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 are some tips on finding out why and maybe what to do about it.
A common reason why your disk is really busy (sometimes known as thrashing) is simply that the machine doesn't have enough oomph to do what it's being told to. It could be you just don't have enough of some critical resources, such as memory. If there isn't enough physical memory (RAM) in the machine, then when an application wants to hold information in memory, something else which is currently in memory needs to be "paged out" - written to disk, temporarily.
That's all very well, until the application that was using the data that's just been paged out needs it back -then, something else is paged out, and the previous data is read back in. If you get to the point where you're really short of RAM, the PC will be thrashing to the point of exclusion to practically everything else. The whole process is a lot like the juggling you might need to do when you're trying to work with more than two things but are limited to having only two hands.
The only solution to not having enough RAM is to add some more (not always straightforward), or make the machine do less. Look in Resource Monitor (press Windowskey-R then enter "resmon") under the memory tab, and you'll see how much of your physical memory is being used. You can also look and see which applications are using up all the memory and maybe think about shutting them down, or making room for them by closing other applications.
Curing performance problems can be like pushing a blockage from one place to another, or like the whack-a-mole fairground game where you hit one issue and another one just pops up elsewhere. If your PC isn't running out of memory, maybe the processor (CPU) is the bottleneck, or perhaps it's the disk itself.
If the CPU is slow, then everything else will feel pretty slow - the whole machine will just feel like it's overworked. If the disk is slow, then the machine will bog down every time it needs to do something disk-intensive. Combine a possibly slow disk with running out of memory, and you've got the perfect storm - a PC that is constantly shuttling stuff to-and-fro between memory and disk, and burdening the CPU with all the additional overhead to do so.
There are some things you can do to mitigate the "disk light on" issue, however.
ToW #96 covered an issue where Outlook might use up a large amount of disk space, and maintaining that kind of volume will put something of a strain on the PC. Outlook is probably the heaviest desktop application most of us use, and if it isn't hammering your memory or processor, then it will probably be nailing your hard disk.
It's still worth making sure your hard disk isn't badly fragmented, a situation where files end up scattered across the surface of the disk in lots of pieces or fragments. If you have a nice clean disk that's largely empty, then Windows would write a new file out in one big splurge of "contiguous" fragments or clusters.
When files are deleted, all that happens is those clusters that are currently used, get marked as free so they can be over-written in future. If the disk gets increasingly full up, though, it may be that the only free space exists in small chunks all over the place - meaning Windows has to do more work to read and write files.
You can run Disk Defragmentation by going to Start and typing in Disk Defrag, then you'll be able to run the Defrag process interactively, or schedule it to happen in the background - ensuring that you pick a time that you won't be really busy on your PC, otherwise it will be the Disk Defrag that's making the light glow.
To allow fragmentation a better shot of cleaning up the disk, it may be a good idea to close applications that are likely to be using big files (like Outlook, whose OST file is probably the biggest file on your hard disk), and if you have a high degree of fragmentation, then it would be worth getting rid of the hidden Hibernate File on your hard disk - that's where Windows writes the contents of memory if the battery on your laptop runs out, so it's gigabytes in size.
To delete your Hibernate File, you need to fire up a command prompt in Administrator mode - go to Start menu and start typing command then right-click and choose Run as administrator.
A quick alternative is to go to Start, then type cmd and press CTRL-SHIFT-ENTER, which tells Windows to run whatever you've typed in as an administrator. Try it: you too can run notepad as an admin.
Once you have your admin Command Prompt (denoted by the window title of Administrator C:\Windows\etc), then type powercfg -h off to switch the Hibernate functionality off, and in so doing, ditch the hiberfil.sys file. Once you've finished defragmenting, you can switch hibernate back on by repeating with powercfg -h on.
Finally for this week, there's a possibility that your disk is just basically slow and there's not a lot you can do about that short of replacing it. If you look in Device Manager (Start -> then type Device Manager), and expand out the Disk Drives section, you will see what kind of hard disk you have - try Binging the cryptic model number and you might find the specifications of the disk - does it spin at 5,400rpm or 7,200rpm, or is I solid state? Does it have any cache? Maybe reviewers on Amazon et al will pan that model's performance, or even suggest that a simple firmware upgrade of the disk itself will solve performance issues. [Here Be Dragons - be very careful if you go down this route].
You can see if your disk is the bottleneck to PC performance by looking at the Disk tab in Resource Monitor, expanding out the Storage section. You'll see Disk Queue Length as one of the columns on there - that's a measure of how much stuff Windows is waiting for to be read from or written to the disk. If the machine is busy and doing a lot of disk work, this might be legitimately quite high (maybe double figures) but if it's sustained then it could be illustrating that the disk is struggling to keep up with the requests the PC is making of it.
That could be a symptom that it's just not quick enough, but it could be a forebear of the disk being faulty - maybe the reason it's taking ages is because it's physically about to fail. Best get it checked out.
After sending this original tip above within Microsoft, a reader (Rob Orwin) responded to remind me about ReadyBoost - so I added the following in a subsequent tip. In Rob's own words.
Whenever my computer is being a bit sluggish, I stuff two memory sticks, which I always carry around in my laptop bag, in the USB ports and as if by magic everything starts running as if it's on steroids. It's instantaneous as you only need to dedicate a device to ReadyBoost once, and then every time you put it in the USB drive it gets automatically used as pseudo-RAM. Another option is to get a ReadyBoost compatible SD card and stick it in the laptop's SD card slot - which pretty much no one ever uses. [and 4Gb SD cards can be picked up for a few £s]
Yes, it's not quite as fast as actually adding RAM but it's a lot easier and a great deal faster than having to use the HDD for virtual memory. I learnt this from a friend who's a graphic designer. She uses ReadyBoost whenever she needs to do huge batch operations in PhotoShop. The ReadyBoost feature was apparently the main reason why she got her company to buy her a PC instead of a Mac. When a Mac is out of RAM, it's out of RAM.
I even use ReadyBoost at home to run Windows 7 on a laptop that is 12 years old and has 256Mb RAM.
