28 March 2014

Microsoft Office now on iPad!

Today the iPad got a lot closer to being able to replace a computer.  This morning Microsoft released Office for iPad.  That’s right, finally the missing link in the ability to use any device for your Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs.   

Office for iPad comes as three separate free apps - Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  These are the same Word, Excel and PowerPoint you know and use on your computer, and although they have been built specifically for the iPad with some differences, you’ll be able to start using them immediately with very little to learn.

What you need to know

You need a subscription to Office 365 to be able to create and edit documents.  Without the subscription you’ll only be able to open and view existing documents. 

Office 365 is Microsoft’s different option of purchasing Office.  Rather than buying the software and installing it on your computer, you pay a yearly subscription – around $100 for five computers (PC and/or Mac) and five iPad or Windows tablets).  The subscription also includes 20GB of storage per user (up to five users in one household) on OneDrive (Microsoft’s cloud storage), which, if you use it, means your documents are accessible from any device.  I wrote about Office 365 here

Save to OneDrive or to your iPad

When you’re logged in to your Microsoft account and you save to OneDrive, your documents are accessible and synced across all your devices.  There doesn't appear to be any delay in syncing – which does happen on some applications I use.   I started typing this post on my PC, as soon as I first saved it, it was on Word on my iPad within 20 seconds.  Of course you can also save your documents to your iPad, instead of OneDrive, and once installed the Office apps are added to the Open With options on your iPad when you want to open a document you've received via email.

As these apps have been designed specifically for a smaller touch-based device there have been some changes:

The Ribbon is not the same as Office on your computer, but you do have all the basic, and quite a lot of not-so basic, tools you need – in fact, for all but the more advanced users, it has everything you need.

Word for iPad Ribbon

PowerPoint for iPad Ribbon

You're not stuck with just creating basic documents on the iPad - there's a great choice of templates.

Just some of the PowerPoint for iPad templates

Depending on the app and what you’re doing you may have a custom keyboard – especially with Excel, when a numeric keyboard is needed.

Speaking of keyboards – if you attach a Bluetooth keyboard to your iPad you can use most of your familiar keyboard shortcuts.  Some menus on the Ribbon will shrink when the on-screen keyboard is being used – if it didn't you’d have trouble seeing your document! Although if you're using a bluetooth keyboard you can avoid this too.

One problem with Office on the iPad is that you can’t print directly from the iPad.  Hopefully the ability to use AirPrint will be something that’s added in the near future. 

I've been working today only on Word and PowerPoint on my iPad, and so far the only thing I haven’t been able to do is to crop a photo in PowerPoint – I had to go back and do it in Photos.  I will still be using Office  on my computer when I'm in the office, but when I'm out I’ll finally be able to get some real work done without having to carry my laptop with me.  Using OneDrive I know that any new documents I create, or existing ones I edit, will be there on my computer when I get back to my office.

17 March 2014

Logitech case+ review

Every now and then a new variation on something we use every day comes out and you wonder – why didn't they think of that earlier?  This is one of those cases! 

Logitech has just released some brilliant new iPhone 5/5S cases that do a lot more than just protect your phone.  Case+ is a smart slim case that will give your iPhone moderate protection from drops and side impacts.  It has soft-touch polycarbonate ends and sides and a metal back shield, with cut outs for all the buttons, switches and ports.  But it’s not just the case that you’ll want, it’s what you can add-on to the case, because the case is just the base for some very useful gadgets….


The Case+ tilt is a thin panel that attaches to the back of your Case+ and lets you attach your smartphone magnetically to any metal surface – why haven’t I seen anything like this before?  I used it in the kitchen to watch cooking videos with it mounted to my fridge. I've also found a great way of not losing my phone under the papers on my desk – I now stick it to my magnetic whiteboard or the metal filing cabinet next to my desk. 

If you've ever propped your phone up against something to stand it up you’ll love what else you can do with the +tilt panel.  The edges of the panel can click together to form a little kickstand that allows you to stand your iPhone up.  

This was very handy at my father-in-law’s birthday dinner on Saturday night – rather than having to pass the phone around the table to look at the latest family pics we could stand it up in front of a few at a time and they could view a slideshow of the photos.   It would also be perfect for a group Skype call; for positioning your phone if you are recording sound, and watching videos.  It’s meant to form a stand with your phone horizontal, but you can pop the kickstand off and if you position it about half way up your phone it will support it vertically as well.   The stand also makes a handy earphone holder!


Now that it is illegal to hold your phone while driving; and our phones often now replace a separate GPS – a hands free mount in the car is essential.  The Case+drive magnetically mounts your phone to your car’s dashboard or windshield.  There are no clips to hold your phone – with the Case+ on your phone you just place it against the +drive mount and it is securely magnetically attached – in whatever position you prefer.  No clips also means that getting your phone off the mount is just a matter of pulling it straight off.  The +drive mount separates to allow it to be positioned at whatever angle you need.

