674 – Here’s the (co)pilot

imageUK telly viewers in the early noughties may recall the surreal comedy show, Trigger Happy TV, with recurring characters like the aggressive squirrels or the  guy with the massive phone (and that Nokia ring tone).

It was also known for some great soundtracks, like the fantastically titled Grandaddy song “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot(also used elsewhere). Tech news over recent weeks tells us that the pilot – or Copilot – is anything but dumb, even if it can be simple.

clip_image002For Microsoft watchers, “Copilot” is a growing set of capabilities which are being built to add OpenAI functionality to other applications. With all the hoo-hah about ChatGPT and the generative AI that is now integrated into Bing (and available for everyone who wants it, not just early adopters), it’s easy to get different strands mixed up.

GPT-3 and now GPT-4 are the core language models which could underpin any number of applications’ use of what looks like artificial intelligence. ChatGPT is one web app built to hone some of the parameters of GPT-3 and put a chatbot front end to it. The new Bing and all the other stuff announced over the last few weeks is not using ChatGPT, but they do share some of the same technology underneath. Capisce?

There have been AI features aimed at making developers’ lives easier, such as Github Copilot (available since 2021), which uses another OpenAI tool called Codex, itself built to harness GPT-3. For developers on Power Platform, there have been AI functions for years too, though some capability has been recently added.

Everyday users of Dynamics 365 and Office applications will soon get Copilot capabilities to help automate boring tasks, like “work”. Do bear in mind that announcing something and making something available – in limited preview form or generally – are different activities. Copilot for Office apps like Outlook might be a few weeks or months away for most of us, but who can’t wait for AI to automatically read and reply to all their emails?


The future with our robot overlords never looked so appealing.

For a growing summary of Copilot announcements, see the hugely popular LinkedIn post from Jack Rowbotham.

673 – Where is my mouse?


The “mouse” was invented 60 years ago, as a means of moving a cursor around on-screen. Through many generations of hardware, it evolved from using wheels to rubbery balls, before eventually going sensor-based and even losing the tail that may have helped coin its original name

Since many people now use laptops with touchpads, they won’t even use an external meecely peripheral but the term “mouse” is still often used to refer to the pointer that it controls. Finding that pointer on your desktop can sometimes be a challenge, especially if you have multiple screens on your computer, and particularly if at least one of them is a snazzy ultrawide job.

mouseyThe free PowerToys addons to Windows 11 includes a section of Mouse utilities; install the full PowerToys suite and you can usually enable each feature individually, and set what mechanism you’d use to invoke it. Perhaps the most useful is the “Find my Mouse” keyboard shortcut – just press the CTRL key twice in quick succession, and the screen dims with a spotlight on where your pointer currently is. Press CTRL once again to remove it and go back to normal.

crosshairsThere are loads of settings to tweak how some of the utilities work – Find my Mouse could be enabled by shaking your mouse if you’d prefer. There’s also a highlighter feature that indicates if you’re pressing a left or right mouse button, or a crosshair view which, when turned on, sets a permanent crosshair display (again, configurable in numerous ways) that remains in place until you repeat the key combo to switch it off.

clip_image008Mice can jump high – who knew?

A new mousey feature in the latest release of PowerToys is called Mouse Jump – erstwhile known as FancyMouse – and lets you teleport your mouse pointer from one side of a potentially massive desktop to another.

This is particularly handy if clip_image010you have multiple screens set at different heights, and in order to traverse from one side of the desktop to the other would take you multiple swipes of a physical mouse or strokes of a touchpad.

Press the activation key and you’ll see a shrunken version of the desktop in a small window; click where you want the pointer to vamoose to on that depiction of the display and it will teleport to the other side of the desktop.


672 – Why your meetings are clashing


Look at your work calendar for the next two weeks or so; if you’re a part of a multi-national organization that routinely has meetings with people all over the world, your nicely ordered diary might be a maelstrom of overlapping and clashing appointments. Welcome to the start of the 6-monthly Daylight Saving Time Shuffle! Of course, you might have clashing for other reasons.

Meetings in Outlook – apparently, other PIMs are available – are created in the time zone of the organizer. If you’re in London and have set up a weekly 4pm meeting, most of the time that’s at 8am for the people in San Francisco, but for the next 2 weeks it’d be 9am and therefore possibly conflicting with whatever else they had planned for then.

