Microsoft is taking a shot at Gmail replacing Hotmail with their revamped e-mail service Outlook.com, including a new interface and various other options. Of course there was an outcry in the Hotmail community for changing the interface, but the service now have 25 million users.
Continue reading to find out how you can be more effective when using Outlook.com (most of our tips are located in the “More mail settings section”).
1. Sweep it
If your inbox is like mine, that is a dark hole of endless messages, it’s often time consuming to clear it up. Outlook.com features a simple feature called “sweep”, it works basically the same way as the label system in Gmail where messages with certain characteristics are filed or deleted. It’s also possible to schedule sweeps.
For example it’s possible to file messages from a specific sender or delete them all together.
2. Use Skydrive to send attachments
Outlook.com has a limit of 25 MB when sending attachements, anything above that and the service will suggest using Skydrive, which means that your attachement is uploaded into Skydrive and sent with a URL to the location instead.
If you often send large attachments or if you don’t want to clog people’s inboxes it’s possible to have Skydrive set as default for attachments.
3. Customize the layout
Outlook.com comes with a set of options to customize the layout of your inbox. For example it’s possible to change colors and the location of the reading pane (right or bottom). Another nice feature is the Group by conversation option, which basically creates conversation threads instead of displaying individual messages.
4. Keyboard shortcuts
Outlook.com has a set of keyboard shotcuts as most mail services do. However if you are coming from Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, there are also mapped keyboard shortcuts for those services.
5. Security, connect your mobile
We recommend connecting your Microsoft Live Account with a mobile device, this means that if you have lost your password or if you account has been hacked you can still access the account from a code recieved by text message (two-step verification).
Google recently announced the discontinuation of Google Reader, a product with a vocal following now scrambling to find alternatives. Of course a lot of people have already voiced their opinions about Google keeping products like Google Sites and Correlate open while discontinuing Reader. Others are asking if RSS is already dead benefiting Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
We have compiled a few alternative RSS readers for you when Google Reader close down July 1, 2013.
Feedly were quick in trying to catch Google Reader users, with a feature where users can connect their Google Reader account with Feedly and get the same setup and feeds as in Google Reader. This works like a charm with just a click, and takes a few seconds.
Another interesting feature with Feedly is the updated user interface, Google Reader wasn’t the prettiest product on the market but Feedly really looks great and displays the subscribed feeds in a beautiful way, almost making RSS fun again.
It’s possible to customize the main page of Feedly, for example adding widgets displaying stock market movements, your Facebook or Twitter feed.
Feedly is available in the browser or on mobile devices (Android, iOS and Kindle).
Netvibes is not entirely a RSS-reader, but a dashboard application for following almost anything online. Getting started is quite easy, you don’t even need to create an account. Start by entering a topic that you want to follow, Netvibes will then compile a set of standard widgets. The widgets include sources such as Twitter, Facebook (open posts), Google blog search, Yahoo News etc. It’s then possible to add sources of your choice using RSS.
Netvibes has two different modes, widget and reader mode. The reader mode has the classic RSS-reader feel to it. Beside using Netvibes in the browser there are also apps available for Android and iOS. It’s possible to import your Google Reader data to Netvibes, but the process is a little bit more difficult than Feedly’s. (http://blog.netvibes.com/easily-migrate-from-google-reader-to-netvibes/
Overall we like Netvibes, but mainly from a monitoring perspective where it really is shining.
NewsBlur is another browser based RSS-reader alternative to Google Reader, also available for Android and iOS. The app is updated in real-time when new stories from an RSS-feed is added. An interesting feature is the blurblog, each user gets an individual public feed where it’s possible to share stories.
We think the interface has too many options and buttons for it to be compelling for a wider audience, but this is of course individual preferences, and we know some users like these kind of interfaces.
The Old Reader
The Old Reader is perhaps not as well known as the alternatives above. It’s a light-weight browser based RSS-reader, with no other real options but we really like the minimalistic interface. It used to have Google Reader import but according to their blog they had to turn it off temporarily to be able to handle the traffic. There are also no mobile apps for the Old Reader.
Snapseed is a photo-editing app, primarily for Android and iOS devices, but there is also a desktop version (Mac OS X and Windows).We tested the recently released Android version.
The average mobile user is not looking for a Photoshop-like experience when editing their beloved photos; instead most are trying to find apps were they quickly can edit photos of their latest night out or birthday party before posting them to Facebook or Twitter. This pose a problem, most basic photo-editing apps are cheesy, with loads of unwanted features, with only fair results. Thankfully times are changing.
