Tip o’ the Week #201 – Multi-monitors with Windows 8.1


One of the best presents you can buy your PC is a second monitor. There have been a few ToW’s past that have explored the delights of running a second screen, where even just plugging your laptop into a desk monitor can make a really noticeable difference to the way you work.

The basics are all there – use WindowsKey + SHIFT + Left / Right to move the current window between monitors (though do try to remember that most desktop monitors don’t have touch input, or you might look like you’re from the Far Side). Windows 8.1 adds extra functionality though, including using the same key combo to move the main Start Screen around.

Andrew Warriner has a neat tip to maximise real estate on the 2nd screen –

Remove the task bar on a second screen.

How often do you use a second screen for presenting or running a demo and the task bar uses up valuable space along the bottom of the screen?  To remove it, simply right click on your taskbar and select Properties then toggle “Show taskbar on all displays”.

clip_image003Obviously, you can drag windows between monitors, and if you right-click on the desktop and select Screen Resolution then you can even position the two monitor icons in such a way that they reflect the physical arrangement of the screens, to make it easier to move the mouse around, and even position windows spanning the two (if you like to be really perverse).

Windows 8.1 adds some further goodness, such as the ability to adjust the scaling on individual screens – if you have a new laptop with a full HD quality screen then you may already be familiar with the fact that the pixels are really tiny so therefore everything looks small – but if you plugged your machine into an old fashioned 4:3 ratio 17” monitor, the screen resolution and pixel density would be a lot less, so windows will look larger in comparison.

If the mix is wrong, then a window that moves from one screen to another will be small on one and dis-proportionately huuuge on another – an effect akin to Billy Connolly’s Prescription Windscreen. The other side of the scaling tweak is that as we get higher resolution monitors (with 4K monitors on the horizon, even if the technology is still a little on the expensive side just now), then this will be more of an issue going the other way – an app that takes half the physical screen on a 17” widescreen laptop, would be postage stamp sized on a large high res external display.

To change the scaling on an individual monitor, go into the Screen Resolution settings, and look under Make text and other items larger or smaller – by selecting the monitor first, you can change the scaling for each individual screen, to get something a little more even.

clip_image005Windows 8.1 also allows the running of “Modern” (aka M***o) apps on multiple screens too, even combining them with the desktop environment, so you can mix & match. This fellow’s got interesting taste in apps, combining Python development with looking at puppies, alongside food, maps and pictures. Riiiight. There’s more detail on how, here.

Tip o’ the Week #199 – Checking your home network speed

As winter bites, as roadworks cause pandemonium, there may be a trend for staff to work at home more. Microsofties all know Lync powers the ability to effectively work and be contactable when you’re sitting in your shreddies in your home office.

If you have a less than perfect broadband connection, though, Lync may be a cause of frustration as it reverts to warning of a “pretty bad” connection, and remote clip_image001participants might complain about not being able to hear you, even if you can more-or-less hear them.

This is a symptom of a poor internet connection at home – very likely nothing to do with whether you’re on WIFI or wired, as the connection to the internet is likely the bottleneck in both cases. If in any doubt, there are a few tests you can run to see if your network is under pressure, and maybe even figure out why.

Test, test and test again

It’s always difficult to get an accurate idea of your own broadband speed – it’s quite variable so from one minute to the next, you can get wildly different results. If there is a bottleneck, it could be anywhere between you and the resource you’re trying to connect to – and any *** in the chain could be causing the issue.

clip_image003Speedtest.net is a popular site for testing your connection  speed over a minute or two (making sure you don’t click on any of the adverts to speed up your PC, clean the Registry, install Google Chrome etc).

It will first test your “PING” (the time in milliseconds it takes to send a request and get a response, ideally in single or low double figures), then tries a download followed by a short upload test. Typical ADSL speeds could be 2-6mbps (megabits/sec, so 6mbps would equate to 0.75 Mb per second) download, and a few hundred kbps upload (kilobits/sec, so a 250kbps rating equates to only 31.25 Kb per second). Fancy-pants cable or fibre broadband types need not worry – generally – clip_image005though sometimes may see varying spikes and troughs in the connection fidelity. The very rural who insist on living miles from the nearest telephone exchange may be stuck with 1mbps down though your upload speed may still be in the few hundred kbps.

