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Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro - Full Version
Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro - Full Version
Price: $174.99
50 used & new from $127.97

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Windows 8.1 remains a disappointment, December 31, 2013
I am a power user of Windows and Office, and I reviewed Windows 8 about a year ago. At the time, while I appreciated its slightly improved desktop interface and optimizations, I felt that the Modern UI was a horrible choice to force upon the masses. A year later, I've learned to avoid the Modern UI almost completely. I've only recently updated to Windows 8.1, and was not surprised to find that the OS remains nearly identical to Windows 8.

Incidentally, be aware when updating from Windows 8 to 8.1 through the Store: after you start the download, you will be forced to complete the upgrade no more than 15 minutes after the (3.42GB) download completes. Windows 8 will present you with a 15-minute countdown timer and then forcibly restart your computer. There is absolutely no reason for this and no reason for the update to be in the Store instead of Windows Update (other than to actually get people to see the app store). Also, if anything goes wrong during the update, it simply tells you that the update could not be completed, without telling you what went wrong, how to fix it, or even an error code of any kind that you might be able to look up online. I found this to be incredibly frustrating.

Searching from the start screen, one of my previous biggest complaints, has been somewhat addressed. Now, a search pulls up results from "everywhere" by default, including programs, settings, and files all at once, plus Bing if you choose to enable that feature. All results load in real-time now, even the file search.
However, for some reason, if you are searching for a file but leave the search setting as "everywhere", you will only see two file results, even if there are no other results from other search categories. You have to specifically search through "files" to see all the results. This is an arbitrary limitation that is incredibly annoying and did not exist before Windows 8. The Windows 7 start menu got search right and had jump lists as well. It is easily my most missed feature of Windows 7, and I hope that Microsoft brings it back in Windows 9.

Microsoft also mashed My Computer and Libraries together into "This PC", which contains your library folders as well as your hard drives and devices. It's cluttered and annoying, but thankfully the library folders can be removed easily with a registry tweak. The rest of the desktop interface remains the same. I do like the Windows 8 Task Manager and file transfer dialog, and I've grown to like the Windows Explorer ribbon.

You get the Start button back (but not the Start menu), with more options when you right-click on it (including shutdown/restart). You can also boot to desktop and disable some of the charms mouse triggers, although these settings remain hidden. Nevertheless, they're sufficient for me to disable Classic Shell. There have been some changes to the Control Panel. Creating and restoring from system images is now more annoying, and the Windows Experience Index has been hidden. The push towards SkyDrive and Bing continues in 8.1, but can be avoided.

In other news, the Modern UI start screen is now more colorful, and tiles can be resized. I can't really speak to the other Modern UI changes since I avoid the interface as much as possible, but it does seem to be more fleshed out than in Windows 8. I still can't imagine being productive in the Modern UI though, and the Store simply isn't adequate for tablet power users when compared to iOS or Android (unless you live in the Microsoft ecosystem).

I'm not one to insist on sticking to old ways of doing things, but Microsoft was quite foolish to alienate its existing user base to try and capture tablet/mobile users with Windows 8. The changes that Microsoft made in Windows 8.1 were, in my opinion, the absolute minimum they could have done to try and appease their critics, and my 2-star rating reflects this. I'm looking forward to Windows 9, which (according to rumors) will include the Start menu and windowed apps. In the meantime, Microsoft would do well to stop trying to smear its competitors (Scroogled? really?) and focus on creating a better vision for the future. Perhaps the next version of Windows will be one we can all embrace.


Office Home & Business 2013 Key Card 1PC/1User
Office Home & Business 2013 Key Card 1PC/1User
Offered by Platinum Micro, Inc.
Price: $169.99
102 used & new from $147.99

97 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not a significant step forward from Office 2010, February 2, 2013
About a month ago, I installed Windows 8 and the final version of Office 2013 on a Dell XPS 13. A bit about me: I'm a graduate student and a long-time user of Microsoft Office. I've used Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote almost every day for the past 5 years, but OneNote the most by far. I've used every version of Office since 1997.

As other reviewers have pointed out, the biggest changes to Office 2013 from Office 2010 are SkyDrive integration, touch gestures, and a flatter UI to match Windows 8. Since I don't use SkyDrive often, don't have a touchscreen, and am indifferent to the flatter look, I'll leave those aspects to other reviews. If you're like me and aren't particularly excited by SkyDrive (which still isn't as versatile as Google Docs for real-time collaboration), then Office 2013 is practically the same as Office 2010 in terms of how everything works - most of the time. This is not a bad thing, at least in my opinion, since I really liked Office 2010 and its improved Ribbon UI.

What I wanted to talk about here are the changes that Microsoft has made to Office 2013 from Office 2010 that I've noticed, changes that might impact daily workflow for users upgrading from previous Office versions.

OneNote 2013:
---------------
I spend at least 4 hours a day in this program, so I'll start with this. As far as I can tell, there are no significant changes in terms of features. Buttons on the ribbon are shuffled around a bit, but the feature set is still the same, as is the file container (*.one) and notebook type ("OneNote 2010-2013").

