7 is up

Well it took hours – most of the day when all was said and done – but I finally got it done. I have upgraded my desktop computer to Windows 7. So far I like it better than Vista. It’s cleaner and leaner, and access to files seems more thoughtful and organized. Love the new desktop functions.
I didn’t need to an upgrade; the computer was running fine. But 7 was part of the package when I got the machine last summer. I just had to wait for the software upgrade to arrive. Then I put it off until after the holidays.
I spent the first couple of hours this morning backing up my 33GB of music and podcast files to my laptop, just in case everything when to hell in a bucket. I started the actual upgrade at 11:45am, and finished about 2:15. It was a smooth process, but not without stress.
There were several points at which parts of the operation showed a certain percentage complete, and the percentage didn’t change for several minutes. This made me worry that it had ground to a fatal stop. Certainly, that’s a metaphor of something.
After everything seemed to be done, I was testing my scanner’s function with Photoshop’s Import feature, when the computer simply shut off. The screen went black and the monitor said I’m going to sleep, Stupid. But that was nine hours ago, and it hasn’t happened again.
My old trusty Office programs, in particular Word 2003, seem to work great in Windows 7, as many online said it would. I’m pleased: I won’t need to spend money on a new Office suite in the foreseeable future. As it should be. I think when you buy a Microsoft Windows computer, it should come with Office, not that half-baked Works or the even worse Wordpad.
Which is why I’ve been so drawn lately to the free OpenOffice suite. And why I’m spending time getting to know it, even learning to customize it a little. I like that’s it free, it has everything I need except sometime to built web sites with – like MS Publisher, FrontPage, or Dreamweaver. And even though it’s free, you’re always getting the latest version.
So it goes.

What I learned today

In my last post, I mentioned that I need to learn to do something new every day. I sort of implied that it’s a new years resolution or something. It’s not. I actually believe that I do learn something new every day, even after almost a half century spinning around on our little blue pixel in space.

Sometimes I incorporate what I learn into my life. More rarely, I am still conscious of what it was by the end of the day. So my new years resolution is to try to keep track of the things I learn. One thing every day.

Have you ever checked out OddTodd? It’s a fun site. He does a thing called his Daily Fact I Learned From The TV. It’s cool. And in the spirit of ripping off that premise, I propose to offer you – my indefatigable Reader – a daily what I learned today. Except I probably won’t post it every day. Maybe I’ll keep a list and post them once a week.

Assuming I succeed at all. I’m taking odds.

The odds are good, but the goods are odd.

Here’s my first episode of What I Learned Today and it’s a double for your money. 

… And by the way, I didn’t say these were going to be funny. I’m just a writer. I’m not OddTodd or Ze Frank.

Quick Tip for Showing/Hiding Mark-up (reviewing elements) in MS Word 2003.

When I’m working on a document, I often insert comments using the reviewing functions in Word. Sometimes I use Track Changes, so that all my editing markups appear conditionally until I finish the editing job.

There is an option to have the comments and tracked changes appear as balloons in the right column, or not. It’s nice to be able to turn the comments balloons on and off, so they’re not always in your way, right?

It’s always been my habit to go to the Reviewing Toolbar, click Show then scroll down to Balloons. A slow method.

Yesterday I learned that if you go to View > Markup, you can easily hide all the balloons, and the changes. This shows you the document without comments, and with the changes that you have made but not yet finalized. In other words, the final document without markups.That’s faster.

Today I learned that on the Reviewing Toolbar, there’s an option to select how you want to view the document. You can see the Final Showing Markups, the Final, the Original Showing Markups, or the Original. That’s a lot faster, and easier.

(Click to Enlarge)


Well, let’s see what I’ve learned in a week or so, right? Maybe I’ll learn how I’ve been using Word for 15 years without knowing those obvious functions were there.

Office Workspace: right for a writer?

Last week, I shared my incipient explorations of newer ways to store and access one’s writing projects. Specifically, I was looking at Microsoft’s Office Workspace. I said:

Office Live Workspace lets you keep your whole project in The Cloud, open it on any computer with Office installed, save it back to the Cloud, and go on with your happy day. No syncing needed, is my point.

I’ve been working with it more, and I’ve learned that what I said was true, but not complete information. I don’t think I’ll be using Workspace for my daily writing, and I’ll explain why.

First Some Background

If you use a single computer, you keep your documents there, work there, and hopefully you back up copies to a CD, separate drive, or online storage.

If you use two computers, as I do, you want them to have the same documents. You don’t want to open a story or something on your laptop, just to realize that the newer version is on the computer at home. So you have to keep them synced. There are ways to do that, either manually—which is difficult—or using a special program on both computers, or on a flash drive. I like Microsoft’s Windows Live Sync for this, though it does require a lot of attention.

