Save time by creating an Excel workbook workspace

If you’re like most of us, you probably work with the same few workbooks every day. You might work with them as a group or separately, but you open these files, individually, most every day and that’s inefficient.

You can save a bit of time by saving the files you use every day as a group as follows:

  1. Open all the workbooks you want to save as a group.
  2. Click the View tab.
  3. Click Save Workspace in the Window group.
  4. Enter a name for the group, and click Save.

To open the group (all the workbooks in the group), open the group as you would any other file.

Your workbooks are still separate files. You can open and close them individually, as you normally would. However, Excel also saves a reference to the workbooks as a group now, using the xlw extension. It’s a simple way to reduce a few keystrokes every day.

Taking a glimpse at the future of SkyDrive (from their blog post)

Over at the official Inside Windows Live team blog, Omar Shahine and Mike Torres, Group Program Managers for SkyDrive, recently made a blog post analysing some of the stats of the current competitive environment, outlining what they think are the “winning factors” for a personal cloud service, and what (a bad) situation SkyDrive is currently in. However, buried deep in the blog post we think the SkyDrive team is trying to actually set a stage hinting at what will be coming for SkyDrive. In the table below, we will analyse some of these “winning factors” that Omar and Mike talked about in the blog post, and how these translates to what Microsoft sees in the future of SkyDrive:

Winning Factors
What will this mean for SkyDrive?

Simple & secure
It would sync the files you have to the cloud and other devices. It would be simple enough to use to share files with anyone so you could finally stop emailing attachments. It would also protect your content using industry leading security measures. In short, you could trust it to “just work”.
The current Windows Live Mesh software, and the future Windows 8 SkyDrive sync feature, will allow users to sync files directly to the cloud and share them with others. But of course, the current situation with SkyDrive and “SkyDrive synced storage” for Windows Live Mesh doesn’t exactly make it simple for users. Will this change soon?

In addition, to stop people from emailing attachments, we know that the latest version of Hotmail already allow users to upload their documents and photos directly to SkyDrive, and share them with your email recipients. So nothing really surprising here.

Straightforward and flexible storage limits
It should provide a modest amount of free storage for key scenarios. It should actually make it easy for customers to use this storage – and provide options to purchase more if needed.
This gets a little bit interesting. We previously reported that SkyDrive might soon provide unlimited storage for photos and documents, and 25GB for everything else. I wouldn’t call this “modest amount”, but if true, this would really make SkyDrive one of the best cloud storage provider on the market.

In addition, we’ve also told you that purchasable storage plans are coming to SkyDrive soon.

Work across any device
It would be built with the understanding that we want to have our content available anywhere, even if we use devices made by different companies with different operating systems. This is how important services like Hotmail and Skype work, and personal cloud storage should be no different.
We’ve previously reported that the SkyDrive team is working on building client apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and of course Windows Phones. In addition to SkyDrive.com, this would make SkyDrive truly cross-browser and cross-platform, allowing you to access your SkyDrive files everywhere on any device.

Cloud-enable the entire PC
While it’s critical to support all types of devices, it’s particularly important to connect the billions of PCs in the world to the cloud. The PC is the most popular smart device and stores most of the world’s personal content. A cloud tailored for this device would provide access to all of your content from anywhere, with no complex setup or configuration.
With the upcoming Windows 8, all your favorite content — Photos, Music, Documents, Contacts, Calendar, Mail, apps and settings — will be synced via SkyDrive (if you choose to) and be able to be accessed anywhere. And best of all, this is built right in to Windows 8, so definitely no “complex setup” is required.

Work with key apps and services to let you organize, collaborate, and share in new ways
It would work seamlessly and automatically with leading email, productivity, or photo apps to let you organize, collaborate, and share content in entirely new ways. It would also connect with the services you already use for sharing so that you could upload once and share the way you want. It would do all of this while supporting the files you use today and keeping you in control of your content.
Microsoft Office 2010 already features SkyDrive integration, allowing you to save, open, share and collaborate on documents stored on the cloud.

With the upcoming SkyDrive APIs as part of Live Connect, any developers building apps – whether it be Windows 8 apps, Windows Phone apps, or web services – will be able to utilize SkyDrive for cloud storage to be used within their apps or websites.

Connects people, content, and devices at scale
In addition to having the right features, the scale of a cloud itself can provide value for customers. Sharing and collaborating is more convenient when more people can connect to a given cloud. Also, people benefit from a cloud that connects content to more apps, and app developers prefer to integrate with clouds that have the most content and connect the most devices.
After Windows 8 gets released in 2012, and if (and that’s a big if) app and web developers start taking advantage of the newly released SkyDrive APIs, Microsoft is hoping that it would push for a wider adoption for its SkyDrive service.

Given the competitive environment SkyDrive is in, and the team’s delayed realisation on the need to continuously improve and innovate the service, could Microsoft achieve the scale that they’re hoping for?

