Wednesday, 24 January 2007
Saturday, 20 January 2007
Toolbars are for a lot of people, annoying, they get downloaded with software and your browser can be covered in them, so why would you go and download one purposely. Well, Google toolbar offers many features that may well make you make that decision.
Obviously, there is the option to search Google straight from the toolbar, you can search most of Google’s services including; web, images and news. A nice feature to mention is that when you start to type a phrase into the search box, results start appearing, these include your browsing history, suggestions and the most common results.
Google Toolbar also allows you to check spelling on a page, subscribe to RSS feeds available on the current webpage, and also provides you with a page’s page rank under Google.
You are not just limited to what is on the toolbar though, Google offer a whole gallery of extra buttons for all sorts of needs including weather, news and fun, however it is worth mentioning that this option is only available for Microsoft Internet Explorer 6+, which means Firefox users do not get this option. You can also customise your toolbar so that it has just what you want.
The toolbar is available for both Firefox and Internet Explorer and is a great addition if you use your browser a lot, otherwise it may just get in the way. If you already have integrated search on your browser then the main function of the toolbar may well be pointless. But overall, it is the best toolbar extension out there and the only one that I would personally install in my browser.
Simon North, 20th January 2007
You can set it up to provide your emails from any major email service, including GMail, although I would advise moving to one of these mail clients after using web mail can get annoying, I have thousands of messages and they are organised into labels within the GMail web mail however, opening this account in Windows Live Mail listed every email in the Inbox, too much to organise.
You can host multiple accounts from the same window, so you can have two inboxes with all emails accessible at any time through the left hand panel.
There is plenty of integration with MSN services including things like working with MSN messenger and uploading a message to your Spaces account.
I mentioned earlier the looks of the application. It is very attractive and highly customisable; you can change the background colour simply, and with a whole colour panel to choose from you are spoilt for choice. All the main functions like composing, deleting and printing are all on one toolbar above the main area, and as with all of Microsoft’s new applications the idea of a menu is gradually disappearing, you can get this by clicking a button above the advertisement.
My opinions of Windows Live Mail Desktop: It is an attractive application which is a pleasure to use however it is still Outlook Express underneath which is a shame, and I wouldn’t recommend it to people who already have a massive number of emails all organised well in a web mail service. However, if you are a hotmail user or just use your email for friends and family, it is perfect for your needs, obviously businesses probably wouldn’t use a program like this anyway. Overall, a great application and a pleasurable experience.Simon North, 19th January 2007
Google SketchUp is integrated with a service from Google called 3D Warehouse which allows you to host your creations online no matter how big the file size is, it will then be available for anyone to download and you can download other peoples creations and even edit them. Another feature is the ability to upload your buildings to Google Earth.
In Google SketchUp you can create your work through adding shapes and lines and best of all the program seems too understand what you want as it snaps lines into place. You can push or pull a shape, this creates a 3D element. You can also add textures to buildings through the use of the Material Browser, which includes hundreds of textures and colours to add to your model, including brick, vegetation and glass effects.
Google SketchUp offers a great alternative to big 3D modelling applications like AutoCAD and this program is designed at both amateurs and professionals, for professionals there is the professional version available which costs £250. The application produces professional looking models with minimum amount of effort, training and time.Simon North, 19th January 2007
Thursday, 18 January 2007
Snapfire looks great and is perfect for quickly fixing photos, but really you need a dedicated photo editing package for the best results.
The application also allows you to create album pages, calendars, greetings cards and collages, making it perfect if you want to create your own photo album or fancy seeing a different photo every month on a calendar.
You can use Quick Review to see your images in a slideshow which has great slide merging effects, but as with the rest of the program, you’ll need a good computer to run it. On a 1GHz computer with 256MB of RAM, the program took over a minute to load fully.
If you like the program then you could buy Corel Snapfire Plus for £29.99 which gives you a whole range of fantastic features including basic video editing.
Simon North, October 2006
The application is a bit basic at the moment but it does everything you need, from searching the net with it's integrated search (which uses Ask Jeeves), to printing webpages. I will say you cannot really use it as your main web browser, but it is planning to get bigger and better, with support for Mac and Linux as well as adding things like tabbed browsing, available in two colours, black and silver you can download it and use it within seconds from www.browzar.com.
