658 – Sweary 3-ingredient soup

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Since many US colleagues are recovering from an eating & drinking stupor having recently given thanks, this week marks a departure from the usual Tip o’ the Week recipe. Instead of tech tidbits or productivity morsels, we’re making a delicious yet fairly healthy staple in only a few minutes, courtesy of sweary Chef Ramsay.

Yes, readers, fresh soup in less than 10 minutes and with only 3 ingredients – broccoli, water and salt.

It’s not uncommon for soup recipes to start with sweating onions or shallots in butter and garlic, adding herbs, chicken stock etc. But not this – it’s vegan and keto-friendly, and is best if you make it right before eating. Adding creamy cheese to the bowl before serving will give it a nice rich finish (though may compromise the vegan-ness).

The key thing about this soup is that the broccoli is cooked in water with the lid on, and the water is saved and used like stock to liquidize it into a smooth and light soup. It’s important to blend it while still steaming hot, and that means it can be served straight from liquidizer to bowls (though it can be re-heated, frozen etc, if necessary).

clip_image004clip_image006Start with one or two heads of broccoli, the fresher and darker green the better – about 300g in weight before trimming would make enough for 2 or 3 portions (or 4 if you were doing a light starter).

Hold by the stalk and run a sharp knife around the tips to cut off the florets (you can keep the stalks for vegetable stock, or add to a stir fry etc, but in this case we’re just using the darker florets).

Add water to a decent-sized pan with a close-fitting lid – about 1.5-2x as much water as the weight of the broccoli florets. In this example, we started with 300g, which gave 230g of florets, and added 450ml of water. Or 2/3lb of broccoli, yielding about 1/2lb of florets, cooked in a little under a pint of water, if you prefer those measures.

If you’re in a country which still measures mass by fractions of a hundredweight, you might not realize that a litre of water (=1000ml) at room temperature weighs a kilogram, so 1g = 1ml. It’s often easier to weigh water with digital scales than to try to use a volume measuring jug.

Add a good few scrunches of sea salt toclip_image008 the pan, put the lid on and bring the water to the boil. Once boiling, drop the broccoli in and toss it around in the water. Add a little more salt on top and replace the lid.

clip_image010Boil for around 4 minutes, to the point where the knife could cut through the broccoli with no resistance (ie if the knife goes easily through a floret to hit the side of the pan, it’s ready).

Spoon the broccoli into a liquidizer jug and pour the remaining water in – experience will tell you how much is needed (the water will be below the level of the florets in the liquidizer). Season with a final scrunch of salt and black pepper.

Pulse the liquidizer a few times, then start slowly and then give it a 30-60secs on full blast, until you can see the soup is smooth and velvety. You can always add a little more hot water gradually during the blend, if you think it’s too thick (at full speed, look in the top of the jug and you should see a swirling vortex – if it’s just blobbing up and down, it’ll be more like puree than soup so add some more – ideally recently-boiled – hot water).

clip_image012Gordon suggests pairing with some walnut halves and some ash-rolled goats cheese; in this example, it’s Montagnolo Affine, a creamy blue cheese which melts a little into the hot soup and gives it an extra lift.

clip_image014Serve by pouring on one side of the bowl and let the soup flow around. If you’ve seasoned it lightly but often throughout the cooking process, it won’t need anything else on top, other than some froufrou garnish if you like. Enjoy.


Normal service of talking about Excel pivot tables and other rubbish resumes next week. Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it.

657 – Bye Bye, OneNote (for Win10)

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When Windows 8 was at the planning stage, a new model was envisaged which could deliver Windows applications consistently through an App Store (rather than needing each app to have its own install/uninstall mechanism). Other benefits would come, too –automatic app scaling of the UI depending on the size and orientation of the screen, improved security and power management… not to mention the same app running on phones, tablets, PCs, Hololens, TVs… such nirvana! And the charms!

Both the the app platform and the Windows Phone had lots of great ideas, but when the Phone went away and the multi-platform app dream then stopped being viable, the ”Modern” app model (which became the Universal Windows Platform, or UWP) was on borrowed time. Perhaps the zenith of UWP app functionality, and still one of its best apps, is/was the OneNote store app, later described as OneNote for Windows 10.

clip_image004Inevitably, having multiple apps which share the same name yet are fundamentally different can cause confusion. Fortunately, apart from Skype, Teams, Office, Xbox and a few others, Microsoft doesn’t typically have this problem.

