Multifactor Authentication for Office365

Users of Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 offering get a double dose of password security, with client apps to follow soon.

Given the likelihood that Office 365 accounts are bound to contain sensitive corporate information, Microsoft is looking to avoid the high-profile security breaches that have plagued other cloud services. To that end, the software giant announced that it has extended multifactor authentication to the Office 365 user base at large.

The security measure is no longer the exclusive domain of administrators. Multifactor authentication has been available for Office 365 administrative roles since June 2013, and now they are extending this capability to any Office 365 user.

The Multi-Factor Authentication for Office 365 will be available for the Office 365 Midsize Business, Enterprise plans, Academic plans, Nonprofit plans, and standalone Office 365 plans, including Exchange Online and SharePoint Online.

The will allow organizations with these subscriptions to enable multifactor authentication for their Office 365 users without requiring any additional purchase or subscription. Users must authenitcate once on each device they access their Office 365 account on. Once authenticated, it becomes a trusted computer/device for their account.

The move is part of a broader effort by the company to harden its cloud services slate. In June 2013, Microsoft announced that it was bringing multifactor authentication, based on technology from its PhoneFactor acquisition, to Windows Azure Active Directory (AD) services, enabling users to securely access their accounts with additional credentials supplied by an app or Short Message Service text.

In recent years, online service providers have been rocked by breaches that have caused security-conscious enterprises to regard the cloud suspiciously. Dropbox, a popular cloud storage company, rolled out two-step authentication in 2012 after a breach that made user data susceptible to snoops. Twitter followed suit in 2013 after major accounts had been hacked. Yahoo Mail breach would have been a non-event for users had they switched on the service’s multifactor authentication options. I’m sure all online email providers will be adopting similar services – now it is up to the end-user to turn it on and use it. It should be a required setup for all accounts.

Microsoft is also looking to extend multifactor authentication to Office 365 client apps. Noting that users currently have a workaround by configuring App Passwords to secure their desktop apps. Soon Office 365 customers will be able to use multifactor authentication directly from Office 2013 client applications. Microsoft is planning on adding native multifactor authentication for applications such as Outlook, Lync, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PowerShell and OneDrive for Business, with a release date planned for later in 2014. The update will supplement phone-based authentication with support for third-party solutions and smart cards that conform to the U.S. Department of Defense Common Access Card (CAC) and U.S. Federal Personal Identity Verification card (PIV) security standards.


Microsoft Office 2013 part 2

Giving Office the Metro feel

Office 2013 is a traditional Win32 desktop application, although it’s joined by a pair of Windows 8 Metro-style companion applications in the shape of new OneNote and Lync versions. Even so, it’s definitely got the Metro look-and-feel, with a near chromeless user interface, even on Windows 7.

The ribbon is still a key component of the Office user interface, although ribbon tabs now get new all-caps titles and elements have flatter, more Metro-like icons. Microsoft has chosen to automatically collapse the ribbon on some screens — a 1,200-by-900-resolution notebook has the ribbon on by default, for example, whereas it’s collapsed on a 1,366-by-768 tablet. You’ll find much of the UI now optimized for 16:9 screens, with sidebars where earlier versions of Office used dialogue boxes (although it’s possible to detach sidebars).

There are also new Metro format icons for the Office applications, all of which use the same metaphor of an open file folder stamped with the application’s initial letter. Oddly, while most icons keep the familiar colors, Outlook drops the yellow for blue (with yellow overlays for incoming email). It’s an unusual choice, and makes the new Outlook icon easy to confuse with Word’s.

A touch Office

Touch is finally a first-class citizen in Office 2013. The new Metro user interface takes advantage of the touch features built into Windows 8, and while most of Office still comprises desktop applications, it’s as easy to use on a tablet as a traditional PC or notebook. Microsoft has actually given Office 2013 two subtly different user interface modes, with a single button to switch between the two (a button we were surprised to find wasn’t a default part of the Quick Access Toolbar, although it’s very easy to add it). Tap the Touch mode button, and UI elements move slightly apart, making them easier to touch. Buttons get bigger, and there are additional cues that build on the Windows 8 touch features.

Touch mode also adds additional touch controls to applications — for example, in Outlook 2013, message controls are added to the left of the screen, where they’re easily accessible with a thumb. With Touch mode Microsoft is trying to make it easier for touch users to work with a traditional desktop application. It’s not entirely successful, but it’s certainly a lot more usable than earlier versions of Office on touch devices. In practice you’re still more likely to use Office with a keyboard and a mouse or trackpad, than purely as a touch application. However, reaching out to touch the screen could prove a useful way to interact with a document, as an adjunct to the familiar desktop tools.

Microsoft Office 2013 Part 1

If there’s a new Windows, then surely a new Office can’t be far behind. With Windows 8 almost out the door, it’s about time for Office 2013 to show its face. We’ve seen snippets of it in conference presentations and at the Surface launch, and we’ve heard rumors of its features, Microsoft unveiled the first public beta of its new Office. This you can be sure of – it’s clear that Microsoft is making another of its big bets on the cloud, with Office 365 users getting far more from Office 2013 than users who buy the boxed product.

