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Hands On: Microsoft Excel 2016 v15.11.2 (OS X)

Hugely-recommended overhaul, but few new features

It's no longer enough for Microsoft to add the odd new feature and scrub up the appearance of an app: the world has moved on, not least in that we now call them all "apps" instead of "applications." With Office 2016 now available to Office 365 users (if their companies have enabled it, or if they sign up themselves), our attention did go first to the new version of Microsoft Word . Office for Mac really contains four major applications (and OneNote, which we'll call a minor one) though, and while we personally might lump PowerPoint and Outlook together into the guest-cast category, Microsoft Excel 2016 15.11.2 is definitely a star of the show.

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Pointers: Six tools for writing books

Replace that typewriter and make yourself an e-book

When you've done something once, you can fly through it the second time. Unless that second time is ages later, in which case you spend all your waking hours re-learning something you'd already sweated through. So entirely for you and not at all, not in the teeniest way for us the next time we write a book, here's what you need. It's what we recommend after a summer of working on this , followed up by one or two cases where your mileage may vary and anyway the alternatives are fun. Plus a few quick notes of lessons we learned, mistakes, and evidence -- actual evidence -- that all this works.

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Opinion: Why Force Touch on the iPhone will be awesome

Force Touch is set to make a big impact on the iPhone

Following the arrival of Apple Watch , a lot of people are expecting to see Apple bring Force Touch to the iPhone. It seems inevitable that Apple will do just that, with the possibility that it could arrive as soon as the next version of the iPhone, expected to arrive in the next couple of months. Not only will it work as a key feature differentiator, it will actually be a great addition for iPhone functionality, and I can't wait for it to arrive.

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The MacNN Podcast, episode 25: My Stupid Cat's Fault

PCs outsold by iOS devices, AT&T/DirecTV merger, AAPL vs AMZN and more

Another interesting week at MacNN brings us plenty to talk about on Episode 25 of The MacNN Podcast , ranging from the FCC approval of the AT&T/DirecTV deal for no clear reason (but with a bunch of conditions), to our new column "My Stupid Fault." We also include a full report on Apple's fiscal Q3 and the uncalled-for drop in the stock, the results of our testing of Apple's new third-party SSD Trim support , and more.

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Review: 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro with Force Touch trackpad

Apple gives 15-inch MacBook Pro a shot in the arm with Force Touch, new GPU

Apple's 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro continues to be a popular notebook with professional users and prosumers looking for the ultimate mix of performance and portability. The latest version of the 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with some welcome upgrades, including Apple's new Force Touch trackpad, and one of AMD's latest mobile GPUs. Unusually, perhaps, there is no CPU bump on the new model, although that is the result of production delays faced by Intel in bringing its quad-core "Broadwell" processors to market. Nonetheless, the new 15-inch MacBook remains a strong performer, and is worth another look. We take a deeper dive into it in our full review of the 15-inch MacBook Pro .

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My Stupid Fault: iCloud vs local iPhone backups

Allegedly the start of a new series

Yeah, right. "We should do an occasional column where we each admit to huge technology problems that were entirely our own doing," MacNN management said. "Maybe readers could learn from our mistakes, perhaps they can avoid doing similar things, and certainly we'll all have a good laugh," they said. "You go first."

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Pointers: Summer Project -- e-publishing part 9, paperback writer

Turning your e-book into a real, printed one

As I write this, the paperback of my book The Blank Screen: Blogging is working its way through the final stages of publication via Amazon. It's a book about blogging for writers and authors, but more importantly it has been the subject of the Summer Project. Through countless software apps and services, we've followed the creation of a genuine book. Not some test thing, not an afternoon's casual typing, but a real book that was already being written.

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Live Coverage: Apple fiscal year 2015 third quarter conference call

Live, up to the minute breakdown of Tim Cook and company's earnings call

While we're not expecting another question about an Apple television set, that doesn't mean that we can't cover the earnings announcement anyway! Starting at 5:00 EDST, join the MacNN team for a live breakdown of figures given by Cook and company, as well as the follow-up question and answer session. The live page found here is now closed , but still available for perusal.

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Episode 24: What's that, Neil Young? I can't hear you

Too busy enjoying Apple Music streaming on my iPod touch

In this early season of presidential candidate pronouncements, its refreshing to see someone not running for office who can crazy with the best of them. On this week's MacNN Podcast We celebrate 10 years of podcasts along with Apple, as well as the new, updated iPod touch . We then proceed, like all good parties, to trash some things -- in this case, iTunes and Neil Young's crazy (high) horse . Show notes after the jump.

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Hands On: Microsoft Word 2016 (OS X)

The new version of Word for OS X is very, very good -- but so what?

If you have to use Microsoft Word at work, go get this now and be delighted with it. If you don't have to, if you're looking for a great word processor, it's just a little harder to recommend Word quite so readily. It's harder, and it's also very unfair, as 30 years of using various versions of Word have left us with biases against it. Word earned those biases, it's just difficult to think about going back to relying on it, even though Microsoft Word 2016 is the best and the shiniest version ever.

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Editorial: whatever happened to 'It Just Works?'