Previously, if you’d searched in the Microsoft Store for “OneNote”, you would find the Modern / Metro UWP version, listed as just “OneNote” in the Store even though it called itself OneNote for Windows 10 upon installation, assuming it wasn’t there already by dint of being preinstalled. Capiche?

After deciding to reprieve the traditional Win32 OneNote, having hitherto announced it was to be dropped in favour of the shiny new one, the plan is now to port some of the best features of the UWP app back to the Win32 version and instead consolidate on that. The UWP variant will stop being supported in October 2025, at the same time as Windows 10 reaches end of life.

If you search the Microsoft Store for “OneNote” now, you’ll get clip_image006an app with the same name and basically the same icon as the old UWP app, but this one is an updated packaging up of the desktop/Win32 app. The description even points out that some of the pictured features are planned for the future vs available now.

Both versions of Windows OneNote have been able to coexist for years – WindowsKey+R onenote <ENTER> will fire up the desktop application whereas Win+R onenote-cmd: <ENTER> starts the UWP version. Both could even open the same Notebooks so apart from user preference, it didn’t really matter which one was used. The UWP app had a similar look and feel to the web and mobile apps, though they have diverged somewhat in recent months.

clip_image008clip_image010One benefit of keeping both is that it’s a great way of having all your work notes in one and all your home stuff in the other, so when you search for something, it won’t cross over and give you meeting notes when you’re looking for shopping lists.

If you want to more easily distinguish between the versions, you could change the icon of the full-fat version, and potentially pin them both to Taskbar or Start menu.

If you don’t have “OneNote for Windows 10” installed on your Windows PC, you can still get it if you know the secret – well, it’s not much of a secret, you just need to know the direct link to the Store that lets you find it. Shhhh.

655 – Like my email

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Every time you buy anything, stay anywhere or eat something, you’re peppered with requests to review and recommend whatever it was. If review / like fatigue has not yet set in, there’s now the ability to signal a reaction with emails in Outlook and M365.

The likey-likey feature is only present for emails in your own organization – ie. you can’t like that email that informs you’ve won the state lottery, or that your Apple ID has been compromised (though it is reported that sometimes the reactions do work across tenants). You can, however, send an appropriate emote to any email that originated from someone in your organization (even if there are other externals on it).

clip_image004In desktop Outlook, look for the smiley icon in the response area at the top right of a message in the preview pane or when you open it outright; Outlook Web App has a similar UI which might contain other extensions’ icons next to the smiley too.

There isn’t a could have been a clip_image006meeting or a please take me off this email button, but whenever you click on the like, love, laugh etc icon, the reaction is visible to the originator of the mail. (Happy Silver Anniversary, btw, Bedlam DL3hope you get on the EBC wall)

clip_image008clip_image010To see what people have to say of the guff you send, look at the Notifications icon in the top right of Outlook / OWA, and as well as any mentions you may have from people who can’t type your name without putting an @ in front of it,  you’ll see a summary of who has reacted to each message, and how.

clip_image012Alternatively, look in your Sent Items and if you select a message you can see what reactions it has had; there isn’t an easy way to show reactions in the table view so you could see which messages are the most popular without having to preview or open them up. It probably can be done – though likely a palaver for limited utility.

Here’s a challenge – if you’re a ‘Softie and you got this in email, react to the message and see if we can break the internet.
Thank you for all that you do!

654 – Browsing across devices

imageOne of the most profound changes in the way most people use the internet has been broadening out to using a variety of devices. As well as having a selection of laptops, phones and tablets, people will surf across them all the time – from playing with a phone while watching TV, to reading an article or book on a larger-screen slate as well as working on a regular laptop or desktop. Browsers have added functionality to smooth the transition, but most people are probably unaware.

clip_image001You’ll typically be offered the chance to sign-in and sync your favourites, history and passwords across any other device that you’re using when running Edge or Chrome. If you’re browsing across multiple PCs, one way to easily pick up where you left off would be to go into the browser’s history and revisiting sites browsed from current or previous machine, or use Favourites/Bookmarks or Edge’s Collections.

clip_image003Edge gives you a simple way of sending a currently-viewed tab to another PC or a mobile device – right-click on the browser tab and choose from a list of other devices that you’re signed in on. You’ll then see a near-real-time notification on the other machine that the page has been shared with you.

clip_image005On phones and tablets, if you’re also using Edge and signed in, you’ll see a Send to Devices option on the browser menu, so you can fire links straight to your PC.