Snapseed was originally developed by a company called Nik Software, primarily based in Germany. During 2012 Google bought the company and the Snapseed app, and we are already beginning to see the fruits of the acquisition, recently Snapseed for Android was released, and all versions of the app are now free.
Using Snapseed is really a breeze, it is designed to be quick to operate and easy to share photos to different social networks. There is automatic contrast and color correction, but also various filters, such as vintage, drama, grunge and black and white. Each filter can be further adjusted in different ways to create effects. The gallery on Snapseeds' website features some remarkable results.
The sharing options in Snapseed include most standard social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google +. However since Google bought Snapseed Google+ has a more prominent shortcut than other social networks.
While the desktop version of Snapseed probably isn’t what most users are looking for, it includes the possibility to edit RAW-files.
So far Snapseed is very similar to the features in Instagram (which is in fact why Google probably bought the app in the first place) and loads of other apps available, but the ease of operating Snapseed, the fact that it’s free and the actual results outpaces much of the competition.
Preceden (means "precede" in Spanish according to the developers) is an online web-based timeline and simple time-schedule tool.
The whole point with Preceden as opposed to other solutions for creating timelines is the flexibility. For example creating a timeline in any spreadsheet program, such as Excel, is usually torture, even-though there are built in templates, especially when more detailed timelines are required.
In Preceden different parts of a timeline can be grouped together in layers, the parts of the overall timeline have different colors and it's also possible to name the layers and dragging the elements around. It's also possible to add an event without an end-date, and select zoom-levels (seconds, hours, years etc). Overall the user-interface is very straight-forward and easy to use.
Since Preceden is cloud-based it means that it's possible to share timelines with the rest of the user community. It's also possible to share a timeline requiring a password, or share a more restricted version of a timeline where a predefined URL is shared to selected participants. Unfortunately Preceden currently lacks more advanced collaboration options. In Google Docs and other applications it's for example possible to invite selected users to create and edit a document.
It's also possible in Preceden to download a timeline as an image or a PDF-file (which is printable). In the trial free version of Preceden it's only possible to create five timeline events, which makes it pretty much useless. The pro-version has a one-time fee of $39, which is pretty cheap (depending on what type of timeline you are creating). Preceden has no login-integration with social media such as Facebook, so you have to create a sole login for the service, which in our minds leave room for improvement.
Google recently released Google Chrome for iOS, which means that the browser now can be used on the iPhone and iPad. The release is raising the stakes in the battle between Google, Apple and Microsoft for mobile users.
Regarding web-browsing for the iOS, Google Chrome doesn’t bring much new to the table. Chrome basically the same features as Safari for the iPad; voice-search is perhaps the most interesting feature. For the Ipad it’s a bit unnecessary but for the Iphone voice search is very convenient and worked well when we tested it.
The iOS version of Google Chrome is very similar to the desktop, the navigation is the same but it’s possible to browse between tabs by swiping across the screen. To the right there is a menu with a bunch of options and features. For example the incognito mode is available in the iOS-version, and also the ability to view web-pages as the desktop version of Chrome. Obviously Google Chrome for iOS has no support for flash-websites.
The whole idea with Google Chrome for the iOS is of course that you can sync bookmarks between different devices using Chrome, it’s also possible to continue a browsing session on your desktop, for example opening a tab previously viewed on your iPad or iPhone.
Apple have carefully plotted so that third party browsers in the iOS can’t benefit from the much faster Nitro java-script engine available in Safari, this means that Google Chrome is a bit slower than Safari. However it is barely noticeable and it actually feels snappier than for example Atomic web and other third party browsers.
A major downside with the Chrome browser is the way Google have chosen to structure the bookmarks, they are actually part of the browsing experience and not in the sidebar to the right as in the original desktop version. As a result it’s harder to find relevant bookmarks.
Google Chrome for iOS is mainly aimed at current users of the desktop version, and it really provides much better functionality than Safari. However few current desktop Safari users will probably migrate.
Yahoo used to be the coolest tech company around, now they are losing the search engine wars badly against Google and Bing, can they get back into the game with their latest product, Yahoo Axis?
Yahoo Axis is available for desktops (PC and MAC), the Ipad and the Iphone, a search made on the desktop computer can be continued on an Iphone. All bookmarks and read later lists are also synced between the different devices. Yahoo Axis is lacking apps for Android and Windows Phone, which hopefully will be brought to the table shortly.
