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Microsoft Launches Outlook Apps for iOS and Android

On January 29, 2015 Microsoft launched new Outlook apps for Android and iOS.The new apps offer some features you don't get by connecting your NDSU Microsoft account to the native "Mail" and "Calendar" apps on your smartphone or tablet.

I downloaded and installed the Outlook app for iOS on my iPad mini and, after some confusion due to mistyping my password repeatedly, was able to get logged in by choosing "Exchange" when prompted, and entering my full NDSU email address and password. There was no need for defining the "server" or touching any of the other advanced options you may have had to use to set up your NDSU email on your phone or tablet in the past. The set up of the Outlook app on my Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S4) was identical to the setup on my iPad, right down to the same delay due to my bad typing skills.

As soon as I opened the apps, I was taken in by the look and feel. They are definitely an improvement over the the generic mail apps on iOS and Android.

Outlook App Email on AndroidThe Outlook apps automatically separate your messages into 2 tabs, "Focused" and "Other." Important e-mails are supposed to be shown under the "Focused" tab. The apps did a pretty good job of that for me right from the start. I did find a few important emails under the "Other" tab, but it was easy to move them to "Focused" by opening the message, touching the menu icon and choosing "Move to Focused Inbox." The app asked me if I just wanted to move the message or to move it and create a rule that would put all future messages from that sender in the "Focused Inbox." As you move messages back and forth between "Focused" and "Other," the app will start to learn which types of messages are important to you.

The apps also feature the ability to "schedule" a message, which means you can delay it, scheduling it to return to the top of your inbox at a time of your choosing. This is great for managing those messages that are important to you, but you can't deal with them right away. By swiping left to right on a message, you can choose to "schedule" it to return to your inbox in a few hours, in the evening, the next day or at a custom time. Being able to interact with messages by swiping is a major feature of the new Outlook apps. By quickly swiping right to left on a message you can archive it. By swiping right to left a little more slowly, you can delete it.

I'm still exploring the apps, but one of my favorite features is access to the calendar from inside the Outlook app. Microsoft is also talking up the ability to easily insert links to files from Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud, Google Drive and Box.

Overall, I think the new apps are a big improvement over just connecting your NDSU Microsoft account to the "Mail" and "Calendar" apps on your iOS or Android devices. You can download the apps for free (see the links at the top of this article). Give them a try, and let me know what tips and tricks you discover.

UPDATE: I just came across this excellent post from ProfHacker, "Outlook for iOS and Android: An Email App Administrators and Staff Will (Really!) Love," with more information of the features of the new Outlook apps.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Collaborative Calendars to Use with the Public & Other Agencies

Have you ever had to manage a calendar or signup sheet with someone outside of our organization? Last summer, one of the counties requested help in building an online calendar where volunteers could sign up for the Community Garden. More recently, another county office and local Farm Service Agency wanted a place where either of them could book appointments for the agent to provide Farm Bill education.

Inside our organization (those of us with a email) the Microsoft Outlook calendar works great to help manage your time. You can create calendars for scheduling too. In Ag Comm, we have a schedule to book the 5a Conference Room, videoconferencing and even break room clean up.  

Unfortunately, our Outlook calendars are internal-only and cannot be shared with the “outside” world. This can pose a problem for many of you who work with the public and other agencies to collaborate on projects.

A solution is Google docs, which have handy templates ready for you to customize. They are easy to share and collaborate on and use, no matter if you’re inside or outside our organization.

Create Your Calendar

Check out the sample calendar I made from the template. It is actually a spreadsheet, but functions as a calendar. I made up a fictional event “County Fair Booth Volunteer Shifts” for the week of June 14, 2015. I put three shifts on the calendar. The intent is to make this accessible by anyone, so they can review the available shifts and then add their name to a shift on the calendar.



Set Calendar Accessibility

So where can people find this calendar? There’s several ways to get the word out and you do that by hitting the Share button in the upper right of your screen, or on the File menu > Share.

Option 1: Share with others (via email). Just enter their email address and choose what level they can access (can edit, can comment or can view).  

Share with others 


Option 2: Get shareable link.

A link will be generated for you and you can set the access levels:

Link Sharing 

In the calendar example for the County Fair booth sign up, I would make the calendar public so that anyone could access it and “edit” or sign up.

Get the Word Out About the Sign Up

Now that we have our calendar that can be accessed and edited by anyone, we need to direct our audience to it. Use the copied link in the previous step to paste into an email or text. Or, you could choose to email them directly from the calendar by entering their email address (you can even add a note).

Calendar Update Notifications

Now that you’ve gotten the word out about the calendar, you’re hoping it fills up with people who want to take the shifts. You could go in and check on progress as often as you want, or you can have updates emailed to you directly by setting up a Notification. Choose Tools > Notification Rules.

