New Facebook News Feed Layout

Facebook unveiled the new layout for its news feed which it said will be rolling out to a select test user group today. The new layout features many design changes. According to Facebook, the new design borrows many features from the mobile Facebook applications, giving Facebook a more consistent user interface between devices. Examples of mobile features coming to the desktop are the grey retractable sidebar, the “new stories” notification and a wider column for the actual feeds.

Facebook’s new news feed features a cleaner interface with a better hierarchy of titles, photos and links. Zuckerberg explained that the content of news feeds have changed from being largely text based to 50% now being photos and the rest comprised largely of third party feeds, videos and other media. For this reason, photo albums, video feeds, check-ins, music shares, etc have been revamped to feature more prominently in the news feed.

Other changes include smart features like hovering over a user’s profile picture next to a photo album to reveal the comments and likes from that user relating to the album. See the slideshow below for screenshots from the press event.

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NEW: See the behind the scenes video below:

Today Google also made a few changes to Google+ profile pages. A user’s cover photo is now 2120 by 1192 px. This is a brave move by the social network. Reactions to the change have been mixed. If I may add some spice to this review, I’d like to suggest how similar the new Facebook layout is to the Google+ news feed. Of course, Google+ still features the much-complained-about whitespace, but the similarity in the layout between the two feeds is undeniable from the shortcuts at the left to the photo and feed display and the suggestions to the right of it, not forgetting the ability to switch between streams/circles. What do you think? If you’d like to be among the first to try the new look, head over to https://www.facebook.com/about/newsfeed and join the waiting list!

New FBMy G+ Feed

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WPS For Linux – First Impressions

What a find

Talk about finding a hidden treasure… the WPS Office Suite for Linux is an amazing find. Although considerably well known for the Android app, WPS Office (aka Kingsoft Office) is not as well adopted by desktop users, more specifically non-Chinese desktop users. That’s because WPS Office is offered in Chinese by default and to find and download the app, you need to make use of Google Translate to find your away around the WPS for Linux website.

I installed WPS Office in Elementary OS Luna. When you launch the office suite for the first time, there’s no escaping the acknowledgement that the app borrow’s most of its design aspects from Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010, but if you’re like me and are rather comfortable in that environment, then this will be a welcomed realisation. Unlike MS Office running under Wine, WPS Office is a native app which makes itself comfortable amongst other Ubuntu/Elementary apps.

WPS Office apps in the elementary Luna dock

WPS Office apps in the elementary Luna dock

Kingsoft Spreadsheet in elementary OS luna

Kingsoft Spreadsheet in elementary OS luna

Ah, I arranged the icons SWP :-/ too bad.. Anyway, as you’ve just noticed, WPS Office offers 3 apps; Kingsoft Writer, Kingsoft Presentation and Kingsoft Spreadsheet. From my initial inspection, all 3 apps are fully equipped with the features I most commonly use in MS Office and LibreOffice. Obviously I have not yet put the suite to a full-on test, so I cannot really say whether there are any bugs of sort. I found that WPS does not read open document formats, which is not such a big issue as one can easily save to .docx (etc) in Libre/OpenOffice. However, in compensation for that, WPS does a brilliant job in opening documents/spreadsheets and presentations created in MS Office. From the documents I’ve opened, everything was well preserved .

WPS Office boasts an awesome splash screen, a familiar UI and the ability to tweak the UI theme. If you’re used to the LibreOffice, non-ribbon style UI, it’s also possible to change the UI to that style with one click.

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UI options in Kingsoft Writer

UI options in Kingsoft Writer

Another great feature in WPS, which MS Office even lacks, is the ability to open and work on multiple documents side by side, switching between them using tabs.

Tab Switcher in WPS

Tab Switcher in WPS

WPS Office apps also offer a wide range of templates and design tools that are similar to those found in MS Office. The downside is that the apps aren’t 100% translated into English, but it certainly doesn’t hinder productivity. All the core features are available in English and if not, the menu icons are familiar enough to understand.

How to install WPS Office for Linux in Ubuntu/Linux Mint/Elemenatry

Download the .deb file from http://community.wps.cn/download/ [Alternate versions are also available for other Linux distros]

Install the package either through Software Centre or whatever deb package manager you use.

Open Kingsoft Writer. You will be prompted with a form asking for your name and some stuff. The form is in Chinese. Fill in anything. After filling out the form, the app will open in full Chinese. To change the app to English, close the app and then run the following code in a terminal window:

cd /opt/kingsoft/wps-office/office6/2052

sudo rm qt.qm wps.qm wpp.qm et.qm

Open any Kingsoft app again and it should display in English.
Enjoy!

