Preston Gralla

About the Author Preston Gralla


RIP, Windows Phone. Your demise could lead Microsoft to redemption.

Microsoft in early October finally did what it should have done years ago: It killed Windows Phone. The smartphone operating system’s fate was sealed when Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president in Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group, sent out this tweet: “Of course we’ll continue to support the platform.. bug fixes, security updates, etc. But building new features/hw aren’t the focus.”

That effectively pulled the plug on an unsuccessful, unloved operating system that was being kept on life support by Microsoft. Around the time Belfiore announced its demise, the operating system had a vanishingly small market share: 1.3% in the U.S., and lower than that in most other places around the world, including 1% in Great Britain and Mexico, 1.2% in Germany and 0% in China.

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OneNote vs. Evernote: A personal take on two great note-taking apps

What’s the king of the note-taking apps?

Is it Microsoft OneNote, launched in 2003, added to Microsoft Office starting in 2007 (and thus available to more than 1.2 billion users) and now offered for free as a standalone product? Or is it the independent Evernote, which launched back in 2008 and is estimated to have somewhere in the range of 200 million users by now?

OneNote and Evernote are available for all the major desktop and mobile OSes, they each sync your notes to all of your devices and the web, and both promise to be the only note-taking app you need. But they also have some very distinct differences. So which is better?

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Windows 10 quick tips: 7 ways to speed up your PC

Want Windows 10 to run faster? We’ve got help. Take a few minutes to try out these tips, and your machine will be zippier and less prone to performance and system issues.

1. Change your power settings

If you’re using Windows 10’s Power saver plan, you’re slowing down your PC. That plan reduces your PC’s performance in order to save energy. (Even desktop PCs typically have a Power saver plan.) Changing your power plan from Power saver to High performance or Balanced will give you an instant performance boost.

To do it, launch Control Panel, then select Hardware and Sound > Power Options. You’ll typically see two options: Balanced (recommended) and Power saver. (Depending on your make and model, you might see other plans here as well, including some branded by the manufacturer.) To see the High performance setting, click the down arrow by Show additional plans. 

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Review: Windows 10 Fall Creators Update from A to Zzzzzzzz

After six months of waiting, the next major upgrade to Windows 10 is almost here. Known as the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, it will begin rolling out to the public on October 17.

The upgrade touches countless parts of the operating system, from OneDrive file storage to Cortana, the Edge browser, security and more. I’ve been tracking its progress for the last half year and putting it to the test with serious use in the last several weeks. Here’s a deep-dive, hands-on look at what’s new. (IT pros: Don’t miss the “What IT needs to know about the Fall Creators Update” section.)

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Step aside, Windows! Open source and Linux are IT’s new security headache

Windows has long been the world’s biggest malware draw, exploited for decades by attackers. It continues today: The Carbon Black security firm analyzed 1,000 ransomware samples over the last six months and found that nearly 99% of them targeted Windows.

That’s not news for IT administrators, of course. But this might be: Linux and other open-source software are emerging as serious malware targets. Several recent highly publicized attacks exploit holes in open-source software that many enterprise admins once considered solidly safe.

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How to replace Edge as the default browser in Windows 10 — and why you should

Don’t like the Windows 10 Microsoft Edge browser? You’re not alone. Only 20% of all Windows 10 users ran Edge as their main browser as of August 2017, down from 24% a year earlier, reports Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer.

Still, that’s a lot of people running the browser, and many of them might run it only because Microsoft has made it the Windows 10 default. You might be one of them. There’s no doubt Edge has been an improvement over Internet Explorer. But it may not be improvement enough.

In this article, I’ll outline the reasons you may want to switch from Edge to Chrome, Firefox, Opera or another browser, and then show how you can replace Edge with any browser of your choice as your default.

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Windows 10: A guide to the updates

The launch of a big Microsoft Windows 10 update like the Fall Creators Update isn’t the end of a process — it’s really just the beginning. As soon as a major update is released, Microsoft quickly gets to work on improving it by fixing bugs, releasing security patches, and occasionally adding new features.

Here we’ve summarized what you need to know about every Windows 10 update being released to the public. First come updates to the currently shipping version of Windows 10 — version 1709, known as the Fall Creators Update — with the most recent updates on top. (Note that the Fall Creators Update is on a phased rollout, so you may not have received it yet.) Below that are updates to version 1703, known as the Creators Update. For each build, we’ve included the date of its initial release and a link to Microsoft’s announcement about it.

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How to choose the right Windows 10 release channel

Once upon a time, making a choice about how you updated Windows was easy: Let Microsoft decide. The company had a release cycle, and you went along for the ride.

