Tip o’ the Week 372 – Locking your PC

clip_image002Back in the 1980s and up to the early 1990s, IBM had many employees – this author included, though most definitely not pictured to the right – who regularly used 3270 terminals to access the Big Iron, and there was a strict policy in place that when you left your desk, you had to lock the screen. In those days, that didn’t mean hitting a keyboard shortcut, but instead, twisting & pulling a key out of the side of the terminal which put it into locked mode.

As users moved away from physical terminals to using PCs, there was a need to switch to software-locking of the “terminal” – hence the screen saver or keyboard lock, nowadays activated in many versions of Windows by various means, but mostly simply by pressing WindowsKey + L.

If you get into the habit of locking your PC by firing that shortcut, you’ll find yourself instinctively doing so even when you get up from your home office to make a cup of tea. But there’s a new way, being introduced in the Creators Update of Windows 10 – due to start arriving over the next week or two.

Dynamic Lock is a feature which means if you walk away from your PC while wearing or carrying a device which is paired to your PC via Bluetooth, then your machine will automatically lock.

clip_image004clip_image006

If you’re using a preview build of Windows – or when you get the Creators Update – then try going into the Sign-in options settings, and look under Dynamic lock to enable Windows to detect paired devies moving away.

Paul Thurrott talked about this feature in a preview build. He makes some valid criticisms, at least for now – there’s no way, for example, of choosing which device will trigger the locking motion, though there’s been a bit more further info on his site about how it works. The idea is that Dynamic Lock should be able to work with a variety of devices (like a FitBit or Band as well as a phone), but for now it appears to be phone-only.

clip_image008Having no current UI to control how the feature works won’t make it unique, though – ever since Windows 10 shipped, there’s been the “Quiet hours” option (accessed via the Action Center, Windowskey+A) which makes your PC silence notifications between the hours of midnight and 6am. Maddeningly, there’s no way of changing that time window because there’s no UI to alter it – despite there having been an equivalent in Win8.1.

Whatever; if you don’t have Creators Update yet, but you have a laptop with Bluetooth, try pairing your phone now and when the update arrives, you’ll be able to enable Dynamic Lock so you don’t need to lock your machine when walking away. Unless you don’t take your phone with you… Right, off for a cuppa. <WindowsKey+L>

Tip o’ the Week 370 – Using Bookmarks

clip_image001Bookmarks feature in several places within Office apps – most obviously in Word, where they can be used to easily jump around a document, but they also show up in other useful ways too. Making an email or a document easy for people to read is only going to help the prospects of them actually doing so.

If you are sending out very long emails with multiple topic sections (good examples might be a departmental newsletter, or confirmation of the reader’s registration at an event, where you’ll have numerous parts they’ll want to refer back to later), then careful use of bookmarks to form a table of contents at the top can make it a lot more palatable.

Outlook | OneNote | Excel | Other Apps

Inserting Bookmarks in Outlook

clip_image002Adding a bookmark is a 2-stage process – first, you define the place in the document (or email, in this case) and then you create a hyperlink that points to that mark rather than to an external address, file or something.

To define the bookmark, just position the cursor where you want the bookmark to be, then select Bookmark, to bring up the dialog to the left.

Now, the only real gotcha with this is that if you already have bookmarks defined, it’s quite easy to unwittingly overwrite them as the default behaviour of the dialog is to select the next bookmark following your current cursor location, within the list – so if you inadvertently just hit “Add”, then you’ll replace that selected bookmark with the current place of your cursor.

To add a new one, just type a unique name and press Add, the dialog will whack it on the list.

clip_image003

To place a link to a bookmark, from your table of contents or a little navigational summary such as the one above this paragraph, just select the text and press CTRL-K or pick Link from the Insert menu, then select Place in This Document, pick the named bookmark, press OK, and you’re done.

Using Bookmarks in OneNote

OneNote 2016 (the proper, full-fat, desktop version, rather than the UWP one) has a different approach, in that you can link to pages directly, or in fact to individual paragraphs, and instead of defining a specific bookmark, you just copy the specially-formatted URL to the location within the OneNote notebook. If it’s just a page you want to link to, you can select it from a drop-down list box, activated by the usually insert-hyperlink shortcut, CTRL-K, or Insert > Link from the menu.

clip_image005clip_image007If you’re already looking at the page you want to link to, you can get its onenote: address/URL by right-clicking on the page list on the right side of the main OneNote window. You can jump to a specific paragraph – very much like a bookmark within the page – by right-clicking at the appropriate point in the text, and choosing Copy Link to Paragraph.