The trend in technology now is to keep projects on neither computer, and not on a physical storage like a flash drive, but on the Internet. You keep your work out there – in The Cloud – work on it there, then leave it there.

Online applications like Google Docs are great for this, but in my opinion you can’t write a novel on Google Docs. It works well for small documents such as rough drafts, lists, spreadsheets, etc. But it’s not as robust as a full scale program like MS Word. And Office Workspace lets me save my project there, open it in Word, work using all of Word’s features, then save out there again.

This process should not be confused with online storage sites like the late Yahoo Briefcase. That required me to download the saved file, do my work on my hard drive, then upload the new version when I finished. That’s not actually working online.

So I was happy to find Workspace. And today I did my first field test – away from the stable and fast Internet and Wi-Fi in my home – as I met with a friend to discuss our projects over coffee.

My Field Test 

Having connected via customer wi-fi, I opened my documents from Workspace in MS Word and we discussed the project. Soon I saved the important changes, and we talked on. As our meeting drew near its end, I made a couple of insignificant changes and hit Save again. No dice. I was no longer connected to the Internet.

I tried to save it to my hard drive, but that didn’t work. When I lost connection, I lost access to the document that was really on a server, not on my computer. It didn’t disappear, so I could see it, but I couldn’t save it.

Sure I could have copied my text from the unsaved file, pasted it into a new text file, and saved that. But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that Cloud Computing requires a stable connection to the Internet, and the Coffeehouse assclowns had disconnected me without so much as a bronx cheer.

(A page appeared in my browser, saying the coffeehouse was thoughtfully putting me on a time-out, so I could get some more coffee, and rejoin the human race. Or something to that effect. Very cute. I think that it’s time for people who provide connectivity to take their role a little more seriously. I’m workin’ here, don’t fool with me if you want me back.)

None of this points to shortcomings of Office Workspace. It worked fine. But because the coffeehouse put me on a time out while I had documents open, I had to finish my notes of the meeting today by hand. I didn’t lose anything critical, but I easily could have.


  1. Office Workspace is very cool. I love the clean layout, the view and comments functions, etc. And the fact that it’s Microsoft means it’s compatible with the core applications I use every day.
  2. One of its main features is project sharing and collaboration, which I would rarely use.
    Writers may be disreputable, incorrigible,
    early to decay or late to bloom but they dare to go it alone.*
  3. It would also be a good place to keep backup files. There’s 5GB of storage.   
  4. It would be perfect for times when I need to access my work on a client’s computer. Save it at my office, and walk into their office ready to go. Chances are, their connection to the Net is rock solid. And that would make me look cool, as I always should.
  5. I want to, love to, play with things like this, but I’m better off working from my hard drive, because
  6. If you lose your internet connect while you’ve got unsaved changes, you’re screwed.

Epilogue – The Bottom Line

Office Workspace might be ready for work, but the Internet isn’t. The lights are on, but you can’t always get there from here.

Word on the street is that Google’s Chrome OS is coming out in about a year. It will be an operating system that consists mostly of a browser. There will be no software like Word or Excel on it. Everything will be done in the Cloud.

I don’t think the Internet is ready to take on the task. They’re getting all these fancy Cloud applications set to sail, but forgetting that the Internet isn’t everywhere, and it isn’t reliable. And until it is, we just can’t move our stuff out there.

*John Updike

office live workspace and other tools

“So what is Office Live Workspace? Essentially, it’s a SharePoint-based online storage service designed for users of Microsoft Office that provides anywhere/anytime access to important documents and sharing and collaboration facilities that so small teams of people can work together on documents and projects.”
Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows: Office Live Workspace Review.

I’m currently checking this out for myself, and thought you might like to as well. It’s pretty cool. I like the idea of being able to access my documents from anywhere, do some writing, and put them away without having to update other computers. So for the past several months, I’ve been using Windows Live Sync, which syncs files and folders between my 2 computers. It works OK.

Office Live Workspace lets you keep your whole project in The Cloud, open it on any computer with Office installed, save it back to the Cloud, and go on with your happy day. No syncing needed, is my point. 

I’ve also been test driving OpenOffice.org for a while now, with an eye toward replacing MS Office with an office suite that’s free and updates for free, automatically. It’s excellent, but not quite all that MS Office is. Essentially, it will do everything Word will do, but doesn’t exactly integrate with other programs as well. Plus, there’s nothing in the suite to replace MS Publisher, which I use to build web sites.

I really like Google Docs, for drafts, lists, spreadsheets, etc. But no way is it up to the task of handling my big projects. Here’s a word count I ran on my biggest project today:

It’s a big dude, by my standards.

So just in case you’re wondering, I’m sticking with MS Word 2003 for my word processor. I like OpenOffice.org’s Writer pretty well, and will keep using it sometimes, to keep in practice. But it’s not replacing Word yet.