It’s seemingly an irrefutable law that when you book a meeting for an hour, it takes an hour. Or what might happen is some people are still rocking up at 3 or 4 minutes after the start, and others start packing up 5 minutes before the end because they have another meeting to go to. Others yet will start a whole new discussion (“oh, just one more thing…”) with 2 minutes to go.
One comedian even made a fortune trying to teach us how to make meetings work. Here’s one video that’s 20 years old – yet still holds entirely true today. It was updated last year, and the original version is almost 40 years old. Clearly we don’t learn.
Now this week’s tip has been a long time coming – since the very beginning of Tip o’ the Week, approaching 3 years ago on this blog (and a year before that internally at Microsoft), it’s something that has been in the back of mind as a productivity tip. Thanks to discovering a blog post that provided suitable inspiration for the idea, and for the majority of the code, here it finally is. Praise be! Huzzah! Etc.
Frustratingly, Outlook has never offered the option to set how long a new meeting should be, or what time it should start. There are a few workarounds – you can set the timescale the calendar shows (so each line is 60, 30, 15 etc minutes, and if you double click on a section of your calendar to create an appointment, then it is set to that time slice). Try it out by going into Calendar, selecting the View tab, then View Settings. Select Other Settings on the pop up dialog, and change the view from there.
Today’s tip will let you set both the default duration and the start time of new appointments – so if you want to make all meetings 20 minutes long, starting 5 minutes past the hour or half hour, then you simply set it up as such when you install the code. Don’t be afraid – there is code involved here, but it’s fairly straightforward.
Here it is, step by step:
Private objMeeting As clsMeeting Private Sub Application_Quit() Set objMeeting = Nothing End Sub Private Sub Application_Startup() Set objMeeting = New clsMeeting End Sub
Private objMeeting As clsMeeting Private Sub Application_Quit() Set objMeeting = Nothing End Sub Private Sub Application_Startup() Set objMeeting = New clsMeeting End Sub
Next, right-click on ThisOutlookSession on the left hand pane, and choose Insert then Class Module.
Const DEFAULT_LENGTH = 45 Const START_OFFSET = 5 Private WithEvents olkIns As Outlook.Inspectors, _ WithEvents olkApt As Outlook.AppointmentItem Private Sub Class_Initialize() Set olkIns = Application.Inspectors End Sub Private Sub Class_Terminate() Set olkIns = Nothing End Sub Private Sub olkApt_PropertyChange(ByVal Name As String) If Name = "AllDayEvent" Then With olkApt If .AllDayEvent = False Then .Duration = DEFAULT_LENGTH .Start = DateAdd("n", START_OFFSET, .Start) End If End With End If End Sub Private Sub olkApt_Unload() Set olkApt = Nothing End Sub Private Sub olkIns_NewInspector(ByVal Inspector As Inspector) If Inspector.CurrentItem.Class = olAppointment Then Set olkApt = Inspector.CurrentItem With olkApt If .CreationTime = #1/1/4501# Then .Start = DateAdd("n", START_OFFSET, .Start) .Duration = DEFAULT_LENGTH End If End With End If End Sub
Const DEFAULT_LENGTH = 45 Const START_OFFSET = 5
Private WithEvents olkIns As Outlook.Inspectors, _ WithEvents olkApt As Outlook.AppointmentItem
Private Sub Class_Initialize() Set olkIns = Application.Inspectors End Sub
Private Sub Class_Terminate() Set olkIns = Nothing End Sub
Private Sub olkApt_PropertyChange(ByVal Name As String) If Name = "AllDayEvent" Then With olkApt If .AllDayEvent = False Then .Duration = DEFAULT_LENGTH .Start = DateAdd("n", START_OFFSET, .Start) End If End With End If End Sub
Private Sub olkApt_Unload() Set olkApt = Nothing End Sub
Private Sub olkIns_NewInspector(ByVal Inspector As Inspector) If Inspector.CurrentItem.Class = olAppointment Then Set olkApt = Inspector.CurrentItem With olkApt If .CreationTime = #1/1/4501# Then .Start = DateAdd("n", START_OFFSET, .Start) .Duration = DEFAULT_LENGTH End If End With End If End Sub
OK, now you have your code imported. To change the defaults for meeting duration or offset time, simply change either or both of the Const values at the top of the code. You’ll need to restart Outlook for these changes to take effect.
There are a few steps to go through now:
Now close Outlook entirely, and restart it – you’ll get a prompt to Enable Macros – this is unavoidable, sadly, but it will only happen when you first launch Outlook. Assuming you actually want this code to run, choose Enable Macros.
Now, what happens is whenever you create a new appointment, the Macro you’ve just installed will jump on it and set the start and duration times as appropriate. If you need to change the defaults, simply go back into the VB code as above, edit the values in clsMeeting, save the whole shebang and restart Outlook again. If you don’t want the code to run any more, go back into Trust Center and change the Macro settings back to the previous value.
Windows 8.1 is now available free for existing users of Windows 8, and in a break with tradition, will not be sold as an upgrade to existing installed Windows versions – it’ll just be the full version, and that’s it.
Upgrading from Windows 8.1 Preview isn’t officially supported – though it can be done (you do need to match the language version exactly – if you installed the Preview as English US, you’ll need the English US ISO from the MSDN etc site, to upgrade).
There are plenty new features in Windows 8.1, as well as the much-documented return of the Start button (after all the fuss about the removal of the Start button from Windows 8, and the subsequent rush from application vendors to restore it, there’s already a Start Killer app for Win8.1 which removes the reinstated Start button… you can’t win, sometimes…)
There are a bunch of new apps with Windows 8.1, and major improvements to existing ones. One new app of some interest is the Reading List: the idea being that if you’re looking at web sites in the IE11 browser (the Modern UI version) or possibly reading content in other apps (like the Store), if you flick the Charms out and choose Share, then you can add the site/content link to you Reading List.
