Category Archives: Office 365

What’s New in Microsoft Outlook 2016?

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Although its design has remained relatively the same over the last few years, Microsoft Outlook for 2016 has some powerful new features to improve your email workflow and organize your messages better. Let’s take a closer look.

Clutter Support

One of the biggest improvements for Microsoft Outlook in 2016 is the new Clutter feature. It allows you to tell Outlook which messages are important to you and which ones are not. It doesn’t delete lower priority emails outright but separates them to the side. It uses machine learning to decide what is important based on a number of criteria, including how many other people are receiving the email, your connection to the sender and how often you respond to a specific person’s correspondence.

Ongoing Upgrades

Because so little has changed, upgrading to MS Outlook 2016 from the previous version should be relatively pain-free. Unlike previous iterations where new features and updates were put off until the next major update, now new features and fixes will be updated on an ongoing basis.

OneDrive Cloud Connection

MS Outlook continues to create a deeper connection with cloud storage. For example, when you click on the Attach File icon, you will be presented with a menu rather than a browser search box. You can choose to search through your online storage such as OneDrive for Business or your personal OneDrive account. This saves you an extra step of downloading a file to your hard drive and then attaching it from there.

Tell Me

One nifty new feature is the “Tell me what you want to do” tab and light bulb icon at the top of the Ribbon. Rather than just search for a help topic, the “Tell me” function will search through Outlook’s database and automatically present the correct command or topic.

Get Back @ Me

You can simply type somebody’s name preceded by the @ symbol in an email message and their name will be automatically highlighted. In addition, Microsoft Outlook will put their name in the “To” box automatically.

Photo Preview

Have you ever received an email that says photos are attached, but you dreaded downloading the photos to your hard drive just to see if they are worth pursuing? Now you can see an image of each photo in the message itself, so you can judge right away if you want to see the bigger version.

Push Email Support

If you ever get tired of hitting the “Get Mail” button, you’ll be happy to know that Outlook 2016 now has Push email support built-in. New messages will be pushed to your Outlook inbox as soon as they come into the server.

Email Groups

Email conversation chains can quickly become confusing and disjointed. The new Groups feature in Microsoft Outlook 2016 allows you to build group sets with people you want to be able to engage in conversation threads much like an online chat. This feature is partly a competitive response to popular chat applications like Slack, but Outlook Groups provides seamless integration with other OneDrive and Outlook calendars.

Better Calendars

Calendar enhancements include the ability to see weather forecasts for upcoming dates and the choice to offer new times in response to invitations for meetings and events. You can also view multiple calendars at the same time, simplifying the task of coordinating your disparate schedules with a variety of stakeholders.

Although the Microsoft Outlook user interface changes have been minor in 2016, mostly made to keep the program’s appearance consistent across desktop and mobile devices, under the hood it’s a different story. For 2016, Microsoft has added features that address many of the suggestions made by users over the last few years, and new enhancements will be introduced on a constant basis. Business moves so fast today that it’s important to have the latest features at hand. Outlook for 2016 will help you work more efficiently and effectively than ever before.

Keep in mind that you can take advantage of all of these new outlook features and integrate it into your MS Access database online in our private remote desktop hosting cloud.

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What’s New in Microsoft Excel 2016

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With new versions of Office tools, there are often new features. But which ones are really the tools to take note of so that you can increase efficiency? Here are a few new key features available in Microsoft Excel 2016.

1. New Charts

A major difference between Excel 2013 and Excel 2016 include six new charts, including the Pareto, Histogram, Treemap, Box & Whisper, Waterfall and Sunburst charts. These maps allow you to examine data in one view across different hierarchies and analyze statistics. For example, when you use the Treemap chart, you can analyze which product categories provided the highest revenue. The Box & Whisper chart allows you to gain insight on the range of data and to easily identify outliers, such as a product that may be underperforming.

2. New Templates

Get your tasks off the ground in an instant with the new templates in Excel 2016. You’ll find relevant templates to address business needs, such as the Stock Analysis template and My Cashflow template. These templates allow you to monitor how you spend your money and to quickly compare how well your stocks are performing in a given category. Additionally, you can take advantage of the dashboard feature to manage your calendar and manage your time more efficiently.

3. Touch-enabled Ink Equation Capabilities

Manually inputting math equations can become tedious and has been a standard way to get the results you want to solve a problem in previous versions of Excel. However, new features within Excel 2016 allow you to write complicated math equations by hand with a touch-enabled device thanks to the ink equation feature. Simply use your stylus or finger to write the equation while using the Microsoft Excel app on your device and watch as the app converts it into text. You can even use a mouse to get similar results.

