been able to deliver in the new version.  Below are a few examples.  As noted earlier the ability to quickly organize notes is an important goal of note-taking.  Spiral paper-based notebooks often offer color tabs for organization.  In Word 2008, we’ve similarly added the ability to set the color of a notebook tab, which can be changed to another color later on.  Additionally, when consolidating notes between two Notebook Layout View documents, you can simply drag a notebook tab from one document to another document.  By adopting many of the newer API's made available in the OS, we've also improved the overall performance of the feature.

Furthermore, spiral paper-based notebooks often come in a wide variety of appearances that customers can choose from.  In Word 2008, we similarly provided 5 specially crafted Notebook Appearances, each with unique notebook paper and tab designs.


+ click here to enlarge

In keeping with Mac tradition, we’ve paid special attention to the visual fidelity of each Notebook Layout View UI element --- whether it’s the new photo-illustrative Notebook Layout View icon, soft drop-shadows from notebook pages, translucent notebook tabs, or the metal sheen on notebook rings --- all were crafted and refined to deliver a polished yet elegant Mac-like experience.  Each notebook appearance can further be complemented with one of the special pasteboard backgrounds described in my earlier posts. Since notes are often no more than a single-page shopping list --- we’ve also covered this scenario with ring-less paper designs.  

So there you have it --- Notebook Layout View, reinvented.  Looking back, this feature has come a long way since the first moment that sparked the idea of “WordNotes”.  This goes as far back to Macworld Expo San Francisco of 2003.  Sitting amongst the crowds during the Keynote, I gazed upon the newly unveiled products, including the sleek aluminum alloy12” and 17” PowerBooks.  On stage, Steve Jobs heralded 2003 as the “Year of the Notebook”, where notebook computers represented the “next wave” that would eventually surpass desktop models in popularity.  What came to mind (other than “I want one!”) was “what could we do to make Word a better companion to these amazing notebook computers?”  Well, perhaps something that captured the essence of a “notebook” --- an information hub for our increasingly digital lifestyles.  After all, what good is a notebook if it doesn’t take good notes?

Fast-forward a couple years and my Notebook Layout View-equipped MacBook Pro has become indispensible.  I’ve since retired my old paper-based notebooks, my office is no longer scattered with post-it notes, and I’ve hopefully saved a few more trees.  As we’re riding this exciting wave of mobile computing, I hope you’ll also find Notebook Layout View to be your personal and dependable companion along the way.

Han-yi Shaw

Posted by Han-yi Shaw | 26 Comments

Ship It, Ship It Good

Hello everyone,  I thought this would be good time to jump in and introduce myself.  I’m the Director of Marketing and Planning for MacBU – a longtime ‘softie and closing in on my first anniversary in the Macintosh Business Unit. Like most of us in MacBU, I’m a long time Mac user – and this will date me – I set up and staffed the original Mac lab in college, finally saving enough to buy a “Fat Mac” of my own.  As they say, the rest is history.
 
Speaking of history, we announced earlier this week RTM of the English version of Office 2008, with additional languages following right on schedule.  What does that mean for my team?  Well, we helped the dev teams celebrate (yes, that was me cranking the air raid siren Geoff was hearing.)  Beyond that, there’s a lot more cranking to do before we launch January 15th – advertising, PR, launch events, and of course, getting ready for Macworld!
 
Ah, Macworld. It’s going to be a great show and we’re planning a big presence.  First, A Day at the Office – a day-long conference at the Moscone on Monday, January 14th, dedicated to extensive user training on the new Office 2008 for Mac. Tickets are close to sold out, but if you’re quick you might still be able to grab one. We also have conference sessions  and hands-on labs where attendees can get great training on the new Office 2008 for Mac.

You won’t miss our big booth on the show floor where we’ll have demo stations set up for you to test drive the new product and theatre presentations every half hour highlighting the most popular new features. Even better, most of MacBU and some of our most knowledgeable MVPs will be on hand to answer your questions. We’ll be hanging out again with the community in our new and improved Blogger Lounge (wireless access this year!)  Best of all, the product will be available at retail (and online) starting January 15th in North America (including at that swanky Apple Store close to the Moscone.)
 
And since this is a year to celebrate - we’re the exclusive sponsors of the Macworld Blast at the Warfield Theatre this year, where we’ll have our blow-out launch party Tuesday, January 15th.

This will be a fun night. Long before Office 2008 was on the drawing board, before Mark Mothersbaugh contributed to Art of Office and way before Craig published his “Ship It” lyrics. I was a big fan of our surprise musical guests for the evening…DEVO! (Well, not such a surprise anymore. Sherjo couldn’t keep it from Shawn King on Your Mac Life during an interview with Paul Kent from IDG Wednesday night.)