Start the Reading List app up, and it will show you the list of sites you’ve bookmarked, and also make use of Windows 8.1’s improved side/side view, to show the content shown alongside.
If you are in the tech industry and dealing with a customer or partner on pretty much any aspect of their relationship with you, it can often be valuable to have a bit of forewarning about what technology they’re using. In larger managed environments, that knowledge might come from other resources (account manager, technical pre-sales, support contact etc), it may be tucked away in your email from an old thread.
Who knows, it might even be in CRM.
Even if you’re working with a well-engaged entity, it can still be helpful to do a little background research, and that’s near-mandatory if the org in question is new to us all. Here are some thoughts on how to get ahead of the game without needing to spend hours at the task.
This is now an essential business tool for a lot of people, as it both projects their CV into the world so a potential next employer can see it, and it helps them connect with people in other organisations they’re trying to reach. Before you meet your customer, it’s worth looking up the company and seeing who else works there, what skills the individuals have (eg do they position themselves as an Open Source or Linux expert? Are they certified to the hilt in your stuff already, and therefore maybe a friendly face?). Who did they work for previously?
One tip for the practiced LinkedIn stalker is that it’s possible to switch off the breadcrumbs that let people see who’s looked at their profile, so if you check someone out and decide to have nothing more to do with them, you won’t end up getting a connection request in return as they’ll never know it was you.
Go to the Privacy & Settings option by clicking your mugshot in the top right then Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile, whereupon you can choose full disclosure, partial anonymity (so they’ll see it was someone at Microsoft, for example – might freak them out if they are LAMP fiends) or the full kahuna of diplomatic immunity.
You might also want to think about who gets to see your connections – if you get lots of requests from people you don’t know, they may just be trying to harvest your own connections (as they’d see more details of those users, since they’d now be 2nd degree connections to the recruitment consultant connection spammer). We’ll come back to using LinkedIn in a future ToW.
Mxtoolbox – www.mxtoolbox.com
This one is useful for checking what your customer is using for their email, or at least which service they’re using to clean and filter their in- and out-bound email. Simply enter the customer’s email domain name (the bit after the @) and you’ll find out how they send and receive mail. Sometimes, it’ll be their own address (meaning, they operate their own relay) but often, it’ll be one of a variety of 3rd party “hygiene” services from the likes of Microsoft (Frontbridge, Outlook), Google (Postini), Symantec (MessageLabs) and more.
Netcraft – www.netcraft.com Their “What’s that site running?” tool and web site survey made Netcraft well known years ago – ostensibly telling you what operating system the web site in question is running on. A useful side effect in these cloudy days is that it can tell you not just what the site is, but where it is running. Handy to know if your customer’s site (or maybe a subset of it which is presenting a web application to their customers?) is running on Azure, AWS, Rackspace etc. Just head over to netcraft.com and paste the URL into their “what’s that site running” box in the lower right – no need to strip it of http:// or any other superfluous guff; the site takes care of all that for you.
Is it really on Azure? – http://www.kloth.net/services/nslookup.php Here’s a neat service which lets you check for CNAMEs of a particular URL – in other words, when you enter a URL into your browser, that name may just be an alias for another name, which you’ll never see. Knowing that such a thing exists can be handy, though – it might let you figure out that one part of the website is hosted in one place, but another part is somewhere else.
In this case, you do need to trim any leading or trainling gubbins off the URL, so you’re left with simply the main part. Sometimes the real meat of what a website is offering – the bit of the site you need to log into, for example – might be on a different URL (like login.company.com). If you plug that URL into this handy name lookup tool, and set the option to be looking for ANY or CNAME, then you may see that login.company.com is just an alias for something.cloudapp.net – the clouapp.net bit meaning that it’s a service running on Windows Azure. Not a very efficient way of looking for Azure users en masse, but if you think your customer is already on Azure, it is a handy way of confirming that fact.
Lots of people (including Office365 users) should have been moved to Lync 2013 by now, though the impact may not be all that obvious, since some of us have been using Lync 2013 client for a while, even if the back-end wasn’t running the latest and greatest.
Some of the changes will only be apparent when you join a Lync 2013 meeting - for example, when an application is being shared, one view will show you a line of photos of active participants in the meeting, and when each is talking, a green bar is shown under their mugshot, so you know who’s making all that noise, heavy breathing into their microphone, sniffling etc. Subtle.
[NB: in the photo below, the only highlighted person was actually talking at the time, and if fact, was the only one showing real video rather than a static photo]
There are a bunch of incremental improvements which the server upgrade provides, and some which subsequent updates to the client light up – one of which is the “Meetings” section which appears under the your status section at the top of the main Lync window (and somewhat confusingly, is depicted like a pie chart). The meetings tab shows you the remainder of your diary for the day (refreshed every 10 mins), and helpfully highlights any Lync meetings in blue, so you can right-click to Join. No need to go back to Outlook, open the calendar appointment, click on the link etc.
Other tweaks include the ability to set whether the IM and participant list shows up when you join a meeting (both of which were previously hidden by default until you clicked around inside the meeting). And if you’re the meeting organiser, you could decide to stop IMs or video in a meeting/call altogether.
The behaviour of the Lync client when you join a meeting is set under the Options icon (towards the top right, or you can press the ALT key to show the menu bar and go in throught Tools / Options if you’re old skool). There’s also the new ability to choose which Lync client to use for joining meetings – handy if you also have the Lync Modern app installed and would rather use it, for example.
Oh, and don’t forget to install and configure the fab Lync 2013 for Windows Phone, too. As before, but with more panache and pizzaz, the Lync client allows you to join conference calls with a single click (no typing in participant numbers and the like), as well as adding some cool new functionality – like using Wifi for VoIP calls if you set it to.