When you’re using your laptop or desktop, you can easily access the feature by clicking on the Insert tab, selecting the Equation link, and choosing the option to Ink. This feature also makes it easy to correct errors by erasing mistakes.

4. Improved Database Features for Data Transformation

Add-on programs, such as Power Query and Power BI, simplify data conversion to enable you to quickly analyze information to solve questions you seek to answer. You can even forecast data with accuracy when you use the Forecast Sheet feature. You can also optimize your queries when using the Power Queries feature with the recent support for parameters. Just select the Home button and choose the Manage Preferences option to access the New Parameter selection.

5. Integrated 3D-Mapping Capabilities

If you wanted to make three-dimensional maps in previous versions of Excel, you needed to have downloaded the Power Maps add-on feature. However, 3D-mapping capabilities have been integrated and enhanced with Excel 2016 and renamed as 3D Maps. Additionally, you can compare and analyze different pieces of information, such as populations and building locations, with the 3D Maps feature. Furthermore, it’s easy to share your stories and video tours you’ve created to improve engagement among your target audience.

Final Thoughts

With all the new features available from Microsoft Excel 2016, it’s worth taking the time to learn about and practice using the ones that best fit your needs. By exploring these new features, you stand to increase your productivity for vital projects and tasks.  Access Hosting offers free trials of Office 2016 and Excel 2016 in our own private cloud.

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5 Drawbacks and Limitations of Microsoft Office 365 Hosting

Is your company on the fence about whether it’s time to switch to Office 365 hosting service? If so, you are not alone. Many businesses are mulling of the pros and cons of Office 365 to determine if making the switch is the right option for their specific business.

At first glance, the subscription-based platform Microsoft 365 certainly seems to have a lot to offer, such as continuous updates and low subscription fees. However, Office 365 is not without its drawbacks. Below is a look at the top five drawbacks of Microsoft 365 hosting that you should consider carefully before making your decision.

1. Data Privacy

One of the biggest drawbacks of Microsoft 365 is the lack of data privacy. Microsoft has certainly gone out of its way to create a very secure platform that provides a high level of data protection. It does, however, take the control of maintaining and monitoring data security out of your hands and into the hands of Microsoft. For many companies, this obstacle is too great to overcome and it even may go against company or governmental regulations, which makes Office 365 an unrealistic option.

2. Cost Efficiency

Office 365 offers some very low initial subscriptions plan rates. This may sound like a great deal, but there’s more to consider. First, this initial low-cost plan is very limited and likely will not provide all the services and capabilities your business requires, even if you operate a small business. In order to have the types of services your business needs, you can expect the rates to be much higher.  Even more troubling is the lack of support that Microsoft includes in their hosting packages.  You have to solve the problems yourself using their Office 365 community which is filled with both correct and wrong answers.  Microsoft almost expects you to hire or have a knowledgeable IT person in your company to manage the Office 365 service. In the end, you could end up spending a lot more with Office 365.

3. Less Flexibility

Since Office 365 is created for a wide range of customers, it does not offer the same level of flexibility. This lack of flexibility can make it more difficult, or even impossible, for your business to customize these services to meet the unique demands of your business. It is crucial that you take a close look at the various features that Office 365 offers to ensure that it offers everything you need to continue meeting the needs of your business’s day-to-day operations.

4. More Limitation

Another major drawback is the limitations that come with Office 365. Perhaps the most alarming limitation is that the platform limits the amount of emails you can send and receive on any given day. It also limits how long you can retain and archive older emails. This could be a major problem for companies that send or receive a large volume of emails on a daily basis, as well as companies that require email to be saved for a long period of time.

5. Loss of Control

Companies that are overburdened with maintaining Office data may find it refreshing to have Microsoft control management and security. However, this level of control does not come without drawbacks. You will find that Microsoft has set up a series of safety and management regulations. These restrictions could interfere with your company’s daily activities. For example, Microsoft does not allow the importation of XML files. If your company uses these types of files on any basis, it may be impossible to switch to Office 365.

As you can see, there is a lot to consider before deciding if you should switch to Office 365 or not. Managed Microsoft hosting services may be the perfect alternative for your business. Hosting companies such as Access Hosting offer low-cost services that provide a greater level of flexibility and customization to ensure your platform meets the specific needs of your business.

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5 Reasons Why Microsoft Access Schools Quickbooks

You have many choices for your business accounting needs, and Quickbooks frequently comes up in conversation. However, that doesn’t necessary make it perfect for your organization. Microsoft Access gives you a Quickbooks alternative with five compelling reasons to add it to your technology stack.

