Tip o’ the Week 479 – Tipping in Public

clip_image002Tip o’ the Week started back in December 2009, and a year later the content started appearing on a public blog, hosted by the TechNet blogs platform. Readers asked if they could share the Tips with their customers outside of Microsoft, so most were published online for any and all to see. At the time, the TechNet and MSDN blogs were hosted on a customised version of an off-the-shelf blog environment.

After some years, the Technet/MSDN blogs moved to WordPress, an open-source blog platform based on PHP and MySQL (the P & M, and mostly, on the L & A in the LAMP stack, that was once seen as antithesis of Microsoft, before Linux Love settled in).

clip_image004Nowadays, with open source and Linux being fully (?) embraced by Microsoft engineering teams, it’s no surprise that a staple offering on Azure, is the WordPress blog platform. You can link a custom domain to your blog, too.

Not all the Tip o’ the Week content moved online, mind. Some Tips were basically internal-only, or were slightly edited from the version sent in the Friday email. By and large, though, the weekly mail content went onto the blog – sometimes delayed by a few weeks.

The time has come the Tip o’ the Week public blog to move – here on www.tipoweek.com.

Running on WordPress, on Azure, obvs. Share widely, as you see fit.

Tip o’ the Week 478 – O365 and Windows’ Mail and Calendar

clip_image002On the mobile platforms that still survive, the highly-regarded and rightly popular “Outlook” mobile apps have no relation to the Outlook desktop Windows app which first appeared with Office 97, before smartphones were a glint in anyone’s eye. Mobile Outlook has hundreds of millions of downloads on both iOS and Android; quite a feat, as later this year Windows Mobile sinks quietly beneath the waves.

The genesis of Outlook on the phone as we know it today, is perhaps the acquisition of a company called Accompli 5 years ago, and a great deal of refinement and effort since.

clip_image004Somewhat interestingly, traces of the same app have come to Windows as well – namely the Mail and Calendar app(s) that are in the box on Windows 10. Look back to ToW 445, and you’ll see that the names for the apps are outlookcal, outlookmail and outlookaccounts. Stick a “:” on the end and you can run them from a prompt.

e.g. Hit WindowsKey+R then enter outlookcal: and you’ll jump straight into the Calendar app.

Both have come a very long way – at first release, they were pretty basic, but they’re now so well featured that most people could use them as their primary email and calendar apps, most of the time.

clip_image006The Calendar app is functionally pretty similar clip_image008to the Outlook desktop app, except when it comes to working with other people – there’s no way to view someone else’s calendar, for example, but for a personal diary of appointments it’s really very good. And if you want the best of both worlds, you can connect your Office 365 account to both Outlook – as might be your primary way of working – and to the Mail and Calendar apps, for some side benefits and quicker ways of getting some things done.

Go into the settings on the Calendar app, then Manage accounts, then + Add account… or just Win+R then outlookaccounts: and you’ll be able to add your Office 365 account onto both Mail and Calendar.

If you have multiple calendars connected – like home Office 365, Gmail or Outllook.com accounts as well as your corporate one – you could selectively enable them for display in the app, and the set of calendars that are shown will also appear in the agenda if you click on the clock / date on your taskbar. You can also see your upcoming appointments in a live tile on the Start menu, if you still use such things.

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You’ll also see your next appointment on the Windows Lock Screen if you have it enabled under Lock screen settings.

You may want to go into the Notifications & actions settings page (just press Start and begin typing notif…) and turning off Calendar notifications, or you’ll get a blizzard of reminders from desktop Outlook and the Calendar app.

Tip o’ the Week 477 – Grabbing pictures from websites – again

clip_image002Here’s a quick tip for getting the URL of a picture on a website you’re browsing – it’s a topic that’s been covered previously in ToW 458, but with a refinement for a more recent browser platform.

clip_image004Some pages will let you simply get the image URL from right-clicking on it, but lots of sites will prefer to hide direct access to their images.

Never fear, though, as described in #458, you can always use the Inspect feature (in both Chrome and Chromium Edge) or Inspect Element in classic Edge, though it might involve fishing about in the source HTML of the page to find the actual URL of the photo.

clip_image006In Chrom*, just go to the Sources tab in Inspect and you’ll be able to see many elements of the page, including the image files that form part of it, and helpfully, they are previewed if you select them. On busy pages, there could be hundreds of nodes, but you’ll soon figure out where to look and at least it’s likely to be consistent within that page in future. From there, you can open in another tab or just grab the URL.

