E-mail in Windows 8

A reader recently wrote to ask about using e-mail in Windows 8 with a POP3 account. It’s a topic I didn’t cover due to the limits in the size of my book. Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference is meant more as an overview—the kind of book you grab when you have a quick question about a native Windows 8 feature. There are some issues I wish I had covered, but then the question arises of what I would remove to provide that coverage. It’s a constant battle for an author.

The native e-mail option for Windows 8 is to use your Microsoft account. It’s the account you use to access the Windows Store and other Windows 8 features. Of course, you probably have an existing e-mail account and will want to use that instead of Microsoft’s offering. Unfortunately, anyone moving from Windows XP directly to Windows 8 will be shocked to learn that there is no Outlook Express to use. In fact, Outlook Express has been dead since Vista. There really wasn’t space in the book to discuss any other options, but I know that readers still have questions about what to do with the Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3) account.

Fortunately, there is a quick fix for the problem, even though Microsoft doesn’t make it readily apparent. The article, “How to Read POP Mail in Windows 8” tells you everything you need to know about installing support for your POP3 account. However, the Mail app in Windows 8 is extremely limited and another reader complained about it’s limitations to me after installing the POP3 support.

There are a number of options that you can pursue. For example, you could install Mozilla’s Thunderbird. Unfortunately, Thunderbird isn’t an app, so you can’t access it easily through the Modern User Interface (UI) (also known as Metro). The alternative is to use Windows Live Mail. It does offer a full range of functionality. The article entitled, “How to Install Windows Live Mail in Windows 8” tells you how to perform this task. The article entitled, “Windows Live Mail POP3” completes the task by telling you how to configure Windows Live Mail to use a POP3 account.

Given that Windows 8 is new and has a completely new interface, it will take a while for it to become a target platform for most e-mail vendors. In the meantime, you now have a few options for that POP3 account you’ve been wanting to use with your Windows 8 installation. I’d love to hear about any alternatives you might have or news about new e-mail applications for the Modern UI at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Moving Metro to the Desktop

One of the problems I noted frequently while writing Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference is that there is a serious efficiency problem in switching between the Desktop and the Metro interface (or whatever Microsoft is calling it this week). In addition, each Metro app takes up the entire screen. That’s a serious misuse of desktop real estate when working with a larger monitor and I could understand most users getting frustrated with the entire situation. Fortunately, you can now move Metro to the Desktop using ModernMix, a $5.00 utility from Stardock.

Using this simple tool, you can display Metro apps in a Win32 frame. This makes it possible to display multiple Metro apps at once and obtain a significant productivity gain as well. It makes apps such as Skype usable again. After all, how many people are going to be willing to use Skype as a full screen app? Are you just going to sit there and stare at the screen waiting for someone to message you? You can read some additional comments about the unusable nature of the Metro version of Skype in the Channel 9 Coffeehouse. However, I’m not picking on Skype here—there are many Metro apps that simply don’t work well in full screen mode.

What’s more interesting is that using ModernMix makes it possible to shut down a Metro app simply by closing the window. Yes, there are other ways to shut down a Metro app, but this approach is simple. You don’t have to remember anything weird, you just close the window and the app is gone. Fortunately, you can download a free trial version of ModernMix to give it a try on your own system.

I’ve heard from a number of readers who have been looking for tools to help them run business applications better on Windows 8. There are rumors that Windows Blue is going to be an even larger departure from Windows of the past, so I suspect there will continue to be a strong market for third party tools. Let me know about your favorites at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference Released!

Nothing feels quite so good as to see your latest book in print. Last week I received my copies of Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference in the mail. As always, I stopped what I was doing to peruse the content. Yes, I wrote it, but somehow it always looks more polished and authoritative in print than when I sent my manuscript to the publisher.

I’ve already made you aware of some of the wonderful features of this book in my Introducing Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference post. Based on some of the input I’ve already received from various sources, I want to make sure you understand that one of my prime motivations in writing this book is to make the transition to Windows 8 as easy as possible for you. The new dual interface is almost certainly going to cause major problems in adopting Windows 8, but this book can help you get more out of Windows 8 than you would otherwise, and with significantly less effort on your part. For example, I highly recommend that people create a list of keyboard shortcuts to use when beginning with Windows 8 because using the keyboard makes things significantly easier. You’ll find a perfect start to your personal list on pages BP10 and BP12 (at the beginning of the book).

