Now that Outlook, Exchange and Lync all provide a way of showing that someone is Out of the Office (aka OOF, not OOO), it should be no surprise when you send email to someone internally, that you get an Out of Office message.
Outlook’s tool tip tells you they’re out, Lync’s status icon shows the small * to indicate the same, and if you hover over the person’s name, you’ll see the same message shown at the top of the information balloon from Lync. Maybe it’s time to ditch the receipt of old-fashioned OOF message altogether, at least by taking them away from your inbox...?
Fortunately, a simple Outlook rule will take care of that. We’ve talked about Outlook rules before in previous ToWs… #9 and particularly, #29. ToW #29 introduced a way of having multiple rules working to remove everything from your inbox that met a bunch of conditions, meaning that what’s left is likely to be important. If you get too many emails, check it out.
A short bit of theory
Now, you might not know this, but every “item” in Outlook (eg. email, contact, appointment) is really just a blob of data with some specific fields defining the shape of the item – obvious stuff like when was it created, sent, who was it sent to, what was its subject, etc. One of the more important fields is the “message class” – that’s the information that tells Outlook how it should be displayed, and what kind of functionality the user will have. Outlook needs to use a very different form to display a contact, for example, than a regular email message, yet underneath there’s actually very little difference other than which fields exists and what their values are.
So what? Well, it turns out OOFs use a specific message class, and can therefore be filtered out based on that.
Create the rule
To set up the rule, go to the Home tab in Outlook’s main window, and under the Rules icon, create a new one. Now, go straight to Advanced Options button in the lower right. In the Condition(s) page of the rules wizard, scroll down and look for which is an automatic reply and tick it, then click Next. Now you can decide what you want to do with it (Delete? Move to another folder, etc). It’s pretty self-explanatory after this point.
One nice side-effect here is that Outlook typically strips a lot of its internal information on an email that is sent externally – so if you get an OOF from a customer or partner, it won’t have the classification of being an automatic reply… it’s just a regular email as far as Outlook is concerned. So the filtering will only remove OOF messages from internal people and will leave external OOFs in your inbox.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could create other rules to handle messages based on type by using the “uses the form name” condition… Just make sure you don’t squirrel important messages away too deeply, in case you might actually need to read them…
Be the scribe
OneNote is a great audit tool.
When you’re in meetings with customers and partners why not offer to take the notes on your tablet, slate or laptop and then when the meeting is done simply save the notes as a PDF to create a simple, (almost) non editable version of the notes that you can share with colleagues, customers and partners. This is especially useful if you hook up your device to a projector (using duplicate screen mode) and use your tablet as an electronic whiteboard.
To export your results to PDF, choose “File”, “Save As” and then “PDF”. When the save dialog is displayed you can choose to save selected pages, the current section or even the whole notebook. If you don’t want the PDF step you can share your notes even more quickly by using the Share tab and selecting the “E-mail Page” button to send the page as a picture. The “audit” part comes in because both you and the customer has a permanent copy of the notes – this has extricated me from a number of potentially taught situations
For collaborating with colleagues, an even better option is to use shared notebooks. Using SharePoint 2010 (e.g. your MySite) you can create shared notebooks which are synchronised between team members and always kept up to date.
This is great for going to a customer meeting, taking notes and then automatically having them shared with your extended account teams. The only thing to be aware of is that shared notebooks (especially with ink) can take up a fair bit of disk space – but don’t worry, a call to 5000 or through ITWeb can get your quota increased easily.
To share a notebook that already exists go into “File”, “Share” and then choose the SharePoint server (“Network” option) server where you want to store it. When you’ve done this make sure that the location you stored the notebook has the correct permissions for your colleagues. To share a new notebook on SharePoint, go into “File”, “New” and select “Network” and choose the SharePoint. This is great for collaboration but even better for showing customers how we “live the dream”.
Did you know you can create a meeting note directly from an Outlook Appointment, and that note will contain the date, time, location and names of all the attendees of the Outlook item?
Just go into the meeting in Outlook and you’ll see a nice big OneNote icon – click that and the rest is obvious.
Using and creating templates
One way of gettng better organised might be to use a common template for meeting notes – if you click on the down-arrow next to the New Page command in the sidebar, you’ll see available templates and a link allowing you to set up new templates or find others online.
Some templates on microsoft.com.
There is an all-too common refrain which echoes around the open-plan offices of many a Microsoft location, following the receipt of an incoming call… “Hello? Hello..?”
The joy of Unified Communications with Lync sometimes means that receiving a phone call isn’t always as straightforward as it could be, if you have a laptop that moves around and may have different devices plugged-in or removed (eg headsets or USB telephone handsets). Occasionally, the sound starts coming out of laptop speakers rather than headphones, or the other party might complain that they can’t hear you well / are hearing lots of background noise…
Often these symptoms are caused by Lync using the “wrong” audio device – maybe because the PC is still dealing with the fact that you plugged in your headset or similar. Plug in a Roundtable device in a meeting room and (especially if it’s your first time), it could be a minute or two before it becomes visible as an audio device to the PC, and therefore ready for Lync to use as a suitable “end point” for your call.
Never fear: if you do manage to take or even make a call and the sound is happening in the wrong place, it’s possible to switch the active call to a different audio device – so you could even take the call, plug in your headset, then transfer the call to the headset once it’s been detected.
There is a little icon on the bottom left of the main Lync window that will show what the current audio device is (such as, a standard speaker, maybe a headset or even a Roundtable icon). Once you’ve received a call, the same icon is also visible in the call window – and you can switch the call between any devices that are visible to the PC, by simply selecting the right device from the drop-down list.
No need to take the take the call and say “Oh, you’ve come through on my speakers, can you call back..?” again…
Check your own call quality
Of course, not being heard or being able to hear the other party might have nothing to do with whether you’re using the right device– it could simply be that your network connection isn’t affording you enough bandwidth to have a decent quality call. There are a few things you can do to optimise the network: a topic covered in ToWs passim (including festive ToW #51).
Lync introduced a nice ”Check Call Quality” test that puts in a simple call to a dummy attendant where you record a bit of “blah bla-blah bla-blah” and have it play back your recording to simulate what you’d sound like another party. If the network is bad, you’ll see the little signal-strength style icon going yellow or red. If all is well, you can be confident that the call you’re about to make is going to be a good one.
Well, as confident as you could ever be when relying on this new-fangled technology, that is…
Yes, really. When did you last use Windows Calculator? When did you last look to see if there are any new functions you haven’t used before? Most of us probably can’t remember what all the functions on a scientific calculator do, and don’t have much need for trigonometry or advanced calculus in our daily lives.
Our friend on the right, is “Businessman with Calculator” in Office Clip Art. Would you do any business with him?
However, we often need to do simple arithmetic, and that can be handled easily by the built-in Calculator application in Windows, one of the few functions that can trace its lineage all the way back to Windows 1.0, more than 25 years ago. To fire up Calculator quickly, just press WindowsKey+R then enter CALC.
Did you know that Windows 7’s revamp of the CALC application included a whole load of useful additions…?
Perhaps most useful, there are hundreds of unit conversions built in (from the predictable Fahrenheit to Celsius, to more esoteric such as how many kilopascals per PSI, how many minutes are there in two weeks, etc).
There are a few other useful calculations too (like how many days there were between two dates), and the Worksheets function also gives you a simple way of working out some standard tasks like mortgage payments or fuel economy…