There are other options, too – the browser menus in both Chrome and Edge have a Share option that lets you send a link to another application, send via Bluetooth to nearby devices of other types and more.

clip_image007If you don’t yet have enough toolbars in your life, you could look on the Edge Sidebar, at the new Drop feature, which lets you transfer snippets of text or whole files between browsers on multiple PCs or mobile devices. clip_image009 It might be the quickest-yet way to send a photo from a phone to your PC, where received files are dropped into the Downloads folder and stored in OneDrive for other devices to access.

653 – Bookings with me, you, everybody

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Ideally, within an organization where people are expected to work together, they will use tools that have been around since the 1980s and actually share their calendar with their colleagues.

Outlook users can usually see blocks of when someone looks free or busy, when looking in the Scheduling Assistant tab on a meeting, though it won’t show external attendees and unless the attendees have chosen to share their calendar details, you won’t see anything other than tentative, free, busy or out of the office. Hopefully, some eejit won’t have blocked everyone else’s calendars by informing their colleagues of an impending day off.

clip_image004When dealing with people in other time zones, there is a clue to whether they are likely to be able to join a meeting (quite apart from whether they have their calendar blocked or not) – the Work time setting is meant to show others what days and hours their expected work time is supposed to be.

Looking at the scheduling assistant grid, the light-grey area is supposed to be not-work time, and if there are any clip_image006lighter-coloured blocks, that means they’re free and open for booking. Individually, you might also see their time zone displayed in their Profile Card when clicking on the user’s name in Outlook, Teams etc. Again, this is available for people in the same organization, so when dealing with external parties another approach will be required.

A variety of 3rd party services exist to help people find time when others are free – a bit like a restaurant or hotel booking service, tools like Calendly or HubSpot (others are available) offer to expose your free time slots to selected external people, so they can find a slot that you are available and reserve it for a meeting with them. Office users could also use FindTime, which effectively sends a poll of suggested times to a group of people and gets them to vote on which one suits them best.

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There’s also a Bookings application which is part of Microsoft 365; accessible via the app launcher icon (the grid of squares on the top left if you login on office.com using an account with an active M365 subscription). Bookings is designed to manage scheduling across a group of people – like in a hairdresser’s salon, where multiple members of staff could be available on different shift patterns, but a simple web UI is presented to an end customer so they can find a time when their favourite snipper is available.

Regular ToW contributor Ian Moulster spotted a new addition to Microsoft 365 which appeared in July, and though it may have common underpinnings, it’s a different offering to Bookings – called Bookings with me.

clip_image010You might spot the Bookings with me notification in the top right of Outlook Web App, or try setting it up at outlook.office.com/bookwithme.

If available in your subscription, you can then set up a booking page with a menu of meeting types you want to accept – eg 20 minute 1:1 Teams calls in “public” (ie available to anyone who has your booking page URL – you might even add it to your email signature), or more specific meetings that are “private”, which you can choose to make available individually to sets of people. There are numerous of controls over how much time before and after the meeting, what days/times it can happen etc. Availability is synced with your Outlook calendar.

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When you share the booking page or private URL with people, they just find themselves a time that’s free, and either sign in with a M365 work or school account or give another email address. If the latter, they will get an email with a verification code to enter into the booking form (M365 users are presumed already clean), and after confirming the code, they’ll get a meeting request sent from your calendar, with location and/or Teams details.

652 – ‘Av @, ta!

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One of the most eagerly-awaited updates to Microsoft Teams took a step closer, with the announcement at Ignite that Mesh Avatars are going into preview.

clip_image004When Mesh (the new metaverse avatary thing, rather than the Ray Ozzie sync tech from 2008) was first unveiled 18 months ago, Brad Sams from First Ring Daily had a new business idea. Using Mesh avatars for Teams, the floating torso thing is less of an issue. Since most people in Teams meetings are sitting or standing at a desk, those who use their camera (rather than feigning some technical reason to not do so) will generally only be visible from the middle up anyway.

The Mesh Avatars for Teams feature is currently in private preview, and will roll out more widely “later” – if you’re interested in taking part in the public preview, sign up for more info, here.