You can choose what kind of notifications you want and how often you want the notifications.

Notification rules 


Give It a Try!

To put all of this together, go ahead and register yourself for a time slot on the calendar at You don’t even have to hit “save” because Google Docs automatically does it for you. Although you won’t be able to get the notifications, I will see them.

If you ever need to collaborate on a calendar with the public or another agency, give Google Docs a try.

For more information or help with this, please contact me or Bob Bertsch.

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-6403.  

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Considerations for Purchasing Notebook & Tablet Computers

To provide faculty and staff with appropriate, high-quality, cost-effective computers and to provide support efficiently, Ag Communication Computer Services suggests certain computers be purchased. 

We are purchasing HP computers through the state contract for Extension cost-share and other purchases. These HPs are the business class of computers, which means that the hardware configuration usually stays the same for about 1½ years. This helps in support (warranty work) and pricing (stable figures). They have plenty of memory and speed to do nearly everybody's work, not like some inexpensive computers available online and at big-box stores. All these computers come with a four-year warranty that compliments a four-year cycle plan.EliteBook

Many staff are pleased with the HP EliteBook 850 G1. See the specs on the AITAG hardware baseline. With many staff purchasing this notebook, we can more quickly get the machine set up and troubleshoot problems if they occur.

Some people are wanting tablets instead of notebook computers, but here are some things to consider: 

  • An HP TouchPad weighs about 1 1/2 pounds, though the HP notebook weighs only 3 1/2 pounds. 
  • If something goes wrong inside your tablet, we can't open it and fix it like we can with a notebook. They're considered disposable in today's market. 
  • If you're going to buy a keyboard anyway, you might want to consider the laptop instead of the tablet. 
  • Consider how much memory you need on your machine. If you're using the Office 365 cloud storage, you may not need as much as if you're crunching numbers and saving photos or video files.

If you have any questions about purchasing computers, please contact us.

Blair Johnson, Jon Fry and Jerry Ranum, Desktop Support Specialists; ITS Help Desk, (701) 231-8685

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Write the Right Word: Graduated From

Coming from an academic institution, we surely should know how to use “graduated” properly, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

When you are referring to someone who is a graduate of an institution, you must include the word “from” after “graduated.” For example: “He graduated from NDSU in 2004.”

Here’s a way to remember why you need to add the “from.” The act of graduating is something a school does to a student, not something a student does to a school. In other words, schools graduate students. So if you say “He graduated NDSU in 2004,” you are saying this student did something to the university.

Another way to look at this is that the shortest form of this sentence is “He graduated in 2004.” The “from NDSU” simply is a descriptive phrase giving the reader or listener more information.

Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

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Delete Files in Deleted Items & Junk Mail Folders

Keeping Outlook clean by removing unnecessary files helps it run smoothly. As with any program, the more files or messages it has to track, the harder it works. As the number of email messages grows, Outlook can take longer to start and can sometimes be a little sluggish to use.

delete deletesIn the past, the NDSU email server automatically deleted all items in the deleted and junk email folders after 30 days. However, this is no longer the case. Because of this, we strongly encourage you to periodically check and clean out your Deleted Items and Junk Email folders. To do this, open Outlook and locate the appropriate folder in the list on the left side of your screen. Then, right-click on the folder name and select Empty Folder.

Permanently removing messages can be stressful for some people. The chance that an important message may have accidentally ended up in the Deleted Items or Junk Email folders can cause people to avoid cleaning them out from time to time. Fortunately, if you discover you accidentally removed a message that you still need, Outlook has the ability to recover messages that were recently removed. Just locate the folder the message was removed from, right-click on it and select Recover Deleted Items. This will open a window with a list of recently deleted messages. Select the message you want to recover, and at the top, click on the Recover Selected Items button (looks like an envelope). The item you recovered will be added back into your folder. If you have multiple messages to recover, you can do that, too. Just hold down the Ctrl key while clicking on the messages to recover or press Ctrl + A to select them all.

Jerry Ranum; ITS Help Desk, (701) 231-8685

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"The Commons" - A Great Source for Images

I've written here many times in the past about how important images are in online communication. Images have a positive effect on user engagement on websites, blogs and social media.There are many sources for of images you can legally use for free (here's a list of some of them), but I want to highlight one in particular.

"The Commons" is a project started by Flickr and the Library of Congress in 2008. The project has 2 objectives, to increase access to publicly-held photography collections and to allow the public to tag the photos, adding important information like who is in a photo or where was it taken.

Today, nearly 100 other institutions have joined the Library of Congress and shared their photos on The Commons, including the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. National Archives and the New York Public Library. The photo below was shared by the University of Washington Libraries.

