There are many ways of jumping straight into bits of Windows that would otherwise take a load of clicking around the place. ToW #312 covered some of them – especially on how to go directly to special folders like your pictures or downloads, but there are many other ways of jumping right into important bits of Windows under the hood.
WindowsKey+R / ncpa.cpl is one of the longest-serving and most useful, going back to Windows for Workgroups; it proceeds directly to the guts of the old-style networking control panel that can still be used to manage and connect to remote networks or configure advanced properties of the PC’s network stack.
Pressing WindowsKey+X shows a shortcut menu that gives you quick access to lots of different but handy bits of Windows options and settings – eg. the System page, which gives you easy way to find your machine’s name, what version of Windows you’re using, what spec hardware you have etc. Not stuff you’ll find you need every day, but when you do, this is the easiest way of getting to that page.
Maybe the easiest, but not the most direct – many of the settings pages can also be got at by running ms-settings:name, eg ms-settings:about, which will do the same – either by entering that from the Run command (WindowsKey+R) or by creating a shortcut on the desktop (right-click on the desktop, choose New -> Shortcut) and then enter the appropriate command. Try some other ms-settings: commands – appsfeatures, display. Chere here or here for some more ideas.
OneNote continues to attract love from enthusiastic end users as well as continuous improvement from the product group; the former collective shows up with many blogs, articles and addins, most of which focus on the more traditional Windows desktop app, though the product group seems to be spending more effort in building functionality into the mobile and Windows Store versions of the app.
There are clear functional differences between the two Windows versions; the desktop app has a lot more functionality, some of it shared across other Office apps. The Store version (now being referred to as “OneNote for Windows 10”) has a much cleaner design that isn’t as functionally rich as the desktop but concentrates more on ease of use and focussing on the basics that are used most often, especially cross-platform with mobile and web apps too.
To hear a bit more about the ethos behind this redesign, (and other interesting info) check out this interview with OneNote design director, March Roberts.
If you’re a OneNote fan, there are plenty of great resources to get more tips and help – though quite a few of the blogs you may come across are pretty dead by the look of things. The most informative and up to date is maybe the official Office blog, which regularly posts OneNote content, especially with an educational spin: a key use scenario, given the effort that’s been put into the suite of classroom tools centred around the OneNote Class Notebook.
To get some more detail on what’s new, see the announcement here.
There are many bits of functionality buried in Office applications, and the typical assumption is that most people use a few percent of the functionality (though you can never be sure that it’s the same few percent used by everyone, otherwise everyone would settle for a much simpler and less functional Office suite – see Scott Adams’ The Dilbert Future, from 1997, draws a comparison with the Network Computer idea then being peddled by Scott McNealy – “many people will prefer a low-cost solution, even if it means giving up some functionality and prestige” – the answer? “one word: Yugo”).
OneNote is no exception – even heavy OneNote users will probably find useful functionality if they spend 10 minutes having a snoop around in the menus and trying stuff out. In this case, we’re talking about the more traditional Desktop OneNote app rather than the Store / Modern version. Ya falla?
Tags is a set of features you couldn’t say were hidden – they’re right in the middle of the Home tab on the Ribbon, in their own group called, er, Tags. You’ll see a supposed-to-be-easy-to-use list of common tags, a big shortcut to mark something as “To Do” and a Find Tags command. The idea is that you can select a blob of text or other object on your OneNote page, then click on the appropriate Tag to mark it as such, and recall it more easily in future.
First, let’s look at the list that’s provided by default – it has some probably pretty useful but unspecific things like “Remember for later”, but you can edit or add your own if they’re more particular to your needs.
There are a variety of ways to getting to the customize dialog – the simplest being to right-click in that list of tags and choose Customize Tags … (or just Modify the one you’re right-clicking). You’ll see a variety of things you can change about the Tag in the list, and you can also re-order the tags, and the top 9 will automatically get CTRL+number shortcuts.
