Last week’s ToW was the six-hundred, 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 dodge 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.
One 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 one base 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- M+ 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.
Screen-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.
The 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.
An 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.
A 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).
It’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.
The … 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.
Microsoft has a somewhat complicated history with ”mobile apps”. The Windows Phone platform promised much, and though many of the ideas were good, ultimately it went away. The Universal Windows Platform app model was a sound idea in some respects, but when the ‘Phone disappeared, its raison d’être ceased to be.
At one point, there were calls that Windows Phone should be able to run Android apps in emulation, or that Microsoft should embrace Android in other ways. Recent years have seen Microsoft publish a profusion of Android apps, including the excellent Launcher, which takes some of the ideas honed in the Windows Phone UI and makes them available to just about any Android phone.
When the dual-screen Surface Duo phone appeared, it was the first time Microsoft had shipped a device running Android as the base operating system. Recent speculation on the future of the Surface Duo 3 might point to a different form factor, but it’s still very likely going to be running the Android OS.
On the desktop, Windows 11 has been offering Android apps to many users for a little while. Similar in some ways to Windows Subsystem for Linux, which basically lets you run a fully-fledged Linux machine inside your Windows PC, the Windows Subsystem for Android means running Android in a virtual machine and allowing apps to appear in a window alongside native Windows apps.
To run Android apps on the WSA on Windows 11, you first need to install the Amazon Appstore. There are many apps in this store, but since it originally started as a walled garden for Amazon’s own Fire tablets, there are gaps. You won’t find many banking apps, for example, and aside from the thousands of garish games, many of the available apps could just be run in a browser on your PC instead.
The Amazon Appstore app itself is a bit crude – it doesn’t offer much opportunity to filter and sort the apps it presents, so it’s not easy to wade through the many stupid games to find real apps you might want to use. It’s maybe better to peruse what’s available through a browser, and then search specifically within the Appstore app for the app you want to add.
If you wanted to use Android apps that are not published through the curated Amazon store, you’d need to have access to the Google Play store, and that’s not officially an option with the Windows Subsystem for Android.
There are numerous hacks online to enable Google Play Services (and thus the Googley Store) but getting it installed and running is convoluted, and at least one script has already been subverted with malware, so might be a risky endeavour too. You might want to try running BlueStacks or another Android emulator, to get access to the Google Play store.
Happy New Year! Do you have any resolutions that you’ve decided to follow, other than the usual (eat less, move more, try all you can to write 2023 instead of 2022)? How about cleansing your web browser start up screen to something more useful and/or less distracting?
With the Edge browser, the default New Tab Page (or NTP) presents a configurable and sometimes useful way to display information, however the source of news articles and the advertising that is shown alongside can sometimes be, er, challenging.
Third party advertising aggregators take sponsored content from an originator and present it as an advert. This presents a problem for the sites that choose to sell advertising space – in tiles mixed with legitimate sources in the likes of the NTP, or in chumbox “Recommended for You” type content at the bottom or side of articles.
Some of the ads often lead users to a site which will do more than try to sell them something – some try to get them to install browser addons, show faux review sites recommending dubious-at-best products, or fraudulently push get rich quick schemes and the like.
If the originator keeps foisting nonsense adverts with poor quality visuals and clickbait headlines through the aggregator, the content owner who relies on the revenue stream from the ads can complain and have it blocked – it doesn’t do their reputation any good if their site is littered with stupid adverts.
Ad blockers don’t work on the Edge new tab page, but you can report a dodgy ad by clicking the ellipsis on the top right of the tile. Or submit a report here. This is a whack-a-mole game in a modern sense, since even if the original is blocked they may just appear the next day on a different URL but with substantially the same garbage content.
If this kind of insidious spam drains your energy, there are things you can do to minimize or remove the nonsense, even without switching to a different browser.
Looking at the Edge NTP, if you are using a browser profile signed in with a Microsoft 365 account, you might see “Work” or similar in the Enterprise page; it’s extremely useful and quite customizable, and administrators could make Edge default to that tab. If users click on My Feed, they’ll get the same view as a non-Enterprise tab, and it will stick for that user on the next new tab.
You can customize the “My Feed” section by choosing to Personalise your content selection and how you want it laid out, but if you want to switch the whole lot off altogether then look on the settings cog on the top right.
Switching the clickbait off will mean you get a beautiful Bing image taking up most of the screen (click the double-headed arrow on the bottom right to find out what it is), with a search bar and some collapsible quick links tiles pointing to pinned or recently-used sites, and other subtle info points like weather or stock prices.
