The word “Go” has so many connotations for such a couple of letters. It’s typically upbeat & positive, forward-looking and action-oriented. You get £200 for breezing past it in Monopoly, it’s the oldest board game known, it’s a popular open-source programming language and it’s what the Thunderbirds do.
Back in April 2021, ToW #574 talked about sharing a countdown timer in Teams, if you want to make it clear in a meeting that it’s about to get underway. That was by sharing the application window of a countdown clock, meaning that it would replace any other desktop sharing/slides etc being shown.
Also, the timer will loom very large on the screen of everyone watching, which could well be effective though maybe lacking some of the subtlety you’d prefer.
A more nuanced tip would be to overlay a timer on your own video feed, so you could make the point that things are about to change, and it could be shown alongside other content or whatever else might be happening in the meeting.
Depending on how you do it, the timer could disappear altogether when it has finished, and you’d carry on with the video as before. You might even want to replace your own camera feed with a backdrop and timer until you’re ready to go and show your face.
One recommended way to achieve this effect is to use OBS Studio, open source software which started life as a kind of video manipulation tool aimed at recording or streaming, and has grown to offer a host of features and plugins to modify and manipulate video in real time. It can look a bit scary to start with, but the basics can be picked up quickly.
OBS Studio can apply a series of effects to one or more video sources – could be the real-time recording of windows showing a live demo or a physical camera, with some other stuff like a video file, overlaid on top. You can go down a rabbit-hole of effects (like put a real-life green screen behind you, then chroma key a backdrop or video onto your own video feed – see Scott Hanselman’s tutorial for inspiration).
OBS also includes a virtual camera driver, so while you’re running the software and combining several sources – like a real camera and one or more media sources overlaid on top (along with selected effects) – OBS will combine everything to look like it’s a camera feed that can be selected in Teams, Zoom or any other software that could use a video input.
A simple trick could be to add only a countdown video to OBS and then choose the OBS Virtual Camera in Teams; it will display the video instead of your camera feed, and then when you’re ready to get going, just change the video settings in Teams to go back to your own webcam.
There are plenty of sources online for free countdown videos – here or here for example; download the file, add it to OBS as a Media Source and you’re off. If you’d like to take it up a level, here’s a more in-depth tutorial, and you can even script your own custom ones if you like to delver deeper into OBS features.
673 – Where is my mouse?
The “mouse” was invented 60 years ago, as a means of moving a cursor around on-screen. Through many generations of hardware, it evolved from using wheels to rubbery balls, before eventually going sensor-based and even losing the tail that may have helped coin its original name
Since many people now use laptops with touchpads, they won’t even use an external meecely peripheral but the term “mouse” is still often used to refer to the pointer that it controls. Finding that pointer on your desktop can sometimes be a challenge, especially if you have multiple screens on your computer, and particularly if at least one of them is a snazzy ultrawide job.
The free PowerToys addons to Windows 11 includes a section of Mouse utilities; install the full PowerToys suite and you can usually enable each feature individually, and set what mechanism you’d use to invoke it. Perhaps the most useful is the “Find my Mouse” keyboard shortcut – just press the CTRL key twice in quick succession, and the screen dims with a spotlight on where your pointer currently is. Press CTRL once again to remove it and go back to normal.
There are loads of settings to tweak how some of the utilities work – Find my Mouse could be enabled by shaking your mouse if you’d prefer. There’s also a highlighter feature that indicates if you’re pressing a left or right mouse button, or a crosshair view which, when turned on, sets a permanent crosshair display (again, configurable in numerous ways) that remains in place until you repeat the key combo to switch it off.
Mice can jump high – who knew?
A new mousey feature in the latest release of PowerToys is called Mouse Jump – erstwhile known as FancyMouse – and lets you teleport your mouse pointer from one side of a potentially massive desktop to another.
This is particularly handy if you have multiple screens set at different heights, and in order to traverse from one side of the desktop to the other would take you multiple swipes of a physical mouse or strokes of a touchpad.