However, there are 5 new issues that annoy me every single day.
(1) Full screen and pinning the ribbon. In 2013, going into full screen mode means that everything is hidden, except for a very short horizontal bar across the top of the screen. To access anything on the ribbon, I have to click on this bar to show the ribbon first. If I want to pin the ribbon so that tabs are visible at all times in full screen mode, I have to click on this bar, click a menu button near the minimize button (also hidden in full screen), and then click Show Tabs. However, OneNote does not remember this setting. Thus, every time I exit full screen mode or restart OneNote and then reenter full screen mode, I have to re-pin the ribbon again. On an ultrabook, I want more space for taking notes, but I also use the ribbon extensively and would prefer to have it available. This problem did not exist in OneNote 2010, which remembers the user's full-screen ribbon settings.
(2) Inserting multi-page printouts. The new default behavior in OneNote 2013 is to place each page of the printout on a separate "page" of the notebook. I prefer to put one entire lecture on each "notebook page", regardless of how many pages or slides the professor gives us. I've also never come across anyone who prefers to have only one printout page on each notebook page. So for instance, if I were inserting a 30-slide Powerpoint, OneNote 2013 would create 30 new notebook pages. There is an option to turn this off in the options, but OneNote then shows a dialog box asking me to choose between the two options every time I want to insert a printout. Since I insert several files a day, this gets annoying very quickly. Once again, OneNote 2010 did not have this problem.
(3) Inserting more than 1 multi-page printout on the same notebook page. If I try this, then the second printout is somehow inserted under the first printout, i.e. the first printout overlaps and covers up the second printout. It only happens when the printouts are both at least several pages long or if I've annotated the page already; the program disregards my cursor location. To work around this, I have to put the second printout on a new notebook page and then copy/paste the printout pages back to the first notebook page. This problem also did not exist in OneNote 2010.
(4) Zoom level changes when inserting printout: it always defaults back to 100%. I take notes at 115% on my ultrabook, so every time I insert a printout, I have to readjust the zoom level.
(5) Drawing tools. I have no idea how Microsoft managed to mess this up when going from 2010 to 2013, but half the time I try to draw an arrow, it ends up being a line with a V in the middle, or the arrowhead is completely detached from the line. In fact, I can't even draw a plain line properly sometimes. I haven't tried the other shapes much, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were problems there too. I've given up and resorted to drawing arrows freehand with the pen tool instead.

These issues may seem minor to some, but they affect me every day, so I wanted to give a heads-up to anyone else who uses OneNote the same way I do. I wish that Microsoft had spent more time implementing useful features (e.g. still can't rotate or crop a printout; search results are still clunky) or at least providing options to change these new behaviors in settings.

Word 2013:
--------------
Now, when you open up Word (and Excel/Powerpoint), you're presented with a selection of templates instead of just a blank document, which is one extra click away. Other than that, the feature set for Word has remained largely the same. I have noticed significant lag when saving large Word documents, even to SSD - I was working on a 20MB file and Word would freeze up for 10-15 seconds every time I saved, despite my computer being pretty new. I tried tweaking the settings, disabling hardware acceleration, etc, but nothing helped. This was not an issue in Word 2010 either.

One of the most touted new features of Word 2013 is the ability to open PDF files for editing, but I have attempted to open and edit several documents, and Word does a horrible job of preserving formatting. I have third-party conversion software that almost always gets the formatting correct, no matter how complex, so this was a disappointment. I even tried to open a PDF file that was created from a simple Word document, and Word failed to properly center the title. I would not recommend relying on this feature.

Excel/Powerpoint 2013:
----------------------
I haven't had much of a chance to work extensively with these programs, but other than the template selection page when first opening the programs, they seem pretty much the same as Office 2010. Saving large files in Powerpoint 2013 usually seems okay, unlike in Word 2013. Powerpoint now defaults to 16:9 aspect ratio for slides, which is nice. There are some nice additions and tweaks to the Design tab in Powerpoint, but nothing spectacular. Excel has some handy pattern-recognition auto-fill functions now which seem to work well.

One more thing about Word/Excel/Powerpoint: Microsoft decided to add transitions to everything, which I find distracting. For example, when you type in Word, the letters fade into the page instead of simply appearing, and the cursor glides to the right. In Excel, when recalculating cells, the new values fade in, like a ripple effect. In Powerpoint, when applying a new background, it fades into all the slides as it is applied. There is no way to turn this off except through a registry tweak.

Conclusion
------------
It may seem like I'm being overly critical of Office 2013, but I immensely enjoyed using Office 2010, and much of that experience has carried over here. Office 2013 will undoubtedly stand as the new standard of office suites this year. Microsoft Office remains a powerful and invaluable set of software for people in academia or business, which is why I'm still giving it 3.5 (~4) stars. But at best, Office 2013 is simply Office 2010 with SkyDrive integration and touch gestures. If you're like me, Office 2013 introduces little to no new functionality and a handful of new bugs and quirks that interfere with daily workflow. My advice? If you're considering upgrading from pre-2010, then I would recommend Office 2010, especially in light of the annual subscription-based model Microsoft is pursuing for Office 2013. If you're already on Office 2010 and are happy, I would not recommend upgrading to Office 2013.