In addition to the “winning factors” Omar and Mike listed, their latest post also specifically points out several feedbacks and requests from consumers which they have heard “loud and clear”. The table below takes a look at these, and provides a quick analysis on what this means for the future of SkyDrive:

Feedbacks from consumers
What will this mean for SkyDrive?

Why are “synced storage” and “My Files” separated? I dream of a day when my docs & files can be together everywhere.
We previously reported that devices integration is coming to SkyDrive, and actually saw a demo at BUILD showing how you can directly access files on your PCs (and other devices?) from SkyDrive.com.

What we haven’t yet seen is the merging of SkyDrive’s storage space with Windows Live Mesh’s “synced storage”. If the SkyDrive team has heard this feedback loud and clear, does that mean it’s coming soon?

How do you move files or folders on SkyDrive?
Based on what we saw at BUILD, the upcoming update for SkyDrive will come with new right-click options, which presumably will make it easier to navigate and perform file operations on files and folders.

Why limit video size to 100MB when you give us 25GB of storage?
Microsoft just recently upgraded the individual file size limit from 50MB to 100MB, but this still pales in comparison to competitive services like Google Docs (10GB) and Dropbox (Unlimited via desktop app, 300MB via website).

Is this a hint that Microsoft will be increasing the individual file size limit again?

We need the ability to share individual files without sharing the entire folder.
The demo we saw at BUILD mentioned “simplified file sharing” is coming soon to the upcoming update for SkyDrive. Does that mean we can now choose to share individual files as well as entire folders too?

Please add check-boxes…so people can quickly [manage] content in batches, whether to delete, download or move the selection.
We’ve previously reported that check-boxes for multiple-file selections will be available in the upcoming SkyDrive update. And this was confirmed during the SkyDrive demo at BUILD.

With the recent rollout of the Hotmail update, we speculated a few weeks ago that Microsoft might be rolling out an update to its other Windows Live web services, including SkyDrive, very soon. Could Microsoft really transform SkyDrive into a winning product and achieve the scale they’re hoping for? Are we going to see all the improvements and features that we have hoped for? I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the SkyDrive team will bring us.

Windows Live Service Status page gets an update, now tracking Live ID and Family Safety

As part of the latest SkyDrive update today, as we predicted earlier, the rest of Windows Live web services received an update too, up to Wave 5 M2 (version 16.2). As part of this update, Windows Live Service Status, the website that allow you to keep track of the current status of Windows Live services, received an updated too:

Windows Live Service Status

The update means that the service is now located at http://home.live.com/status, different from the previous status.live.com. Besides an URL change, the website itself also received some minor enhancements, now reporting real-time service status of Windows Live Family Safety and Windows Live ID as well. Given that Windows Live ID will become a core part of the upcoming Windows 8, it makes sense that this service needs to be monitored closely and provides the latest status info to its customers.

You can check out the new Windows Live Service Status website now at http://home.live.com/status.

Microsoft buys Skype for $8.5 billion; creates new business division

microsoft skype

The rumors were right. Microsoft announced on May 10 that it bought Skype, an Internet communications vendor, for $8.5 billion.

Instead of trying to mash Skype into an existing Microsoft business division, the company has decided to create a new, separate Skype business division, with Skype CEO Tony Bates as the newly minted President. Bates will report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

In its press release announcing the deal, Microsoft played up the potential synergies between Skype and its own communications offerings, including its Lync VOIP platform, Outlook mail, Messenger instant-messaging, Hotmail Web mail and Xbox Live gaming service.

“Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms,”
said the release.

Microsoft offered no timetable or further details as to when and how it will make Skype available as part of any of its existing product offerings.

According to earlier reports, Microsoft was bidding against Google and Facebook for Skype. As my colleague Larry Dignan noted, the $8.5 billion Skype purchase price made for one expensive game of keepaway.

Today’s deal with Skype marks Microsoft’s largest acquisition (dollar-wise) in the history of the company. For the past couple of years, Microsoft execs seemingly had decided that Microsoft’s history of assimilating successfully its big acquisitions (aQuantive, Danger, AdECN, Bungie, etc.) was not so great, resulting in the company shying away from anything but relatively minor, targeted acquisitions

  • Xbox 360 Kinect + SkypeTV: There is already a video chat feature on the Kinect but a Skype-login and interface could encourage more people to make this a part of their Xbox experience. Skype is already on some televisions so integration with the Xbox seems to be a good fit.
  • Windows 7 OS + Nokia + Skype: This could be quite a powerful combination as more and more smartphones are equipped with front-facing cameras and make use of the 4G network, which means video calls will only become the norm on mobile devices. Plus, it gives the partners an edge against Apple’s proprietary Facetime application. Skype users are also able to send SMS messages from the Web to handsets so this could be a great bonus for future customers with Nokia phones running Windows 7.
  • MSN Messenger + Skype: Hopefully, Messenger will be replaced with Skype because IMing on Skype is a breeze but uninstalling Messenger from machines running Windows is a hassle. The combination of Messenger and Skype users will give G-Chat and Google Voice some competition (perhaps to finally roll out to more countries)
  • Outlook + Skype: By integrating your Skype contacts with your email address book to make voice and video calls, Microsoft is looking to the beefed up Outlook to better compete with Gmail/G-Chat/Google Voice.
    MS Lync, Xbox Live + Skype: These new groups will expand Skype’s user base, according to the press release.