Everyone in the developed world seems to have been subjected to PowerPoint at some stage. PowerPoint is an unusual tool – one that is immensely popular by the people who use it, and one which invokes shudders amongst some of the victims of bad presentations down the years. One even coined the term “Death by PowerPoint” in 2001.
The presentation tool of choice (be it PPT slides, old IBMers’ acetate “foils”, or any other prop) can form as a useful aide mémoire for competent presenters, however it’s all too easy to put everything you want to say onto a slide, thereby negating the audience’s need to listen to you saying it, as they strain to read it in 14pt Arial Bold behind your head.
Great presenters often show slides with few words but great visuals – if you're on the Microsoft network, search for the Microsoft Story deck by Steve Clayton and his team, as an example of well-crafted slides that reinforce a story rather than telling it for you. Or look at this illustration of “Flat Design” as published on SlideShare.
PowerPoint 2013 added a really nice function to the little icons that appear in the bottom left of a presented slide, if you put your mouse in that general direction. As well as navigating back and forth between slides, you can annotate the currently presented slide, zoom into it (great for highlighting something to your audience), the new “Slide Navigator” icon is of particular interest.
Have you ever sat in a presentation where the speaker drops out of presentation view, so they can ferret around inside PowerPoint to get to a different slide…? Normally a great deal of scrolling up and down, exposing speaker notes (if they are ever written up – and who does?) – it just doesn’t look good.
You should never expose the workings of your presentation, and ideally, never refer to it – don’t talk about “on this slide…”, don’t refer to the clicker being problematic, don’t ever say “this is an eye test, but…” (just don’t show it). Referring to the presentation mechanism is PaNAMBiC. Like this.
Talk as if you don’t need whatever is behind you, unless you’re showing screen shots or diagrams that you have to refer to in order to make sense.
The new Slide Navigator icon is available either in Presenter View (see here) or in the standard duplicate-everything view (which can be easily re-activated if you find yourself in Presenter View against your will).
Clicking on the icon itself will show a nicely ordered overview of all the slides in your presentation, so if you need to jump to a particular slide you can do so, without opening your kimono and showing your goods to the expectant audience. In Presenter View, the section-by-section thumbnails are shown on your own private screen, so you can easily find your slide and jump to it without even letting the viewers realise it wasn’t contiguous in the original flow of your slides.
If you’re in duplicate screen view, it shows the Slide Navigator on the main view, but that’s much preferable to exiting the presentation altogether, navigating to the slide you want, then fishing about with the mouse to find the “Slide Show” button on the lower toolbar to restart the show.
TIP: to start a PowerPoint slide show with the currently-selected slide, just press SHIFT-F5.
Outlook 2013 introduced some changes to the way the standard inbox view is presented. It’s basically a good thing, though if you have a lot of email and a small screen, it will certainly reduce the number of items on your default view. This means that once an email is (say) 15 from the top on your mailbox, then it’s off the screen and, for some people, it might as well be dead.
You could adopt an Inbox Zero policy and keep your inbox to as few items as possible, or you could admit defeat and become a piler like most people. We have computers to search stuff for us, so why does it matter if we delete or file things away? Meh.
Anyway, there are a few tweaks you can make to your Outlook view if you don’t much like the new version. Let’s look at a comparison between Outlook 2010 and 2013:
It’s easy to see the screen real-estate effect – though 2013 is clearer, it’s a little larger.
If you’d like to restore the view to more like 2010:
Now this will apply to all messages and will reset the default view to have smaller “From” lines.
If you’d like to change the way unread messages are displayed (where, in Outlook 2010, they were just emboldened and with an appropriate message icon), repeat the exercise above but instead of creating a new rule, just edit the “Unread Messages” rule – set the font and colour, and party on!
There are many other inbox formatting tips which will take the views back into the mists of time – if there’s demand to find out more, maybe I’ll cover them in future ToWs.
Owners of the HP Revolve 810 laptops (as many in Microsoft recently received through the new laptop refresh) can get hold of an HP Executive Pen as an option, to enable on-screen scribbling and the likes. Before everyone starts celebrating by dancing in the streets, it’s worth noting that the Executive Pen is more like an Executive Crayon. It’s not really all that accurate.
The problem with any kind of tablet/slate that offers on-screen handwriting is that the method for sensing the pen makes a huge difference to the quality of its output – capacitive screens like Surface RT don’t lend themselves to handwriting, such as supported by the digitiser of Surface Pro. Here’s what writing on the HP screen with the Executive Crayon looks like:
Watch out for leaning your hand on the screen while writing, as the sensor on capacitive screens doesn’t really recognise the different between palm, finger or pen point. If you find your writing is a bit spidery, then, in OneNote, it’s worth trying out the very heavy pens, as the output looks to be stronger and smoother.
Revolve 810 users would be well advised to check out the HP driver web site (for Windows 8 x64) and make sure there are a few key updates installed – there are two specifically for the touchscreen and pen, and a Glidepoint driver may solve keyboard freezing issues. This driver also enables a feature where if you double-tap on the top-left corner of the touchpad, a little light will come on, indicating that the touchpad has been disabled (double-tap again to re-enable it). Handy if you’re using an external mouse, and don’t want to accidentally move the cursor whilst typing.
Keith “Frazer” Burns recommends trying a different approach to writing on-screen with Windows 8. If you show the on-screen keyboard (either in Modern Apps, or standard desktop mode – by tapping on the keyboard icon typically shown on the task bar), then select the bottom-right icon to switch between layouts, tap on the one which shows a pen over the screen… you’ll replace the keyboard with a couple of lines, ready to receive handwriting.
