Microsoft Replacing Messenger with Skype

Only six months ago we wrote an article about Microsoft replacing Hotmail with; now Microsoft have announced Windows Live Messenger (previously MSN Messenger) is to be replaced by Skype, which Microsoft bought in 2011. Messenger is being replaced globally, with the exception of mainland China.

Currently, Messenger users can continue to use Messenger, upgrade to Skype or merge their Messenger account with their Skype account. After 15th March 2013 [edit] 8th April 2013 all Messenger users will have to upgrade to Skype in order to continue using the services, but don’t worry – the process is fairly simple and we will run through the options (with pictures) below.

Firstly you need to make sure you have Skype installed, available here. If you already have Skype installed, make sure you have the latest version by going to ‘Help’ then ‘Check for Updates’. Next, open Skype; if it automatically logs you in then log out (‘Skype’ then ‘Sign Out’). You should now see a login screen like the one below:

Skype Login Screen

You need to select ‘Microsoft Account’ from the right hand side, which is the account you use for Messenger. After logging into your Microsoft Account you will be given two options.

Skype options to merge or upgrade Microsoft account

If you do not already have a Skype account simply click the ‘I’m new to Skype’ button to convert your Messenger account into a Skype account. If you already have a Skype account then you have two options available to you. The option on the left, labelled ‘I have a Skype account’ will merge your existing Skype account with your existing Messenger account. The alternative is to convert your Messenger account into a separate Skype account by clicking the ‘I’m new to Skype’ button. Having separate accounts will mean you can choose which account to log into, but not both at the same time on a single computer or other device. This could be particularly important to some users as Skype lacks options for displaying different online statuses to different users or groups of users, despite being a popular feature request for many years. In fact, the only option available is to block contacts to whom you wish to appear offline.

After you have either merged or upgraded your Microsoft Messenger account you will be able to use Skype to communicate with all your contacts, regardless of whether they are still on Messenger or have upgraded to Skype.

Microsoft really appear to be rebranding everything they have to offer. The 2D panel design used on the new Windows 8 start menu (originally branded ‘Metro’) has gradually been applied across the board: computers, smartphones, tablets, games consoles, software, websites and even the Windows logo itself. On top of this Microsoft have been clearing out old offerings, with very well-known services, such as Hotmail and Messenger, being retired. For many, myself included, Hotmail and MSN Messenger were a staple part of early online social networking and it feels like an end of an era to see them go.

Microsoft Replaces Hotmail

Our last post discussed whether Microsoft was abandoning the corporate user in favour of the more casual tablet user with the upcoming release of Windows 8, but today’s announcement from Microsoft reveals the demise of Hotmail in favour of the all new Hotmail has long been a dominant player in the battle for domestic email addresses and has been a major part of Microsoft’s online presence since they bought it back in 1997. However, today’s announcement declares the Hotmail brand soon to end, soon to be replaced by Microsoft’s Outlook brand, which has been the principal mail client amongst business users for over a decade.

So what is and how will it affect 350+ million Hotmail users? There are already a few changes that Hotmail users may have noticed. Firstly the login screen has changed its style:

New Hotmail Login ScreenNew Hotmail Login Screen

This new style is more in keeping with Windows 8 and the Metro Start Menu, but also matches the look of the new After signing in users are likely to be presented with a request for additional security measures (phone number, alternate email address and trusted PC), which users with a Google account may already be familiar with. Again this page has been styled to suit the new face of Microsoft.

Hotmail Additional SecurityHotmail Additional Security

So what’s the new like? Well, you can see for yourself as Microsoft has made it available for all current Hotmail users to try. Simply go to or select it from the Hotmail options menu and you will see the mail part of Hotmail in the new layout. Don’t worry, the transformation isn’t permanent – just click the setting ‘gear’ towards the top right and select “Switch back to Hotmail”. It’s worth noting that if you want a email address then you’d better register quick as your equivalent for your Hotmail address is NOT automatically allocated to you and the addresses are going fast (over a million went in the first two hours); has already gone, and not to us. Anyway, here’s our newly registered account:

New Outlook.comNew

As you can see the general structure is similar to the current Hotmail, which has been gradually moving towards the layout of the desktop version of Outlook for some time now. The major changes are in the menus and selection styling, which fit the new Metro style that is being applied to all things Microsoft (Windows 8, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone). Not only does the new style help tie all the Microsoft products together, it also provides a clean, responsive feel. This is also underpinned by a clean-up of the layout. The adverts have gone, but the presence of the ‘AdChoices’ in the bottom right suggests this is only temporary. Messenger has moved from the bottom of the left column to a dedicated messaging pane (next to the settings gear) where it is joined by the new Facebook messenger plug-in.