Tags start to get really useful when you search for them, particularly if you use them a lot, and when you consider the relatively blunt search capabilities in OneNote (ie. It’s relatively easy to search either within the current page/section/notebook, but it can give you a huge amount of search results if you have lots of old data).
With Tags, you can scope down to a few predefined (though not customizable themselves) filters, and even create a single page referencing all of them.
One final note about Tags is that if you right-click on the list of Tags on the Home page, you’ll get the option of adding the Tag “Gallery” (as we now know the list to be called) to the Quick Access Toolbar, making it easier to select a tag for some piece of content from anywhere inside of OneNote.
As ever, there are a few known issues documented in the release notes. In this build, If you have multiple displays at different scale resolutions, Edge may habitually load pages at the wrong scale – so everything is either really really tiny
To workaround this, just flick to another tab and back again – and save constantly zooming in and out.
Another issue to be aware of is that after installation of 16215, you may find that Outlook won’t connect to your mailbox any more – and any attempts to create a new profile will fail.
Repairing / reinstalling Office won’t help either. Instead of going through the aggro, try a quick fix in disabling HTTP/2 on the machine:
Can you remember the time when, if you wanted to know how to get somewhere, you needed to look on a paper map? Before mapping was at all available online, people would either buy paper maps or license software packages – sometimes at great expense – that had road information in a database, so they could plan journeys.
A company called NextBase released an early PC application called “Autoroute” that was bought by fleet transport managers and the likes, who might have saved time and fuel by more efficiently planning the routes that their vehicles would take. This made it worth the £500 or so that the software package cost†.
† this figure is made up, because I can’t for the life of me find any reference to the actual cost, but I do remember it was A LOT. Like, enough to drive a lot of pirate copies…
Now AutoRoute, Streets & Trips and their more professional data analysis counterpart, MapPoint, have all shuffled off to make way for the more popular – and mostly free – online mapping tools that people use today. Microsoft acquired MultiMap along the way, to bring additional expertise and technology to the Bing Maps platform.
So, most people will now use Bing Maps or Google Maps (Street View not available in all places) for finding directions. The latter is particularly good for finding places where you don’t need to know their address; put the name of a restaurant into Google Maps in a browser, or onto the Google Maps app on your phone, and you can get directions straight there without even bothering to look it up first.
Tip: if you search for the name of a place in Bing Maps, it shows you the result in a pop-out pane on the left, but sometimes leaves you trying to zoom & scroll, zoom & scroll to get the detail around your destination… to quickly go there, click once on the title banner (“Microsoft UK” in the example below) to collapse it, and once again to bring it back – at which point, the map view should zoom to the point.
Anyway, Bing Maps is improving its ability to find stuff around any given point – nearby restaurants, attractions, parking, that kind of thing – and this has now percolated through into a nicely updated Maps application for Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile.
To see what version of Windows Maps you’re running, click the elipsis in the top right, choose Settings and scroll to the bottom to see the version number – at time of writing, the updated version is Maps 5.1705.1391.0 but insiders will be on a later release.
If you search for a place, or even just right-click somewhere on a map to Drop a Pin, you’ll get the option to see what’s nearby and quickly find more details, plan a route to the destination etc.
As well as integrating place info better, the Maps app also has some nice traffic reporting capabilities – if Cortana knows your home and work locations, Maps will immediately think about your commute when you click on the traffic lights icon near the top right. As well as showing a colour coded traffic map, it shows public traffic cameras and lets you easily access them.
And if you plan a route using the driving directions, you can pin that route to your Start menu if it’s one you use a lot…
Read more about other updates to Windows Maps in the recent weeks.
If you use the Edge browser in Windows 10 as your default (presumably by ignoring prompts on any Google property, to install and default to Chrome) then you may be familiar with the default tab behaviour, which helpfully shows you most-visited sites and also displays some “news” content below.
This “My feed” section can be a neat way to get news items of interest without having to do anything but fire up a new browser tab when you were planning to do something else anyway. Maybe distracting, though, unless you’re careful, and as well as the news, there’s plenty of click-bait garbage in there that can do just that. Who couldn’t resist naming these forgotten 1990s movies, or those car badges you don’t see any more? Or wonder what it was that happened next that shocked everyone?
