Contents tagged with Software

  • Tabbed interfaces - where is the standard?

    Tags: Personal, Software

    I have for a while thought about why are there no standard in Microsoft applications on how a MDI interface should look like, why do the document tabs look different in (almost) all applications.

    Examples

    Below are some examples taken from recent Microsoft applications.

    Microsoft Visual Studio 2005

    Microsoft Visual Studio 2005

    Nice and clean layout, the cross to the right closes the current open document. The down-arrow displays a drop-down of all open documents.

    Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio

    Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio

    The same as above (screenshot from Microsoft Windows 2003 instead of Microsoft Vista). The down-arrow has a horizontal bar indicating that there are more documents open than tabs shown, which I never reflected over before I started writing this article.

    Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer

    Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer

    This one is all different with left and right arrows to scroll between the open documents.

    Microsoft Internet Explorer 7

    Microsoft Internet Explorer 7

    Internet Explorer 7 tabs. Scroll left and right using the double-arrow-tabs and close the tabs by clicking on the cross in the right-side of the tab.

    Classic Tab Control

    Classic Tab Control

    The classic Tab Control, seen in lot of applications.

    Microsoft OneNote 2007

    Microsoft OneNote 2007

    OneNote uses their own tabbing design, in this case I think it's legal due to the kind of application.

    How it should be!

    I think it's really strange that the different product teams create their own MDI/tabbing interfaces, and none of the above is ultimate. There are several things that could be improved in the tab interfaces which could lead to better usability and recognition between applications.

    This is how I think it could be improved:

    1. The left and right arrows used in the SharePoint Designer example above is great, they are close to eachother which reduces the mouse movements, combine them with the down arrow to be able to quick navigate to documents.
    2. The cross icon to close the tab, located on the tab as in the Internet Explorer sample, is great. But all tabs should have one, so you don't have to click twice; first to select the document and then close it. You have to sacrifice some text for this, but I think it's worth it.

     What do you think and do you have any suggestions for improvements? I would love to hear why the different product teams at Microsoft choosen different alternatives to the tabs.

  • Beta 3 of Total Commander 7.0 available

    Tags: Software

    For all you Total Commander fans out there; Christian Ghisler has released a new public beta for Total Commander 7.0.

     Some of the highlights:

    • When pressing F7 to create a directory and the cursor is placed on a file then Total Commander suggests the filename (minus the extension) as the name for the directory
    • Icons in the menus
    • Even more customization options than before

  • msfeedicon utility 1.1 released

    Tags: Internet Explorer, Software, msfeedicon

    I had just finished msfeedicon 1.0 when I decided to make an update, version 1.1, with some functionality I would like to see and some bugfixes.

    This 1.1 update contains:

    • New feature: Refresh feeds option in the context menu
    • New feature: greenish icons when the RSS platform downloads/refreshes feeds
    • Update: better icons
    • Bug fix: correct number of unread posts when a feed is removed

    You can download the update here, hope you like it...

  • Announcing: msfeedicon utility

    Tags: Windows XP, Internet Explorer, Software, msfeedicon

    For a while I have been annoyed that there is no good notification in Internet Explorer 7 when you have unread posts in your subscribed feeds. You have to have the Favorites Center opened to be notified of any feed updates, which may take up useful space on your screen.

    Therefore I created a small utility that takes advantage of the Windows RSS platform and shows an icon in the system tray which notifies you of any unread feed posts - called msfeedicon.

    Functionality:

    • Uses the feed you have subscribed to using Internet Explorer 7
    • Installs in the Startup folder so it starts when you log on to Windows
    • Shows the number of unread items
    • Baloon tip when a feed is updated and has new posts
    • Checks for updates to the application

    You can download the msfeedicon utility from here.

    You need Microsoft.NET 2.0 or higher and Internet Explorer 7 to run this utility, and I have only tested it on Windows XP so far (Update an hour later - works on Vista).

    If you have any suggestions or find anything that does not work, please post a comment to this post.

  • Read up on Domain-Specific Languages

    Tags: Visual Studio, Software

    The Architecture Journal, an online magazine by Microsoft with focus on software architecture, have posted two articles on Domain-Specific Languages, DSL.