Now we’re all excited, but I’m not your casual spudboy; there’s ample evidence of my devotion even back in college, as one look at my senior yearbook photo will prove. If you don’t know the band or have never seen DEVO live, do yourself a favor and get one of the few tickets left. The first 300 attendees will get a special gift bag with some limited edition goodies cooked up by Mark Mothersbaugh and my team, so get there early!

This will be a party to remember – and I hope to see  you there!  Look for the guy wearing the energy dome...

Pat O

Pat O Energy Dome

Office 2008 Hits RTM

Here’s the latest official word – Office 2008 for Mac has Released to Manufacturing (RTM)!

We’re very pleased to announce that the product team has signed off, and our final build has left the building and is en route to manufacturing sites abroad. Needless to say there’s some joy in MacBUville, with festivities as I post. While we love building Mac software, actually getting that software into the hands of the people we’ve been building it for is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. For my teams, the RTM milestone is the last step in the process.

It’s quite a thing to think back on everything that has gone into arranging the bits on this one polycarbonate disc. One way to think about the approximate total man hours is that if a single multi-talented person had done all this work they might have started around the time that King John signed the Magna Carta.
 
I know it’s been said before, but I’d like to extend my thanks to the team. Office 2008 is MacBU’s most significant release to date. I’m excited about both the new user experience and capabilities we’re delivering now, as well as the work we’ve done at all levels to make this release a great foundation for future releases to come.
 
Though our work is finished, our operations, localization and marketing teams remain busy getting Office 2008 on shelves for our product launch on January 15th at Macworld 2008. A large portion of the MacBU team will be on hand at Macworld, and I know people are excited to show their work and talk to real users about the release. We hope to see you there on the show floor, in presentations, and at various events around town – watch Mac Mojo for more details about what we’ll be up to at Macworld!
 
I'm hearing the ship siren getting cranked again – off to check on the latest margarita batch.

Posted by Geoff Price | 84 Comments

It's About Data

In my Calendar post, I touched on some of the work we’ve done in our Entourage 2008 reliability focus. I’d like to continue that discussion today with some details about our efforts in another critical area, the Entourage Database.  Apart from a few exceptions (e.g. Rules definitions, signatures), essentially all Entourage user data is stored in the database. Reliability and trustworthiness here are our top priority. In Entourage 2008, we dedicated a large amount of time to identifying database areas with potential for new approaches and improvements. We found new ways to better detect database inconsistencies. We’ve also implemented tighter controls on data type enforcement and are smarter about reclaiming storage from deleted items. The end result is more confidence in the integrity of your data.

For those instances when inconsistencies are detected, the Entourage 2008 database recovery tool will be a more effective solution. In past versions, recovering your database was intrusive and required additional work to get things back into shape. Metadata like Categories, Project designations, and Links were lost. Mail filtering rules were also often victims when the clearing of IMAP and Exchange caches would break links between Rules and their related folders. In Entourage 2008, these are all preserved. Categories, Projects, Links, and Rules are no longer vulnerable to the process. The recovery is now more precisely focused on correcting only problem areas.

Compatibility with Apple’s Time Machine backup feature in Leopard is a database area that has received a lot of attention recently. Because Entourage uses a single file database, over time it can become large (sometimes really large). In those cases, Entourage data will not work optimally with Time Machine. Our recommendation is to exclude your Entourage Identity folder(s) in the Time Machine preferences and use alternative backup methods. We are committed to integrating with key Apple technologies and are weighing our options here for future releases.

When the topic of Entourage and databases comes up, it’s often about compatibility with Outlook personal store files (.pst).  Entourage 2008 will continue to work with the PST Import Tool for Mac. It’s important to note that this tool is used to import Mac Outlook 2001 .pst files into Entourage. Directly importing Windows Outlook .pst files is not supported in Entourage 2008. We have heard from many of you that a Windows Outlook .pst solution is important. This feedback is factoring into the database development planning for future versions of Entourage. For now, there is an AppleScript based solution that I think is worth a look.

Another important consideration here is how we interact with Exchange’s database, “the store.” We’ve made some welcome improvements to our WebDav synchronization performance with Exchange in Entourage 2008.  Through code reviews, customer feedback, and working closely with the Exchange team we’ve been able to find optimizations that will make the Exchange experience better. We solved efficiency bottlenecks and implemented smarter priority and thread utilization, especially with deep folder trees. You'll also have more control over the order folders sync with smarter prioritization of selected folders. This will result in faster Exchange folder updates and Entourage responsiveness will sharpen.

