Archive for October, 2006

31
Oct
06

Tip: Expression Web – who added all these inline styles?

If you’ve been pleasently surprised at how good Expression Web is at forming clean consise CSS code you’ll no doubt have been disappointed by the sudden appearance of inline styles when you resize or drag elements on the page. This seems to go against everything that is great with the quality of the CSS in the product.

Well fear not… Expression Web has two modes of operation, Automatic and Manual.

Automatic adds inline styles by default as you can see from the sceen shot below, although happily these can quickly and easily be moved to an external style sheet.

Manual – well as it’s name implies you are now in total control over every aspect of your CSS – nice. This can be found under ‘Tools -> Page Editor Options’

Simply decide how you’d like your CSS to be treated by using the drop down menus. 

17
Oct
06

Microsoft User Experience Summit

The next week I’ll be at the first Microsoft Experience Summit, an internal event aimed to bring together the new User Experience Evangelists, and various product teams working in this new area for Microsoft.

I’ll post my thoughts on the event next week – but with very limited connectivity this will be my only post this week.

12
Oct
06

Vista RC2 Going, going, gone…

The original download link for Vista RC2 is no more and it now loops back to the standard Vista information page. So those of you that waited to download RC2 it looks like you left it too late 😦 

It’s not all bad news, if you are a subscriber to MSDN then RC2 is available from your subscriber download page.

12
Oct
06

Tip: Expression Web – moving internal CSS styles to external stylesheets

We’ve all done it. Well I know have anyway.

That odd time when I’ve been rushing about trying different design ideas then realising in my haste for exploration I’ve been dropping my CSS styles inline and not into an external style sheet. I really meant to be good and use an external style sheet.

Well the good news is it only takes moment to correct this lapse of concentration, in fact only 2 steps… phew!

1: Add an external style sheet by choosing ‘Attach Style Sheet’ in the ‘Apply Styles’ panel (screen shot below). This could be a new blank style sheet or one that’s been created earlier, and obviously you can attach more than one.

2: Click on the ‘Manage Styles’ tab in the same panel and you can now see all your styles both internal and external. Simply drag the style to the name of the style sheet you want to have it moved to. You can also arrange the cascade order here by again using drag and drop to change the order the stayles appear in the list – your code is updated accordingly.

Simple.

10
Oct
06

User Experience, designer focus… at Microsoft?

You may have heard on the grapevine that Microsoft is getting serious about user experience of both traditional products and web applications as well as the designer market space in general. Just let that slowly sink in for a minute…

“Hang on a minute is this the same Microsoft that has always been about developers, developers, developers”, admit it, you we’re thinking something along those lines, well it is the same (quickly evolving) Microsoft.

So just how serious is serious?

Well in terms of enabling people to build great experiences three products have been announced to date under the Expression banner: Expression Web, Expression Interactive Designer and Expression Graphic Designer.

They can be downloaded as technical previews from here:

 http://www.microsoft.com/expression

Ok. So Microsoft is launching some products. That’s nice… but products are just products – sure they can be good or bad but releasing three products doesn’t necessarily show any intent that Microsoft wants to, or is going to be a serious playing in this market.

I’ll look at the products in detail over the coming weeks. Back to topic – that whole User Experience thing – that doesn’t really sound very Microsoft.

Well things change quickly nowadays… if you’ve been following the Vista and Office road to launch you may have noticed that a lot of the buzz around them is centred around the user experience. Vista is in fact a huge leap forward from the Fisher Price vision that was Windows XP, and to be honest, probably for the first time I personally have enjoyed using any version of Windows, which is relevation for me as a lifelong Mac user. I don’t think I could say that I ever ‘enjoyed’ using XP.  

Office 12. I can’t remember the last time a major company took it’s market leading product and totally changed the UI from the previous 10 versions, I mean literally rip it up and through it away. Office 12 is a totally different beast from all previous versions. The first few hours/days/weeks (depending on how much you use the product) may be a frustrating experience as you struggle to come to terms with the new way of working. But go through that change and once it starts to fall into place you start to realise how much more productive you are with the new version. It’s great feeling productive and even better not having to search for features buried in menus 4 clicks deep. So two major products both centred around experience.

The User Experience Evangelist role (UXE) is a brand new role in all the major geographies which is essentially looking to drive a couple of agendas.

The first area the UXE role involves is reaching out to the designer community with the new Expression products. The scope is broad and takes in everything from Web 2.0 applications (Still not sure about the term Web 2.0 – marketing strikes again), their usability, and just as importantly making the right technology choices, all the way through to a brand new prospect – designers being able to build richer Windows applications using Interactive Designer and utilising Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) on both XP and Vista. I can’t wait until we can show some of applications that are cooking for the Vista launch 🙂

The second area, which of course is tightly coupled with the first is the user experience itself. How can an improved user experience positively impact businesses online. Is it just about richness of content or simply how people interact with that content. What different elements have to be present or considered to be able to build an improved user experience.

This is all totally new ground for Microsoft which for so long has been focused on the technology stack and helping developers leverage that stack.

I think what’s interesting is the range of people that are being employed into the roles. My background is tradional design, I trained as a graphic designer, before working at Macromedia for over six years, 4 years working with the traditional Macromedia web products, and the last 2 years concentrating around Flash on mobile. Other UXEs around the globe range from people who have been running their own companies with backgrounds in interactive design through to thought leaders that have been running user experience teams within Blue Chip corporates. The diversity of people is wide and is leading to great internal discussions!

In many ways it reminds me of the buzz we had internally at Macromedia back in the day 🙂

It’s very early days, but this is looks like it’s going to be one exciting ride.

Welcome aboard.