Handy for pasting into online forums, Yammer, Facebook etc. In most cases, you’re just referencing – embedding, even –  a file that’s out there on some website or CDN, so you’re not even breaking copyright law. Probably.

Tip o’ the Week 476 – New Edge clickstorm

clip_image002After the first week or so with the New Edge browser, it feels grrrrrrrrrrreeeeat!

Paul Thurrott – a well known Microsoft commentator who’s branched out in recent years to cover lots of other tech too but is basically still a Microsoftie at heart, has published lots and lots of advice on www.Thurrott.com

If you haven’t tried the new Edge out yet, then give it a whirl – it’s not finished and it’s not perfect, but so far it feels fast and it’s (mostly) compatible…

These are the Features Microsoft Turned Off or Replaced in Chromium-Based Edge – lots of Google services built into Chrome have been switched off. Or replaced by Microsoft services doing much the same thing, only more trustworthily and less advertisingy…

Living on the (New) Edge: Getting Started

Living on the (New) Edge: What Syncs, What Doesn’t – though see we’ve already announced plans to update Android version of Edge to sync back with the new desktop Edge.

Living on the (New) Edge: Extensions – since there are some popular classic Edge extensions that aren’t yet showing up in the new Edge extension lists, you too can put Chrome ones in there. Like OneNote Web Clipper.

Living on the (New) Edge: Favorites – familiar if you already use Chrome

Living on the (New) Edge: On Startup and New Tab – one of the nicest features… you get the beautiful Bing image with your most-used tiles, and all the clickbait-infested Microsoft News content is a scroll away.

Living on the clip_image004(New) Edge: Web Apps – a nice feature that makes it easy to “install” web pages and/or PWAs just like proper apps.  You can pin apps to the start menu or task bar, you can jump straight to the others clip_image006you have by going to edge://apps.

And there are many more… but we’ll finish up with:

Everyone Needs the New Microsoft Edge (Premium)

Thurrot has a premium subscription service to get certain content, though you can read a couple of articles for free. In this one, he summarises why he thinks the new Edge will be good for all –

What if there were a version of Chrome that was literally stripped of all the Google tracking services, a browser that looked, worked, and performed exactly look Chrome, but didn’t follow you around the Internet like some lonely dog that’s been trapped in a house alone for the day?  What if there was a version of Chrome that provided the same benefits of Chrome—its stellar compatibility with web standards, its market-leading performance, its support for PWAs and other web apps, and its cross-platform sync of bookmarks, passwords, and other data—while actually respected your privacy? I mean. Can you even imagine such a thing?

The new Microsoft Edge is that browser.

Tip o’ the Week 475 – Chrome-plating to the Edge

clip_image002April’s big news was the public preview of the first Edge browser that uses the Chromium rendering engine. If this seems like a minor footnote in history, it at least marks a turning point in browser development by Microsoft. Instead of continuing with the Edge browser on Windows 10 using its own EdgeHTML rendering engine (and all the potential compatibility headaches and support issues that may entail), the team decided to move to using the open-source Chromium engine that underpins Google’s Chrome, and to make Edge available on older versions of Windows as well as the Mac.

After early builds were leaked, the Edge team has been working to release the preview in daily (“Canary”) builds, or weekly (“Developer”) versions. They can be side-loaded alongside both the regular Edge browser and Chrome, so giving it a try is a fairly low risk activity, and in unscientific comparison tests it appears to be as fast or slightly faster than both Chrome and the other Edge.

Check out more info on the Edge Dev blog, and get the latest build from the Edge Insider site. The Chromium-based Edge (already being referred to as “Edgium” by some) will support addins built for Chrome, though for now, just a subset are available from the Microsoft Store, and many more will follow and it is possible to add others.

clip_image006In time, most (though not all, it seems) of the features that have clip_image004been built into Edge will migrate to the new version, but for now, the test builds that are being made public look a lot like Chrome in places – eg. the settings menu, that takes place inside a browser tab rather than a sidebar, like “Classic” Edge.

