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Adobe Moves Closer to Online Office Suite with Presentations, Spreadsheets, Premium Plans for Businesses

Adobe Moves Closer to Online Office Suite with Presentations, Spreadsheets, Premium Plans for Businesses

Lifehack_Presentation

    Long-time readers of Lifehack know of my ongoing love affair with Adobe’s online word processor Buzzword, since last year part of the Acrobat.com suite of online applications. “Love affair” is not too strong a phrase, either – I like the interface and ease of use so much that I was inspired to write a book, Don’t Be Stupid: A Guide to Learning, Studying, and Succeeding at College, just for an excuse to have something to use Buzzword for.

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    Last year, Adobe integrated Buzzword into Acrobat.com, adding online file storage and sharing, an online meeting space, and a file-to-PDF convertor, all accessible either through the website or through a very slick AIR application that runs on your desktop.

    I’ve been waiting for Adobe to take the next step with Acrobat.com by adding spreadsheets and presentations, and now they have. As Acrobat.com comes out of Beta, an online presentation editor and spreadsheet has been launched in Adobe’s Acrobat Labs.

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    Adobe has also announced premium plans for businesses, offering unlimited PDF conversion for their Premium Plus subscribers and 10 conversions a month for Premium Basic users (free users are limited to 5files per month), the ability to host larger meetings using ConnectNow (up to 20 for Premium Plus, 5 for Premium Basic users, and 3 for free users), and an unspecified (as far as I could find) increase in ability to store and share files. The rates are a little steep: $15 a month for Premium Basic and $35/month for Premium Plus – I think we have to assume that more features will be available down the line for business users.

    Presentations and Tables

    I won’t be upgrading to a Premium plan, since I’m just a guy, you know? I will be looking rather closely at the spreadsheet and presentation editors, though – that’s something I can use! Currently I use SlideRocket for presentations, and was hoping that Adobe would being something like SlideRocket’s very Adobe-esque interface to the Acrobat.com suite, and from first impressions, it looks like they have. It’s quite similar to Buzzword’s interface, as is Table’s (Adobe’s name for the spreadsheet editor), and since that interface is a big part of my love for Buzzword, I think I’m going to like this. A lot.

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    Acrobat_Table
      Tables incorporates a bunch of automated features – for example, columns automatically inherit the data format of the first cell entered. Take that,Excel! Better yet, it offers great collaboration features. Several people can work on a spreadsheet at the same time, with indicators showing you which cells other people are working on at any given time. If you need to sort or modify a table, you can enter “Private View” so that your changes won’t be reflected in the table others are working on.

      Unfortunately, tables isn’t exactly a spreadsheet – yet, I hope. It’s an easy way to present and organize data, but there is no way to add formulas or automate functions. But it’s a great table editor – hopefully spreadsheet functions will be added soon, and it would be nice to see the table editor as it stands incorporated into Buzzword, too.

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      Presentations is a little more refined, with a good set of tools and themes for producing quality presentations. Unfortunately, you can’t export to PowerPoint, only to PDF. However, the built-in presentation mode is pretty slick, and you can share the presentation online with anyone via email. Collaboration is slick, as in Tables – several people can work at the same time with suitable safeguards to prevent conflicts.

      With Photoshop Express, Adobe is creating a pretty nice suite of online apps. They are by far the nicest-looking and most pleasant to use of the recent crop of Web-based apps. I’m still waiting for Buzzword to add support for styles so it can be fully compatible with Word, and for all the Acrobat.com apps to be integrated with the Acrobat.com file storage and sharing repository – it’s simply odd that documents created with Buzzword are saved separately from all the documents you’ve uploaded, or that documents you’ve uploaded can’t be opened in Buzzword.

      But all in all, Adobe is putting out top-notch apps and deserves a lot more attention than they’re getting so far. Try out this latest crop of applications and see what you think!

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      Last Updated on January 21, 2020

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

      Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

      This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

      The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

      The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

      Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

      Curiosity

      Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

      People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

      Patience

      Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

      When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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      Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

      A Feeling for Connectedness

      This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

      A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

      The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

      How to Self-Taught Effectively

      With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

      1. Research

      Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

      Learning the Basics

      Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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      Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

      What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

      Hitting the Books

      Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

      Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

      Long-Term Reference

      While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

      My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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      2. Practice

      Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

      A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

      Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

      Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

      3. Network

      One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

      These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

      Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

      Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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      4. Schedule

      For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

      Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

      Final Thoughts

      In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

      If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

      At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

      More About Self-Learning

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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