If you imagine being on a Lync call, the upload speed is the bottleneck to decent quality – where you might be made sound like a fast/slow/quick-quick/slow Dalek to other participants if  you have too low bandwidth, or too high latency, or PING results (a symptom of the latency in the network being too high to effectively support real-time communications such as a voice call or an Xbox Live game).

To find out what your theoretical maximum speeds should be, you might be able to check in the configuration of your router, or else (assuming you’re on BT provided broadband), try using the BT Wholesale Speed Tester. Run the first test, then click on Further Diagnostics, provide your landline phone number and you’ll get more info.

clip_image007Pingtest.net needs Java (oooh, how quaint) installed on your PC to get the most out of it, but still kinda-works without it. It will test the quality of your connection (as opposed to the speed of it) and can be a useful barometer of troubles elsewhere. One issue that can cause very high reported latency could be that your connection is being maxed out by something else – kids in the house streaming movies, downloading large files etc.

Uploads can kill the capacity of your connection, however – if you’re uploading files to a SharePoint site over DirectAccess, for example, you’ll see a drop in perceived download speed too and your reported latency will likely shoot up.

clip_image009There’s a nice utility called WinMTR which can be used to track the latency between you and the internet (or in fact, of your broadband supplier’s network – who knows, maybe the problem is upstream and in the telephone exchange?). Drop in a URL or IP address and you’ll get the equivalent of a TRACERT performed repeatedly, showing average, best & worst response times for each hop between you and the eventual resource – if you’re seeing averages that are reasonable but the odd very high spike, then you’ve got a problem.

What’s causing the bottleneck?

If you’ve managed to rule out errant family members as possible causes of your poor connection, it’s worth checking your own PC before chewing out the broadband supplier – you never know, it could be a background process on your own machine that’s doing the damage.

With Windows 8.1 and the deep SkyDrive integration, as well as SkyDrive Pro and the ability to take files offline with SharePoint 2013, it’s quite possible that your own PC is busy uploading Gbs worth of content back to the office, all the time hammering your home network uplink, and causing massive latency for Lync and other applications. To perform a quick check on what is using the network on your machine, then Resource Monitor is your friend.


To start the tool, go to Task Manager (right click on the Taskbar and choose Task Manager, or else press CTRL-SHIFT-ESC, a simple three-finger gesture all along the left on your keyboard). Once in Task Manager, you can get some basic info on what’s hogging your machine’s resources, both now and (for Modern Apps) historically, and you can also see some pretty detailed stats on how the machine is performing all-up.

In the Performance tab, there’s an Open Resource Monitor button. If you know you want to go straight there, clip_image013you could just type resmon at the Start menu to jump straight to the app.

clip_image015Once you have the Resource Monitor up and running, a simple check is to look in the Network tab – click to sort by Send B/sec and you can see if something is bogging down the machine’s performance trhough upload…

If you tick one of the check boxes next to a particular process, you’ll see (under Network Activity, TCP Connections and Listening Ports) what activity that particular application is doing. Watch out for GROOVE.EXE and SKYDRIVE.EXE as potential file synchronisation clip_image017villains…

You could try right-clicking on the SkyDrive Pro applet in the system tray, and choose to Pause syncing. That’s GROOVE taken care of (you thought you’d seen the last of that application? Think again…). If you’ve other processes causing problems, try right-clicking on the process name and Search Online to find out what it might be, and get you one step closer to figuring out how to return normality.

Tip o’ the Week #194 – Windows 8.1 Reading List

Windows 8.1 is now available free for existing users of Windows 8, and in a break with tradition, will not be sold as an upgrade to existing installed Windows versions – it’ll just be the full version, and that’s it.