To conclude, I’d like to reiterate a point from my first post, that we understand that our Exchange customers want “an Exchange client on the Mac with features, performance, documentation, and reliability on par with Outlook.” This is a goal that will be achieved in stages, through Entourage 2008, its updates, and beyond. In Entourage 2008, the Exchange focus has been weighted towards reliability, better meeting management, performance, and documentation. While we’ve added important new enterprise features like OOF, Managed Folders, and Compliance Labels, and delivered features that will help you focus you on what you need to get done, we’ve concentrated on making things right in some rough spots. We know that there’s more important work to do, notably in the area of Task and Note sync with Exchange.

I look forward to upcoming posts from our team that will reveal our security feature work and some cool things we’ve done around To Do Flags. Entourage 2008 is a big step forward and we’re all anxious for you to see it.

Richard Kmieciak

Posted by rkmiec | 44 Comments
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PowerPoint to Go

PowerPoint is a communications platform at its core. We communicate ideas powerfully using PowerPoint in the board room, on the desktop, in the classroom, in the elevator, and on the go.

Wait. Did he say "In the elevator?" Sure, let me just pull out my Mac Book real quick and fire up PowerPoint for you here on the elevator. Oh wait, this is your floor? Elevator pitch is over? But I hadn't gotten to my killer slide yet to close the deal!

Back up. Let's try that elevator pitch again, this time using my iPhone. Now we're talking! Not only do you see that I'm a person of refined taste for using my iPhone, but I just showed you my killer deal-closing slide with just a few flicks of my finger. Bang, bang! You're sold, and we haven't even hit your floor yet. How about sashimi later? Great doing business with you, iPod!

Getting presentations from PowerPoint 2008 for Mac to your iPod or iPhone* is easy. PowerPoint exports your presentation as a series of pictures directly to iPhoto**, or saves those same slide images as pictures to your Pictures folder. From there, sync pictures to your iPod or iPhone through iTunes as usual, then use the built-in Photos or slide show program on your iPod or iPhone to show your presentation. No sweat!

Presentations look great on the big wide screens of iPhone and iPod Touch, but they look even better on a big screen TV or projected. Plug your iPod into a television or projector using the Apple Component AV or Composite AV cable and leave your laptop in the case.

Once your presentation is saved as pictures on your iPod or iPhone, there's really no limit to where you can communicate. At the karaoke bar, on a train, on the beach, or in a ski lodge. These are just a few ideas. Where do you want to go today?

* Works with any iPhone or iPod model that supports pictures, like the iPod Touch, iPod Classic or current generation iPod Nano.
** Requires iPhoto ‘06 or later.

Office 2008 for Mac: BFD!

BFD! Big Friday Deals. Best Friday Destinations. The mall, online - wherever I can find them, I love a bargain. And there is no better bargain-hunting day than Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. En masse, we will drag our L-tryptophan dosed selves off of our couches and into the crowds in search of the ultimate deal. This year, in the giddy frenzy that is the road to Macworld and the worldwide launch of Office 2008 for Mac, we wanted to do something BIG. Bigger than big. The BFD-biggest deal out there.

So, for ONE DAY – if you purchase this coming Friday November 23rd – you can get an additional $100 mail-in rebate from us on any qualifying Office 2004 for Mac product (Standard Edition, Standard Edition Upgrade, EVEN Student & Teacher Edition!) AND, you can combine it with our Super Suite Deal, which means you can get Office 2008 Special Media Edition (about $500 street price) for under sixty bucks, if you include the $6.99 shipping and handling fee for Office 2008 (which we’ll send to you after it launches in January.)

Whoa. That is our BFD – Best. Friday. Deal. EVER. Never seen before. Unlikely to be repeated. Hope you like it. Get the full details and download the rebate coupon here.

Posted by sherjo | 154 Comments

A Chat about Messenger

 

Hi, my name is Anav and I work on the Messenger for Mac product in Mac BU. I follow the blog and newsgroup comments out there and I know there are questions on the status of Messenger for Mac, and more specifically the status of Audio/Video (AV) support. It’s been a while since we’ve given you an update on Messenger, so here it goes…

 

First, let me start by saying, Messenger for Mac is alive and well and we plan to continue investing in the application. In August we released Messenger for Mac 6.0.3, which introduced support for Danish, Finnish, and Norwegian languages. Messenger for Mac 6.0.3 is also the version that will ship with Office 2008. A couple of weeks ago we kicked off a closed beta program of Messenger for Mac 7.0 for corporate customers*, and made great progress in the implementation of AV in Messenger for Mac.