Google Docs includes many tools including printing, emailing and formatting facilities. You can collaborate with other people on the same document and you can save in a variety of formats including Microsoft Office formats and Open Office formats as well as PDF, Rich Text and HTML. You can insert images, links, comments, tables and bookmarks as well as adding styles and checking your spelling.
Google Spreadsheets is a perfect solution for small businesses who want to access their data from anywhere. It includes everything you need for a basic spreadsheet and can export in the most popular spreadsheet formats. As with Docs you can collaborate with other people on the same spreadsheet. You can have multiple sheets and Spreadsheets including a massive range of formulas.
All documents and spreadsheets are stored in your account. You can upload documents and collaborate and work on them, it supports a wide range of formats.
This service is not only perfect for if you are away from the office and need to write a report or update a spreadsheet but is a good alternative to office software. It includes all the features you need to create, collaborate, edit and export documents and spreadsheets.
Wednesday, 17 January 2007
The produced application includes great visual and sound effects to simulate a hard copy magazine. You can turn pages, magnify (by simply right clicking)., skip to pages like contents as well as being able to input a page number and it goes straight to it.
The service is totally free and is perfect and produces relatively small filesizes, my magazine The Computing Expert for example was only 9.9MB in good quality colour. PDF files are much bigger. Head over to www.spotbit.com to start producing your magazines or take a look at an example of the service used for Simnor Computing's magazine The Computing Expert.
Simon North, October 2006
Security is probably one of, if not the most important factor when choosing a web browser. There has been much talk in the past couple of years as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has become a hackers paradise due to massive security holes. Because, of this, people started seeking other browsers and this is when Mozilla Firefox grew. People felt Firefox was much more secure due to its more frequent updating, remembering that Microsoft hadn’t released a version of Internet Explorer for about 5 years.
Browsing experience is probably the second most important factor. No one likes opening window after window to navigate through a different site, so many browsers took this and created a new style of browsing, tabbed browsing. This enabled users to open multiple sites in one window allowing for easier navigating of more than one website at the same time. Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Maxthon and Netscape all have integrated tabbed browsing and now Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 finally follows the same method. This is a proven method of more efficient browsing.
Search engines are the first place that people go to find a website so, integrated search is a feature that you should find in most good browsers. It enables you to search from the application windows instead of having to go to a search engine and searching from there.
A lot of people (including me) prefer to read from a sheet of paper, so printing is important for a web browser, but printing a web page is different from printing a document because a webpage can be any width it likes meaning that when you print a web page you will only get half of the page, this is extremely annoying. Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 has advanced printing technologies included which will resize the page so that it fits onto the sheet properly.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0
Microsoft have massively improved Internet Explorer since version 6.0, Version 7.0 offers advanced security, tabbed browsing and an easy to use interface (in their quest to remove menus). It also includes a one click solution for deleting your browsing history. Advanced printing allows for better results on your printouts and an integrated search makes your browsing easier. It also offers RSS feed reading and better CSS support.
Mozilla Firefox 2.0
Mozilla have just released their new version of the Firefox browser. Firefox has become one of the most popular web browsers during the past couple of years, offering advanced security, phishing protection and tabbed browsing as well as plugin support. In version 2.0 Mozilla have improved the interface without making it look too different from previous versions. Other features include RSS feed reader, download manager and integrated search.
It also has a section in the help file aimed at helping Internet Explorer users.
These two browsers are the biggest web browsers around, so would be perfect for normal users due to the massive amount of help and support available.
Opera’s Browser includes many extras including widgets (little applications that run inside the program). It is an attractive application with button effects to make your browsing experience as enjoyable as possible. Tabbed browser and an
integrated search are also part of the application.
Opera can also read out text on web pages (you’ll need to install and add-on). Opera’s browser is for people who want to use a browser not just for browsing but for more of an experience.
Netscape is based on both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox which means you set pages to look and feel like they are in either of the two browsers by simply clicking an option. Netscape includes an advanced security centre which runs inside the application making it extremely secure. It looks good as well enabling you a good browsing experience, tabbed browsing and integrated search add to this. It also has support for RSS feeds.