The topic of time and its zones has been covered ad nauseam on ToW passim, but it’s worth a quick reminder of what is ahead (and other countries / regions still do vary – see a summary of the global daylight saving time dates and regions, here), especially since the US has a habit of doing things differently to the rest of the world:

  • 12 March 2023 – Most of the US, Canada, Carribean enters DST (if observed)
  • 24-26 March – most of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere enters DST (if observed)
  • 2 April – Australia, New Zealand leaves DST

Practically, that means that today, a noon meeting in Seattle would be 8pm in London and 7am (tomorrow) in Sydney, but in a little over 3 weeks that would have moved to noon/7pm/6am and eventually settled back at clip_image004noon SEA and 8pm LON, but now at a refreshing 5am SYD.

Fortunately, the Clock app on Windows 11  has a “Word Clock” feature that lets you pin cities to the map and you’ll see what the current time is (and what the time zone offset is currently). You can also get a tabular view of what the relative time will be at any given date.

Windows Clock app

671 – Excel-lent

imageEven old dogs like Excel have some new tricks up their sleeves. The spreadsheet application category was defined by VisiCalc in the late 1970s, and was a driving force behind the success of personal computers; accountants and finance managers and the like could quickly do their own sums instead of waiting for a report from the Data Processing department which fed and watered the big iron. When the PC came out, Lotus 1-2-3 was king of the hill and Microsoft’s Multiplan was an also-ran, until Windows arrived and the new Excel program moved from underdog to top enchilada.

clip_image001First off, if you’re going to use Excel to create a table of some sort, start by Formatting as Table. It makes it so much easier to manage the data later – sorting, filtering, formatting are straightforward.

If clip_image003you choose that your table has headers, the name of the top row will also be marked with an arrow to filter the list, and also appears in any formulae you might develop.

clip_image004Rather than referencing cells in a formula by A2 etc, you could put the cursor onto the field you want to reference, and the name of the column will be used, and when you enter that fclip_image006ormula, it can be easily copied to every row.

clip_image007Excel has other smarts, though – let’s forget about formulae in this case, and just type the First name in column B; dragging the bottom right corner of that cell all the way to the bottom of the table, will fill every cell with “Mary” but a little Auto-Fill Settings prompt will appear at the bottom. Click that and you can change it to Flash Fill.

clip_image009Et voila! Excel has figured out the relationship between the text and applied the same clip_image011pattern to all the other rows in the table. Repeat the exercise in this case by filling Green in the Last name and MG in initials. A quicker way of applying auto-fill is to put the cursor in column C and press CTRL-E, then repeat on column D.

If you find yourself working with tables and the columns aren’t wide enough to show the data fully, you can clip_image013quickly widen one column by double-clicking on the bar to the side of the column heading; select several colums at the same time and double-click on one of the width adjustors and they’ll all be resized to fit. The same trick works on rows, by double-clicking on the height adjustor on the far left of the row.

If you want to select all the table, put the cursor in the very top left corner of cell A1 and you should see it change shape to a diagonal pointing arrow; click once to select the whole table. Another way would be to put your cursor in the table and press CTRL-A; that selects the entire data portion. Press CTRL-A again if you want to include the header row too.


clip_image017If you have the table selected, press ALT and release it – you’ll see a load of letters appear over the menus, which jump to specific functions. Press and release H to go to the Home tab, then O to jump to the Format menu, then I for auto-width or A for auto-height.

The final magic Excel trick for today is autocomplete.

If you start typing a text value in a cell, Excel might clip_image019look at others in the rows above and offer you an autocomplete option – just clip_image021press tab or downarrow and it will fill in that value for you. Another option is to press ALT and and down arrow when you first enter or select the cell; it will show a drop-down list of all the previous values, and you can either use mouse or up/down/enter keys to select the one you want. Excellent!

670 – Clipboard history


Some tips deserve multiple bites* especially when the recipe changes between software versions. This one harks back to ToWs #457 and #482, yet it’s still seemingly little known. If you ever have to watch someone share their desktop on Teams and fuss about when copying and pasting stuff, this could be a useful tip to share with them.

