Today Microsoft released a long-awaited Outlook application for iOS and Android platforms. I downloaded a preview version from Google Play and installed it to my Android phone to give it a quick test. I’m used to accessing my corporate email through the standard Android Email application (which got a significant facelift in Android 5.0) and was mostly happy with it, so I planned to give Outlook app a test drive and then delete it. But after I played with app for a few minutes I realized that it’s a keeper.
Microsoft Outlook app for Android can read email from multiple sources: Outlook.com (of course!), Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, etc. When user is first opening the application he’s prompted with a slideshow explaining most important features of the application, and then asked to configure the email accounts. I added my corporate email server (which is Office365 tenant) and proceeded to the inbox view.
The first thing which I noticed was two views of the inbox:
“Focused” view displayed more important emails, “Other” contained less important. I’m not sure what algorithm Outlook app used to sort emails by these two views, but it’s working well. I’m definitely more interested in seeing email from Focused view.
Just like built-in Android email application, Outlook is displaying a colored square of the left of each email message. I guess this should be sender’s picture, but in my inbox it only contained sender’s initials. I know that Email app is pulling these pictures from Google+ profile, and Outlook in theory should be either going the same, but I guess it can’t match corporate email addresses to google profiles. I wonder it Outlook app could pull user pictures from Active Directory? Maybe in a next version…
There is a “Quick filter” button which allows to quickly select all unread, flagged or messages with attachments. Very handy.
There is also a fully functional Exchange calendar built into application, which is looking and functioning great.
When I tried to compose a message, I was very nicely surprised by an option to attach a recent email attachment (i.e. a file which you attached recently or received as an attachment). I wish my desktop Outlook client had the same feature. You can also attach files directly from Google Drive and Dropbox (why not OneDrive?) or take picture with a phone camera.
When I opened email message details I realized that Outlook can group messages into threads (Android email app can’t do that) and also (a killer feature!) can properly display HTML mails where image is embedded into email body. Android Email app is considering every image an attachment and displaying it at the bottom of the email message, which is seriously inconvenient.
On top of all, main email view supports finger swiping actions. Swiping message on the left deletes the message and swiping message on the right allows to “schedule” message, i.e. to create a notification based on this message and snooze the message display until further date). This feature is similar to Google Inbox app.
Microsoft Outlook client for Android is a cutting-edge, modern, useful, productive application. From now on it’s going to be my default email application on my phone.
Just recently, Perficient was named as a top 100 company for a remote job by FlexJobs. (Read About It) Being I work from home (as most people do in my field), I definitely felt Perficient was well deserving of this award. Although the FlexJobs criteria didn’t ask “what kind of tools do Perficient employees use to help in being remote?”, we all know what the single most common answer would be if asked; Lync Server 2013. So here is a break down of what I have to make myself productive being remote;
1.) A home office
2.) A company issued laptop
3.) Outlook connected to Office 365 Exchange Online
4.) SharePoint (On-Premises)
5.) Lync Server 2013 with Enterprise Voice. I use it extensively on my iPhone and obviously my PC.
6.) Yammer (on occasion)
7.) VPN – But only kind of. VPN is only used to do my timesheets as that system is not publically accessible…on purpose I believe.
Yes, I get it, you are probably reading all of those and thinking “why did you lend so much credence to Lync in the first paragraph, you still need all those other tools as well?”. That’s simple answer; The other technologies and the concept they represent have been around forever, so that really hasn’t changed. What ties it all together is Lync Server 2013, which in my opinion creates “Unified Communications.”
I’ve been using content management systems and email for quite some time prior to Lync going “mainstream”. Although those tools could be used while working remotely before Lync, they lacked the personal feel that Lync offers. With only those “pre-Lync” tools, I couldn’t rapidly connect with someone over IM/Voice/Video at the very moment I needed to. I required being with someone in person, which didn’t scale at all. Take for example; what if I needed talk to co-worker Jim in Chicago unscheduled. Then I needed to talk to customer Frank in Miami unscheduled 15 minutes after that? I can’t hop a flight to Chicago then to Miami in 15 minutes…I need a tool that allows me to see and communicate with these individuals immediately. That is the gap that the Unified Communications leader, Lync Server 2013, has filled.
So readers could be reading this and thinking, “Jason is bias, of course he’ll give this opinion.” Au contraire mon frere , I reached out to individuals, one of whom I don’t even know who work at Perficient.
Allison wrote this quote very professionally, so keep in mind this was a completely un-coached quote. She just joined Perficient through acquisition and her company prior didn’t have Lync.
