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Microsoft Office 2010 Coming to Our House

I just noticed the reaction to the new Microsoft Office 2010 packaging and price structures in posts by Mary Jo Foley and Ed Bott.  Although I despair over being a Microsoft outlier-customer with the disappearance of some of my favorite products, the moves in Microsoft Office packaging and availability may be just the ticket for our household.  The announcement is particularly interesting because our Office 2003 installations are a little long in the tooth and it would be good to upgrade, especially as we move to Windows 7 64-bit configurations over the next several months.  (Our first Windows 7 64-bit machine is Vicki’s new laptop and it is clear that is the migration path throughout the household SOHO network, despite the need for at least two more hardware replacements.)

Our Long Microsoft Office Romance

I operate a Small-Office, Home-Office (SOHO) wired network.  Both Vicki and I are devoted to Office 2003 on our individual business desktop and laptop machines.  I obtained the two requisite Office 2003 Professional copies by adroitly paying $99 each with one-day workshops included.  (Actually, the software was given out as premiums for attendance at the two $99 workshops.  I doubt there will be such an opportunity again although I am on alert.) 

I happily install OO.o on family-member machines where there is limited need for Microsoft Office capability beyond occasional import/export of simple documents in the big-three formats, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  That doesn’t work here because of personal preferences and, most of all, because of Outlook.  (We each rely on FrontPage too, and that is a more-difficult problem.)

Office 2010 Seductiveness

We are devoted users of Outlook and have no desire to change that.  There are Outlook 2007 features that I want and I’m sure Outlook 2010 will improve on that.  I was despairing of what it would take to have us both move up to a current Outlook, with or without upgrading the rest of Office.  (I also have technical reasons, in my work on the OOXML and ODF standards, to have multiple versions and beta releases of Microsoft Office and ODF-based office-productivity suites lying around, a challenge that is leading me to put a heavy-duty virtual-machine configuration in my near future.  That outlier requirement will also improve my ability to develop for multiple platforms.)

If there is reasonable $199 download-pricing for download editions of Office 2010 Home & Business, our SOHO computing needs will be satisfied by two copies, one for Vicki's business use, another for mine.  (I may have to go the $249 package route to have it on my laptop plus desktop, while Vicki consolidates into a laptop-only-plus-network computing life, something I should be considering as well, now that I look more closely.)  This will also go well with our finally upgrading to Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium (Windows 7 Ultimate for my technical needs) on all non-server machines.

An Appealing Starter Case for All

Although I probably won't run into it myself, the Microsoft Office 2010 Starter edition via OEM installations would also eliminate the need to install OO.o on new machines for relatives, except to the degree they prefer to have it for whatever reasons that matters to them.  It should now become unnecessary to purchase a richer version of Microsoft Office simply to handle occasional Word and Excel interchange plus and PowerPoint document interchange viewing.   Likewise, nothing more may be needed for modest ODF interchange needs down the road.

Goodbye Microsoft Works

It looks like the Microsoft Works and Office Home and Student trial-edition crapware can be gone for good.  (I am wistful about the disappearance of Works, because it was all I needed on MS-DOS and early versions of Windows.  I gave up on Microsoft Works when it became more important to have what employers and clients used along with some peculiar outlier importance of Microsoft Office in my support of document-management technology.)

Meanwhile, Vicki has no tolerance for Microsoft Works (and may be unhappy adjusting to the Office 2007-introduced user interface too).  I still have some old archives in Microsoft Works documents that I had better find out how to upgrade before they are no longer readable anywhere, too.

Hello OneNote

And finally, I note the prevalence of OneNote in the Office 2010 packaging.  I have withheld my use of OneNote on other than Tablet PC applications because of its narrower availability and the absence of a public standard for the format. 