Once you have the link in the clipboard, just do the CTRL-K thing again at the point you want to activate, and paste your funky (and quite probably, long) OneNote URL in to the Address: box in the Link dialog.

You can use that same URL in other places, too – in Word documents, email messages etc. You may find that it’s a bit confusing though, as the default link type is a reference to the location within your OneNote setup (eg onenote:#Home%20Network&section-id={8ABBAD15), which may not be resolved correctly when someone else clicks on it. It’d be safer to locate & copy the URL using the same technique as above, then paste it into an email or Word doc, whereupon you’ll get 2 links – one, with text as the title of the section and a link to the OneNote version, followed by (Web view). The latter may be safer for sharing more widely as you won’t require readers to already have the OneNote notebook open within their app.

The UWP version of OneNote has similar capabilities, though only links to pages and sections can be created from the navigation UI.

clip_image009

Excel references

Excel doesn’t really do bookmarks, but can jump directly to cell references or named ranges, if you’ve defined them. Insert the link by right-clicking in a cell, using the Insert menu or pressing CTRL-K.

Other apps

  • Word uses Bookmarks in much the same way that Outlook does. In complex Word docs with lots of bookmark references, you might want to show the bookmark in the editor, clip_image011 so you can spot it easily, delineated with tall, square brackets. Enable this from Options > Advanced menu, under Show Document Content section.
  • PowerPoint doesn’t really have bookmarks, but, similar to Excel, it lets you hyperlink straight to another part of the document, like a specific slide or relative slides, so you could have a link in the footer to take you to the “previous slide” (or just use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move back & forth…)
  • Visio has Hyperlinks on its menu rather than simply Links, and if you want to jump to a place within the same Visio document, you choose that from the “Sub-address” button on the insert hyperlink dialog.

Tip o’ the Week 369 – Edging forward?

clip_image002There was a time when browser wars raged; different companies felt that if end users ran on their browser, they’d have control over the way the user got access to the web. The browser landscape is radically different today, though.

It’s easy to think that everyone does most of their browsing on mobile devices but that’s not quite the case, yet – though it’s now more common to use a mobile than either a PC or a tablet.

Still, if 45% of all browsing is still being done on a desktop machine, it’s interesting to see the spread of usage – here’s the UK’s desktop browser market share since Windows 10 was released:

clip_image004

So, it’s pretty clear that Chrome (in green) is the de facto browser. IE (dark blue) has dropped 11% and Edge (light blue) has crawled up to 7.5%, with Safari and Firefox oscillating one or two points up and down but more or less holding station. Expanding the view to worldwide, shows that Firefox is more popular overseas (it’s the most popular browser in Germany, for example). Have a play with the chart above until it shows you some data you like.

InfoWorld published a recent report citing “13 reasons not to use Chrome”, some of which are pretty bogus but others may warrant attention:

  • Malware protection – as the traditional means of infecting computers with malware has changed (from sharing files on floppies or USB sticks), the most likely way of picking up something nasty is through your browser. A recent NSS Labs report showed that Edge was best at blocking phishing attacks, and another on “Socially Engineered Malware” – the kind of sites or pop-ups that dupe a user into installing things they shouldn’t – shows that Edge blocked 99% of them, whereas Chrome managed 86% and Firefox, 78%.
  • JavaScript performance – Chrome isn’t necessarily the best; Edge outperformed it in a couple of benchmarks and was beaten in a couple more, here. Regardless of whether you care about JavaScript or not, you should watch Hanselman’s pitch, if only for the GIFs and side anecdotes.
  • Battery life – Microsoft released a report saying that Edge would improve your Windows laptop’s battery life compared to other browsers. Opera took issue and said they were the best. Paul Thurrott didn’t agree, said he was switching to Edge but apparently has reverted back to Google’s Chrome.
    Mactards may want to use Safari vs Chrome for the same reasons.

Of course, preference plays a big part in why people use any tool versus another. Why not try something different, though? You can always revert back if you try a browser and decide you don’t like it.

Edge is getting better with various releases, with more to come in the next couple of months with the Creators Update. If you fancy trying Edge out as your default, check out WindowsCentral’s excellent guide.