Maxthon boasts over 70,000,000 downloads and is based on Internet Explorer but gives you a massive library of features including tabbed browsing, integrated search, ad hunter, plugin enabled, skins, and much more. It looks like Internet Explorer 6 and has good language support. It is perfect for anyone who wants more from their browser.
Flock is built on top of the Mozilla Firefox engine and is designed for people who want to share and collaborate content on sites like YouTube and MySpace. It offers publishing pictures to a blog or photo sharing page through dragging an image from a bar at the top and dropping it into the content box on the website. This browser can still be used like Firefox but isperfect for people who delve into the world of blogging and sharing. Based on Mozilla’s Firefox engine it offers advanced security, tabbed browsing and integrated search.
So, what is the best web browser? Well, it depends on what you want:
If you want security go for Mozilla Firefox, this gets updated every so often so up to date security is always available.
If you want features go for a browser that is built on an engine like Maxthon. Netscape also offers many advanced features.
If you want good support then go for Internet Explorer, millions of users worldwide ensure any problems you may have will have some helpsomewhere on the internet.
If you are a blogger or photo sharer then use Flock, it is specifically designed for this purpose.
I cannot answer this question, it all depends on personal preference. You need to test out browsers and see for yourself but for regular browsing I suggest Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0, it is a brand new version and offers the latest security and features to make your browsing as efficient as possible.
Have your say. What is the best web browser?
Vote on the Simnor Forum:
Simon North, October 2006
Tuesday, 16 January 2007
I brought this phone for just £19.95 from Argos.co.uk and for that I got my own UK landline number so that people could ring me just like they would anyone else, software for both Instant Messenging and making phone calls and sending texts. I also got a voucher for free minutes and at only 2p a minute to most countries it is the perfect alternative for making them long distance and long conversation calls to friends and family. The company does state clearly that this type of phone should not replace your landline phone because if there is a problem with your broadband internet connection you will not be able to use your phone. However, you also get a voicemail service so that you never miss a call again.
This phone is perfect for all sorts of situations especially for businesses because it enables you to call other Freshtel Internet Phone users for free. It is also perfect for the home and in a world where telecommunications is evolving the VOIP is the future of telephony. You can buy one direct from Argos.co.uk now
Simon North, 8th January 2007
Microsoft Office 2007 Review
by Simon North
The first time I used the new version of Office was when it was in Beta 2 stage and there were a lot of things wrong with it, the main one was the slowness that came with a recharged user interface. There was also in consistency between the applications with a handful of the suite using the new interface, and it is sad to report that it is still slow, you certainly cannot run one of the new Microsoft Office applications whilst running something like Flash or Visual Studio.
However, it isn’t all bad. The new interface is beautiful, you can choose from three colour schemes, black, blue or silver and the new ribbon style menu and toolbar replacement, works a treat and was pretty easy to start using. The tools are situated under the right tab, so if you want to insert a picture you’ll find the insert picture option under the Insert tab.
Toolbars haven’t totally disappeared, if you select some text on a document then a semi translucent toolbar appears just above the text, but unlike in previous versions, this toolbar doesn’t get in your way, if you don’t want it then simply move your cursor away from it and it will disappear, if you want it again then hover over it, the closer you are to it the more opaque it becomes. This idea is certainly a gift from Microsoft and it proves that they do listen to the customer (occasionally),
Main Menu (Office button)
There is just one menu on the new office and this can be found in the top left hand corner, this acts as a kind of File menu and gives you all the options to save, print, publish and send. It is a large area which can be seen by clicking the Office button in the top left hand corner. As you hover over a command, a list of options will appear on the right.
Live Previews have been around for a long time in some applications and now they make their way into Office and I must say it is a great idea. To explain this I will use an example. I have some text which its font is set as Arial, I want it to become Verdana so I highlight the text and click on the drop down menu for the font on the Home tab. I hover over Verdana and the text font turns to Verdana, I haven't clicked anything at this point, this gives me a 'live preview' of what it will look like. This feature is not just for text, you can use it for images, tables, text boxes, shapes etc. and it certainly speeds up the time it takes to perform a task. It is a perfect addition to Office 2007.
New File Formats
A new file format has been introduced into Microsoft Office 2007, the new format is called Microsoft Office Open XML and is based upon the XML language and uses a zip style for compressing the files to 75% of the size it would be. The new file has a new file extension which is basically the same as the traditional file extension (.doc, .ppt) but with a 'x' on the end (.docx, .pptx). Office also supports previous versions of the file format so you can still use the traditional Office 97-2003 filetype.
