Tip o’ the Week #113 – Add context to your Lync status

clip_image002One of the biggest cultural impacts of using Instant Messaging and UC technology in a business context is the way that people tend to check the status of someone before contacting them. It’s a relatively rare occurrence to get an internal phone call out of the blue if both parties are online: usually, it would be set up with a quick chat on IM first – then the calling party knows that the call they make isn’t going to drop to voice mail.

To quote UC aficionado Tony Cocks, “it’s all about presents”. 
Or presence, and the value that it gives to anyone trying to contact you.

If you’re set to Do Not Disturb (DND), for example, we probably all know that means trying to send an IM won’t work. Trying to call via Lync or on the internal phone number won’t get through either – setting yourself to DND sends all calls straight to voice mail (or straight to oblivion, for many people). I heard a story the other day about someone who got an unannounced incoming cellular call – the caller saying, “yeah, I saw you were on Do Not Disturb so thought I’d call your mobile…”  Like, duuuuh…

clip_image003Did you know you can allow people you trust to interrupt you when you’re on DND..? Right-click on their name in Lync, choose “Change Privacy Relationship (right at the bottom of the menu). Set them to be part of your Workgroup, and when you set yourself to DND, they’ll see you instead as being on Urgent Interruptions Only. And they can IM you.

Anyway, we can infer a lot from someone’s automatic status – if they’re Busy, then chances are their Outlook calendar has been blocked out or they may have manually set the status to show they’re busy. That doesn’t mean they’re uncontactable – only that if they don’t respond, then you shouldn’t be surprised. If they’re In a Meeting, it means not only is the Outlook calendar blocked out, but it’s being blocked by a meeting with more than one attendee. Maybe that means you could still IM the person, but they probably wouldn’t be able to take a call. If they’re on In a Call or In a Conference Call, then they’ll definitely not be able to take a call as they’re on one already…

clip_image005If they’re Away (like Richard, here), then they’ve probably either wandered off from their PC or else they’ve locked the computer (WindowsKey + L), and you may get some extra context about how long they’ve been away for. If only a few minutes, they could be sitting at their desk talking with someone (or reading a paper etc), and sending an IM might get an immediate response … but if it’s been 30 minutes, they probably are genuinely not there and you’d better look elsewhere, or send an email.

Add further contextclip_image006

As you can see from Richard’s status above, he’s also got a line below his name that says where he is – TVP. Actually, this is just set by the free-text note field at the top of the Lync main window (which asks “What’s happening today?” if you haven’t set anything else). It’s a handy way of giving a little more context if you want people to know, or just provide a pithy one-liner akin to a Facebook status.

If you want to be a little more specific you can also provide a number of custom presence states, so rather than just being Busy you could be Busy writing reports, or instead of being Available you could be Working from home. See TechNet or previous missives on this blog.

clip_image007For place specific info, you could try setting up custom locations – in short, when your PC appears on a particular network, you can give it a name and then whenever you use the PC at that location, it will show up in your own Lync client right under your name and your status. Different locations needs to be named separately (eg Home, CP, Edinburgh, TVP).

It’s not all that obvious to everyone else, however – to see someone else’s custom location, clip_image008right click on their name and View Contact Card (or just click on their name and press ALT-ENTER). If they’ve set a location up, you’ll see it – otherwise they’re either not in a place they’ve named, or you’ll just see their time zone. If you want to make it plain to everyone else where you are, then you may want to stick to custom status and/or using the Lync “What’s happening today?” text status field.

You can see set the Lync status on the above screenshot is Off work – that tells the world that even though I’m online via Lync, I’m not online to do work… and if someone was to click on my details, they could see a whole load of information about whether I’m likely to respond to their IM. If you’ve set your status to Off work and someone IMs you about work, then it’s perfectly acceptable to just ignore the message (press Esc to get rid of the popped-up window in one fell swoop). Well, depends who it is…

Tip o’ the Week #112 – Change Outlook’s startup folder

clip_image001Productivity gurus wax on about how gaining and maintaining control of your never-ending to-do list starts with the way you prioritise, and how you build discipline in working through your task list rather than being distracted by less important “stuff”.

So, why is it that we stick with the default setting in Outlook, which starts up showing the Inbox folder, and with the most recent mail at the top…?
The only thing more distracting than looking at an inbox full of shiny new mail, is to have the new mail notification flash up in front of whatever else you’re doing, to tell you about it.

Check out the very first Tip o’ the Week – how to switch off the Outlook new mail notification. Try it out.
Live notification-free for at least a day; you can always switch it back on again if you need to.

If you’re on a Lync meeting and someone shares their desktop to show you a presentation (tsk, tsk), or you’re watching a presentation/demo on a big screen, feel free to berate the presenter publicly if they receive a new mail notification during the meeting.

Here’s a tip that Microsoft’s own internal IT training programme recommends: set which folder Outlook starts up in. When you launch Outlook for the first time, don’t have it go into your Inbox – what about opening your Calendar instead?

clip_image003To change, go into the File menu, under Options then Advanced. Scroll down to the Outlook start and exit section, and pick your folder of choice. Simple as that – though if you routinely sleep and resume your PC, you might not be starting Outlook very often, so you may only see this occasionally.

