Tip o’ the Week #109 – SkyDrive on the move

clip_image001Everyone should know about SkyDrive – the free Microsoft service that gives users with a Live ID (including MSN, Hotmail etc) a 25Gb storage space online, accessible ostensibly from anywhere?

Well, it’s just been made more convenient to access SkyDrive files from mobile devices, thanks to SkyDrive Mobile. In the case of Windows Phone and iPhone (and iPod Touch, and iPad too), there are apps specifically built to make the interface to SkyDrive more smooth – otherwise, it’s still possible to get there via a browser from other devices, albeit maybe a little more clunky.

We’re increasingly stepping up efforts to support non-Microsoft devices in accessing our services – as well as SkyDrive and Tag, there is a growing number of Microsoft apps for iOS and Android.
An example is the newly-released MSN App for the iPad – link via iTunes here.

One of the more useful tricks with SkyDrive is to use OneNote for home-based note taking (making sure you don’t fall foul of MS security policy and use it for work related, potentially confidential stuff) – with a OneNote stored in SkyDrive, it’s accessible from your phone, from multiple clip_image002PCs using OneNote just as  normal, and from any browser you care to point in the right direction. It’s a huge boon for taking notes like holiday booking reference numbers, insurance claim notes, shopping lists etc. We’ve covered this a while before in ToW #52 here, and there’s also an article in the online help.

We’ve also looked in the past at an unsanctioned but still potentially useful 3rd party PC app called SDExplorer, which lets you access SkyDrive folders directly from within Windows Explorer, and therefore within any application. There’s a free version that’s limited in some functions, and a trialware pay-$20-for variant that’s a bit more capable. Have a look but do remember that it’s subject to break any time the SkyDrive team make major changes – the SDExplorer authors seem to have done a reasonable job keeping up, but as they say, YMMV.

Tip o’ the Week #108 – Using Accelerators

Internet Explorer 8 added a concept known as IE “Accelerators” – the principle being that you could select some text on a page, and using an accelerator, quickly search the web for that piece of text, or maybe do something clip_image001more specific. The other day, I was talking to someone about a particular piece of kit, and we were looking at a website commenting on it. Looking for more info, I used one of the IE Accelerators to quickly Search with Bing, and he said, “wow – I didn’t know you could do that..?!”

There are a bunch of Accelerators built in with IE9 – the most obvious ones letting you select something on the page and immediately search Bing for the text you’ve selected. Even handier, select a post code or place name and Map with Bing to view the map straight away, all without need to re-key everything.

There are other accelerators available – if you’ve got more than one Search provider (other search engines, apparently, are available) then they’ll show up in the “All Accelerators->” flyout menu, and under the Manage  Accelerators option on the same menu, you can find more or deal with the ones you currently have.

Check out the IE Gallery for more accelerators and other addons.

Tip o’ the Week #86 – Jump into SharePoint sites


Following last week’s IE9 “turn websites into apps” tip in ToW#83, here’s an early Christmas present, showing a couple of nifty ways of working with SharePoint 2010. It’s possible to add clip_image002SharePoint sites to your taskbar or start menu in exactly the same way as in that tip – open the site up in your browser, then drag the icon to the left of the site’s address and drop it onto your taskbar.

If the administrator of your site loves you very much, maybe they’ll follow the instructions below to add the ability to expose Jump Lists too. If your favourite SharePoint site doesn’t already have Jump Lists activated, maybe you could plead with the site’s administrator to do so…

If you don’t know who administers your SharePoint site, you could try “Request Access” from the drop-down box next to your name on the very top right of a site – in the “justification” section, explain what you’d like to do and if the wind is blowing in the right direction then your email will reach whoever is listed as the site admin…

Admins: get your site timezone right!

SharePoint sites have a standard “locale” which sets the way they behave in different languages, time zones,  different ways of measuring the calendar etc. The default when a site is created is (at least in the way it’s clip_image004been implemented in Microsoft), that the site locale will be English (US) – in most cases, not something that will really affect the end users, except for in one important aspect – date format (assuming you’re not in the US…).