*ToW readers will probably know there are 8 bits in a byte; did you know that half a byte is called a nibble?
There is no accepted name for 2-bits, though Bing AI suggested it might be a “crumb”

clip_image003The metaphor of cutting and pasting has been around since the early days of interactive computing, taking inspiration from the way that printed publications would be edited together by physically cutting parts of one page and gluing/pasting them onto another. They might have been kept on a physical clipboard between the snip and the stick.

The Windows clipboard is common across all applications, and has an opt-in feature to keep a history so you can go back to something you copied previously; turn on the history or interact with your previous clips by pressing WindowsKey+V. See more on using Clipboard history. You can also sync the clipboard across multiple devices too.

The same UI for clipboard clip_image005history can also be used to insert special characters, emoticons and the like, into any application – in fact, pressing WindowsKey+. (that’s a full stop or period) brings up the smiley-picker, which is just another one of the tabs on the same dialogue as clipboard.

You can pin clipped items if you like, and pressing the ellipsis … gives the option of removing an item, or pasting it as text – handy if you’d like to paste a URL rather than a smart link that results in the title of a web page with hyperlink behind it.

669 – Hazelnut in every bite

imageWhat has a hazlenut in every bite? That’s right, a Topic from the British sweetie shop of yesteryear, and nothing at all to do with what’s near Tufty’s nest. Sadly discontinued last year, due to falling demand, there’s no accounting for taste.

Topics are still available today to users of Microsoft 365, as a way of curating certain scraps of knowledge that they can share with other users within the same organization. The very first version of Microsoft SharePoint (codenamed “Tahoe”) had a capability that aimed to do much the same thing – “Best Bets” were a way for an administrator to guide the search experience so that if someone ran a query for a term, rather than returning hundreds of old PowerPoint files that contain that word, it would take the searcher to a more official site.

clip_image002Viva Topics – because everything is getting Vivafied just as in the days of Tahoe, every other product had Live and/or .NET in its name – is part of a growing family of “employee experience” offerings; it’s an addon to even the top flight Office Microsoft 365 subscription, but adds AI-powered discovery as well as the means to manually curate things.

After deploying Topics and assigning licenses to the appropriate users, topic pages can be automatically created based on the documents that exist already – the Search and underlying Graph services can identify subjects that look like are active, with people contributing to them through documents, conversations and so on. Codenames or location names, for example, could be quickly identified and suggested.

A Knowledge Manager could also be assigned to create or approve new pages; individual users could be empowered to do it themselves, though that might end up in something of a mess. Best practice would be to have some kind of form or email-based request, where a user would ask for a topic page to be created and they would then own the content within.


Discovery is pretty easy – depending on how it’s set up, if the title of a topic is mentioned on a SharePoint site, it can be automatically highlighted on a pop-up card with which will give a summary of the topic, and a link to more the main page which contains furtherinformation.

clip_image006Topic pages themselves can be full of useful info; a search for documents or other pages that the SharePoint environment behind the scenes considers to be related, as well as specifically curated sources of information, contact cards for the people who are managing the project or involved with the customer, links to docs or other websites etc.


Within Office apps like Word or Outlook, if the user highlights a word or phrase and chooses to Search for it, a sidebar in Office will run a search online and across internal sites for that word – this is avialable to everyone, with or without Topics deployed.

If Topics has been configured and the searched for term is a topic (or is one of the topic’s synonyms, or is otherwise related), then the user will see it fairly prominently in the search results.

Now who’s for some chocolatey nuts?

668 – Ay Eye Ay Eye, Oh


Not Aye-Aye, Ally-Ally, nor Why-Eye, but Ay-Eye, as in A.I. And not the cheesy Spielberg flick. The tech news has been all about artificial intelligence recently, whether it’s ChatGPT writing essays or giving witty responses, to Microsoft committing another chunk of change to its developer, OpenAI.

Original backers of OpenAI include Tony Stark (who has since resigned from the board in order to discombobulate the world in other ways) and AWS, though Amazon has warned employees not to accidentally leak company secrets to ChatGPT and its CTO has been less than enthused.

clip_image004ChatGPT is just one application – a conversational chatbot – using the underlying language technology that is GPT-3, developed by the OpenAI organization and first released over 2 years ago. It parses language and using previously analyzed data sets, gives plausible-sounding responses.