Other oddities include shortcut keys – in old Edge, CTRL+SHIFT+P will launch an InPrivate window (useful for logging into Azure portal or Office365 admin page using different creds … what else?) but in both Chrome and the Edge Dev build, that launches the print dialog, and Incognito/InPrivate is CTRL+SHIFT+N.

Tip o’ the Week 474 – Parse and Flow

clip_image001Microsoft Flow was introduced a couple of years ago, and covered in ToW #401; it’s basically a glue between different online applications, allowing the exchange of data between them and being driven by events and actions.

clip_image003Sign up, sign in, and when you go to create a new Flow, you can start with a blank canvas, or by customising a pre-built template, of which there are many.

Learn how to build Flows here.

Many of the templates for Flow are quite esoteric – when a tweet on a particular topic appears, write a log to a Sharepoint site and send a notification to a Teams channel, that kind of thing. But there are plenty of really useful connectors that can be combined in time-saving ways; here’s a really handy way of bringing traditional data sources into the modern era: an email parser, called Parserr.

After signing up with Parserr – free if you only need a few uses per month – you can then crack open mail that is consistent in format and contains some information you’d like to extract and use elsewhere, such as confirmation of an appointment or maybe a travel booking. In practice, you get given an inbox with a unique email address within Parserr and you’d set up a rule in Office365 or Outlook.com to send mails that meet some inbox rule to that address, where it would be parsed for you and key data fields then sent back to Flow.

e.g. if email comes from a specific source address or it has a subject that indicates it’s a particular type of reservation, then forward to your nnnnn@mg.parserr.com inbox address, extract the details of the booking then do something with them within Flow.

clip_image005Start by sending an example mail to your Parserr inbox, then you can define rules to identify content within it (by looking for set keywords, going to specific line numbers and so on).

Create a rule for each piece of information you want to extract, and it will effectively create a field:

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Once set up, you create the Flow by choosing the connectors for Parserr and whatever other applications you need to work on the information.

In this example, we’re using Office 365 to create an appointment that matches a reservation – the arrival and departure dates are provided by the source email, and converted to YYYY-MM-DD format within Parserr, then dragged across in Flow to match the Start & End times of an “event”. We’ll tack on T16:00 to the arrival time and T10:00 to the departure as that’s the check in and check out times, and thus create an ISO8601-compliant date/time such as 2019-04-05T08:00, which Office365 will use as the start or end time of an appointment.

“Advanced options” gives you further control (such as adding body text that might contain static text and other fields provided by Parserr, other addresses to forward the invite to, setting if you want it to be free/busy/tentative, reminder duration, time zones etc).

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And that’s it: you can test the logic is working within each system – in Parserr, you can continually re-run the processing of your initial sample mail until you know the data is being extracted as you’d like, and within Flow you can keep testing your formatting etc by clip_image010either triggering a new input or by working with the last set of data that came over from the source. 

Once you’re happy just save the Flow, and it will automatically create an appointment in your calendar every time you get a matching email forwarded to the Parserr system – all in a few seconds.

See more on using Parserr with Flow and here’s a worked example.

Tip o’ the Week 473 – Teams Shortcuts

clip_image001Many people who rely on the same applications to do repetitive tasks, will want to learn quicker ways of doing them – and use shortcut keys to good effect. Shortcuts have been covered in ToW previously – eg. how to start modern apps quickly, or navigating between running apps.

As world+dog moves from internal corporate email to Teams, Slack etc, it’s handy to know how to get the best out of the new messaging environment. Before abandoning Outlook already, here’s a reminder of some especially useful shortcut keys:

  • CTRL-2 – jumps to Calendar; useful if you’re in mail and want to quickly check something in the diary.
  • CTRL-1 – sets focus to “mail” – whatever folder you were looking at before moving away to check your calendar etc. CTRL-SHIFT-i will jump to your Inbox regardless of where you are in the UI (eg you might be in another mail folder, or looking at Calendar/Tasks etc)
  • CTRL-3 – jumps to Contacts (or “People” as Outlook now calls it)
  • CTRL-4 – jump to Tasks.
  • CTRL-5, -6, -7 and -8 will take you to long-dead Outlook features. Try them. Take a teary trip down memory lane.

And there are lots and lots more.

