Some Tech and Software Updates from the Swamp

iPad – I am completely and utterly in love with my iPad. It goes everywhere I go including different places in the house. I had thought I would not use it for meetings to take notes or work in a different place but I was wrong. I have now purchased the small Apple Bluetooth keyboard. I decided against the one with the dock as I prefer the iPad landscape and you had to take the case off in order to use iPad. That seemed like a pain in the ass to me. Instead, I purchased a stand that is amazing compact. The other day, I had an hour to kill so I went somewhere with wifi and worked there with my iPad and the keyboard. It was great. The small Apple keyboard is so light you don’t even notice it in your bag. I love, love, love my iPad!

Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 – I wasn’t going to buy this but I changed my mind. I really liked Apple’s Pages but Numbers really did not work for me (Apple iWork’s answer to Excel). Plus there was some familiarity of working with Office that I missed. It is quite difficult to switch word processing programs after many years. Office 2011 seems much more stable than office 2004. The templates in both Word and Excel are professional looking. Having used MS Office since I purchased my first computer in 1990 it feels familiar to me. I having to do a little re-training as I have been using for Pages for months. It also seems like they have put back some features that have been missing in Word for some time. The ability to pick up and move text boxes and graphics is back. I am not sure why they stopped including that feature but I really hated it when it was gone. I have noticed that the Mac version of Word does not offer the ability to format text (bold, underline, italic etc.) via the right-click. I liked this feature wish it were in this version of Word. Excel for the Mac 2011 has put back the formula entry bar (or whatever it is called). I have no idea why this was removed (you could turn it on but it was a floating bar) from the default look of the program. I really do not like editing in cells. I just finished using it for my budgets and it was great. It also looks like charts and graphs would be easy to create. The one thing I really missed in Pages was the format painter. That tool is so great when you are trying to correct formatting but it just won’t work. So far, I think Office 2011 for the Mac is pretty good.

Civilization V – will be out on November 23, 2010!! Need I say more?

iWork ’09 vs Microsoft Office

I have been using Microsoft Office for over 20 years. When I got my first Mac Plus in 1990 I used Word to write my papers for school. My Mac Plus did not have a hard drive and I had to switch disks back and forth as I use the program. Five years later I decided to switch to a PC. I continued using Microsoft Office and became a power-user of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Last year when we switched to Macs the first thing I bought was MS Office. The first time I tried to use Word I managed to crash it. I ended up with that little coloured wheel going around and around. Word in the Mac is different from the PC. We don’t have a ribbon, we have a formatting palette. Excel has been fine as well but again I kept ending up in circumstances where I had that little wheel going around. My frustration was increasing.

I had picked up iWork ’09 for a good price. I installed it. I opened it. I then dismissed it because it did not seem full of all the things I knew. It seemed like a glorified version of text editor. I was wrong. Seriously wrong. It turns out that Pages ’09 is a very robust program. Moreover, it uses many of the intuitive Mac features in its functions. For example, you can get access to the computer’s font library. I suspect that there are many features in Pages so I am working my way through the manual.

Similarly, Numbers also seems to be a great program. It does not seem to be as ‘buggy’ as Excel can be. Anyone who uses Excel for any length of time is familiar with the odd things that can happen. One example is when Excel will create 10,000 records when you try to do a mail merge. I have excellent Excel skills as well. Numbers seems to be much more intuitive again. I am sure that right now I am only scraping the surface of what it can do. One feature lacking in Numbers is the ability to split and freeze your pains. I will find this a bit annoying as I use this quite often in Excel.

The third program, Keynote, is Apple’s answer to PowerPoint. I have not used it yet as I don’t use PowerPoint a great deal. I am looking forward to using Keynote as I suspect it will be good as well.

iWork ’09 comes loaded with all sorts of rich templates. From my first glance through them they appear to be well-thought out and designed. It is also very easy to create a template. Pages also saved the template in the right place. It was nothing like doing the similar thing in word or heaven forbid trying to alter the file. Working with headers and footers in Pages is incredibly easy. You don’t have to go through any other screens to get the header and footer up. They show up as boxes at the top and the bottom of your document.

I love to learn new software. It keeps my mind working. iWork ’09 is definitely a winner. Deb has also decided that she wants to use it too. I will update this topic as I learn more about these programs.