Oct 10

Non-Critical Software Upgrades: Yes or No?

Software UpdateI usually want the latest software update or upgrade. In this, I must be a typical nerd. Why? Because I get all excited about new tech features and tools! But I don’t always need the latest. In fact, I’m often cynical. Is the “latest and greatest” really those things? Do I need more functionality in software I may have been happily using for years? Is the vendor in question just trying to drum up more sales?

Everything considered, one of the questions that always enters my mind – and certainly, companies like Microsoft can be very forthcoming in this respect – is this one: would installing an update or upgrade in any way be ‘risky’? That question is typically followed by a host of similar and related ones. For example:

  • Will my computer restart?
  • Will my legacy (existing) programs or apps work?
  • Is program X compatible with my existing operating system (OS), or browsers?

These, and more, are unimportant questions.

I’ve been very fortunate over the years in that I’ve gotten paid for testing educational textbooks against new software, and more recently, in writing about new software. Combined with the fact that I’ve taught end-users how to use software for 25 years, there’s a compelling case for me to go ahead and do the new update or upgrade. Depending on compatibility issues, as hinted at above, and on price, my customary answer to the next update/upgrade is usually “yes”.

When Windows Vista came out, I was on it. Same with Windows 7, and Windows 8/8.1. It’s not that I felt anything was wrong with Windows XP – in fact, I mourned the day Microsoft stopped supporting XP, as it had been performing well on our ageing desktop computer for years. Less than two weeks ago, Microsoft rolled out their Technical Preview for Windows 10, their new OS. As previously stated, and true in this case, they were very open about the potential for untoward issues for those who decided to take the plunge. I think it was three days later that I took said plunge and installed Windows 10. Call me an early adopter, or call me crazy, but whatever else you call me, call me someone who is now running Windows 10 on his primary laptop.

Should you jump on the update or upgrade bandwagon? Here are a few points to weigh out:

  1. Is the update or upgrade critical or not? Most vendors will flat out tell you. Example: while Windows 10 is not a critical upgrade and in fact does pose risks to users, the latest version of Adobe Reader or Mozilla Firefox might be. These and other programs might have fixes that deal with security. Windows updates are usually quite good in informing you what’s critical, important, or recommended.
  2. Is the update or upgrade compatible with some of the programs it may rely on, that may rely on it, or that it might work with? Every time a new version of the many Web browsers I work with come out, I have to ask myself if the current add-ons will work. I depend on some of my browser add-ons.
  3. What does the new update/upgrade offer? Do you get improved performance? Will you end up with new bells and whistles? Ask yourself if you need, if you really need, what the new software offers.
  4. Does it cost? The bottom line isn’t my main criteria, but I fully understand if it’s yours. When Microsoft has perfected, refined, and released to the public Windows 10, I will have to pay for it like everyone else. Here’s another example: is it worth a few dollars a month to have a premium or more feature-rich version of the software? I have said yes in many cases (Hootsuite and Evernote come to mind.)
  5. Are there implications in not updating or upgrading? In terms of Windows XP, while I had other computers already running more recent versions of Microsoft’s OS, I didn’t feel I could ‘go it on my own’ in terms of leaving that machine with XP. So I moved forward to Windows 7. In terms of, say, the latest version of my time-keeping software, I can probably wait it out, without repercussions.

If you’re the tech-savvy type, and if you’re sure you are comfortable with some possible trouble-shooting in terms of a non-critical software update or upgrade, I say … go for it! If the latest and greatest isn’t critical, or doesn’t quite have what you want or need right now, wait until the early adopters run it through its paces.

 

Aug 30

Microsoft Word’s Multilevel List Feature

If you’ve ever been ‘stuck’ or struck with writer’s block — hands frozen at the keyboard — then perhaps instead of fully writing what you need to, you should outline it first. Microsoft Word has more than one way to do this. In the short video below, you’ll see how I begin to use Word’s Multilevel List feature. Once you turn on a List style, you begin to type. Press the tab key to move down/into the next level of the list. Press the enter key to return to the previous level, or to turn off the list. Word renumbers as you insert or delete text. Very cool!

 

Aug 22

Keep Notes with Google Keep

Google KeepAfter years of going ’round and ’round trying to keep Microsoft Outlook® synchronized between two computers, using a variety of software solutions (none of which worked all the time, or well), I discovered Google Sync, and a later, Google Apps for Business and it’s Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook®. Given my previous experiences — countless years worth — I held little hope that it would actually work. To my surprise it did; it worked well and continues to. The single item I found lacking was that it couldn’t handle Outlook’s Notes.

Perhaps there are other solutions, ones I haven’t come across yet, but the one I found that neatly does the trick with respect to Notes, as well as synchronizing across all devices and in Outlook, is called Google Keep. Keep is a simple yet powerful note-keeping program. The Android™ app allows for voice commands.

When you need to jot down (or speak) a new note, you simply start typing, or click the mic symbol on the app and start speaking. Notes can be searched, colour-coded, and even typed in lists or with check boxes showing. Your account is linked/mated to a specific e-mail address.

Synchronization seems flawless, and is quick. Perhaps in the future Google Apps Sync will integrate with Outlook’s Notes. In the meantime, this is a great solution for me. For more complicated or fully-featured note-taking programs, you may want to consider Evernote® (software I’ve used for years), or even OneNote®.

Aug 03

From Website to WordPress

Blogging

I love to write! Just about any social media or marketing expert will tell you that a blog should be part of your overall online plan. It always was for me. Well, sort of. I had a fairly established business blog for years: Delphian Virtual Assistance (DVA). But increasingly, I found it tiring to keep jumping around between a fairly static website, and my blog, which was located on another platform. As I steadily increased the amount of writing I did — for myself and for my clients — I knew I would sooner or later need to migrate and integrate all of my main content. The move to WordPress will accomplish that nicely!

Speech and words are but two forms of expression: I just happen to appreciate both. And I’ve found ways to keep doing both … ways to put myself out there. Even before stepping into my first college classroom I was involved in both document production and training. I made a living from each at times, back in the 1980s.

This first new blog post from my new WordPress site will hopefully serve two purposes. The first is simply to announce to everyone ‘hey, this is the online home of my new business!’ The second is to encourage you to write. No, I’m not trying to compete with myself! I really mean it. Blogging is one way to express yourself; one way to extend your reach. Posts don’t have to be long, and in fact, they don’t have to have any text whatever. Many bloggers focus solely or almost so on the images they create or find. Photoblogs, such as Zenfolio, are immensely popular these days, and most of those platforms/services are free. Of course, it will always be you who chooses what s/he wants to blog or publish.

For some, the step from private to public is a big one. While most sites give you the option of who can see your posts, you should know that various groups and associations exist to support or encourage you along the way. For example, I belong to several LinkedIn groups.

Consider getting out there and publishing! If you’d like to have a conversation about it, I’m good with that. Drop a line to rob@wordsbydelphian.com.