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Phillip Smith at Cliptec thinks online news is hard to read. He says:

It’s ok in small doses. But try a reading a whole paper online; it’s awful.

Smith has a point.

Online news sites aren’t designed for easy reading. Publishers are more concerned with pushing advertising down reader’s throats.

It isn’t just distracting animated ads. There are pop-out movie ads, bursts of sound and giant pop-ups which dance around in front of text.

They give a new meaning to “in your face”.

Publishers know passive online advertisements no longer work. Hardly anyone clicks on a banner these days and Google ads are not much better.

They need to make money. But there’s a danger they will kill the business by alienating readers.

If publishers told readers paid content means less advertising crap, they might be more willing to shell out for online news.

Do you need the new version of Microsoft Office?

After reading about today’s Office 2010 launch, I doubt I will upgrade. But I may need Word 2010.

Office 2010’s new feature list is a long list of things I don’t need.

For example, I don’t need the SharePoint integration. I can’t use SQL or the Office Communications Server.

I’ve stopped using Outlook. So anything new there passes me by. Outlook doesn’t make sense for a single user when Gmail is so much easier.

I’d rather slash my wrists than inflict PowerPoint on anyone.

Much as I admire Excel, I barely use it. The Office 2007 version is more than enough. If I’m stuck, Google Spreadsheets can ride to my rescue.

Word 2010

Word is different. I use Word 2007 daily. I’m a journalist. My word processing needs are basic.

I don’t use mail merge or do anything fancy involving macros. I’ve never used cross-references, indexing or end-notes.

For me, Word is a sledgehammer cracking a nut.

I certainly don’t need any more Word features. I’d prefer fewer.

For all its allegedly user-friendly face, Word is a complex mishmash of fancy new stuff and clunky old bits which still don’t work as expected and barely work with each other.

The extra graphic handling features in Word 2010 mean nothing to me. Word’s fussy auto-formatting makes my blood boil. The safety features are also annoying.

If I need to collaborate on documents – which happens in at least two of my regular freelance jobs – I use Google Docs. It’s a lousy word-processor, but a great way to share.

Despite all this, I still may shell out for Word, simply because it is a tool of my trade. I’m comfortable working in Word. Moving to an alternative would be a small financial investment, but a huge investment in terms of training.

I’ve found over the years it pays to stay up-to-date with Word because sooner or later I run in to compatibility problems.

Which sums things up. I don’t need Office 2010. I may need Word 2010, but not yet.

No upgrade discount

All of which makes Microsoft’s decision to charge everyone full price for the software look like a dumb move. Lord knows there’s little enough incentive to upgrade, but to make users pay a premium and not offer discounted upgrade prices will make the buying decision far easier for many users.

I’m not surprised an HP executive called the paperless office a fallacy – why would the world’s largest computer printer maker say otherwise.

HP senior vice president Bruce Dahlgren says: “It is unrealistic to think that printing is just going to go away”.

Computerworld Australia reports him saying: ” the way people print and copy is changing.” Dahlgren says people are printing more documents but fewer pages. They take more care about what gets printed.

I do the same.

Since starting my paperless journalist project I’ve managed to cut the number of printed pages by more than 60 percent, but zero remains a long way off.

I rarely print incoming documents for reading. But I still need to proof-read on paper – especially when I write important or longer pieces.

There’s no question I catch more errors in my work when proof-reading paper documents. I’m not alone. Online reading is tiring and online proofing is less accurate.

I hate seeing the word aplenty in headlines.

At first I thought my reaction to seeing the word in a news headline was a matter of personal taste. Or perhaps prejudice. To me the word feels old-fashioned and pompous.

After a moment’s thought, I realised aplenty offends me because the word is an adjective masquerading as a verb.

The best, clearest writing mainly uses nouns and verbs. Only use adjectives when they make the meaning more precise.

Headlines are a concentrated form of writing crunching meaning into a handful of words.

There’s less room for adjectives in headlines than in everyday sentences. Good headlines use nouns and strong verbs.

A headline like ‘iPads aplenty’ doesn’t include a verb. The word aplenty plays a verb-like role but it doesn’t shout, sing or dance. It just sits there flaccid, weak and boring.

And it doesn’t convey much information other than to tell use there are lots of iPads.

So what? Why are there lots of iPads, where are there lots of iPads?

If you want to tell readers there are large numbers of iPads use a verb, preferably an active one:

iPads flood Auckland

If you think flood is overused try; choke, swamp or saturate, just don’t use aplenty.

The world’s stock of data grew 62 percent last year. According to The Guardian, we squirrelled away 0.8 zettabytes of data.

That’s 800,000 petabytes, where each petabyte is a million gigabytes. Somewhere along the way, we forgot about exabytes (1000 petabytes).

By the end of this year, we’ll be sitting on 1.2 Zb.

It is a lot of data.

But as previously reported, almost all the data stored around the world is junk. Experts say as much as 90 percent of stored data is useless.

We’re not talking about trash tv or bad music. We’re talking about data that is of no use to anyone; useless files, duplicate data, temporary files that became permanent.

Forget everything you hear from businesses selling virtualisation as a green technology. If the so-called green computer makers wanted to use less electricity and save the planet, they would work on tools to de-duplicate files and data and applications to help us cull rubbish from our hard drives.

This would also make it easier to find the good stuff.