In the beta builds leading up to the release of Office there was support to export your documents into Adobe's Portable Document Format (or PDF), this has been removed from the final release due to legal objections from Adobe, however you can install a third party plug in.
I mentioned this above and I will go into more detail now because, it is a serious problem and would really annoy some people. I used Microsoft Office 2007 Enterprise for this review and this includes the following programs:
- Microsoft Office Word 2007
- Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007
- Microsoft Office Publisher 2007
- Microsoft Office Access 2007
- Microsoft Office Excel 2007
- Microsoft Office Info Path 2007
- Microsoft Office OneNote 2007
- Microsoft Office Groove 2007
- Microsoft Office Outlook 2007
Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Access all sported the new Office interface, whereas the rest just used a variation of the new interface and in some cases like Publisher it still used the old 2003 interface. Office, since 1997 has created consistency which meant that if someone used Word, for example, they would also be able to use all the other applications in the suite with little effort because they looked and worked in the same way. So for a new Office system that already people are steering well clear of until they need to upgrade because it looks too complicated, the state of this inconsistency within the suite could have a massive impact on the customer. Microsoft's excuse for the inconsistancy is that the applications that use the new interface centre around document authoring meaning that there is a wealth of features which need to be organised in a manner that is user friendly. The applications that lack the interface will be upgraded to the interface in future versions of Office.
Microsoft Word has undergone the most changes and it is the centre of the new office. It uses the new user interface and is packed full of great new features in order to help you produce professional documents. Better integration with the new recharged Office Online allows for more templates, updates, clipart and help. The office assistant has finally died due to the massive help that is included with office. New imaging features allows you to add nice looks to your images including, 3D effects, glows, shadows, reflections and bevels.
It includes much better support for blogging allowing you to upload straight to your blog. Blogs that can be uploaded to include the main names like Blogger and Spaces. A perfect addition to the program is the real time word count in the status bar which is perfect for authors and students. Easy zooming by the use of a slider in the status bar eradicates the need for choosing the right size from a drop down menu. There is the ability to add cover pages with customisable fields. A new default font called Calibri makes your documents look modern and professional. You can add styles to pages as well as colour schemes. The main tools can be found on the Home tab of the ribbon and all other tools are on the correct tabs with long informative explanations appearing whenever you hover over an option.
So, Microsoft Office Word 2007, which is regarded the centre of office is fantastic, with new looks and new features it enables you to produce a professional document with little hassle and with little time spent.
Microsoft PowerPoint is also spoilt with the new interface. Microsoft claim that the new PowePoint makes it easier for you to design and produce professional looknig presentations due to its intuative interface. Microsoft PowerPoint has many new features including new templates, styles, all the user interface features (ribbon, live previews etc.) and finally after all these years, new WordArt. Better imaging tools allows you to create much better looking presentations with the ability to add reflections, glows, shadows, bevels, 3D effects or soft edges to your images. Not much has changed in animating effects, you still have the same slide transistions and item animations.
A new feature that is present in Microsoft PowerPoint called 'SmartArt' allows you to produce relationship, workflow, or hierarchy diagrams easily and quickly making producing company styled presentations a much quicker process. There is also the option to create a photo gallery slideshow, this is done automatically as a seperate presentation and all you need to do is add the images you want, perfect for showing your family and friends your holiday pics.
So, Microsoft Office PowerPoint has undertaken a new look and feel and a few new features have been added, but I do feel that there hasn't been enough development, for example I would have expected new animation effects to make presentations look more unique rather than the traditional checkerboard or blinds animation.
Microsoft Publisher 2007 doesn't have the new interface which is a shame, because it is seen as a second rate program in the Office suite, used by very few people either as an extra (people don't spend hundreds of pounds to produce amateur christmas cards) or for fully fledged graphics designers who would probably use a more suitable DTP package anyway.
Very little has changed in the application and is sports the same traditional menu and toolbar feel of previous versions of Office. The task page however, has had a re-design with nice effects when hovering over choices curtosy of work done in the new user interface. The task page also looks a lot easier to use with a new icon style interface making it quicker to choose and customise your design including setting colour schemes and orientations.
