Microsoft Office vs. Google Docs

Paid vs. Free Word Processors

Microsoft Office vs. Google DocsEveryone who has ever used a computer has most likely used word processing software like Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word has been the standard for most word processing because it is the best-known and most widely used software. Unfortunately, Microsoft Office can get very pricey depending on the programs you need, such as Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. There are freeware alternatives to Microsoft Office such as OpenOffice, but they do not offer most of the features of Microsoft Office and sometimes have compatibility issues with Microsoft Office documents. In the past, this meant that if you wanted a functional software to create documents, Microsoft Office was the only choice.

Recently, however, Google has not only come up with a solution to the problem but has made many improvements on current word-processing software. However, it seems that many people are not aware of Google Drive, a free file storage and synchronization service, and its capabilities. So you may be asking yourself, “Why would anyone buy Microsoft Office if Google is providing this free software?” Check out the pros and cons below to see which software is best for you and your needs.

Google Docs

Google Drive provides up to 5GB of free cloud storage to every user and allows users to create, edit, and collaborate on documents in real-time with other users. It is also compatible with Microsoft programs such as Word, Powerpoint, and Excel.

One of the most impressive features of Google Drive is the collaboration feature. This allows two users to have the same document open and see all the changes and edits they are making in real time. Aside from being able to see the live changes, users can also highlight portions of the document and then comment about it amongst themselves in a sidebar chatroom. A similar sidebar pops up when a user right-clicks on a word in a document and selects the “Research” option–the user can research the term they clicked right inside Google Drive.

Another important feature of Google Drive is the free cloud storage. The main benefit of having everything stored in the cloud is that you can access your files anywhere you can log in; however, this becomes a drawback when you cannot log in to your account.

Aside from documents, presentations, and spreadsheets, Google offers forms, drawings, and scripts. Google Forms allows you to create questionnaires and surveys that can be sent out to anyone; responses can then be viewed immediately all in one place. Google Drawings is similar to the Microsoft Paint program. Google Scripts is used mainly with programming but can be automated to execute any type of task.
Finally, Google Drive’s Autosave feature means you never need to worry about losing a document again: every change you make is immediately saved. This also means that your files are stored on Google’s servers, which are likely rather less fallible than your computer’s hard drive. However, this also means Google owns the right to your documents, but this is only so that they can collect and index as much information as possible.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office consists of much more than just Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, even though these are the most popular applications. Microsoft also offers programs such as Access (which functions as a database management system) and Visio (diagram and flowcharting software), along with many other applications built for specific purposes. The largest advantage Microsoft has is the 21 years they have spent adding features and developing plugins. Examples of these features would be things like WordArt, page themes, and mail merge.

Microsoft also produces a web-based version of their Office Suite called Microsoft Office 365. This version allows you to better collaborate online and work from any device with an internet connection. It is a subscription-based service and costs $6/user.

The Bottom Line:

Overall, both Google Docs and Microsoft Office are fantastic programs but in drastically different ways. Both offer tools for collaboration, commenting, revision history, offline storage, and PDF conversion. While Google Docs is better for group collaboration, Microsoft Office provides users with a much higher level of customization, styling options, and formatting tools.

Microsoft Office is ideal for writing professional documents without group collaboration, but Google Docs is better optimized for collaboration and contains all the main features necessary for word processing. Google Docs is best for users who want to access and edit documents from anywhere or use a computer without word processing software. In most situations, it would be advisable for users to have at least one computer with Microsoft Office installed per household, simply due to its ubiquity, and use Google Drive depending on their own specific needs.

Great Resources:

1) Venture Beat – OpenOffice vs Google Docs vs Microsoft Office 365
2) Google – Google Docs
3) Microsoft – Microsoft 365

Tablets for Business

Why it Makes Sense

Tablets for BusinessTablets make great productivity gadget. Aside from being able to play games, watch videos, and listen to music, there is a multitude of social networking opportunities out there to connect you to everyone on the internet. Tablets may appear to be the new way to procrastinate, but we seem to be forgetting all the practical uses. The business environment is actually where these devices can shine.

For our business, we chose the Apple iPad. We found that the iPad is a useful mobile business tool for many reasons. The operating system provides many features and makes it easy to synchronize all your personal information, like calendars, contacts, tasks, and email. Manually consolidating all your personal information from one device to another device is a thing of the past. Aside from synchronizing your personal information, there are many apps that allow you to share and collaborate documents, spreadsheets, and powerpoint presentations. With the combination of the Apple iOS features and the many business apps on the market, the iPad is an extremely productive tool.