Cooking in Home Economics Class

The Commons is a great source of images for your website, blog or social media posts, but it is also an example of public institutions openly sharing their resources and inviting the public to cooperate with them in adding value to those resources.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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Write the Right Word: Avoid ‘Actual,’ ‘Actually’

“Actual” and “actually” are among the most overused words in the English language.

I’m sure you’ve heard something such as this: “I actually saw it happen!” or “What’s the actual situation?”

“Actual” and “actually” shouldn’t be used to suggest concepts such as at present, current, up to date, at this moment or now. If you saw something, such as an accident, all you need to say is, “I watched the cars collide.” Or if you want to know the latest news about a particular incident, just say, “What is the situation?”

Use “actual” or “actually” when you want to indicate something is a fact, not just a possibility, or you are attempting to correct a mistake or misunderstanding. For example, “The actual cost of the new building is $23 million.” Or this: “He actually attended NDSU, not South Dakota State University.”

Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

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Tips for Long Forms

Ever get invited to complete an online registration or application but eventually you don’t submit it because it was just too many questions? People tend to have very short attention spans these days, especially when online. It’s always a good idea to make your survey as concise as possible, without of course compromising the data you really do need to collect.

Sometimes however, long forms are inevitable. I recently worked with a specialist who was using Google Forms for an online grant application. She narrowed down the questions as best she could, but really needed to ask quite a few to collect all the data that would be used to decide the grant's winner.

Here’s a few tips to help people through a long form:

1. Let them know what they’re getting in to.
Tell them upfront “This form has x # of questions and will take around x minutes to complete”. They might've started your form on their form in a waiting line but then dropped of when they got to the head of the line and completely forgot to go back to your form.

2. Add a progress bar on your form to let them know how far along they are in the process. Google forms and Qualtrics allow progress bars. Here's how you set it up in Google Forms:

progress bar in Google forms


3. Along the same lines, number your questions so they can see exactly where they are in the process.

4. Break up sections of your form by either using headers or page breaks. Let’s say you’re taking training registration. The first section of the form could be “Contact information” and ask for first name, last name, company name, job title, business address, phone and email. The second section could be “Training sessions” they want to attend.  The third session could be “Meal Preferences”. Breaking up each section should be a little easier for the form taker to digest.

section or page break in google form

Let me know if you need help making long forms less painful.

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-6403

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Images as emails are not user-friendly

When creating an email, it’s important not to have an image as the message because people may not be able to view it. Some emails come through where the message is an inserted picture as the message, vs. typed text in the body of the email.

The email client on the desktop may not allow you to download images, or the sender may not be on your safe sender’s list. Have you ever seen a blank email that prompts you to “Click here to download images?" That can be a problem because every extra step you make someone take to open a message is a risk in losing them. Delete.

Same goes for mobile. According to Litmus, 43% of all email opens were on a mobile device. That was of August 2013. Surely that nummobile no nober has risen by now as the adoption of mobile devices steadily increases. Look how this message displayed on my phone. There is no way to view the message. Delete.

It’s every emailer's dream to have the audience complete the call to action or share with others to increase your audience. Let’s say you were able to view this email because the sender is on your safe sender's list. But what if you wanted to share this email with someone else? Regardless of whether they open on mobile or desktop, they could run into the same problems because their settings may be different than yours. That's another lost chance to get your message across.

The desktop version of the email has a link that is underlined but not hyperlinked, so you're not taken any where by clicking on it. This is very confusing for the audience. I’m not even able to copy and paste the link into a browser to see where they want me to go. There’s probably not many people that are going to take the time to check out that URL by having to retype the web address. Again, you’re losing a potential “customer” by making it painful for access your information.

For readability purposes, it’s best to use text in your email to assure your audience can view your message. Don't type up your message and save it as a .jpg or .png and hit send.


Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-6403

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Creating Images With Canva

Creating images is an important part of online communication. Images make webpages and blog posts more attractive, engaging and shareable. Even creating a social media presence requires Facebook Covers, Twitter Headers and more.

Canva offers an easy to use, drag-and-drop interface for creating all kinds of images. Using their website or iPad app, you can use their templates, design themes, photos and fonts to create your own image.

Here's one I created with one of my own photos and a Canva layout.

An Image Created in Canva

Canva features templates for Facebook Covers, Instagram Posts, photo collages and much more. Once you choose a template, you can build on a blank slate or choose one of Canva's layouts. Like Canva's photos and fonts, some layouts are free and some are available for a small charge, usually $1. If you use elements that aren't free in your design, you'll be asked to pay for them before you can download the image you've created.

There are plenty of elements that are free, allowing you to create some really interesting images at no cost.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, (701) 231-7381

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