On the desktop Yahoo Axis is downloaded as an extension to an already existing browser, such as Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer 9. When Axis was released there a security issue with the Chrome extension, this has since then been fixed by Yahoo. Some blogs reported that Internet Explorer 9 and other browsers were slowed down when surfing the web, it was noticeable in IE 9 but not any of the other browsers, even-though the extension itself sometimes took a while to load it didn't affect the performance of the browser. The general behavior of the extension in Google Chrome was also a bit awkward, sometimes it opened, sometimes it didn't.
The Ipad/Iphone apps is really where this product comes to real usage, the interface in Yahoo Axis is perfect for cell phones and tablets. For example Axis shows more relevant info about a website before loading it, making it much easier to use on the Iphone than Safari, which relies on Google who basically have the same layout as on the desktop.
The sync between devices works well, for example it is simple to research something on the desktop and then continue on a mobile device on the go. Yahoo Axis has support for Google and Facebook-accounts, so a Yahoo account is not needed just to use this product.
Yahoo Axis has a home-screen with a list of bookmarks and read-it later items. Adding bookmarks was no problem but adding sites to the read-later list was sometimes a struggle, for example we I added an article in Wired to read-it later, but it didn't show up.
When searching long tail keywords Yahoo Axis is not that powerful as Google, it simply doesn't find the in-depth stuff that Google do, and even if it does it's still hard to tell from the results which hits are good and which aren't. Searches in other languages than English returns mixed results, it's not uncommon for Yahoo Axis to mix different languages in its results (for example Norwegian and Spanish). The search engine used as with all Yahoo products is Microsoft Bing.
Axis handles the standard searches such as text and images just fine, but it lacks news and video search making it difficult to use as a sole search engine, Yahoo says that they will add additional options over time.
Yahoo Axis is a good concept, and has the perfect timing, it is however too bad that the browser extensions for browsers need some polishing. As Google is getting more comfortable in their total ownage of the search market, and seem to be focusing on Android and driver-less cars, the field is open again for innovation products, such as Yahoo Axis.
Google's way of handling their search engine has come under a lot of criticism lately, the criticism involves favoring of bigger brands and sites making it difficult for smaller sites to rank. Other criticism comes from the fact that Google is tracking searches and visits in order to target advertising etc.
Alternatives to the bigger search engine companies have been available since Altavista in the 90:s, often with various quality. Below you will find some of the hottest alternatives to Google search.
Blekko was released 2010 to the public. It is edited by human editors (8 000 of them if you believe Blekko). The editors role is to edit 50 sites to correspond with 100 000 of the most frequent search terms on Blekko, a challenge indeed. Of course this means that search results will be more clear and hopefully more meaningful, but the backside of the model is that there will be about 50 sites corresponding for most of the traffic, and how the editing process works is not clear.
We tried searching for "Cars" both on Google and Blekko. In Blekko we got the following results:
3. Disney Cars (official site)
4. Cars (2006) IMDB
In Google we got the following results (logged out of course):
4. Cars (2006), IMDB
Blekko assumed that I was looking for information about cars, and did take into account the movie "Cars". Google got some weird results, one UK-site and one from Australia, this may have been Google's way of localization, but Australia is on the other side of the planet from where Syntax30 is based.
Blekko also has video and image search, it works well most of the time. Most of the hits are from YouTube, when opening a video it opens in a lightbox screen. I like the video navigation systems much better in Google, Bing and Yahoo, where you can browse more videos as you are watching them.
The major feature in Blekko is slashtags, a slashtag is basically a tag grouping a number of sites on a certain topic. The grouping is edited by an editor, or a number of associated editors, the model is very similar to how Wikipedia works, but a little bit more controlled.
Some cool features in Blekko is the fact that you can subscribe to any of the slashtags using RSS, it's also possible to view SEO-stats (such as inbound links, ranking etc) for each site listed. If there are some sites that a user doesn't like to get hits on, it's possible to mark them as SPAM, then they will disappear from that user's search results.
One problem with Blekko, is that even-though the search engine is edited by humans, some of the results that Blekko gives are old. For example various sites that we searched for had updated their page titles, URLs and descriptions, but in Blekko they were still included as the old sites.
Overall Blekko is an interesting alternative to Google, but it is too advanced to really be something that the general public will take interest in, at least the editing process. The search results returned are less spammy than Google's but in some cases also less relevant.
DuckDuckGo is an interesting project, which lately has received a lot of attention in the media as an alternative to Google. The main purpose of DuckDuckGo is not to track users searches and target advertising towards them, something Google has been doing for a while.
The interface is actually very similar to Google, with just a white main page with a search box, however since DuckDuckGo has no bias towards any special services online it's possible to search both in the image searches of Google and Bing, as well as YouTube and Amazon (for shopping reasons). This is a good concept, but we have seen it before.