08
Oct
06

Vista RC2 (5744) Limited availability

Well for those of you on the cutting edge RC2 of Vista has just been made available.

To get some RC2 action you can download from here: http://download.windowsvista.com/preview/rc2/en/download.htm#

No sign up is necessary. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

07
Oct
06

Running Vista RC1 on a MacBook Pro

You’ve probably seen around the web that Vista RC1 installs and runs well on a MBPro. I found though that I spent a lot of time searching for information so thought I’ll pull together my experience and thoughts in to my first post.

Firstly the install process is very easy 🙂

1: Install Boot Camp on your MacTel. This can be downloaded from here http://www.apple.com/macosx/bootcamp/ (v1.1.1)

2: Run ‘Boot Camp’ app which is now hiding in your Utilities folder and simply follow the instructions which is basically, partition your drive (mine is a 60Gb Windows/20GB Mac), create a drivers dvd/cd (cd is big enough) and then install Windows. When Boot Camp asks you where to install Windows choose the C: drive which in my case will be 60GB in size.

3: Pop the Vista DVD in the drive and Windows installs just like a regular PC. It takes around 45 minutes for a clean install and you end up with a 4.1 rated Vista machine.

Now the sticky stuff:

4: Don’t install the Apple drivers that are on the DVD/CD you created – not yet anyway.

5: The first app to install is Input Remapper, a great app from Erik Olofsson available for download from here http://www.olofsson.info/index.html?inputremapper.html (v0.9.19 Beta)

This adds in CTRL, ALT, Delete – it’s amazing the number of times after you’ve rebooted having just set up your user accounts that you realise your external keyboard is at the office!

Input Remapper also adds in controls for:

  • fn+Eject = PrintScreen
  • fn+F1 = Decrease Brightness
  • fn+F2 = Increase Brightness
  • fn+F3 = Toggle Mute
  • fn+F4 = Decrease Volume
  • fn+F5 = Increase Volume
  • fn+F6 = Toggle Num-Lock
  • fn+F8 = Toggle Keyboard Backlight
  • fn+F9 = Decrease Keyboard Backlight
  • fn+F10 = Increase Keyboard Backlight
  • fn+F11 = Media Play
  • fn+F12 = Media Stop
  • fn+Up = Page Up
  • fn+Down = Page Down
  • fn+Left = Home
  • fn+Right = End
  • fn+Ctrl+Alt+Backspace = Ctrl+Alt+Delete
  • Eject = Eject all optical discs
  • Enter = Right Click
  • This works great for me apart from the ‘eject’ disk function – for this I have to select the disc in Vista and eject manually. In the prefs app that installs in the system tray I’ve set my right Apple key as right click, and the enter key as delete.

    You might also want to check out this app from Dmitri, http://dmitri.v.googlepages.com/macbooktraytools (v0.3 Beta) which adds back the ambiant light sensor.

    6: You now have a usable MacBook Pro however a few things such as sound won’t be working, if that doesn’t matter then your good to go otherwise read on…

    7: Now it’s time to add back some of the drivers. Copy the driver installer from the CD/DVD you made earlier to the route of your C drive and rename it ‘drivers.exe’ (it’s just easy to find here). Click on the Vista logo bottom left and in the search window type ‘CMD’ the command prompt now opens up. Type ‘cd..’ press return, you might need to do this a couple of times until the prompt is a plain old ‘C:\>’ now type ‘drivers.exe /V /a’

    This will uncompress the files into your C directory in two main folders a ‘System 32’ folder at the root level of C, and a folder called ‘Macintosh Drivers for Windows XP’ in the Program Files folder. NOTE: When you do this it will look like it is going to try and install the files, it won’t , it just expands them into these locations. I cancelled it three times before I realised it wasn’t just going to do a blanket install.

    8: Type ‘device’ into the search bar you used earlier and open the device manager. Now you can manually add in the drivers that are missing. Audio in is the only important one. You can also add the iSight driver – but it doesn’t work yet so save yourself the hassle and at this stage I haven’t bothered with Bluetooth I’m going to wait for the VIsta release before setting that up.  Everything else should be working out of the box. If you have any issues then choose the device and point it to your new drivers folder.

    9: Video drivers is next – out of the box everything should work well. If you start fiddling with the video drivers things will start to go, well, less well – that’s what I found anyway. And if you *cough* delete the video driver thinking you’ll be able to get a better working solution you’ll end up with a 1024 resolution and a standard VGA driver as the driver that gets deleted is the Radeon WDDM driver that you need for the Aero interface.

    So LEAVE ALONE 🙂 If you do want to display on an external monitor at all resolutions, both mirrored and extended, I did, then you need to install the Cataylst ATI drivers from here http://ati.amd.com/support/drivers/vista32/common-vista32.html

    This allows you full control of your monitors. I have had the odd blue screen since installing these drivers. This has only ever occured on boot though, and a restart aways brings the machine back. I guess beta video drivers, on a beta OS, on a beta Apple software is occassionally too much.

    NOTE: If you’ve got an external monitor plugged in you can pretty much guarntee that the MBPro will bluescreen on reboot. Just unplug, reboot, plug back in and everything resyncs nicely.

    10: Final thing to be careful of is ‘sleep’ mode. There does seem to be a fight between the sleep mode of Vista and the hardware, quite often I’ll come back to a very hot sleeping MBPro, sort of snoozing rather than sleeping. Hibernate works everytime though.

    Conclusion

    I’m running this as a full blown work machine, ie all normal software installed, all IT controlled software installed and the machine has been (now looking for a piece of wood to touch) been rock solid in everyday use. It also gets a Vista rating of 4.1 only the beta video drivers slow it down, processor and RAM get 4.8 ratings and the data rate gets 4.9. The MBPro is a great Vista machine.