Collaboration

In every business, there are times when several people will be working on a single project. In the past, this meant each individual’s numerous revisions and edits would all have to be consolidated into a final document. Now, with programs like Dropbox and Google Drive, many people can work on the same document and see the changes in real-time, providing one collaborative document instead of a multitude of revised versions. This can be done with word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, drawings, and even templates, and they can be shared with any number of people.

Tablets are perfect for traveling since you can easily hold meetings—including video conferencing—through a variety of apps and collaborate on projects in real-time. In extreme cases, you can even access your full desktop using a remote access app, such as LogMeIn, for the few things that you can’t use the cloud for. Aside from being able to access your private files, there are geo-location apps that can be very useful in finding places, people, and even events in your area. I personally find it most effective when trying to find food on the go, but most businesses are listed to make it easy to find anything you might need.

Business Operation on the Go

A tablet is great for someone on the go, such as a business owner or manager. There are many business apps that can be used for overall management of a physical business. For example, there are security apps that allow you to monitor all live feeds of security cameras, see access logs of who entered and exited the building, and even control door locks and lights. Now companies are even beginning to get involved with payment services that integrate with PayPal or credit cards.

Another great feature is the ability to accept credit cards on the go. For a small percentage per swipe, you can add the convenience of credit cards and get paid instantly regardless of what type of business you run.

Portability

Tablets are far easier to transport than laptops or desktops due to their compact size. When you need to use a tablet there is no startup or login process necessary, whereas laptops always need to load the operating system unless they are already in sleep or standby. Its size and ease of use make it ideal to use while on the go—have you ever tried to use a laptop while walking? Also, instead of needing a bag to carry a laptop, most people only need a case for their tablet.

Can I Replace all of my Computers?

Tablets are the most effective when they are used on the go or for when you will be moving from meeting to meeting; it would be inconvenient to constantly pack and unpack a workstation. However, if you plan to work in one place for any more than two hours, it may be easier to use a laptop. This is simply because the access to a full keyboard and a mouse allow for faster typing and user input. It is possible to get a full keyboard for a tablet, but some might argue it is still not as convenient as having a computer. Other situations where a tablet would not suffice would include situations where you are using accessories requiring USB, SATA[?], or a video output port. Occasionally there are workarounds so that you can still use a tablet for these situations.

Personally, I believe that most business professionals will require a desktop or laptop computer. Oftentimes I find my multi-tasking capabilities on a tablet are limited compared to using a computer because I like to have multiple things displayed on the same screen.

Apps and Features We Suggest:

1) Dropbox (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac) – Store any documents that you want access to. Share folders with others for collaboration.

2) Google Drive (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac) – Perfect for writing up new documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. Any document created within Google Drive does not count against your 5GB allotment!

3) Kindle (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac) – Read all of your PDFs and kindle books or documents from anywhere. Great for reducing textbook cost.

4) PhotoStream (iOS6) – Share photos and images with people privately.

Great Resources:

1) Apple – iPad at Work
2) Inc. – Should you Buy or Lease Computer Equipment for your Business?

What TV should I Buy?

What You Need to Know

What TV should I Buy?Not long ago, size was the only thing to consider when buying a TV. Now, with many different television options on the market, it can be difficult to make a decision about which to purchase. In this article, I am going to explain the basic television types, the resolutions available, and some information about the new 3D models so your next TV purchase will not be overwhelming.

First, there are three different types of televisions: liquid crystal display (LCD), light-emitting diode (LED), and plasma. So how do you decide which one is right for you?

The main factors to consider are the placement of the TV, the size and lighting characteristics of the room in which it will be placed, and what you will mainly be viewing on it. Planning where the TV will be placed is important in finding the situational factors that will affect your viewing pleasure, making sure to take into account viewing distance and viewing angle along with acoustics.

Industry Definitions

Let’s start with some definitions of terms used around TVs.

Interlaced scanning (The i in 1080i). Each image shown on your television is broken down into 576 horizontal lines on the screen. Interlaced scanning alternates refreshing between the odd- and even-numbered lines at 30 frames per second (fps). This often causes a flickering effect, especially when viewing slow motion videos.

