Posts Tagged Collaboration & Productivity

Orientating around Android devices

 

At the start of May I received a replacement for my broken Blackberry 9300 Curve.  I am very glad to say it wasn’t another Blackberry, instead I received a Sony Xperia M – a reasonably modern Android phone running Android 4.3.

Moving to an Android based phone, has been a boon for me as it will nicely compliment my Nexus 7 tablet.  In fact the commonality of Google and Android is the basis for an almost complete repetition and synchronicity of many of the applications and services I use.  I still use a Windows operating system on my laptop, but is not a conflicting factor, as many applications and services are also accessible via the Google Chrome browser.

While of course the Microsoft Windows desktop operating system is still very dominant in terms of usage in the laptop | desktop space and more so with Windows Surface tablets.  Having such good quality access to applications and services  on two Android form factors (phone and tablet), has made me question the necessity of remaining on Windows as the operating system of choice for the laptop device.

Already core Windows Office suite applications and services (Outlook | MS Word, Excel) etc. are already or being made more tablet or browser compatible.  Think of the Office 365 service, and the Office Web Apps functionality, so further diminishing the requirement to have an actual application installed onto a Windows operating system as a necessity.

While most enterprises can’t consider abandoning Microsoft Windows as a device platform altogether, I think the personal consumer and many SME/ SMBs could strongly consider the possibility of an entirely Android (and here I stretch the term a little to include Google Chromebooks) based device eco-system.   Google Chromebooks are now a maturing and full featured alternative to the Microsoft Windows based device. 

Of course Apple also offer a very compelling set of devices, coupled to a very well integrated operating system and application set.  So both Google and Apple offer opportunities upon which to orientate or consolidate on to bring more common device harmony into a business.  We should not discount the option to consider a more explicit Linux based desktop system, such as Ubuntu or Linux Mint etc.,  though having tried them for a while, I believe they will always remain a more niche player in the desktop | laptop space, especially with such dominant competition from Apple, Google and Microsoft.

This brings in a further opportunity to consider moving away from device centric applications and data,  and how the virtual desktop (VDI) and application virtualisation options also need to be considered along side the choice of device eco-system.  

Other aspects to factor into these considerations include

  • Data and content storage and delivery – will this all be cloud based – e.g. Google Docs or Microsoft O365 – or are there other factors to be considered?
  • Do certain use cases necessitate the use of a local application and data set?  (e.g. Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Project)
  • Device management strategy – patching and updates – how will they be managed and delivered

Having also tried a Google Chromebook, (having used one while on a holiday break),  I can see how it could easily cater for 85% of the work and processes and I engage with as an Information | Knowledge worker.  Only that I need to work with and build fairly complex spreadsheets (using Microsoft Excel) is keeping a Windows based operating system as a necessity.  I do also wonder how well a device such as Google Chromebook caters for multimedia activities consumers need around managing and connecting with peripheral devices like cameras and editing videos etc.

More and more frequently I’ve seen the Apple Macbook Pro (or the Osx UI – via web meetings) appearing, and presume those users are benefitting from a harmonised device experience between the Apple Mac and their iphone device. 

Of course Microsoft also offer their Windows Phone based devices, which also offer a similar integrated operating system and application set.  However, the application ecosystem for Windows Phone devices, doesn’t offer the same breadth of application support and availability that Apple and Android devices users have at their disposal.  Which for me is a detractor for opting to orientate around a complete Microsoft Windows device ecosystem.  Though in terms of UI design and strategy, I think both Apple, Google and Microsoft offer are continuing to recognise the need for distinct and yet harmonious and cohesive UI across all their device form factors.

As both device manufacturers and application developers, build services that accumulate pertinent personal data sets (photos & videos, music collections & playlists, quantitative data (location & travel, health & exercise metrics)), so increasing data transfer inertia or lock-in.  I think consumers will need to seriously consider which particular eco-system and device arrangement makes sense for them, as it look likes it will turn into a long term affair, and with not insignificant hurdles to overcome to move or transfer across manufacturers.

  • Do you share this view?
  • Have you already made a considered choice around a particular device set or eco-system? 
  • What were the determining factors for you?   

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The Humble Table of Contents & Hypermedia Navigation

A favourite topic of mine for blogging about is on tools and techniques to help personal productivity or group collaboration.  So you may wonder why mention the “Table of Contents”?

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Well since Quintus Valerius Soranus was credited with a little-recognized literary innovation: Pliny the Elder says he was the first writer to provide a table of contents to help readers navigate a long work.  The Table of Contents has been an invaluably useful tool to assist in content navigation since that introduction.  And remains an expected item to appear in any rendition of literary content whether physical or digital print form.

