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Google today said it would introduce a new image format designed to compete directly with current JPEG standards. The format, named WebP and pronounced "weppy," promises to reduce file sizes by 40 percent compared to JPEGs, which could help websites load faster and reduce strain on networks.
WebP is still affected by the same compression drawbacks as JPEG, as image quality suffers as the file size is reduced. However, they shouldn't lose quality and should reduce the overhead on mobile devices.
The search giant is currently in discussions with browser developers to bolster support for the new standard. The company will bring WebP support to its own Chrome browser some time in the next few weeks, although it is unclear if other browsers will adopt the format.
In spite of being viewed as the "other guys" in some Mac users' minds, Microsoft has generally put out an excellent productivity suite for the Mac with Microsoft Office. Though the latest package is still not on par with the Windows version (you get only the four main programs--a big difference when you consider the Windows version has 10), Microsoft made a big leap with this latest version for the Mac in several other ways. Not only has it nearly reached feature parity (and cross compatibility) with the Mac counterparts to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but it has finally added Outlook, the e-mail and scheduling client Mac business fans have been clamoring for for years.
Once we dug deep into the feature set of Office 2011 for Mac, we saw there were several enhancements that made the whole suite better, and some of the niftier tweaks are even Mac-exclusive. Certainly many Mac users will look first at Apple's iWork for a productivity suite, and it is a great office suite in its own right. But if you work with primarily Windows users who use Office, it's tough to beat the automatic compatibility of using the same programs. Add the ease of compatibility with a strong feature set across the entire suite and you have a desktop office package that's almost a must-have in both large and small businesses, and even home productivity settings.
One of the major new changes to the suite (on the Windows side, too) is the ability to collaborate and share your work using Web apps. New Coauthoring requires that you use SharePoint Foundation 2010 for enterprise use, but for personal or small businesses, you can save and access files over SkyDrive (25GB of available online storage) on Windows Live with a free registration.
All of the new tweaks to the interface and each of the apps in the suite make Office 2011 for Mac a great option, but with the rise of cloud-based computing and online office suites like Google Docs, we wonder how long the big desktop apps like Office will remain on top. This latest Office client for Mac is definitely a solid offering, but how long can Microsoft hold on to its dominance?
Office for Mac 2011 is officially going on sale on October 26th, Microsoft has announced. The timing is in line with an earlier target of late October, and just a day prior to a rumored release date. The difference is moot for some businesses, as volume license distribution began roughly a week ago.
The 2011 suite will wrap in a number of changes from Windows versions of the software, such as a ribbon interface. The Entouragee-mail client is also being replaced with Outlook, and Mac owners will finally gain access to Messenger 8. The Home and Business edition is being priced at $200; Home and Student, which excludes Outlook, is $120. Pre-orders are currently underway.
Although it’s never been the dominant program in Microsoft’s Office suite, PowerPoint for Mac has enjoyed considerable success riding on the coattails of its Windows counterpart. But I was disappointed that PowerPoint 2008 (), the last major upgrade, missed opportunities to leapfrog Keynote (), Apple’s homegrown slideshow software.
PowerPoint for Mac 2011 remedies many of my complaints by combining compelling new features with a revamped interface that makes it easier than before to develop dazzling presentations quickly.
A better interface
Microsoft's Ribbon is a core user interface element in all of the Office programs. The Ribbon sits at the top of the document window and provides quick access to the most commonly used tools. Its toolset changes based on what you're working on in the document.
I haven’t been a fan of the Ribbon in any of the Office apps for Windows, so I was pleasantly surprised by its implementation in PowerPoint for Mac 2011—the Ribbon provides instant access to most of PowerPoint’s tools and functions without being too obtrusive. Unlike the Windows implementation of the Ribbon, which you can hide only by clicking an arrow at the top right, the Mac version disappears when you click on any active tab.
A handy new control lets you adjust the size of slides in the Normal and Slide Sorter views. That’s much more convenient than the toolbar’s magnification menu, which is still there. For users who prefer not to reach for the mouse, new keyboard shortcuts let you zoom in or out in 15 percent increments. With these changes, PowerPoint’s view options are considerably more flexible than Keynote’s.
Another interface enhancement makes it easier to work with busy slides that contain multiple overlapping objects. In addition to conventional commands that let you move individual elements forward or backward, PowerPoint 2011 sports a clever new view that displays every object on the slide on a series of translucent sheets that appear to float on the screen. As you mouse over each one, it lights up and a number indicating its position appears in the corner. You drag the pane to move the object on it toward the front or back.
In addition to helping you keep track of objects on individual slides, PowerPoint 2011 helps you organize complex presentations by placing related slides in sections in the navigation pane. Although you can similarly arrange slides hierarchically in Keynote, only PowerPoint lets you name each group of slides.
A new Media Browser conveniently consolidates access to photos, sounds, clip art, symbols, and shapes in one place, and PowerPoint offers a dizzying array of ways to manipulate the size and appearance of graphics that you import or generate within the program. Like Keynote’s Instant Alpha, which lets you make an image’s background transparent, PowerPoint 2011’s Remove Background tool lets you select which parts of a picture to retain and which to clear.