That document you’re looking at, created on 07/08/11 … was it the 7th August or the 8th July? Was 01/08/11 the 1st August or 8th January…? In the first example, it might not matter a whole lot but if the document is 7 months older than you at first thought, it could be important.

clip_image005Changing the locale of your site takes only 1 minute – but will require you to have admin rights on the site, denoted by you being able to see a Site Actions button at the top of the page, and on clicking the down arrow button, the menu would offer you a Site Settings option. Click on that, then look for clip_image006the Regional Settings option under the Site Administration heading. Set the local as appropriate and check that any sub-sites will also inherit the same settings.

clip_image007Enable Jump Lists

There’s a sweet little addin to SharePoint that also takes moments to add to a site, but which automatically exposes all of a site’s lists, libraries etc as a jump list to a taskbar-pinned icon. There are detailed instructions, and a walk-through video, on the SPJumpList site, but essentially:

  • Download the SPJumplist.WSP file to your PC
  • On the root site of the Site Collection (eg sharepoint/sites/yoursite), go into Site Settings, and under the Galleries section, go into Solutions and upload the WSP file
  • Click on the arrow to the right of the SPJumplist item and choose Activate, then click on the Activate option in the following screen

This should now make the SPJumplist solution available to any sites within the collection, and it’s just a matter of switching it on – for each site you want to enable it on, go into Site Settings and under the Site Actions heading, look in Managed Site Features. Scroll down to the SPJumplist item, click Activate, and a jump list should appear, showing everything in the site’s navigation list.

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Tip o’ the Week #83 – some more IE9 tweaks


It’s been a little while since we dug into Internet Explorer in the Tip of the Week, so I figured it would be worth revisiting. Previous tips included some basics in #64 and #65 and there are others.

Docking & Undocking tabs

clip_image002Have you ever found a time when you’ve got two tabs open in IE9, and you’re flicking between them? Maybe cross referencing some information – like a flight or train timetable – with some other application? Watching training videos whilst trying to surf the web? If so, one solution would be to right-click on the IE icon on your taskbar and click on “Internet Explorer” – this will launch a new instance of IE, and you could open up the 2nd site in that window, thereby allowing you to do side/side window comparisons, move one to a 2nd monitor etc.

Well, there’s an even easier way – simply click on the tab you want to move, and drag it away from the group of tabs within IE – it will now spawn a second window with only that one tab in it. Brilliant! When you’re done, you can even drag the tab from the 2nd window and drop it back onto the tab group of the first window to consolidate them back again.

Did you know IE9 recently trounced every other browser at blocking “malware”, in an independent test, scoring 100% effectiveness against the 13% scored by Chrome, Safari & Firefox..?clip_image003

Turning websites into Apps

IE9 has so many features besides its excellent security – faster performance, hardware-accelerated graphics, HTML5 (etc etc), but one of the top usability ones is the ability to pin websites to your taskbar.

Some sites will expose Windows 7 jump lists, so once you’ve pinned them you can go straight to specific parts of the site (like your messages, calendar, favourites, friends lists and so on). This is the first part of treating a web page more like an application.


The jump lists can do more than just help your navigation on the site – take the excellent National Rail enquiries IE9 experience that was mentioned in ToW #74. The jump list lets you go straight to the departures/arrivals board for your most commonly used stations – it really does start to feel like a custom application rather than a simple website.

To pin any site to your taskbar, just open the page in IE9, and drag the tab (similar to the method for spawning a 2nd window), but this time just drop it onto the task bar. An alternative is to drag & drop the icon to the left of the site’s address.


When you click on the docked icon on the taskbar, it will launch the page in its own IE9 window, and also displays an icon of site’s logo – clicking on this takes you “Home”: back to the main page of the site, rather the normal IE home page. Again, just like an application rather than a web site.

As you can see from the screen grabs above, there are plenty of popular sites which implement jump list support as a minimum – check the Beauty of the Web site or or this Softpedia article as a starting point to identifying which pages may support IE9 specifically. Of course, you can always just try adding a site directly and see if it does support jump lists or not.

clip_image007Clutter me not

Now, pinning web apps to your task bar is all well and good when you only want one or two, but if you have a selection you’d like to pin, it could clutter the whole taskbar up. There is something of an alternative, however: simply open your page, press the ALT key to show the menu, click on Tools and select Add site to Start menu. You don’t see jump lists in the Start Menu but if you right-click on the icon and Pin to Start menu, or if the icon shows up in the list of most recently used programs, then the jump list will be visible.