Progressive scanning (The p in 1080p). Progressive scanning refreshes each line on your screen in sequential order (from top to bottom) rather than in alternating order. The overall intent of progressive scan is to increase the refresh rate of the image so that the image quality and motions are more distinct.

HDTV [High Definition TV]. A HDTV is a TV with a resolution of 720p or higher. In order to get HD on your new TV, you need to purchase the proper service plan with your provider. Proper equipment, such as an HDMI cable and compatible cable box, is also needed.

Refresh Rate. The refresh rate is a representation of how many times the image is fully reconstructed every second and is measured in Hertz (Hz). This means a television with a 60Hz refresh rate fully reconstructs the image 60 times every second. The higher the frequency, the closer you can sit to the screen without eye strain.

Now, let’s move to a breakdown of pros and cons of each type of television.

Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD):

LCD TVs are probably the best all-purpose family televisions because they perform well in all types of environments and are perfect for wide ranges of audiences, allowing for everything from watching movies and sporting events to video games. LCD displays are good in environments with lots of lighting because the display screen is not reflective, which means that you will not see the reflection of windows or lights that are in the room. However, if you try watching from certain angles you the image will darken and distort the color. If the TV is going to be used in a smaller room, then this is the type to go with: they are inexpensive, lightweight, and consume less power than plasma TVs.

Pros
1) Non-reflective face
2) Lightweight
3) Use less power
4) Less fragile than Plasma
5) Image will not burn into screen

Cons
1) Response delay may cause fast motion blur
2) Restricted viewing angle
3) Only available up to 46”

Light Emitting Diode (LED):

LED TVs use thousands of LEDs to power which have very long lifespans compared to Plasma and LCD technology. They are more expensive but have brighter colors, deeper blacks, and a more vivid contrast than LCD TVs. This would be an optimal choice for gaming, connecting to a computer, and presentations because it has less motion blur and you don’t need to worry about image burn.

Pros
1) Brighter screen than LCD
2) Theoretical longer lifespan than Plasma or LCD
3) Consume up to 30% less power than Plasma or LCD
4) Less expensive than Plasma

Cons
1) More expensive than LCD
2) Not as good of contrast as Plasma

Plasma:

Plasmas are optimal for setting up a cinema-style home theatre because they provide the best picture and colors in a dark environment. They are only available in limited sizes (42″-65″), so for smaller spaces you are limited to LED or LCD TVs. Plasma TVs are susceptible to image burn, which means that a still image (for example, a DVD menu) left on the screen for an extended period of time can become permanent. Fortunately, the newest plasma models have accounted for this by programming in safeguards to dim the screen or start a screensaver after a set amount of time. Make sure to set the TV to “home” mode in order to consume less energy by cutting down on the brightness levels. Plasma TVs are also warm to the touch if left on for awhile and should be setup with plenty of room for air to circulate around it.

Pros
1) Best for home theatres
2) Most vivid contrast and deepest black levels of the three types

Cons
1) Most expensive type of TV
2) Not as slim or light as alternatives
3) Generates heat
4) Occasionally generates a buzzing sound at high altitudes
5) Can consume as much as twice the amount of power as other TV types

What is 3D All About?

There are two main types of 3D TVs:

Active shutter 3D. Active shutter 3D delivers 1080p HD 3D images. In active shutter 3D, your battery-operated 3D glasses are synchronized by an infrared signal, actively blocking off the image in each eye at 50 fps. This tricks the brain into perceiving depth in a two-dimensional image. However, the glasses require batteries and are expensive. Plus, the active shutter glasses will only work with their own brand of TV.

Passive 3D. Passive 3D filters the light so that each eye sees a different image, creating the illusion of depth. With passive 3D, the glasses are not battery powered, so they are much cheaper than active 3D glasses. There is also no restriction with passive glasses; any passive 3D glasses can be used with any passive 3D TV. However, they do not provide the full 1080p HD experience.

Due to the fact that 3D TVs are such a recent development, they have many high-tech features that most other TVs don’t include. For example, Panasonic TV has developed Viera Cast, which enables the streaming of multimedia straight from the internet to the TV. This includes YouTube, Pandora, and Netflix; some models can even use Skype. If you buy a 3D TV in the near future, it will likely have internet connectivity and the ability to download apps to it.

