Microsoft Office

What’s New in Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update, Arriving September 2017

Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update, codenamed Redstone 3, will be released in September 2017. Here are all the new features Microsoft announced at its BUILD 2017 event on May 11.

There will be many more new features and small changes that make Windows better to use, just as there were in previous updates. We’ll learn about those through the Insider Previews released between now and September, so check back with this post for more useful, smaller, geeky features.

OneDrive Shows Files in the Cloud, Downloading Them on Demand

Microsoft announced “OneDrive Files on Demand”, which allows some files to be stored in the cloud and available to you without being synced on your local device. An older version of this feature appeared in Windows 8.1, and people have been asking for it since. Dropbox and Google Drive are incorporating a similar feature, too.

Interestingly enough, this works with files in the Desktop and Documents folder, so it isn’t just limited to files in the OneDrive folder.

When you try to open a file that isn’t stored on your PC, Windows will download it and open it for you. This is implemented at a low level in the operating system and works with any application, even command line ones.

Windows Syncs Your Clipboard Between Your PCs and Phones

There’s now a cloud-based clipboard that allows you to copy and paste data between your devices. This will work in Windows without developers having to do anything. Copy something on one of your Windows PCs, and it’ll be available on the clipboard on your other Windows PCs. It’ll also work with Microsoft’s SwiftKey keyboard on iPhone and Android.

The Microsoft Office team is working on a clipboard history feature, allowing you to paste things you’ve copied to your clipboard in the past. That’s just one example of what app developers could do with this feature, and Microsoft hopes other app developers take further advantage of it.

Microsoft Graph Tracks Your Activities, and the Timeline Helps You Resume Them Anywhere

According to Microsoft, “the Windows PC will help you roam from device to device using the Microsoft Graph”. Windows knows whether you were working on a document, playing music, browsing the web, reading news, or watching a video through the Microsoft Graph. There’s a new Timeline feature that shows the activities you perform on your PC over time, and it’s searchable.

Cortana’s “Pick up where you left off” feature suggests activities you might want to resume when you switch to another PC.

This feature works iPhones and Android phones, too. If you install the Cortana app, Cortana will prompt you to pick up where you left off on your phone when you leave your PC. Cortana is aware of your timeline, so you can choose to resume activities you were working on. Perform an activity on your phone and it will appear in the timeline on your PC later, too.

To make this easier to set up, there’s a new “Phone” icon on the main Settings app screen that will guide users through setting this up. This will also enable syncing notifications with Android devices and syncing reminders to iPhones and…

Microsoft Goes After Google With New Education Products And Services

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella discusses student empowerment at the Microsoft Education event at Center 415 on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, in New York. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for Microsoft)

Microsoft held its special Education event on Wednesday, and announced a handful of new products and services designed for and geared specifically towards teachers and students. While Microsoft dominates the installed educational base, Google Chromebooks and G Suite have grown in popularity in K-12 over the past few years as have Apple MacBooks for high schoolers off to college. While the education market isn’t a very profitable market, K-12 students may go off to college or secondary school and then off to a job where the industry standard tool is Microsoft Office and increasingly Office 365. Microsoft would like to see that continue. Given Microsoft’s challenges in the smartphone OS space, the company needs positive interaction with kids and schools beyond the very successful Minecraft and XBox franchises. Microsoft needed a meaningful response and this announcement was the day for it and the messages were as much for educators as it was for their broad partner base of hardware OEMS and ISVs. Microsoft needed to show it was in-touch with the needs of schools and students and could muster a simple and cost-effective solution.

Here’s a rundown of what was announced, and what I thought about it. I’m going to focus mainly on the software and services side of the announcements—as I already weighed in on the Surface Laptop here.

