Tip o’ the Week #269 – Clip to OneNote, once more


Time moves on. Things that are news soon turn into things in history: 20 years ago, Microsoft Bob came into the world. Bob was ahead of its time in some ways, foretelling some UI principles and ideas that later became more refined. It also indirectly gave us Comic Sans, too (though the font never shipped with the software – it was too late).

clip_image003Bob featured an animated mutt, the precursor to Clippy, aka the greatly-maligned Office Assistant.

Recalling Clippy, ToW has covered a few clip-related topics before, notably #219 (almost a year ago), which included a section on a new tweak that could grab web pages into OneNote notebooks.

clip_image004Well, the OneNote Clipper v2.0 has just been released, and is much-updated – the point being that you can easily add a “Clip to OneNote” button to your browser (drop into desktop IE or Firefox, addin to Chrome).

Use the shortcut to quickly clip whole pages or, new in this version, sections of web pages, to a location in your OneDrive storage – offering the choice of the multiple OneNote notebooks that you may have saved there.

You can clip “products” too – handy as you do shopping or browsing and want to remember what you’ve been clip_image005looking at.

It also recognises recipes as a specific content type, so you don’t need to snap all the clutter that might be on the web page, instead only grabbing the detailed instructions.

This is a great bit of non-work productivity software that really showcases the power of OneNote and OneDrive. Installation is a breeze, over at http://www.onenote.com/clipper.

Tip o’ the Week #267 – Synchronising Outlook Signatures again


Hot on the heels of last week’s missive about how to snaffle more storage space, once again we turn to OneDrive to solve a problem. First, let’s journey back in time to recall some previous tools.

Once, there was a peer-2-peer (P2P) file sychronisation product called FolderShare which was acquired by Microsoft nearly a decade ago; it allowed files and folders to be replicated amongst multiple machines, essentially for backup or for making sure you had your stuff (music, pictures etc) everywhere you needed it.

FolderShare begat Mesh or Windows Live Mesh, which became Windows Live Sync and eventually all became part of SkyDrive, as the latter became less of a simple place-to-put-stuff-in-the-sky/cloud and more of a storage mechanism with a means to sync and replicate it onto multiple places. Now OneDrive is part of Windows, and as well as giving away oodles of online disk space, it’s the mechanism by which Windows 8 and 10 users can synchronise settings between computers. It’s getting better and more granular all the time, too.

One of the nice features of Live Mesh/Sync was the ability to automatically keep several settings on multiple PCs in sync with each other – like IE favourites, or settings from Office like dictionaries, templates and email signatures. Though it’s now obsolete, this was first covered in ToW #69, back in 2011. Email .sigs used to be a big deal.

Windows manages to do a good job of keeping PC-specific settings in sync between machines, or even just backing up settings from one machine to the cloud using OneDrive – so once you’ve signed in to your shiny new machine with your MSA, then it’s quite amazing how much of your stuff just appears. But one thing that doesn’t is your Outlook email signature. If you want to back up your .sig and also make it/them available on multiple PCs, you need to work a bit harder.

The Dark Art of Symbolic Links

Worry not, however. Through a cunning bit of sleight of hand, it’s possible to fool dusty old Outlook into thinking that its Signatures folder is stored in the usual place, however we all know it can be moved into OneDrive and therefore made available to multiple machines. This is similar to the technique of replicating Desktop which was covered a little while back, except that instead of changing a registry setting to tell Windows where the folder is, we need to create a special kind of folder, which is really just a redirection to somewhere else.

Here’s the method – it’s best to close Outlook while doing this.

  • Find your current Signatures location – try pressing WindowsKey + R then paste into the run box, %appdata%\Microsoft (which opens the special location that many applications will use to store files that clip_image003pertain to how they work).

  • Then look for the Signatures folder – select it, copy it and paste into your OneDrive folder (in Explorer; paste it into the OneDrive\Documents folder, for example).

  • … rename the original Signatures folder to something like Signatures.old

  • clip_image005Now, we need to create a Symbolic Link to make something that looks like a folder at the same location, but points elsewhere – start an elevated command prompt (on Windows 8 or 10, press WindowsKey-X then press A to start an admin command prompt).

  • Now create the symbolic link by entering the following as one line into the command window:
    mklink /d %appdata%\Microsoft\Signatures %userprofile%\OneDrive\Documents\Signatures
    (if you know your OneDrive folder is in a different place, then substitute the 2nd parameter for whatever is appropriate – maybe D:\OneDrive\Documents\Signatures, for example)

  • If you now go back to the %appdata%\microsoft location from the 1st step, you’ll see the Signatures folder clip_image006with a special icon showing that it represents a link rather than a real folder. Open it to check that your signature files – as stored in the OneDrive folder from earlier – are showing up in there as expected. Feel free to close the command window.