 

You might recall the Mac Mojo blog post on this topic a while back ("Messenger: haves and hA/Ve nots"), we shared with you some details on the technical challenges involved in delivering AV in Messenger for Mac. Just to recap, Messenger for Mac supports both the Corporate service (Office Communications Server) and Personal service (Windows Live Service). Messenger for Mac is adopting the AV stack (protocol) that is being used by Office Communications Server (OCS). Windows Live Messenger is also currently adopting that same AV stack. This is great for Messenger for Mac since it enables us to adopt one single AV stack to be used in both services, Personal and Corporate.

 

OK, that’s the short recap of what we shared with you previously (I recommend reading the blog post for the long version), now on to a status of where we are. We have hit the first major milestone toward AV for all by successfully implementing AV for the Corporate service in the Messenger for Mac 7.0 beta. This is a closed beta program offered to organizations deploying OCS 2007 and is aligned with the Unified Communications products launch that took place October 2007. In our previous blog post we mentioned that you will see the AV solution on Corporate service before Personal, and so we are on track with that plan.

 

The AV solution for the Corporate service is really cool. I’m dogfooding the feature at work and I’m using a video conversation with co-workers using Office Communicator on Windows. Even better, I’m chatting with MacBU co-workers like Akiko (who works in Japan), Eric (who works in Ireland) and Rebecca (who works in Atlanta) -- and finally I see what they look like! ☺. Sorry to be teasing you here, but trust me when I tell you, we can’t wait to deliver AV in both Corporate and Personal Messenger that you can all use as well.

 

That leads to the next question – "what about AV for the Personal service?"  Since we’ve successfully implemented AV for Corporate service, and the AV stack we are using is being adopted right now by Windows Live Messenger, that means we are that much closer to having an AV solution on Personal service. However, we’re not there yet. To ensure compatibility between Windows Live Messenger and Messenger for Mac, we have to wait until Windows Live Messenger completes their transition to the new AV stack before we can deliver this on our end. This leads us to the topic of why it is we have all these dependencies…

 

One of the most important goals for product development in Mac BU is making sure that the products we deliver work cross platform. Since Messenger is a real-time communication solution, enabling users to communicate cross-platform is very important. To accomplish this, the protocols used by the Mac and Windows programs have to be the same. Hence, the dependencies… The good news is that Windows Live Messenger has made great progress on the integration of the new AV stack in to their system. Unfortunately, we can’t give you a specific time frame in which you will see a Messenger for Mac release with AV for the Personal service. However, we can say that it is definitely in progress.

 

So you may be wondering what the Messenger for Mac team is up to in the mean time… well, aside from vacationing on a deserted island (just kidding)… The serious answer is that we are working very hard to complete the AV work for the Corporate service for the next version, as well as helping out the Office for Mac team to deliver Office 2008.

 

For those of you who are patiently waiting, I just want to say thank you for your patience and bear with us a little longer as the work is in progress and hopefully it will be worth the wait. It will be pretty priceless to see family, friends, and co-workers sending you a real smile through a video conversation in addition to the smiley emoticon through IM…

 

* Messenger for Mac Corporate beta program is a closed beta and offered to selected enterprise organizations. For more information about this beta program please contact your Microsoft Account Manager.

Posted by Anav | 91 Comments
Filed under:

Longest remote home folder test … 600 miles…

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post, but I’ve been quite busy fixing bugs which are either old, new, borrowed and quite far away.  In fact some are so far away it takes driving all the way to Burbank, CA to verify the fix.

I’ve spent a good number of weeks working on fixing a variety of Remote Home Folder bugs.  If you are not sure what I am talking about you can read about it here:  Apple Server Desktop Management.  The basic idea is that all user directories live on a remote server.  This allows anyone to log into any Apple Macintosh connected to the business or university network and have access to their home directory.  The idea has been around since UNIX was developed.   Unfortunately, when the age and design of your application pre-dates UNIX … okay, not really, but when the application wasn’t designed for this functionality you are guaranteed to run into a few problems along the way.

So why send me?  Because I worked on the fix, silly, why else would you send such a shy and demure sort of guy who really doesn’t like people.  (If you believe that I’ve got this bridge in Brooklyn that I just put on the market.)  Seriously though, sending me all the way to Burbank to test a fix, and make me drive there to boot?  What’s up with that? 

The reason I went was because one of the known issues for enterprise and schools was the performance impact of running the Office applications when a user had a Remote Home Folder (RHF).  Having spent my time working on emulators, video games and lots of other stuff that I can’t talk about, performance is my middle name.  I was tasked, as well as a few other people with focusing on Remote Home Folder issues for this next version and getting things put right. 