Further evolutions could be tuned for particular clip_image006tasks, like generating code – as already available in PowerApps (using GPT-3 to help build formulae) or GitHub CodePilot (which uses other OpenAI technology that extends GPT-3). Maybe other variants could be used for interviews or auto-generating clickbait news articles and blog posts.

Another use for GPT-n has been unveiled in the New Bingan old dog has maybe learned some new tricks?

clip_image008You’ll need to join the waitlist initially but this could ultimately be a transformational search technology. Google responded quickly by announcing Bard, though Googling “Google Bard” will tell you how one simple mistake hit the share price. No technology leader lasts forever, unless things coalesce to there being only one.

Other AI models are available, such as OpenAI alternative, Cohere, and there are plenty of sites out there touting AI based services (even if they’re repainting an existing thing to have .ai at the end of it). For some mind-blowing inspiration including AI-generated, royalty-free music or stock photos, see this list.

667 – Good Game, Good Game


Gaming is big business. There’s a story that gaming is bigger than Hollywood, though that depends what you include and what you don’t. Like TV and cinema, the gaming industry has faced transformational changes to its traditional model. The days of buying a game in a store, taking it home and playing it for days or months, before it gathers dust on a shelf or is passed to a new owner, are largely over. Mobile gaming, digital delivery, pay-for addons and subscription services are the new world.

Games consoles are typically subsidized by their maker, using the razor blade economics model of selling the device at a loss but making that back by charging a little extra on every game. Add to that the move to online services as a way of making money to help keep the cost of the hardware low.

Sometimes that hardware cost can bite – like the clip_image004feared Red Ring of Death which affected the Xbox 360 console about 15 years ago; the action to extend warranties on Xbox consoles and to swiftly replace failed ones cost Microsoft over $1B (nearly a quarter of which was FedEx charges for the free shipping to and fro) but probably saved the Xbox brand from irreparable damage, thanks in part to swift decision making by SteveB.

Other costly mis-steps are all over the gaming industry – like a film studio releasing a bad movie, sometimes successful tech companies back track from their entertainment plans, like Google shuttering its cloud-streaming Stadia service or Atari literally burying unsold stock. There was even a documentary about that one.

But let’s not get down on history and failure; the future’s bright! Maybe virtual reality will be the next big thing, just as 3D Television was for home entertainment.

The Xbox 360 went on to be a successful platform, and many of its games are still played today, as the weird hardware of the 360 can be emulated on the more powerful Xbox One and its successor Xbox Series S and Series X. Some of the old games can even be upgraded by the new consoles, running in 4K and with a higher frame rate than the originals.

Back in the present, the Xbox Game Pass subscription service (sometimes referred to as like Netflix for video games) continues to evolve and grow; new titles released include the Nintendo 64 classic given a 4K reboot, Goldeneye 007, and Age of Empires II has made the surprisingly successful leap from PC to console too.

Game Pass is available for Xbox consoles, for PC games, or in the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate combo which includes both PC and console games.

Check out TechRadar for some tips on finding special deals.

0x29A – It’s only a number

Last week’s ToW was the six-hundimagered, three-score and fifth, and while this week’s is one more, it’s probably best if it’s not mentioned. As well as being called out in a certain old book, said number also features greatly in legend, light musical entertainment and popular fiction.

Other numbers attract a certain amount of superstition – some tall buildings don’t have a thirteenth floor, for example, and even big companies like Microsoft have been known to clip_image002dodge bad luck by not shipping a v13 of a product (like Office – look at the File | Account | About dialog in any Office app, and you’ll see the version number – Office 2007 was v12 and Office 2010 was v14). Some cultures don’t much like the number 4 or 14 either.

clip_image004One numerically interesting but easily overlooked app in Windows 11 is the venerable Calculator. Start it by pressing the Windows key and entering calc, or if you’re truly blessed, you might even have a physical button on your keyboard. The app starts in whichever mode it was last run – by default, a simple calculator with the same kinds of functions that were common on the popular pocket calculators of the 1980s.

