Microsoft Announces Office 2010 Free Web Services

At Microsoft’s annual Partner Conference in New Orleans, they announced the “Technology Preview” of Office 2010. This means the new programs will be available to members of Microsoft’s partner network and developers around the world to examine, test and provide feedback. Part of the plan for Office 2010 is an online service, some of which will be free, that will allow users to work with Word and Excel in a web browser. How they will compare (and compete with) Google Docs and isn’t clear yet, but such things as simultaneous working on an Excel spreadsheet (sounds nightmarish, actually) or being able to “broadcast” a PowerPoint slide show on the fly could have some appeal.

It will be interesting to see how many people take to this. I’m not a believer yet, myself, although there are times when working with clients that I create online versions of documents so that different people can have access to comment and make changes or updates. I’m not convinced that the web is secure enough, nor that connections are generally speedy enough, for so-called “cloud computing” to become the norm. Documents are like young kids: I just feel more comfortable when I know where they are.

Flow has its own teaser trailer

You have to love a software company that can put out a seriously cool movie-style trailer for their latest product.

I’ve written about Flow, the application that transforms the way we work with creative software. It was a blast testing, suggesting improvements, and watching the program evolve from its original concept to the mature product that it became when it went on sale last week. Even if you don’t work in the graphic arts, I am sure you’ll hear more mention of Flow. It will become as ubiquitous as Photoshop, no question.

For more information about Gridiron Flow, watch the Overview video and browse their website.

The next version of Microsoft Office is about to go (semi)public

Type designer Thomas Phinney posts in his blog that Microsoft Office 2010, due to be released as a “technical preview” in July, will make a giant leap forward in its handling of typefaces: it will begin to support some (not all, by a long way) of the many advanced typesetting capabilities built into modern fonts (a standard known as OpenType, which I’ll expand on later in this post).

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Transforming the way you work with creative projects

I’ve mentioned Gridiron Software’s new application, Flow, in a previous post. I’ve been beta testing Flow since the latter part of 2008, and it’s been quite an evolution. Big news is that the first (possibly the only) Release Candidate has just been made available for download at Every once in a long while, a new program comes along that actually merits the term “innovative,” that changes the way we use computers. The first spreadsheet program (VisiCalc, for those whose memories go back that far) was one. Photoshop was another. Flow is in that category.

If you’re not a video editor or graphics professional, don’t assume Flow isn’t for you. Anyone who works with Microsoft Office files, creating documents, writing copy, or putting together PowerPoint presentations could potentially benefit greatly. There are some excellent intro and how-to videos here.

Breaking News: As of June 30, Flow is now shipping.

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Corporate Identity Standards Aren’t Just for Big Corporations

The latest issue of Creative Tips, going live tomorrow, details more about what a style book is and how to make one. Very few small to medium size businesses have a style book, far less use one, because nobody teaches business owners (or dentists, or consultants… name your field) that the marketplace does, 100 percent, judge a book by its cover. (If that’s not so, why do publishers put such enormous amounts of money and effort into designing terrific covers for their books?)

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How to make your Microsoft Word or Open Office documents look ten times better and more professional

Microsoft Word, Open Office, Corel WordPerfect: they’re  everywhere. Almost every business in the Americas, Europe, Australia (or 90 percent of the rest of the world, for that matter) uses one of the Big Three or an equivalent. We used to use typewriters, back when they were fairly cheap but “word processors” (specialized computers that only handled documents, now obsolete as a term) and computers were super-expensive. Now computers are dirt cheap, and we use word processing applications like Word. It didn’t even take long for the revolution to happen.

A modern word processing app is a fantastically sophisticated tool that really can “do amazing things” like check your spelling while you type, let you select from a mind-boggling choice of typefaces, handle bulleted and numbered lists automatically and even apply all kinds of automatic formating to your documents. So if an app can do all this, and just about everybody has one, why do so many business letters, proposals, resumes and promotional letters look, well… awful? Continue reading

Amazing Things Microsoft Doesn’t Tell You

I’ve been browsing the Microsoft Office website recently. There are container-loads of “tips and tricks” on there that tell you how to do all kinds of neat stuff except things you really need to know to make your document/presentation/promotional flier actually look good. Pardon me for getting slightly hot under the collar on this subject. I just hate seeing so many people being misled into thinking that technical tricks will automatically give them well-laid-out documents. Continue reading

Corporate Identity Is Much More Than a Logo

In the last couple of issues of Creative Tips, I dropped a loud hint that we’d soon be looking at what is really behind the “big corporation” look. There are design secrets that any business can apply to give their communications a professional, polished, successful look — one that inspires confidence in customers, prospects and business contacts. It’s coming shortly, in issue 13. Pressure of work has delayed publication a bit, but it will be out within a day or so.

Corporate Image Boot Camp

The Creative Tips newsletters have proved amazingly popular, far more than I ever expected. There’s an interesting double-effect here: as I write more and get more feedback, I find the newsletters taking on a life of their own. Number 10 is the start of a series on company image that I suspect is going to shock some folks, because the definition of what constitutes “good” design isn’t nearly the constant that some would like to believe. And the more I got into the subject, the more I realized just how many ways there are — none of them rocket science, all quite simple — to sink your company’s image without trace.

So I found myself on a roll for hours, long past the point where one little newsletter could cover it, and the “Corporate Image Boot Camp” was born. If you’re not subscribed to the newsletter, but would like to be, shoot me an email and I’ll add you to the list.