Create Follow Up Search Folder

Another idea is to set up a Search Folder to be the launch pad for super-productivity. Search Folders look like regular folders, but actually show you contents that meet specified criteria, from across your mailbox – eg a “For clip_image004Follow Up” folder will show you all mails that have been flagged, regardless of location. This makes a great startup folder, since it will only display mail with outstanding actions, rather than all the other guff that may have come in recently.

clip_image005To create a Follow Up search folder, scroll down to Search Folders in the left-hand folder view pane, and right-click on the Search Folders node then click New. In the dialog that pops up, just pick Mail flagged for follow up and it will create a search folder called For Follow Up. The first time you access the folder, it may take a few moments to display everything but afterwards it should be pretty quick.

Tip o’ the Week #111 – Sharing PowerPoint in Lync?

clip_image001If you’re regularly part of a Lync call which involves presenting slides, here’s some best practice that everyone should know about. In a nutshell – don’t share your whole desktopto show the PowerPoint slides; don’t even share PowerPoint  as a single program (something that Lync would allow you to do), but it’s really not the best way.

Why not?In general, the user experience is better if you show slides by uploading them into the meeting/call. Showing slides by sharing the whole desktop is inefficient on the network too; if the network isn’t so great (eg when attendees are on slower lines), it can be practially unusable. Also, unless you’re really smooth in the way you operate the PC, you’re in danger of showing more than just the slides – email alerts, incoming IMs from other people popping up etc. A slicker way of sharing slides is to use Lync’s built-in functionality designed to do just that.

If you have slides sitting on your PC, the quickest way of adding them into your meeting is to click on the Share clip_image002button within the conversation window, and select PowerPoint Presentation, which will then give you the option to choose a PowerPoint file to be shown – the Lync software will then upload the PPT to the server, and convert it to an HTML format that can be shown in a browseror in the Lync client. This process of uploading & conversion can take a little while if you have a large or complex PPT, so it’s best to start uploading as early as you can.

The nice thing about using this mechanism to share slides is that they are now in the meeting, and other attendees could take over as presenter quickly – you clip_image003could even leave the meeting and let them continue.

If you store your slides on a SharePoint site, there’s a trick to quickly uploading the slides to your meeting. One way would be to navigate to the document library in the browser, and then Open with Explorer – another would be to simply open the SharePoint site in Windows Explorer, by using the UNC – eg instead of going to http://sharepointemea/sites/love-it/tipoweek, go to the start menu and simply type \\sharepointemea\sites\love-it\tipoweek.That way, you could browse to the document just as if it’s on your hard disk.

If you go back up to the point earlier in this tip, to where you’d add a slide deck from your PC – you could type the \\sharepointemea\sites\etc link into the file dialog and then select the appropriate PPT, or else you could prepare in advance by opening the library using explorer, then re-use the tip from ToW#101on how to copy the full path of a file name to the clipboard, and just paste that into the dialog when it comes time to upload the PPT.

Once you’ve converted to using this approach, you may freely mock anyone who still does it the (admittedly, easier, with one click) old fashioned way of just sharing out their whole desktop to show a single slide deck. Live the dream – upload the slides to the meeting  using Lync!

There’s a really good explanation of some of the other benefits to using the PowerPoint sharing method on this blog.

Tip o’ the Week #116 – Windows 8 – IE 10 desktop or Metro..?

clip_image001One of the potentially confusing aspects of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is the fact that it has two web browsers built in – the Internet Explorer we know and love has been updated to IE10 on the desktop, and a new IE10 browser has been added into the Metro UI. For the most part, there’s little to tell between them (browsing a page is pretty much browsing a page, after all), though in common with all Metro applications, the new variant launches full screen and has controls in a different place to the desktop IE10. It may feel a bit snappier and is certainly easier to use when interactive via touch.

For more info on what’s new in Metro IE10 and the reasons why, check out Steven Sinofsky’s recent blog post. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley replayed some of what the blog says, and added a bit of commentary too.

One of the more notable differences between the two browsers (apart from the user interface) is that the Metro version does not allow any plugins – so no Java, no ActiveX, no Flash, no Silverlight. There are very good reasons for this, centred around the way the technology which underpins all Metro apps (known as WinRT) manages applications’ performance so as to prevent them stomping all over each other and the system, to stop them doing things that would adversely affect the power consumption of the machine (see more here, and here) and to generally be good, cohabiting citizens. None of that is possible whilst the browser could run arbitrary code like Flash or through pretty much any other plugin.

So what this means to the end user is, it’s possible that you’ll open up a site and it won’t operate as expected –

clip_image003

clip_image004[no more buttery biscuit base for Metro IE]

… and no amount of attempting to install the Flash/Silverlight/etc player will work.

Never fear. Avid ToW reader and serial contributor David Overton has suggested a quick solution. If you find yourself in Metro IE and unable to properly view a page, just open the Navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, click (or tap) on the spanner icon for Page Tools, then select View on the desktop to switch to the desktop version of IE, with the same URL being shown.

Now you can view your addin-happy sites using the traditional IE.

clip_image006Power users apply here

clip_image007Another tip courtesy of David concerns the bottom left of the screen. If you move your mouse directly to the lower left corner, you’d see a preview of the Start menu (clicking on or tapping on which jumps to the Start screen, a trick available from any application), but David also points out that if you right-click, you’ll see a power-user menu with shortcuts to a bunch of applications that are pretty well hidden within the new Metro UI.

An even more power-usery way of getting to the same menu would be to press WindowsKey+X at any time. You can even start a Command Prompt with Admin privileges, in fewer clicks or keystrokes than in Windows 7.