    Domain-Specific Modeling

    A five page article on what Domain-Specific Languages and Modeling is about and when to use it.

    Bare Naked Languages or What Not to Model

    An seven page article on how DSL fits into the software factories methodology.

  • About Microsoft Open Office Xml document format

    Tags: Microsoft, XML, Microsoft Office, Software

    The new Office document format present in the new Microsoft Office 2007 suite is completely new and open and based on XML. This opens up a lot of possibilites for us developers; there is now an easy way to create your own Word or Excel documents from an application. The file format used is called Ecma Office Open Xml format.

    Previously it has been very difficult or expensive to provide the customers with nice Word or Excel output from an application. For example when delivering an Excel sheet from a website it has been done by creating a table in html and then sending it to the browser with the correct content type (application/vnd.ms-excel), the same thing for Word. But when it came to embedding images or attachments or creating advanced layouts (headers or footers) it has been troublesome. It can be done; for example I created a web application that had a Word document as output, nicely formatted using the mht format.

    Basically zipped Xml files

    The file types that are using this format have extensions like;

    • .docx - Word 2007
    • .xlsx - Excel 2007
    • .xps - XPS files

    These files are essentially a ZIP file, just rename your file or document to .ZIP, and open it with your favorite ZIP manager.

    You will then find a number of files and folders within the compressed file.

    Content of the compressed file

    If you decompress the Open Office file then you will get a set of folders and files, called a package which is divided into parts.

    [Content_Types].xml describes the actual parts of the Microsoft Open Office XML package .

    The _rels folder and .rels file contains the Relationships between the root part and other parts in the package. A folder within a package can contain a _rels folder which contains that folders releationships

    The docProps contains files that describes the document propertes. It should contain a file called core.xml which contains the core properties of the file; such as subject, author etc. It can also contain an app.xml which describes the properties for the file for the application that created the file.

    The word folder, in thic case, contains the actual Word document in a file called document.xml as well as files for fonts, styles and themes.  Other filetypes, such as an .XPS file can contain a folder called Documents in which the document information is found.

    The word folder or other content parts can contain a folder called media, which will contain images or other binary files included in the document

    Relationships

    An example of a relationship in this part is that the media folder contains an image with the filename image1.png which are embedded in the document. The _rels folder contains a file called document.xml.rels which contains this Xml:

    Relationship Id="rId4" Type="http://schemas.openxmlformats.org/officeDocument/2006/relationships/image" Target="media/image1.png"/> 

    The document.xml file contains an image element (a:Graphic) which contains this Xml element which references the Id of the relationship:

    a:blip r:embed="rId4"/>

    This cannot be more easier, so get your app ready for Office 2007!

    But, what if I nor my clients have Office 2007?

    Don't worry. Instead of making it into a Word 2007 or Excel 2007 document, make a XPS document. The XPS reader is free for download. Read more about it here.

    More reading

    If you would like to read some more on this or if you would like to test it here are some starting points:

    Introducing the Office (2007) Open Xml File Formats - MSDN

    Server-Side Generation of Word 2007 Docs - Ted Pattison

    Walkthrough: Word 2007 XML format - MSDN

    XMl Paper specification - Microsoft

    Sample XPS documents - Microsoft

  • Microsoft XPS Essentials Pack

    Tags: Microsoft, .NET, XML, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Software, Downloads

    To view XPS files, if you do not have Windows Vista or Microsoft.NET Framework 3.0, you can download the Microsoft XML Paper Specification Essentials Pack Version 1.0. The download contains an XPS Reader, very much like the Adobe PDF reader and an XPS Document writer, which allow you to print to XPS files.

    There are other goodies in this pack such as:

    • an XPS IFilter that will help you index XPS files, with Windows Desktop Search for example
    • Windows shell handlers for thumbnail views in Windows Explorer

    The pack requires Windows 2000, 2003 or XP with the latest service packs and Microsoft Core XML Services 6.0. It's still a beta, but worth a shot.

    Read more about the XML Paper specification here where you also can find the specification and sample files.