UPDATE - SkyDrive collaboration
-------------------------------------------
Recently, I tried using SkyDrive, Office Web Apps (free version), and Office 2013 together to collaborate on some files with other people, and the experience is a far cry from Google Docs. I will preface this by saying that I am not using the subscription/corporate versions of Office Web Apps, which (I believe) have better collaboration features. This is for users who want to buy the retail copy of Office 2013 and/or are considering using Skydrive and the free Office Web Apps to work on files with other people.
(1) Changes are not synced in real time - for instance, if someone makes an edit, all other users who have the file open must manually save and refresh the document to see changes.
(2) Conflicts. After the manual save/refresh, Skydrive roughly merges everything together - so, for instance, if both users write a sentence, both sentences will appear after the first user syncs their changes, the second user syncs the first user's changes plus their own changes, and the first user syncs yet again. If two users try to edit the same word, Skydrive gives an error message, complaining of a conflict and asking the user to manually resolve each problem. If this sounds like a mess, it's because it is.
(3) There is no indication of what other users are editing, where their cursors are, what they're looking at, etc., unlike Google Docs.
(4) In Excel, if a desktop user on Excel 2013 is editing the spreadsheet, then no other users can edit it.
(5) In Powerpoint, text appears in a different size and font when being edited, then reverts back after the user exits the text box...why?
(6) The web apps have been stripped of nearly all features, even basic things like header/footer in Word. This is to be expected, since it's free, but it also means that Google Docs provides a superior experience, at least for word processing.
I shudder to think how badly this system would work when trying to get a significant amount of work done. Google Docs may be inadequate for many power-user tasks, but it is absolutely outstanding when it comes to real-time collaboration - I've written 100+ page papers with other people using Google Docs, and while further formatting is always required in Word after everything is written, we've never had a problem with seeing exactly what has been written at any given time. Microsoft's free solution does not hold up well at all for multi-user scenarios; it really only works as a backup solution for single user use.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2013 1:26 AM PST


Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 (1PC/1User) [Download]
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 (1PC/1User) [Download]
Price: $139.00

397 of 415 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not a significant step forward from Office 2010, February 2, 2013
TL;DR: Office 2013 is a good product in its own right, but it's pretty much the same as Office 2010 with SkyDrive integration, touch mode, some new annoyances, and higher pricing. I would not recommend upgrading from Office 2010. If you do not have Office 2010, see if you can live with the competition (OpenOffice, Google Drive) before buying this.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

About a month ago, I installed Windows 8 and the final version of Office 2013 on a Dell XPS 13. A bit about me: I'm a graduate student and a long-time user of Microsoft Office. I've used Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote almost every day for the past 5 years, but OneNote the most by far. I've used every version of Office since 1997.

As other reviewers have pointed out, the biggest changes to Office 2013 from Office 2010 are SkyDrive integration, touch gestures, and a flatter UI to match Windows 8. Since I don't use SkyDrive often, don't have a touchscreen, and am indifferent to the flatter look, I'll leave those aspects to other reviews. If you're like me and aren't particularly excited by SkyDrive (which still isn't as versatile as Google Docs for real-time collaboration), then Office 2013 is practically the same as Office 2010 in terms of how everything works - most of the time. This is not a bad thing, at least in my opinion, since I really liked Office 2010 and its improved Ribbon UI.

What I wanted to talk about here are the changes that Microsoft has made to Office 2013 from Office 2010 that I've noticed, changes that might impact daily workflow for users upgrading from previous Office versions.

OneNote 2013:
---------------
I spend at least 4 hours a day in this program, so I'll start with this. As far as I can tell, there are no significant changes in terms of features. Buttons on the ribbon are shuffled around a bit, but the feature set is still the same, as is the file container (*.one) and notebook type ("OneNote 2010-2013").

However, there are 5 new issues that annoy me every single day.
(1) Full screen and pinning the ribbon. In 2013, going into full screen mode means that everything is hidden, except for a very short horizontal bar across the top of the screen. To access anything on the ribbon, I have to click on this bar to show the ribbon first. If I want to pin the ribbon so that tabs are visible at all times in full screen mode, I have to click on this bar, click a menu button near the minimize button (also hidden in full screen), and then click Show Tabs. However, OneNote does not remember this setting. Thus, every time I exit full screen mode or restart OneNote and then reenter full screen mode, I have to re-pin the ribbon again. On an ultrabook, I want more space for taking notes, but I also use the ribbon extensively and would prefer to have it available. This problem did not exist in OneNote 2010, which remembers the user's full-screen ribbon settings.
(2) Inserting multi-page printouts. The new default behavior in OneNote 2013 is to place each page of the printout on a separate "page" of the notebook. I prefer to put one entire lecture on each "notebook page", regardless of how many pages or slides the professor gives us. I've also never come across anyone who prefers to have only one printout page on each notebook page. So for instance, if I were inserting a 30-slide Powerpoint, OneNote 2013 would create 30 new notebook pages. There is an option to turn this off in the options, but OneNote then shows a dialog box asking me to choose between the two options every time I want to insert a printout. Since I insert several files a day, this gets annoying very quickly. Once again, OneNote 2010 did not have this problem.
(3) Inserting more than 1 multi-page printout on the same notebook page. If I try this, then the second printout is somehow inserted under the first printout, i.e. the first printout overlaps and covers up the second printout. It only happens when the printouts are both at least several pages long or if I've annotated the page already; the program disregards my cursor location. To work around this, I have to put the second printout on a new notebook page and then copy/paste the printout pages back to the first notebook page. This problem also did not exist in OneNote 2010.
(4) Zoom level changes when inserting printout: it always defaults back to 100%. I take notes at 115% on my ultrabook, so every time I insert a printout, I have to readjust the zoom level.
(5) Drawing tools. I have no idea how Microsoft managed to mess this up when going from 2010 to 2013, but half the time I try to draw an arrow, it ends up being a line with a V in the middle, or the arrowhead is completely detached from the line. In fact, I can't even draw a plain line properly sometimes. I haven't tried the other shapes much, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were problems there too. I've given up and resorted to drawing arrows freehand with the pen tool instead.