The advent of computer software and the Internet have brought adaptions, and automation.   Such as dynamically created TOCs in Microsoft Word or in Wikis such as Wikipedia’s (TOC info).

The core principle being the use of hypertext and hyperlinks (reference points) to form the navigation structure and format, so presenting the user with a method of navigation through the document contents.

With the advent of collaborative, content management systems, like Jive and Microsoft SharePoint,  while it is possible to render a TOC within an individual document, to navigate it’s own headings and sub-headings.

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What I find is actually lacking is an automated or dynamic inventory of the content of space, e.g. the actual records or documents that exist within that same.   At this point in time I’m not aware of either existing in the named example of content management systems I’ve given above.  I would be interested to hear of system that supports such a service.

I do create these myself, as a way of recording a breadcrumb trail, to be a record for my own use, and feel it does serve in ease my own navigation around self-service content libraries or document repositories.

It serves me well to store contextual material around such artefacts and I have benefitted from productivity gains by easily finding the article and context around is origin or purpose for storage, long after it has passed from my activity memory.

These manual document TOCs are part of Personal Knowledge Management kit bag.

Here’s an example I call “Key Links”

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I was slow to realise that Evernote has a “note link” functionality, and again these can be constructed and utilised as a manner to navigate and move between notes.

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See this help note “How to use note links to connect between notes” to understand how to create and set these up.

As it says:

One of the coolest things you can do with Note Links is create a Table of Contents for a set of notes inside of a notebook. This is particularly useful if you are sharing a notebook with other individuals.

And the Evernote Blog article:

Quick Tip: How to Use Note Links

Here is a youtube describing the functionality.

Evernote Note Links

My recommendation is always add a link back to the TOC document you have created, so you have the ability to go and return via hyperlinks with equal ease, there is no point linking somewhere and ending up stranded.

Like this:

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Do you use TOCs in this manner, in Evernote or elsewhere? 

Have you found an automation tool to do this?

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Evernote’s Web Clipper Update

Evernote introduced another to their Web Clipper product. (v6.0) – the initial release available for Google Chrome

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Here’s the introductory video:

Evernote Webclipper for Chrome

The Web Clipper is one of the best features of the Evernote product set.  For me it’s key for collecting and saving web content into my Evernote.

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Interestingly this particular update includes several features I associate with Evernote Clearly, another Evernote product I like and have posted about previously (link).

      • “Simplified (NEW): We brought in features from our Clearly extension to strip the page of all distractions for easy reading and clean clipping.”

It’s also integrated elements from Evernote Skitch too:

      • “We’re bringing features from our Skitch app right into the Web Clipper to let you overlay shapes, arrows and text on top of the page you’re viewing.”

I think these integrations with the other products are a good step forward.   Many of comments on the Evernote blog post – offer similar sentiments, and indeed talk about removing the need for Evernote Clearly extension at all.  To be honest I would welcome that too, it seems to me Evernote are positioning themselves to have a single integrated browser extension.

What do you think – 1 single web browser extension or keep them separate?

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Sweet Suites of Integrated Mobile Forms

I had intended to post this a long time ago, closer to this generation of devices launches, but the opportunity passed.

However, I still thinking it is fascinating to watch the portfolio of devices these internet and manufacturing giants are assembling.  Much of the commentary and opinion has been developed much further elsewhere, however, even collecting images these device suites together on the same page and admiring the aesthetics is reason enough to post.

By announcing the arrival of the Nexus 4, and Nexus 10 to complement the existing Nexus 7Google have intimated that the application and content state within a mobile user experience across a related set of devices, is as a complete and integrated experience possible to date.  Of course this is not the 1st time it is has been brought together, but Google’s  Nexus | Android is certainly aesthetically and technologically appealing.

 

Apple with iOS offer that experience with their iphone, ipad mini and ipad too.  All synchronising via icloud.

Apart from the mass of OEM hardware manufacturing specialists bringing products to the market place, Amazon and Microsoft are the notable service companies making a inroads into the mobile device market.

Almost standing apart Samsung has that oft commented upon position of being a hardware partner with any of these key internet giants, as well as offering a portfolio of devices of its own.   Very much making the market work for it in more than one way.

Samsung-devs

Certainly I see the consumer having benefitted from the general evolution of touch based mobile devices, initially championed and established by Apple , and brought to extensive commoditisation and choice through the market entry of Google, Amazon and Microsoft.  Of course there are other players now making moves Ubuntu and Mozilla, as well as Blackberry still trying to retain a market position and relevance. 

If nothing else this post will represent a moment in technology evolution, capturing the phase of the commoditisation and proliferation of these touch based mobile devices.

Do you have a favourite device or vendor?