Reproducing the RHF bugs in our lab proved quite the challenge.  The configurations we were trying to test with either differed in network bandwidth, network hardware, Mac OS software versions or even computer hardware versions.  On top of that, some customers had a few users or 10,000 users. Trying to narrow down the configuration so we could reproduce the problem involved a great deal of creativity on our part.  So when we have a customer close enough to our team that can try out our fixes it’s a great benefit to us and them!

So, back to the bug.  Everyone out there that remembers Get1Resource and PBGetCatInfo, go get yourself a cookie … on me.  Everyone who doesn’t know what those are, well I am about to explain why these two functions caused us a great deal of pain.   Older applications for the Mac OS, think pre-OS X, used resource forks and resource files.  These resource forks/files contained icons, data, code, window layouts, strings, etc.  The way you could scan these files is by using the combination of these two old Apple APIs.

When Office launches, we scan all of the office applications, reading resource forks and collecting information to shove in the User Preferences for the suite, essentially building up caches.  When you install Mac Office 2004, there are over 3000 files.  On your local hard drive, this scan can take anywhere from 25 seconds to over a minute (depending completely on hardware).  See where I’m going with this?  Remember what I said about RHF and application design.  Networks are not as fast as hard drives, no matter what anyone tells you, reading/scanning 3000+ files over the network is a bit of a slow thing to do.   Some customers were reporting it would take up to 10 minutes to launch our application using RHF.

Now in Mac Office 2008, we have done a great deal of modernization across the board.  No longer are we using resource forks and files.  We have created application bundles, library frameworks and are completely Mach-O.  Unfortunately with doing this, the number of files is now upwards of 20,000.  That might seem like a lot, but considering that Safari and iTunes install about 4700 & 5800 files respectively, 20,000 files is not too bad for something as large as Office.  (If you are interested in checking, try the following:  Open Terminal; type cd /Applications; type find ./iTunes.app –name “*” | wc –l) 

The reason behind this is that resource forks and files are now broken up into a single file per resource.  Needless to say, if launching Office 2004 with RHF was slow it got much worse in Office 2008.  If you were reading carefully, you would have noticed I said, “When Office launches.”  Yeah, we discovered every time Office is launched it scans all the files, to verify the integrity of the caches it has build.  That problem on top of the fact that we now had 20,000 files caused our performance to drop even further.  This is where the team I work with started attacking the problem.  It took a lot of digging, using Shark, our own internal debugging tools and really trying to understand what was going on, since the people who worked on this code I think left the company when ADA was created.   After a great deal of work, many hours spent with stop watches and testers configuring lab machines, we were able to get the launch times down to 20 seconds or so depending on your machine, no matter if you are using RHF or not.  Of course that was in our lab, which is why we needed to make a trip to a customer to test out all our hard work.

But why take a road trip?  Burbank is a quick flight from our offices.  Simply put, pregnant women don’t fly.  My wife and I were expecting our first child and she had to be in San Diego for the week.  Being the diligent husband, and actually really wanting to check out the San Diego office (which by the way doesn’t suck), I decided to drive down with her and along the way; I could stop by our valuable customer and verify our fix.  This leads me back to why I drove all the way down to Burbank.

Watching the fix work in front of customers is a great feeling.  I could say more about the visit, but there’s that implant in the back of my neck that hurts when I talk/type too much about things I’m not allowed to … ouch!   They were quite happy with the results, and even happier that I was able to get another serious remote home folder bug fixed after I saw a problem they were having because we hadn’t seen it in our lab.  That’s the great benefit of testing in a real world environment.

It was quite satisfying for me and the team:  Stephen Shaw, Steven Splinter and Kirk Engelmeier to get this fixed for our customers.

Posted by ExCntx | 19 Comments

RDC for Mac v2 Beta2 is Here!

From Mac Mojo Guest Blogger David Liu of the MacBU RDC team

 

Greetings from the MacBU RDC team! My name is David Liu and I am the program manager for Mac RDC 2.0. I am very excited to announce the availability of the public beta2 version of Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) Client for Mac 2.0. You can download it today from Mactopia.