In a nutshell, this capability allows you to be in a Teams meeting but instead of showing your camera image, it displays an avatar you define instead.

clip_image006The avatar doesn’t move, other than its mouth mumbling along if you are talking.

Although the stock images in the preview docs show various types of engagement, all of them are done by the avatar’s operator so most of the time, a team meeting full of avatars will have everyone staring blankly out into space.

One side effect of this is that the avatars still look vaguely engaged, even if their humans have left the room to make a cup of tea. Why sit in a boring meeting when you can have your avatar do it for you?

clip_image008You create your own digital likeness in a similar process to how you’d customize a character on Xbox – there are numerous options for shape, colour, clothing, accoutrements and so on.

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Start by clicking the “…” button on the vertical left toolbar in Teams and search for Mesh Avatar to kick the process off. If you don’t find that in the apps list, then you’ll need to wait until the preview is available to you.

In use, you can either have your camera on or you can use an avatar, and you will be able to add custom backgrounds to either.

You could freak everyone out by taking a webcam photo of your real backdrop, just without you in it, and let your avatar virtually inhabit your actual office.

During a meeting, there is a fairly diverse gallery of actions that you can make your avatar do – from simple stuff like giving a thumbs up or visibly laughing, to a range of theatrical reactions that might help convey how you feel about the meeting you’re currently in. 

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651 – Snappy Snap

imageSnap is a feature in Windows, used to arrange applications on screen, building on a shortcut that has been around since Windows 7: press the Windows Key and one of the arrow keys simultaneously, and the current window will be maximised, minimised or snapped to one side of the screen. Windows 8’s touch fixation brought other means to control window layouts, while Windows 10 evolved things further with “Snap Assist”.

One of the improvements that came initially to Windows 11 and has been improved in the latest 22H2 updateimaginatively called the Windows 11 2022 Update – is the Snap Layouts feature, allowing finer control on the way you want windows to be arranged.

clip_image002Especially useful on high-res displays, this can be invoked by hovering the mouse over the maximise icon in the top right of any window, and choosing from a set of offered layouts.

clip_image004You’ll then be able to select other open applications that can be slotted into the remaining screen space.


clip_image006This Snap Layout can also be invoked on the active window by pressing WindowsKey+Z, followed by a number key to represent the layout you want; press the corresponding number and then another clip_image008number within the destination group, to quickly move the window – or Edge browser tab – to that location. This now creates a Snap group which shows up in the ALT+TAB gallery as if it was a single application, so making it easier to manage side-by-side windows that are related.

clip_image010Finally, in the Windows 11 22H2 update, if you drag your window to the top of the screen, a small black bar will hove into view…

clip_image012Continue dragging your window onto that as a target and a larger control will appear, allowing you to drop your window into the appropriate place. This also kicks off the Snap Assist feature which lets you easily select the other windows you’d like to be in the same layout.

*Deceased muso George Michael famously pranged into a Snappy Snaps store, leading to some inspired graffiti.

650 – All hands meetings

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Even though Dilbert isn’t funny any more there have been some good ones in the past, satirising corporate life. People who used to be cubicle or office based might struggle to deal with the new reality that most office workers would rather not be in the office 5-days-a week, 9 to 5, yet bosses would prefer people to not be slacking off at home in their PJs.

Zoom, Teams and other platforms adopted a metaphor in an online meeting, where attendees can figuritively raise their hand so they can be asked to speak. It works well when the people running the meeting have the discipline to check that they don’t have a forest of lifted paws before asking, “are there any questions?” to their audience.

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It helps if presenters are not doing the lowest-common-denominator thing of sharing their desktop to present slides. Using Teams’ own slide sharing means you can see the chat, and who’s joined, and whether they have their hand raised.

clip_image004Meeting participants also need to have the practice of raising their hand and waiting to be invited to talk, rather than blaring in to raise new topics or talk over others. Other attendees can also see who has their hand raised (look in the video gallery and you may notice those who have their hand raised are highlighted) and if you look in the People pane, you’ll see the order that attendees raised their hands as well, so if you’re the organizer then you can ask the top and most patient questioner to contribute at a point that makes sense.

A new etiquette has sprung up in hybrid meetings, though – how to balance commentary from remote attendees with chatter that’s happening in the room? Ordinarily, you’d rely on body language in a meeting room to decide it’s time to interject, nodding and perhaps making hand gestures yourself.