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My Portfolio of Mobile Devices – now with Google Nexus 7

I’ve recently added a Google Nexus 7 to the set of devices I use.  As a home based worker, I’m used to many aspects of remote working, and optimising the my use of the laptop and mobile phone (e.g. 2nd monitor, blue tooth headset).  However, this month my working location will be office based but away from home, which I thought was enough of a watershed moment to see how a Smart tablet format device would fit into my device mix.

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Device List:

Interface & UX:

All the devices have an touch enabled capability of some level.

The Blackberry has a touchpad control, but not a touch sensitive screen.  This is an improvement on the physical trackball device, and not an hindrance on the device of this size, and physical keyboard is  a more than adequate input option.  The only occasional inconvenience I experience on the blackberry is that the screen is now pretty small compared to many smart phones in the market, so coupled with many mobile enabled websites having been optimised for touch based navigation, the speed and mobility around some web sites can be a little cumbersome.

The Nexus 7 was a refreshing surprise to how easy and simple a completely touch and screen based device can be.  Also with Android Jelly bean 4.2, the touch screen keyboard is gesture | swipe enabled so that with a little practice I am get fairly adept at completely spelling a word with 1 touch and motion of the finger across the keyboard.  The swipe | gesture feature really is great, and with combination of the well designed device hardware and evolution of the Android OS, I don’t have any regrets about waiting until now before purchasing such a device.

I was also waiting for tablet OS which was able to support multiple user profiles, as my family will also have access to this device, so being able to separate use profiles for different individuals is very useful.  It’s often been said that Google Play doesn’t have app ecosystem or content breadth to compete with Apple or Amazon,  having had the device for a little over a week I don’t find either to hold any substance any longer.  Google Play is a well integrated content and application store and I have not been stuck in finding the applications to access my content  – in fact these 1st few days have been a little mind blowing as the sheer amount of content available through applications like Google Currents, Feedly, Flipboard and Pocket have given me a quandary about which application to use for what content or content category.

You will notice that there is also a Physical Keyboard dock (blue tooth connectivity) for Nexus 7 which also acts a hard case cover, and stand. I thought that this would be a useful addition in case I needed to do a lot content creation on the device.  Combined with the Kingsoft Office suite, I can use the Nexus 7 as a netbook format device as well.

The Lenovo Thinkpad has a resistive touch screen which responds to a stylus and has a flip and rotate function on the screen.  But I have never found that much more than a novel feature,  though the flip and rotate screen feature is useful in small face to face group meetings. 

It is my workhorse content input and creation device, and I need both a physical keyboard and mouse, as well as a large additional monitor to optimise my productivity on this device.  My activities in content creation and communication often requires the need for multiple applications and windows to be in operation.   The main laptop screen of 12.1 inches is too small to make multi window navigation and application use convenient. I frequently find the text size or content needs to be reduced in dimension to make that application window fit correctly to fit into the screen.

Integration of Content and Services:

Cloud  and Mobile enabled applications are so well established that this has been fairly straight forward.  Obviously the Blackberry has full enterprise service integration, and can also support a multitude of consumer email services etc.  In terms of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) Evernote has been my application of choice for a long time, and that is always been a leading light in multi-platform support so it was simple to extend Evernote from the Laptop and Blackberry onto the Nexus 7.

I’ve also been a reasonably long time user of Synology NAS devices at home for home digital content (photos, movies, music etc.) The Audio and Photo playback application work without hitch, and I think it won’t be long until the video playback application is out of beta.  Certainly the download | file moving application made it easier to move content (music and movies) onto the Google Nexus.  I was also able to populate Google Play with my music library too.  So that means with Google Play Music, Synology Audio App, Spotify and Tunein Radio there is no shortage of music content on my mobile devices.  The Nexus 7 will come into its own as a content device when I purchase a good blue tooth speaker and use it to entertain the children when the family travels together.  Though, I must add as an aside – well done to United Airlines, who I flew with recently, for having a great on-demand music library – listened to Alison Strauss, Bon Iver, Robert Plant  and The Black Keys – many more were available too.

Conclusion:

I will be giving this combination of devices a good run in while working away so I will probably posting a lot more to the blog in the coming weeks.

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Key Links for SharePoint 2013

These are some key links for SharePoint 2013:

Overview Video of Microsoft SharePoint 2013

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AvePoint’s – EMEA SharePoint Usage Survey 2012

AvePoint released their EMEA SharePoint Usage Survey 2012.

It’s worth a look :

A survey of more than 700 IT managers and administrators from public and private sector businesses in Europe, representing more than 1.2 million end users…

A view of SharePoint usage by version taken from the report:

AVeP_SP_Ver

Disclaimer:

This is post is purely for informative purposes, and is not placing comment, opinion or promotion of AvePoint  products or services.

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