These issues may seem minor to some, but they affect me every day, so I wanted to give a heads-up to anyone else who uses OneNote the same way I do. I wish that Microsoft had spent more time implementing useful features (e.g. still can't rotate or crop a printout; search results are still clunky) or at least providing options to change these new behaviors in settings.

Word 2013:
--------------
Now, when you open up Word (and Excel/Powerpoint), you're presented with a selection of templates instead of just a blank document, which is one extra click away (this can be turned off in Options). Other than that, the feature set for Word has remained largely the same. I have noticed significant lag when saving large Word documents, even to SSD - I was working on a 20MB file and Word would freeze up for 10-15 seconds every time I saved, despite my computer being pretty new. I tried tweaking the settings, disabling hardware acceleration, etc, but nothing helped. This was not an issue in Word 2010 either.

One of the most touted new features of Word 2013 is the ability to open PDF files for editing, but I have attempted to open and edit several documents, and Word does a horrible job of preserving formatting. I have third-party conversion software that almost always gets the formatting correct, no matter how complex, so this was a disappointment. I even tried to open a PDF file that was created from a simple Word document, and Word failed to properly center the title. I would not recommend relying on this feature.

Excel/Powerpoint 2013:
----------------------
I haven't had much of a chance to work extensively with these programs, but other than the template selection page when first opening the programs, they seem pretty much the same as Office 2010. Saving large files in Powerpoint 2013 usually seems okay, unlike in Word 2013. Powerpoint now defaults to 16:9 aspect ratio for slides, which is nice. There are some nice additions and tweaks to the Design tab in Powerpoint, but nothing spectacular. Excel has some handy pattern-recognition auto-fill functions now which seem to work well.

One more thing about Word/Excel/Powerpoint: Microsoft decided to add transitions to everything, which I find distracting. For example, when you type in Word, the letters fade into the page instead of simply appearing, and the cursor glides to the right. In Excel, when recalculating cells, the new values fade in, like a ripple effect. In Powerpoint, when applying a new background, it fades into all the slides as it is applied. There is no way to turn this off except through a registry tweak.

Conclusion
------------
It may seem like I'm being overly critical of Office 2013, but I immensely enjoyed using Office 2010, and much of that experience has carried over here. Office 2013 will undoubtedly stand as the new standard of office suites this year. Microsoft Office remains a powerful and invaluable set of software for people in academia or business, which is why I'm still giving it 3.5 (~4) stars. But at best, Office 2013 is simply Office 2010 with SkyDrive integration and touch gestures. If you're like me, Office 2013 introduces little to no new functionality and a handful of new bugs and quirks that interfere with daily workflow. My advice? If you're considering upgrading from pre-2010, then I would recommend Office 2010, especially in light of the annual subscription-based model Microsoft is pursuing for Office 2013. If you're already on Office 2010 and are happy, I would not recommend upgrading to Office 2013.

UPDATE - SkyDrive collaboration
-------------------------------------------
Recently, I tried using SkyDrive, Office Web Apps (free version), and Office 2013 together to collaborate on some files with other people, and the experience is a far cry from Google Docs. I will preface this by saying that I am not using the subscription/corporate versions of Office Web Apps, which (I believe) have better collaboration features. This is for users who want to buy the retail copy of Office 2013 and/or are considering using Skydrive and the free Office Web Apps to work on files with other people.
(1) Changes are not synced in real time - for instance, if someone makes an edit, all other users who have the file open must manually save and refresh the document to see changes.
(2) Conflicts. After the manual save/refresh, Skydrive roughly merges everything together - so, for instance, if both users write a sentence, both sentences will appear after the first user syncs their changes, the second user syncs the first user's changes plus their own changes, and the first user syncs yet again. If two users try to edit the same word, Skydrive gives an error message, complaining of a conflict and asking the user to manually resolve each problem. If this sounds like a mess, it's because it is.
(3) There is no indication of what other users are editing, where their cursors are, what they're looking at, etc., unlike Google Docs.
(4) In Excel, if a desktop user on Excel 2013 is editing the spreadsheet, then no other users can edit it.
(5) In Powerpoint, text appears in a different size and font when being edited, then reverts back after the user exits the text box...why?
(6) The web apps have been stripped of nearly all features, even basic things like header/footer in Word. This is to be expected, since it's free, but it also means that Google Docs provides a superior experience, at least for word processing.
I shudder to think how badly this system would work when trying to get a significant amount of work done. Google Docs may be inadequate for many power-user tasks, but it is absolutely outstanding when it comes to real-time collaboration - I've written 100+ page papers with other people using Google Docs, and while further formatting is always required in Word after everything is written, we've never had a problem with seeing exactly what has been written at any given time. Microsoft's free solution does not hold up well at all for multi-user scenarios; it really only works as a backup solution for single user use.
Comment Comments (18) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 1, 2014 12:31 PM PST


Microsoft Office 2013
Microsoft Office 2013

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not a significant step forward from Office 2010, January 14, 2013
This review is from: Microsoft Office 2013 (CD-ROM)
About a month ago, I installed Windows 8 and the final version of Office 2013 on a Dell XPS 13. A bit about me: I'm a graduate student and a long-time user of Microsoft Office. I've used Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote almost every day for the past 5 years, but OneNote the most by far. I've used every version of Office since 1997.

