David’s Road Warrior Toolkit

The consulting business being what it is, it’s not unusual to spend a lot of time on the road, in airports, hotels, and at client sites far from home.  And my addiction to technology being what it is, I have accumulated a sizable collection of software and hardware tools to make life on the road easier and more productive.  Friends that know of my fondness for gadgets ask from time to time for advice on gear, so I thought I’d post what I’m carrying these days.  No, sadly, none of the manufacturers of the products mentioned here is paying me a thin dime for an endorsement.

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New Collaboration Features in MS Office 2010

The Microsoft Office Word team blog has a short video up describing the new coauthoring features in OneNote, Word, and PowerPoint.  It does sound a bit like collaboration nirvana.  As anyone who has worked jointly on a training document, a proposal, or a presentation can attest, version control and the merging of changes can be a major time sink.  Web services have had similar collaboration features for a while, but those sites lack the reach and/or functionality offered by the Office tools.

On the other hand, these new collaboration features will require a change in work styles which that will present the usual training and change management issues.  For example, if you are assigned to work on part of a client proposal for example, will you be reluctant to share your early drafts with the entire team, including senior executives?  Will people delay publication of changes to shared documents, limiting the feature’s utility?  I’ll be interested to see how quickly Office 2010 is adopted, and how these capabilities are used once it is.

Dragon Speech-to-Text Arrives for the iPhone

image I occasionally suffer from writer’s block, and have been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech-to-text software (now owned by Nuance Communications) for something like 10 years now to get around it.  Whether I’m trying to write a blog post that’s just not coming together, the explanation of a tricky concept in a training guide, or a proposal, I’ve found the key is to get the ball rolling—get something down, after which the words come more easily.  And for me at least, talking through the first draft is often easier than typing it out. 

I bring this up because Nuance has just released an iPhone app that uses the same technology. 

Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition application powered by Dragon NaturallySpeaking that allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages.  …You can also update your Facebook status, send notes and reminders to yourself, or Tweet to the world.

Transcriptions can be sent by SMS or e-mail or copied into any other app that accept text from the clipboard.  Not only does this bring a welcome element of portability to the Dragon line, it comes at a price that’s hard to beat: Dragon Dictation is free.  You can get download it from the iTunes store.

Microsoft Project 2010 at First Glance

Microsoft’s Office 2010 Engineering blog ran a nice overview of Project 2010 back in October, a quick read that highlights some of the new features in the upcoming release.  Now that the public beta has been available for a few weeks, I’ve finally had a chance to see what they’re talking about—and I must say I’m impressed.  Changes to Project have been positively glacial in many ways, especially compared to the pace of change in the Office suite.  Project for Windows debuted in 1990, for example, yet it wasn’t until sixteen years later that users gained the ability to Undo more than a single action arrived. 

It is immediately apparent when you open Project 2010 that this time is different: there’s a lot here that’s new.  Consider, for example, some of the changes you see as soon as you fire the program up and load a plan:

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Speaking of Web 2.0… What is it, Exactly?

I mentioned Web 2.0 in yesterday’s post in the context of learning technology… but what is it, exactly?  It’s a buzzword that’s been tossed around in tech-savvy circles for a while, but like many buzzwords, it’s ill-defined.

Last year, Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropologist at the Kansas State University, put together a five-minute film which is the most elegant explanation I’ve seen, as well as a rather beautiful expression of what Web 2.0 may mean to the evolution of human communication.  It’s been out there on YouTube since early 2007, but if you haven’t seen it, especially if you’re interested in the evolution of the Web, it’s very much worth a look:

Presentations on Rapid e-Learning and Learning 2.0

Zulfi Kureshi and I spoke at a meeting of the E-Learning Council in Austin, Texas a couple of weeks ago.  My presentation was an introduction to rapid e-learning tools, while he spoke about “Learning 2.0”, the use of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis in learning applications.  Both sessions were well-attended, and generated some thoughtful discussion with the audience afterward, which was great.

For anyone interested, the decks can be downloaded from the E-Learning Council’s site as PDFs. Just follow these links:

Rapid E-Learning Tools

Learning 2.0: Technology Trends in Informal Learning

New Features for MS Project

Microsoft is hard at work on Project 2007, due to roll out later this year alongside the next version of MS Office. Here are two features that ought to be popular with anyone who’s spent any time at all working with Project:

"Multiple Levels of Undo: There was a post from Dieter’s Project blog about this feature. As he explained, it was an incredibly hard to implement feature but amazingly rewarding to see customers reaction! Project “12” will support multiple level of undo but we have gone beyond that and also support custom batching of VB code. What that means is that you can wrap any VB code with new functions that will become an undoable action. This is great if you have custom Add Ins or have extended applications running with Project.

"Task Drivers: Many of our customers had some problems finding out what happened to the schedule, so Project “12” has this new feature called Task Drives. A common question you may have when looking at your project schedule would be “why has a task moved to a certain date?” Now, you are able to select that task and see what is driving that task to be at the state it’s currently in."

Sounds like initial user response has been positive, to say the least:

I thought that this was a funny story about the Project Conference.

During Tuesday’s keynote by our GM, Mike showed off multi-level undo in Project. Our VP was sitting in the audience and heard the person next to him gasp and say "Oh My God …" The audience burst into applause after seeing Mike undo a bunch of actions.

I admit I never asked myself why this hadn’t been implemented yet; I was simply content to be annoyed it hadn’t been.. Apparently it was quite a technical challenge to make happen.