Facebook messenger isn’t the only new integrated feature. also allows Skype communications straight from the Chat panel and Office 365 is built-in to allow documents attached to an email to be edited within the email without leaving, which brings it up-to-date with Google Mail and Google Docs. However, Microsoft outdoes both Google and Apple by including 7GB of free storage using SkyDrive (Google Drive and iCloud only offer 5GB).

Unfortunately , Microsoft are still not providing IMAP support, so if you want your mail synchronised across multiple devices you will have to use either the website or a Microsoft supplied app. This is quite disappointing for us here at Mamu Computing as we strive to make technology work smartly to provide more functionality with less input from the user. Although this is a reasonably major feature to be lacking, seems to be doing everything else, and well.

To conclude, is a definite enhancement on Hotmail, bringing it right up-to-date and keeping up the fight against the likes of Google and Yahoo. Not everything is ready to try just yet, but you might want to try out the new Outlook layout for your Hotmail emails.


Is Microsoft’s New Windows 8 Abandoning the Enterprise Market?

Windows 8 Metro ScreenThe Windows 8 Metro screen

Lately the web has been full of Windows 8 rumours and gossip, exacerbated by the announcement of an Autumn 2012 release date for the general public to get their hands on a copy and try it out for themselves. It is known for certain, however, that this year’s release is a bit controversial – instead of the beloved Start Menu, which first appeared in Windows 95 and caused a bit of a stir, we’ll instead be navigating using the Metro screen. This is a brand new feature for Windows, and is designed specifically to appeal to users of touchscreen devices and add an air of revolution to what otherwise could be quite a staid release for the Microsoft brand. The binning of the Start Menu as an aesthetic device also signals a serious move towards challenging the iPad iOS and squaring up to Apple – at least as far as the tablet market goes. This also coincides with Microsoft’s June announcement of its planned new high end tablet device, Surface, and Steve Ballmer’s declaration that Microsoft won’t ‘leave any space uncovered to Apple’ in an interview with CRN this month. All this movement towards integration, tablet computing and touchscreen devices is clearly marketed towards home users and the occasional commuter, but what about Microsoft’s other core demographic, the enterprise user? Microsoft’s dominance in the business sector is undeniable, but are corporations really going to embrace a revolutionary new Windows release that has massively changed the way that users have to navigate around the operating system? Mamu has been testing a pre-release version of Windows 8 and, whilst it’s undeniably pretty and modern-feeling, just trying to turn the machine off involves re-learning basic tasks and a lot of searching. The business sector is usually the last to implement radical changes in technology due to training costs and the temporary decline in productivity whilst users are having to get to grips with new software. Corporate IT departments are also wary of taking on new software and operating systems – traditionally, new Windows releases are not implemented until at least the first Service Pack is released, giving Microsoft time to iron out any bugs and security flaws that weren’t picked up on release and allowing IT departments time to test out pre-existing in-house software on the new operating systems. This would explain the continued interest in Windows 7 from corporate clients, despite the looming Windows 8 release date. Fifty percent of all corporate PCs are now running Windows 7, although Microsoft’s statistics note that interestingly most of these upgrades are not from the Vista operating system but from XP, leading to another important point – that corporations tend to skip several releases in between upgrades. Popular releases for businesses were Windows 95, XP and Windows 7, with Windows 98 and Vista falling far behind. If such a large proportion of businesses are now operating on Windows 7, could Windows 8 be one of the releases that is skipped? This seems particularly likely if there is such a big usability gap between Windows 7 and Windows 8, as businesses are likely to give their workers time to get used to the differences as home users before implementing Windows 8 or subsequent releases in an office environment.

Windows 8 also includes an 'App' section of the Metro screen that has echoes of the old Start MenuWindows 8 also includes an ‘App’ section of the Metro screen that has echoes of the old Start Menu

There are other features to Windows 8 that also seem geared solely towards home users. The introduction of the SkyDrive and the ability to log-in to Windows with your Windows Live ID seems wholly unsuited to business computing, with its usual reliance on server technology and need to keep PCs tightly regimented and similar. Logging in with a Windows Live ID so that you can access your desktop and settings from any Windows 8 PC seems pointless in a corporate environment, where you need to log in to a server, and not many people would want their personal and their business worlds to cross by having to use their own Windows Live IDs in an office environment – particularly if they then use the same ID to log into their home computer. Similarly, server technology pretty much renders the SkyDrive cloud computing feature pointless, as the server should provide the same feature.