There isn’t a lot of fine-tuning that can be achieved with My feed, however; a fact that’s driving people nuts on feedback forums and on the sometimes preposterously-named “Answers” forum (“please clear your browser cache, reboot, stand on one leg and rub the top of your head – that should fix it”).
The main degree of customisation you can do is to tweak the settings for what you prefer – click on the gear icon in the top right (above the Top Sites section), and choose whether you want to switch off the feed and just show Top sites or nothing. Some lanugages (not US English, oddly) allow you to choose what your favourite topics are, though deselecting some (and making the surrounding border disappear from the topic) doesn’t actually remove it from your feed – it just makes it a little less prevalent, and not quite immediately.
The gripes being exposed online about the feed tend to be around the nature of the news itself or in the tone and volume of the adverts (like, in the UK, do I really want Microsoft to push dodgy-sounding $30 TV antennae?).
The most annoying ads appear to be served up by Taboola and there doesn’t appear to be a way of blocking them – unless you know differently; then please write up what you did and share the info with me, whereupon kudos will be bestowed in great quantity – so if you don’t want to put up with intrustive click-bait, then your only current option is to basically switch off the feed and go somewhere else for your news (research shows many are using social media as their preferred way of hearing news, though the tide may be turning).
Maybe use a proper news web aggregator site, e.g. Bing news or this little-used one, both of which would let you filter and customise your news sources, or rely on a news app to provide you with even more control or detail (such as MSN News or Feedlab if you’re after getting your news up the RSS).
OneNote is a favourite app for many people, especially if you like taking notes using a pen. With the Surface Pro announcement, it’s apparently even better with inking, even if the groovy new pen isn’t bundled with the package and only a third of existing Surface users ever pick their pen up.
There are some updates rolling out to the mobile & web versions of OneNote, that will improve a bunch of navigational and creative features, and will appear in the modern Windows app version (though OneNote 2016 will be unaffected).
As well as being a place to collaborate and store information, OneNote is a great place to dump all sorts of stuff you want to keep – from the business cards or expense receipts you might get from Office Lens, to emails or other documents you may want to associate with notes around a given topic.
If you have OneNote 2016 installed – via Office365 for example – then you’ll have a “Send to OneNote 2016” options visible in the print dialog from any application – but there’s a new Store app called Send to OneNote that does the same thing but for the modern Windows App once installed, you have another fake printer available for any app to drop a printout into OneNote.
Of course, there are other ways of getting content into OneNote – from the Share to method that was covered recently in ToW 378, to the OneNote Clipper browser extension, or even the direct email to OneNote function… all of which may both provide a more useful sharing/clipping experience, but are only usable in certain applications or ways.
The modern OneNote app keeps getting minor updates that both bring it more into line functionally with the traditional desktop OneNote 2016, but also give it a fresher UI in some respects, especially on touch or pen-friendly devices.
With the news that Cortana is coming to a consumer audio device near you, it’s worth revisiting a few things that Cortana on your desktop can do for you. If you have a Windows 10 PC with a microphone, then you may be able to enable “Hey Cortana”, which lets you talk to your machine and ask it stuff. See what’s new with the Blue One in the Creators Update.
You can leave yourself voice notes and Cortana will stick them in the Quick Notes section of OneNote – using the Modern App version of OneNote, look under Settings -> Options -> choose a notebook for Quick Notes to set the default location.
Even if you don’t talk to your PC, pressing WindowsKey+Q will launch Cortana, as a quick way of searching for apps or documents on your machine, or answers on the web – just type in your query, then filter by the icons on top of the window as appropriate.
Cortana can do a lot more than just be a shim for Bing search; she can offer immediate advice, like what the time is in a different location, what’s the weather for tomorrow, and more. Type a flight number to see its current status, a stock symbol for a quote or a couple of currency symbols for an immediate exchange rate estimate.
