The Electric Wand

Weekly tips from the "Tip o' the Week" email distribution inside of Microsoft.

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  • Blog Post: Tip o’ the Week #251 – Toasting a new email message

    You got a new email – hurray! Back in the early days of using email, it was expected practice for your email program to play you a little fanfare, pop up a message box to tell you that you’ve got mail, put an envelope in your system tray etc. In the last decade, nobody in most companies needed to know...
  • Blog Post: Tip o' the Week #231 – Linking LinkedIn and Outlook, look!

    LinkedIn has been going for over 11 years and has resurged in user base and usefulness after seemingly getting really popular initially, and then fading a bit (remember Friends Reunited , anyone? – somebody should come up with Fiends Reunited.com , though there are many such strange things already on...
  • Blog Post: Tip o’ the Week #227 – Moving around Outlook

    What’s the most-used application on your PC? Maybe it’s your web browser (IE, of course), but if you’re a corporate email slave like many of us, then it’s quite likely to be Outlook. As you spend so much time in the application, it’s worth getting to know how to move around it a little more efficiently...
  • Blog Post: Tip o' the Week #223 – Clear your inbox

    Some people live a disciplined existence and manage to keep a very tidy desk, their to-do list at the end of each day is empty, and their inbox is clean. Many others aspire to be so organised but either convince themselves that they’re too busy to tidy everything up, or they try hard but just don’t quite...
  • Blog Post: Tip o’ the Week #214 – Trouble connecting Outlook at home?

    If you see Outlook behaving strangely while working at home, there are a few things you might want to try. Symptoms include steadfastly refusing to connect to the server, even though everything else appears to work fine. Or connecting fine for email but hanging when you need to do something “real time...
  • Blog Post: Tip o' the Week #212 – Filing and piling of email

    The topic of filing vs piling of email has been had on ToWs passim ( here & here ) , but this week’s gem comes courtesy of a recommendation by productivity guru Tim Pash . Tim says he couldn’t live without a cracking utility which plugs into Outlook, called SimplyFile . The premise is very simple...
  • Blog Post: Tip o' the Week #135 - Outlook 2013 Calendar first look

    You may have seen news of Office 2013 (aka “Office 15”) , and if you’re a committed early adopter, you might even have started using the preview. It’s possible to run Office 2013 alongside an existing install of Office 2010 using “ Click To Run ” application virtualisation technology, so there’s perhaps...
  • Blog Post: Using Outlook Search Folders to filter only external mail

    Following on from my recent post about search folders, I got a few questions and comments via mail. One, from Christian, asked if it was possible to use a search folder to filter out only mail which came from "outside" - eg Only show me the last day's mail from external senders , thus filtering out all...
  • Blog Post: Outlook 2010 beta and E.164 number format updater

    Well hello again; it’s been a while. Normal service should now infrequently resume. I thought I’d update the instructions of a previous post, after I was showing someone how to use my old “ Contacts updater ” application to make all their Outlook contact phone numbers be E.164 compliant. (see blogs passim...
  • Blog Post: The lost art of the .sig

    Whatever happened to elaborate and amusing '.sig's? It used to be common practice to have a signature with some kind of witty/pithy quote appended at random to every email. Nowadays, the autosignature that most email programs can insert (such as Outlook's ability to have multiple autosigs , which vary...
  • Blog Post: Tip o’ the Week #1– New Mail desktop alerts

    In an attempt to resurrect this blog (again… I know, I know…), I’ve decided to repurpose some “Tip o’ the Week” emails that I’ve written and published for an internal Microsoft audience. Some of the internal ToW’s are very specific to Microsoft so I’ll probably skip them. Others will need polishing up...
  • Blog Post: The lost art of the OOF

    Some time ago, I posted about how the ".sig" has faded from grandeur. I'd like to add the somewhat terminal dryness of the OOF message to that list, and propose a solution. OOF is a Microsoft term for Out of Office. It should really be OOO, but is stuck in the days of the predecessor to MS...
  • Blog Post: Tip o' the Week #184 - ActiveSync account limits

    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...
  • Blog Post: Tip o' the Week #37 - Quickly create a new task

    If you’re super-efficient and use Outlook’s tasks functionality a lot, here’s a tip that might help you create a new task in double-quick time. Obviously, you can create tasks directly from Outlook itself (clicking on the New Items ribbon menu option, by pressing CTRL-N when you’re in the Tasks view...
  • Blog Post: Tip o’ the Week #81 – I’m Late!