As other reviewers have pointed out, the biggest changes to Office 2013 from Office 2010 are SkyDrive integration, touch gestures, and a flatter UI to match Windows 8. Since I don't use SkyDrive often, don't have a touchscreen, and am indifferent to the flatter look, I'll leave those aspects to other reviews. If you're like me and aren't particularly excited by SkyDrive (which still isn't as versatile as Google Docs for real-time collaboration), then Office 2013 is practically the same as Office 2010 in terms of how everything works - most of the time. This is not a bad thing, at least in my opinion, since I really liked Office 2010 and its improved Ribbon UI.

What I wanted to talk about here are the changes that Microsoft has made to Office 2013 from Office 2010 that I've noticed, changes that might impact daily workflow for users upgrading from previous Office versions.

OneNote 2013:
---------------
I spend at least 4 hours a day in this program, so I'll start with this. As far as I can tell, there are no significant changes in terms of features. Buttons on the ribbon are shuffled around a bit, but the feature set is still the same, as is the file container (*.one) and notebook type ("OneNote 2010-2013").

However, there are 5 new issues that annoy me every single day.
(1) Full screen and pinning the ribbon. In 2013, going into full screen mode means that everything is hidden, except for a very short horizontal bar across the top of the screen. To access anything on the ribbon, I have to click on this bar to show the ribbon first. If I want to pin the ribbon so that tabs are visible at all times in full screen mode, I have to click on this bar, click a menu button near the minimize button (also hidden in full screen), and then click Show Tabs. However, OneNote does not remember this setting. Thus, every time I exit full screen mode or restart OneNote and then reenter full screen mode, I have to re-pin the ribbon again. On an ultrabook, I want more space for taking notes, but I also use the ribbon extensively and would prefer to have it available. This problem did not exist in OneNote 2010, which remembers the user's full-screen ribbon settings.
(2) Inserting multi-page printouts. The new default behavior in OneNote 2013 is to place each page of the printout on a separate "page" of the notebook. I prefer to put one entire lecture on each "notebook page", regardless of how many pages or slides the professor gives us. I've also never come across anyone who prefers to have only one printout page on each notebook page. So for instance, if I were inserting a 30-slide Powerpoint, OneNote 2013 would create 30 new notebook pages. There is an option to turn this off in the options, but OneNote then shows a dialog box asking me to choose between the two options every time I want to insert a printout. Since I insert several files a day, this gets annoying very quickly. Once again, OneNote 2010 did not have this problem.
(3) Inserting more than 1 multi-page printout on the same notebook page. If I try this, then the second printout is somehow inserted under the first printout, i.e. the first printout overlaps and covers up the second printout. It only happens when the printouts are both at least several pages long or if I've annotated the page already; the program disregards my cursor location. To work around this, I have to put the second printout on a new notebook page and then copy/paste the printout pages back to the first notebook page. This problem also did not exist in OneNote 2010.
(4) Zoom level changes when inserting printout: it always defaults back to 100%. I take notes at 115% on my ultrabook, so every time I insert a printout, I have to readjust the zoom level.
(5) Drawing tools. I have no idea how Microsoft managed to mess this up when going from 2010 to 2013, but half the time I try to draw an arrow, it ends up being a line with a V in the middle, or the arrowhead is completely detached from the line. In fact, I can't even draw a plain line properly sometimes. I haven't tried the other shapes much, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were problems there too. I've given up and resorted to drawing arrows freehand with the pen tool instead.

These issues may seem minor to some, but they affect me every day, so I wanted to give a heads-up to anyone else who uses OneNote the same way I do. I wish that Microsoft had spent more time implementing useful features (e.g. still can't rotate or crop a printout; search results are still clunky) or at least providing options to change these new behaviors in settings.

Word 2013:
--------------
Now, when you open up Word (and Excel/Powerpoint), you're presented with a selection of templates instead of just a blank document, which is one extra click away. Other than that, the feature set for Word has remained largely the same. I have noticed significant lag when saving large Word documents, even to SSD - I was working on a 20MB file and Word would freeze up for 10-15 seconds every time I saved, despite my computer being pretty new. I tried tweaking the settings, disabling hardware acceleration, etc, but nothing helped. This was not an issue in Word 2010 either.

One of the most touted new features of Word 2013 is the ability to open PDF files for editing, but I have attempted to open and edit several documents, and Word does a horrible job of preserving formatting. I have third-party conversion software that almost always gets the formatting correct, no matter how complex, so this was a disappointment. I even tried to open a PDF file that was created from a simple Word document, and Word failed to properly center the title. I would not recommend relying on this feature.