Now, you can input text by writing on-screen with an Executive Crayon, a cheapo-Ebay-10-for-£2 capacitive pen, or even your finger… and it’s surprisingly accurate, even on Surface RT. Keith counsels that it learns your own handwriting over time and gets good enough to be more than just usable. In fact, you might even find it more accurate than using full-flow writing on a screen with a proper digitiser and everything…
Once upon a time, a company called NextBase wrote some software to help people plan routes across the road network, using a computer. It was expensive in the day (£130 in 1988 works out about £300 in today’s money), but if your job was to schedule travelling reps or delivery drivers, then time was money. Or money was time saved.
Anyway, Microsoft bought the company and brought out Microsoft AutoRoute in the UK (eventually renamed Streets and Trips in the US) and did a modestly brisk trade selling annual versions of the software for a more reasonable (£40 or so) amount, with updates to keep the maps fresh and to add improving functionality.
All of this pre-dates the arrival of Multimap, Bing Maps, Google Maps etc. Nowadays the man in the street can make routing decisions on browsers or phones, free of charge and even taking account of prevailing traffic conditions, generally free of charge.
Nevertheless, the AutoRoute and S&T products soldier on, surprisingly. AutoRoute 2013 can be bought for £39 naked or £85 if you want a plug-in USB GPS module. MapPoint and Streets and Trips are still available for American users. Just don’t try and stick the PC to your windscreen.
The zooming in & out is a big agricultural compared to the Deep Zoom style navigation in and out of Bing or Google Maps these days, but there’s a lot of data behind the app and it’s very usable when it comes to searching and setting particular options – showing how much your journey will cost in fuel as well as how long it will take, for example…
There are a few key reasons why it makes sense to have AutoRoute instead of relying on online mapping – it’s all available offline for one, it responds comparatively quickly (especially when rerouting via specific places) and it also can show you easily what’s in the neighbourhood of a given point – though some of the data may not be as up to date as online sites.
You can export *.axe routing files to *.gpx using AutoRoute 2013 (or use free 3rd party software ITN Converter to turn out a version for most popular satnavs – so you could spend a while poring over a pan-European route in AutoRoute then squirt it down to your TomTom so you end up following the exact route you want, rather than sticking to the motorways, as the device might insist)… though as yet no route mapping is exportable to Nokia’s Here Drive software so you can let your phone guide you.
Interestingly, you can also overlay further data onto AutoRoute maps – maybe Excel spreadsheets full of postcode-oriented data, or even the simple mechanism of plotting all your Outlook Contacts on a map – maybe useful for seeing which of your customers or partners are based nearby a place you’re going. Or where to wind up the windows and keep driving…
Previous ToW entries have covered the need to sometimes tell Outlook to pipe down and let you get on with what your job is supposed to be. Where, after all, does it say on your job description, “Sits in front of a screen reading & writing email all day”?
The Pomodoro time management method is one potential solution to the problem, where the user forces themselves to focus for a period of time by avoiding distraction. The continuously excellent series of Photo Tips from Robert Deupree (JR) featured a simpler solution…
Robert also recommends a shortcut for the keyboard junkies so dedicated to extreme productivity that they can’t afford to lift their hands away to touch a mouse – to toggle Online and Offline modes in Outlook, simply press ALT+S then W.
When Outlook is offline it obviously won’t receive any new email, but it will let you work on existing mail, calendar etc and you’ll still be online for Lync distractions, and able to while away time browsing the web.
Whilst on the subject of Outlook and distractions, do yourself a favour and switch off the new mail alert – it’s even more intrusive in Outlook 2013 than previously. We all get enough email that we don’t need to know when another one has arrived, so try it now and you can always switch it back on if you feel that nobody loves you anymore.
Simply go to File / Options / Mail within the main Outlook window, and tweak the settings as required:
Various people have commented on issues they’ve had whilst setting up new PCs, especially after the upgrade to Windows 8.1 Preview. The upgrade process is a lot like a reinstall which happens to remember a bunch of settings, and one of the side effects is that it sets up the Mail (and associated Calendar) client as if it was a new PC connecting to your mailbox.
Now, one gotcha you might not be aware of is that Exchange Server can impose a limitation on how many ActiveSync devices are connected – it’s part of the numerous controls IT departments could place on synchronising with mobile devices, such as not allowing certain types of device (eg inherently insecure Android phones) to connect and sync, or by forcing a certain password policy on the phone so it locks when not used for a while.
Windows 8 and 8.1’s inbuilt Mail client uses the ActiveSync protocol to connect to the server, rather than the “Outlook Anywhere” method that the regular Outlook mail client uses. This means that if you reinstall/upgrade your Win8 PC, it could start to chalk off entries on the list of ActiveSync clients associated with your mailbox – and if you think how many phones you might have had in recent years, that number may be close to the limit. You may receive a notification email that there was an “error with your new mobile phone partnership” – strange stuff given than you may be just installing Windows…
To solve the problem (if it affects you) or to prevent it from happening at some future and doubtless inconvenient moment, simply:
Selectively delete some WindowsMail (or old phone) entries that haven’t synched for a while – they’re presumably old and dead. If in any doubt, select a device and click on Details to see the OS type and name of the machine, amongst others.
If you’ve taken the plunge and updated to Windows 8.1, you may have spotted a mix of improvements (like the updated Search pane behaviour which needs a little getting used to, but works well), and some funnies (compatibility issues with IE11, internal tools like GMOBI or CRM not working so well, etc). All in, a happier upgrade but one which is quite clearly still a preview.
Now, one of the first downers some people have spotted is the fact that the Search charm has nabbed the WindowsKey+S combination – it makes more sense than Win+Q, so what’s the rub? Well, OneNote uses WindowsKey+S to grab portions of the screen, either for pasting into notebooks or just sticking the screen grab into the clipboard for later use.