Windows 8: First impressions and what I would change

Desktop computing, despite the giant leaps in innovation over the past few decades, is still fairly new to many people around the globe. Tablet PC’s and smartphones are even newer. Having finally met Windows 8 face to face, I affirmed the fear that I had about the system from the day I set eyes on the first screenshot. Microsoft, it seems, has rushed to compete against Google and Apple in the new touch-interface software market. What Microsoft forgot, is that most computer users have only just gotten used to the “traditional desktop” and comfortable venturing into the use of modern software via Windows 7. As someone well acquainted with different operating systems, I was surprised to find myself at a loss during my first encounter with Windows 8. The inconsistent user interface between the metro apps and desktop apps, the lack of window controls in metro apps and the hidden location of the power menu are some of the features (or lack thereof) that threw me off-course.

However, Windows 8 is not all that bad. The live tiles and clean, bold metro design are aesthetically pleasing to the modern mind. Windows 8 integrates social media and online content like email, maps, weather and web search very well into the desktop. By all means, the fact that the core Windows operating system available on tablets and desktops are the same is phenomenal and gives Windows a major advantage as a tablet OS over Android and iOS. But, of course, a desktop PC is not a tablet and by that I mean the way we interact with the two are fundamentally different and the user interface design must take this into consideration. I’ve made a few mock-ups of the changes I would add to make Windows 8 a bit more user friendly. Click on an image to see a larger version.

Window controls are needed for metro apps

Window controls are needed for metro apps

I found no way of exiting a full screen metro app, except by pressing the Windows key on the keyboard to return to the start screen. After some time wasted in fiddling around, I discovered that apps can be closed by pressing Alt+F4, or by right clicking the preview of the app in the app switcher and selecting “close”. If the app is not closed, it continues to run in the background causing a severe loss in performance because metro apps are resource-hungry.

Options to close apps via the metro app switcher.

Options to close apps via the metro app switcher.

Since I had to first Google a way of closing apps, I took this idea from the Gnome 3 app switcher which sports a close button on the window previews. I suppose, Windows borrowed the app switcher design from Android, hence it would be easy to slide closed an app via a touch screen, but the method is not very intuitive for desktop users.

A more prevalent power menu in the charms bar.

A more prevalent power menu in the charms bar.

Older versions of Windows, all versions of OS X and Linux have never puzzled me as much as Windows 8. The simplest thing to find on a PC is usually the power menu. Even on newer tablets and smartphones, holding down the power key pops up a power menu with options to shut down, restart, etc, but not Windows 8. Holding down the power key on a laptop sends a suspend command by default and the on-screen power menu is mysteriously hidden under the settings. I would locate the power menu on the charms bar like so 🙂

A menu to configure apps from those running to those not yet installed and a search bar reminding users of the on-demand search feature.

A menu to configure apps from those running to those not yet installed and a search bar reminding users of the on-demand search feature.

Whilst it is a nifty feature to have on demand search built into the metro interface, new users of the operating system may need a hint. The old start menu had a search field in Windows Vista and Windows 7. I think it’s way too soon to hide it away. I would also add a menu below the word “Start”. The start screen is a launcher like that found on Android and iOS. Most launchers are configurable and users of touch interfaces have already become familiar with having an options menu like the one in my mock-up.

That deals with some aspects of the user interface. In terms of performance, Windows 8 is truly the fastest booting Windows thus far. Like I said, metro apps are resource-hungry, but if you keep closing apps when you’re done with ’em, the OS works well. Now to the serious question, is it worth upgrading? Straight up, I’d say NO! A Windows 7 PC is capable of running the best and most modern software that exists for Windows. Windows 7 is stable, has a very well known and user friendly interface and will continue to be supported by Microsoft and hardware vendors for a long time. Besides, most common tasks done via the computer these days require a good browser. Internet Explorer 10 might only be available for Windows 8, but Google Chrome, available on Windows 7, offers a much more feature-rich and stable web browser. So I would not recommend upgrading a current Windows 7 desktop to Windows 8, but if you’re looking to buy a smart PC like a hybrid that sports a touch screen and detachable keyboard, then of course, Windows 8 offers a great experience over iOS because you can take Microsoft Office and all the apps (formerly programs) you’re used to using wherever you go. Unfortunately Apple’s iPad and Android tablets do not yet offer that convenience.

That’s a wrap for my intro to Windows 8!

Thanks for reading!