When searching on DuckDuck Go the results are not much different from Google, for example our search for cars returned:
5. Cars 2 Disney.com
In the heading of each search there is a box "Meanings of", this box is basically a widget connecting to other similar searches on DuckDuckGo, the box also changes shape and loads information from Wikipedia or YouTube when available. DuckDuckGo have advertisment in their search results, for example we got an ad for Buick when searching for cars. It's nothing wrong with that.
For the real geeky users there are various settings that can be applied for DuckDuckGo, for example it's possible to change the colors, size of fonts, if the search engine should return more results when scrolling down etc. There are also various privacy settings which can be turned on or off, such as if the user search term should be tracked when leaving DuckDuckGo. It's possible to save the settings for use on other devices.
DuckDuckGo is much simpler than Blekko, and should appeal to a less technical audience. However the ranking algorithm is a sketchy. For example it's not open-sourced, and the only real information about how sites ranks in DuckDuckGo available is that it is based on inbound links, let's hope it's not the only way of determining if a site ranks well.
Addictomatic is not your standard search engine as Blekko or DuckDuckGo, instead of displaying results from an index of sites, Addictomatic imports various hits from social networks, blogs and other online sources, creating a more comprehensive and social view of a specific topic.
The sources connected to Addictomatic are Twitter, Friendfeed, YouTube, Flickr, Bing News, Google Blog Search, Blinkx, Ask.com, Twingly, WordPress and many others. It is possible to exclude some sources and include others.
The search algorithm for finding information in these sources is not open-sourced, according to the founders search results are pulled in to the site using RSS-feeds from the various sources. Overall the results are pretty good, however for search-terms where there is disambiguation Addictomatic will not work at all, at least not if the search-term is not available in social networks.
Each search is presented in a dashboard, with a box representing each network, the user can move the different boxes around, remove some and add others. It is a very neat way of getting the grasp of a topic quickly, the dashboards can later be bookmarked, and also shared on for example Facebook. There is also a browser plug-in available, but not for later browser versions. Addictomatic does not seem to be anonymous, such as DuckDuckGo, and there are ads in there as well.
Overall Addictomatic is not a general purpose search engine, but it does a very good job of finding buzz regarding current events and topics.
Another interesting alternative search engine to Google is Benelab, it may be the world's first charity search engine. When a user search Benelab advertising will be displayed, the revenue generated by the advertising is donated to charity. Each time you search your Benetrack will be updated with how many cups of rice, cups of water and seconds of labor your searches have generated.
Benelab is based on Yahoo Search, so it's not a real alternative to the other competitors, but if you want to search for a good cause, you should give it a go.
What other Google search alternatives do you like? Please share in the comments below.
Various web-apps tries to overcome the obstacles and headaches of creating web-pages and blogs, with everything from WordPress, Tumblr to Drupal on the market Silk tries to find its own turf, simple and quick.
Silk is an web app developed in the Netherlands, it is backed by the venture capitalist firm Atomico run by Niclas Zennström co-founder of Skype. So far Silk is in beta, for example the documentation still reads "Contact us if you want to know more about advanced features in Silk" and you have to request access to the API. The editor part of it was released on the 10th of May 2012.
When first starting Silk it's amazing how scaled back and light-weight the application is, it's almost like the Iphone when using it for the first time, it didn't seem to do a whole lot but eventually delivered lots of features.
All pages on a Silk site is structured into categories of your choice, the pages can also be tagged, which is the same functionality available in most blog platforms. A neat feature in Silk is the possibility to import .CSV files, which the system will create a structure from. This saves a lot of time when creating larger sites.
Silk comes with the usual set of text editing features, it is possible to add more advanced functionality to each page by using widgets. There are different kinds of widgets available; charts, recent documents, table of contents, maps (connected to Google Maps) and category listings.
The use case for Silk is a bit blurred, it's not a replacement of more advanced blog platforms and CMS-systems, clearly. Because it lacks certain key features to run blogs and larger sites. However for whipping together a small data presentation website Silk is still an interesting alternative, one interesting case of Silk usage is the Guardian's data visualisations and commentary.
As mentioned earlier Silk is still in beta, it's a bit concerning that it doesn't seem to be a plan for where Silk is going, hopefully there will be one soon. Given that Silk is light-weight and quick to work with it puzzles me that there is no version where you can edit pages for tablets, such as the Ipad available. To me Silk should really be mobile to be worth the effort, there are better CMS:es and solutions for desktops but not for tablets.