But look at the hamburger menu on the top left and you’ll see so much more – from Programmer functions to convert numbers from clip_image006one clip_image008base to another (so you can decode hex error messages or “funny” binary t-shirts*), to a whole array of converter functions which let you quickly change currency (at the current rate) or transform from one measurement standard to another.

There’s a neat date calculator too, so you don’t need to resort to using an Excel formula to count how many days there are between two dates.

Back in Standard mode, you’ll see the history of your calculations on the right side, and you can use the Memory functions to store multiple numbers for future use; much better than the old one-and-done M- clip_image010M+ and MR buttons on a pocket calc. There’s also a mode which keeps the calculator window on top of others, even if it isn’t the active window at the time.

If you have a full-sized keyboard, you’ll also probably have a NumLock key – that turns the numerical keypad on the right side on and off. In the early days of the PC, smaller keyboards didn’t have separate cursor keys, so these were sited on the keypad. In order to use these cursor functions – and the others, often doubled-up PgUp / PgDn etc – you’d switch NumLock off. And then swear when you went to use the numerical pad to quickly enter a number into some DOS application, only to find you’ve moved the blinking cursor around instead.

*convert each of the 8-bit binary numbers in the t-shirt to decimal; assuming the decimal number is the ASCII code corresponding to a letter, open a new blank doc in Word, and holding down the ALT key, enter the decimal number on your numeric keypad. Oh, if you’ve only got a laptop with no separate Numlock/keypad, bad luck.

665 – Mind your screenshots

imageScreen-grabbing has been around in some forms since the earliest days of the IBM PC – there is a PrtScn key on most keyboards, for example. Back in the day it would have sent the contents of the screen to a physical printer but later might save the info to a file or copy it to the clipboard.

Windows has had a screen grabbing utility for a while called Snipping Tool, which was replaced with a new tool called Snip & Sketch. The gist of these tools was that pressing some key combo (eg SHIFT+WindowsKey+S) would grab a portion of the screen and copy it into the clipboard. Snip & Sketch ultimately gave way to a new version, called, er, Snipping Tool. There have been many ways to take screen shots over time.

clip_image002clip_image004The latest iteration of the app throws a toolbar at the top of the screen when invoked with SHIFT+WIN+S, and gives a variety of options on how to grab that screenshot. You can also set Windows to use the physical PrtScn key to do the same in case you forget the shortcut combo.

After completing it, you’ll see a pop-up in the lower right to tell you that it has completed.

In previous versions, if you wanted to manipulate or save the screen grab, you’d need to click quickly on that toast to then launch the Snipping Tool UI with the grab inside, or else you’d need to paste the image that is now in the clipboard into another image manipulation tool and modify or save it to a file from there. Annoyingly, there’s never been an option to paste what’s in the clipboard into the Snipping Tool’s UI, so you could edit or save it quickly.

clip_image006An alternative approach would be to start the Snipping Tool first and initiate the screen-grab from within; you could make some simple tweaks and highlights (like cropping it, or circling a part of the screen in red ink) from there. Kicking off the snipping from within the tool gives you other options too – like grabbing in a few seconds, to give you time to ready the app you’re trying to capture.

clip_image008A new feature to the Snipping Tool is the default setting that it saves snips to a “Screenshots” folder; it’s configured in the Tool itself, should you want to disable it.

The Screenshots folder itself is within your “Pictures” folder, unless you’ve decided to move it somewhere else (if you’re that way inclined, open the Pictures folder, right-click on Screenshots and under the Location tab, click Move to find a new home for it).

clip_image010It’s worth keeping an occasional eye on the size of the Screenshots folder, as it could well have hundreds of grabs totalling many megabytes of data. Screen grab files are named with the date and time in the filename,  so you can easily get to the latest one by opening the folder and pressing the Home or End key (depending on how you have it sorted). Feel free to delete any you don’t need.

clip_image012The … menu in the top right of the Snipping Tool lets you quickly find your way to the Screenshots folder directly, or if you press WindowsKey+R and enter shell:screenshots, it’ll open in a new Explorer window.

If you favour command lines in general, you can also start the Snipping Tool by pressing Win+R and entering ms-screensketch: (including the comma) to run the full UI or ms-screenclip: to jump straight to the capture just as if you’d pressed SHIFT+Win+S.