The feature I like most about this book is that it’s small. This is a quick reference, which means I devoted a lot of time toward making the book concise and targeted. You can find what you need quickly and you won’t feel as if you’re weight lifting when carrying this book around. The smaller size means this book will fit in places where most computer books won’t.

Now it’s your turn. I’d like to hear your comments about my new book and address any questions you might have about it in my blog. Addressing your needs is what my writing is all about. Feel free to contact me about the content of this book at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com and I’ll do my best to address any reasonable questions/requests that you might have. Thank you for supporting my efforts to provide others with useful and relevant reference materials !

 

Windows 8, A Moving Target

One of the issues a technical book author must face is that a product could change a little from the time that the manuscript is completed and the book is printed. In fact, it’s almost certain that a product is going to change long before the book is out-of-print. While writing Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference I have worked hard to ensure you get the best and most current information possible. As I’m writing this post, I know that everything in the book is currently accurate and you’ll find an amazing array of new ideas and how-to information that will make your Windows 8 experience better.

There is some change in the wind though. The articles are already appearing in the media and Windows 8 isn’t even released yet. For example, someone recently pointed out the ZDNet article entitled, “Microsoft releases details for Windows 8 app updates” to me. On the one hand I’m gratified to see that Microsoft is taking user input seriously and keeping an eye on what the competition is doing as well. On the other hand, I almost wish that Microsoft had let Windows 8 cook a little longer before serving it up. I’m sure that the Microsoft engineers are working overtime right now to ensure that this major upgrade comes with as few flaws as possible. However, with such major changes come flaws. Windows 8 will require some time in the public eye before Microsoft can work out all the kinks (and even then, pleasing everyone is an impossible task).

I’m currently reading as many Windows 8 articles as I can to look for potential problems in my book. Once Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference is released, you’ll see updates for it appear right on this blog, so make sure you keep a bookmark open for this particular blog category when you buy my book. You should also contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com when you find an issue in the book that I haven’t covered in the blog. I work hard to keep on top of all of the issues in my books, but sometimes things slip past me and you’re my second line of defense against inaccuracies.

Until Microsoft has found all of the issues with Windows 8 and the buying public has tested it thoroughly, you can expect Windows 8 to remain a moving target. Let me know about any issues you find in my book once it’s released and I’ll do my best to address them. In the meantime, happy computing!


Post Update: Since the time I wrote this post, a few readers have pointed out that Microsoft has released some additional information about the update. Steven Sinofsky has provided a short post on the topic entitled, “Updating Windows 8 for General Availability.” You can read a bit more about the update (along with some informed conclusions) in Mary Jo Foley’s post. I wouldn’t dismiss this update as minor, even though Microsoft presents only four bullet points to describe it. The download is 170 MB and it does make some significant changes under the hood. What I’m still wondering about is whether this is the tip of the iceberg and why Microsoft couldn’t make these changes at the outset.

 

Metro’s Confusing Name Change

You have probably seen Metro mentioned a lot when it comes to Windows 8. The new Metro interface relies on a tile structure to provide access to live content. What you’ll see is something that looks like a smartphone interface, only larger. However, Microsoft has recently had to make a name change for the Metro interface, insisting that the Metro name was merely a placeholder or a code name all along (although, no one seems to remember Microsoft having mentioned the temporary nature of this nomenclature). You’ll see it listed as the Start screen interface now (or something similar). Fortunately, the change came early enough for me to make changes to my recently completed book, “Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference.”

For the purposes of my book (unless Microsoft changes its mind again) you’ll see the Metro interface as the Start screen interface. The term Metro apps is replaced with Windows 8 apps. Of course, the problem for me as an author is that there doesn’t appear to be an official Microsoft listing of terms that authors should use. All I know for sure is that the term Metro is now banned at Microsoft.

What does this mean for you as a reader? It means that you’re going to have to live with a confusing array of terminology for an interface that is already confusing everyone who uses it. Even if Microsoft provides a clear and precise set of terms tomorrow, it will take years to clean up the mess on the Internet. Authors who assumed that the term Metro was permanent have used that term consistently for everything from articles to white papers to books. When you perform searches for information on Windows 8 online, you’ll need to perform multiple searches in order to find everything you need.