There are alternatives to the handy OneNote process; like using the Snipping Tool, though like many other such utilities, it can’t grab portions of the Modern UI apps. Never fear, a solution is at hand…
If you’re a fan of Win+S, you can re-establish a way of screen grabbing by following the steps below…
· Fire up a PowerShell windows with admin privilege – press WindowsKey+X, and select Windows PowerShell (Admin) from the list. (note that in Windows 8, this option was “Command Prompt (with admin)” – is the shift to PowerShell in Win8.1 the death knell for the black-background command line?
· Copy and Paste the following command into the command line and hit Enter: REG ADD "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\OneNote\Options\Other" /v ScreenClippingShortcutKey /t REG_DWORD /d 65 /f
· Either reboot your PC, or… … kill off the Send to OneNote Tool (32 bit) application from Task Manager (press CTRL+SHIFT+ESC), then restart the application by pressing WindowsKey+R and entering ONENOTEM.
Now, you should be able to catch a screen grab by pressing WindowsKey + A. Not as obvious as Win+S, but it’s better than nothing.
This week’s tip comes courtesy of Phil Cross, who discovered it one day whilst trying to tell his colleagues where he was going to be. In Outlook, as you know, you can set the “Show As” status of an appointment or a meeting (and ToW readers of long standing may recall the difference – an appointment is in your calendar only, whereas a meeting is when other people are also invited).
The new “Working Elsewhere” status adds a welcome dose of granularity: what if you’re working at home, you’re available, but you want to make it clear that you’re not sitting at an office desk? “Out of Office” might not cut it, as that could signal that you’re OOF and therefore unavailable…
You could, of course, combine the appointment status with an appropriate Lync status too – you can tell people where you are/what you’re up to through your Location and even your “What’s happening today?” status.
There’s a new status in Lync too – “Off Work”. For all those times when you’re online – using your laptop at the weekend or on a day off, for example, but when you want people to know you’re not actually available to work. Just remember to set it back when you return, or else you’ll just look like a skiver.
Finally, a reminder for everyone planning a summer holiday and who would like to make sure their boss/colleagues/occasional collaborators know that they’re not going to be in the office. Don’t send people a meeting request to remind them you’re on holiday, without setting the status to be Free, the Reminder to be switched off, and the Request Responses to be blank. [Sorry for the shouting, but so many times I’ve tried to book someone for a meeting only to find their free/busy status is obliterated by some other numpty politely informing that they’re away].
This topic was covered 2½ years ago in Tip o’ the Week #4 …
As more and more of us continue to enjoy new laptops courtesy of the Windows 8 Refresh program, the fact that most of them are touch-enabled is causing delight and surprise. The best things about touch on traditional laptop devices may be the less obvious uses – scrolling up and down a web page with a lazy flick, or highlighting something to a colleague by pinching to zoom.
Tim Hall suggested a couple of cool tips, namely the new icon that’s appeared on the Office Quick Access Toolbar, to enable Touch Mode – a feature covered in the Office Preview, in ToW 142, but it’s changed the UI and become a good bit more functional. Tim also points out on his Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch, if you double-tap on the screen it will zoom in.
Meanwhile, Darren Strange has also become a huge fan of the Touch Mode in Outlook – not only does it space out the menu options and folders, but it introduces a new shortcut icon list on the far right (beyond the Reading Pane). Darren advocates triaging email by holding the sides of the super thin screen on his shiny Asus Zenbook, then tapping with his right thumb. It’s especially easy to flick up and down through the mailbox, then tap on Reply, then drop your hands to the keyboard for when you need to type.
Here he is, poised to delete some nonsense email that’s cluttering up his inbox:
Long-term readers of ToW may recall tip 101, which featured the “Copy as Path” command in Windows 7. In a nutshell; hold the Shift key as you right-click on a file in Windows Explorer, and you’ll see the Copy as Path option, which copies the entire path to that file (eg c:\blah\blah\file.doc) into the clipboard. Handy for when you want to point a dialog box from an application at a file you’ve been working on.
Well, Windows 8 goes one better. The Explorer desktop application features an option on the Home tab – simply select a file or folder, then click on the Home menu option to show the tabs (assuming they’re not already visible), and you’ll see Copy path.
If you like to have one-click access to these kinds of super-user functions, there is an even quicker way.
Look above the File menu in the Explorer window, and you’ll see a Quick Access Toolbar – something that’s been in Office for a while, as a place to dock common commands. If you click on the down arrow at the end of the QAT, you can enable and disable the commands which are already on it, but not add new ones. If you want to add the Copy Path command, for example, simply right-click on the command on the Ribbon tab, then Add to Quick Access Toolbar.
This week’s tip might seem a little obvious to some, yet partially unknown to others. Internet Explorer has offered the capability to display a page in full-screen mode, since IE4. Just like the “content, not chrome” ethos of the “Metro” Modern UI design language, reducing the various window borders and controls, menus, toolbars etc (aka the “chrome”), leaves more room on screen for the web page or other application/document content.
Now, we all know there are two versions of Internet Explorer 10 – the Modern UI version (full-screen, hiding all controls unless you swipe from the top or bottom of the screen or press WindowsKey-Z to display the address bar, tabs list etc), and the more traditional browser with tabs, icons to control the browser behaviour, menus etc. If you’re using the desktop version of IE, try flicking to and from full screen mode by hitting the F11 key – the same shortcut that’s been in IE for 15 years.
Other applications have full screen modes too, and some, like OneNote, also use the same familiar F11 – making your current OneNote page fill the entire screen (apart from the taskbar, unless you’re hiding that too), so useful when you’re note-taking in a meeting and want to make it clear to anyone peering over your shoulder that you’re not just doing email or wasting time.
Office 2013 applications let you switch to/from a full screen view too, by clicking on the Auto Hide option at the top right of the “Ribbon” – like the browser or OneNote applications above, it’s a handy way of making the most of screen real estate, especially if your laptop has a physically small screen. Like a Surface, for example.
