Tip o’ the Week 440 – Break out the whiteboard

clip_image001Teachers of any tenure will probably have used a blackboard, with the dusty chalk and the other paraphernalia that goes with it, and be thankful that whiteboards came along to make things easier. Many companies will have whiteboards in meeting rooms too, and most will have the good sense to never allow permanent marker pens within 100 yards of the whiteboard, and to throw away whiteboard markers when they stop working well, rather than put them back and pick up another one…

clip_image002As we move to a more digital future, the days of the whiteboard – like the flipchart before it – are giving way to electronic smart boards, first seen as a projector/camera arrangement over a relatively normal whiteboard, but now more integrated with screens and multi-touch sensors in front. Much like the Microsoft Surface Hub, in fact.

The Surface Hub 2 will be with us in 2019, and looks like a great step forward while mimicking some of the flipchart form factors of old. Just make sure no clown goes near it with a flipchart pen…

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Before the gorgeous-looking SH2 appears, there is some news for 1:few collaborators who like to use a smart board, especially if they’re not in the same room – the general availability of the Microsoft Whiteboard store app.

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Get it here. Oh, and Teams has a free version too, now… Go forth and collaborate!

Tip o’ the Week 439 – Go! Go! Go!

clip_image002The legendary Merry Talker made a big thing about his “Go(quite apart from his Colemanballs). Public Service Broadcasting celebrated the iconic Gene Kranz (nearly 49 years ago) calling round all the flight controllers to get them to agree whether the Eagle should “Stay” or “Go”. And, of course, there’s an ancient board game.

But if you haven’t been hiding under a rock for a few weeks, you may have seen news about the Microsoft Surface Go being announced.

Is it an “iPad Killer”? No. The tablet market is pretty saturated, and even if potential buyers of one device flock to the Go, it’s not likely to be kryptonite to the other. It’s probably more likely that the Go exists to appeal to potentially erstwhile Chromebook buyers, in sectors like education, or as companion device to existing Windows fans in the same way that some people use a tablet as a PC alternative when they travel.

Given its performance, the Surface Go is likely to be a useful 2nd machine for many PC users, rather than an alternative primary device – though some early reviews seem to make it sound pretty good. MJF reckons many variants (LTE, 8GB RAM/256GB SSD) will be forthcoming, so maybe the mix will change in time.

clip_image004So, Brits: like pretty much every “low-cost” device, the entry level £379 machine – now available for pre-order – isn’t the full story. It’s fairly low-spec and doesn’t come with a keyboard or stylus/pen, so ordering the one most people would want will be nearer double the headline price…

Oh well, start saving up now – or wait until late August and decide (after playing with it in the flesh – in store, maybe?) if it’s the right thing for you.

Tip o’ the Week 409 – Touchpad settings

clip_image002Once upon a time, mice had balls, and there was even a joke field service bulletin telling customers how to manage them better.

Microsoft has had a few funny KB articles over the years, too, though not necessarily intended to amuse. Barney sometimes plays on his own…, for example – who knew?

Given that a defining feature of mechanical meeces was the fact they had a rubbery ball inside, it seemed obvious to early laptop designers that a trackball would make sense to move the pointer around.

Eventually the touchpad took over, and divided opinion – some people just couldn’t live without a USB-tethered proper mouse, which they carted around with their laptop, while designers sought to add more and more functionality to the touchpad.

clip_image004A slew of 3 or even 4-finger gestures can change the behaviour of the machine, from switching between apps to controlling the system volume.

On a Windows 10 laptop, if you type touchpad at the start screen to find the settings that control it, you’ll see a load of clip_image006additional gestures have been added over time, depending on what capabilities your machine has (specifically, if it has a Precision Touchpad or not).

If you’re especially particular about how your touchpad works, you may wish to look into tuning it further through registry tweaks.

Tip o’ the Week 340 – Windows 10 Ink Workspace

clip_image002clip_image004One of the new features of Windows 10 with the Anniversary Update* is the Ink Workspace, which shows up on your taskbar if you have a pen-equipped device, like a Surface. If you don’t have a pen-capable device but you’re a bit insane, you can still make it appear (right click on your taskbar to see the option), though good luck in trying to emulate Ink with just a mouse. Surfaceers, unclip your pen and go.

clip_image006The Ink Workspace is designed to be a starting point for many ink-related capabilities: see more about it here.

There are some quite cute sticky notes that you can scribble on-screen, a one-screen-sized sketchpad that’s at least handy & interesting but of somewhat limited use (seriously, use Plumbago, which has recently been updated to support OneDrive sync, and will show up in the “Recently used” list if you have it).

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The Screen Sketch function lets you doodle on-screen and save grabs for future reference, and also surfaces he new Ruler function that is showing up in other ink-enabled apps – tap the ruler icon, and you get a rotate-able, moveable, virtual piece of plastic to help you draw straight lines on-screen.

clip_image010Other apps are being updated to support Ink, as with only a few lines of code, they can integrate the Ink Toolbar and fit into the Ink Workspace, too. A variety of other apps are also being suggested through the Workspace, leading to the Collections section of the Store. See here for a quick preview.

One example of a newly ink-capable app is Maps. It’s getting an inking menu that will let you drawn on the map and measure distances between drawn points, which is quite cute. Insiders on the Fast Ring have the new Maps app already; in time, it’ll surely percolate out to everyone else.

Whatever happens to other apps in future, inking within Windows is getting a good bit more mainstream, and that’s great news for anyone with a pen or even a touch-oriented device.

*if you don’t have the Anniversary Update yet, you can wait for it to appear on Windows Update, or force it by downloading the installer, here.