Here's a doozy of a little application that provides a great front-end to OneNote 2010, from Omer Atay of the OneNote development team.
In short, it's a separate app which shows a calendar view of all the OneNote pages you've written, arranged by date. If you have several notebooks open (maybe a Work one, a Home one that's synchronised with SkyDrive etc), and like to have lots of sections and subpages, it's an ideal way of referencing what you've been doing, chronologically.
Omer initially released the app inside Microsoft, but I'm pleased to see he's making it available externally, for free, too.
To use, visit the application page from Omer's own web site. It's available as a stand-alone app from here, the idea being that you'd save the executable file to your PC somewhere and just pin it to your start menu to run. Alternatively, enter %programdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs into the search box on the Start Menu, and create a shortcut to the OneCalendar executable in there, so it's not pinned but can be easily found again - either by name, or just by typing "OneCal" into the Start Menu to find the program again.
OneCal. ah, those of a certain age can reminisce about 1980s TV adverts, too. (check out the YouTube collection of classic ads from 1983. they sure don't make 'em like they used to.!)
Another was of getting hold of OneCalendar would be to install Omer's Onetastic addin to OneNote - it allows you to pin an individual OneNote page to your desktop, cleans up multi-page printouts (where you print from another application into OneNote) and also launches OneCalendar from within OneNote. See more here.
Outlook likes to cache lots of information on your PC – which is generally beneficial. All of the email in your mailbox, for example, is already on your hard disk, so when you open a message or an attachment, it can open it quickly. This is a Good Thing. In fact, it’s the reason why Office 365 works.
One feature added in 2007 was that Outlook also cached other users’ calendars after you’ve previously opened them, so that if you open them again, the data is already there. That is also good (pretty much).
In fact, Outlook will happily trundle through a long list of calendars, updating them in the background: you might find that since it caches all those users’ & meeting rooms’ calendars, that you have rather a lot of space being consumed by the offline file. If you’re running a laptop or desktop with a traditional spinning hard disk, you probably won’t even notice – but if you’re lucky enough to have a Solid State Drive, where storage capacities are typically much lower, then it could cause you a problem.
Outlook’s OST file (that’s the offline cache), can get pretty large – by default (in Outlook 2010), it won’t warn you until the OST is 47.5Gb in size, and it won’t let the file grow to more 50Gb. Note that we’re talking about the size of the offline cache file, not the size of the user mailbox, which will typically be an order of magnitude smaller. Nevertheless, having such a big OST file will cause the machine’s performance to suffer somewhat, since it will be indexing all of the data as well as probably maintaining lots of calendars or other shared folders (as well as whatever is in your own mailbox). I first hit this problem when the Outlook cache file was taking up about one quarter of my disk space, meaning the PC was running low of free space.
To see your OST file size, copy %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook to the clipboard, bring up the Windows Start menu and paste that into the search box and press Enter. That will open up the folder where Outlook keeps all of its offline files, so don’t worry if you see lots that you don’t expect. If there are any big files with a really old date, then they are not being used by Outlook and might be safe to remove… though take a backup copy just in case…
How to reclaim your disk space
If your OST file is particularly large (ie several times the size of your mailbox – and you can find out how large that is from the File menu in Outlook), then there are a few things you can do to reclaim the space back.
Delete the OST
You could quit Outlook, delete the OST file altogether and then restart Outlook – causing it to rebuild the whole thing from scratch. The downside to this approach is that it will take ages to complete, your PC will need to re-index all of the content to make it searchable, and you might end up with a similarly-sized file anyway since it will re-cache everything your Outlook profile tells it to.
Be rid of Calendars
It is possible to get Outlook to discard some of the data it’s cacheing – a simple bit of housekeeping would be to prune the list of other calendars shown on the list to the left of your own calendar, thereby reducing the amount of background work it has to do to keep them up to date, and reducing the size of your offline cache file.
You can remove them one by one (though this could be laborious, it at least will let you decide which – if any – to keep), or simply right-click on any groups of calendars and ditch the lot. You can always add people back as and when needed. Go on, it’s quite cathartic.
Stop the cacheing of other folders altogether
If you’d rather not cache calendars at all, you can switch off the whole functionality – simply (!) go into File | Info | Account Settings | Account Settings, and then double-click on the Exchange Server account that’s listed there. Within the ensuing dialogue box, click on More Settings then Advanced Settings. Now, you can choose to just not download (and cache) the shared Calendars or other shared folders. The downside is that you can’t see other people’s calendars when you’re offline, but that isn’t important, you might want to look at this option.
Compact the file
It may be worth trying to reduce the size in your OST file, and if you have done either of the previous 2 options, then you will definitely need to compact it. Outlook will reduce the OST file size in the background over time, reclaiming unused space in the file, but if you make large changes by deleting lots of infomration, you will need to force it to do some maintenance. A word of warning though – this will take a long time. We’re talking many hours, maybe even more than a day – so, it’s one to do overnight at best or over the weekend.
To compact the file in size (and mine went from well over 30Gb to less than a third of that), follow the instructions to get to the Cached Mode Settings above, and click on the Outlook Data File Settings button at the bottom, and you’ll see the properties of the data file. Click on the Compact Now button and wait. Oh, and you can’t use Outlook whilst it’s compacting, so do not try this during the work day….
Hopefully this will help you keep your Outlook OST file size in check. It will free up space, it will give your PC less work to do in keeping a list of calendars updated and maintaining the searchable index of all your data.
One of the most immediately user-friendly aspects of Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango, is also one that is not automatically enabled… Try this out, and I bet you’ll love it. Show to your friends who’ve upgraded: they’ll love it too.
Windows Phone supports having a PIN lock policy so that if you haven’t used your device for a period of time, you’ll need the PIN to wake it up again. Pretty much every phone that supports the Exchange ActiveSync protocol has something similar, and many companies will not allow any device to connect & sync email unless the policy is active and set up.