    We’ve all had that feeling when you just know you aren’t going to make it in time for your next meeting… You know, you’re in Building 1 and the meeting’s at the top of Building 5, or you’re stuck in traffic, or in another meeting that’s already running over and isn’t going to end any time soon..? Obviously...
  • Blog Post: Business continuity – it’s a people thing, not just a premises one

    I had a really interesting discussion with a customer last week, when we were musing over the effects that the snow had on UK businesses. It was another example – like the floods which have hit parts of the country over the last few years – of a threat to business continuity which it’s easy to overlook...
  • Blog Post: Office 2007 SP2 now available

    I’ve been beta testing Office 2007 SP2 since the beginning of the year, and it’s been great – the single biggest reason to use it is the myriad improvements made to Outlook, in terms of stability & performance (particularly relating to search and to startup & closedown). Download Office 2007...
  • Blog Post: Keep the Item count in your mailbox low!

    I've been doing a little digging today, following a query from a partner company who're helping out one of their customers with some performance problems on Exchange. Said customer is running Exchange 2000, and has some frankly amazing statistics... ... 1000 or so mailboxes, some of which run to over...
  • Blog Post: Tip o' the Week #159 - Avoiding breakers on the side

    What’s that you say? A Breaker on the Side ? Well, Back in the late 1970s and early 80s, no self-respecting furry-dice-toter would be without their Chicken Box in their Roller Skate . The radio was channel-based, and though the users could agree to move a conversation onto a specific channel, there...
  • Blog Post: Bulk update Outlook Contacts' phone numbers to be E.164 compliant

    Here's a quick & dirty tool I put together for Outlook to be able to update all the phone numbers of contacts to make them E.164 compliant. It relates back to a post a while back around the challenges of formatting numbers 'correctly', particularly important once you get into using click-to-dial...
  • Blog Post: Tip o’ the Week #143 – Share your calendar externally

    Organising our home lives is increasingly done digitally, from keeping in touch with friends and making arrangements over social networking, to just the basics of communicating intra-family – how many readers have multiple laptops or <cough> “ tablet type devices ” (soon to be Surfaces for Microsofties...
  • Blog Post: Tip o’ the Week #16: All wiyht. Rho sritched mg kegtops awound?

    Even the best of us make common typos – “teh”  instead of “the”, “Exchnage” instead of Exchange etc. Microsoft Word’s Autocorrect feature has mopped up a lot of the common ones – have a look if you’re interested, from the File Menu/BackStage in Word 2010, under Options… The same options can be accessed...
  • Blog Post: Tip o' the Week #99 - Is your hard disk just "on"?

    One frustrating aspect of a modern PC is when it seems to slow down inexplicably, even when it's not obviously busy. Sometimes that could be evidenced by the hard disk light flickering a lot of the time, or in extreme cases, solidly lit up. There are a number of reasons why this could be the case - here...
  • Blog Post: Thread Compressor for Outlook - do you want it?

    Here's an appeal - nearly 8 years ago, I wrote* a little COM addin for the-then new Outlook 2000, which "compressed threads". The idea was that it could take an email thread (eg a discussion over a period of time and a number of responses, from any number of people, and typically sent to a distribution...
  • Blog Post: Office Web Apps complement, not replace, Office

    The Office 2010 announcement a couple of weeks ago, (publicly) lifted the lid on the Office Web Applications, either as a set of web-based Office apps that a customer could host on their own metal (and expose to the outside world, perhaps), or as something that you’d be able to get online from others...