This shortcut on the Start menu can be moved around, put into groups, dragged off the menu onto your desktop or other folders, and yet whenever you launch the app, it will be in its own window, with its “home” button, so just like an application.

As it happens, you can turn any shortcut into an “app”, by renaming the extension from .url to .website

– eg.

· Copy a shortcut to your desktop

· Launch a command window (WindowsKey+R then enter cmd)

· Change to the desktop folder (normally that will be just by entering cd desktop)

· Rename your shortcuts by entering ren *.url *.website

· Close the command window and test your new “app” by opening the new shortcut…

Tip o’ the Week #69 – Keep your favourites and Office settings synchronised

clip_image001We covered using Windows Live Mesh to synchronise OneNote files between computers in ToW #52, but overlooked one really simple but useful check-box capability – the ability to sync your IE favourites between PCs, and to sync your Office settings too. Jamie Burgess suggested this would be worth covering.

In essence, this gives you a one-click (on each PC) means to keep your favourites up to date across multiple home and work PCs, as well as keep your Office spelling dictionaries, templates and email signatures up to date too.

clip_image003If you have multiple PCs and one of the first things you need to do when building a new machine is to recover your Outlook signature and IE favourites, then this is just for you.

To switch on, install Live Mesh (as part of Live Essentials) if you haven’t already, then switch on by entering “mesh” into your start menu and then click on Windows Live Mesh to open up the settings. More detail here.

Turn on and off with a single click and you’re done. For the more advanced users, you could set up a Sync Folder to copy your Favourites (generally found in c:\users\<alias>\Favorires) etc to SkyDrive, and that way they’d be available from any PC (via http://skydrive.live.com), or a useful way of backing up your settings if you only use one PC.

Tip o’ the Week #65 – SharePoint 2010, a starter for 10

clip_image001There are many advantages to SharePoint 2010 if you’re coming from 2007, especially from a usability perspective, and there are a few nice tips to get the best out of it. SharePoint guru Jessica Meats provides a couple and will have more in weeks to come…

Update your MySite profile & picture

Head over to the new MySite (simply enter “my” in IE9’s address bar†) The default view gives you information about what’s been going on with people you work with. You can an activity feed which displays things your colleagues have been doing, such as adding new colleagues, joining groups, updating their status, leaving people notes, harvesting their Farmville crops and other interactions. So you can keep up to speed on the actions of people you’ve listed as your colleagues.

As well as seeing what your friends and co-workers are up to, you can add some information about yourself. If you click on profile, you see information about yourself that’s on your profile. Some of this stuff, like your job title, is filled in for you. There are other fields though that are all yours.

Click on the edit profile button and add your skills, interests, external blog link, even projects you’ve worked on. By adding a bit of information here, you can make it easier for people to know what you do, both inside Microsoft and outside.

If there’s a bit of information you don’t want to broadcast too loudly, you can choose to show it only to your manager, team, colleagues, or even just to yourself.

clip_image003 Last week’s IE9 tips ToW spawned a micro-tip, courtesy of Neil Cockerham. You can set IE9 to assume that any single word you enter in the address bar is the name of an intranet site – that way it will always try first to go to the website, and if it fails, it will fall back to searching Bing for that word… rather than the default, which searches Bing and asks you if you’d like to go to the website instead.

To enable this option, go to the Options in IE9 by clicking on the little Cog icon in the top left, then go into Advanced, scroll down and look for the appropriate option


Sync your documents

Got a document stored in a SharePoint team site you want to work on? Got a long train ride where you won’t have an internet connection?

If you go to a SharePoint 2010 document library, there’s a button in clip_image006the Library tab called Sync to SharePoint Workspace (as above).

Note that the new UI of SharePoint 2010, akin to the Ribbon that’s been in the last couple of versions of Office, needs to be switched on for every site that’s been upgraded. If you’re using an existing site and the administrator hasn’t yet switched it over, then the option to sync to SharePoint Workspace is in the Actions menu – if you select either of these options and you haven’t already configured the new SharePoint Workspace software that’s part of Office 2010, you’ll go through a wizard which will recover your account and email you a temporary password to get things moving.