Apple's not done the very best of jobs with iTunes

The smart money said if anything were going to go wrong, it would be Beats 1: something live is automatically the most likely to fall over in some way. If someone had already taken that bet, you'd settle for guessing that massive demand would overload the streaming servers. Yet instead, the bit of the Music app and Apple Music launch that caused problems -- and continues to cause them -- is good old iTunes for OS X. We've had iTunes for nearly 15 years, and every thing else in Apple Music for a fortnight but it's iTunes for the Mac that has fallen down and can't seem to get up .

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Review: New entry-level iMac with 5K Retina display

Apple makes the 27-inch Retina iMac more affordable

The 27-inch Apple iMac with 5K Retina display is already one of the best value-for-money Macs that Apple has ever released. It was something of a surprise, then, to see Apple recently introduce an even cheaper model, making that incredible high-resolution Retina display more accessible to even more customers. Apple hasn't dropped the price of the existing specification, but rather introduced a new model with a slightly slower Intel quad-core Core i5 processor, and a slightly slower AMD Radeon GPU. It has also swapped out the 1TB Fusion Drive, for a standard 1TB spinning hard disk. Everything else remains the same, including that stunning Retina display. So is the lower entry price worth the trade-off in performance? Read our full review of the 27-inch Apple iMac with 5K Retina display to find out.

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Apple takes lid off 64-bit A8 iPod touch, now up to 128GB

New iPods ship in five colors, plus PROJECT(RED) version

As expected, Apple has taken the wraps off a new iPod touch. Predictions for the device were generally correct, with the new version getting a new 8MP rear camera, 64-bit A8 processor, and M8 motion coprocessor. The new iPod touch is available in five colors: space gray, silver, gold, pink and a darker blue than the previous offering.

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Hands On: Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved 2.0.0 (iOS)

Geometry Wars brings another action-packed shooter to iOS, fun ensues

It's strange to think that one of the most popular Xbox Live Arcade games started out as a minigame within another game, but that's exactly how the popular shmup series Geometry Wars got its start. Geometry Wars has seen incredible success across multiple platforms, including console, PC, and even mobile platforms. Today we check out Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved for the iPad, to see just how well it holds up to other games in the series.

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Testing: iTunes update aggravates network, local library destruction

Testing before and after update shows poor handling of issue by Apple

Apple's release of an iTunes point update yesterday was seemingly relief from the manifest problems induced by the first release -- but reports immediately started coming in questioning what the value of the update was, and what it actually fixed. We repeated our earlier testing with iTunes networking shares, and tossed in some local store sharing which was underway with version 12.2 , and were dismayed by our findings.

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Review: QuarkXpress 2015, part two -- the here and now

Old friend offers options from subscription-only InDesign

Yeah, that's right, it's a two-part review. Wanna make something of it? To quote a popular Internet meme, "one does not simply review the latest version of QuarkXpress." Although the company has been working diligently to unify its various areas of expertise -- print, HTML5, and e-publishing -- since at least version 9 (2011), this latest edition (initially called QuarkXpress 11, now known as QuarkXpress 2015) may be the one that tilts the digital publishing playing field back in its favor after more than a decade in the wilderness. Is it? We'll find out in part two of our review.

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The MacNN Podcast, episode 23: Public betas, private hell

Flash, Microsoft Office, Apple Watch deprivation, tales of woe

It's Monday, and that means time for another episode of The MacNN Podcast ! This week, as usual, we cover a range of topics from around the Apple and general tech world, and we throw in a cruel experiment in Apple Watch deprivation, mercilessly conducted on one of our own staffers. We also mourn the passing of Electronista , note the release of MS Office 2016 and the OS X and iOS public betas , and more. Show notes after the jump.

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Review: QuarkXpress 2015, part one -- the history

Pioneer of digital publishing unifies its efforts into coherent whole

The release of QuarkXpress 2015 has given me an occasion to renew an old acquaintance; like many veteran graphic designers, I once made my living using programs like QuarkXpress, Pagemaker, and later, InDesign and even Pages to create various small-press type work all the way up to major magazine and newspaper advertisements, books, and other mostly-printed matter. Quark is back (it never really went away), both because the 2015 release in particular seems to have found its footing in the current design environment, and because it offers an option to those reluctant to climb on board Adobe's subscription-only model for pro apps. Should you switch teams, and throw in with the loyal opposition? We'll find out, but first, a little background on the program -- and the reviewer -- in part one of our full review.

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Exclusive Testing: Apple's Trim implementation and Samsung SSDs

So far, no problems have been noted in testing the popular SSD line

Continuing the refresh of MacNN , we've launched some testing initiatives. The first, a rundown of iTunes Match/Music problems with stored libraries is still underway, and we're hoping for more information later this week. The second: a close look at Apple's Trim activation for third-party SSDs, which was introduced in the launch of 10.10.4 -- and we've got some initial results to report.

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Apple launches first public betas of El Capitan, iOS 9

Public beta begins despite long list of issues, problems

Apple has made available public betas for iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan, according to reports. The new software, based on the issue-laden third developer beta released yesterday, is available to users previously registered with the company's Beta Software Program. While the company normally waits until there is a fairly stable developer beta existing before issuing the first public beta, today's releases are fraught with issues and missing functionality.