How does Lync empower your day to day duties?
“I typically get frustrated with technology, but I must say I really do like Lync.
Lync has actually saved me time and made it super easy to meet and collaborate with people remotely. Prior to the acquisition I used a conference call number, but that was only voice. If I needed to share a document or presentation I would have to schedule a GoToMeeting. That would take about 5 minutes to set up. For messaging I used a separate tool – Google Hangouts. With Lync everything is together in one tool. I can quickly schedule a meeting that includes a “Join Lync Meeting” link to join the call on my computer and an optional phone number for people that need to or prefer to call in via phone. Once in the meeting I also have the ability to share my screen, instant message people in the meeting, and record the call. I especially like the one click “New Lync Meeting” to schedule a meeting in my Outlook calendar. Only takes a second. So fast and easy.
Lync allows me to communicate securely from any location, be it office, home or the local coffee shop. It combines voice and video calls, meetings, screen sharing, and instant messaging into one, easy-to-use tool. This makes collaboration and sharing super easy.”
- Allison Gugala – Marketing Manager, Perficient
What would be the most challenging part of your job WITHOUT Lync?
“Communication – tracking people down, scheduling meetings, answering questions, making a quick call – it’s all so much easier with Lync”
- Angie Lingk – BDE, Perficient
Now, to be fair, I also asked this question with an answer I didn’t expect;
How has the Lync Mobile “1-click” meeting join feature improved the Lync experience?
“So, this is the one thing I have an issue with. It’s basically useless to me unless I am on Wi-Fi. When I’m traveling, specifically driving, I am never on Wi-Fi.”
- Angie Lingk
The “issue” Angie experienced happened to be a non-issue after all, it was simply the lack of user training. Once I explained to her how to setup the client, the Lync mobile client has become irreplaceable.
The client can indeed be configured to use with 1-click over normal cellular, which is incredibly invaluable to remote workers who don’t have good data signals. As much as the big cell carriers brag, they simply can’t get data coverage into all areas of the United States.
Stayed tuned for a subsequent blog detailing the simple Lync mobile client configuration to make your life easier while being remote.
So there you have it, Lync Server 2013 allows Perficient to be considered a top place to work fore remote workers. Without the proper tools to enable our users, Perficient would simply be unable to advertise jobs as being remote positions.
Yammer is rolling out an exciting new feature which will provide the ability to add external collaborators to new conversations, existing conversations, and private messages within the Office 365 network. This will be first released for beta testing (for verified and registered admins).
The Office 365 community hosted an open discussion around this new feature led by Microsoft team. Folks on the discussion shared real time scenarios where this could prove real helpful.
Here is a list of top 10 quick tips you need to know about this idea – Flexternal
As crazy as it may sound, Microsoft has decided to give away Power BI for free.
Why? That’s easy: they want Tableau’s market.
Well, maybe that’s not the entire answer. After all, Microsoft played nicely with Tableau for years, largely viewing them as a partner. But frankly, they were leaving a fairly large market opportunity untouched. So Power BI is a whole is definitely a move in that direction. But, if they’re giving it away, that can’t be the entire answer.
I think this move ties in with other recent Microsoft data bets — e.g. the acquisitions of Equivio and Revolution Analytics, the internal development of Cosmos and SQL-IP, the creation of Polybase for APS, the positioning of HDInsight and Azures cloud-based data services, etc.
Basically, Microsoft is doubling down on their Data Platform. They are investing heavily in what Satya Nadella sees as a more and more data-driven world. Given the history of Microsoft with creating ecosystems linking related (and sometimes unrelated) products, it will be interesting to see how these various products come together.
In the meantime, for the low, low price of a simple business email, it’s definitely worth checking out the new Power BI preview…
Azure Active Directory Sync Services (AADSync) was made “generally available” in September 2014. While the old DirSync tool is still available (and actually still linked to in the portal), AADSync should be what you’re looking to deploy at this point. As we make this transition, there is a learning curve in trying to understand how to accomplish certain tasks in AADSync that you may have previously done in DirSync.
One of the configuration settings I often implement with DirSync is the creation of a filter to only synchronize attributes with a properly formatted UPN.
Below is how this filter can be implemented using the AADSync PowerShell module.
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When the web was young, it was simple, it was stateless. It was originally envisioned by its creators as a set of hypertext documents linked together. Then, somebody added a forms tag and the era of web applications has begun.