Upgrading from Windows 8.1 Preview isn’t officially supported – though it can be done (you do need to match the language version exactly – if you installed the Preview as English US, you’ll need the English US ISO from the MSDN etc site, to upgrade).

clip_image002There are plenty new features in Windows 8.1, as well as the much-documented return of the Start button (after all the fuss about the removal of the Start button from Windows 8, and the subsequent rush from application vendors to restore it, there’s already a Start Killer app for Win8.1 which removes the reinstated Start button… you can’t win, sometimes…)

There are a bunch of new apps with Windows 8.1, and major improvements to existing ones. One new app of some interest is the Reading List: the idea being that if you’re looking at web sites in the IE11 browser (the Modern UI version) or possibly reading content in other apps (like the Store), if you flick the Charms out and choose Share, then you can add the site/content link to you Reading List.

Start the Reading List app up, and it will show you the list of sites you’ve bookmarked, and also make use of Windows 8.1’s improved side/side view, to show the content shown alongside.


Tip o’ the Week #188 – Writing on Windows

clip_image001Owners of the HP Revolve 810 laptops (as many in Microsoft recently received through the new laptop refresh) can get hold of an HP Executive Pen as an option, to enable on-screen scribbling and the likes. Before everyone starts celebrating by dancing in the streets, it’s worth noting that the Executive Pen is more like an Executive Crayon. It’s not really all that accurate.

The problem with any kind of tablet/slate that offers on-screen handwriting is that the method for sensing the pen makes a huge difference to the quality of its output – capacitive screens like Surface RT don’t lend themselves to handwriting, such as supported by the digitiser of Surface Pro. Here’s what writing on the HP screen with the Executive Crayon looks like:


clip_image004Watch out for leaning your hand on the screen while writing, as the sensor on capacitive screens doesn’t really recognise the different between palm, finger or pen point. If you find your writing is a bit spidery, then, in OneNote, it’s worth trying out the very heavy pens, as the output looks to be stronger and smoother.

Revolve 810 users would be well advised to check out the HP driver web site (for clip_image005Windows 8 x64) and make sure there are a few key updates installed – there are two specifically for the touchscreen and pen, and a Glidepoint driver may solve keyboard freezing issues. This driver also enables a feature where if you double-tap on the top-left corner of the touchpad, a little light will come on, indicating that the touchpad has been disabled (double-tap again to re-enable it). Handy if you’re using an external mouse, and don’t want to accidentally move the cursor whilst typing.


Writing on other screens


Keith “Frazer” Burns recommends trying a different approach to writing on-screen with Windows 8. If you show the on-screen keyboard (either in Modern Apps, or standard desktop mode – by tapping on the keyboard icon typically shown on the task bar), then select the bottom-right icon to switch between layouts, tap on the one which shows a pen over the screen… you’ll replace the keyboard with a couple of lines, ready to receive handwriting.

Now, you can input text by writing on-screen with an Executive Crayon, a cheapo-Ebay-10-for-£2 capacitive pen, or even your finger… and it’s surprisingly accurate, even on Surface RT. Keith counsels that it learns your own handwriting over time and gets good enough to be more than just usable. In fact, you might even find it more accurate than using full-flow writing on a screen with a proper digitiser and everything…

Tip o’ the Week #184 – ActiveSync account limits

clip_image002Various people have commented on issues they’ve had whilst setting up new PCs, especially after the upgrade to Windows 8.1 Preview. The upgrade process is a lot like a reinstall which happens to remember a bunch of settings, and one of the side effects is that it sets up the Mail (and associated Calendar) client as if it was a new PC connecting to your mailbox.

Now, one gotcha you might not be aware of is that Exchange Server can impose a limitation on how many ActiveSync devices are connected – it’s part of the numerous controls IT departments could place on synchronising with mobile devices, such as not allowing certain types of device (eg inherently insecure Android phones) to connect and sync, or by forcing a certain  password policy on the phone so it locks when not used for a while.

