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Easily create, customize and publish web apps / websites for free with Microsoft WebMatrix

In a recent article, I wrote about the Microsoft Web Platform and the apps and websites you can create for free. Microsoft recently introduced WebMatrix, which combines all of the programs needed to create, customize and publish a website (like WordPress, DotNetNuke, nopCommerce) in one, easy to use program.

Microsoft WebMatrix opening screen
Microsoft WebMatrix opening screen

Microsoft WebMatrix allows you to manage all aspects of your website. From inside WebMatrix you can change web server settings (Internet Information Services / IIS), create and customize your website (Visual Web Developer 2010 Express), create and edit databases (SQL Server 2010 Express) and generate reports. It will also upload your app / website from your local server to your remote server too.

Microsoft WebMatrix file editing screen
Microsoft WebMatrix file editing screen

And with lots of free app / website templates, creating an online presence has never been easier.

Microsoft WebMatrix web gallery screen
Microsoft WebMatrix web gallery screen

Here's a quote from the Microsoft website:

Create, customize and publish websites with WebMatrix

WebMatrix is a free web development tool from Microsoft that includes everything you need for website development. Start from open source web applications, built-in web templates or just start writing code yourself. It’s all-inclusive, simple and best of all free. Developing websites has never been easier.

Create your website

To get started creating websites, just download and install WebMatrix using the Microsoft Web Platform Installer. You’ll be up and running less than 5 minutes! Once WebMatrix is installed, we make it simple to get and install the latest version of your favorite free web applications such as WordPress, Joomla!, DotNetNuke and Orchard.

Customize your website

Once you’re up and running, you will find that WebMatrix provides all the tools features you’ll need in a single unified interface. Say good-bye to switching between multiple applications just to perform common web development tasks. With WebMatrix, you’re always just a click away from easily editing your files, managing your database and modifying your server settings.

Publish your website

When you’re ready, WebMatrix provides a no-hassle way to show the world your website. Just access our hosting gallery from WebMatrix and you’ll find a hosting provider that is guaranteed to run your site smoothly while also allowing you to publish directly from WebMatrix.

For more information on Microsoft WebMatrix, just follow the links below:

Microsoft WebMatrix
Microsoft WebMatrix Features

Creating web apps and websites for free with Microsoft Web Platform

Have you ever wondered how to create a blog, content management system (CMS) or e-commerce website? You can do just that and more with Microsoft Web Platform. You can create your own web app using WordPress (blog), DotNetNuke (CMS) or nopCommerce (e-commerce), just to name a few. And, best of all, it's all free.

Microsoft Web Platform Installer 3 - Spotlight View
Microsoft Web Platform Installer 3 - Spotlight View

From web server (Internet Information Services), database server (SQL Server 2010 Express), programming tools like (Visual Web Developer 2010 Express) and lots of apps to work with, Microsoft Web Platform has it all. And did I mention that they are all free.

Microsoft Web Platform Installer 3 - Products View
Microsoft Web Platform Installer 3 - Products View

You can use Visual Web Developer 2010 Express to customize any of the free ASP.NET and PHP web apps available in the Windows Web App Gallery. And if your app needs a database, you can install SQL Server 2010 Express. There are also tools for Silverlight and Windows Azure too.

Microsoft Web Platform Installer 3 - Applications View
Microsoft Web Platform Installer 3 - Applications View

All of the programs included in the Microsoft Web Platform are installed on your local system. You build and test your web app on the Internet Information Services (IIS) installed on your local system and then upload it to your remote IIS server when you're finished. If you don't know the platform of your web server, you will need to contact your hosting company to find out. The IIS is more commonly referred to as the Windows platform.

Here's a quote about the Microsoft Web Platform Installer and some of the programs available from the Microsoft site:

The Microsoft Web Platform Installer 3.0 (Web PI) is a free tool that makes getting the latest components of the Microsoft Web Platform, including Internet Information Services (IIS), SQL Server Express, .NET Framework and Visual Web Developer easy. The Web PI also makes it easy to install and run the most popular free web applications for blogging, content management and more with the built-in Windows Web Application Gallery.

Web Server
Install the latest version of IIS, including latest IIS Web extensions like IIS Media Services.

Framework
Install the latest version of the .NET Framework. This includes everything you need to work with ASP.NET.

Database
Install the latest version of SQL Server 2008 Express. This includes both the database engine and tools.

Tools
Install the latest version of Visual Web Developer Express, Our full featured free web development tool.

Web Apps
Install free popular ASP.NET and PHP web apps such as Umbraco and WordPress. Browse the Windows Web Application Gallery

Extras
Web PI also includes the latest community version of PHP for Windows and a trial version of Expression Web 3!

For more information on the Microsoft Web Platform, check out the following links:

Microsoft Web Platform
Microsoft Web Platform Installer 5.0
Windows Web App Gallery

My favorite left hand Windows keyboard shortcuts

One of the most useful items I use on a daily basis are keyboard shortcuts. Especially shortcuts that I can perform with just my left hand, allowing me to keep my right hand on the mouse. You can use keyboard shortcuts to open frequently used files, folders and programs like Windows Explorer. Windows has a ton of built-in keyboard shortcuts (see links at bottom of article), plus you can create your own custom keyboard shortcuts. Here are my favorite left hand keyboard shortcuts:

Left hand Windows keyboard shortcuts
Press To
Windows logo key + E Open My Computer / Windows Explorer
Windows logo key + R Open the Run dialog box
Windows logo key + D Display the desktop
Windows logo key + F Search for a file or folder
CTRL + A Select all
CTRL + X Cut
CTRL + C Copy
CTRL+ V Paste
CTRL + ALT + (KEY) Custom keyboard shortcut (see below)

create your own Windows keyboard shortcuts

You can create keyboard shortcuts that use CTRL + ALT + (your choice of key) for frequently used files, folders and programs. You will need to have a shortcut to the file, folder or program you want to open first. You can use an existing shortcut (on your desktop or on the Start menu) or create a new one. Once you have a shortcut:

  1. Right-click on the shortcut
  2. From the context menu click Properties
  3. On the Properties box select the Shortcut tab
    The shortcut key box inside of a Windows shortcut
  4. Click inside the Shortcut key box and press the key in which you want to combine with CTRL + ALT

Note:
You can not use the following keys for keyboard shortcuts: ESC, ENTER, TAB, SPACEBAR, PRINT SCREEN, SHIFT, or BACKSPACE

For more information on Windows keyboard shortcuts, just follow the links below:

Windows logo key keyboard shortcuts
General keyboard shortcuts
Natural keyboard shortcuts
Dialog box keyboard shortcuts
Accessibility keyboard shortcuts
Windows explorer keyboard shortcuts

Stitching panoramic images for the web with Microsoft Research HD View

A while back. I wrote an article about creating panoramic images with Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) and Photosynth. With ICE and Photosynth, you can create panoramic images and then upload them to the Photosynth website. But what if you wanted to upload them to your website? That's where HD View comes into the picture.

Microsoft Research HD View is a new viewer to help in displaying large images (gigapixels) across the internet. It allows you to create panoramic images for web pages that do not take a lot of bandwidth. When someone views the image, they are only downloading what is required for that view. It is only when they pan or zoom, that more of the image is downloaded. HD View / Deep Zoom is now included in ICE, also as a stand-alone command line utility and (here's the best), a Photoshop plug-in.

HD View / Deep Zoom export in Microsoft Image Composite Editor
HD View / Deep Zoom export in Microsoft Image Composite Editor

HD View / Deep Zoom export in Photoshop plug-in
HD View / Deep Zoom export in Photoshop plug-in

So if you're a Photoshop user, you can now export those panoramic images that Photoshop can create directly to HD View / Deep Zoom format. The Photoshop plug-in is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit. Here's a quote from the HD View website:

About HD View
HD View is a new viewer developed by Microsoft Research's Interactive Visual Media group to aid in the display and interaction with very large images. The HDView development team included Johannes Kopf, Matt Uyttendaele, Howard Good, and Michael Cohen along with Jonathan Fay of the Next Media group.

Recent advances in camera and sensor technology and software for stitching images together has led to the creation of images containing billions of pixels (gigapixels). These images are often panoramic, that is, they cover very wide fields of view. Since monitors typically contain only one to two million pixels, it is only possible to actually see 1/1000th of such image data at once. Also, viewing very wide fields of view require unwrapping of an image projected onto a curved surface (think of a map of the world) which can cause distortions.

HD View leverages current graphics hardware to allow smooth panning and zooming as well as the viewing transformation described below.

HD View was developed with a number of goals in mind. It should:

  • allow smooth panning and zooming on large images,
  • only download enough data to create the current view (and possibly look ahead to the next), and
  • always display the current field of view with an appropriate projection. This means that when zoomed way in you should be presented with a standard perspective projection providing a sense of immersion, and when zoomed out you experience a curved projection so that get a full overview of the scene. In between the projection should smoothly transition.
  • Finally, it should be easy to create your own HD View content and present it to the world via the web.

The HD View plugin currently supports all major browsers on the Windows platform. The first time that you visit a page with HD View content you will be prompted to install the HD View plugin.

For more information on HD View / Deep Zoom, just follow the links below:

Microsoft Research HD View
HD View Utilities (32 bit) - Microsoft Research
HD View Utilities (64 bit) - Microsoft Research

Be more productive in your office for free with OpenOffice 3

A client recently asked me if I knew of any alternative to Microsoft Office. As a firm believer in open source software, I told him about OpenOffice.org 3 from Oracle. It is a complete office software suite with a word processor, spreadsheet, multi-media presentation, graphics and database programs.

OpenOffice.org is Java based and requires it to be installed. It is compatible with other commercial office software and can read / write various file formats. XSLT and StarOffice formats are supported, but you will need to choose the custom installation to enable these filters. You can also expand the functionality of OpenOffice.org by using third party extensions. And you can also export to PDF in all of the applications. And best of all, it's free.

OpenOffice 3's Main Screen
OpenOffice.org 3's main screen

Programs included in OpenOffice.org

Writer
Writer lets you design and produce text documents that can include graphics, tables, or charts. You can then save the documents in a variety of formats, including the standardized OpenDocument format (ODF), Microsoft Word .doc format, or HTML. And you can easily export your document to the Portable Document Format (PDF).

Calc
Calc is a spreadsheet application that you can use to calculate, analyze, and manage your data. You can also import and modify Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

Impress
Impress lets you create professional slide shows that can include charts, drawing objects, text, multimedia and a variety of other items. If you want, you can even import and modify Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.

Draw
Draw lets you create simple and complex drawings and export them in a number of common image formats. You can also insert tables, charts, formulas and other items created in OpenOffice.org programs into your drawings.

Base
With Base, you can access data that is stored in a wide variety of database file formats. Base natively supports some flat file database formats, such as the dBASE format. You can also use Base to connect to external relational databases, such as databases from MySQL or Oracle.

Math
Math provides numerous operators, functions and formatting assistants to help you create formulas.

OpenOffice.org 3 is available for the Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems. For more information on OpenOffice.org 3, please visit their website OpenOffice.org.

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(602) 795-1111

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

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