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Microsoft’s new Office 2013

Microsoft Office 2013 has officially hit the streets, and it offers a significantly upgraded interface, more tools, and perhaps most importantly, a cloud-friendly system that lets you work from anywhere. While CNET’s Jason Parker did give the updated Office suite high marks, he was also quick to say that its new $100-per-year subscription scheme will likely be hard for many people to swallow. Sure, there are (confusingly) single-pay standalone versions available as well, but those don’t offer quite as much as the Office 365 subscription version.

In any case, if you are part of the camp that is unconvinced by Microsoft’s new offerings, then know that there are some fantastic and completely free alternatives out there. Here are four that we like.

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Google Docs
Many Office users have been migrating to Google’s productivity tools since long before Office 2013 and its yearly subscription came to be. That’s because Google offers fantastically intuitive applications for creating text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms, and drawings. You can import and export Microsoft Office file types, and it’s all completely free (for individual users, not businesses). A Google account is required, though.

One of the biggest draws of Google’s offering is the collaboration that it makes possible. Because all of your editing takes place in the cloud, you can actually share documents with other Google users and work on them together in real time. What’s more, Docs integrates well with other Google offerings, making it a great choice for dedicated Google users.

One downside to Docs, of course, is that its functionality requires a Web connection and browser. To be clear, you can work with Docs while offline, but only through the Chrome browser, and your edits will only sync once you are reconnected to the Web. Another possible issue with Docs is compatibility, as we have seen text formatting get wonky when importing from Word. Still, because of its ease of use, broad functionality, and collaboration capabilities, Google Docs deserves its spot on this list of viable Office alternatives.

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Microsoft Office Web Apps
This one is a no-brainer. If you’re not keen on paying for Microsoft’s full-featured desktop Office suite, then why not try using its trimmed-down cloud-based option for free? The suite consists of Web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

For anyone who uses Office, Microsoft Office Web Apps should be a cinch to pick up. All of the compatibility you need is there, and I would even go so far as to say that this cloud-based suite’s interface is quite a bit more elegant than Google’s. Microsoft’s cloud-based Office Web Apps are integrated with SkyDrive and are free for individuals to use.

Microsoft Office Web Apps
This one is a no-brainer. If you’re not keen on paying for Microsoft’s full-featured desktop Office suite, then why not try using its trimmed-down cloud-based option for free? The suite consists of Web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

For anyone who uses Office, Microsoft Office Web Apps should be a cinch to pick up. All of the compatibility you need is there, and I would even go so far as to say that this cloud-based suite’s interface is quite a bit more elegant than Google’s. Microsoft’s cloud-based Office Web Apps are integrated with SkyDrive and are free for individuals to use.

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BlackBerry 10 and Z10 Review

 

 

It was 2008 and my BlackBerry Curve’s BBM was overflowing with contacts. I’d plug away on the physical keyboard, quickly firing off messages and emails to my friends and colleagues. Back then, most of them had the same phone or another one of RIM‘s popular handsets, like the BlackBerry Pearl.

By 2010 that list of contacts was empty. All my friends had abandoned BlackBerrys for iPhones or Android phones. I did the same. What choice did we have? While Apple and other phone makers started making phones that did amazing things with rich applications and fast Web browsers, BlackBerry clung to its outdated phone software.

That is, until today. After delays and years of dragging its feet, BlackBerry is finally ready with its new BlackBerry 10 operating system, a complete overhaul of the BlackBerry you’ve known. Even the company name has been overhauled; no longer RIM, or Research in Motion, it’s just calling itself BlackBerry.

 

Its first phone to run the software — the BlackBerry Z10 — starts at $199 on contract at AT&T and other carriers this March, and finally has the hardware to compete with all those other high-speed smartphones you see in people’s hands. Can it be? Is BlackBerry actually back?

A Phone Designed for Software
“That’s a BlackBerry?” “Where’s the keyboard?” That’s the main reaction I’ve gotten to the Z10. The phone looks nothing like the typical BlackBerry with a physical keyboard and almost everything like an Android phone or iPhone. It has a large 4.2-inch 1280 x 768-resolution display and a thin all-black body with a soft-to-the-touch back. It’s not a beautiful or elegant phone, but it’s well-made and comfortable to hold.

Powered by a dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and AT&T LTE, the phone is something that some of the BlackBerrys of past have never been described as being: fast. Not only is it the fastest BlackBerry ever made, it gives even the best Android phones and the iPhone 5 a run for their money in terms of speed, especially when it comes to Web browsing. Unfortunately, that power shortens battery life, but it is fast.

In heavy use, the phone doesn’t last more than a full work day. I was actually lucky to see it last past 5 p.m. on a regular day of heavy emailing, tweeting and surfing the Web. On the plus side, the back cover of the phone comes off, allowing you to replace the battery. The company will also sell a portable charging accessory, which contains a second battery for the phone.

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2014 Mazda Mazda6

  Diving headlong into the deep end, where no carmaker in its right mind would consider going, Mazda unveiled the all-new 2014 Mazda6 mid-size sedan
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