With Windows Phone 7, the lock policy also kicked in every time the screen went off, either by the user pressing the power button to switch it off, or because of a time-out. Not an amazing hardship to have to enter a 4-digit PIN, but it’s a slight annoyance.
Deliverance from the PIN
Mango introduces a number of new and useful capabilities to the Lock Screen – the principal one being that you can set a time-out before a password needs to be entered.
So, you can “lock” the screen with the power button and unlock it again with only a press of the button and a swipe upwards, rather than having to enter your PIN again – up to 15 minutes after the phone was locked. Really handy if you’re walking along the street and need to consult the Maps app again; a simple press and swipe and you’re straight back in.
To set, simply go into settings -> lock + wallpaper.
The first time-out is the one that automatically switches the screen off (and that would have PIN-locked the phone in WP7 too). The second time-out specifies how long a grace period you have before you need to unlock with a PIN.
If you want to customise your phone’s wallpaper, there’s an option (just off the top of the screenshot above) to do so, or you can press and hold on any image, and it will let you set it to be the wallpaper – even pictures that people have emailed you (just open the pic from Outlook, press/hold, and bingo).
The new lock screen in Mango lets you show the Zune-supplied artist’s photo as your wallpaper whilst you’re listening to music. When you stop the track, it reverts back to whatever wallpaper you had before.
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.
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…
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…
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…
Following last week’s IE9 “turn websites into apps” tip in ToW#83, here’s an early Christmas present, showing a couple of nifty ways of working with SharePoint 2010. It’s possible to add SharePoint sites to your taskbar or start menu in exactly the same way as in that tip – open the site up in your browser, then drag the icon to the left of the site’s address and drop it onto your taskbar.
If the administrator of your site loves you very much, maybe they’ll follow the instructions below to add the ability to expose Jump Lists too. If your favourite SharePoint site doesn’t already have Jump Lists activated, maybe you could plead with the site’s administrator to do so…
If you don’t know who administers your SharePoint site, you could try “Request Access” from the drop-down box next to your name on the very top right of a site – in the “justification” section, explain what you’d like to do and if the wind is blowing in the right direction then your email will reach whoever is listed as the site admin…
Admins: get your site timezone right!
SharePoint sites have a standard “locale” which sets the way they behave in different languages, time zones, different ways of measuring the calendar etc. The default when a site is created is (at least in the way it’s been implemented in Microsoft), that the site locale will be English (US) – in most cases, not something that will really affect the end users, except for in one important aspect – date format (assuming you’re not in the US…).
That document you’re looking at, created on 07/08/11 … was it the 7th August or the 8th July? Was 01/08/11 the 1st August or 8th January…? In the first example, it might not matter a whole lot but if the document is 7 months older than you at first thought, it could be important.
Changing the locale of your site takes only 1 minute – but will require you to have admin rights on the site, denoted by you being able to see a Site Actions button at the top of the page, and on clicking the down arrow button, the menu would offer you a Site Settings option. Click on that, then look for the Regional Settings option under the Site Administration heading. Set the local as appropriate and check that any sub-sites will also inherit the same settings.
Enable Jump Lists
There’s a sweet little addin to SharePoint that also takes moments to add to a site, but which automatically exposes all of a site’s lists, libraries etc as a jump list to a taskbar-pinned icon. There are detailed instructions, and a walk-through video, on the SPJumpList site, but essentially:
This should now make the SPJumplist solution available to any sites within the collection, and it’s just a matter of switching it on – for each site you want to enable it on, go into Site Settings and under the Site Actions heading, look in Managed Site Features. Scroll down to the SPJumplist item, click Activate, and a jump list should appear, showing everything in the site’s navigation list.
Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!
It’s been a little while since we dug into Internet Explorer in the Tip of the Week, so I figured it would be worth revisiting. Previous tips included some basics in #64 and #65 and there are others.
Docking & Undocking tabs
Have you ever found a time when you’ve got two tabs open in IE9, and you’re flicking between them? Maybe cross referencing some information – like a flight or train timetable – with some other application? Watching training videos whilst trying to surf the web? If so, one solution would be to right-click on the IE icon on your taskbar and click on “Internet Explorer” – this will launch a new instance of IE, and you could open up the 2nd site in that window, thereby allowing you to do side/side window comparisons, move one to a 2nd monitor etc.
Well, there’s an even easier way – simply click on the tab you want to move, and drag it away from the group of tabs within IE – it will now spawn a second window with only that one tab in it. Brilliant! When you’re done, you can even drag the tab from the 2nd window and drop it back onto the tab group of the first window to consolidate them back again.
Did you know IE9 recently trounced every other browser at blocking “malware”, in an independent test, scoring 100% effectiveness against the 13% scored by Chrome, Safari & Firefox..?
Turning websites into Apps
IE9 has so many features besides its excellent security – faster performance, hardware-accelerated graphics, HTML5 (etc etc), but one of the top usability ones is the ability to pin websites to your taskbar.
Some sites will expose Windows 7 jump lists, so once you’ve pinned them you can go straight to specific parts of the site (like your messages, calendar, favourites, friends lists and so on). This is the first part of treating a web page more like an application.
The jump lists can do more than just help your navigation on the site – take the excellent National Rail enquiries IE9 experience that was mentioned in ToW #74. The jump list lets you go straight to the departures/arrivals board for your most commonly used stations – it really does start to feel like a custom application rather than a simple website.
To pin any site to your taskbar, just open the page in IE9, and drag the tab (similar to the method for spawning a 2nd window), but this time just drop it onto the task bar. An alternative is to drag & drop the icon to the left of the site’s address.
When you click on the docked icon on the taskbar, it will launch the page in its own IE9 window, and also displays an icon of site’s logo – clicking on this takes you “Home”: back to the main page of the site, rather the normal IE home page. Again, just like an application rather than a web site.
As you can see from the screen grabs above, there are plenty of popular sites which implement jump list support as a minimum – check the Beauty of the Web site or or this Softpedia article as a starting point to identifying which pages may support IE9 specifically. Of course, you can always just try adding a site directly and see if it does support jump lists or not.