  • Now, on each other PC you want to synchronise with, go back to the first instruction and repeat, except that you don’t need to do the “copy to OneDrive bit” since your Signatures folder is already there – in other words, you create the Symbolic Link to the local replica of the OneDrive folder, and Outlook will think that the data is in its own appdata location.

  • Don’t worry if you get to the 2nd step on a destination PC and realise the Signatures folder doesn’t exist – it’s only created when you first set up a .sig

Tip o’ the Week #266 – OneDrive – getting more storage


OneDrive has been quietly expanding its functionality over the last while, increasingly echoing the UI of Office365 (with the numerous apps shown as tiles on the upper left of clip_image003the screen).

As well as offering a tier of free storage (recently upped to 15Gb), it’s possible to buy additional space for your stuff – from a modest $2/month for an additional 100Gb, to a frankly bonkers offer if you sign up for Office365 Home at $10/month, with copies of Office for up to 5 users, 60 minutes of Skype calls per user, 1Tb of storage each and a bunch more. See here for info.

In the meantime, however, OneDrive has also been falling over itself to give users additional storage in exchange for doing something. (Check out your own storage quota and options here). You could refer your friends (get up to 5Gb free), if you set up your phone to back up photos, you’ll get another 15Gb for nada – plenty of storage for all those photographs you like to take on your handset.

Bing Rewards members can get a whopping 100Gb (cor!) just for signing up. Hint: if you are in a country that gets an error saying “This feature isn't available yet in your country or region” when you try to sign up, you might want to try clicking on the settings cog clip_image005in the top right of that very page. If you happened to temporarily set your Worldwide region to be US – English, then you may have better luck. Just an idea.

Drop the boxclip_image007
If you happen to use DropBox (Win8 app here, WinPhone app here), or more correctly if you happen to have a Dropbox account that you know the logon details of, then you could try visiting here to claim a special 100Gb annual bonus for DropBox users.

All you need to do is sign in and have the web page be able to save a doc to your DropBox account, and you’ll get another 100Gb free OneDrive for a year. Boom!

What to do with all this massive amount of storage? Well, phone pictures might take up lots of space, but what about storing your music on there so you can access from anywhere? Now, wouldn’t that be cool?

Tip o’ the Week #260 – Scan cards to OneNote


Business cards are still a big part of business culture – even if many of us primarily communicate via email, the ceremony of handing over a little card with your name on it, at the start of a face-to-face meeting, is still quite important. Some countries, such as Japan, have very particular etiquette rules surrounding business cards, so it could take a long time for them to become obsolete.

What better time to institute a resolution to digitise the pile of business cards you may have lying on your desk, than the new year? And to routinely add new business cards to your Outlook contacts folder when you get them, without waiting ages? Well, an update to the amazing Windows Phone app, Office Lens, can help out.


clip_image006The Lens app (install from here) now has an ability to scan business cards as well as photos, whiteboards & documents. Just tap the option on the top right of the app to choose the mode, then select business card. Now, point the phone at the business card you want to scan in, tap the screen to focus and press the on-screen camera icon or the phone’s camera button, to “scan” the card.

It helps if there’s a contrast between the card and the surface it’s on, so if you have a light desk then try getting a piece of coloured paper, and you don’t necessarily have to angle straight down – try to avoid casting a shadow over the card. The software will try to identify the edges of the card and will scale it as if it was flat, and fills the image.

clip_image008Once you’ve photographed the card, you can choose if you want to select & use it, delete it and try again, or possibly add another image – so if your card has info on both sides or you want to batch people from the same company up in one go, then you can have multiple images per contact page.

After tapping the save icon, you can choose which section in OneNote you want to save the resulting info – it may be worth setting up a new section in your notebook on OneDrive, just to catch all the contacts while you decide what to do with them. It works best if you have a pile of cards to just scan them all in as one production line, then go through them and edit/tidy up as appropriate.

Each card will produce a single page in OneNote, with the image(s) of the card embedded, and OneNote will try to identify the text off the card and also figure out the key fields (such as name, address, telephone, email etc). The title of each page might not be all that helpful (by default, it’ll be something like “05/01/2015 13:01 Office Lens”) , but it will be possible to search across the whole notebook, so you can find the contact details from each scanned card without necessarily having to do any more. You can always rename the OneNote page later, if you like.

If you want to add the resultant scan to Outlook’s contacts, then each OneNote page that can successfully identify enough key information from the scan will show a “BizCard” attachment, which opens a vCard of the contact information. Simply open, make any final tweaks, hit Save and it’ll be added to your Outlook contacts folder.

Finally, you’ll probably want to delete all the scanned images from your phone – they’ll be cluttering up your SkyDrive/OneDrive Camera Roll folder if you have automatic upload still enabled, so the quickest way would be to use your PC to delete all the card scans from that folder and let it sync back to OneDrive.