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1. Intuitive for Microsoft Office Users

How long do you want to wait for end users to get up to speed on new software? Every minute they spend in training takes away from the time they could devote to critical business tasks. Microsoft Access offers a familiar interface that helps cut down on the learning curve. Plus, you gain deep integration with the Microsoft Office software suite, so if you’re already using these applications extensively, Access makes the most sense. Excel users, in particular, get a lot out of pulling their spreadsheet data into an Access database.

2. Highly Customizable

Quickbooks is good at its primary function, but when your needs change and go outside of these parameters, you run into trouble. Microsoft Access offers a flexible database that adapts to your current business environment rather than making you build workflows held back by application limitations. Many companies want more agility to respond to new changes in their industry, especially in quickly changing sectors.

If you have to switch out to new solutions every time you go through a market disruption, you end up in a perpetual deployment cycle and the associated decrease in productivity. Access empowers your organization with tools that can address many possible scenarios, whether you predict them or not. Countless industries evolve overnight due to high-tech startups, so being on your toes and ready to shift with the tides is an essential part of doing business.

3. Strong Network

Microsoft Access is used by millions globally, which creates a robust ecosystem of consultants, developers and other professionals with significant experience working with this tool. You can find a specialist offering deep familiarity with Microsoft Access if you don’t already have the necessary expertise available in house. Deployment is a breeze when you have experienced help guiding you along your path. Online Deployment for Web Databases is even easier with Access Hosting’s plans. You also have extensive access to training materials, should you want to invest in skills development for your own staff.

4. Extensive Third-Party Integration

Modern business infrastructure calls for organization-wide integration. Both Quickbooks and Access offer this feature, but Access ends up with more options due to its broad applications. Most of Quickbooks’ integrations revolve around accounting tie-ins, while Access finds its way into many software categories and business sectors.

5. Macro Creation

You don’t want to waste man hours on repetitive tasks. Access opens up macros for your end users, which can drastically increase overall productivity. Your staff gets to focus on high-value tasks that require their knowledge and skills, rather than going through a painful manual process. The macros you create are highly customized to your company’s workflow, rather than following a pre-set function that uses its own task list.

Ultimately, you have to choose the system that makes the most sense for your company. If you only foresee yourself having basic accounting needs, Quickbooks is a fine option. However, should you develop more complex requirements or a desire to branch out into a fully customized system for your organization, Microsoft Access delivers a flexible and powerful tool to create this foundation.

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Access has been added to the Office 365 roadmap

I was happy to discover that Microsoft has added Access to the Office 365 Roadmap.  That means they are actually working on new features for the Office 365 program that often feels forgotten.

 

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Access Developers and users have two new features to look forward to:

dBase File support

DBF files were originally used in dBase II and continued through to dBase Version IV. The DBF file format originated by Ashton-Tate, but is understood by Act!, Clipper,FoxPro, Arago, Wordtech, xBase, and similar database ordatabase-related products.

dBase has evolved into a modern object oriented language that runs on 32 bit Windows. It can be used to build a wide variety of applications including web apps hosted on a Windows server, Windows rich client applications, and middleware applications. dBase can access most modern database engines via ODBC drivers. DOS versions can still run on the latest Windows/Linux machines using the Virtual Machine (VM)DOSbox, or the later variant dbDOS. In 2015, dBase, LLC. introduced a set of new utilities called dbfUtils. The utilities include: dbfExport(TM) to export data from .dbf files to CSV, Microsoft(R) Excel, and XML, dbfImport(TM) allows users to import CSV, Microsoft(R) Excel, and XML files into a .dbf. dbfCompare(TM) allows 2 .dbf tables to compare differences and gives an easy way to synchronize tables. Finally the new dbfInspect(TM) allows users to deep-dive into the .dbf files and their contents.

dBase features an IDE with a Command Window and Navigator, a just-in-time compiler, a preprocessor, a virtual-machine interpreter, a linker for creating dBase application .EXEs, a freely available runtime engine, and numerous two-way GUI design tools including a Form Designer, Report Designer, Menu Designer, Label Designer, Datamodule Designer, SQL Query Designer, and Table Designer. Two-way Tools refers to the ability to switch back and forth between using a GUI design tool and the source code editor. Other tools include a Source Code Editor, a Project Manager that simplifies building and deploying a dBase application, and an integrated Debugger. dBase features structured exception handling and has many built-in classes that can be subclassed via single inheritance. There are visual classes, data classes, and many other supporting classes. Visual classes include Form, SubForm, Notebook, Container, Entryfield, RadioButton, SpinBox, ComboBox, ListBox, PushButton, Image, Grid, ScrollBar, ActiveX, Report, ReportViewer, Text, TextLabel and many others. Database classes include Session, Database, Query, Rowset, Field, StoredProc and Datamodule classes. Other classes include File, String, Math, Array, Date, Exception, Object and others. dBase objects can be dynamically subclassed by adding new properties to them at runtime.