Replace NTP altogether
There is no option within Edge to set what the New Tab Page should be – it’s only possible to tweak the one that’s there already. Install a simple extension like Custom New Tab, however, and you can point it to any URL you like (a largely clickbait and ad-free news source like Google News might be one choice, or a customized set of sources from something like Feedly). After installing and configuring, you’ll need to deal with Edge checking if you really want to replace the NTP and making sure that it’s not being subverted by some malicious code. Just say Yes.
A final nail in the NTP could be to just silence all the distractions by installing the Blank New Tab extension: that’s the equivalent of setting the new tab page to be about:blank.
If you’re still using Edge and have replaced the NTP with something else, yet feel like checking in on either your M365/Enterprise page or you’d like to outrage yourself over the stupid adverts polluting the “My Feed” section, just drop https://ntp.msn.com/edge/ntp?query=enterprise into the address bar to get the classic NTP experience.
Sales people tend to not like CRM systems very much. They are usually foisted on the poor folk who need to figure out how to get what they need out of them, while navigating a cumbersome and unhelpful set of behaviours and expectations. And that’s just the sales people – the CRM implementations can be poor too.
If you have to use CRM, and you’re lucky enough to be using Dynamics 365 Sales (if not, you can get a free month’s trial), then there are some handy contact management tools worthy of a few minutes’ attention. First of all, the Outlook integration for the latest D365 CRM service means if you have an email from a customer or partner, you can track it and quickly add contacts on the email to the CRM system by invoking the Dynamics add-in.
Click the Dynamics 365 icon in Outlook and you’ll see a sidebar show up on the right. The “Set Regarding” option lets you add the email to a customer record in CRM. Below that, if the contact doesn’t exist already, you’ll see the option to add it by clicking on the recipient’s name and hit the + button on the lower right.
Depending on the rules of your particular system, you’ll probably need to provide a job role and maybe some other fields, and you might not be able to associate that contact with an account yet – perhaps you’ll need to save it to Dynamics first, then make the association with the account to which the contact belongs.
If the Account field is locked when you first add the contact, then once your contact has been saved in the sidebar, click the hamburger menu icon on the top left and look under Recent to open that contact again, then you should be able to choose the account name from that view, rather than fishing about in the main CRM UI for all the other added contacts.
From within the same sidebar UI, you can fire up a more fully-featured view by opening it in a separate Dynamics window. From there you can more easily do stuff like matching the contact to one in LinkedIn, if you have Sales Navigator access; it’s a handy way of associating the two, though annoyingly it doesn’t automatically pick up the LinkedIn photo and associate it with the CRM contact.
To set a picture for your contact, click on the circular initials at the top left of the name and that lets you choose a photo – ideally, you’ll have already saved the mugshot to your machine first, though if the image is online – a company website, for example – you might be able to grab the direct URL to the photo and paste it into the Upload Image dialog.
Getting images from LinkedIn can be a little more laborious especially if you’re doing this in batches. Here’s a fairly simple technique to make it easier.
OK, so you have an image for each of your contacts – so what? Well, all the contacts you’ve just added should be visible in the Org Chart function which appears on the main toolbar of the Account. With a bit of dragging and dropping, you can quickly lay out the reporting structure for your known customer contacts.
Handles will appear on contacts as you move them around, to help manage the way the chart is displayed and keep it simple. Save the chart layout when you’re happy, and you can show your boss how diligent you’re being at managing your customer relationship. Now, who wouldn’t want that?
How you control the sonic emissions from your PC has changed repeatedly over the years; volume is often adjustable by hardware buttons or function keys but more advanced controls are usually found by double-clicking a speaker icon in the system tray. Windows 11 evolved the UI further, in the hope of making it easier to use.
Now, if you click the speaker, you don’t jump to the full blown sound control panel, but to a quick settings dialog which controls some commonly used connectivity and display settings, customizable if you like. Desktop PCs typically don’t need Flight mode, but nocturnal users may want to add night light for quickly changing screen colour.
Drag the slider by the volume icon and the predictable happens but click the icon to its right and you can easily choose which output device you want to use, if you have several (like headphones, speakers, monitors etc). Clicking More volume settings at the bottom takes you to a more fully-featured volume control panel.
If you have multiple monitors connected to your PC – especially if HDMI is involved – it’s possible your machine might expect to route sound to one or more of them; unless you do actually have speakers attached to the monitor, or it’s in fact a flippin’ big television, you’d probably prefer it didn’t show up on the list of potential output devices.
