SkyDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage feature for sharing files among various Internet-connected devices.  You can upload files from your computer to the cloud and access them from your web browser, or your phone.  You can even share files with others.

Here’s how it works.  To get started, open your web browser and go to  Click on the Get SkyDrive button.  A small file will download to your computer.  Double click it to launch it.  As part of the installation process, you will be asked for your Microsoft Account.

If you don’t have one, you can create one at that time (all it requires is an email address and a password).  You will have to verify your existing email address by waiting for an email from Microsoft.

The installation continues to run and creates a SkyDrive folder on your computer .

Click Next and then Done, and you can access your files from anywhere. Read More →

In October 2009, Microsoft made an unusual jump into the “free” software market.  It allowed original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Dell, HP, and Lenovo to install a replacement to the previously discontinued Microsoft Works suite.  The offering was called Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition.  This starter set of Office only included Word and Excel.  In fact, these versions were a subset of the base products, because they had reduced functionality.  In addition, they were sponsored with relatively unobtrusive Microsoft-sponsored ads.

Face it; if you only used those two Office products, and wanted to save more than $100, you used the “free” version of Office that came pre-installed on your computer.  Many of my clients did that – because the two products just worked and people  found they didn’t need the advanced functionality.  However, Microsoft believed that most consumers would eventually click on one of the ad links and purchase the fully functional version.

This experiment lasted less than three years.  In June 2012, Microsoft announced to the OEMs that they could no longer pre-install the Office 2010 Starter Edition.  With that announcement, the OEMs could offer either a 60-day trial or let you purchase the full product.  There was no “in between” version available.

So what should a consumer do?  Naturally, there are two options.  The first is based on the long-standing practice of purchasing software and installing it on your desktop.  The second is based on the new way things are heading.  In this case, you use a web browser and put your files in the cloud.  Let’s discuss each of these options.

The lowest priced version of Office 2010 costs around $120.  This is the Home and Student version.  All you need to purchase is the product key, which contains the 25-digit code to unlock the Office 2010 software that is already installed on your computer.  If you want, or need, to use Outlook for your email, you’ll have to spend about $70 more for the Home and Business version.

The second option requires a leap of faith and the desire (and ability) to learn new ways of doing things.  Here, you would to select to use the preview version of Microsoft Office Web Apps.  This is (for now) a free, online, edition of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that relies on a scaled-back subset of the desktop versions’ features.  It requires using Microsoft’s SkyDrive (something you have to sign up for separately).

SkyDrive gives you 7 GB of storage in the cloud, and is accessible from a web browser.  This means you can access your files from any computer anywhere there is an Internet connection.  The Office Web Apps can work in conjunction with the desktop versions of Office, but do not require it.

Office Web Apps is still considered to be in “preview” mode.  This is the equivalent of “beta” software, so that means you cannot depend on it 100% of the time.  It also means that your support is solely through email or community forums.  However, because it runs in a browser, Microsoft can update the functions and features on a regular basis – without performing any updates on your computer – to make sure that these programs operate properly.

So, give Microsoft more than $100 for software so you can work on your desktop, or give Microsoft your files so that you can work on them in the cloud.  The decision is up to you, and in most cases will be based on what you want.  To get a glimpse of what the future holds, take a look at Working with Microsoft in the Cloud Using SkyDrive.”

If you have any questions about Microsoft Office, please let me know.

One of my small business client’s is still using Microsoft Access 2000 for two of its databases.  There never was any need, nor was there a desire, to upgrade the version of Access when the rest of the Office suite was upgraded.

Now, Windows 7 is being rolled out across their office and they want to continue to contain costs.  At my recommendation, they started using the Access 2010 Runtime.  This will permit their databases to continue to function without change – or without too much change.

One thing that was discovered early during testing was that the Calendar control (MSCAL.OCX) is no longer supported in Access 2010.  However, it is possible to continue to use the Calendar if you copy the file and register it.

More importantly and just recently discovered was the errant output of one of their reports.  The function uses Stephan Lebans’ Report to PDF code to take a report and convert it to PDF format.  While this has worked for a very long time, with only a minor hitch or two as the DLLs changed, it has proven to be a valuable utility.

Imagine the client’s surprise when a recently created document was produced in A4 landscape format (11.69 x 8.27) – resulting in a loss of data on the report!  Well, I was surprised and, at first, figured that some random printer setting was at fault.  That wasn’t it at all.

Another aspect of Access 2010 that Microsoft changed was the elimination of the snapshot format for reports.  Because this is the “driver” for Lebans’ code, the output defaulted to – I don’t know what, but it didn’t generate a valid report.

On the plus side, Access 2010 allows you to create a report and send it directly to PDF.  So, once it was clear that that some kind of coding change was necessary, it was relatively easy to implement.

I simply had to test for the current version of Access, because the shop is still in transition. Those folks who haven’t been upgraded continue to use the Lebans’ code, while those who are using the Runtime, get to take advantage of the new functionality that Access 2010 provides.

Here’s a sample of the code:

{code type=HTML}

Dim blRet As Boolean

‘If greater than Access 2003, use the built-in PDF functionality
If Int(Val(SysCmd(acSysCmdAccessVer))) > 11 Then
Dim acFormatPDF As Variant
acFormatPDF = “PDF Format (*.pdf)”

DoCmd.OutputTo acOutputReport, strRptName, acFormatPDF, strPDFName
blRet = True
‘ Call Stephen Lebans’ convert function
blRet = ConvertReportToPDF(strRptName, vbNullString, strPDFName, False, False)
End If


Now, everyone in the office can continue to produce PDF reports without any errors.