BigInt datatype Support

As SQL server has evolved to support 64Bit architecture, it has also become increasingly common to run into BigInt as a primary key. The problem was that if you connected to such a SQL database in MS Access 2016, that large number was displayed as a text string instead of a number.  Native support removes the need to use clumsy workarounds and relieves a huge pain point for Access developers.

It’s nice to see Access evolve and be able to more easily connect with a external databases.

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What is the differences between Access Hosting’s SharePoint and Office 365

I was recently having a very good chat with a potential customer that had some very good questions regarding Access and Office 365.  This person already had an Access app and was looking to share it online in the browser and was thinking that SharePoint was the best solution but was confused about what they needed exactly since they had an Office 365 plan with a few users with just email and a few more with Sharepoint and more.  It was such a good conversation that I thought it would be good to clarify some of the differences between Office 365 and our SharePoint 2013 Enterprise hosting plan for Access Web Databases and Web apps.

Cost Savings over Office 365

The most confusing part of the comparison is that the varying plans for Office 365 are quite confusing in and of themselves.  Office 365 is a sort of all encompassing term used to describe a lot of different products from Microsoft.  It can be as simple as a subscription to Microsoft Office software or a complicated enterprise plan with access to Exchange, Sharepoint, Yammer, and more.  If you’re interested in Access Web Databases or 2013 Web Apps, the first thing to determine is whether your Office 365 plan even includes SharePoint Enterprise.  You need to have either an Office 365 Business Premium plan ($12.50-$15 per user per month) or an Office 365 Enterprise Plan ($20 per user per month) to have access to the correct version of SharePoint with Access Services.  Obviously if you have a small business where you have 10 users or less and need email, exchange and everything in between, Office 365 is the better deal, but for a lot of people they need something more flexible.

Let’s say you have Office 365 and are paying $15-$20 per user and have an Access database that you want to host in SharePoint as a web app and share with some of your clients outside of your organization.  How do you do that if they don’t have their own Microsoft account/Office 365 account?  Our $99 SharePoint hosting plan has been tailor made for Access Services 2013 and 2010 and offers substantial cost savings over Office 365.  Right off the bat our $99 plan includes 10 users ($50 – $100 less than Office 365), and each additional user is only $3 per user per month vs. the $15-$20 per user Office 365 plans.  Best of all, you don’t need to pay for all the extra features of Office 365 that you don’t need for you and your clients.

Access Services 2013 and 2010 running Side by Side

Another cool feature about our $99 Sharepoint plan is that you can run 2013 Access Web Apps right alongside Access 2010 Web Databases since our 2013 SharePoint environment is running both versions of Access services.  We’ve already written about the differences of this technology in a previous post: picking between Access 2013 Web Apps and Access 2010 Web Databases.

Comparing Access Hosting to Office 365

Here’s a few more points about our implementation of SharePoint over Microsoft Office 365. An On Premise or 3rd Party Hosted Access Services 2013 implementation helps provide focused, reliable solutions for the following common customer needs:

  1. Web Based Reports: SQL Server Reporting Services can be used to create reports and link them back into the menu structure of the web app. Access 2013 web databases use the browser as the primary interface to the client. This environment provides an excellent cross platform solution that allows users to participate without a copy of Access on their desktop and create/read/update/delete records in the database, but it lacks a mechanism for reporting on that data. With SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) you have the ability to deliver browser based reports to your users alongside the Access 2013 web database forms.
  2. Anonymous Access: With this feature enabled Access web databases can be viewed by an anonymous read-only user without requiring authentication. We recently had a customer looking to provide an up to date inventory of their video game and pinball machine inventory to their web site visitors. With Access Services 2013 and anonymous access enabled inside the SharePoint web application, web visitors could view the entire catalog of available games and pricing information without authenticating to SharePoint. This is a powerful feature for any organization that wants to make their product inventory visible to any web visitor, delivering the information quickly and seamlessly without complicating the end user experience.
  3. Full control of SQL Server security: Access 2012 allows for the automatic creation of 2 SQL Server user accounts, one with read-only privileges and another with read-write.  While that is useful, some customers would like to extend this model to multiple user accounts. By creating multiple SQL logins via SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS)  you can create a much more complex security model for applications that want to leverage the Access 2013 web database information stored in SQL Server. Password complexity and aging requirements can also be enforced on these accounts.
  4. Full control of the network firewall: Many Access 2013 applications require extended security to comply with corporate or regulatory requirements. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) security requirements are a good example of this necessity. In a self-hosted or 3rd party hosted solution you have enough firewall configuration flexibility to lock down your entire database by imposing restrictions on the network perimeter based on TCP/IP address ranges, machine names, and network protocols. A combination of these restrictions can be imposed to address any security mandate.
  5. Render http links in the web browser control of an Access 2013 web database: The browser control is a powerful feature in Access 2013 web forms that allows you to call external resources into your application. Office 365 requires https for all external links which limits the use of browser based resources that do not support https.  This restriction can be lifted in a self-hosted or 3rd party hosted configuration.
  6. Customized backup: You can create a backup rotation scheme in SQL 2012 for the Access Web Apps that mirrors the site collection backup routine in SharePoint. This allows for a synchronized full fidelity backup of the SharePoint site and the Web Apps with multiple restore points. We recently assisted a customer who required a complete snapshot of their SharePoint and Access Services environment to be available for rollback to 24/47/72/96 hour recovery points. In addition, the second and fourth snapshots needed to be available in a secondary data center in the event of a problem with the primary facility. All of this is easily accomplished in a hosted configuration where both the SharePoint and SQL Server environments are completely controlled by the hosting organization.
  7. Ability to change Access Services configuration parameters and SharePoint web application settings:  When running Access Services 2010 alongside Access Services 2013 you maintain complete control of the SharePoint service parameters for Access Services. These parameters can be tuned to enhance the interaction between Access 2010 and SharePoint lists and  eliminate the “List Threshold Exceeded” errors that can appear when using the default configuration settings and manipulating large tables. Full support for web based reporting in published Access 2010 Web Databases and permissive file handling for things like PDF can also be enabled when you have full control over the entire SharePoint Central Administration console.
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Web Reporting with Access 2013 Web Apps on Office 365

We are happy to report that our Remote Desktop hosting can be configured to connect to Office 365 to use Access to report on your Access 2013 web apps.  Our Remote Desktop hosting allows you to use the power of Office 365 as your backend and then you can use our HTML5 PowerRDP technology to get around Office 365’s inability to render Access 2013 reports in the web browser.  This is a great way to get more out of your Office 365 subscription with MS Access 2013.  If you already have a $29/month Access 2013 Pro or Office Pro plan, you should be able to follow the quick tutorial below to start building web reports for Access 2013 web apps.

Step 1: Open your Access Web App in MS Access 2013

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Login to Office 365 and Navigate to your Access Web App.  Click the customize in Access button to download the Access 2013 .accdw file and open it in Access 2013.

Step 2: Report on your Access Data

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Navigate to the Info tab of your Access 2013 web app file (accdw) and select the “Report on my Data” button to create an Access frontend that can report on your Office 365 / SharePoint 2013 backend.

Step 3: Create Reports in your Access Frontend

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Now that you are using linked tables to connect to Office 365 and your SharePoint 2013 Access Web App, you can take advantage of all the features of the full version of the Access 2013 desktop client.  Create and design your reports, forms and queries.  Remember to close and save all reports and save your Access frontend file on the Remote Desktop.

Step 4: Reporting now works on Office 365

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Now your reports are connected to Office 365 and accessible from any machine, tablet, device and web browser via our Remote Desktop hosting!

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Microsoft Office 365 Plus from Access Hosting Free Trial Sign-Up

Office 365 on any device

We are proud to announce that we will soon be offering Microsoft Office 365 direct from Access Hosting. Our Office 365 Plus features the Microsoft Office 365 productivity suite – including Exchange, SharePoint and Lync Online – combined with our specialized support and expertise. Before we roll out all the bells and whistles, we want to open up this new and exciting offer to anyone who is interested in a free trial. Simply sign-up using the form below, and we’ll contact you directly and set you up with a free Microsoft Office 365 trial.

Office 365 Free Trial

Please fill out this form to see if you qualify for an Office 365 Free 30 day Trial
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Access 2013 Tip Of The Week

This short video shows you how to expose all of the web database templates available for Access 2013. Works on Office 365 and hosted implementations of Access Services 2013.



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Adding a Splash Screen to Your Access 2013 Web Apps



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