Microsoft has stated that Office 2013 will only be available for Windows 7 and 8, so you won’t be able to upgrade if you’re using Windows XP or Vista.

Office and the cloud

Microsoft is offering four different preview releases of Office 2013, with the three business subscriptions all built around its Office 365 and SkyDrive services. They’re also all subscription services that use a new version of Microsoft’s Click-to-run tools to install applications from the cloud (and to keep them up to date). All the subscriptions allow users to install Office on five machines — and Microsoft has said that this will be across multiple platforms, including Mac OS. There’s also 20GB of additional SkyDrive storage for subscribers.

The Click-to-run-based Office On Demand streams the Office applications to PCs, so you can quickly get up and running with the core functions installed first, while the rest of the application installs in the background. For example, you can stream in a copy of PowerPoint and start a presentation, without having to wait for a full download. Installs are linked to user accounts, so you can also quickly deauthorize a PC from the Office 365 web portal and temporarily install on a friend’s or a co-worker’s machine just to do one thing and then move on. Once you close a streamed application, it’s gone — and because it runs in an application virtualization sandbox there’s no trace of it, or of your files.

The four preview plans are Office 365 Home Premium Preview, Office 365 Small Business Premium Preview, Office 365 ProPlus Preview, and Office 365 Enterprise Preview. Consumers with the Home Premium plan will get the core Office applications (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access and Publisher), while the Small Business Premium plan adds access to the Office 365 cloud services, including Exchange, SharePoint and Lync for up to 10 users. The ProPlus option adds support for up to 25 users, and also includes the InfoPath and Lync applications. Similarly, the Enterprise plan adds more complex Exchange support with archiving and compliance tools.

All of the plans get access to a new version of Microsoft’s Office Web Apps, so you can edit files anywhere. Files are also automatically synced to SkyDrive when you save them, giving you a cloud backup. Business subscriptions get access to Office 365 SharePoint.


OneNote 2010 – Easy to use and worth the upgrade

The Skydrive feature alone is worth the upgrade – now it is easier than ever to synch your notebooks. Here’s the tag line from Microsoft:

“Once you start using OneNote to create digital notebooks of your notes and ideas, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. Before you know it, you’ll be looking for reasons to create more notebooks – work or school reports, home projects, and who knows what else.”

Well it is pretty close to reality. I find I can’t do without it. While we have not migrated all our 2007 OneNote notebooks to 2010, we will have it done by the end of the month. It is simply too important to not have all the info in the 2010 format and available whenever I need it!

  •  OneNote helps bring together your digital info (notes, photos, videos, web links, etc.) into easy-to-organize notebooks.
  •  OneNote makes it easy to share your notebooks and collaborate in real time with other OneNote users.
  •  The OneNote Web App and OneNote Mobile allow you to access and add to your notebooks from virtually anywhere.


Microsoft Launches Web-based Office Suite

Microsoft Corp. has officially launched its Web-based email and Office services, part of its ongoing effort to keep Google at bay when it comes to business software.

“Office 365” has been available in a test version since last year. It combines Web-based versions of Word, Excel and other Office applications. It also includes the Exchange e-mail system, SharePoint online collaboration technology and Microsoft’s instant messaging, Internet phone and video conferencing system.

The latest software package comes as companies are increasingly shifting to storing data and applications on remote servers rather than on users’ desktop computers.

Microsoft said Tuesday that it plans to charge $2 to $27 per month per user for Office 365 depending on what’s included. Google Apps costs $4 or $5 per month but still have compatibility issues on some fronts.

Make your Excel data pop with conditional formatting

You’ve got your numbers input and organized but they still don’t jump out at the people who look at your worksheet. You want to give them the big picture at a quick glance. This is where conditional formatting can help.

The Microsoft provided workbook samples below show three examples of conditional formatting. The first two examples use easy to apply built-in formats, and the third example uses a rule based on criteria that you define and apply by using a formula.

Example 1 is a graded color scale:

Graded Color Scale

Here is the formula

Formula for Graded Color Scale

Example 2 is an Icon Set:

Icon Set

Here is the formula:

Formula for Icon Set

Example 3 is a custom formula:

Custom Formula

Formula for the custom formatting:

Formula for Custom formatting

So my advice is to try some tests of your own to see what kind of formatting might help display your data so others can see the impact you are trying to make. Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Service Pack 1 for Office 2010 and Sharepoint 2010

Scheduled for release at the end of June, SP1 will include updates across the client suites and server products. Here are a few of the new features of SP1:

  • Integrated community content in the Access Application Part Gallery.
  • The Word Web App extends printing support to “Edit Mode.”
  • Internet Explorer 9 “native” support for Office Web Apps and SharePoint.
  • Office Web Apps support for Chrome.
  • Inserting charts into Excel workbooks using Excel Web App.
  • Outlook Web App Attachment Preview (with Exchange Online only).

Other new features and fixes will be released just before the rollout date. Stay tuned for more information.