Excel/Powerpoint 2013:
----------------------
I haven't had much of a chance to work extensively with these programs, but other than the template selection page when first opening the programs, they seem pretty much the same as Office 2010. Saving large files in Powerpoint 2013 usually seems okay, unlike in Word 2013. Powerpoint now defaults to 16:9 aspect ratio for slides, which is nice. There are some nice additions and tweaks to the Design tab in Powerpoint, but nothing spectacular. Excel has some handy pattern-recognition auto-fill functions now which seem to work well.

One more thing about Word/Excel/Powerpoint: Microsoft decided to add transitions to everything, which I find distracting. For example, when you type in Word, the letters fade into the page instead of simply appearing, and the cursor glides to the right. In Excel, when recalculating cells, the new values fade in, like a ripple effect. In Powerpoint, when applying a new background, it fades into all the slides as it is applied. There is no way to turn this off except through a registry tweak.

Conclusion
------------
It may seem like I'm being overly critical of Office 2013, but I immensely enjoyed using Office 2010, and much of that experience has carried over here. Office 2013 will undoubtedly stand as the new standard of office suites this year. Microsoft Office remains a powerful and invaluable set of software for people in academia or business, which is why I'm still giving it 3.5 (~4) stars. But at best, Office 2013 is simply Office 2010 with SkyDrive integration and touch gestures. If you're like me, Office 2013 introduces little to no new functionality and a handful of new bugs and quirks that interfere with daily workflow. My advice? If you're considering upgrading from pre-2010, then I would recommend Office 2010, especially in light of the annual subscription-based model Microsoft is pursuing for Office 2013. If you're already on Office 2010 and are happy, I would not recommend upgrading to Office 2013.

UPDATE - 1/30/2013, SkyDrive collaboration
-------------------------------------------
Recently, I tried using SkyDrive, Office Web Apps (free version), and Office 2013 together to collaborate on some files with other people, and the experience is a far cry from Google Docs. I will preface this by saying that I am not using the subscription/corporate versions of Office Web Apps, which (I believe) have better collaboration features. This is for users who want to buy the retail copy of Office 2013 and/or are considering using Skydrive and the free Office Web Apps to work on files with other people.
(1) Changes are not synced in real time - for instance, if someone makes an edit, all other users who have the file open must manually save and refresh the document to see changes.
(2) Conflicts. After the manual save/refresh, Skydrive roughly merges everything together - so, for instance, if both users write a sentence, both sentences will appear after the first user syncs their changes, the second user syncs the first user's changes plus their own changes, and the first user syncs yet again. If two users try to edit the same word, Skydrive gives an error message, complaining of a conflict and asking the user to manually resolve each problem. If this sounds like a mess, it's because it is.
(3) There is no indication of what other users are editing, where their cursors are, what they're looking at, etc., unlike Google Docs.
(4) In Excel, if a desktop user on Excel 2013 is editing the spreadsheet, then no other users can edit it.
(5) In Powerpoint, text appears in a different size and font when being edited, then reverts back after the user exits the text box...why?
(6) The web apps have been stripped of nearly all features, even basic things like header/footer in Word. This is to be expected, since it's free, but it also means that Google Docs provides a superior experience, at least for word processing.
I shudder to think how badly this system would work when trying to get a significant amount of work done. Google Docs may be inadequate for many power-user tasks, but it is absolutely outstanding when it comes to real-time collaboration - I've written 100+ page papers with other people using Google Docs, and while further formatting is always required in Word after everything is written, we've never had a problem with seeing exactly what has been written at any given time. Microsoft's free solution does not hold up well at all for multi-user scenarios; it really only works as a backup solution for single user use.


Microsoft Windows 8 Pro - Upgrade [Old Version]
Microsoft Windows 8 Pro - Upgrade [Old Version]
Offered by SoftwareCW
Price: $115.99
12 used & new from $59.99

98 of 122 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not suitable for power users or non-touchscreen PCs., December 4, 2012
Many of the reviews here do a good job covering the general aspects of Windows 8, so I'm going to just focus on my usage of the OS and how I feel about Microsoft's new GUI.

Before I get started, a bit of background on me: I'm a graduate student, and I've been a power user and early adopter of Windows and Office since the XP days. I usually have at least several windows open, and I often need a few of them to be visible at the same time. I'm pretty open to change, and I like to see where the tech industry is going. For Windows 8, I bought the $15 pro upgrade and did a clean install on my ultrabook (Core i7-2637M, 256GB SSD, 4GB RAM).

Installation was simple and straightforward, much like Windows 7. Note that you must have a key before Windows 8 will install, unlike the built-in 30-day trial in Windows 7.

The first 15 minutes with Windows 8 were absolutely the most frustrating first 15 minutes I've had with any OS, whether desktop or mobile, and I've tried a lot of OSs (Windows, OS X, Ubuntu, Android, iOS, webOS, ChromeOS). After getting thrown into the Metro (tablet-mode) version of Internet Explorer randomly from the Metro settings app and hunting for menu controls and settings in various Metro apps, I gave up and started setting things up in desktop mode, after which things got better.

