Converting PowerPoint to SCORM is now free…

Update: It seems that this feature has been removed from the latest build !

Microsoft seems to be shaking the world of e-learning authoring tools. After announcing Office Mix, a free plugin for PowerPoint 2013 that adds screen recording, voice-over and cam recording to PowerPoint, it now seems to have added SCORM export functionalities to the Mix add-in.

mix ribbon

This means that you can create your PowerPoint, record your voice and cam, annotate the presentation, and then publish it to your favorite LMS using the SCORM export function. It must be dark times for the competitors, as Microsoft suddenly has an e-learning authoring tool installed on almost every pc…

Below you find an example of the output, by the Master himself.

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Yammer App for SharePoint – unsupported version

If you are using the Yammer app for SharePoint, or if you are using the Yammer embed code on your site, you might get the following error message:

“This page or app is using an unsupported version of the Yammer platform”

It seems that Yammer recently updated their API. You need to update the SharePoint App to get rid of the error message. More instructions in this knowledge base article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2966312

 

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Google Apps – the new best friend of an Office 365 fan?

This is probably not the first report of the “Battle of the Giants” and it will certainly not be the last. But imagine you work for an IT company for 6 years, evangelizing the Microsoft productivity tools (Office, Lync, SharePoint and later Office 365), and then suddenly you find yourself in an environment that is “breathing” Google Apps. I can honestly say that I approached it with an open mind, determined to make the best of it.  I want to make Google Apps my new best friend. But I am failing desperately. Let me tell you why.

The e-mail experience

I have nothing negative to say about the technical part of e-mail. You have lots of storage, a good spam filter (Postini), and you can send huge attachments. We had an outage (as far as I noticed) of about 45 minutes in the last two years. But it is the user experience that is driving me crazy.

The “preferred way” to work through your e-mail is the web interface, yes, the same one from Gmail. And although this might be satisfactory for my private e-mails (10 mails a day), it is failing for me to manage my flow of professional e-mail. You can label mails, star mails and create a “folder-like” structure, but if you are really using your inbox as a productivity tool (manage e-mail, manage multiple calendars, work with tasks..), the web interface is not sufficient. And I want my mail offline. Not just the last 30 days, the entire thing. Try working on the Thalys WiFi with your Gmail. “Something when wrong”, yeah right.

Indeed, I need Outlook. I need my “Send to OneNote”, “Reply with meeting”, “Convert to task”, I want my Lync presence indicator for the sender of the e-mail, I want the LinkedIn Social connector to see who is writing me. Oh yes, you can the Google Sync client and use Outlook. If you manage to get it installed and to keep it working, it “kind of” lets you use Outlook with your Google mail. Kind of. Scheduling meetings is a pain, managing multiple calendars is difficult.

I must say that I see a lot of people who like the web interface. I see that most of them are using the search function to find the e-mail that they are looking for, and that is indeed a very powerful function. But I like to organise my mails in an hierarchy, and that is simply not possible.

The file storage experience

Google Drive is definitely the best part of Google Apps. It is very much like DropBox, it has a good offline sync client for multiple platforms. You can easily add files to it via the web (don’t forget to turn of the automatic conversion of files or all your Word files are ending up as Google docs), and I use my local Google Drive folder as “My Documents” so I have an automatic online backup of everything. Microsoft understood that and with the recent Onedrive offering, they are catching up.

As long as you are on yourself, it is great. But then you start sharing stuff.

You can easily share a single document with other users. They’ll get an e-mail with a link. And another one. And another one. If you don’t start organising that yourself, you will end up with a folder “shared with you” with a couple of hundred documents. No context. Just documents.

Context is important. It’s not just the user who shared the individual document. If you are using a file share, the folder and the subfolder you are in, tell you something about the document. If you are on a SharePoint project site, you have the context of the information that is shared with you.

SharePoint. There. I have said it. 

Google Apps has no alternative to SharePoint. Not even close. Working together online is a tricky combination of shared Google Drive documents, lots and lots of e-mails and an occasional Google Hangout. SharePoint is a collaboration ecosystem. And yes, the “working together in the same document” is nicer in Google Apps, but we rarely use it. Google Sites is nice for publishing the results of your football team.

The Productivity Apps

I can be brief about that. The Google Docs, Sheets… are nice for quickly viewing a document online. Sheets is nice for making a simple list. In that sense, they are very similar to the “Office Online” versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For the “serious work”, we still use the Microsoft Office tools. We could not do without them.

Real time communication

Google Hangout is a good start, but again, it is not an enterprise productivity tool. It lacks a rich client like Lync (there is a Chrome plugin that keeps your Chrome running in the background and that is misbehaving quite often). Call quality is rather good, but very often there are delays of several seconds in the voice. Screen sharing is possible, but the quality is not very good. We end up using Skype if we are more than two people, because the quality is better.

There is also some strange mechanism that I did not figure out yet. People outside my company (friends, family) are popping up in my Hangout contact list. Probably has something to do with Google+ connections, but I did not figure out yet what is causing this. Weird.

And what is really bothering, is that using it with the outside world is not very easy. People need to have a Google account, you can not just set up a public meeting room. And certainly not schedule it in your calendar. So again, we end up using WebEx for outside meetings.

I think you get the point

Google Apps is not my new best friend yet. But I have not given up on him. I sincerely hope that you can use it better than I do. That you can share your comments and tips on how I can improve the way I handle it. Because there is still a very long way to go for me.

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Password expiration in Office 365

I have been a very happy Office 365 user since day 1, but yesterday suddenly my e-mail stopped working. And it was only when I tried to log on using OWA that I discovered that my password expired and that I needed to enter a new one. It seems that by default your password expires after 90 days.

As I do not want to reconfigure all the devices that use my 365 account every 90 days, I decided to disable password expiration. The only way to do this is via a PowerShell command, explained in every detail in this blog post.

Security is a good thing, but it would have been nice to get a little reminder e-mail that your password is about to expire. I am on the P1 plan, which is the “dummy” plan for individuals and small businesses; if I need to change a setting, I want to do this via the portal, not via PowerShell.

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Office 365 – first impressions

This week, I migrated all of our personal mailboxes to the Office 365 for Professionals and Small Businesses program (also called the “Plan P1”). These are my first impressions:

  • pricing is very good; I already had some Exchange mailboxes, and for about the same price I get more storage (25 GB mailbox!), SharePoint and Lync;
  • there is a one month trial program; however, in the trial, you cannot link your own domain to Office 365;
  • you can add multiple domains to the same account; the fact that you have to point the name servers of your domain to Microsoft was a surprise to me. I expected that it would be enough to point the mx records to Office 365, but apparently in this plan this is not the case. There are some rumours that it works, but it is not supported;
  • you can configure A and CNAME records in the Office 365 DNS manager; it took me a while to figure out that you can use an @ to create a record for your root domain (https://mylearning.be)
  • the Office web apps are included in the package, and are very useful, e.g. if you need to edit Office documents on a mac and have no Office installed;
  • the primary support channel is the Office 365 community; content is relatively good, but sometimes it is difficult to filter issues from the beta program or from the enterprise subscription if you are looking for a specific issue; I filed a service request and got a response within 24 hours.

I’ll post more experiences once I explore the possibilities of the SharePoint part of Office 365, but for the moment I am very happy with it.

More info and trial on http://www.office365.com.

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