A nice edition to the program that is going to make a lot of users happy is something called the Content Library, this is a type of clipboard which is independant to each publication meaning that you can basically save images and text and use them in other publications by simply dragging and dropping the item from the panel.
There isn't much to say about Microsoft Publisher, the company hasn't really put much effort into it, especially because of the Microsoft Expression suite that Microsoft is producing especially for designers.
Microsoft Excel 2007, a spreadsheet application, has been improved with the new user interface. The main focus on Microsoft Excel is to provide everyone with an easy to use application to support their company or personal finances. This is done via the new user interface which has been dramatically improved in order for you to use formaulas and graphs easily and quickly. Formatting has also been improved and with live previews you can be much more productive. Graphs now look more professional with new rendering with the use of bevels and other imaging effects seen throughout Office 2007.
Behind the scenes things have changed, limits have been taken off, for eample there are over 1,000,000 rows compared to the previous 65,000, memory management has be adapted so that you can run your spreadsheets much faster than the capped memory usage in previous editions.
Microsoft has been blessed with the new interface which makes the application much more pleasurable to use, although it still seems more like an application for a professional rather than an amateur computer user, who would probably be best suited to Excel. However, Access does provide plenty of templates to help you get started and does bear resemblance to the previous editions of the application. It has a number of extra features to help you build your databases much quicker and has much better integration with Excel.
Better organisation of the interface allows for much better editing of forms and reports unlike the previous builds which featured multitudes of floating windows which got in your way. A new feature allows you to simply organise fields on a form rather than having to redesign the whole form interface.
The new Access has masssive improvements on version 2003 and it's much welcomed new design and features will impress regular and even new users of the application.
I have detailed the main applications in the Office suite, but there are plenty more depending on which suite you purchase, details are below. Microsoft FrontPage has been discontinued in Office 2007, but you have two different alternatives, part of the Office suite (selected editions) is Sharepoint Designer 2007 which looks and works similar to FrontPage 2003, but it is based on the Sharepoint server, the other alternative is part of Microsoft's new suite of applications designed for designers called, Microsoft Expression. Microsoft Expression Web, like Sharepoint Designer is similar to FrontPage 2003. New applications and new versions of 2003 applications are also featured in the new office system, including OneNote, Visio, Project, InfoPath and of course Outlook (which features the new interface).
Microsoft Office 2007 has seen significant improvements, the main one being the look and feel of the new interface which will recharge the designing not just of Microsoft applications, but applications from other companies. There is inconsistancy throughout the suite but at least Microsoft have said that they will work on integrating the interface throughout the system. Some programs have seen significant work, whereas others just cosmetics and in some cases not even that. But as much as I put down the new Office, I cannot help but like it and I'm sure you will too. Thankyou for reading
What! The World's Highest Website, I hear you say. Well, yes the world's highest website. What a great idea. This wacky site claims to be 11.769 miles high, I haven't actually measured it, but I do believe the creator behind this masterpiece. You can however if you get bored after the first couple of minutes, simply press Ctrl and End or you could just get hold of the scrollbar and pull it down to the bottom.
So how was this made, well the creator didn't sit there for hours, weeks, months and input lines and measure every mile of it, it is actually created by using CSS, which is a website standard used mainly to style webpages (fonts, backgrounds etc.) There isn't much more I can say about it than if you have a spare day or so take a look and scroll to the bottom, otherwise just take the elevator. You can find it at www.worlds-highest-website.com.
Simon North, December 2006
You can filter your searches depending on what you are searching for, for example I searched for laptop and I could filter it by price, stores, seller ratings, and capacity of hard drive. It took results from a wide range of vendors especially Google Checkout merchants.
It gives you an image of the item, a description, a product rating (if it has been reviewed), the seller and price of the item. You can order them in relevance, ratings and price. You can also view the list in grid view rather than list view, grid view gives you the image, link and price.
By clicking the item, you will see a full description and full details and specification of the product, all still on froogle.
This service, as I've said, is still in beta so it is improving continuously, but it is one of the best shopping site on the internet at the moment. Worth a look? visit http://froogle.google.com and start shopping today
Simon North, October 2006
PS. My Simnor Computing website can be found here