Nadella nails the opening

CEO Satya Nadella kicked off the day with a very personal and passionate story of how his grandfather and great uncle took two very paths and he wouldn’t be on stage if his grandfather wasn’t able to get the schooling he needed. I was touched. He related those personal experiences to the Microsoft mission and just how important education was to him and to Microsoft. Nadella was on fire and to me gave to me the most impassioned CEO plea I’ve heard in years. He really meant it and came across as very genuine and is onto solidifying his position as the one of tech industry’s best if the not the best oraters.


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Microsoft finds its “(s)oul” with Windows 10 S

After Nadella’s opening remarks, he introduced Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group. Myerson’s first big announcement was the unveiling of the new Window 10 S—an experience targeted to students and teachers with a strong emphasis on the (s)ecurity, (s)afety and (s)peed needed for educational settings. Myerson attempted to appeal to the audience’s emotions by repeatedly referring to 10 S as Microsoft’s “(s)oul,”—espousing the necessity for teachers to have the right tools to shape tomorrow’s innovators in today’s classroom.

In the interest of security, safety, and speed, all the applications in Windows 10 S are downloaded from the Windows Store, where they are initially verified. The applications are then run locally within a secure container, which should provide consistency in performance, increased security and privacy and quick login times for students. However, for the certain teachers and administrators who understand the inherent risks involved in downloading apps from the Wild West of the Internet, they do have the option of making a one-way switch to Windows 10 Pro, so that they’re able to download and install anything they desire. Including this option was a good move—the open platform nature of Windows is one of its key strengths after all. Interesting to me was that this sets the table nicely for a Windows on Qualcomm notebook solution in the future.

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All in on Edge and Bing

While Microsoft has been pushing really hard to make its browser, Microsoft Edge, ideally suited for the classroom, Windows 10 S does have the ability to run any browser—as long as it’s available in the Windows Store. But right now, Google Chrome is not in the store and this culd be an issue for some students and educators, particularly if they’re standardized on G Suite. At a minimum, I’d like to see Microsoft allow Google to be the default search engine or give some really good reasons why not. Bing is good quality search and it’s the default searche egine for Apple iOS, but people like choice.

Edge is very fast, power-efficient and Microsoft reinforced some of its differentiating features for Microsoft Edge at the event as well—a new Tab Preview Bar, and a feature called Windows Ink, which allows students to scribble notes directly onto a web page for saving and sharing. Inking in education is a big deal, bigger than in any other market and I’m excited to see where this goes. It’s going to take a lot of effort and innovation to cut into…

What Is a .DOCX File, and How Is It Different from a .DOC File in Microsoft Word?

For most of its long history, Microsoft Word has used a proprietary format for its saved files, DOC. Starting in 2007 with the updated version of Word (and Microsoft Office), the default save format was changed to DOCX. This wasn’t simply a belated 1990s “extreme” version of the format—that extra X stands for the Office Open XML standard. What’s the difference, and which one should you use?

DOC is a document format used by Microsoft Word, while DOCX is its successor. Both are relatively open, but DOCX is more efficient and creates smaller, less corruptable files . If given the choice, use DOCX. DOC is only necessary if the file will be used by pre-2007 versions of Word.

A Brief History of the DOC Format

Microsoft Word started using the DOC format and file extension over 30 years ago in the very first release of Word for MS-DOS. As an extension explicitly for Microsoft’s proprietary document processor, the format was also proprietary: Word was the only program that officially supported DOC files until Microsoft opened the specification in 2006, after which it was reverse-engineered.

Microsoft Word has used the DOC file format for over 30 years.

In the 90s and early 2000s, various competing products could work with DOC files, though some of Word’s more exotic formatting and options weren’t fully supported in other word processors. Since Office and Word were the de facto standards for office productivity suites and word processors, respectively, the closed nature of the file format undoubtedly helped Microsoft retain its domination over products like Corel’s WordPerfect. Since 2008, Microsoft has released and updated the DOC format specification several times for use in other programs, though not all of Word’s advanced functions are supported by the open documentation.

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After 2008, the DOC format was integrated into…