While many of these commands work when you type them (eg type, time new york, as on the left), some will only work when spoken and some will give a better UI and/or more detail when voiced rather than typed (such as the “Hey Cortana, what’s the time in New York” query on the right)…
Of course, there are plenty of stupid things you can ask Cortana – open the pod bay doors, sing me a song, knock knock, who let the dogs out, etc etc. Just like Alexa or Siri, there are many built-in Easter Eggs.
You can sometimes string some interesting productivity commands together, too – some could be useful in context, like reminding you to buy milk next time you’re in a supermarket (whereupon your phone will trigger a reminder when it knows you’ve just walked into a supermarket, based on GPS) or next time you talk to a particular contact, to remind you to ask them something (where it will pop up when you next speak to them, exchange emails etc).
You can issue some pretty complex instructions to add reminders – eg. “Hey Cortana, add Pink Floyd exhibition Their Mortal Remains at the V&A to my calendar for tomorrow at 3:45” … and Cortana can put it on your calendar, or just maintain a list of reminders in her own Notebook.
(NB: screen shot to the right was not faked up, although it did take more than one attempt …)
A couple of years ago, ToW #282 covered how to delay your mail from being sent, by forcing Outlook to work offline, by selectively delaying individual messages or even adding a rule to ensure that every one is held up. It’s a very useful thing to do, sometimes – a great way to prevent accidental mail sending, or give you a chance to revise stuff you’ve sent after maybe reading newer emails in your inbox.
This tip presents a refinement of the process as there is a downside to automatically delaying everything – namely, if you’re in a hurry to go somewhere but you need a mail to be fired off beforehand, it can be annoying to have to hang around for the enforced delay to expire before you can safely pack up and head out.
You will need to do a bit of digging around inside Outlook dialogs, so it may help to park this on a 2nd screen, copy to a Word doc or something…
What we’re going to do is set up a rule to delay all outgoing email – except mail with a particular category assigned to it, so that will be sent immediately. If you know you want the mail you’re about to send to go right now, then you could manually set the category before you hit send, and it will leave straight away.
This is all very well if you remember to go in and set the category before you his send. If you regularly have an Outbox full of stuff waiting to go and you’re truly adventurous, you could add a Macro to Outlook to automatically flush the queue. Press ALT+F8 to get to the Macro settings; if prompted to run or create a macro, Create a new one called SendNow, paste the following into the code window:
After saving/exiting from the Macro editor, you might want to add a shortcut to your new macro to the Quick Access Toolbar in the main Outlook window. When you add the command to the list on the right hand side of the dialog, you can modify the button to give it a snazzier icon and a name that means something.
One of the Charms in Windows 8 promised to make it easy to share content between applications – rather than copying & pasting, maybe it would be better to allow the source application to provide some extra context to the destination app. When it works well, app-app sharing is really useful, but it maybe didn’t take off quite as much as expected.
The Sharing icon from Windows 8.x and early Windows 10 versions was the 3-blobs-in-a-circle which does looks a lot like the Ubuntu logo for some, and doesn’t necessarily convey the meaning of sharing to others. One of the tweaks in the Creators Update was not only a newly-designed icon, but a new Sharing UI that aims to simplify the process further.
If you are using a suitable Windows app (like Edge or Photos, for example), which touts the new sharing icon (the one with the arrow leaping out of the box), then when you choose the Share action, a UI will show up that lists all the apps that could be the target for Sharing, and a link to the Store to find more.
Sharing a page from Edge to OneNote, for example, will put a thumbnail image if available, a description of the page, and will let you add your own verbatim notes before saving the content as a new page in your notebook.
There are a few Clipboard apps which can be handy for sharing content so you can paste it into an old fashioned app that doesn’t support the Share method. Some “traditional” Windows apps – like the venerable Windows Explorer – are Share enabled, even though their icon may still be using the old design for now (and some Store apps have the same design lag – the Store App itself being one of them…)