Nowadays, web applications could be as complex as needed. Pretty much any kind of application could be implemented as web application. But advanced functionality requires advanced application architecture and design. There are two corner-stone design patterns for web applications – multi page web applications (MPA) and single page web applications (SPA).
MPA is traditional kind of web applications. Every time application needs to submit user input to the web server or needs to display new data to user, it have to request a new page from the server and then render it in the web browser. This approach works fine for simple pages, but when the application have a rich user interface, then pages may become very complex and loaded with a lot of data. Generating complex web pages on the server, transmitting them over the internet and rendering in the browser takes time and thus degrades user experience, because user can’t continue working with application while it’s in process of serving a new page. In the beginning of 2000s MPA were improved with AJAX technology, which allows to refresh parts of the page without reloading the whole page. That definitely makes user experience better, but it adds complexity to the page.
The new vision for Windows is an operating system designed to deliver a singular, cohesive experience across a myriad of device types. Traditionally, Windows has been built for the PC. So, this is the first time that the operating system has been designed for a cloud and mobile-first world.
Windows 10 will run across an incredibly broad set of devices – from the Internet of Things, to servers in enterprise datacenters worldwide. Some of these devices have 4 inch screens – some have 80 inch screens – and some don’t have screens at all. Some of these devices you hold in your hand, others are ten feet away. Some of these devices you primarily use touch/pen, others mouse/keyboard, others controller/gesture – and some devices can switch between input types.
And across this breadth of devices, Microsoft is delivering one application platform for developers. Whether you’re building a game or a line of business application, there will be one way to write a universal app that targets the entire family. There will be one store, one way for applications to be discovered, purchased and updated across all of these devices. Awesome!
After we heard more in today’s announcement, here are my 7 reasons why you should be fired up too! Read the rest of this post »
One of our ace lead consultants, RGB or Roydon Gyles-Bedford, alerted our team of some great improvements made to Enterprise Search in SharePoint 2013 on-premises. These 2 important new updates can be found in the November 2014 CU –
#1 – Search can now index office documents embedded in other office documents!
Example – you have a Word doc (.docx) embedded in a PowerPoint slide (.pptx). That word document has text. SharePoint Search will now index that text. You can use the Enterprise Search Center to search for a word in that document and your PowerPoint presentation will be listed in the search results. Awesome! For more information, visit the MSDN Blog here.
#2 – Search stays online even when one or more partition(s) is unavailable!
Many of the limits within Exchange Online are values that your users are unlikely to exceed. Despite this, we occasionally see situations where a limit is exceeded in ways you might not expect.
As perhaps best illustrated by the fabled “640K ought to be enough for anybody” quote (falsely?) attributed to Bill Gates, the requirements of users changes over time. Fortunately, Office 365 has maintained pace in most cases by raising various limits.
I recently worked with a client that exceeded the default 30 GB “RecoverableItemsQuota” value set on their mailbox. As a result, meeting invites sent to the user were being returned as undeliverable to the senders.
What is the “RecoverableItemsQuota”?
How can you tell if you’re at risk of exceeding the limit?
Is 30 GB a limit we can expect to exceed?
How can we increase the limit in Exchange Online?
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While it is simple to set the prefix of Document ID Service in SharePoint 2013 manually, it’s less straightforward if you are looking to set it up programmatically (but still fairly simple once you know how). If you’ve been wondering how to do this correctly, last week, Perficient’s Peng Zhao wrote a blog post that walks through the necessary steps.
This post introduces you to a correct way to set up Document ID Prefix in SharePoint 2013. Immediately after you kick off the timer jobs for Document ID service in this approach, all of your documents under the new site will show up with correct prefix.
We have recently rolled out a web template based on our team site template. It requires you to set the prefix of Document ID service when the user is creating a site with the web template. It is simple if you can do it manually in the “site settings>>Document Id Settings” like this:
If you plan to do it programmatically, it is a different story. The articles or blogs I searched on the Internet demonstrate that the following will do the trick:
It sets the root web property “docid_settings_ui”. It also sets the prefix value on the Document ID Settings page as if it were set manually. If you go to the settings page, the prefix string shows up there; nothing seems wrong. But after you kick off your timer jobs for Document ID service, you will find all your documents never get the new prefix.
The CORRECT way to set the document id prefix should be like this:
Neat and simple, right?
In this way, right after you kick off the timer jobs for Document ID service, all your documents under the new site will show up with correct prefix.
Thanks Peng Zhao and Matt Connolly for sharing this tip!