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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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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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Don’t Fall for the Latest Facebook Hoax

A Facebook hoax from 2012 is being recirculated in reaction to recently-announced changes to its privacy settings. You may have seen people posting a “legal” notice that disallows Facebook to use your information or posts.

A snippet:

“By this statement, I tell Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, broadcast, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and or its content.”

According to, this declaration is meaningless:

“While (Facebook) does not technically own its members content, it has the right to use anything that is not protected with Facebook's privacy and applications settings. For instance, photos, videos and status updates set to public are fair game.”

The best way to protect your privacy on Facebook is to adjust your Privacy Settings to your comfort level. You can adjust who sees what, and even what ads you see. For the basics, see the Facebook Privacy page.

So if you see that Facebook post, be sure not to share it. Remember to apply the CRAAP test if you’re not sure about the accuracy of a post.

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

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Mobile-Friendly Sites are Favored by Google

Google recently announced that mobile-friendly websites will stand out in search with labels and possibly, rank.

I tested this out by searching “ndsu ag comm”. Sure enough, mobile-friendly versions ranked higher than the non-mobile-friendly result.

 Screenshot of mobile-friendly search

Ag CMS sites have been mobile-friendly since March 2013. Roger did all the work designing the mobile template and had the foresight to know that more and more users are using the Mobile Web.  

Just take a look at our most recent Google Analytics for all Ag CMS sites:

Mobile analytics table


Note that desktop sessions have only grown by 3.67% so far in 2014, but our overall number of sessions is up by 22.5%, mainly due to mobile traffic. We have had nearly 5 times as many mobile sessions already this year than we did all of last year.

Without having to worry about design, you can concentrate on the content. Here’s some tips on writing for the Mobile Web.  

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

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Get notified when somone submits your Google form

More and more Extension and REC staff are using Google forms to collect registrations, evaluations, email addresses for newsletter sign up, and more. Sometimes staff would like to know right away when someone completes a form. For instance, Bob and I have a simple Google form on the Ag CMS homepage that collects information for people who need an Ag CMS login. We like to get these people signed up right away so they are still enthused and also for good customer service. When someone fills out the form, Bob and I get an email notification and we can take the information the person provided and get them set up in ag CMS right away.

Not only can you get email notifications for when a user submits a form, but also changes to your form like if a collaborator was added or if any changes to the spreadsheet were made. You can set the alerts up to come into your inbox once a day, or as-it-happens.

Here's a quick video on how to set up email notifications for Google Forms.

If you need help with setting up notifications, please contact Bob Bertsch or myself.

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

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Multiple Admins for Facebook Pages Are a Must

It's important to have at least one backup "admin" for you office or department Facebook (FB) Page.

Facebook Pages are created through individual Facebook profiles. The person who creates the FB Page becomes the first, and sometimes only, "admin." If a FB Page has only one admin and that person leaves NDSU or deletes their personal Facebook profile, the page may be lost to your department, taking with it all the posts, likes and comments the page has gathered.

To avoid an unfortunate end to your Facebook Page, you just need to make sure your page has multiple admins. Any admin of a FB Page can add an additional admin as long as the new admin has a Facebook account, and they are friends with the original admin on Facebook or the original admin knows the email address associated with the new admin's Facebook account.

If there is no one in your office who can be made an admin for your FB Page, you can add me as an admin for your page using my email address,

Just login to your Facebook profile and visit the FB Page you want to add an admin to.

Once there, click on the "Settings" tab.
Click "settings" on your facebook page to add admins.

Next, click "Page Roles" in the "Settings" menu.
Click "Page Roles"

Add an admin by beginning to type their name or by typing in the email address associated with their Facebook account. If you are friends with the person you are adding, their Facebook profile should pop-up when you start typing their name. If you are using their email address, just type the full email address.

You will want to set their page role to "Admin." FB Page admins have the same permissions to edit a page as the person who created the page. If you want a true backup in case you leave NDSU or cannot access the FB Page, you'll need to assign someone the role of "Admin." Click "Save" when you are done.
Type in the person's name or email address and assign them the role of Admin.

Once you've added someone to your Facebook Page, they will receive a Facebook notification to let them know.

If you are interested in using the other page roles Facebook provides for giving people access to your page, check out the chart below or visit the Facebook Help Center's "Page Roles" article.
Facebook Page Roles

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

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Think Mobile When Writing for Web Pages

At Fall Conference I presented "Building Better Web Pages" . A component of that is remembering to write for people who are accessing your information on smartphone. Although only 11% of all views of Ag CMS came from a mobile device last year, that was a 94% increase from 2012. More and more people will be using our sites from mobile devices. Here's five great tips on what to consider when writing for mobile audiences. I would add that testing is an important last step.

Ag cms mobile stats

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

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How To Get Fresh Content From Websites

When you visit a website, you might think all the content you see is coming directly from that site's web server, but that may not always be the true. Some of that content may be coming from a web cache (\ˈkash\).

What is hiding in your cache?A web cache temporarily stores web documents, images and other files to help the site load faster and reduce the bandwidth required to view the site. For example, when you are viewing most NDSU websites, you will see the NDSU logo at the top-left of each page. Your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.) will often store image files, like the NDSU logo, in the browser cache, rather than downloading that image file every time you visit another NDSU web page.

Temporarily storing web content in the cache can save you time and bandwidth, but sometimes you might return to a site and see content stored in your browser's cache rather than new content that has been added to that site.

You can make sure you are getting the freshest content from a website by bypassing your browser's cache. You can get a fresh reload of a site by hitting Ctrl+F5 on your keyboard, forcing all the files from a website to be directly downloaded from the web server.

If you want to learn more about your browser cache, check out this article from gHacks Technology News.

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

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