SharePoint Workspace, as well as being the new name for Groove, allows you to pull SharePoint content offline, work on it locally and then synchronise up your changes later. By clicking on this button, you will launch SharePoint Workspace and it will start saving a local copy of the documents in the library.

You don’t have to lock the document first. SharePoint Workspace is clever enough to only synchronise up changes. So someone can work on the document from the library while you’re offline working on the local copy. When you get back to the office, your version will merge with the updated version in the SharePoint site.

So now no internet connection is no excuse to take it easy. Sorry…

Tip o’ the Week #64–Some IE9 tips

This tip was originally written shortly after the release of Internet Explorer 9, however it’s still valid today. IE9 is the fastest, most modern and most secure browser we’ve ever made (some would say, that anyone has made – recent independent analysis from NSS Labs shows IE9 blocking the vast majority of malware, versus all other tested browsers which fared less well – less than 20% effective, in fact).

If you haven’t installed IE9 yet, just head to http://microsoft.com/ie9 and click the “Download Now” – it’s as simple as that. Reasons to install are here, if you need convincing.

What’s new?

There’s a good overview of the new features in IE9, here. Far too many to cover in one Tip o’ the Week – so it’s a subject we will be returning to.

One key usability improvement is the ability to Pin sites to your taskbar, so you can launch them (or return to them) with a single click: just open the site, click on the tab it’s located in, then drag & drop the tab to the taskbar in order to pin it. Another is the simple display of recent & popular sites you’ve visited, when you create a new tab in IE9 by clicking on the clip_image002end of the tabs list, or by pressing CTRL-T.

The overall UI is much sleeker and simpler, doing away with lots of icons and even the separate search bar – if you want to search for something, just start typing it into the Address Bar and if it doesn’t get returned via your favourites or your recent history, then it will query your defrault search engine directly from there.

There’s even a “suggestions” option that can be turned on with one click, to suggest search results as you type. This is the off by default, as it would also send keystrokes of URLs you might type in… so the user has to opt in.

Show me the intranet! (add a “/”)

If you enter an intranet URL in the address bar, it will generally try to search online for that “word” – but in the background, IE9 can check if there is a web site available with just that name, and will offer you (displayed at the clip_image003bottom of the screen) the option  of going to that site. Try it with a site you haven’t visited since upgrading – eg hrweb

Once you’ve said “Yes” once to the offer, if you next enter the same phrase, IE9 will check from your history and see that you really did want to go to http://hrweb, rather than search Bing for it…

If you want to force IE9 to take you straight to the intranet site (and miss out the whole “search Bing, then confirm that you do want to go to the intranet..”), simple put a “/” at the end of the term. So you enter “itweb/ into the address bar (not bothering with http:// etc) and IE9 will take you straight to the designated site. Thanks to MSIT’s John Owen for this tip.

Tip o’ teh Week # 59: Apps on Bing Maps

Another tip from  Bing’s Tony Young this week. Remember kids, Bing Maps is not just for mapping.

Tony wants to show you how you can use Bing maps to help you plan your day on the road…

clip_image002If you are travelling to a new destination  (as long as you’re in London, Manchester, Aberdeen or Glasgow) and require a taxi, but don’t want to get ripped off by the local cab driver, then there is a neat Taxi Fare Calculator available on Bing Map App’s which is very accurate.  Trust me, I use it a lot.  To use the application…

clip_image004· Go to the Bing Maps Silverlight experience at (www.bing.com/maps/explore) and look for the Map App icon on the bottom left of your screen

· Once you are in the Map App gallery look for the Taxi Fare Calculator; .  Once you have clicked on the icon it will open up the application…


Enter your route and then hit ‘Calculate Fare’ & hey presto…

You can access the booking system via catch a cab. And if, like Tony, you make a habit of catching £90 cab rides, maybe you can search for a 2nd job whilst you’re in Bing…

Actually, the Bing Maps Silverlight client is a very slick & smooth experience, and has many interesting Apps available – some are a bit US-specific but it’s clip_image006worth having a play if you find yourself with a few minutes to spare.