Last night, AllThingsD reported that Microsoft dealmaker Charles Songhurst was key in helping Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer broker the Skype deal. Interestingly, Songhurst also was credited with helping convince the Microsoft brass to call off the Yahoo acquisition.

What Comeing with Windows 8?

When Will Windows 8 be Released?

According to the article, Microsoft currently plans to ship Windows 8 by mid-2012; thus, the first beta should be released by mid-2011 and public beta should follow by the end of 2011. Windows Server “8″/2012 is also being developed concurrently.

User Detection

Windows 8 will likely support detection of which user just walked in the room so that it can automatically turn on your PC, log you in, and play your favorite music. When you get up and leave, Windows will automatically log your PC off for you.

Emphasis on Appliance-like Power On

System bootup speeds will probably improve a little (especially since SSDs are becoming standard) but Microsoft plan to emphasize the current power-saving features: Sleep and Hibernate, which they’ll probably rename to something like “Pause” or “Low-power Standby”.

Digital Media Support

Windows 8 should support the following emerging digital media formats:

AVC HD (with chapter seek.)
3D video.
Multiple MPEG-4 formats for the web.
Improvements to MJPEG (webcams and still cameras.)
MPEG-2 (decoding/encoding.)
H.264 (encoding.)
WMV Improvements .

Windows 8 should also come with native TV tuner support so third-party cards and software wont be needed for TV tuning (possibly to coincide witht he RJ45 digital media standard, which is coming.)

Next Generation Device Support

Windows 8 will natively support the USB 3.0 standard (and devices with USB 3.0) and Bluetooth 3.0 (but not Bluetooth 3.0 + High Speed.) Microsoft is also considering deprecating Firewire/IEEE1394 support (i.e. Firewire/IEEE1394 devices will still work but enhancements to support will cease.)

Software Purchases Through the Windows Store

It’s looking likely that Microsoft will adopt a similar (albeit a little less restrictive) software similar to Apple’s App Store. Software and upgrades will be available for purchase through this store. I look forward to the development of this feature.

Internet Explorer 9

Internet Explorer 9 will be part of Windows 8 (IE 9 beta is expected in August 2010 with a Released to Web version date TBD.)

Windows Live Wave 5

Windows Live Wave 5 be shipped/developed concurrently with Windows 8. (Windows Live Wave 4 will ship sometime in late 2010.)

Microsoft Office 2010 Filter Pack Released

With the retail availability of Office 2010 just a couple of days ago Microsoft has released the official and final filter pack which has been updated to include the new file formats in the newest version of Office.

So what is the filter pack?

The Microsoft Filter Pack is a single point-of-distribution for Office IFilters. IFilters are components that allow search services to index content of specific file types, letting you search for content in those files. They are intended for use with Microsoft Search Services (Sharepoint, SQL, Exchange, Windows Search).

Install this product if you want to search for content in the file types listed below.

The Filter Pack includes:

* Legacy Office Filter (97-2003; .doc, .ppt, .xls)
* Metro Office Filter (2007; .docx, .pptx, .xlsx)
* Zip Filter
* OneNote filter
* Visio Filter
* Publisher Filter
* Open Document Format Filter

System Requirements

* Supported Operating Systems: Windows 7; Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2; Windows Server 2008 R2; Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2; Windows Vista Service Pack 1; Windows XP Service Pack 2; Windows XP Service Pack 3

The Microsoft Filter Pack requires the Microsoft Search Service.

Download the Microsoft Office 2010 Filter Packs

Office 2013 details surface on the web

Hot on the heels of the official worldwide release of Office 2010 yesterday, details have surfaced on the next version of the award winning suite – Office 15, or its likely name, Office 2013.

Microsoft Kitchen is reporting that they located a PDF file hosted on a Microsoft-partner owned server, describing details regarding next version of Microsoft Office.

“By the time Office 2010 was released, some Microsoft Engineers had already begun work on the next version (code-named Office 15).”

Microsoft Kitchen also noted that a few Microsoft Employee’s have been writing information about products they are working on, into their LinkedIn profiles – Josh Leong has written on his LinkedIn profile that he is:

“Designing the new visual & interaction experience for Office 15.”

And Ben Gable’s profile says he has:

“Designed major new feature to be introduced in Office 15”

The post notes that there are other new changes that have been mentioned across the web, such as Office Mobile 15 being considered in the planning, that Collaboration is a key point in Office 15, and it should see an Improved Automation Framework. The UI change comes as quite odd, considering the effort Microsoft has put into the ribbon, and the integration they have built into Windows 7 and it’s built in applications, so it is very unknown how large the change could be.

It’s best to remember though, that these details can likely change, and this is very early in the lifecycle – considering Office 2010 was just released, it’s likely not many other details will emerge for a while.