Regular ToW readers might recall a previous mention of an add-in to OneNote which provides useful additional functionality, perhaps most notably OneCalendar – which gives you a calendar view, with the titles of OneNote pages which were edited on that day… hover over the title to see a preview of the page, click on it to jump to that page.
OneCalendar can be installed as a separate app, then pinned to the Task bar or Start menu if you want to fire it up quickly, without first being in OneNote.
If you have multiple notebooks and if you have hundreds of pages, this is a great add-in, since it quickly lets you see pages you’ve updated, regardless of where they are.
The bigger OneTastic add-in does a load more, too – the newest addition to its arsenal of features being the ability to write and play back OneNote Macros. Even if you have no interest in creating your own, Omer has a whole slew of macros installed by default or available to download from Macroland. Sometimes simple things like being able to quickly insert a horizontal line, or add capabilities common to other Office apps, like auto-fill of tables.
Check out this brilliant – and free – add-in, on http://omeratay.com/onetastic/.
This week’s tip comes after another successful “Tech.Days Online” session in late April, delivered by a host of specialists covering a range of developer and IT Pro topics. The Tech.Days Online programme of events is interesting in that it’s delivered “live” to thousands of virtual attendees: in other words, you could visit the Chicago auditorium and see the whole thing being presented to an empty room, except for the camera and audio crew and perhaps a few interested supporters.
Andrew Fryer suggested this update of an old feature of the somewhat-maligned Windows Vista. Pressing WindowsKey+X on a Veesta machine would display the Mobility Center, a collection of tools that are relevant to laptop use. In Windows 8, the Win+X combination has grown somewhat, and throws up a list of potentially useful utilities and quick access to the more commonly used (by technical types, anyway) aspects of the Control Panel. On a laptop, Mobility Center also features here.
If you like it particularly and a few more clicks is too much to ask, you could even start the Mobility Center then pin it to Taskbar for future one-hit execution.
The Presentation Settings applet in Mobility Center will allow you to configure how your machine looks and feels whilst you’re presenting – maybe change the background image of your desktop from a leering photo of your dog/child/spouse, to something a little more corporate and dry. Or don’t let the screen go blank, even if you’re running on battery… To set the options up, click on the projector icon within the Mobility Center.
It doesn’t set your Lync status to tell people you’re presenting, and it won’t configure PowerPoint to send things to the right screen, though… more on that in a future tip.
This week’s tip focuses on the power of LinkedIn. Some people use it as their system of managing customer and partner contacts. Some find new employment by schmoozing their network – some even use it as the launchpad for their next career.
Hands up who’s ever thought that a work colleague suddenly connecting with them, means that work colleague is a soon-to-be-ex one? Or been in the middle of a meeting and had a LinkedIn request from someone (external) who’s currently in the same room?
Hands up who’s ever thought that a work colleague suddenly connecting with them, means that work colleague is a soon-to-be-ex one? Or been in the middle of a meeting and had a LinkedIn request from someone (external) who’s currently in the same room?
LinkedIn is undoubtedly a powerful business connection tool, and using it in Outlook makes it even more so. First step, if you haven’t done so already, is to enable the Social Connector. In the past, this was a separate addin to Outlook, but in 2010 was included (though you had to install each social network provider as a separate addin). Now in Outlook 2013, Facebook, LinkedIn and internal SharePoint services are all built in.
There was a recent issue with LinkedIn that could mean even if you had previously configured it to work with Outlook 2013, it may have broken – to check all is well, look at the bottom of the preview of an email (in the “People Pane”) from an external user who is in your LinkedIn network, and see if there is an error message, or if you’re seeing LinkedIn status messages. To ensure you have everything configured correctly, go into the View -> People Pane menu in Outlook, then click on Account Settings to ensure you have the correct username, password and options set.
Enter your own LinkedIn username & password, and if you also check the “by default, show photos…” option, then you’ll see the LinkedIn photo of any contact – external, or in fact internal too – within any emails etc that sit in Outlook.
An interesting point – if you look at any standard LinkedIn list of people, or of the individual profile of any one person, their photos are typically shown on the left side of any text. Since we mostly read text (in western cultures) from top left, and all the way down to the bottom right, this lends itself to preferring photos which are facing left-right, especially if placed on the left of the page; so it looks as if the individual is looking on approvingly of their own profile, rather than dismissively starting away from it. Thanks to Eileen Brown for pointing this out.
Try it as an experiment on Linkedin.com: look at all your own contacts, then open up a few who are facing left-> right and others facing right-> left, and see if you agree. Time to change your picture?
Anyway. LinkedIn contacts, once the Social Connector is configured, show up in a separate contacts group within Outlook’s People view – you can “Peek” by hovering the mouse over the People icon on the shortcut bar, and search details of contacts there, both those in your existing Outlook contacts list and those from LinkedIn. If you click on the People icon, you’ll see lists of Contacts that can be searched in or filtered as appropriate – so if your contacts in LinkedIn have allowed it, you can see email addresses and phone numbers within Outlook.
If you open up a LinkedIn contact and make a change – let’s say, added a mobile number that you’ve gleaned from their email – then Outlook will make that a copy of that contact in your own Contacts folder, and make the change there. Synchronisation of content from LinkedIn appears to be one-way – and if you get into creating custom fields and categories on LinkedIn itself, they might not synchronise at all. Best try a few experiments out before relying on information being available everywhere.
There are other ways of using, and benefitting from, LinkedIn integration – and we’ll explore some of these in a future Tip o’ the Week: how LinkedIn plugged in via your Microsoft Account can mean you can share info across Facebook, Twitter and other services, for example.
Careful though – It sometimes makes sense not to cross the streams of “work” and “life”. Like Monty Python said, “…don’t take out in public, or they’ll stick you in the dock, and you won’t come back.”
