Windows Essentials 2012 – End of Life

In January 10, 2017, Microsoft Windows Essentials 2012 suite will reach end of support. So what does this mean to the users and what are the alternatives, you can find the answers here.

Like all things in the IT world, like devices, bits of tech and software applications; all good things have to come to an end. In this case, it’s time for Microsoft’s Windows Essentials 2012 to hang up its coat and say good bye. However, what does this mean to the many people using the applications that was freely available from Microsoft.

What is Windows Live Essentials?

The software suite included “essential” applications that allowed the user to carry out a set of every day tasks on their computer, these included: Photo Gallery, everything you need to organise, edit, and publish your photos. Movie Maker, for making movies from your photos and videos. Windows Live Writer, for creating blog posts in minutes. Windows Live Mail, to manage multiple email accounts, calendars, and your contacts. OneDrive, which allows you to keep your files synchronised on all your devices and Messenger, which was very popular back in the day and allowed users to chat with one another. Most of these applications have been absorbed into the latest version of Windows, however the the main application that will cause many readers a problem will be Windows Live Mail. Windows Essentials 2012

What is the main problem?

Since Windows Live Mail’s introduction back in 2012 email has moved on dramatically, more and more people are now using multiple devices like smartphones and tablets to access their emails and the way those emails are handled has also moved on. Most service providers now use the modern IMAP method of accessing emails instead of the old POP3 method which is less secure and not compatible with users who have multi-devices. So what are the alternatives?

What are your options?

Stay as you are – You could opt to keep using the software, you won’t get support for it and you might find things not working correctly especially if you are using a Hotmail, Live Mail, MSN Mail, Outlook.com and Office 365 email service as Microsoft plans are to move them to one singular Outlook.com system.

Office 365 Subscription – You could invest in Microsoft’s Office 365 annual subscription which provides the latest version of the Office suite which includes Outlook. Although there is a price tag to this option (currently £60 for a personal subscription – annually) it does have the benefit of providing the latest version of the Office suite, 1TB of cloud storage and 60 mins of Skype credit per month. You also have the licence to install the Office suite on a tablet device which could be an Android, iPad or Windows.

Outlook.com – If you don’t want to pay for Office annually you can access your emails via the web. This is how most people without Outlook installed on their PC access their emails. However, there are limitations with this method with the interface and does require some thought in some processes like attaching files, however it is free and easily accessible on any web device.

Mail – If you have an up to date PC running Windows 8.1 and above, there is a simple mail app installed. This has reduced functionality and is designed to provide a overly reduced interface to access your emails.

To conclude, if you are using this software I would advise start looking at alternatives and don’t leave it to the last minute especially if you rely on Windows Live Mail for accessing your emails.

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Migrating from Quicken – A User’s Perspective

Customers often ask us to assist in helping them migrate from one application to another, in this case it was migrating from Intuit Quicken. However these changes have their own challenges: this is one customer’s account of her experience.

After more than twenty years of using Quicken for our household accounts, even after the 2006 issue proved to be the last for European customers,quicken I decided enough was enough and I should make an effort to move into the modern age. I thought I must be one of the last dinosaurs, but since so many current budgeting programs give help for migrating Quicken users, accepting their data as HAZ files, there must be plenty of us still roaming around.

So which to choose? I initially picked Home Accountz v3 — and found myself struggling in a bog of trouble. I had that solid rock of support, Rob, at my back to help me import my old files, but straightaway even he had surprises: for instance, we had to import all accounts, the data files, in one go, regardless of whether we still wanted them or not, nor could we use one as a trial run.

In setting up my imported files, my biggest mistake was to assume the account names (eg “Credit card”) implied a group description into which your individual accounts would fit, so I entered all of them under that title. As a result, my three credit card accounts, for instance, all merged into the one “Credit card” account, and our two ISAs became one “Savings” account, so I had to delete them all and start again, entering them as separate files in their own right. Then I was foxed by the fact that the Balances columns bore no relation to either the imported data or bank statements, in spite of all of them being reconciled in the past. (More of that later…)

Standing Orders were Automated Transactions, operated as Recurring Transactions, which I found best to enter manually as automated, and definitely not to “Enter Now”. But all these were just minor details compared with trying to use the program at all.

For a start, it was not just agonisingly slow, but repeatedly stuttered to a complete halt. It was impossible to know when it was simply thinking very, very, slowly or had given up altogether. I was always having to start again. Was it me, was it my computer? Rob downloaded it and had a go in his lab, and lo, it crashed his computer! At that point, I gave up.

Rob did some searching around for me (bless him) and found Home Accounts 4, from EZPZ software, and — mostly — it’s been bliss. It is simple, perfect for domestic use. It has a massive (117 pages) User Guide, which, being anxious and cautious, I printed out, and it is one of the most comprehensive and helpfully accessible guides of any program I’ve come across. You can also use their forum, or even personally email for help, which their advice-guy, John Beachill, answers impressively quickly.

We were able to import only what we wanted, it was easy to set up accounts, and to work with them. BUT. I’ve met the same old problem of weird balances, which seem calculated utterly anew from the original file, in spite of all the contributing data coming through exactly. Since our accounts date from the beginning of time, the total figures are gigantic. I was so puzzled by the first bank account I examined that I simply turned it into a dormant one, and started again from the current date with an opening balance. Then I realised that some at least of the problem might lie in the fact that transferred transactions (for example, paying into a credit card account from a current account) were omitted. Why? They were all there in the imported data. When importing accounts I had carefully not ticked any entries that had been marked as duplicates — had I got that wrong?

I searched the users’ forum without success, so I asked for help. John replied: “When importing transactions the file contains the transactions for a single bank account. If there are bank to bank transfers involved then these would be added from the first file and should then not need to be duplicated when transactions for the other bank account involved in such transfers are imported. So no, you weren’t wrong to untick the duplicates.”

That didn’t really help, so I repeated that no transfers seemed to have gone through, and got this advice: “I see, so none of the transfers between accounts have been imported. Did our software fail to pick them up or did you not tick them to include them?

“Make a backup in case you need to go back to your current position. Try importing again from the same file. Transactions that have already been imported should come up as matched to reduce the risk of importing them twice. Concentrate on any transfers you spot. Based on the account you are importing the transactions into, think about whether the transfer will be paid in or out for the bank account. You should then be able to select the other bank account, assuming it already exists, from the Category dropdown. You can then just tick those transfers and import them.”

Simple, yes? I offer this to anyone who has the same problem, but at the moment, I can’t face re-importing everything. It may be lazy, but for purely personal, domestic records, it seems to me easier to repeat my first solution, and start the accounts again with a correct opening balance. I won’t have lost any information other than balances (dates, what bought where, memos etc), and that’s my only reason for looking back.

It’s still a mystery to me why both the programs provided weird balances (because presumably other people must be managing all right!) But apart from this, I’m quite happy to battle on with Home Accounts. Wish me luck.

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