So, what is this post all about? I wanted you to know precisely how I’m using terms in my book, even if you can’t obtain a specific set of terms from Microsoft. When you see Start screen, you know I’m talking about what has been the Metro interface up until now. When you see Windows 8 apps, you know that I’m talking about what has been Metro apps until now. Please let me know if you have any questions about this use of terminology at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Introducing Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference

I’ve just completed my 90th book, Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference. This isn’t an in depth book designed to teach you everything there is to know about Windows 8 and the new Metro interface—instead, it provides you with an overview of most features and detailed procedures for working with the features that people will use most often. While writing this book, I looked online through various newsgroups for issues people have been encountering, checked out all of the latest news stories, and ensured I kept up-to-date on stories directly from Microsoft in the Building Windows 8 blog. As a consequence, this book contains input from all of the sources you’d check out if you had the time to do so. In addition, my beta readers and editors have done a phenomenal job of providing just the right input (thanks to everyone involved).

So, why do you need this book? Anyone who is updating from a current version of Windows to Windows 8 is going to find the Metro interface extremely confusing. It doesn’t work like the old interface and you’ll even find that the Start menu is missing. Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference is going to make it possible for you to become productive in an incredibly short time. I focused on the essentials in this book. The book’s arrangement makes it easy to find a specific item of interest quickly. The book content is arranged into the following parts:

 

  • The Big Picture: Windows 8
  • Part 1: Navigating the Metro Interface
  • Part 2: Navigating the Desktop Interface
  • Part 3: Using the Standard Applications
  • Part 4: Working with Gadgets
  • Part 5: Using Internet Explorer
  • Part 6: Configuring Your System
  • Part 7: Interacting with External Devices
  • Part 8: Accessing the Network
  • Part 9: Performing Administrative Tasks


As you can see, I’ve hit all of the highlights. Anyone who is already using an earlier version of Windows will want this book to get going quickly. Believe me, the Windows 8 interface is going to prove to be a major hurdle for adoption (something noted by almost every beta reader as well). If you’d rather be working than figuring out the interface, get a copy of my book!

I’ve assumed that there is going to be a strong interest in getting your current applications working in the Windows 8 environment, so there is only one chapter devoted to the Metro interface, along with mentions of it in other chapters. In fact, I even show you how to get around the lack of a Start menu (something I found particularly annoying while using Windows 8) using ViStart from Lee-Soft. Using ViStart definitely makes the Windows 8 environment friendlier to those of us who didn’t really want the Metro interface. You do find out how to work with Metro apps in this book, but it’s not a major topic because it will be a while before people start heavily investing in Metro apps (look for future posts in the Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference category for updates on using Metro apps).

Don’t worry, this book also discusses how to use touch to perform tasks and I even cover all of the keyboard shortcuts for those of you who prefer the keyboard over the mouse. In short, there is something in this book for everyone. Please let me know if you have any questions about my new book at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com and I’ll do my best to answer them. In the meantime, happy reading!

 

Visual Studio 2012 Express Products Include Desktop Support

Visual Studio 2012 is still a work in progress, but many developers learn about the latest version of Visual Studio using the Express Edition because it’s a free download. You can use the Express Edition to learn a new language, get a basic idea of Visual Studio functionality, or simply to play around. The Express Edition is also lightweight, which makes it possible to use with an older machine that might not support one of the other editions. So, it was with regret that I read that the Express Edition was only going to support Metro applications. Obviously, a lot of other people regretted Microsoft’s decision because there has been quite an outcry about the lack of support for desktop and console applications in the Express Edition. Fortunately, Microsoft has heard developers and according to Mary Jo Foley, has added desktop support back in.

Microsoft is still trying to push its Metro agenda, however. The desktop and console application support come in a separate product named Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop. This product won’t ship at the same time as the other products—it’ll ship later. I wasn’t able to find out how much later, but there is going to be a delay. The product is mentioned at the bottom of the page on the Visual Studio Express 2012 products site, but when you click the link to download it, you’ll find it missing. The June 8th blog post doesn’t mention a delivery date either.

There are a lot of new features in Visual Studio 2012 and its associated .NET Framework 4.5. If you haven’t tried these features, an Express Edition product could be precisely what you need for experimentation. Of course, you can also obtain a beta version of Microsoft top of the line Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate for experimentation purposes for the time being as well, but it does have some hefty system requirements.

Have you had a chance to look at the new version of Visual Studio? Let me know your thoughts about it at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Windows 8 User Beta Readers Needed

I’m starting a new book project, Windows 8 for Dummies Quick Reference, which means that I’m looking for beta readers. I try to get as many beta readers as I can involved in the project to enure that everyone gets a quality product. As noted in my Errors in Writing post, even the best author is only as good as the help he gets from others.