 

Thanks to the valuable feedback many of you submitted during RDC beta1 testing at the RDC MS Connect site and here at Mac Mojo, we were able to address some important issues in this beta2 release. For instance, the support for multiple sessions is now much improved. Many beta1 users told us they liked the ability to launch more than one RDC sessions, but wanted more convenient access to this feature. You have it now. In beta2 under File menu, File->New command allows you to start a new Remote Desktop connection directly from the RDC application; File->Open and File->Open Recent commands allow you to open a saved connection file and start a new connection without digging through your folders in Finder. You can still open a connection file without triggering a new session by using File->Edit… command. In the new design, you will never need to leave RDC to launch a new connection session. A less apparent, but nevertheless important benefit is that RDC 2.0 now manages multiple connection settings in connection files as atomic units. When you select a computer name from the dropdown list on RDC 2.0 Connect window, RDC automatically switches the preference settings that matches the computer name, as defined by the corresponding connection file. There are no more global settings that apply to all Windows computers on that list. Because it is now more important to preserve the settings for a particular connection in a connection file, RDC 2.0 will prompt you to save any changes on exit. Of course, on the other hand you may wish to provide a set of defaults that apply to all new connections you create. RDC 2.0 allows you to directly edit Default.rdp file to do that. You can find Default.rdp and other saved connection files in your Documents/RDC Connections folder. I think the tighter association of computer names and their specific settings provide a more natural mental model of use.

 

There is another major new feature in this release that I am also very excited about: Vista Network Level Authentication support. Network Level Authentication (NLA) is a new authentication method available in Windows Vista that completes user authentication before you establish a full Remote Desktop connection and the logon screen appears. NLA provides more secure authentication but required massive code changes in the Mac RDC 2.0 client to support it. As Windows Vista gains a larger install base, and users and sysadmins are becoming more concerned with safeguarding their computers and data, more and more Vista machines will turn on the NLA requirement and refuse connections from legacy clients. We added NLA support in RDC 2.0 so that your Macs can still connect to your PCs in the years to come. I would like to encourage you to try it out leave us your feedback at the RDC MS Connect site.

 

There are more improvements in this beta2 release. Read the Read Me file that comes with the RDC bundle to find out more. You can also find up-to-date information about beta2 at the RDC MS Connect site. As usual, we want to hear from you. Send us your feedback here. My team and myself will be reading!

 

We hope that you enjoy RDC beta2!

David

 

There's a new cat in town

+ Click here to enlarge

Apple’s newest version of Mac OS X, called Leopard, was released into the wild at 6pm local time on October 26th. I’ve seen a number of people asking about how compatible Mac Office is with Leopard, and I thought I’d chime in to say a few words about it. One of my roles as development lead is to coordinate with several other MacBU developers, testers, and program managers to work with Apple and their seeding program. We get the chance to test early releases of Mac OS X, the Xcode toolset, and other software updates in order to both report issues back to Apple and to identify areas of our own code that we need to change.

The news is that Mac Office is very compatible with Leopard! Mac Office 2004 works just as it always has. Over the course of Leopard testing, we ran thousands of scenarios in our lab to verify that Office 2004 ran with no adverse behavior on Leopard. Its performance running inside the Rosetta compatibility layer is quite good. As is normal with any major software release, we found issues here and there and accordingly reported them to Apple, and Apple’s engineering staff did a fantastic job in fixing up regressions. We found a few issues in our own code as well, and plan to update Mac Office 2004 shortly.

With regard to Office 2008, we’re also in great shape. We’ve made some tremendous architectural changes to the product to take advantage of newer technologies in Mac OS X that have come out since Office 2004 was released to run on Mac OS X 10.2. Because of those changes, we’ve given seeds of Mac Office 2008 to Apple so that they can run their own tests against it. Since these early builds of Mac Office and Leopard contain pre-release code and may contain features that have not been made totally public yet, both we and Apple are very careful to keep access to these seeds confined to a small group of people.  This mutual seeding arrangement provides a way for the developers at both of our companies to ensure the best user experience for our mutual customers. We’ve been able to use this seeding time to make sure that Mac Office 2008 looks great on Leopard (picking up the new Leopard UI theme), works with new Apple technologies like Time Machine, Spaces, WebKit 3, AppleScript (ok, AppleScript isn’t new itself, but Apple made some big changes under the hood), and cooperates with lots of other smaller changes in various parts of the OS.

In order to make the most of this arrangement, I have the privilege and responsibility of attending periodic meetings with my MacBU peers and Apple contacts (Oh yes, with every increase in responsibility comes an increase in meetings. I’ve got a great Dilbert cartoon on my door about it…). During these meetings, we kibitz about the latest news ("Hey Matt, when can I get a seed of the iPhone SDK?") and run down a list of our current hot topics. These can range from a status request on list of bugs that are important to us or to Apple, a request for information on some new feature or API, or perhaps a discussion of why a particular bug fix request is so important to either of our respective companies.

It’s generally a very friendly, casual meeting, and the benefits of such close communication are tremendous for both of our companies. I’ve discussed this a while ago on my personal blog, and it still holds true today.