Clutter me not
Now, pinning web apps to your task bar is all well and good when you only want one or two, but if you have a selection you’d like to pin, it could clutter the whole taskbar up. There is something of an alternative, however: simply open your page, press the ALT key to show the menu, click on Tools and select Add site to Start menu. You don’t see jump lists in the Start Menu but if you right-click on the icon and Pin to Start menu, or if the icon shows up in the list of most recently used programs, then the jump list will be visible.
This shortcut on the Start menu can be moved around, put into groups, dragged off the menu onto your desktop or other folders, and yet whenever you launch the app, it will be in its own window, with its “home” button, so just like an application.
As it happens, you can turn any shortcut into an “app”, by renaming the extension from .url to .website
· Copy a shortcut to your desktop
· Launch a command window (WindowsKey+R then enter cmd)
· Change to the desktop folder (normally that will be just by entering cd desktop)
· Rename your shortcuts by entering ren *.url *.website
· Close the command window and test your new “app” by opening the new shortcut…
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, it would be polite to tell people when you can’t make it to a meeting on time… but emailing everyone to say you’ll be late will just make you later still…
I’m Late! I’m Late!!
If you use Windows Phone 7, have a look in a calendar appointment which is a meeting (ie where there are invited attendees, rather than just an appointment you’ve put in your own calendar), and you’ll see a “late” option on the menu at the bottom of the screen…
…tap on that and it will create an email ready to be sent to everyone in the meeting (if you’re the organiser), and if you’re merely an attendee, you can choose if you want the whole meeting to know of your tardiness, or if you’d rather just send an email to the organiser directly.
Everyone who uses Exchange 2010 with its Unified Messaging capability (where voice mail is handled by Exchange) can also dial in to collect voicemails, have the Exchange Server read out emails and calendar appointments etc. One of the options when in the calendar, is to say “I’ll be late” – whereupon the server will send an email on your behalf to everyone – useful if you can’t actually type at the time (maybe you’re in the car, or running along the corridor…)
From within Lync, it’s easy to get to your Voice Mail – click on the large telephone icon near the top of the main Lync window, and you can dial into or set up Voice Mail from there.
Try calling Voice Mail and saying “Calendar for today”, and the Exchange server will read out details of your current meeting, or others in the schedule. You can then tell it you’ll be late, and by how much, or even simply say “I’ll be 10 minutes late”.
To call from your mobile, try setting up a contact in Outlook to dial into your Unified Messaging mailbox – set the contact’s phone number (for Microsoft UK users) to: +44 118 909 nnnn x p12345678#, replacing “118 909 nnnn” with the phone number you’d use to dial in to your own Exchange UM, and “12345678” with the handy 8 digit (or whatever length) PIN that the Exchange server wants you to set.
If you don’t know what your PIN is, never fear – you can reset it quickly from Outlook 2010, by going to the File menu and clicking…
Just make sure when you have to change the PIN, you remember to update the Outlook contact(s) that contain it, to reflect your new number. If you call the standard access number from another phone, you’ll need to tell it what your extension number is, but if you’ve got your mobile set up in the GAL properly, then it’s possible that Exchange can tell it’s your phone, so all you need to provide is your PIN. If you dial from Lync (as above), then you’ve already logged into the network so don’t even need a PIN. Clever, eh?
It’s worth setting up a couple of contacts to get you straight into UM – one with the number as above to take you to the spoken voice prompt, and one with the number +44 0118 909 nnnn x p12345678#001, which will automatically switch to using touch-tone numbers, and will drop you into playback of voice mail messages - handy if you know you have a new message to retrieve, especially so if you’re in a public space (where talking aloud to the server will have your tarred with the epithet “loony”) or other noisy environment, where you’d never be understood anyway.
Finally, if you like to update your voice mail message (saying you’re at WPC or MGX or Tech Ready, for example) then set up another contact with the number +44118909nnnn x p12345678#006212 – dialing that from your mobile phone will take you straight to the “record your message after the tone” prompt.
Here’s a simple tip inspired by Luke Debono, who was asking how he could save directly from within an Office application to our departmental SharePoint site, using Office 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010.
Now, if you open a document from a SharePoint site then you might get to view/edit it in a browser, or perhaps open and edit within an Office application. On the backstage/File menu, you’ll see a few clues that the document is on a SharePoint site – like the location, or (depending on whether the functionality is enabled on the SharePoint) the ability to check the document out & in, see previous versions etc.
If you’re writing a new document and want to publish it directly to SharePoint, you can do so directly from within Word, Excel & PowerPoint – go to the File menu and select the Save and Send option, at which point you’ll be able to save it straight to the SharePoint of your choice, maybe even one of the more recently used sites…
URL or UNC? U B the judge
If you’re working outside of Office applications but still want to save your stuff straight into SharePoint (your MySite for example?), then it’s still possible. SharePoint is clearly accessible via a URL (eg http://sharepoint etc), but you might not know it’s also available via the old-fashioned “UNC”…
universal naming convention A naming convention for files that provides a machine-independent way to locate the file. A UNC name usually includes a reference to a shared folder and file accessible over a network rather than a folder and file specified by a drive letter and path.
UNCs were used in the old LAN Manager and NT days, to connect to file servers. They took the form of \\server_name\share_name, characterised by the phrase “whack whack” – as in “connect to “whack whack server_name whack share_name”…
In this instance, you can generally convert the SharePoint URL into a UNC by ditching the http:// piece and substituting forward slashes to back-slashes. If you’re in the File dialog of any application, you can type a UNC into the “File Name” box and hit Save or Enter, then the File dialog will be re-pointed to that location… allowing you to save your file (under a chosen name) into that location.
Once you’ve pointed the File dialog to browse into your SharePoint, you could even add it to Favo(u)rites to make it easy to get there in future… bearing in mind if you jump straight to \\sharepointemea\00sites\sitename then you’ll see all the other SharePoint folders that go to make up the site.