Now, two weeks later, here are my pros/cons:

Pros:
(1) Noticeably faster than Windows 7 even on a SSD, especially start-up, resume, and shutdown times.
(2) Performance in the desktop is much improved. The OS uses 0.8 GB of RAM at startup, which is much less than under Windows 7. I configure the OS so that most programs don't start up in the background on boot, so the comparison is under similar startup conditions.
(3) Task manager and file transfers are much better, show more detail, and provide more control.
(4) Native .iso mounting.

Meh:
(1) Start screen. The start screen itself isn't bad, but I don't particularly enjoy it either. It does a decent job of acting as a launcher and providing information on tiles, but the information density is pretty low.
(2) File explorer ribbon. I'm not sure what I think of it still, but it's easily collapsible and makes certain operations easier.
(3) Battery life. As far as I can tell, it's about the same between Windows 7 and 8.

Cons:
(1) Windows 8 "Metro" apps. The entire design language is incredibly frustrating with a keyboard/mouse/touchpad. It doesn't help that my touchpad isn't very responsive even with Windows 8 drivers, which isn't a Microsoft problem, but does seem to be a problem with many Windows PCs. Information density is incredibly low in apps, and interface elements are hidden behind gestures/right clicks/corner hovering. The experience is probably better with a touchscreen, but I'm not entirely sure that it would be superior to iOS or Android in terms of simply consuming content due to all the hidden UI elements. If Metro is the future of Windows, then, as a power user, I'll have to explore other options.
(2) Search from start screen. One of the things I enjoyed about the Windows 7 start menu was the search. You could type in letters and it would show you results in real-time, from different categories (programs, files, settings, music, etc.) In Windows 8 Start screen, a search only pulls up app/program results in real-time. You have to use the mouse to select "settings" or "files". Also, once you select "files" and keep typing, the results don't update in real-time; you have to press enter. This is a major step back. I'm aware that you can press Win-F from the desktop to get to the files search directly, but the lack of real-time results from all categories is something that annoys me multiple times a day.
(3) File associations, Metro app problems, etc. Other reviews here and on the Internet have covered all the odd behavior of the new Metro apps. Since I've spent as little time with Metro apps as possible, I will leave others to describe all the details.
(4) Lack of Start button on the desktop. I'm not sure why, but I really dislike having to hover over a corner to get to the Start screen, and I don't want to reach for my keyboard if I'm mousing around while flipping through papers with my other hand. The entire concept of hovering to expose a previously hidden interface seems annoying unless it provides a substantial benefit, like the window thumbnails in the Windows taskbar. Here, it seems unnecessary, especially since the taskbar is still there. This is easily fixed with Classic Shell, but Microsoft should not have taken it out in the first place. It would have preserved the most consistent element of Windows as well, which isn't a big deal in itself to me, but would probably help with wider acceptance of Windows 8.

The Xbox Music app, in particular, was very disappointing as a Metro app. I really wanted to like the idea of built-in free streaming, but I installed Spotify after only a few minutes with the app when I realized how much effort and scrolling was required to find and play a song. I agree with other reviewers who say that the app is a downgrade from the old Zune program, which I mostly liked. It probably helped that the old Zune program could run in a desktop window and could be easily controlled from the taskbar without completely disrupting my other activities and going full-screen. There were plenty of other instances where I felt that Metro apps should somehow be able to run in a window on the desktop, rather than having the desktop be an "app" in the new interface.

I also own an Android phone, Android tablet, iPod Touch, and iPad, so I understand what Microsoft is trying to compete with. However, I must disagree with the idea that one OS can be both a power OS for heavy-duty keyboard/mouse work and a mobile OS for content consumption. Unlike many of the naysayers, I have no doubt that with some improvement from Microsoft and support from developers, the average consumer can learn to live completely within Metro and be happy with the new interface. However, Microsoft seems to have forgotten about the corporate and power users that drove their ascent to dominance in the 1990's - after Microsoft decided to commit to the concept of windowed, overlapping programs instead of full-screen/tiled programs. Oddly, Microsoft has come nearly full circle with Windows 8, in a bad way. I think that ideally, the Metro and desktop interfaces would be kept completely separate, with Metro apps possibly appearing on the desktop in windows and in the taskbar.

In sum, I cannot recommend Windows 8 over Windows 7 for power users or for traditional, non-touchscreen computers. I've come to accept the Start screen, but Metro apps are useless, and I will stay in the (slightly improved) desktop environment as much as possible. I think that Microsoft still has a lot of work to do if it insists on bridging the gap between tablets and traditional computers, and I hope that Microsoft is able to better divide "apps" and "programs" with the next version of Windows instead of attempting to force a phone/tablet UI onto workstations in the name of consistency between consumption and productivity.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2013 2:47 PM PST


No Title Available

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK product, December 22, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I got this for use with my Verizon Galaxy Nexus. The screen protector itself feels nice and is clear, but the screen protector does not stick very well in the area between the front speaker/camera and the top of the device, nor at the very bottom edge (about 1mm). I applied both screen protectors and had similar results. The side edges adhere correctly and the screen protector is cut properly with distance between the screen and protector edges, so there is probably not enough adhesive at the top and bottom edges. It's better than some screen protectors I've had, but I was hoping for better.


Seagate FreeAgent Desk 2 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive ST320005FDA2E1-RK (Silver)
Seagate FreeAgent Desk 2 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive ST320005FDA2E1-RK (Silver)

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for the most part..., December 3, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I got this drive on sale and immediately put about 500GB of data on it, without any issues. It compares to my previous 500GB FreeAgent Pro in terms of speed, though I've only used USB. The included backup software is okay-ish, but I prefer to use my own software. You can opt out of installing the Seagate Manager by just moving the installation files to a different folder on your drive.