When it comes to using Teams, one of the most useful shortcut tips is essentially the same as the Outlook set above – CTRL-number takes you to one of the nodes on the side-bar that corresponds to the number from the top – eg CTRL-4 will jump to Meetings, which is handy if you have Teams calls in you clip_image002calendar and want to join the calls from there rather than Outlook.

clip_image004Incidentally, if you normally go into an appointment in Outlook and click the “Join Teams Meeting” link in the text body, you may tire of continually telling Outlook that yes, you did mean to switch applications, and it’s OK, you already have the desktop app…

Click the “Join Teams Meeting” icon on the Ribbon in Outlook instead, and you’ll skip this. If you’re super-skilful then you can jump straight to that command without lifting your fingers from the keyboard – just press the ALT key and you’ll see clip_image006shortcut letters appear under each of the sections of the Ribbon; press the corresponding one (“H” if you’ve opened the meeting up in Outlook already), and you’ll then see a letter combo that will activate the Ribbon commands – Y1 in this case will jump straight into the meeting.

There are many other shortcuts in Teams, with varying degrees of usefulness. Customising the UI is still a bit clunky (eg you can’t add shortcuts straight to the sidebar or move items on it up and down) but you may be able to find a quick way of doing the things you need most. To see a summary of shortcut keys whilst in teams, just press CTRL-. (ie CTRL and full stop/period ‘.’).

Tip o’ the Week 472 – Update Store & Office apps

clip_image001[4]We’re all used to Windows Update or other software automatically downloading and installing updates (on phones, TVs, cars…). Sometimes the updates are at more of a leisurely pace than keen users might want though occasionally the recipients demand to hold back the updates until they elect to install.

The Windows 10 October 2018 is now being pushed to (nearly) everyone, though business users will have the option of pausing Windows Updates in case they want to enact a temporary delay for some particular reason – you’re about to go on a trip, for example – though it’s not meant as a centralised policy control: IT departments have other ways to do that. Windows 10 Homes users will soon get the ability to defer updates for up to 35 days, too.

How often applications update themselves is largely down to the publisher, clip_image003[4]but it’s usually possible to give the apps a prod to see if there are published updates before they get pushed out to you.

clip_image004[4]In the Microsoft Store app, for example, go to the ellipsis menu on the top right. You’ll see Downloads and updates, which will force the check for updates for all your installed Store apps. Even if you’ve turned on the automatic app update checks, it’s worth taking a look periodically as some of the apps you use most often might have updates pending.

clip_image006[4]If you find that most of the stuff you’re offered is updates to boring apps that you don’t use, then you could just wait for them to fetch their own in time. If, however, you spot an individual update to an app that you know you want to have the latest version of, then click the down arrow to the right to get it right away, or click the app name to look at its page in the Store and see what’s new.

clip_image008[4]Of course, non-Store apps may still offer their own updates directly – to check for updates to the Microsoft Office suite, for example, try going into Word (or Excel or PowerPoint if those are your most-used Office apps) and from the start screen that offers a few previously-opened files, templates you’ll never use etc, look to the bottom-left and you’ll see Account.

clip_image009[4]Click Account to go to the product information page, which will let you check for updates, show you the current installed version number of the the application, and maybe even let you sign up for more updates through the Insider program.

clip_image011[4]After you’ve installed any pending updates, the What’s New option will be active and will show you a summary of what has changed, in a pane within the app itself.

Or check the View Updates option at any time, and it’ll take you to the web to see what the latest updates contain.

Tip o’ the Week 471 – Buying stuff at auction

clip_image002As the web turns 30 and its role in the End Of the World As We Know It starts to become more clear, it’s worth reflecting on how the technology has disrupted more traditional businesses, sometimes ironically turning them on their head before turning into them.

One literally dusty and old-school business that is reinventing its traditional method, is that of the auction house. As any Brit hooked on Bargain Hunt or Cash in the Attic might attest, the auctioneer will let any amount of old toot pass under their gavel on the basis that they’re making some commission from the seller and gathering a not-insubstantial buyer’s premium from the successful bidder, too.

ToW#359 covered auctions a while ago, and covered some strategies in making sure you get the best deal.

It seems that the auction market is growing, and not just in high value art or fancy motoring. If you go to the saleroom of a bricks & mortar auctioneer these days, there is likely to be at least as much bidding action coming in online as there is in the room, but it’s all dealt with in real-time by a real-life master of the hammer, even if at some places and times nobody knows what they’re actually saying.