That yellow lever you can just see in the picture above is used to attach the +drive to your dashboard or windscreen – twist it until it clicks to lock, and untwist to unlock.  Which means it is really easy to change the position of your Case+drive mount.  Transfer it from the dashboard to the windscreen – or back again – great for suiting different driver preferences.   If you want to make your +drive even more secure and you've got just the one spot where you always use it on your dashboard, you can first attach the included ‘dashboard mounting adaptor’ (adhesive on one side) which you can then attach the +drive to.  You don’t need to use the adaptor if you attach to your windscreen.

Whilst you want the convenience of being able to use your phone in your car if you have to, you don’t want it obstructing your vision.  The Case+drive is so much smaller and neater than any other car mount I've seen – it's about a third of the size of my old phone mount.

The clever Logitech people also include a metallic universal phone adaptor, which means any smartphone can be used with the Case+drive – not just an iPhone.  The thin plate is placed either inside a slim phone case or directly onto the back of a phone. 

With Case+ you can buy exactly what you need - just the case or with the accessories you want:

You can find out more about the case+ products, including the case+energy, a battery pack, that I haven’t reviewed here.

These products are available online from the Logitech site, and at retailers around Australia, including JB Hi-Fi and Dick Smith.

Guess what lovely readers... I have a case+tilt to give away!  All you have to do to have a chance of winning is to make sure you have liked Techie Mum on Facebook, and leave me a comment below telling me where you'd most likely stick your case+tilt and why.  The most creative entry will win.  You've got until Sunday 23 March to enter.  Entry is only open to Australian residents.

Disclosure:  I was given the Case+tilt and Case+drive to trial and review.  All opinions are my own.

Giveaway Terms & Conditions

  • This competition is a game of skill.
  • Submit your entry in a comment at the bottom of this post.  
  • Follow Techie Mum on Facebook here – if you don’t already.
  • This competition is open to Australian Residents only.  
  • The competition is open for one week – from 17 March to 23 March 2014
  • The winner will be announced on Monday 24 March 2014 on the Techie Mum blog, Facebook page, and Twitter. 
  • The winner will be contacted via the blog or by email address where one has been provided.  The winner has four days to reply, otherwise the prize will be redrawn.

This competition has now closed

The winning entry from Jennifer B creatively added some poetry too....

That Logitech case on my filing cabinet in plain field of view. No office handbag scrambles when calls come through.  And watching never-ending You-tube makeup how-to's... on the frame of my mirror! I'd stick it there too!!!

13 March 2014

Canva - great design simplified

Have you seen Canva yet? 

Canva is a free web-based design tool that is bringing the ability to create beautiful images and designs to everyone.  No design experience necessary – Canva is really easy to use. 

Simply choose what you’d like to create – an image for your Facebook page or a Facebook cover, a card, a poster, a document, an invitation or just about anything else you can think of.  There are templates already set up or you can create your own from scratch. 

Once you’ve chosen your background you can drag-and-drop different elements onto your design from Canva’s library of more than one million photos, graphics and fonts.   Most elements are free, but if you use a premium item it only costs $1.  

Even if you use Canva’s templates you can still customise them by changing the colours and fonts; upload your own photos to use; and move elements around.  

Once you’re happy with your design, you can choose to download it as an image or as a PDF, or share it immediately to Facebook or Twitter.

Canva was released towards the end of 2013 and since then I've used it to create almost every image on Techie Mum – Facebook cover and tabs, a media kit, blog header, logo, my app reviews, as well as most of the images on my posts and on social media.

But the first thing I used it for was nothing to do with Techie Mum.  At the end of last year I was struggling with a job I’d taken on for my eldest son’s Year 6 Graduation.  I was putting together a memento for each child using photos from Kindergarten to Year 6.  A Year Book was just too expensive so I had decided on an individual collage for each child.  I tried so many different software options and I just wasn't happy with any of them.  Then, as so often happens, when I was at my lowest and just didn't think these collages would ever get done, Canva was released!  Back then it was by invitation only, and I managed by get one of those invitations!  Within an hour of ‘playing’ on Canva I had found the solution.   Canva has over 100 different photo collage templates!  I think I screamed when I saw this –

The photos of each child were uploaded to Canva, the colours and font were changed to match our school's colours and with three other lovely Mums we created 50 photo collages in under two weeks – A3 size – which we then laminated.  This is how they turned out –

Canva regularly adds new elements – more layouts and design features, and they've just added photo filters so you can have fun with your own photos, or Canva’s, before adding them to your Canva creations. 

If you need a little help Canva adds new design tutorials regularly.  There’s no invitation needed now – just pop over here and sign up NOW!