  • Winternals resurrected in Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack

    Tags: Business, XML, Windows Vista, Software

    The Windows Vista blog announces the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, a desktop solution that will help Windows desktop users tune their applications and operating systems. It will include applications and features that will enhance:

    • desktop deployment
    • application comaptibility
    • diagnostics and repair

    This pack is a result of Microsoft aquiring a handful of nice companies, such as the great Winternals.

    You can read all about it at the Desktop Optimization Pack site.

    When I first read through that page something caught my attention:

    Why are all the downloadable files .PDF 's? Why don't Microsoft use their own .XPS file format as an alternative?

    I don't mean that they should skip PDF, but if Microsoft would like to promote XPS they should really use it on their site.

  • McAfee Security Center installation sucks

    Tags: Software, Upset posts, Network

    Here goes a post, in which I am really upset!

    One of our customers has implemented a new VPN solution that requires us to have McAfee or Symantecs anti-virus programs. I have been using Grisoft AVG for a long time and are very satisified with that one, but they don't accept it so I had to change. If you have not tried AVG out, then do it, it's free for personal use.

    Since I live in Sweden I wen't to the swedish McAfee site, signed up for the software and payed with my credit card, good rebates and everyting was fine. Then I logged in to my McAfee account and clicked on the link to start the installation.

    First annoyance: no option for a separate download only a direct in-browser installation was available.

    Second annoyance: I'm using Internet Explorer 7 and the menu appeared to far away from the link that it came out of focus when trying to click it so it disappeared. Solution: use the tab key and enter key.

    After a few blocked pop-ups and ActiveX control warnings it started downloading.

    Third annoyance: to many ActiveX controls were involved!

    The download started out fine; downloading virus signatures, program and setup script. Then it asked me to save a shortcut on the desktop to be able to continue installation after a reboot, I clicked yes. Then an actual program started and the installation continued. Bang - a dialog appeared stating that the installation cannot continue without reason why. The recommendation was to reboot and try again.

    I rebooted and looked for the shortcut on the desktop to continue, no shortcut but there were a lot of files remaining in the Program Files folder.

    Fourth annoyance: should not a failed installation remove all of the remains?

    I uninstalled my previous AV software and made sure all applications was shut down and redid the procedure again - same error.

    I booted into safe mode redid the procedure once again - same error.

    Okey, let's try Firefox: "please upgrade your internet browser" with a link to the Microsoft Internet Explorer site.

    Fifth annoyance: not supporting Firefox!

    By now I am furious, I have to get connected to my client since they have an urgent support incident! I took a walk around the office to calm down and went back to my computer.

    I went to the US McAfee site and logged into my account and there I finally found a normal download link in which I could download a small program that did the installation and after a while (while writing this post and rebooting once) I was up and running!

    But, yes a but, the ActiveShield features was not installed!

    Searched through the McAfee support database with no luck and finally came to the McAfee Virtual Technician (another ActiveX control) that scans your machine for problems with the McAfee software. It found some problems and fixed them. Now I could see a menu with the Virus Scan options but all of them led to a dialog stating that The feature is not install, please reinstall!

    This led med to uninstall McAfee Security Center. Control Panel -> Add Remove Programs! After uninstalling some of the components and restarting again (not everything could be removed at once) I tried to uninstall the last bits, the Security Center, it stated Legacy programs must be removed first. What the heck!

    After some fiddling I managed to find a folder under Program Files called McAffee.com that I removed and then I was able to remove the last bits and of course reboot once more.

    Sixth annoynace: Uninstall programs should be able to uninstall and requiring at the most one reboot and should not include any manual removal not mentioned anywhere!!

    So I downloaded it once more and proceded with the installation. This time it went fine! Phew...

    This costed me almost a whole day to figure out, to bad that our client won't be compensated by McAfee nor me for the lousy ActiveX based installation program used on the Swedish site. I feel sorry for all people trying to install an Anti-Virus program and are not that experienced with computers...

About Wictor...

Wictor Wilén is the Nordic Digital Workplace Lead working at Avanade. Wictor has achieved the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) - SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Certified Solutions Master (MCSM) - SharePoint  and Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) - SharePoint 2010 certifications. He has also been awarded Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for seven consecutive years.

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