So, as well as perusing the ‘Bay for used stuff to fill your abode, and looking on Gumtree / Craigslist for clutter that’s not only cheap but nearby, it’s worth searching on some sites who provide aggregation services to real auctioneers, listing their catalogues online and providing real-time online bidding too. For a small fee, of course. Examples include The Saleroom, EasyLiveAuctions, iBidder or Invaluable.

You may want to look for your quarry on any one – or all – of the platforms, find an item you like, have a look at the photos etc, then go straight to the auctioneer’s own website and make a commission bid. These are entered on your behalf by the auction house, supposedly only high enough to win the auction unless you’re outbid. In practice, if you put a commission bid of £200 for something because you can’t attend in person or be online live to watch & interact with the auction, then be prepared to secure the item for £200… plus maybe 28% buyers premium, and a hefty charge for post and packaging if you’re not nearby enough to collect in person. Still, you might save the 6% or so that an aggregator would charge on top.

In truth, buying most things at auction is a bad idea: there’s little to no legal protection and if the thing you’ve bought it a dud, then it’s on your head to fix it. Many bidders at auctions are dealers themselves, and they’ll have a canny eye for what to get and what to avoid – and their “good” stuff will end up in their antique shop, with a 100% mark-up, or it’ll be cursorily cleaned up and shoved on eBay.

You’d be better off finding the people directly with things to sell if you can, or ferret around in a charity shop; for some goods, like watches, there are free aggregators (the likes of WatchRecon or WatchPatrol) who scrape all of the private “for sale” ads and let you deal directly with the vendor, rather than going through a middleman like an auctioneer or eBay. For cars, there are both free and paid-for advert platforms (eg ClassicCarsForSale, PistonHeads) that make it easy to find either the dealer or private owner who’s selling up.

clip_image003Selling via auction doesn’t make too much sense a lot of the time, either – you’ll pay fees and you’ll be reliant on them bothering to describe and photograph your item properly, and put some effort into talking it up on the day.

Here’s an example of a consignment to an auctioneer – a box of books, with titles like “A Fortune in your Attic” or “Treasures in your Home”.

The box sold for £2.

So, if you’re buying cheap rubbish, then don’t think twice about which platform you use.

If you’re buying Paul Newmans, though, it could even be worth flying in and doing it in person.

Tip o’ the Week 470 – Chrome Activities on Time

clip_image002As many of now know, the Edge browser in Windows 10 is going to change.

In short, the browser application will be rewired to use the open-source Chromium rendering engine, meaning that Edge will be every bit as compatible as Chrome is in displaying web pages and apps. It doesn’t mean that Edge will look and feel the same as Chrome, though – if the latter is a skin on the Chromium engine that provides a load of additional functionality, so Edge will be a different skin but will look and act much the same as it does today.

For now, at least, there are a lot of Chrome users on Windows 10 and various teams at Microsoft have gone to some lengths to build Chrome extensions to support other services or software, maybe in the same way they work on Edge or even beyond. See here for a list of Chrome extensions published by Microsoft.

clip_image004One such extension was published recently, which allows the activity that a user is doing in Chrome, to be published to the Windows Timeline feature.
Install the Activities extension here.
(assuming you’re using Chrome… Edge users who just clicked on that link, go and have a word with yourselves).

clip_image006After installation, then any browsing you do in Chrome while will show up in Timeline – press WindowsKey + TAB or click the Timeline button that is generally found next to the Start button on your taskbar, and use the slider at the side to jump to a particular date, or click the search bar on the top right (keyboardistas, just press CTRL-F) and search for a keyword within the content you were browsing earlier.

It’s a fantastic way of searching not just browser history, but other activities – like Office docs or many Windows apps.

clip_image008Look under the icon for the Activities extension, and you can choose which browser you’d like to use to open the tile from the Timeline – in the example above, a Google search within Chrome took us to a content page, and clicking or tapping that tile will re-open the website.

So, if you’re currently using Chrome under sufferance but would like to keep most of your browsing in Edge, having browsed in Chrome and gone back to the Timeline, it will give you the option of using your default – Edge – or using the other one, er, Edge…