Clearly, the most obvious difference in Windows 8 compared to other operating systems (from inferior *NIX based desktops to fancy fondleslabs) is the Start Screen – the colourful, dynamic and interactive tile-based view of apps available to you with just a click, touch or swipe. It’s also the most controversial aspect of the OS, with a whole slew of “start screen replacements” available, and the environment garners more grumbling in online forums than anything else in Windows 8. There are rumours that the next generation of Windows will allow users to skip the Start Screen and go straight to the desktop. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Those of us with long memories will recall Windows XP being dismissed by some customers, disliking the green start button and colourful window surrounds, demanding ways of switching it all off and making the OS look like Windows 2000. Now the same people may be clinging on to XP, even as the clock ticks down to less than a year before support ends…
The apps that appear on your Start Screen will, of course, evolve as you use it, and we’d all like it that (even better versions of?) the best apps available on other platforms will also be made available for Windows 8. It may take time to really understand what works best on the platform, just like the best games on a console often come out late into its lifecycle, as developers learn how to exploit it best.
Kevin Ashley wrote a great blog post about the developer opportunity for writing Windows 8 Apps – that now is the “Magic Moment” – the time to get established in the store, before it grows to the point where there are lots of apps all purportedly doing the same thing. Kevin’s point is well made because he’s an accomplished app developer – how many of us would still turn up for work if we were taking $30,000 a month in app revenue, I’m not sure.
If you hear anyone saying that they don’t plan to support Windows 8 with their app, and that all their efforts go into iOS or Android development, perhaps highlight Kevin’s blog post above. Maybe some of the top customers could focus their efforts on building their own great apps, and maybe less on taking down the apps that others build. Fingers crossed.
Start me Update
Previous ToWs have harped on about the importance of updating your installed Apps through the Store. We’re now seeing a whole slew of app updates to built-in apps, like the Bing Travel or Maps app. Mary Jo Foley writes about some of the updates, and anyone who’s been using Xbox Music across Windows 8 devices, Windows Phone and Xbox console, will enjoy the latest version of the Music app.
It can take a bit of digging to find out what each of the numerous updates actually does: Paul Thurrott (for example) has unearthed a few of the details.
ToW Update: Several eagle-eyed readers commented on the last Tip. Rather than following the process to wangle SkyDrive to replicate eWallet data, perhaps just take a look at Sky Wallet – a Windows Phone app with free desktop companion (if you buy the app – but then, it’s cheaper than eWallet anyway), and the developer’s apparently working on a Modern UI version too. Oh, and it just stores its data in SkyDrive to start with. I’ll get my coat.
One attribute of your phone is that it tends to be with you all the time, so it makes a great place to store information that you want to get access to when you’re out and about – the details of your car insurer, the password for your online banking site, your frequent flyer numbers etc. The long-established iLium Software has offered eWallet for years on a variety of Windows Mobile systems and PCs. There’s a Windows PC desktop version, and a Windows 8 Modern App version, as well as the various fruit and malware-ridden-Googly-device versions.
iLium’s current offering on Windows Phone isn’t very well organised – the main eWallet app (which is quite complex) is only on iOS and Android, but there’s also a simpler (though still very flexible and powerful) application called eWalletGO! The Windows Phone version isn’t quite as capable as some of the others, but it’s still a decent app and it’s so useful to be worth persevering with.
The model is simple – you can have a Windows PC (or Mac) version of the app, and a corresponding mobile version too. You create your single wallet (there’s no File menu or anything) and can backup and restore to/from online services DropBox and Google Docs.
So to get the wallet on your phone, you either create it in situ or else build it on your PC and perform a backup (to DropBox) and then restore it down to the phone – a faff, but one that can be done fairly quickly and since the wallet probably doesn’t change much once established, it’s not too hard.
If you buy the Windows PC version (well worth a few quid investment) and want to sync its data between machines, there’s a simpler way than using backup/restore to keep it up to date on multiple PCs… well, it’s simpler once you have it set up…
The eWalletGO! application stores its data in your user profile folder – after installing, just run the app for the first time and create a dummy wallet, press WindowsKey+R to get the Run dialog, then paste %userprofile%\appdata\Roaming\Ilium Software into the box and hit enter. You should see an eWalletGO folder….
Now, if you want to sync this to SkyDrive, simply carry out the following…
So, when you have your admin cmd prompt up and running, copy this following command to the clipboard and paste it into your command window … mklink /D "%userprofile%\appdata\roaming\ilium software\eWalletGO" %userprofile%\skydrive\ewalletgo (modify the \skydrive\ewalletgo as appropriate to point to your real location of your eWallet folder if it’s not in the root of your SkyDrive storage… and put quotes (“) around that section if your location has any spaces in it)
Now, if you fire up the ewalletGO app and make a change, then exit, you should see the ewalletgo.wlt file in your SkyDrive location has been updated – proof that not only do you have an automatic backup of the important data, but that if you repeat the exercise above on PC #2 (apart from the first step that copies the eWalletGO folder into SkyDrive, since it’s already there), you have an automatic replica of your data onto multiple machines, even though the application doesn’t realise it.
This technique can potentially be applied to any application that doesn’t realise it can replicate its data to the cloud – or in the case of eWalletGO, that it can copy data to the cloud, but just does it to the wrong cloud.
At a recent “Love It” internal event hosted in Microsoft UK’s Reading campus, a whole series of tips and tricks were shared amongst other Microsofties. Did you know, for example, that with an application called ZipApp (www.zipapp.co.uk – check it out), you can build a Windows 8 app in a few minutes without writing any code?
DPE’er Andy Robb said, “Yesterday I helped a couple of people create a dummy app for their customer complete with logo, draft content, a couple of social feeds, in about 30 mins... Customer walks in, sees their app on the Start menu, has a play on a touch device and they 'get it' better than any pitch deck could do.“ … BOOM!