Windows 8 and 8.1’s inbuilt Mail client uses the ActiveSync protocol to connect to the server, rather than the “Outlook Anywhere” method that the regular Outlook mail client uses. This means that if you reinstall/upgrade your Win8 PC, it could start to chalk off entries on the list of ActiveSync clients associated with your mailbox – and if you think how many phones you might have had in recent years, that number may be close to the limit. You may receive a notification email that there was an “error with your new mobile phone partnership” – strange stuff given than you may be just installing Windows…

clip_image004To solve the problem (if it affects you) or to prevent it from happening at some future and doubtless inconvenient moment, simply:

  • Go to Outlook Web Access (whatever the URL is for your installation), and login
  • Go to Options in the top right and See All Options (after selecting a Groovy Theme, should you so desire)
  • Go to Phone / Mobile Phones and look at the list of devices set up to synchronise – you may have a number of WindowsMail “phones” as well as a couple of kosher mobile devices.


Selectively delete some WindowsMail (or old phone) entries that haven’t synched for a while – they’re presumably old and dead. If in any doubt, select a device and click on Details to see the OS type and name of the machine, amongst others.

Tip o’ the Week #183 – Screen Grabs on Windows 8.1


If you’ve taken the plunge and updated to Windows 8.1, you may have spotted a mix of improvements (like the updated Search pane behaviour which needs a little getting used to, but works well), and some funnies (compatibility issues with IE11, internal tools like GMOBI or CRM not working so well, etc). All in, a happier upgrade but one which is quite clearly still a preview.

Now, one of the first downers some people have spotted is the fact that the Search charm has nabbed the WindowsKey+S combination – it makes more sense than Win+Q, so what’s the rub? Well, OneNote uses WindowsKey+S to grab portions of the screen, either for pasting into notebooks or just sticking the screen grab into the clipboard for later use.

There are alternatives to the handy OneNote process; like using the Snipping Tool, though like many other such utilities, it can’t grab portions of the Modern UI apps. Never fear, a solution is at hand…

If you’re a fan of Win+S, you can re-establish a way of screen grabbing by following the steps below…

· Fire up a PowerShell windows with admin privilege – press WindowsKey+X, and select Windows PowerShell (Admin) from the list. (note that in Windows 8, this option was “Command Prompt (with admin)” – is the shift to PowerShell in Win8.1 the death knell for the black-background command line?

· Copy and Paste the following command into the command line and hit Enter:
REG ADD "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\15.0\OneNote\Options\Other" /v ScreenClippingShortcutKey /t REG_DWORD /d 65 /f

· Either reboot your PC, or…
… kill off the Send to OneNote Tool (32 bit) application from Task Manager (press CTRL+SHIFT+ESC), then restart the application by pressing WindowsKey+R and entering ONENOTEM.

Now, you should be able to catch a screen grab by pressing WindowsKey + A. Not as obvious as Win+S, but it’s better than nothing.

Tip o’ the Week #180 – A touch of magic

As more and more of us continue to enjoyclip_image002 new laptops courtesy of the Windows 8 Refresh program, the fact that most of them are touch-enabled is causing delight and surprise. The best things about touch on traditional laptop devices may be the less obvious uses – scrolling up and down a web page with a lazy flick, or highlighting something to a colleague by pinching to zoom.


clip_image006Tim Hall suggested a couple of cool tips, namely the new icon that’s appeared on the Office Quick Access Toolbar, to enable Touch Mode – a feature covered in the Office Preview, in ToW 142, but it’s changed the UI and become a good bit more functional. Tim also points out on his Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch, if you double-tap on the screen it will zoom in.

Meanwhile, Darren Strange has also become a huge fan of the Touch Mode in Outlook – not only does it space out the menu options and folders, but it introduces a new shortcut icon list on the far right (beyond the Reading Pane). Darren advocates triaging email by holding the sides of the super thin screen on his shiny Asus Zenbook, then tapping with his right thumb. It’s especially easy to flick up and down through the mailbox, then tap on Reply, then drop your hands to the keyboard for when you need to type.