Press the activation key and you’ll see a shrunken version of the desktop in a small window; click where you want the pointer to vamoose to on that depiction of the display and it will teleport to the other side of the desktop.
672 – Why your meetings are clashing
Look at your work calendar for the next two weeks or so; if you’re a part of a multi-national organization that routinely has meetings with people all over the world, your nicely ordered diary might be a maelstrom of overlapping and clashing appointments. Welcome to the start of the 6-monthly Daylight Saving Time Shuffle! Of course, you might have clashing for other reasons.
Meetings in Outlook – apparently, other PIMs are available – are created in the time zone of the organizer. If you’re in London and have set up a weekly 4pm meeting, most of the time that’s at 8am for the people in San Francisco, but for the next 2 weeks it’d be 9am and therefore possibly conflicting with whatever else they had planned for then.
The topic of time and its zones has been covered ad nauseam on ToW passim, but it’s worth a quick reminder of what is ahead (and other countries / regions still do vary – see a summary of the global daylight saving time dates and regions, here), especially since the US has a habit of doing things differently to the rest of the world:
- 12 March 2023 – Most of the US, Canada, Carribean enters DST (if observed)
- 24-26 March – most of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere enters DST (if observed)
- 2 April – Australia, New Zealand leaves DST
Practically, that means that today, a noon meeting in Seattle would be 8pm in London and 7am (tomorrow) in Sydney, but in a little over 3 weeks that would have moved to noon/7pm/6am and eventually settled back at noon SEA and 8pm LON, but now at a refreshing 5am SYD.
Fortunately, the Clock app on Windows 11 has a “Word Clock” feature that lets you pin cities to the map and you’ll see what the current time is (and what the time zone offset is currently). You can also get a tabular view of what the relative time will be at any given date.
670 – Clipboard history
Some tips deserve multiple bites* especially when the recipe changes between software versions. This one harks back to ToWs #457 and #482, yet it’s still seemingly little known. If you ever have to watch someone share their desktop on Teams and fuss about when copying and pasting stuff, this could be a useful tip to share with them.
*ToW readers will probably know there are 8 bits in a byte; did you know that half a byte is called a nibble?
There is no accepted name for 2-bits, though Bing AI suggested it might be a “crumb”.
The metaphor of cutting and pasting has been around since the early days of interactive computing, taking inspiration from the way that printed publications would be edited together by physically cutting parts of one page and gluing/pasting them onto another. They might have been kept on a physical clipboard between the snip and the stick.
The Windows clipboard is common across all applications, and has an opt-in feature to keep a history so you can go back to something you copied previously; turn on the history or interact with your previous clips by pressing WindowsKey+V. See more on using Clipboard history. You can also sync the clipboard across multiple devices too.
The same UI for clipboard history can also be used to insert special characters, emoticons and the like, into any application – in fact, pressing WindowsKey+. (that’s a full stop or period) brings up the smiley-picker, which is just another one of the tabs on the same dialogue as clipboard.
You can pin clipped items if you like, and pressing the ellipsis … gives the option of removing an item, or pasting it as text – handy if you’d like to paste a URL rather than a smart link that results in the title of a web page with hyperlink behind it.
0x29A – It’s only a number
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.
665 – Mind your screenshots
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.
664 – Android apps on Windows
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.
Install the Amazon Appstore app from the app for the Microsoft Store (still with us?), and it adds the bones of the Subsystem for Android too.
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.
After you’ve installed your Android apps, you will see them show up individually in Windows’ list of programs, with nothing obvious to differentiate from native apps.
Clicking the … menu next to an installed Android app then choosing Modify presents a familiar-looking UI (if you have an Android phone) for managing the permissions or the running state of the app.
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.
659 – Sounding out apps
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
657 – Bye Bye, OneNote (for Win10)
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 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.
651 – Snappy Snap
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.
Especially 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.
You’ll then be able to select other open applications that can be slotted into the remaining screen space.
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.
*Deceased muso George Michael famously pranged into a Snappy Snaps store, leading to some inspired graffiti.