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.
Learning how to find stuff in email is crucial, since many of us get so much that we let it accumulate until eventually it becomes a problem. Sifting through the many cc’ed work mails, or finding the order confirmation email in your personal mailbox amongst all the other stuff, we’re more reliant on search than ever.
This is a topic that has been covered numerous times in previous ToWs – 573 – Searching in Outlook and 504 – Searching Outlook for example – but is worthy of a revisit since we may have a chance to pursue the fallacy that is Inbox Zero over the next few weeks. And maybe it’s a time to find and delete the special offer emails and once-in-a-lifetime invitations that may be clogging up our personal mailboxes too.
Dealing with desktop Outlook on the PC, there are plenty of tools available to help you find specific messages, in fact there’s a whole toolbar full of them.
As you look to search mail that meets your chosen criteria – it’s from someone in particular, maybe with a keyword in the subject, or that you know has an attached PowerPoint file, you’ll see that clicking the filters and options inserts the actual commands that will drive the search, into the Search bar positioned at the window’s top.
Remembering a few of these means it’s quick and easy to search for mail from a person (you don’t need the quotes, really, and you could use just a part of their name) by typing straight into the box. ALT+Q (for query?) sends your focus straight onto the search bar, so if you’re a keyboard warrior, you could ALT+TAB to Outlook, ALT+Q and enter a search command, before your mouse-toting colleagues have even clicked a toolbar. While we’re at it, remember that CTRL+number jumps to the location on the (now vertical) icon bar on the left, so CTRL+1 will normally be mailbox, CTRL+2 is calendar, CTRL+3 contacts, and so on.
Commands could also be used to filter on properties of a message that are not so easily visible through the UI – eg from:ewan messagesize:>10mb or from:nico sent:”last week”. See here for more examples of the kind of thing you can type. Look under Recent Searches to re-run ones you’ve typed before.
Reducing Mail Bloat
Is your mailbox size is starting to look under strain (look under the File menu to see how big your ‘box is and what the limit is)? With an active work mailbox in M365, it shouldn’t be much of a risk unless you genuinely never delete anything, but a quick way of identifying the big rocks and getting rid of them may be needed occasionally.
You could run a one-off search for all big mail as per the instructions above, or for extra control try creating a Search Folder. Expand the folder tree on Outlook’s left side, and scroll towards the bottom, to locate the Search Folders hierarchy, right-click on the top of the tree and choose New …
This will bring up a wizard which creates a query across your entire mailbox or other data file, but which looks like a folder; it’s visible only in Outlook desktop (ie not in web or on mobile) but can be a great way to locate stuff that might be filed away in the darker recesses of your mailbox.
You can choose from some set templates or do your own custom thing entirely. The age of this feature is somewhat given away by the default value for “Large mail”… click the Choose button and enter something meaningful (like 10000 for ~10MB).
This should give you a few easily deleted big mails to at least get any short-term capacity problems dealt with.
Right-click on the Search folder and choose Customize… to give it a better name, or to tweak the criteria.
If you have a Hotmail / Outlook.com etc mailbox, there may be a more pressing size issue, as over a period of years you might have been signed up to a newsletter every time you buy something online, and without realizing it, those could account for gigabytes of data bloat on your mailbox. If every notification from Amazon or eBay is 400K, they soon mount up to a meaningful size.
To check, go into Settings and search for Storage.
The UI for Outlook.com is simple and effective, but one thing it doesn’t do a great job of is handling message sizes.
If you want to do a mass clean-out of your Outlook.com account, then you could try sorting by From, however the UI won’t let you click on the group heading to select all emails from that sender and make it easy to delete them.
The Windows Mail app on Win11 doesn’t offer Size either, not even to sort by.
Sometimes, the old ways are the best – you get much more functionality if you add your Outlook.com account to full-fat desktop Outlook, allowing you to change the view, see and sort by message sizes etc. Oh, and yes, you can even set up a Search Folder too. Now, tidy away!
This is the last “regular” Tip o’ the Week until January.
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.
One 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.
You’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.
Edge 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.
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.
If 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. 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.
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.
When 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 lighter-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.
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.
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.
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.
Snap 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 update – imaginatively called the Windows 11 2022 Update – is the Snap Layouts feature, allowing finer control on the way you want windows to be arranged.
This 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 number 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.
Finally, 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…
Continue 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.
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.
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.
Meeting 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.
When 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.
If 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…?”
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.
After Windows 95 appeared on 25 August 1995, one of the later updates was to release a bunch of tweaks and addons which had been built to enhance the OS, but not considered mainstream enough to include them in the box – the Windows 95 PowerToys. They included such amazing advances as a round clock, or tools to help manage the country of your modem. Some more history of the PowerToys was covered back in 2005 by veteran commentator Raymond Chen.
In 2019, the Power Toys name was dusted down for a new run at building addins to Windows, this time using an open source approach; the vision document lays out what the team wants to achieve, and they are steadily releasing new versions with fixes, improvements and new features. You can find Power Toys in the Microsoft Store, or if you like to do to prove your geek creds, you can go straight to GitHub and download it.
Recently, v0.62 came out and added some new functions, like a draggable box (Screen Ruler) which shows you the exact number of pixels between the start point and the mouse – useful if you’re looking to figure out how large a part of your screen is.
There’s a neat Text Extractor tool which can take a selected area of an image and read the text within it straight to the clipboard – handy if you needed to get the serial number from a piece of electronics; take a picture on your mobile of the tiny writing on the back of the device, and quickly extract the details for pasting into some other app or website.
Other PowerToys of note include the Mouse Utilities, which can help find the mouse on screen – a double-tap of the CTRL key and you’ll get a temporary spotlight on the mouse, which can be super useful if you have multiple monitors and are not quite sure where the pointer has gone.