A cleaner, more streamlined desktop in Windows 8A cleaner, more streamlined desktop in Windows 8

One cannot doubt the impact of Windows 8: Apple’s reaction to Microsoft integrating all of their differing operating systems into one compatible product (meaning cross-platform integration that includes PCs, smartphones, tablet devices and the Xbox operating systems) has been to rush out a similar feature on their Mountain Lion operating system, which will be available before Windows 8 debuts. Certainly, this is the way that computing is heading, and greater integration and compatibility between devices is something that will be beneficial to all customers, not simply home users. The ability to access files saved to the SkyDrive from all of your Windows devices is quick and convenient, and potentially makes home working and working whilst commuting easier and more efficient. Whether businesses favour this method rather than their own pre-existing remains to be seen, but it could potentially make life much easier for corporate IT departments both in terms of implementing such features and in terms of training – if workers are familiar with cloud computing and remote access already from their home computing, it is far easier to train workers to use these features in the workplace. It also allows small businesses to use server-like features without having to invest in expensive server technology or have any real technical know-how, meaning that a relatively small investment in a new operating system could save small businesses money in the long-run. In reality, however, it seems that Windows 8 is offering home and small business users the opportunity of accessing the sort of technological features that larger businesses have been enjoying for years through server technologies and in-house software. Overall, it remains to be seen if Windows 8 will benefit large companies in any meaningful way – or if a business version will be quietly released with the option to reinstate the Start Menu at some point in the future.


Linux for the Uninitiated

Linux is for nerds and geeks that know far too much about computers, right? Here at Mamu Computing, we often find Linux to be the operating system of choice for the user at the opposite end of the spectrum – the sort of person that just uses the computer to browse the web, check Facebook and send and recieve emails. It’s true that Linux provides a very fast and powerful system for highly technical users, but it also provides a fast, simple and cheap alternative for the least technical users too.

It’s always a worry when we replace a client’s computer with one that has a significantly different operating system, and we always expect numerous questions. A recent client of ours decided their computer was becoming unbearably slow and was definitely past its best. The computer was a fairly middle of the range computer over five years ago, running Windows XP. The client was a home user with a fairly low demand from the computer and a low level of computer technical knowledge, and as such was not looking to spend much on a replacement computer – preferably under £200.

When it comes to budget computers, custom builds just aren’t as good value for money as the mass produced, off-the-shelf variety. However, we find that Windows PCs that are under £200 can fall quite short on performance, but there are many PCs available without an operating system, which is far better value for money, and Linux is widely available free of charge. In addition to getting better hardware for your money, Linux uses far fewer resources than Windows, further increasing performance. So it’s a no brainer then?

Not exactly. People like to know where they are with their computer and want as little change as possible – the idea of switching to an operating system they haven’t heard of is usually enough to put people off. However, back to our client in question: making the change from Windows XP to Windows 7 is quite a big one: the new look, wording and menu structures are all very different to the old version (for example, My Libraries instead of My Documents), so there’ll always be a learning curve that’s unavoidable without sticking with an old, unsupported operating system. In order to give the client a little more confidence in using Linux we installed a distribution from Ubuntu on the old computer alongside Windows XP so they could try it out. Obviously there were several questions, but they found it simple enough to use and found it considerably quicker than using Windows XP. As such, they decided to have Linux installed on their new computer. Several months later they are very happy with the computer: it’s fast, simple and very reliable.

From our point of view Linux has many advantages: firstly there is no licencing system in place, so there’s no activation or paperwork to be kept safe. Secondly, installing a Linux distribution tends to handle all drivers and peripheral setup with no input from ourselves. When we came to connect the computer up at the client’s home we were delighted to find that even the all-in-one printer was set up by the operating system. The printer was a HP OfficeJet 5610 and simply had to be connected to the computer for the printer, scanner and fax to be set up – that’s real plug-and-play, not the plug-and-play that’s been sold for years that requires installing from CD and a reboot before you can even plug in.

To summarise, we have found Linux to be a well suited solution for many of our less technical customers, offering an easy-to-use operating system that is considerably faster and cheaper than they are used to. We hope to see it become more commonplace so that people are aware of the choices that are available, meaning they can choose the operating system that suits them rather than just opting for the familar Windows or fashionable Mac.

Insert Microsoft Project Gantt Chart Into Microsoft Word

On the whole Microsoft Office is quite good at importing objects from one program to another. It is common to copy and paste a table from Excel into your Word report, or add a flow chart using Visio, Microsoft has pretty much taken the pain out of producing rich documents. Why then is it such a challenge to import a Gantt chart from Microsoft Project into Microsoft Word? It is a fairly common scenario, but without an official solution provided by Microsoft, what’s the best way to do it? Here are several ways I have tried and how useful I found each.

