Sunday, December 03, 2006

Two new programs:
Adobe Acrobat 8 and MS Office 2007

I have been playing with Acrobat 8 Professional and it does lots of cool new things, but some are more important to me than others. For example, when I create a data-enabled form or survey, and send it out as an email attachment or link, when the recipient opens the PDF file in Acrobat Reader 7 (or Reader 8 when it is available), their Reader gains some added functionality, not the least of which is that they can save the form and work on it as they have the time.

What is most useful to me is, when they send back the form (you can have up to 500 responses for each form/survey you distribute), it gets saved with all the rest of the responses and I can both see each complete form in a single PDF file and, most importantly to me, export the data from the forms as a CSV file and import it into a database for data analysis. It is SO cool!

There are other very educationally cool things about Acrobat 8, too, like the ability to embed dimensional images and media right into the PDF is just too neat! I suggest your try the trial and explore the features you are interested in while thinking about ways it can enhance teaching and learning. (Trial download for PC or Mac)

For those of you running Windows (or those with an Intel Mac and running Bootcamp or Parallels), the new Microsoft Office 2007 is available for a two-month trial. You can download it here. It downloads easily and lives separately on your computer without overwriting previous versions of Office with one caveat-- if you use Outlook, it will overwrite your current version, so I suggest to NOT choose to include Outlook in your trial download if you currently use Outlook as your email/PIM client, until you decide to move over to Office 2007.

Although the vocabulary is the same, the interfaces of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access are different. They are not hard to get used to, but, for those of us who support teachers and administrators with these applications, it is important to become comfortable with the basic features. The interface of Publisher has been "modernized" but it does not seem to be fundamentally different in appearance or use.

Being the terminally left-brained learner, I am very menu-driven, and the first thing I noticed about the new suite of tools is the fact the menu bar is missing and the interface is primarily graphical. I was able to add my most-used icons (OPEN, NEW, PRINT) to a easy-to-access area without any trouble, though. On the plus side, some of the graphical functions are interactive, such as the slide designs and fonts in PowerPoint-- simply mouse-over the design and the current slide changes (temporarily) so you can see the design components. These type of features will be big time-savers and I am sure there are many such preview components in each of the programs.

I would suggest you give this one a whirl, too! Have fun, and let me know any cool things you find to support teaching and learning!

Kathy Schrock

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