Once you’ve pointed the File dialog to browse into your SharePoint, you could even add it to Favo(u)rites to make it easy to get there in future… bearing in mind if you jump straight to \\sharepointemea\00sites\sitename then you’ll see all the other SharePoint folders that go to make up the site.
If you’re lucky enough to be using the Microsoft Lync IM & communications platform, it’s worth sharing a few tips on making the Lync client software a little more useful and productive. Let’s kick off with some shortcut keys you might like to try
· WindowsKey + Q – Brings the Lync window to the foreground
· WindowsKey + A – Accepts an incoming “toast”, such as an incoming call…
· conversely, WindowsKey + Esc – declines an incoming toast
· WindowsKey + X – declines an incoming toast, and sets your status to “Do Not Disturb” (note: Win+X brings up the Windows Mobility Center on a laptop)
From within a conversation…
· … use CTRL+SHIFT+ “<” and “>” to increase and decrease the size of selected text within an IM input window. So you can emphasis a specific word in larger font – something that there’s no menu option to do…
· CTRL + “]” and “[“ – zooms in & out of the text in both the input window and history – useful when showing someone an IM conversation on your screen.
· Finally, during a call or conversation, if you press CTRL-N, then a new OneNote page is created with the conversation subject & a list of the participants – perfect for taking clickity-clackety notes during the call. Just remember to mute yourself first! [Sadly, there is no known mute shortcut key, but many headsets have a mute button or simply click on the microphone icon to mute and unmute]
There are many other keyboard shortcuts – see here - a good one being CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER when in a conversation or when selecting a user from the list; that will kick off a new call, or end any existing one.
Here’s an addin for Lync that lets you have conversations in different languages, powered by the Bing Translator service. See more on http://lyncguistic.cloudapp.net/…
As with any machine translation, your mileage may vary … but if nothing else, it’s a fun way of appearing erudite and cultured (or windswept & interesting) to your colleagues.
The Lync Adoption & Training Kit that this tool is part of, could be a really useful end-user training resource if you’re deploying Lync in your own organisation – it even includes a ready-made Lync custom Intranet site that you could use as a starting point for all your Lync specific training and user readiness materials. C’est magnifique!
Now then, now then… Remember the old 1980’s Jimmy Savill advert for British Rail? RIP, Jingle Jangle Jim.
Well, it seem that National Rail Enquiries adopted the Age of IE9 to deliver one of their latest consumer-facing web applications. Head over to http://ie9.nationalrail.co.uk to check out live departures and arrivals for your favourite stations, all presented in a slick, Windows Phone 7-style UI.
National Rail has said it won’t be updating the Outlook addin they built for Outlook 2003/2007 (but which isn’t compatible with Outlook 2010), however it is possible to quickly add rail travel information to your calendar. If you search for a given journey, then look at the details … click on Add to calendar and the site will download an “ICS” file which IE will offer you the opportunity to open or save. Select Open, and Outlook will create a new appointment for you with the appropriate times of the journey.
Here’s a quick but useful tip for Bing Maps (did you know, by the way, that you can jump straight to the maps by entering www.bingmaps.com as the URL? Or if you’ve super-efficient, just type bingmaps into the address bar on IE, and press CTRL+ENTER and it will do the rest for you).
If you’re visiting London and your default language for Bing maps is UK English (you’ll see in the top right if it says “United Kingdom”), then when you view any Greater London location, your default view is the A-Z Maps – one familiar to every Londoner.
The A-Z view shows entrances to Tube stations, and if you click on the regular Tube icon, it will also tell you what line services that station, and displays an overlay of the tube network in the classic colours, but in a way you’ve probably never seen before (ie real geographical distances between stations rather than the well-known Tube map). Zoom out a little and the overlay stays in place, but the relatively cluttered A-Z view is replaced with Bing’s standard maps view.
So what? Well, it lets you see just how close some stations are to each other, that it might be quicker to walk than to go about changing trains… and it also showcases how much better Bing Maps is than Google Maps…
If you have a customer or partner who’s London based, and who uses Google Maps on their website, show this to them and see if you can’t persuade them to switch… Then show them the Birds Eye view and see if that seals it!
This is another out-of-sequence-because-it’s-topical Tip… normal service will resume soon…
I’m glad so many people enjoyed last week’s tip on getting Windows Phone “Mango” and making your own ringtones for it. Yes, ringtone creation is something of a palaver, but brings a sense of satisfaction that refreshes the parts other fruits cannot reach.
As you use Mango (or Windows Phone 7.5 to give it the full handle), you’ll see lots of incremental improvements in the way things work – the threading of emails, the deeper integration of Windows Live & Facebook in messaging, adding LinkedIn & Twitter etc. There are a few major areas that are worth exploring though.
One of the best under-the-covers features is the ability to jump between running (multi-tasking) applications. Want to copy a URL from Internet Explorer and paste it into an email…? Well, instead of going back to the Start Screen from one app to then start another, just press and hold the Back button on the bottom of your phone, and you’ll see the “App Switcher” – allowing you to swipe across and dive straight into another running application. ALT-TAB comes to your phone!
Apps that are written to take specific advantage of Mango’s multi-tasking can run in the background too… if you look in settings -> applications under background tasks, you’ll see a list of which apps are running in the background, and if you press advanced you’ll see which ones are able to.
The other buttons
It’s worth noting that the buttons on the bottom have changed their meaning somewhat – press and hold the Windows logo and you’ll get to give your phone spoken commands – not all new, but one nice addition is the ability to text someone by just talking to the phone… eg say “text <contact name>”, and then have hours of fun with freeform dictation, tarring with appropriate epithets in the hope that the phone will recognise what you say.
The magnifying glass/search button also changes its behaviour now, so it always takes you to the Bing app, rather than searching within an application. You’ll see a magnifier icon within apps, and tapping on that lets you find content in that application.
An example, and another really nice tweak in Mango, is the way it handles the App List (when you swipe right->left on the Start Screen) – if you have lots of apps installed, you can now jump straight to a grouping of apps by letter tile (like you can in Contacts, for example) or can search all your installed Apps, even extending the search to the Marketplace.