I'm giving the product only four stars because the day after I got it, the drive started making clicking noises and the connection between the drive and the computer dropped and wouldn't come back up even after I unplugged the USB and plugged it back in. Out of frustration, I whacked the drive on the side, and everything went back to normal. It's been about four weeks since then and it's run perfectly, so hopefully that was an isolated incident.


HP EX485 MediaSmart Home Server
HP EX485 MediaSmart Home Server
2 used & new from $200.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-planned product, but still not perfect., August 19, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As I was upgrading from an extremely slow and non-expandable NAS, I had high hopes for the HP MediaSmart ex485, and once I got past the setup issues, the server has performed very well.

PROS
- Backups of my four Windows PCs went very smoothly. Some people have expressed concern about the speed - it really depends on how much data you have on your computer. You have the ability to exclude folders from the image-based backup, so you don't have to waste time copying over music or videos that you already aggregated on the MediaSmart. Initial backup of a PC with a clean install of Windows took about 15 minutes over a gigabit Ethernet connection and 25 minutes over a 802.11n connection, and subsequent backups took just a few minutes, even over wireless.
- The hardware is very well designed, and is more than adequate for running WHS. This may seem like a minor point, but I have had a lot of hardware that seemed barely able to run the software loaded on it.
- For advanced users, the server is highly customizable: I was able to set up a print server, enable remote printing, set up uTorrent to download files to the server, set up FTP, and set up an internet proxy. For less experienced users, there are still quite a few plug-ins for WHS that are very easy to install through the WHS console.
- The remote access webpage is nice. HP gives you 1 free year of domain service so you can access your files from the internet.
- For those of you planning to use the MediaSmart with a Media Center PC, I have had no problems with streaming 1080p HD video to my HTPC through 802.11n. In fact, I've been able to stream two 720p videos over wireless N to different computers with no stuttering or lag (as long as you don't start playback at the same time). I haven't tried 2 1080p streams though.
- I decided to swap the stock 750GB system drive out for a 1TB drive before I set anything else up; the WHS restore itself took about 30 minutes and went pretty smoothly. However, there were other setup problems (see below).

CONS
- Setup was definitely a bit of a pain. First, the client software installation disk found my server but couldn't download the WHS connector software. Googling showed that this was a known problem where, when paired with certain routers, the setup wizard would ignore the server sitting on the local network and look for other servers connected to the Internet, which of course would result in an error. Solution: assign a static local IP address to the server in your router and then edit the HOSTS file in C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc to reflect the assignment.
- Beware: choose the names of your server and your client PC's carefully. I guess Microsoft and HP felt like this wouldn't be much of a problem for most people, but I changed the name of my server and immediately "broke" my WHS connector software installations. When I uninstalled and reinstalled, the setup wizard told me that the server needed to be updated before I could install, even though I knew it was already up to date. Solution: change the HOSTS file to reflect the name change and go through the registry replacing each instance of the old server name with the new server name. I also had to change the name of one of my PCs - after I had backed it up on the server. The home server itself actually had no problem recognizing the name change and I didn't lose my backup, but once again, I had to go through the registry fixing all the naming issues before I could do any more backups.
- TwonkyMedia doesn't play nice with my video collection, which is predominantly mp4. When I include the folder in TwonkyMedia, the plugin promptly crashes. To me this isn't a big deal since I only intended to stream music anyway, but to some it may be a no-no.
- I don't use the iTunes server or the Media Collector software, but for some reason HP still connects to my PCs every day to look for new media (that it never collects). It doesn't impact performance, but it's annoying.
- The folder structure of the server can't be altered, at least not easily. WHS forces certain folders upon you (Music, Photos, Videos, Converted Videos, Software, Recorded TV, Public, Printers and Faxes). You can add your own folders, but for someone like me who has a different folder structure in mind, this can be an annoyance as well.
- WHS allows remote access to the WHS admin console as well as client PCs, but there are a few catches. First, you have to use Internet Explorer to log into the server. Also, remote access to client PCs only works with Windows XP Pro and Windows Vista Business/Enterprise/Ultimate. Even then, you have to fiddle with a bunch of settings on each computer for this to work. I chose to completely ignore this feature and go with LogMeIn Free, which works on all platforms. Another free alternative is Windows Live Mesh.
- If you have the server automatically configure port forwarding for remote access, on occasion something will go wrong and the remote access page won't be accessible. I solved this by manually forwarding ports 80, 443, and 4125 from my router to the server.

OTHER
- Some people have complained that no good server should require clients to install a piece of software on their own computer. This is NOT necessary; you can still access the files on the server through Windows Explorer without installing any extra software. The client software is primarily for facilitating administration of the server and for performing backups. If you are an advanced user, you can remotely connect to the server with the RDP software in Windows and not install the connector software at all.
- People debate whether or not anti-virus is necessary; since there are so many ports on my server open to the Internet, I opted to install avast! WHS antivirus, which works very well. It isn't free like the home versions, but I think it's worth the peace of mind.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 21, 2009 7:32 PM PST


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