This is a user level book. My target audience has experience working with Windows, but there isn’t any requirement to have used Windows 8 in the past. I’ll be focusing on the desktop experience, rather than the Metro interface, even though there will be some Metro topics included by necessity. You don’t have to be a geek in order to be a beta reader for this book. I’m looking for people at every experience level. In fact, the less skilled you are, the better, because you’ll ask the sorts of questions that other readers ask most often.

It’s important to remember that beta readers provide direct input on my books while I’m writing them. In short, you get to help shape the final form of my book. Every beta reader comment is carefully considered and I implement as many of your suggestions as possible. Your input is incredibly important at this phase and unlike many other reader suggestions, you’ll see the results in the final product, rather than as a post on my blog after the fact.

Don’t worry about me bugging you for input. You sign up, I send the manuscript your way, and then, if you choose to provide suggestions on a particular chapter, you send the suggestions back to me. During the author review process (when I answer the questions of all of my editors), I’ll incorporate your suggestions. If you have any desire to work with Windows 8 and would like to be a beta reader for this book, ask for details at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Discovering Metro – The Apps

I’ve talked about the new Metro interface in Windows 8 a couple of times now. For example, in my Considering the New Metro Interface—Ribbon Redux? post, I considered how Metro compares to the Ribbon. In Accessibility on Windows 8 Metro, I discussed the shortcomings of Metro for the user with special needs. However, I haven’t really discussed the central purpose of Metro as of yet because there wasn’t really enough information to do so. Things have changed. A few recent posts about the Metro applications (apps for short) have me wondering what’s so amazing about this interface.

I keep comparing Windows 8 to Windows 7 for good reason. In writing Professional Windows 7 Development Guide I found a lot to like about Windows 7. I’m trying equally hard to find something to like about Windows 8, but so far, except for some truly exceptional lower level functionality that Microsoft seems intent on not discussing, I’m not finding too many positive things to say. I’m not alone in this regard. I recently read a post by Eric Knorr (a 22 year veteran author) who has decided the time has come to get a Mac, rather than continue his saga with Windows. Another post tries to put a positive spin on things by saying that Windows 8 represents an experiment, one where Microsoft can afford to fail.

My latest point of concern are the winners of the First Apps Contest. The top winner is a weather forecast application. It doesn’t appear to convey any more information than I get from Yahoo every morning when I start up my system. Of course, this makes me wonder just what to expect from the other winners. The next two winners are games of some sort—neither of which looks particularly interesting. I don’t dabble in the stock market, but the SigFig app is the only one in the list that looks remotely interesting. However, this particular app is a port from other platforms, so it’s not original or unique. The next three winners are…you guessed it, games. A final winner is a cookbook application. The description provided as part of the Microsoft post didn’t tell me enough about this particular app to know whether it’s going to be a valuable addition or not. The bottom line is that Microsoft chose eight apps to represent Metro and out of those apps five are games of dubious value. Let’s just say that I’m not impressed and leave it go at that. By the way, this post appeared on 29 February and has only garnered 10 comments to date—it appears that I’m not the only one that Microsoft failed to impress.

Today I read about app licensing and I began to wonder how many developers Microsoft will attract. Some of the terms make sense. For example, a developer can choose how long to provide a trial version of an app before the user must purchase it. However, the first possible problem that occurred to me is that once the trial is over for one user on a machine, it’s over for everyone. Machines often have multiple users. This policy makes it less likely that the various users will buy the app unless they all try it at the same time. The post doesn’t make it clear whether everyone on a machine can access the app once purchased or not, but if the license to use an app is sold on a per-user basis, this policy would tend to limit the number of licenses that a developer can expect to sell.

Developers will need to sell their apps with multiple installations in mind. Once the user has a license to use an app, the app can be installed on up to five machines. Theoretically, this means that five people could be using that same app at the same time—four of them would use the app for free. As a developer, that policy would worry me more than a little.

The app policy also makes it clear that all app updates are free to the user. Just how the developer will get compensated for the time and money invested in an update aren’t clear, but the current users won’t do their part to support the developer. Perhaps there is a good reason why Microsoft’s first contest only attracted game developers, a weather app, a cookbook, and some financial software.

I’m not precisely sure what users will want from their apps. It’s clear that the industry as a whole really wants to like Windows 8, but no one has a compelling reason to like it so far. The sad thing is that Windows 8 really does have some interesting features, such as a new file system, to offer, but Microsoft isn’t promoting these interesting features very much. What is your take on Windows 8 in general and Metro in specific? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.