The Bing application is very cool now, too – it includes “Local Scout” search functionality that will show you what’s nearby (if you have the GPS function switched on), and will take you straight to the further improved Maps application to show you not only where your search result is, but can show you how to get there. Really very nice.
Finally, for this week, there’s the much-improved, hardware-accelerated, HTML5-supporting, mobile Internet Explorer 9. [In some tests, it’s waaaay faster than the iPhone 4 and Android].
As well as making it a lot faster, the development team redesigned the browser to make it even less intrusive to the web experience than before - see here for more information. One notable change is moving the address bar from the top to the bottom of the screen – simple usability feedback drove that change.
Incidentally, did you know that when you’re entering an address in the browser, if you press and hold the “.com” button, it will offer a few variants…?
Might just help you get your address there a little quicker…
Windows Phone 7.5 – aka Mango – is here! (Find out what’s new).
I’m publishing this tip out of sequence as I think it is relatively topical and rather than wait until the end of January 2012 – when it would be scheduled to go – I figured it would be useful to share it now.
I’m publishing this tip out of sequence as I think it is relatively topical and rather than wait until the end of January 2012 – when it would be scheduled to go – I figured it would be useful to share it now.
If your Windows Phone 7 hasn’t already prompted you to update, then it should do so soon. If you’re super-desperately-laser-focused-excited, you might want to follow the steps taken by some enterprising types who have figured out how to force the update to get downloaded.
One of the nice changes that’s been a while coming is the ability to set your own ringtones, so you can pick your phone out from everyone else’s when it starts to ring, after you’ve left it on your desk on the other side of the open-plan office. Choose an appropriate ditty like “The Birdy Song” or “Agadoo” to amuse your colleagues. Or maybe not.
Create your own Ringtones
There are a few rules to follow when making your own Ringtones. Firstly, the music/sound must be MP3 or WMA in format and not copy protected (eg not downloaded with a Zune pass), and it needs to be less than 40 seconds in length and less than 1Mb in size. Finally, it has to have the genre “Ringtone” set within the Zune software, then be synced to the phone.
All of this means it’s unlikely that your existing music will be suitable – you’re probably going to need to chop the sounds down in length so you can use them as a ringtone. You could use a variety of software to edit the waveform of a sound file, but a free and simple-to-use download called AVCWare Ringtone Maker* does the trick nicely. Just load up the sound file, mark the start & finish points you want and set the properties of the tune to make sure the clip is small in size (might as well make it mono, and you could probably lower the bitrate to 64). Click on the “Convert” button and in a few seconds you’ll have a neatly trimmed tune.
Save the sound file in one of your Music folders, and in the desktop Zune software, you should be able to locate the new file (probably without any of the artist information, but you can edit its title so you know it’s a Ringtone), and set the Genre to be “Ringtone” so when you sync it to the phone, it shows up in the correct place.
Save your changes, now right-click on the song and choose to sync it with your phone. Once that’s completed, go into the Settings on the phone, choose ringtones+sounds and the “Custom” tones should be at the very top of the list. If your new one doesn’t show, then either it doesn’t meet the requirements on size & format, or it hasn’t been tagged properly with the right Genre. The “Ringtone” Genre setting means that your custom ringtones don’t appear within the Music & Videos hub on the phone.
*NB: Internet Explorer identified the AVCWare setup file as potentially suspicious, but it appears to be clean.
Reading Microsoft Tag
Microsoft Tag has been covered in previous Tips o’ the Week, so it’s good to see the Tag reader (and QR Code scanner) being built into Mango rather than having to download it separately.
To read a tag, simply press the magnifying glass symbol on the front of the phone – this has now changed behaviour so instead of searching within an application, it always launches the Bing search app, which itself has received numerous tweaks. If you tap on the eye icon on the bottom of the Bing app, it will switch to scan mode.
Now, just point the phone at the Tag and if it is recognised then you should see the detail of the Tag appear on the screen – tap on that to action it (eg follow the URL or open the contact information etc). To create tags of your own, check out http://tag.microsoft.com
In various Office applications, pressing the F4 key will repeat the last command (if possible). Examples could be applying formatting to document elements (like turning text in Word into a header, or the borders of a table), where you could do it once then simply hit F4 to repeat it to other parts.
The uses are myriad – pretty much any repeatable command, from formatting, lining up shapes, table commands – just try pressing F4 to repeatedly do the same thing, rather than having to go back and forth to the menu. Deleting whole columns or rows in Excel is another great use – rather than right-click/delete row for each one, or clicking on the left hand border then pressing Delete to clear its contents, you could do it once then move the cursor to the next row you want to affect, press F4, and Robert’s your auntie’s live-in lodger.
The Tech for Luddites blog described F4 as the “Magic Office key no-one knows about”. It’s been a feature of Office for years. Yet I bet most of the ToW readers haven’t heard of it before… I hadn’t, until Luke showed it to me…
There are other ways to repeatedly apply formatting design – such as the Format Painter, that lets you select something you want to copy (a paragraph in Word, for example), and by clicking the paintbrush icon, you can quickly apply the same formatting onto other selected area – and if you double click the Painter icon, you can keep applying in multiple places until you press Escape. [NB: the screen shot is from Word, where there’s a handy shortcut key to the format painter… sadly, Excel doesn’t have a shortcut so you have to use the menu].
On another note, the Office Labs team has released a great new version of their popular “Ribbon Hero” addin to Office – test your own skills in using Office applications, and maybe find a few new ways to make yourself more productive…
If you’re planning on taking your Windows Phone to sunnier climes over the autumn/winter, this tip might help. One side-effect of going abroad is that the numbers you may have saved in your contacts, won’t be able to dial – 07802 etc won’t make any sense if you’re in the US….
One elegant solution to this problem would be to fix up all your contact numbers in Outlook, using a technique discussed way back in previous posts (here and here) to sort out the formatting of contacts’ phone numbers (the E.164 format – such as +44 118 etc – again, something I’ve dealt with before).
