Tip o’ the Week #187 – A Route for old times

clip_image002Once upon a time, a company called NextBase wrote some software to help people plan routes across the road network, using a computer. It was expensive in the day (£130 in 1988 works out about £300 in today’s money), but if your job was to schedule travelling reps or delivery drivers, then time was money. Or money was time saved.

Anyway, Microsoft bought the company and brought out Microsoft AutoRoute in the UK (eventually renamed Streets and Trips in the US) and did a modestly brisk trade selling annual versions of the software for a more reasonable (£40 or so) amount, with updates to keep the maps fresh and to add improving functionality.

All of this pre-dates the arrival of Multimap, Bing Maps, Google Maps etc. Nowadays the man in the street can make routing decisions on browsers or phones, free of charge and even taking account of prevailing traffic conditions, generally free of charge.

Nevertheless, the AutoRoute and S&T products soldier on, surprisingly. AutoRoute 2013 can be bought for £39 naked or £85 if you want a plug-in USB GPS module. MapPoint and Streets and Trips are still available for American users. Just don’t try and stick the PC to your windscreen.

The zooming in & out is a big agricultural compared to the Deep Zoom style navigation in and out of Bing or Google Maps these days, but there’s a lot of data behind the app and it’s very usable when it comes to searching and setting particular options – showing how much your journey will cost in fuel as well as how long it will take, for example…

Why?

There are a few key reasons why it makes sense to have AutoRoute instead of relying on online mapping – it’s all available offline for one, it responds comparatively quickly (especially when rerouting via specific places) and it also can show you easily what’s in the neighbourhood of a given point – though some of the data may not be as up to date as online sites.

You can export *.axe routing files to *.gpx using AutoRoute 2013 (or use free 3rd party software ITN Converter to turn out a version for most popular satnavs – so you could spend a while poring over a pan-European route in clip_image003AutoRoute then squirt it down to your TomTom so you end up following the exact route you want, rather than sticking to the motorways, as the device might insist)… though as yet no route mapping is exportable to Nokia’s Here Drive software so you can let your phone guide you.

Interestingly, you can also overlay further data onto AutoRoute maps – maybe Excel spreadsheets full of postcode-oriented data, or even the simple mechanism of plotting all your Outlook Contacts on a map – maybe useful for seeing which of your customers or partners are based nearby a place you’re going. Or where to wind up the windows and keep driving…

Tip o’ the Week #185 – Outlook, offline!

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Previous ToW entries have covered the need to sometimes tell Outlook to pipe down and let you get on with what your job is supposed to be. Where, after all, does it say on your job description, “Sits in front of a screen reading & writing email all day”?

The Pomodoro time management method is one potential solution to the problem, where the user forces themselves to focus for a period of time by avoiding distraction. The continuously excellent series of Photo Tips from Robert Deupree (JR) featured a simpler solution…

clip_image003Robert also recommends a shortcut for the keyboard junkies so dedicated to extreme productivity that they can’t afford to lift their hands away to touch a mouse – to toggle Online and Offline modes in Outlook, simply press ALT+S then W.

When Outlook is offline it obviously won’t receive any new email, but it will let you work on existing mail, calendar etc and you’ll still be online for Lync distractions, and able to while away time browsing the web.

clip_image005Whilst on the subject of Outlook and distractions, do yourself a favour and switch off the new mail alert – it’s even more intrusive in Outlook 2013 than previously. We all get enough email that we don’t need to know when another one has arrived, so try it now and you can always switch it back on if you feel that nobody loves you anymore.

Simply go to File / Options / Mail within the main Outlook window, and tweak the settings as required:

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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.

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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

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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.