New options let you crop, color correct, rotate, and add other effects to movies, which are now imported into presentations by default instead of being linked to. You can even choose a picture file as the movie’s poster frame, and you can pause and scrub through movies during a slideshow, a feature that was missing from PowerPoint 2008. Annoyingly, though, you still can’t trim movies by adjusting their starting and ending points, nor can you add sounds that play across a specific set of slides.
Animation and transitions
As in PowerPoint 2008, you define the timing, duration, and order of animations by using the Custom Animation tab in the Toolbox. PowerPoint 2011 fills a huge gap in the previous version’s animation repertoire by adding motion paths, which let you move objects along tracks that are predefined or that you draw from scratch. PowerPoint’s path animation tools exceed Keynote’s in some respects (PowerPoint’s paths are much easier to define and edit) and bring PowerPoint 2011 closer to PowerPoint 2010 for Windows. But I was disappointed that, unlike PowerPoint 2010, the new Mac version doesn’t include an advanced timeline, which displays all the animations on a slide in a graphical timeline format. That’s an unfortunate omission; it’s much easier to choreograph multiple animations graphically than it is to drag them up and down in a list.
I was also frustrated to see that PowerPoint’s library of transitions, the special effects that morph one slide into the next during a presentation, still aren’t up to Keynote’s standard. PowerPoint’s dissolve transition is coarser than Keynote’s, and PowerPoint lacks equivalents to many of the stunning effects in Apple’s software. For example, Magic Move, a versatile Keynote transition that moves objects as one slide replaces another, is absent from PowerPoint. Although you can duplicate the effect with custom animations in PowerPoint, it takes considerably more effort.
For as long as I’ve been reviewing Microsoft Word, it has been difficult to see any kind of relationship between Word for Mac and Word for Windows, beyond the name and file format. They were essentially two completely different products designed for what, in Microsoft’s mind, were two completely different sets of users.
Word for Mac 2011 changes all that. The Intel-only Word 2011 is a significant and substantive update to Microsoft’s flagship Mac word processing and page-layout application. It is an update that unifies a user’s experience across platforms, and it’s also a release that contains many valuable new features and improvements—more than 30 in all.
The bottom line is this: Microsoft Word for Mac no longer feels like a second-string word processing program in the Microsoft Office suite. It is in fact a powerful tool for creating all your personal and business documents and for collaborating with others. More importantly, Word 2011 now makes it possible to insert a Mac into nearly any business environment and offer Mac users the same set of features found in Word for Windows, without compromise.
Given Oracle's recent decision to pull the plug on OpenSolaris, there has been considerable concern over the past few months about the future of the OpenOffice.org productivity software suite.
Both projects were inherited by Oracle when it acquired Sun early this year.
Tuesday brought good news for the legions of worried OpenOffice.org users, however, when the community of developers working on the project announced that they have formed an independent foundation, and will be using the name LibreOffice for their version--or "fork"--of the software, unless Oracle agrees to donate the OpenOffice.org brand.
Now known as The Document Foundation, the newly independent OpenOffice.org community aims to fulfill the promise of independence written in the original charter for the project. It has invited Oracle to become a member and to donate the OO.o brand, but I haven't heard back from the company yet with any indication of its intentions.
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.
James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design.
“They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”
But law enforcement officials contend that imposing such a mandate is reasonable and necessary to prevent the erosion of their investigative powers.
“We’re talking about lawfully authorized intercepts,” said Valerie E. Caproni, general counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We’re not talking expanding authority. We’re talking about preserving our ability to execute our existing authority in order to protect the public safety and national security.”
Investigators have been concerned for years that changing communications technology could damage their ability to conduct surveillance. In recent months, officials from the F.B.I., the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the White House and other agencies have been meeting to develop a proposed solution.
There is not yet agreement on important elements, like how to word statutory language defining who counts as a communications service provider, according to several officials familiar with the deliberations.
But they want it to apply broadly, including to companies that operate from servers abroad, like Research in Motion, the Canadian maker of BlackBerry devices. In recent months, that company has come into conflict with the governments of Dubai and India over their inability to conduct surveillance of messages sent via its encrypted service.
In the United States, phone and broadband networks are already required to have interception capabilities, under a 1994 law called the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act. It aimed to ensure that government surveillance abilities would remain intact during the evolution from a copper-wire phone system to digital networks and cellphones.
Addresses an issue where the picture quality of a video changes depending on whether the on-screen controls are visible.
Resolves an issue where iTunes may unexpectedly quit while interacting with album artwork viewed in a separate window.
Fixes a problem that affects the performance of some third-party visualizers.
Addresses an issue where the iTunes library and playlists appear empty.
Resolves an issue that created an incompatibility with some third-party shared libraries.
But the biggest change in this update is the addition of a Ping sidebar in iTunes. Taking the place of the previous Genius sidebar, the Ping sidebar is designed to offer constant access to Ping information, with real-time updates.
To display this sidebar, click the little sidebar button at the bottom-right of the iTunes window, or choose View -> Show Ping Sidebar. This menu command has the same keyboard shortcut as the now defunct Genius sidebar: Command-Shift-G.
When you display the Ping sidebar, you’ll see recent activity from friends and artists you follow. If you select a song, you’ll see additional information: in some cases, the song or album will display at the top of the sidebar; in others you’ll see information about the artist and posts they have made.