Now, Windows Phone 7 has some built-in intelligence to try to figure out what you’re attempting to dial when you’re overseas. It should be switched on by default – to check, go into Settings, then swipe right to applications and look under phone, and check International Assist is on.
Allen, being a fiduciarily responsible sort of chap, was concerned that he didn’t want to rack up lots of data charges whilst abroad, and so was keen to make sure data roaming was switched off. This is also the default setting: if you’d like to verify the fact, or if you’d like to switch roaming back on so you can use (at astronomical expense, mind) the phone’s data services whilst overseas, go into Settings, swipe down to mobile network and check to see if roam or don’t roam is set.
When you’re abroad, you might find that you can connect on free WiFi networks instead – go into Settings / WiFi and look for suitable networks. There are various apps which purport to tell you if you’re connecting via GSM/3G or WiFi, however if you switch off Data Connection and/or roaming from the mobile network settings, you can be certain you’re only using WiFi.
There are even tools which promise to do all the “yes, I accept your terms and conditions, yadda, yadda” stuff that you might have to complete in the browser after connecting to Starbucks etc WiFi, before you can use the rest of the internet. As they say, YMMV.
We covered using Windows Live Mesh to synchronise OneNote files between computers in ToW #52, but overlooked one really simple but useful check-box capability – the ability to sync your IE favourites between PCs, and to sync your Office settings too. Jamie Burgess suggested this would be worth covering.
In essence, this gives you a one-click (on each PC) means to keep your favourites up to date across multiple home and work PCs, as well as keep your Office spelling dictionaries, templates and email signatures up to date too.
If you have multiple PCs and one of the first things you need to do when building a new machine is to recover your Outlook signature and IE favourites, then this is just for you.
To switch on, install Live Mesh (as part of Live Essentials) if you haven’t already, then switch on by entering “mesh” into your start menu and then click on Windows Live Mesh to open up the settings. More detail here.
Turn on and off with a single click and you’re done. For the more advanced users, you could set up a Sync Folder to copy your Favourites (generally found in c:\users\<alias>\Favorires) etc to SkyDrive, and that way they’d be available from any PC (via http://skydrive.live.com), or a useful way of backing up your settings if you only use one PC.
An earlier Tip o’ the Week featured “5 Golden Rules” for OCS and Lync conferencing, and those tips still stand.
If you host or participate in a Lync conference, you can dial-in to the meeting from a phone as well as joining from your PC – eg for Microsoft-hosted Lync conferences, attendees can find numbers here when joining from elsewhere. The same URL can be used to set your conferencing host PIN, so if you dial the access number, you can sign in as the meeting leader.
Enter the conference ID that’s listed in the appointment, or which can be gleaned from the Lync client in the conference itself – so the leader could potentially pass on the joining instructions to other users who are not online.
Lync has some touch-tone commands that can be used to control the phone call – as an attendee, the most important is possibly *6, which mutes/unmutes your phone. Do everyone a favour if you are dialling in to a conference call, and mute your phone when you don’t need to talk. You’ll hear confirmation that “you are now muted” or the reverse, so it should be pretty clear what your current status is. Hopefully no embarassment of you starting to talk while still on mute and wondering why no-one’s listening, or the even less desirable inadvertent heavy breathing that can distract everyone else on the call.
Other touch-tone commands can help to provide the kind of info you can see when you join a conference call using the Lync client directly. Examples:
*1 – plays a list of conferencing commands you can use *3 – plays a list of other attendees’ names *4 – Toggle “audience mute” *6 – Mute yourself *7 – Lock/unlock the conference *8 – Admit all participants currently in the lobby *9 – Enable/disable announcements while entering/exiting
Clearly, some of these are only applicable if you’re a conference leader: it is worth remembering that you can still dial in and control a conference, even if you aren’t able to join from a PC.
There are many advantages to SharePoint 2010 if you’re coming from 2007, especially from a usability perspective, and there are a few nice tips to get the best out of it. SharePoint guru Jessica Meats provides a couple and will have more in weeks to come…
Head over to the new MySite (simply enter “my” in IE9’s address bar†) The default view gives you information about what’s been going on with people you work with. You can an activity feed which displays things your colleagues have been doing, such as adding new colleagues, joining groups, updating their status, leaving people notes, harvesting their Farmville crops and other interactions. So you can keep up to speed on the actions of people you’ve listed as your colleagues.
As well as seeing what your friends and co-workers are up to, you can add some information about yourself. If you click on profile, you see information about yourself that’s on your profile. Some of this stuff, like your job title, is filled in for you. There are other fields though that are all yours.
Click on the edit profile button and add your skills, interests, external blog link, even projects you’ve worked on. By adding a bit of information here, you can make it easier for people to know what you do, both inside Microsoft and outside.
If there’s a bit of information you don’t want to broadcast too loudly, you can choose to show it only to your manager, team, colleagues, or even just to yourself.
† Last week’s IE9 tips ToW spawned a micro-tip, courtesy of Neil Cockerham. You can set IE9 to assume that any single word you enter in the address bar is the name of an intranet site – that way it will always try first to go to the website, and if it fails, it will fall back to searching Bing for that word… rather than the default, which searches Bing and asks you if you’d like to go to the website instead.
To enable this option, go to the Options in IE9 by clicking on the little Cog icon in the top left, then go into Advanced, scroll down and look for the appropriate option
Got a document stored in a SharePoint team site you want to work on? Got a long train ride where you won’t have an internet connection?
If you go to a SharePoint 2010 document library, there’s a button in the Library tab called Sync to SharePoint Workspace (as above).
Note that the new UI of SharePoint 2010, akin to the Ribbon that’s been in the last couple of versions of Office, needs to be switched on for every site that’s been upgraded. If you’re using an existing site and the administrator hasn’t yet switched it over, then the option to sync to SharePoint Workspace is in the Actions menu – if you select either of these options and you haven’t already configured the new SharePoint Workspace software that’s part of Office 2010, you’ll go through a wizard which will recover your account and email you a temporary password to get things moving.
