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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 September 18, 2019

      How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

      I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

      One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

      Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

      The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

      And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

      What to Write Down

      Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

      Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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      Dates of Events

      Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

      For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

      Names of People

      Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

      Theories or Frameworks

      Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

      Definitions

      Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

      Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

      Arguments and Debates

      Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

      This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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      Images

      Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

      Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

      Other Stuff

      Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

      I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

      Your Own Questions

      Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

      3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

      1. Outlining

      Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

      Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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      For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

      2. Mind-Mapping

      For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

      Here’s the idea:

      In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

      The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

      If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

      You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

      3. The Cornell System

      The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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      About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

      You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

      In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

      You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

      The Bottom Line

      I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

      I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

      More About Note-Taking

      Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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