Print or Publish to PDF
One method is to produce a PDF file of the Gantt chart and the Word document. The two PDF files can then be merged, inserting the Gantt chart pages where required. Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 both allow you to produce PDF files under the ‘save as’ menu, but PDF printers are available freely on the internet for older versions. However, merging of PDF files often requires editors that are not free, such as Adobe Acrobat. There are free alternatives available, such as PDF SAM, but these are more complicated to use. Even if you have the software required there is still the problem that you can only insert the Gantt chart after the document has been published to PDF. This means that any alterations required to the document or Gantt chart will result in having to start the process over. In addition, merging PDF files often breaks any links within the document, such as the contents page. This method is okay if you don’t need to edit the document and don’t require links, but it is straightforward to have the Gantt chart on a larger landscape page.

Insert as Screenshot
Another way would be to take a screenshot of the Gantt chart open in Microsoft Project and paste it into the Microsoft Word document. To capture a screenshot simply press the ‘Prt Sc’ (print screen) button on your keyboard and then paste it straight into Word. Tip: If you hold the ‘Alt’ key down when you press ‘Prt Sc’ it will only capture the selected window, hiding your task bar, which is particularly useful if you have more than one monitor. After pasting the screenshot into Word you can crop the image down to suit. This method allows you to continue editing the document before publishing, but be careful when resizing the screenshot as the text will be unreadable if too small or distorted.

Insert as Table and Image
Finally, the method I have found most effective. This is done in two parts: first highlighting all the rows of the task table in Microsoft Project, and then copying them into Microsoft Word. Word should automatically convert the text into a table – if not, then look for the ‘Paste as Table’ option. Then, on the next page, you can paste a screenshot of just the Gantt chart without the task table. This will allow you to show the Gantt chart at a larger scale, making it clearer. If you are using Microsoft Word 2010 there is a ‘Screenshot’ tool on the ‘Insert’ ribbon that is very useful; you can either select any open window to capture or select ‘Screen Clipping’ to drag your cursor over the area of your screen you want to capture, removing the need to crop the screenshot afterwards. You will probably want the Gantt chart to be landscape – before changing the orientation, put a section break before and after so that only that page becomes landscape. This method ensures the task table is clearly visible and can be formatted to suit the rest of your document and also allows for a larger Gantt chart.

Windows 8 Demonstration

Had a look at the latest version of Microsoft Windows operating system today (October 5th), Windows 8. Windows 8 is due for release in September of next year, so is by no means complete yet, but the majority of the new interface is complete. The big new thing in Windows 8 is the “Metro” interface that replaces the start menu. If you’ve seen the Windows Phone 7 then Windows 8 Metro will feel very familar. Metro is a collection of tiles, some live and some static, the layout of which is fully customisable just like the mobile counterpart. However, the layout is landscape and has multiple screens of tiles that you can pan across. Navigation is best suited to touch interfaces such as a tablet computer or touch screen monitor, although functionality has been included for browsing with a mouse and keyboard. The familiar desktop of Windows 7 is still available – only the start menu has been removed and clicking the start button instead switches to the Metro desktop.

What are the technical differences? The minimum system requirements published by Microsoft are the same for both Windows 7 and Windows 8, both of which are easily met by all laptops and desktops currently on sale and the majority of computers sold in the last 5 years. However, the new Windows 8 operating system has the performance edge over Windows 7, with fewer processes running in the background, faster boot times and extremely quick reboot times. There are some very significant changes to the kernel, including support for ARM processors in addition to the long supported Intel and AMD processors. This has a real impact on availability of Windows 8 devices as the vast majority of tablet computers and smartphones run on ARM processors. There are tablet devices available running Windows 7, but as they are limited to Intel and AMD architectures the choice is very limited.

So is it worth upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8? Well, if you are running Windows 7 on a tablet computer or with a touch screen then definitely, but what about the far more common desktop or laptop user? As the Metro interface is terribly clumsy without a touch screen this will not be a particularly useful addition and users may find themselves sticking to the standard desktop found in Windows 7, only without the convenience of a start menu. Honestly, the only reason to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 is for the touch screen orientated interface, but what about upgrading from older versions of Windows, Vista or XP, for example? Although Windows 8 is in many ways better than both Windows XP and Windows Vista, Windows 7 is still better suited to the desktop/laptop setup. However, with 11 months still to go the start menu could still be included in Windows 8, making it an slight improvement on Windows 7 even if you never use the new Metro interface.

With Microsoft turning attention to touch screen input, is the standard way of using the computer set to change radically? Will we tend to perform basic navigation tasks (such as loading programs and scrolling) by touch, leaving the mouse for more accurate navigation? Or are Microsoft simply trying to make their late entry to to the tablet market a big one?

What are your views? Would you upgrade from an older version of Windows? Is this enough to persuade you to get a Windows Tablet?