26 October 2009

What can Facebook learn from FriendFeed?

Facebook has a habit of radically changing it’s front page and attracting user discontent in the process. The latest update was no different: although it has received mostly positive reviews from bloggers, the users on the other hand are rejecting the changes and want the previous interface back, as you can see in the comments to the original announcement.

I tend to agree with the latter this time: having both a “news feed” and a “live feed” doesn’t help me find the most interesting updates, I just find myself switching back and forth between them with the distinct feeling I am missing something. The news feed is a good idea in theory, but the ranking it uses is counterintuitive. I prefer the live feed for now, but it was also “revamped” to offer more updates about new ‘friendships’, so the noise level increased. Both of them are different from the old home page and so Facebook suddenly became unfamiliar (again!) over night. At least the site stores the last used option, so, if you prefer one of them, the choice will stick the next time you log in. Facebook news feed

25 October 2009

Popular items and other updates in Google Reader

Earlier this week, the Google Reader team unveiled another series of updates to the most popular online feed reader. The first thing you’ll notice in the web interface is a new “Explore” section in the sidebar. It offers a list of popular items, to help you “find interesting content from all over the Internet”. The recommended subscriptions were also included in this new section and at the same time have been removed from the home page, leaving more room for the recent items. Some have already complained that this takes up too much space in the sidebar, but every section can be easily minimized. I keep only “Subscriptions” open at all times to see which of them have new items and to navigate between them. I find it odd that this new section cannot be accessed by keyboard shortcuts, like most of the other places in Google Reader.

23 October 2009

Shortcuts and searches in Google Wave

I've been playing around with Google Wave ever since I received my invite from a Romanian blogger almost two weeks ago. Generally it made a positive impression on me, but more on that later. Right now, let's see how you can improve the Wave experience with some neat keyboard tricks.

Keyboard shortcuts:

Although only a preview product, Google Wave has some nice keyboard shortcuts that can really help speed up things:

  • > Use Space/Shift+Space to navigate to the next/previous unread message in a wave. If you're at the last unread message, hitting Space moves the focus to the next unread wave in your inbox, something I find confusing and annoying.
  • > You can also navigate through the messages in a wave, regardless of their read-status, with the Up/Down arrows and with Tab/Shift+Tab. Like Space, it marks messages as read, but it doesn't jump to other waves when it reaches the last message.
  • Google Wave double-click menu> With Enter you can reply to a message. If you select some text before hitting Enter, Wave inserts a comment at the cursor position. Combining Enter with Shift places the reply at the bottom of the wave, below all other messages.
  • > Shift+Enter also exits editing mode when you have finished writing your reply, like hitting "Done".
  • > If you want to go back to editing, you can use Ctrl+E.

I find these shortcuts related to replying and editing the most useful; with the mouse you need to click three times for these actions: twice to bring up the floating menu and another one to select one of them. Not to mention how easy it is to click 'reply' instead of 'edit' or vice-versa!

14 October 2009

Google Docs improves sharing and interface

Google Docs share a folder pop up Two days ago in the late evening I was writing on my previous article in Google Docs. When I closed the document, a brand new interface popped up with a message about a long awaited feature, sharing an entire folder. Probably less than 20 minutes passed since I opened the doc from the old interface until the new one was rolled out. Now that’s what I call a seamless software update!

Probably a lot of people will be excited about this new feature, that was previewed on the Google Operating System blog more than a month ago. I never really used sharing to it’s full potential, and I don’t expect that to change with this release.

13 October 2009

Learn more about lenses from Canon

I've been a little behind with my articles in Google Reader lately, passing the 1000+ unread items limit all too often. But to prove it's worth checking every subscription for updates, here's what I discovered with some 3 weeks delay from TOP: an official guide from Canon to it's EF lens line!

The book, suggestively subtitled "The Eyes of EOS", can be ordered online from B&H Photo Video, but is also available as a free download in PDF format from Canon's European Support page (in several languages too!).

10 October 2009

Insert multiple blank rows between existing rows in Excel

Microsoft’s Excel is an indispensable tool for the work place, thanks to it's multitude of features, and will no doubt remain so at least for the near future. I also use it on a regular basis and generally consider myself an advanced user. Even so, given it’s complexity, it never hurts to find out new tricks to speed up your workflow or to change it altogether.

One of my sources of information is the Microsoft Office blog at TechRepublic. One of their recent articles detailed a workaround for adding several blank rows between rows already filled with data at once, without repeating the right-click-Insert routine for each new row. While the idea is ingenious, it’s by far not the easiest way to do this in Excel.