One anecdote from a few months ago demonstrates this really well. Apple has made some large changes to the configuration for the Networking pane in the System Preferences application. One particular seed that we received from them had some bugs in the network proxies support, such that once Leopard was installed, we couldn’t actually connect to any other server on our corporate network. This meant that I couldn’t access source code or test files, make check-ins, or in general connec to to anything else to fix bugs on my Leopard machine. Of course, I was able to continue Office 2008 work on my Tiger machine, but the problem meant that Leopard investigations were halted unless we rolled back to an earlier seed. I filed a bug report with Apple’s online reporting system and sent a quick email off to our contacts at Apple. Shortly after that Apple asked me a few questions about our network proxy configuration here at Microsoft and, based on my answers said they thought we were being affected by a known bug with that seed. Within a few days I got back an unofficial one-off build of an updated Network preference pane to test. I copied it into place on my Leopard install and sure enough, the problem had been resolved; I could access our source code, and was off and running again.

I’ve also been keeping up with the seeds of Xcode 3. Apple has made some significant improvements to Xcode in this release (I’m personally most happy about the performance improvements when viewing and stepping through code in a very large file, and the popup inspector bubbles that show current variable values are very cool.) When I led our transition from CodeWarrior to Xcode back in late 2005, I noted just how picky the tools were. I’m pleased to note that the gcc toolset is even pickier now, and has helped us find and fix a few bugs that Xcode 2.4 missed.

As others have noted here on Mac Mojo, Mac Office 2008 is rolling along quickly toward its own release to the public. I’m happy to have the opportunity to show you a little bit of our relationship with Apple, how we handled Office 2008 development on the latest big cat from Apple, and to confirm that Office 2004 itself works just fine with Leopard too.

Posted by Schwieb | 69 Comments
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Welcome to London!

Another city, another expo! I’ve been travelling on and off since Apple Expo in Paris giving some Office 2008 training to Apple Store staff and key partners and resellers! It feels good to finally be able to show our new offering (well, part of it at least!). So far, the reception has been great and I can’t wait to start getting your reaction once you can get your hands on it!

This time, it’s London for Mac Live Expo! It feels a bit quiet without Apple but there is still a steady flow of people coming to see us! It is the first time we are flying the Office 2008 colours in public! The stand looks great and we are starting to feel the release getting closer! We’ve had a lot of people so far with good questions, good suggestions and yes, we are on track to launch in January!

Crona, Donna, Stephen, Ursula and I all took time off our busy schedule to travel from MacBU Ireland and meet with the customers and give you a small taste of Office 2008! We do regular demos and Microsoft Expression media is also featured at the stand. We’ve even been nominated for a Macworld "Best of Show" award! I have put 2 pictures of the stand here, I'll post more tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the last day so if you are around come say “Hello!” to Office 2008 and talk to us!

And, by the way, welcome to Leopard!!!

UPDATE: As promised... More pictures of the stand have been posted! 

Posted by eric.paquin | 18 Comments
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Object Palette

There is a new tool in town… the Object Palette.  This new tool lives in the Toolbox and allows you to quickly find and insert images into your document.  The OP, as it is nicknamed, is designed to provide quick access to the following commonly used objects:

  • Shapes
  • Clip Art
  • Symbols
  • Photos (from your iPhoto Library or a folder)

With modern documents more commonly using imagery to communicate ideas, we wanted to centralize the tools for inserting images and enable users to quickly create visually appealing documents.

The idea started with iLife integration, hence iPhoto libraries, and grew to include the most common object types for document creation.  In the future, we aim to increase the capabilities of the OP and provide further iLife integration, but we think this is a good start.

All of the OP panes provide an image preview, categorization to aid in browsing a collection, and a zoom slider to customize your view.  The Shapes and Photos palettes also offer search controls to help you find specific items.
 
Clip Art

Clip Art

Clip Art is a palette that displays all the clip art stored by the Clip Gallery without having to load a separate app.  This is a great place to find and insert clip art.  The Clip Gallery remains the tool for organizing and managing clip art.  To add your own clips, you can add them to the Clip Gallery, or you can place your clips in a folder and put that folder in the Microsoft Office 2008/Office/Media/Clipart folder.

Also, as you can see in the screenshots, the Clip Art palette provides some great new high quality clips.  One issue that we have heard a lot from customers is that our clip art is stale.  To improve on this, we have added a new collection of photo objects to our clip art.  These new clips are 300 dpi images of real-world objects, people and animals.  They are alpha-clipped (have no background) so they will float on your page and text will flow around them.  These new images will help in creating great looking, modern documents.

New Clip Art in Document

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The zoom slider allows you to customize your view to see more items so you can quickly find an item, or to see more image detail to determine if the item meets your needs.