SharePoint Workspace, as well as being the new name for Groove, allows you to pull SharePoint content offline, work on it locally and then synchronise up your changes later. By clicking on this button, you will launch SharePoint Workspace and it will start saving a local copy of the documents in the library.
You don’t have to lock the document first. SharePoint Workspace is clever enough to only synchronise up changes. So someone can work on the document from the library while you’re offline working on the local copy. When you get back to the office, your version will merge with the updated version in the SharePoint site.
So now no internet connection is no excuse to take it easy. Sorry…
This tip was originally written shortly after the release of Internet Explorer 9, however it’s still valid today. IE9 is the fastest, most modern and most secure browser we’ve ever made (some would say, that anyone has made – recent independent analysis from NSS Labs shows IE9 blocking the vast majority of malware, versus all other tested browsers which fared less well – less than 20% effective, in fact).
If you haven’t installed IE9 yet, just head to http://microsoft.com/ie9 and click the “Download Now” – it’s as simple as that. Reasons to install are here, if you need convincing.
There’s a good overview of the new features in IE9, here. Far too many to cover in one Tip o’ the Week – so it’s a subject we will be returning to.
One key usability improvement is the ability to Pin sites to your taskbar, so you can launch them (or return to them) with a single click: just open the site, click on the tab it’s located in, then drag & drop the tab to the taskbar in order to pin it. Another is the simple display of recent & popular sites you’ve visited, when you create a new tab in IE9 by clicking on the end of the tabs list, or by pressing CTRL-T.
The overall UI is much sleeker and simpler, doing away with lots of icons and even the separate search bar – if you want to search for something, just start typing it into the Address Bar and if it doesn’t get returned via your favourites or your recent history, then it will query your defrault search engine directly from there.
There’s even a “suggestions” option that can be turned on with one click, to suggest search results as you type. This is the off by default, as it would also send keystrokes of URLs you might type in… so the user has to opt in.
If you enter an intranet URL in the address bar, it will generally try to search online for that “word” – but in the background, IE9 can check if there is a web site available with just that name, and will offer you (displayed at the bottom of the screen) the option of going to that site. Try it with a site you haven’t visited since upgrading – eg hrweb…
Once you’ve said “Yes” once to the offer, if you next enter the same phrase, IE9 will check from your history and see that you really did want to go to http://hrweb, rather than search Bing for it…
If you want to force IE9 to take you straight to the intranet site (and miss out the whole “search Bing, then confirm that you do want to go to the intranet..”), simple put a “/” at the end of the term. So you enter “itweb/” into the address bar (not bothering with http:// etc) and IE9 will take you straight to the designated site. Thanks to MSIT’s John Owen for this tip.
Another tip from Bing’s Tony Young this week. Remember kids, Bing Maps is not just for mapping.
Tony wants to show you how you can use Bing maps to help you plan your day on the road…
If you are travelling to a new destination (as long as you’re in London, Manchester, Aberdeen or Glasgow) and require a taxi, but don’t want to get ripped off by the local cab driver, then there is a neat Taxi Fare Calculator available on Bing Map App’s which is very accurate. Trust me, I use it a lot. To use the application…
· Go to the Bing Maps Silverlight experience at (www.bing.com/maps/explore) and look for the Map App icon on the bottom left of your screen
· Once you are in the Map App gallery look for the Taxi Fare Calculator; . Once you have clicked on the icon it will open up the application…
Enter your route and then hit ‘Calculate Fare’ & hey presto…
You can access the booking system via catch a cab. And if, like Tony, you make a habit of catching £90 cab rides, maybe you can search for a 2nd job whilst you’re in Bing…
Actually, the Bing Maps Silverlight client is a very slick & smooth experience, and has many interesting Apps available – some are a bit US-specific but it’s worth having a play if you find yourself with a few minutes to spare.
Try out a few in your favourite US city to get an idea for what’s available – particularly interesting is Streetside Photos in Seattle, or Weatherbug that shows reported current weather conditions.
At least it isn’t raining in Seattle at the moment.
This week, a couple of smart tips concerning Windows Phone 7. Both revolve around finding something – in one case, how to find your phone if you’re not sure where you left it, and the other, how to remind yourself where you’re going.
Dude, where’s my phone...? This tip uses the location services built in to Windows Phone 7 – services which you may want to switch off if you’re having battery life issues, but which can help you out by geotagging photos (so the GPS location of the photo you take is recorded in the photo, and it’s supported in Windows Live Photo Gallery too) or by finding where you are on the map.
· If you do want to switch off Location Services, go into settings | system and under location, switch off
If you habitually leave your phone and don’t know where, there is a facility to find out where the phone was last seen, but you need to switch it on (it’s off by default), in settings | system and under find my phone.
To check where you left your phone, you’ll need to have already set up a Windows Live address on the phone (giving access to SkyDrive etc), and then visit http://windowsphone.live.com/ on your PC - under the “FIND MY PHONE” link, you can see your phone’s approximate location on a map, erase its contents if it’s hopelessly lost, lock the device so it can’t be used (and include a “please return to… “message on the home screen) or even make the phone ring, regardless of whether it’s on mute or not… so if it’s in a hidden pocket, you’ve got a chance of giving it a poke to make some noise.
If and when you find the phone, to stop the special ring-tone, just press the power button once (the same trick that you can use to silence any ringing phone, even when locked).
One reader started using a great trick for remembering where he’s going – by pinning the map location to the home screen. Start by searching for a location, address, facility etc in the Maps app, then press and hold on the flag to see a detailed view of that location offering “about” (including address details, phone numbers), possibly some restaurant reviews etc, and “nearby” (other places in the vicinity).
If you look to the bottom left of the screen, you’ll see a pin shape that lets you pin a tile to the home screen; tap on the tile to return to the “about” page, and tap on the map image in the about page to go straight to the map in the Bing Maps app.
Tap and hold on the map tile on the home screen to remove it when you’re done.
Nice. Really nice. For more map tips, check here.