Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why buy MS Office when Open Office is FREE

I've used MS Office products such as Word and Excel for about 20 years now and I've always upgraded to the latest version as needed.

When I got my new computer a few months ago it came preloaded with Office 2007 for a limited trial and guess what?

The trial expired and I didn't purchase.

Nope, I decided to bail on MS Office and try the free OpenOffice and see how it worked before forking over real money for MS Office.

For starters, I'm no longer the power user of MS Office that I used to be and I'm working outside the confines of an office that standardizes on MS Office so it's easy to make the switch.

The only thing I notice is OpenOffice seems slow loading and unloading, but after that it seems to run decent on my computer which is pretty fast.

None of my Excel spreadsheets had any issue being imported into OpenOffice Calc.

The few Powerpoint presentations I have made also imported flawlessly into OpenOffice Impress.

Now most of my Word documents were simple things, short letters, invoices and a business card template, all of which imported flawlessly.

However, I had a couple of manuals that were about 100 pages each which use style sheets and it imported the data just fine but the style sheet layout was lost. If I still had to maintain this publication on an ongoing basis then I would definitely consider getting Word instead of spending a bunch of time reformatting this document and re-inventing the wheel. Of course there may still be a way to properly import the 2 manuals but I didn't look too hard since they aren't very important at the moment.

Overall, for the low end home, student or business user, OpenOffice looks like it will do a great job.

I'll reserve judgment for power use of these applications until after I have to create a new manual or something and experience it's capabilities at a higher level.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Unleash HTC Hero Android's Bar Code Scanner

The purpose of this post is to show people how to improve their marketing efforts to the mobile market and speeding up basic information acquisition such as the URL to your site or your contact data is a major step forward.


The Barcode Scanner!

Many of you are carrying phones around that have bar code scanners built into them and you probably have no clue about the true potential sitting in the palm of your hand.

Most people just imagine scanning UPC codes on products so they can do comparative shopping while standing in a store, but that only scratches the surface of the bar code scanners potential.

Just in case you haven't installed a scanner on your phone yet, the Android Market has a lot of barcode scanners for various applications and you can find them by going into the market and searching for "barcode" to find them.

For the purpose of this blog post, download and install "Barcode Scanner" by ZXing Team which did a lot of work that appears on the Android site.

Now, who knows what a QR code is?

Hardly anyone outside of Japan because that's where the QR code (Quick Response code) was invented by the Denso-Wave corporation in 1994. Now those codes are stamped on almost everything in Japan and almost all the Japanese camera phones can scan them so all you need to do is aim your phone in Japan and get the information in the QR code.

I think we're the Dense Wave here in the US because barely anyone uses the QR codes and they save a ton of typing time on a phone. Aim your camera in scan mode and when the bar code comes into focus the camera goes BEEP and all that typing has been done for you.

What kinds of things can go into a QR code?

  • URLs
  • Email Addresses
  • Calendar Events
  • Contact Information
  • Geo Location
  • SMS
  • Plain Text
  • Phone Number
For instance, here's a QR code for the URL of this blog.

To get this URL into your phone requires no typing, just enable the ZXing scanner and aim it at the screen. When it gets the QR code in clear focus it beeps and says "Open in Browser", how easy is that?

Way faster than stumbling around the on screen keyboard.

Just think, you can add a QR code all your web pages in the lower corner to include your URL and Google gives you a free QR Code API for generating these images. Now anyone looking at a web page that wants to put that URL in their phone just scans it in, simple as that.

Looks too complicated?

Not at all, here's the link to display the URL image shown above:
To make life even simpler, the ZXing team put a QR Code Generator on the Google App Engine site that allows you to quickly create anything that their barcode scanner can scan.

Some other companies like BrightKite have already "got it" and they have a QR code for the URL on every page and they even have a direct link to their app in the Android Market!

This is how BrightKite links directly into the Android market search in your phone:
Now let's do something useful with this QR Code stuff, let's encode an entire contact information profile that you can put on your contact us web page, print on the back of your business card, or even print a QR code on a t-shirt and let anyone scan you in person!

Here's a sample contact card that's QR coded:

When you scan the above QR code after the beep it allows you to "Add Contact", "Show Map", "Dial Number" or "Send Email", all useful things to do!

What's all encoded in the above contact image?
John Doe
XYZ Corp.
123 Main Street, Everywhere, MO, USA
That's a lot of information for one little image!

The best part is it's universal information, doesn't require a business card scanner, USB cable or a keyboard to get it into your phone, just a 2 second scan and you're done.

Now that I've hopefully given you some useful information about QR codes, run out there and start putting QR codes on your business cards, web sites, t-shirts, and more.

Be inventive, tattoo your wife's name on your arm in QR code!

Explore the possibilities because I think the market, now armed with all these QR code scanning phones, is ready to be bar coded.