Essential MS Subscription for Mac-aphile Designers

Are you a design & mac user in a Windows Development Shop? Are they eyeing your Mac and measuring your desk to outfit you with a new PC? Over your cold dead corpse I bet. No worries. You owe it to yourself to check out the Microsoft Expression Professional Subscription.  Yeah, you could run Bootcamp but then you'd loose the OS X & Quicksilver goodness while you paid the bills.

This annual subscription's most important piece of software isn't made by MS: Parallels Desktop for Mac. Parallels will let you run Windows Vista or Windows XP (also included with the subscription) without leaving OS X - better yet with Expose, your desktop will be unified. And with the SmartSelect feature, you'll be opening Mac or Windows files in the OS of your choice automatically. Edit XAML files in Expression Blend (also include) in Windows, but open JPEG's in Photoshop in OS X - regardless from which OS you launched the file from. Very cool.

Here's the complete list of included software

                • Expression® Studio
                  Which includes Expression Web for aspx/css/html stuff, Blend for WPF/Silverlight/XAML stuff,  Expression Design for illustrations & graphics, Expression Encoder for media encoding, and Expression Media for asset management.
                • Visual Studio® Standard
                  Just in case the .NET guys make you check stuff into source control.
                • Office Standard
                • Office Visio® Professional
                  For those workflow diagrams and ugly mock ups that the dev guys send you.
                • Windows® XP
                • Windows Vista® Business Edition
                • Virtual PC
                • Parallels Desktop for Mac

And just to make things even easier, they've already included some pre-configured virtualized servers in the box as well - that will save you some time. Current pricing is about $1000 USD for the first year. This won't be available for a few weeks, but visit here to learn more.

And if you're trying to learn more about WPF and Silverlight, check out our new Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) for Developers & Designers course. Rob Burke, our User Experience (UX) practice lead talks more about this course here. And finally, check out Rob Windsor's post on our Summer Seat Sale to learn how to save up to $500 on our training this summer.

Building Composite Applications at Toronto SharePoint Camp

This past Saturday, I gave a talk at the Toronto SharePoint Camp on building composite applications. I started talking in general requirements terms of why composite applications are useful, what they are, and what are the platform requirements - it naturally came down to a SharePoint demo - it's a great platform for building web based composite applications. The nice thing about SharePoint is that much of that work can be done in an ad hoc fashion. This means less plumbing code for us developers and we get to focus on solving business problems.

Some of the things I demonstrated are all available with Windows SharePoint Services (free). For example, Document Libraries and Custom lists, along with the excellent Outlook integration (including offline support) not to mention version control. Then we got into Workflow and integration with enterprise data with the Business Data Catalog of which requires the Microsoft Office SharePoint Server or MOSS 2007 which is not free (approx $5000), but a totally worthwhile investment. You can easily save the license fees several times over in reduced development effort. I also used SharePoint Designer which is about $200-300.

My slides and demo files are attached. Let me know if you have any questions. I've also included some demo script notes in the slide notes for those who asked.

Also, check out Rob Windsor's Pictures on Flickr of the event

Opening up Office 2007 files in Office 2003 and XP

The Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Office XP and Office 2003 enables a user to open and even save 2007 Office release XML files.  That's cool and reduces the risk when you have some folks using Office 2007 in your company, and others note. Nice feature.


Unifying My RSS Aggregation: IE7/Vista, Outlook 2007, Newsgator, Exchange

Icarumba! All of those things in the title have 1 way or another of storing RSS feeds. But it wasn't as bad as I hoped. Now that I'm using Vista RC2 fulltime, I figured it was time to start looking into the IE7/Vista RSS store. I had been leaning on the newsgator web based reader for all of my RSS consumption needs - and consequently have been falling behind.

I'm an Office/Outlook 2007 newbie since RC2 of vista. I installed Beta 2 of office and the technical refresh. I managed to get it hooked up to our exchange server, although I wasn't able to get HTTP access working the first time - I had to be on the LAN the first time I connected to the Exchange Server. I may have been doing something wrong, but I was able to do that with Outlook 2003.

One of the options that cam up with Outlook 2007 was the ablity to display/aggregate RSS feeds - and furthermore, sync with the IE7 RSS store. I had the RSS gadget on my sidebar staring at me empty for too long - time to make the plunge. What could I do about all my newsgator feeds though? I didn't want to manually add them, and I suppose I could have exported/imported an OPML file. But I kind of like reading blogs occassionally on other machines (my parents house, my wife's computer in the kitchen, etc.) via the browser.

And then I cam across the NewsGator Desktop Sync Beta that promises to keep readmarks in sync between outlook/windows rss and newsgator. Fantastic, it worked, sort of. It fails to import a number of blogs, citing that the feed contains document type definition references which are not support, and a couple of other meaningless error messages. I'll have to investigate this further, but all I could say was “sweet”. Especially when I opened up Outlook Web Access to our exchange server, and could see the RSS feeds in my inbox there as well.

Is this a good thing I asked myself? I mean, if I really wanted to read feeds through a browser I could use Newsgator's online reader which is way better than OWA. Argh, then I got an email from our exchange server: You mail box is now disabled because it is full. Damn. I told you I was behind on my blog reading. I would have loved to been able to read my blogs in outlook...without storing them on my exchange server. I suppose I don't really need them in outlook. The other sad problem with the Newsgator Desktop Sync Beta is that it lost my nice folder structure of how I've organized my blogs. All I get is one big flat list. Yuck, but sweet. :)