Pros
1) Performs as well as 2D TVs
2) Has the newest technology
3) Some can convert 2D into 3D

Cons
1) Price
2) Limited 3D content available
3) Need a 3D enabled Blu-ray or DVD player

What to look for when purchasing:

You have chosen where you want the TV to be located, you know what type of entertainment you will be using it for, and you most likely have decided a budget. To sum everything up, if you are setting up a home theatre in a dark setting Plasma is your best option. If you are looking for a large, high-quality TV and price is not a concern, then you can either choose LED or Plasma. If you are trying to find a well-rounded TV for the whole family at a reasonable price or a smaller size, then LCD would be your best bet. Gamers will get the best performance from an LCD or an LED TV; LED will work better if you can afford it, but LCD will perform almost as well as the LED.

Many of you are probably thinking, “Well, what if I want a 3D TV?” Unfortunately, there isn’t much content for them yet. The choice depends on your preference, price range, and planned use.

Here is a chart to help pick screen size based on viewing distance.

Useful TV Buying Sources:

1) CNET – LEDs vs. Plasma vs. LCDs
2) Screen Size Chart
3) Digital Trends- TV Buying Guide
4) Pros and Cons of LED Television over LCD and Plasma TVs
5) Crutchfield – LCD vs. Plasma

What data plan should I get?

Wireless data plans

Smartphones

How much data would you use in a month with your smartphone? Most people on average are not aware how much data they use with their phones regularly. To know what type of wireless plan to purchase, a basic understanding of your habits and the data that correlates with them is necessary, especially because everything data related varies greatly from one task to another. Data is always expressed in a numerical format representing bytes.

1GB = 1,000 MB or 1,000,000 KB

What is data?
Data is the information sent to and received by your device while accessing the internet through apps or web browsers. Wireless data usage is dependent upon multiple factors, including what you use data transmission for and how often you send data over the wireless network as opposed to over Wi-Fi.

Before you can use that new smartphone to transfer all sorts of data, you first need to have a wireless plan. Depending on your carrier, you will have a number of options to choose from; all of these are based on monthly usage, which resets every billing cycle. Verizon, for example, offers plans starting at 1GB (gigabyte) per month all the way up to 10 GB per month.

The brand of phone you have can also determine if you go over your data allotment. [1]

Data Hogs
You might be asking, “How much can I do with that?” The most important factor relating to data usage is all dependent on your interests and habits. Remember, everything uses data–just different amounts. Sending or receiving videos, picture, or other attachments and streaming music or videos uses the most data.

Basic communication, such as E-Mail, uses the smallest amounts of data, ranging from 2 KB to 30 KB depending on the length of the message. Visiting websites uses more data because almost all websites have media and interactive content, and depending on the contents of the site, each page view can use 100-300 KB. Watching videos uses an average of 1MB of data per video, depending on the view quality chosen. When on YouTube, using regular quality instead of high quality can reduce the data used by about 60%; the same applies to streaming music. Any high-quality video or sound files use much more data.

The Breakdown:
To sum everything up, let us assume that you have chosen the 1GB/month Verizon data plan and want to know how far it will take you. Using the full 1GB, you would be able to send 50,000-400,000 E-Mails depending on content and length. Using the phone to only browse web pages, you would be able to view 5,000-15,000 pages. (Keep in mind, this is using all of your monthly allotted data.) However, we do not use our phones for only one specific reason–they are multi-purpose communication/entertainment devices.

Based on a 1GB data plan we have broken down the numbers for you in the table below. Our estimated totals are based on our personal usage average.

Category: Avg. % Used: In MB: Estimated Total:
E-Mail 20% 200 MB 2,597 E-mails @ 77 KB/E-mail
Websites 40% 400 MB 6,400 Websites @ 62.5 KB/Page
Photos 20% 200 MB 957 Photos @ 191.5 KB/Photo
Streaming Videos 5% 50 MB 25 YouTube @ 2MB/Video with a 4-minute average
Streaming Music 5% 50 MB 107 hours @ 28 MB/hours

Data Management Tips
1) Turn off automatic updates for Apps
2) Connect to Wi-Fi instead of 3G when available
3) Store music and videos on device instead of streaming
4) Take advantage of mobile websites instead of using full websites
5) Switch E-Mail apps to manual mail retrieval instead of “Push”

Useful Wireless Data Plan Sources:
1)Christopher Parson’s Data Education Brochure
2)Think With Google – Mobile Planet
3)E-mail Monday – Mobile E-Mail Usage Stats
4)Techno Buffalo – 8 Tips for Managing your Mobile Data