Zoom Slider

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As an example of some of the hard decisions we have to make, I wanted to talk about Search in this pane.  We had planned to provide search for Clip Art, but the Clip Gallery database that stores the clip art did not permit this functionality.  We had to make a choice: either cut the palette or remove the search control.  We felt that the ability to quickly browse the collection of clip art via this new tool was worth it.  For quick clip art insertion you can use the OP.  For more advanced keyword and title searches use the Clip Gallery.  In the end, we think this the right trade-off.

Symbols

Symbols

In 2004, we added the ability to access common symbols from the Formatting Palette.  In 2008, we have moved this functionality to the OP in the Symbols palette and have added more common symbols in categories such as Currency, Fractions, Music, Accents, etc.  These categories make it easy to quickly find commonly used symbols.

As with all OP panes, this is meant to be a lightweight solution providing access to common items and functionality.  For access to the complete list of accessible symbols, you should use the OS Character Palette.

Shapes
Shapes

The Shapes palette provides access to our newly updated OfficeArt shapes.  As you can see, the new shapes have a nice blue, gradient default look to give your documents a more contemporary look without having to modify the shapes.  In Excel and PowerPoint, these shapes will even insert into your document according to the current document theme to further simplify shape and document creation.  And... our shapes and their new formatting are also fully compatible with Win Office 2007.

For more information on OfficeArt in 2008, see Derek's OfficeArt Unleashed blog post. 

Photos
Photos

The Photos palette is the one I am personally the most excited about.  I take lots of photos of my kids and family, and I often want to send them in email to the grandparents or put them into my documents.  Now, I don’t have to leave Entourage or my other Office applications.  Right inside my apps, I have quick access to my photos without ever having to switch to another app.

If you are an extensive user of iPhoto or have multiple libraries, you can even browse by album or select a different iPhoto library.  Also, as mentioned before, you can select a folder with photos in it if you are not an iPhoto user.

A somewhat less obvious feature is that you can flip over to the Toolbox Settings and choose what size you want to insert your photos, which will prevent your email or PowerPoint presentation from getting too big.

Object Palette Settings

I am very excited about the feature set in OP.  Personally, I love being able to access my photos and other imagery quickly in the Toolbox.  The OP makes it easier to access your images and create great looking documents.  I can’t wait to hear how people like it.

The Smart in SmartArt

I use Office every day to communicate – email, documents, presentations, spreadsheets. I like to use visual aids to improve my communication -- it’s invaluable to reinforce your ideas with graphics, and if it looks cool, even better. How do you take a textual concept and quickly show your meaning in a graphic that is memorable, relevant, and beautiful?

 

     + click to enlarge

With Office 2008 for Mac, I do it with SmartArt graphics: a new set of tools for creating attractive, effective visuals. With SmartArt, a list becomes a colorful sequence array, a roster becomes an organization chart, or a numbered list awakens as a simple, bold process diagram.

     + click for additional detail

Choose a layout in the Elements Gallery and enter your data in the SmartArt text pane (we added the genie effect when showing/hiding the text pane; not only is it a cool touch, but it highlights the relationship between the SmartArt object and the text content you're bringing to life in the diagram.) In PowerPoint, you can select a bulleted list already in your presentation and click on a SmartArt layout to convert the list into a graphic.

What’s so “smart” about SmartArt graphics? The graphics automatically update and adjust as you add data, creating new diagram parts, moving existing parts to fit, resizing the contextual elements that show relationships.

Wine making, for example, is a continuous process of growing and harvesting grapes, fermenting, storing and aging, and finally tasting and enjoying. Describing this in your latest newsletter or school project? There’s a Continuous Cycle layout in the SmartArt gallery. Click in the Gallery to add the graphic, type in your stages of wine production, and click a SmartArt style in the Formatting Palette to add a splash of color. Done, and it looks great!

There are over 80 layouts built-in to Office 2008, and you can flip between them, updating your graphic in the document as you click, until you find the one that best expresses your idea. Add or remove data at any time and the graphic will adjust.

SmartArt graphics you create in Office 2008 for Mac are compatible with Office 2007 and vice-versa; we use the same SmartArt engine underneath. SmartArt graphics are part of the OfficeArt family, and inherit the powerful formatting and document theme awareness of other OfficeArt graphics. Use the Formatting Palette to customize SmartArt graphics, including 3D effects, reflections, transparencies, glows, and shadows. Explore your options willy-nilly; the Reset button takes you back to the crisp default SmartArt Graphic that you started with. SmartArt graphics automatically match your document, spreadsheet, or presentation color scheme, though that too is customizable. Roger Baerwolf and I will talk more about document themes in an upcoming sneak peek blog post.

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