Tip o’ the Week #249 – Sync your Desktop

clip_image001This week’s tip comes as a direct result of a conversation had over a glass of wine and a plate of food, with Content & Code’s supremo, Tim Wallis.

Most of us who’ve been using PCs for years will have picked up or held onto habits that are probably not ideal, at least not as the designers of the latest software might have in mind – but as the customer is always right, if we want to be backward, then the system should accommodate that, right?


Windows users of old: at which point did you finally accept the default, and stop disabling the Hide extensions for known file types setting in Windows Explorer? Let hidden files stay that way? Or do you still switch these options on?
Are you holding on too tight?

And do you still think of directories or have you embraced folders? Do you still want a D: drive to put all your data on?

Well, many of us will habitually drop stuff onto the Windows desktop because it’s generally easy to find (press WindowsKey-D and, tada!, there it is) – though it’s always possible to go over the top.

If you want to drag an attachment from Outlook and upload it to a SharePoint site, for example – you’ll need to copy the file to somewhere on your PC and then upload from there. And the desktop can be just the simplest way to do that (press WindowsKey and left or right arrow key to snap Outlook to the side, potentially exposing the desktop beneath… a perfect target for dragging & dropping files onto).

Syncety Sync

What Tim was musing over, however, was the scenario when you have multiple PCs and you drop a document (or folder full of them) onto the desktop – wouldn’t it be nice if OneDrive could replicate the desktop onto the other machine(s)? Windows 8 makes it easy to roam lots of settings (the Start menu layout, the desktop backdrop etc) between machines, but it doesn’t sync the actual contents of the desktop out of the box.

Worry not: it’s possible. Firstly, you need the OneDrive software on every PC (it’s installed by default on Windows 8.1, including Surface RT), then you’ll re-point the Desktop to a location that OneDrive can sync.

To set up sync, for the purposes of just backing up one PC or for sharing the same desktop content with several:

  • clip_image004Find the OneDrive logo in the Windows System Tray Notification Area
    (NB: if you have OneDrive for Business installed, you’ll want to make sure you pick the white consumer OneDrive icon, rather than the blue business one…)
  • clip_image006Right-click the icon, then open the OneDrive folder using Explorer, right-click in the resulting window and create a folder where you want the Desktop contents to be. It might help to copy the location of that folder to the clipboard, for use shortly…
  • Hold the SHIFT key, and then right-click on your new folder– and use the phenomenally handy Copy as path option that only appears when you hold down SHIFT.
  • clip_image007Now, in the same Explorer window, scroll down in the folder list to see the This PC section and right-click on Desktop, then Properties, then look to the Location tab.
  • Now click the Move button, paste the contents of the clipboard (the path to the folder you created in OneDrive) into the dialog that pops up, Select Folder then confirm that you’d like to move the contents of the desktop across.


Now, any folders or files you drop on the desktop will synchronise to other PCs if you repeat the same process as above. If you have lots of folders full of stuff, you’ll need to wait a little, while OneDrive syncs them for you. Right-click on the OneDrive icon in your system tray again, and click Sync if you’d like to see the status.

Tip o’ the Week #225 – Surveys R Us


Have you noticed an increase in online surveys asking if you have a few minutes to complete them, when you visit web sites? Do you duck & dive when walking along the street and are confronted by a just-a-little-too-friendly student in high-vis and brandishing a clipboard?


Surveys are undoubtedly useful to the people collecting the information (as long as they screen out the loonies) though there’s always the possibility that the people who bother to fill in surveys might not always be the typical user – who has a spare 5 minutes in their day to tell some website what they think?

All that said, there are many tools that can be of use if you’re the surveyor and you want to ask people their opinion. In SharePoint Online (see here for a tutorial) it’s really easy to create surveys that contain structured and unstructured questions, even branching logic (eg. If you answer “No” to one question, jump to the next relevant one rather than asking you further questions about the thing you didn’t do).

Thanks to Phil Cross for pointing out that there has been a super-simple solution available for more than a year, courtesy of SkyOneDriveExcel Surveys. Ready for your Mum and Auntie to use, it’s a really simple way of asking a few questions and collating the responses you get – here’s an example survey.

It looks nice, but there are few fancy features like branching, however it’s really easy to set up a survey and it’s on OneDrive, so anyone can fill it in.


One thing to note, though – the originator doesn’t get any more information than what’s entered in the actual survey, so you might want to add questions about who the respondent is, what date it is etc. Answers are retrieved in a straightforward Excel table, and can use Excel functionality to filter and analyse – if you think you’re going to get enough replies that you’ll need to do that.

Still, Excel Surveys are easy to initiate, simple to complete and can be filled in by anyone who can access OneDrive.