Phone gurus Jon Lickiss and Natasha Joseph presented a great session on Windows Phone, with a slew of great tips and apps that they recommend – they’ve promised to write up the session so we may feature it here in future. In the meantime, here are 3 of the tips to get cracking:
Nokia has released mapping software available to any Windows Phone 8 user, which they called Here Maps. The great thing about Here Maps is that you can download the content offline, so they can be used on the tube (say) or when abroad, without racking up career-ending roaming charges.
The downloaded maps data is shared between Here Maps and Here Drive, the new name for the sat nav software that’s free (in beta) for any Windows Phone 8, as well as Nokia Lumias. If you’re on a non-Nokia device, Here Drive only allows access to the maps where the phone’s SIM is registered, but if you’ve a Lumia then you can use maps all over the world,, still get turn/turn navigation.
Here Maps also has a feature analogous to Bing Maps’ own capability to show details of what’s inside buildings – like shopping centres. Here’s a pic of the Oracle centre in Reading, as seen by Here Maps…
If you’re arranging to meet up and want to tell your friends your current 10-20, you could text them a description – or try this neat function that was new in WP8. Go into the Messaging (ie text) app, start a new text message, then tap on the paperclip icon normally used to attach something – select “my location” to insert a Bing Maps link to your current whereabouts. See here.
A quick and simple way to capture the screen of a Windows Phone. To snap the contents of the phone screen, press the Windows logo on the bottom of the phone then quickly press the power/standby button. It may take a little practice to get the timing right, but once you’ve figured it out, you’ll see the results in the Screenshots folder within the Photos app.
To get them to your PC for further use, it’s probably easiest to just go into the folder, view the picture then Share it via email or NFC, if your new PC supports it…
When was the last time you actually read the manual? Or actually skimmed over the Terms & Conditions you’re agreeing to when clicking on a button somewhere? Sometimes, attempts to make things easy aren’t exactly riveting.
Now and again, though, it’s worth assuming the role of true n00b: you might learn something. That’s right, gents. R.T.F.M.
In this case, try taking the tour in the New Office applications – select New from the File menu on Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and you’ll see a selection of tips to get the most out of the new apps.
The Excel tour is particularly snazzy. The first tip is pretty cool – it’s all about the awesome Flash Fill function, which can spot common patterns in the data you’re dealing with… like the first names or surnames in a list of email addresses.
The tours finish up with Getting Started sites for Excel, Word and PowerPoint… try out the in-app tours, and have a look through these sites and you might even figure out some new tricks.
Recruiter Nick Papé recommended this week’s topic. Escalation Engineer with spare time on his hands Ben Phillips wrote a cracking Windows 8 app to inspire Nick, and UC overlord Steve Tassell had this to say about it:
“The app is another step in the consortium providing practical advice and guidance which our growing community so dearly crave. This is also an important vehicle in helping us promote the second annual Anywhere Working week which is running again from 18th-22nd March. There are many activities planned for the week but, I want to highlight to you the roadshows running all week. We are planning an ambitious tour of the country taking our Office hub experience nationally. In Partnership with local authorities, we are providing a networking opportunity, technology experience and Ignite-style sessions from businesses and experts already working flexibly. You can find more details and means to register here.“
Of course, Nick and Steve are both very keen to stress the possibilities of remote working using Lync – every “snow day” is another day to celebrate and sell the technology benefits, in other words. Well, news reached us of a looming collaboration between Skype and Lync, and the promise of some groovy new Lync 2013 mobile clients, due in the coming months.
Attention, Windows Phone 8 owners… you may not have spotted it, but there’s a pretty decent update already available – code-named “Portico”. (Aside: If you visit certain Italian cities – like Bologna – you’ll see porticos as the things that provide the apparent multitude of graffiti artists shelter from the sun/rain/Carabinieri).
“Portico” is not a wholesale new version, but rather a bunch of fixes and/or additions to the platform. You may be notified of the availability of the update, but if you poke the phone to check (via settings | system | phone update -> check for updates) then you’ll know for sure.
EE rolled out the update to both Nokia 920s and HTC 8Xs, so everyone who got their phone through Microsoft UK should be able to get Portico (which updates to OS version 8.0.10211.204, as seen in settings | system | about).
Can’t take the call, reply by text
Thanks to Richard Watson for pointing out one of Portico’s coolest features, the “text reply” function – and it’s enabled by default. When someone on another mobile phone calls, you can choose to text back an automatic response from one of 4 pre-defined messages (“I’m on the phone, please leave a message” / “Sorry I can’t take your call, please try again later” / “I’m not available, please call someone else” / “Stop calling me, I’ll report you to the Police” etc). Great for when your boss calls and you want to respond “I’m on the phone, please try again at the end of the working day, about 9pm”).
Some big news for Windows 8 IE10 users this week (especially those using “Immersive IE”, aka modern/Metro IE): the way the browser handles Flash websites has changed. More details, here. In a nutshell, the Flash player which is built into IE10 has changed its default from not allowing Flash sites unless specifically allowed, to allowing Flash unless specifically disallowed. Pretty big change, then.
The Flash player in IE10 is updated by Microsoft, so you won’t get plagued with unwanted browser toolbars – (does anyone actually want the Ask toolbar?) – and updates will be rolled out more or less automatically to everyone.
Amongst other updates, a new Surface RT firmware has also appeared, alongside IE10 and Office updates. If you have a Surface device, make sure you run the check for updates. More than once, to ensure you’re all tickety-boo.
It’s been a busy few weeks for Internet Explorer – Windows 7 users now get to enjoy it if they choose to.
Trivia: did you know that the actor who played Ming the Merciless (pictured) also played chess with Death in the Seventh Seal, and was the priest in the Exorcist?