For the past several weeks, I’ve been testing the escrow build for Windows Vista Beta 2. And I’ve also been testing a whole cluster of other products and technologies. I’ve noted my excitement (and some challenges) with all of this new software.
But my personal experiences will now be shared by countless more people. Last week, BillG announced the general availability of a whole slew of beta products. We’ve all heard the announcements. But what about the code base. How are all the betas looking? In my humble opinion, so far, so good. Here’s the rundown:
- Vista Beta 2: I’ve been running the escrow build for three weeks. After three attempts to get the actual beta bits downloaded, I finally got the bits on Saturday night. So I installed Saturday night and went into the office on Sunday. Why did I go in? Well, I wasn’t able to upgrade from my previous build. So I had to install into a clean Windows directory. And that meant that I had to re-join the network and re-install all of the apps I use. The process Is pretty simple – it just takes some time. So after two hours, I got everything set up the way I like it. I’ve installed all the Office betas. I’ve installed the Windows Live Messenger beta. I’ve even got the new IT Connection Manager installed.I can’t comment on the XP-to-Vista upgrade as I haven’t done that. But my new Vista partition is working quite nicely. I would have no objection showing this to any of my customers. Indeed, I can’t wait to start showing all of this to all of my customers.
They’re still were a couple of device challenges, but nothing too terribly difficult to resolve. I had to update the audio drivers, but the new drivers were downloaded automatically. The drivers for our smart card readers didn’t work at first. But a quick automatic download of drivers solved this challenge as well. Unfortunately, the video drivers were still a challenge. I had to install them by hand. It’s not hard – especially since I’ve done it half-a-dozen times already. If any of you need help, let me know.
- Office Professional 2007: The installation was simple. And the code does work – with a couple of challenges (especially speed and transient system hangs). All in all, I can wait to get the last few minor problems ironed out. As I’ve noted before, I’ve been using Office 2007 as my default for almost two months. And I’m loving it. I think I’ve finally got the hang of the ribbon bar. But without any tips/tricks or handouts, it took me some time. I love the design and utility. But it will take time for folks to get used to this.As a side note, I’ve really started to explore the use of Outlook categories and action flags. In the past, I’ve flagged important items. But now, I can create multiple categories, sort by those categories and create actions for any and all items. For my part, I’ve color-coded categories for each of my customers. So when I’m looking at any email, I assign it to the customer category. That way, any time I look back at any message, I immediately know which customer is affected. And since you can assign multiple categories, I can categorize an item that affects one, two, three or four of my customers. In short, I assign impact scoping of every item by customer. And then I assign priorities/follow-up flags based upon urgency. The system isn’t flawless. You can’t set multiple action flags for an item. But you can always create a separate task for each customer. I’m fiddling with how this will all work. I’ll let you know how the fiddling turns out.
- Office OneNote 2007: This product gets better and better. There are a lot more “management” and “organization” features that make it much simpler to work with a large library of notes. Handwriting recognition is a bit better than before. So it is easier to move documents between Office components with more confidence in handwriting recognition.
- Office Groove 2007: There are a few new features. But most of what I see is a cleaner integration with other Office products. Groove used to look like it didn’t belong as part of the Office suite. Those days are disappearing. There are still a few points where it looks like another vendor’s product, but those are rare exceptions. I think we need to rally start emphasizing this to our enterprise customers. Groove is no longer “an after-thought” of the Office product line.
- IE 7+: Yup, you read that right. IE 7 is the beta product for Windows XP. The Vista-specific version is now known as IE 7+. I am using both as my default browser on both Vista and XP.
- Office Communicator Mobile: The IM client for Windows Mobile 5 is officially ready for production deployment. I have been able to ensure IM presence, even when I’m not in front of a PC. I both love and hate the fact that I am “always on.”
- Windows Live Messenger Beta: I’ve been using this at work and at home for about six weeks. This is a very good IM client for the general, Internet-connected experience. And it includes VOIP support. Since this product integrates both mobile and connected experiences, it fully supports text messages moving from a connected device to a mobile device. It’s a very simple and mostly intuitive experience.
So that’s the update for this weekend. In the past week, I’ve seen some dramatic changes at home with a child graduating. But despite all the changes at home, I’m glad that some things stay the same: at work, our development teams are diligently working to deliver new code. With each week, their efforts are showing better and better results. Boy, I love this stuff!