Try out a few in your favourite US city to get an idea for what’s available – particularly interesting is Streetside Photos in Seattle, or Weatherbug that shows reported current weather conditions.

At least it isn’t raining in Seattle at the moment.clip_image007

Tip o’ the Week #52 – OneNote on 3 screens & a cloud

After the first year of ToWs, let’s start the 2nd with a short celebration of a cool feature in OneNote – not revolutionary, but the kind of thing that makes one smile when encountering it – somebody really thought about how OneNote was likely being used.

clip_image001Try typing a sum – like 52×1045= (that’s the number of ToW emails times the current readership) and when you press Enter, Space, TAB etc, you’ll see that OneNote does you the service of calculating the answer. It even works with brackets and everything… try out different operators (*, x, /, ^2 etc).

Not everything in OneNote’s garden is rosy. Try copying a table (with formatting) from Excel and pasting into a OneNote notebook and you’ll maybe feel a little short changed. You could try grabbing the screen area (by looking for the Screen Clipping tool on the Insert tab), or by pressing WindowsKey-S, which will immediately grab a screen area of your choice and paste it either into a OneNote book, or put it in the Clipboard.

Share and Share alike
OneNote is such a useful way of sharing info, using SharePoint to host shared OneNote documents for work purposes, or synching personal info around – there was a way of sharing a notebook between work & home PCs, using the now-superceded Live Mesh (which was replaced by Windows Live Mesh as part of Windows Live Essentials).

imageA potentially simpler way of achieving the same thing is to use the newly-upgraded SkyDrive & OneNote in concert with one another, using SkyDrive to create a notebook that lives in the cloud and then, having opened the Notebook in the OneNote Web App, it’s a snap to open it in OneNote and to synchronise it onto multiple PCs.

If you have a Windows Phone 7, check out the Office Hub and look in there at OneNote – if you set the WP7 up to use your Windows Live address and choose to sync OneNote with SkyDrive, it will (by default) create a notebook called Personal (Web) in the Documents / My Documents folder. You can keep it to yourself or share it with others – click the “Shared with:” link on SkyDrive to assign permissions.clip_image003

If you use this OneNote notebook to keep your scraps of personal stuff, it will synch to the cloud (accessible via a browser and OneNote Web App), via any number of PCs that you choose to synchronise it to, and it’ll also be accessible from – and updateable with – your phone.

Tip o’ the Week #48: Stop! Think! Bing!


As well as serving us up a daily delight by way of its home page image, Bing continues to add and innovate other interesting and useful ways to help us find information. There are many examples of where a 10-second Bing search could save time or provide a little more information that could alter the way we do something.

imagePut in the flight number, for example, and you’ll get real time tracking or departure/arrival information. Enter a post code and you’ll get a map.

Search for a product name and maybe you’ll get price estimates, links to reviews, even specifications lists.
Put in currency (like £ and $) and you’ll get current exchange rates, all without needing to go into another site.

clip_image003Visual Search
If you haven’t seen or used Bing Visual Search before, give it a go – it really is very good when you’re doing comparison searching – eg top Windows Phone 7 applications. Using Bing to search and filter for Windows Phone 7 apps is (surprisingly) miles better, quicker and more controllable than using either the desktop Zune software or the App Marketplace on the phone itself.

Bing before you email
A good bit of advice would be to quickly search before sending an email asking a question (it might take you much longer to write the email than it would to type in a search) and you’d get to enquire of the mass knowledge & ignorance on the internet. An example from the other day was an email warning of a scam – a parcel company was supposedly dropping a “sorry we missed you” card through the door, but the number you’d call back to get more information was a premium rate one. A quick search on Bing revealed that this was an urban myth based on some real events that happened 5 years ago. And still, the email is doing the rounds

clip_image005Search History
Did you know that Bing keeps a record of your search history? Look to the left after you’ve done a search for anything and it will show you recent searches you’ve done. You can go further back in time (28 days) by looking on the Search History page (accessible via “More” from the top left of the page), and you can remove individual entries if you find yourself searching off piste. Apparently. The truly paranoid can switch the whole thing off and clear their history.