I stopped using OneNote on the Tablet PC on realizing that I don't go through the extra effort of transferring OneNote-authored material to non-OneNote machines and the material I have is now locked-in on the Tablet.  Later Tablet PC note-taking was done with Windows Live Writer instead. With OneNote now a stock component of Microsoft Office, I can reconsider my use along with the SOHO upgrade to Office 2010 (perhaps including a Windows 7 Tablet PC if I can find a reliable and economical OEM source).

Update 2010-01-06T22:30: I was over-eagerly expecting the Office 2010 Starter to include some form of PowePoint.  That is not the case, but I presume viewers will still be available for download.

New Issues to Contemplate: It seems that affordable laptops don’t have provisions for easy swapping in as desktop machine by using an external monitor, closed cover, and external keyboard and mouse.  However, a tablet PC can operate flattened out in tablet mode while slide out of the way in an appropriate “docked” arrangement.  I must look into that.  Until I started writing this post, I hadn’t looked at having a laptop rather than desktop as my all-purpose machine.  This is really about having Outlook running in only one place and being able to travel with it.  

In non-Outlook work, server-mediated replication and synchronization is workable.  I need to explore that much more carefully.  Figuring in an eventual upgrade to a 30” monitor for desktop work may also create some conflicts with the most external monitor that a laptop/tablet is likely to support.  I will still need a desktop system so smooth choreography of any dance between desktop and laptop needs to be understood better.

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I solve my laptop "docking" problem by only plugging it into two cords: power and network. I then use Remote Desktop from my machine with the big monitor, keyboard, and mouse to connect to the laptop.

With gigabit Ethernet now available everywhere, the only time I notice any slowdown with this configuration is when I try to play full-screen videos on the laptop.

But I spend all day at work and each evening at home with this setup.
Holy smokes. That is brilliant for my situation. It also means that I don't need my upgraded laptop/tablet-PC on my desk along with my desktop configuration and I don't have to care about laptop external-monitor limitations.

I can put the laptop in place of the venerable Compagno over on my drafting table and remote desktop into it instead of walking over to it. And unhooking for travel is easy.

I've learned to use Remote Desktop as part of managing my Windows Home Server and I am prepared to do more of that.

Thanks Tommy.
Multi-Monitor, take a second look.

I found a standard VGA connector on my laptop. So I was able to use my desktop CRT from day one.

Failing that, check out Display Link. You install some software on computer and use a Display Link enabled monitor connected via USB cable. If you don't have a Display Link monitor, they sell a USB to DVI connector. Get a DVI to VGA converter and you can use any old monitor. Check out these links:

As for Keyboard, that is even easier. Just plug in any USB enabled keyboard into your laptop. I've been using a full size MS Wave keyboard. My mouse is plugged into the USB port on the keyboard. If your favorite keyboard has a PS2 plug, you can buy a USB to PS2 connector for around $5.
Ron, thanks for the observations about "docking" a laptop to an external monitor and keyboard. That is what is happening with the new laptop for Vicki. We are removing her desktop machine and when her laptop is at home it will be connected to a dock that provides connection to a larger monitor, the SOHO wired LAN, great audio speakers, her printer, and a wireless keyboard and mouse. She will also have our Windows Home Server on the LAN for backup and off-laptop extended storage. This is in line with your suggestions and the necessary accessories are on their way to us.

My problem, and the one Tommy solves for me, is that I will continue to have a large desktop computer and a (Tablet PC) laptop. I don't want to deal with keyboard and monitor switching (been there, done that), and the laptop is unlikely to be able to drive a 30" monitor when I upgrade to one. In this case, remote desktopping into the laptop will be the easiest and smoothest solution when I want to use laptop resources while at my desktop system. This keeps Outlook and traveling materials on the laptop but I only need to plug it into an outlet and the SOHO LAN when its at home. The heavy duty work with virtual-machines and non-traveling writing -- I do a ton of that -- remains on the desktop. Synchronizing other materials between my laptop and other systems (and off-line storage) can happen by using the LAN-based Windows Home Server as a repository. I can even do version management and backup there.
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