Click on the arrow to the right of the device you want to exclude – the ASUS monitor, in this case – and then hit the Don’t allow button: next time you look in the quick volume settings UI, it’s no longer there.
Some apps might have a UX for controlling audio output directly, over-riding the system default and probably sticking with whatever device you choose – Teams or Zoom, for example, may choose a USB speaker/mic or a headset if connected, rather than using the laptop speaker. If the app doesn’t know anything of sound devices, then ordinarily it will use the default (as per the options above), but there is a somewhat hidden setting that lets you tweak things further rather than having to alter the system’s chosen output just for that app or session.
If you want to fire the audio stream from a particular app at a different endpoint than the system default – let’s say you have a Bluetooth speaker connected, but you’d prefer system sounds and the likes to keep coming from your laptop speakers – you could tell Windows to send that app’s audio output to a different place, and the app will never know about it.
In the main System > Sound control panel, scroll down to Volume Mixer and click the arrow to open it up. In that page, you’ll see a list comprising the currently-running applications which have made some kind of audio output (in other words, if you want to set an app up, make sure it’s started it and if it’s not in the list, start playing something).
In this case, the Dell monitor does have an amp & speakers attached to its audio line-out socket (where audio is sent to the monitor via the display cable, and it then puts it out to the speakers), so while spending a day of Teams calls and other system sounds emanating from the tinkly-bonk USB speaker, the business of smashing out some banging tunes can go to the bassier speakers.
Finally, should you wish to give your devices more meaningful names than the ones shown, look for More sound settings in that first System > Sound settings page. This brings up a Windows XP-era dialog which allows more precise configuration of devices and levels.
The Sound dialog lets you choose the sound scheme (controlling all the bongs and bings of Windows), configure the speaker arrangement (if you have surround sound etc), or choose all kinds of enhancements and effects.
It also lets you rename the device altogether and set a different icon, so when it shows up elsewhere – including in the shiny Windows 11 Settings app – then it’ll be a bit clearer what it really is
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.
Inevitably, 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 an 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.
One 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 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.
Childhood games sometimes revolved around the goodies and the baddies. Early Western movies often had the convention of good guys wearing white hats and villans wearing black; if nothing else, it helped the viewer distinguish who was who in a fast-moving fight scene when the film is shot in monochrome.
White hat and Black hat are also terms given to computer hackers, the black hats being figuratively worn by criminals trying to break in to systems for nefarious gain, whereas the white hat hackers do it so they can report vulnerabilities and make things more secure. As ever with computing, there are also many shades of grey.
In your own technology environment, you probably never see the bad actors until you are dealing with the aftermath of a security breach. Check that your common usernames and passwords are not being circulated around, by using the Password Monitor in Edge and look for known leaks at Have I Been Pwned.
If you use a Microsoft Account (also known as MSA, commonly identified with domains like outlook.com, hotmail.com, live.com etc), then it’s a good idea to make sure it has a complex password and most importantly that muti-factor authentication is enabled. See best practices for managing your MSA.
If you’d like to scare yourself, take a look at the activity history for your MSA – here – and you’ll probably see lots of attempts to sign in from places you’ve never been to, if it was even possible to have visited them in the timeframe of the activities.
Hopefully all the unrecognized tries to sign in have been denied… maybe it’s a good time to log in to any old Hotmail.com etc accounts you may still have, just to make sure they are secured appropriately?
It used to be considered a good idea to change passwords regularly, but in recent years that has been discouraged. It would be safer to have a long, complex password which is unique for each website or account you use, probably hooked up with a password manager and authenticator app. You could even remove the password altogether and use only multi-factor authentication.
MFA – or 2FA – isn’t perfect, though. El Reg reports on a very real threat to enterprise security, described as “MFA Fatigue” – when an administrator of a system who normally has to use MFA to access it, is bombarded by authentication prompts at times they don’t expect.
Human nature might assume the system is playing up, and eventually hit “Approve” on the MFA screen, to stop the annoyance.
Microsoft’s security prouct group has some advice on how to protect users from MFA Fatigue Attacks and has released a bunch of updates to the Microsoft Authenticator app and the back-end services to hopefully make it less of a threat.
The primary problem with all IT security though, ultimately sits between the keyboard and the chair.
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).
In 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 meeting 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 DL3 – hope you get on the EBC wall)
To 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.
Alternatively, 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.
SharePoint 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.
If 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).
The 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.
One 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.
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.