When some / half / most of the attendees are remote but you’re in the physical meeting room, it might be prudent to actually join the same Teams meeting on your PC – you’d only be sitting in the room looking at email on your screen anyway – and use the hand raise function before speaking, even if you’re sitting next to other contributors. This way, you’re on the same footing as all the remote attendees and it shows that you are at least giving the pretence of thinking about them too.

clip_image006When joining a Teams meeting on your PC, there’s a yeah-yeah dialog box which pops up just before entering the “room”, which presents various potentially relevant audio related options. The norm would be to use comptuer audio, then select what speakers/mic you want to use.

These join options can also give you a number to dial in to (or be called by the meeting, so you can stay silent and camera-less on somebody else’s dollar).

If you’re the first to join while in a physical Teams Room, you could bring the room system into your meeting and control it from your machine.


clip_image008If you are a bod in the room, though, then choose “Don’t use audio” to avoid any mic or speaker issues, causing endless echo. That way, you can enter the online meeting while being in the actual room, interact with other attendees on chat and use features like reactions and hand raising just as if you’re sitting at home.

Just remember that you are, actually, in front of other people, and also remember to change the default option back to “Computer audio” next time you enter a truly remote meeting, or you’ll spend the first few minutes saying “hello, hello? Can you hear me…?”

649 – Exploring SharePoint libraries

clip_image002SharePoint is now old enough that it could walk into a bar and buy itself a beer. It has changed a lot over the versions; starting out as a server product that would produce “portals” (or “digital dashboards”) it grew quickly to being rather more document-centric. SharePoint became the back-end for OneDrive for Business storage, and both have evolved a long way.

Two years ago, SharePoint was said to be used by over 200 million users. The following year, the Gartner MQ had it way out in front on the “Ability to Execute” Y-axis and slightly behind only one other supplier on the “Completeness of Vision” X-axis. It won’t be long now for the next MQ report to appear.

Nowadays, SharePoint underpins quite a lot of Microsoft 365 functionality, such as apps like Lists which provide a groovier UI over the top of the base web services, and the document oriented collab in Teams.

clip_image004If you look at a file library in Teams, you’ll see a bunch of SharePoint-y options – you can Sync the content offline and it will be held offline, using OneDrive to sync it (and if you like, syncing only the files you’ve opened rather than the whole shebang).

clip_image006The Sync’ed libraries show up in the Windows Explorer app, and in any number of applications’ File | Open / Save dialog boxes, so you can access and interact with the files through the apps you use rather than browsing to SharePoint.

You’ll see a collection of folders that have been set up to Sync, shown with your organization name, alongside any personal OneDrive and OneDrive for Business synced libraries.

The Download option (next to Sync on the Toolbar in Teams), creates a single ZIP file your computer, with the entire contents of the folder you’re looking at, so use it carefully.

clip_image008One somewhat overlooked option further to the right of the toolbar (or may be on the ellipsis (“…”) menu): Add shortcut to OneDrive. This creates a shortcut link to the current SharePoint folder within your main OneDrive for Business storage, making it easy to find that SharePoint folder in the future, even though it’s not synced offline. The Add shortcut option is also visible on the ellipsis to the right of sub-folders when viewed in SharePoint or Teams.

Don’t add shortcuts to libraries – or sub-folders – which are already being Synced offline. That would be bad.

One downside to the OneDrive shortcut approach is that it just dumps the link into “My Files”, which is the root folder in OneDrive. The shortcut is named the same as the original source – so if you have lots of Teams folders with the same name (eg “Documents”), they will clash with each other as adding a new link would try to create a shortcut with the same name as one that exists already.

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One solution would be to create a subfolder in OneDrive, called Sites (or similar), and after creating the shortcut to your latest Teams/SharePoint site, go to the root OneDrive folder and move your new shortcut – maybe renaming it too, so you can see what its parent site was (since the shortcut doesn’t make it clear what the source SharePoint site is) – you’d then have a Sites folder with lots of Shortcuts like Project Team – Documents etc.

Another side benefit of using shortcuts rather than Syncing offline, is that if you have multiple PCs – or feel like accessing OneDrive through a browser on a different machine altogether – you will always have access to the same collection of shortcuts, whereas the Sync offline capability is configured separately on each machine.