Here he is, poised to delete some nonsense email that’s cluttering up his inbox:


Tip o’ the Week #178 – Copy as Path, turbocharged

Long-term readers of ToW may recall tip 101, which featured clip_image001the “Copy as Path” command in Windows 7. In a nutshell; hold the Shift key as you right-click on a file in Windows Explorer, and you’ll see the Copy as Path option, which copies the entire path to that file (eg c:\blah\blah\file.doc) into the clipboard. Handy for when you want to point a dialog box from an application at a file you’ve been working on.

Well, Windows 8 goes one better. The Explorer desktop application features an option on the Home tab – clip_image002simply select a file or folder, then click on the Home menu option to show the tabs (assuming they’re not already visible), and you’ll see Copy path.

If you like to have one-click access to these kinds of super-user functions, there is an even quicker way.


Look above the File menu in the Explorer window, and you’ll see a Quick Access Toolbar – something that’s been in Office for a while, as a place to dock common commands.  If you click on the down arrow at the end of the QAT, you can enable and disable the commands which are already on it, but not add new ones. If you want to add the Copy Path command, for example, clip_image004simply right-click on the command clip_image005on the Ribbon tab, then Add to Quick Access Toolbar.

Tip o’ the Week #176 – F(u)11 screen ahead


This week’s tip might seem a little obvious to some, yet partially unknown to others. Internet Explorer has offered the capability to display a page in full-screen mode, since IE4. Just like the “content, not chrome” ethos of the “Metro” Modern UI design language, reducing the various window borders and controls, menus, toolbars etc (aka the “chrome”), leaves more room on screen for the web page or other application/document content.

Now, we all know there are two versions of Internet Explorer 10 – the Modern UI version (full-screen, hiding all controls unless you swipe from the top or bottom of the screen or press WindowsKey-Z to display the address bar, tabs list etc), and the more traditional browser with tabs, icons to control the browser behaviour, menus etc. If you’re using the desktop version of IE, try flicking to and from full screen mode by hitting the F11 key – the same shortcut clip_image003that’s been in IE for 15 years.

Other applications have full screen modes too, and some, like OneNote, also use the same familiar F11 – making your current OneNote page fill the entire screen (apart from the taskbar, unless you’re hiding that too), so useful wclip_image004hen you’re note-taking in a meeting and want to make it clear to anyone peering over your shoulder that you’re not just doing email or wasting time.

Office 2013 applications let you switch to/from a full screen view too, by clicking on the Auto Hide option at the top right of the “Ribbon” – like the browser or clip_image006OneNote applications above, it’s a handy way of making the most of screen real estate, especially if your laptop has a physically small screen. Like a Surface, for example.

Tip o’ the Week #174 – Presenting tips from the pros

clip_image002This week’s tip comes after another successful “Tech.Days Online” session in late April, delivered by a host of specialists covering a range of developer and IT Pro topics. The Tech.Days Online programme of events is interesting in that it’s delivered “live” to thousands of virtual attendees: in other words, you could visit the Chicago auditorium and see the whole thing being presented to an empty room, except for the camera and audio crew and perhaps a few interested supporters.

Andrew Fryer suggested this update of an old feature of the somewhat-maligned Windows Vista. Pressing WindowsKey+X on a Veesta machine would display the Mobility Center, a collection of tools that are relevant to laptop use. In Windows 8, the Win+X combination has grown somewhat, and throws up clip_image003a list of potentially useful utilities and quick access to the more commonly used (by technical types, anyway) aspects of the Control Panel. On a laptop, Mobility Center also features here.

If you like it particularly and a few more clicks is too much to ask, you could even start the Mobility Center then pin it to Taskbar for future one-hit execution. clip_image004

The Presentation Settings applet in Mobility Center will allow you to configure how your machine looks and feels whilst you’re presenting – maybe change the background image of your desktop from a leering photo of your dog/child/spouse, to something a little more corporate and dry. Or don’t let the screen go blank, even if you’re running on battery… To set the options up, click on the projector icon within the Mobility Center. clip_image006

It doesn’t set your Lync status to tell people you’re presenting, and it won’t configure PowerPoint to send things to the right screen, though… more on that in a future tip.