Those days seem so quaint now. Today there are multiple versions of “rings” and “branches,” with what seems like impossible-to-understand nomenclature. Should you update Windows 10 according to the Semi-Annual Channel (Pilot)? Should you opt for the Fast Ring? Or should you simply throw up your hands and do nothing, and let Windows 10 update whenever Windows 10 wants to update?

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Office 365: A guide to the updates

Office 365 subscribers always have the latest version of Microsoft Office — currently Office 2016. They also get more frequent software updates than those who have purchased Office 2016 without a subscription, which means subscribers have access to the latest features, security patches and bug fixes. But it can be hard to keep track of the changes in each update and know when they’re available. We’re doing for you, so you don’t have to.

Following are key updates to Office 365 for Windows since Office 2016 was released in September 2015 — all the 2017 updates and the most important ones from 2016 and late 2015, with the latest releases shown first. We’ll add info about new updates as they’re rolled out.

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Windows 10 Redstone: A guide to the builds

Microsoft never sleeps. Even before the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update was rolled out, the company began work on the next major update to Windows 10, code-named Redstone 4. As it did with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft has been releasing a series of public preview builds to members of Microsoft’s Insider Program.

What follows is a list of every preview build of Redstone 4, starting with the most recent. For each build, we’ve included the date of its release and a link to Microsoft’s announcement about it. We’ve also kept the list of all the preview builds that led up to Windows 10 Fall Creators Update and the Windows 10 Creators Update, which are below the builds of Redstone 4.

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Windows Mobile: The walking dead never die

Microsoft’s Windows Mobile smartphone operating system:

A) Is alive, well and kicking.
B) Is finally about to be killed after billions of dollars thrown down the drain.
C) Continues to live a zombie life.
D) Is … wait. Microsoft has a smartphone operating system? Who knew?

The correct answer is C, but D would be an understandable response. In fact, A is the only answer with no truth about it. Microsoft has spent billions of dollars on Windows Mobile over the past 21 years (counting from the introduction of the Windows CE operating system for mobile devices), including paying approximately $7.9 billion to buy Nokia in 2014 — and then writing off $7.6 billion of the purchase in 2015. So there’s truth in answer B, except for the part about Microsoft preparing to kill it off.

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Microsoft Excel vs. Google Sheets: Which works better for business?

Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are the two best-known spreadsheet applications available today. Both are polished and very useful — so much so that it’s easy to cling to the application you’re currently using without learning how the other has improved over the years. If you (or your business) chose one spreadsheet app and rejected the other years ago, there may be good reasons to reconsider.

To find out where Excel and Google Sheets stand today, both individually and compared to each other, I tested them by trying out the most common tasks users perform, including starting a new spreadsheet, inputting data and formulas, formatting cells, creating charts, adding extras such as links to external data sources, and collaborating with others.

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Review: In Office 2016 for Windows, collaboration takes center stage

If Microsoft were to have a motto for Office 2016, it could well be the old coaching adage “There is no ‘I’ in “team.” The suite offers considerable collaborative and teamwork features that turn Office from a tool for a single person into one that helps people work together.

If you work by yourself and will use Office as a standalone product, you’ll find far fewer changes from Office 2013. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – Office is already so stacked with features that adding new ones just for the sake of it could harm rather than help its usability.

How successful has Microsoft been in adding collaboration features? And how useful are the handful of non-collaborative features added to the core of Office? That’s what I’ll cover in the rest of this review.

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How to use Excel’s new live collaboration features

Ever since Microsoft introduced live collaboration to its Office suite with the release of Office 2016 in September 2015, Excel has been left out in the cold. Word, PowerPoint and OneNote were given collaborative editing tools, but Excel was not.

For nearly two years, Microsoft has been promising that Excel would get the capabilities as well. And now, finally, real-time collaboration is available in the desktop version of Excel — at least for those who have an Office 365 subscription and have updated to Version 1707 Build 8326.2058 or later.

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Can Microsoft lawyers defeat Putin’s most notorious spy-hackers?

Russian’s spy-hackers have taken on almost a mythical status as more details have emerged about how they hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign and influenced the last presidential election. The National Security Agency and the entire U.S. intelligence community seem to be a step behind them, and the worst may be yet to come.

And now comes an unlikely potential savior: Microsoft’s lawyers. They’re using a combination of cyber-sleuthing and innovative legal filings to strike at one of Russia’s most dangerous cyber-espionage groups, Fancy Bear. So far, the tactic is paying off. But it’s not clear that Microsoft can defeat the hackers in the long run.

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