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Editorial: Hey look, the Apple Watch is doomed! (again)

If you don't want yours, can I have it? Mine got taken away

Looks like I picked a good week to attempt giving up my Apple Watch . It's not going well, thank you for asking. Once again, this week we finally have "absolute proof" that nobody is buying the Apple Watch, and anyway nobody has found a use for one, so there. Once more unto the breach.

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Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac launches for 365 subscribers

Standalone version will be available this fall, boasts many improvements

Following a four-month public beta period, Microsoft on Thursday released Office 2016 for Mac , now available for immediate download to existing Office 365 subscribers. The new release, strongly modeled on the existing design changes seen in the iPad version of the productivity suite, is the first new full version of Office for Mac since 2010, and adds features such as the Ribbon interface, sandboxing support, Retina screen optimization, and support for fullscreen view.

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Hands On: Summer Project E-Publishing part 7 -- it's gone wrong

The book isn't good enough, and new doors are opening

The e-book of The Blank Screen: Blogging is ready, I could send it to you, and I was about to upload it to iBooks and Amazon Kindle. This week, I was going to be showing you how you get the paperback ready, and that that is a surprisingly intricate little tale that involves new online software that we haven't talked about before. We're not going to talk about it this week either, because the book is not good enough.

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The MacNN Podcast, episode 22: The Sound of (Apple) Music

The Beats 1 that just can't go wrong today

Time once again for another episode of The MacNN Podcast , this time episode 22! Since it was quite a notable week, this week's chat between Editor Charles, Managing Editor Mike, and staffers Michelle, Bradley, and Sanjiv is pretty jam-packed. The big story of the week was the launch of Apple Music , and we spend time on both the good and bad of that, but we talk about a lot more as well. Show notes after the jump.

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Hands Off: Taking off the Apple Watch for one week

They are making me do it

"Quick proposal," began the message from managing editor Mike Wuerthele. "How about not wearing your Apple Watch for seven days?" I've just gulped typing those words to you and it's some hours since the message. When this happened I was a little bit more tetchy, explaining that I couldn't do this because – quite reasonably – "I hate you." Only, it's a good idea. My Watch has become part of my regular life, an unthinking and automatic part of it, so doing without it for a time will make me think about it. Surely I'll be better positioned to quantify what I missed, surely I'll be able to assess what I feel has been a boon to my working life.

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Exclusive testing: iTunes 12.2 mangling network-shared libraries

Initial results point to iTunes mishandling of network shares

Over the period of time since iTunes 12.2 was released, MacNN has been receiving spotty reports of iTunes library corruptions. We've begun preliminary testing on the root cause, and a final determination or possible workaround is some time away -- however, w do have solid data pointing to iTunes corrupting libraries hosted over an OS X network share periodically. More problematically, iTunes libraries accessed over an SMB share from either a Windows-based computer or network attached storage (NAS) device are frequently damaged by some iTunes process.

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Comment: An independent artist's view on Apple Music

Apple Music is great for listeners, not so much for artists

As a music fan, I'm delighted that Apple Music is finally here. The thought of being able to access most of Apple's iTunes catalog for a low monthly fee is a mouth-watering prospect. Before services like this were available, I would routinely spend two or three times as much every month on buying new music to feed my addiction. Therein lies the problem for independent artists, but also all artists at large, as streaming services move from being marginal, secondary sources of income to something increasingly material.

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Hands On: iTunes 12.2.0 (OS X)

Our music library just got a whole lot bigger

It's been called over-complicated, it's been called confusing, but it's also been called the place where you keep all your music by nearly everyone in the civilized world. That last has now changed: it's the place you get to almost all the music ever created in the history of the world, and then some. Okay, maybe no,t but we had -- hang on, let's check -- 9,692 songs yesterday and today we have (counts on fingers) 30,000,000, give or take the Beatles. The new iTunes 12.2 for Mac brings some minor changes, and one massive one with the introduction of Apple Music to OS X.

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Analysis: Apple Music and Beats 1

The MacNN staff look at today's massive litany of releases by Apple

It's that time again -- Apple has hit us all with a flood of releases, and leading the pack are Apple Music and Beats 1. Join Managing Editor Mike, MacNN Editor Charles, and writer William for a discussion of all the hits, misses, and we discuss if we should keep the wheel in the sky turning for what's on tap, or if Apple's new offering is little more than a rainbow in the dark.

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Hands On: Apple Music (iOS, OS X, Windows)

Despite launch confusion, it's excellent

Just spotted on one of our reviewers' Facebook page: a music fan has written "so long Spotify, it was good while it lasted." Time will tell -- specifically three months of time, as that's how long Apple's giving for free -- but we're already impressed with Apple Music . Not so impressed, however, with the expected problem of it being difficult to download the necessary updates while everyone else in the world was trying to grab them too. Actively disappointed with the unexpected issues facing some unknown number of iTunes Match users, as well. Yet in terms of what Apple Music does, and what it's like, we actually are impressed.

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