Tip o’ the Week 368 – Mail and Calendar apps mature

Ever since Windows 8 came out, theclip_image002re were simplified Mail & Calendar apps built-in. Reviews were initially fairly mixed – and even after a bunch of improvements and a refresh when Windows 10 arrived, it could be argued there was still work to do.

The Mail & Calendar apps are essentially joined now – though you still have “Mail” clip_image006and “Calendar” appearing in the apps list once installed, and starting either from clip_image008the appropriate icon jumps into the requisite section within the single Mail clip_image004and Calendar application. “They” show up as a single app within the Store (bearing the same icon within its Store entry as full-fat Outlook, no less, though the apps are different). Increasingly, new functionality is appearing within the Mail and Calendar app which is common across regular Outlook and also the Outlook mobile versions.

clip_image010There’s been a recent update to the Mail and Calendar app – to check if you have it, go into the Store app, click on your own avatar to the left of the Search box in the top right, and check under Downloads and updates.

clip_image012There’s a bunch of new functionality similar to Outlook – @mentions support (try it), categories, travel integrations and a lot more – the latest updates are pretty substantial.

Both mail and calendar functionality is getting advanced enough, you might choose to set up Mail and Calendar for your work/Office 365 email account, rather than bothering with installing Outlook on your home PC or companion tablet device.

clip_image014The Focussed Inbox view familiar to Outlook 2016 and clip_image016Office 365 users makes an appearance in Mail (though you do need to turn it on – go into Settings > Reading, and look at the bottom of the settings pane).

Another notable new feature in Calendar is dubbed “Interesting Calendars”, optionally added alongside and sourced from a variety of publishers surfaced via Bing, and tailored for you based on locale.

If you have multiple mail accounts set up, you can choose which one to add your “interesting calendars” to, by checking under the Settings > Calendar section (note – to get to the calendar specific settings, he app needs to be in the calendar view at the time, then invoke settings by clicking on the gear wheel in the icons on the bottom-left).

clip_image018

If you add a custom calendar to your Office 365 account, the same one will be visible within Outlook too, under the “My Calendars” group.

clip_image020Aside from new features, there are some neat tricks you can use to personalise Mail and Calendar – like choosing the colour scheme and background images to fill the apps when you haven’t got something selected in the preview pane.

clip_image022Or set the “quick actions”, an inherited bit of functionality from the mobile versions of Outlook, where swiping a message left or right can do something to it – delete it, archive it, flag it etc.

Handy if you’re using the Mail app on a touch device (from a cheap 8” Windows tablet to a Surface being used in tablet mode).

For a history of new features in Mail and Calendar, see here (though since that page doesn’t list version numbers and also doesn’t look comprehensively up-to-date, YMMV).

Tip o’ the Week 367 – Shortcut keys and Taskbar

clip_image002Regular readers (and thanks to all of you) will know the predilection in ToWs passim for articles about shortcut keys in Windows. The simple truth being, if you’re able to use a keyboard with both hands and most of your fingers, it’s always going to be quicker than fishing about with a mouse or a pen.

One set of oft-overlooked shortcuts that have been around since Windows 7, deal with switching between applications. Yes, you can use the venerable ALT-TAB method (or even WindowsKey+TAB, if you want to recall the heady Flip 3D days of Vista, or make use of the multiple desktop feature in Windows 10) to flick between open applications, but if you’ve multiple applications running or have pinned apps to the Task Bar then there’s a more direct and arguably simpler way.

The Taskbar goes back to Windows 95 but has grown a lot of functionality over the years clip_image004– as well as customising it, you could try moving it to the vertical plane (maybe better on widescreen monitors as it gives you more real estate when you need it), and more; so much so that it has a whole section of the Settings menu devoted to it – right-click on your Taskbar and click settings to activate.

If your Taskbar is in the traditional horizontal position and if you have nothing running and nothing pinned to it, you’ll see if fill from left to right as you open apps up. If n is a number from 1-9, you can use WindowsKey+n to jump to those apps which are open as if they were numbered from the left. If you are a bit more north-south in your approach and keep your taskbar tucked to the side, then it will go 1-9 from the top.

clip_image005When you pin an app to the Taskbar clip_image007by right-clicking on the icon from its running self on the ‘bar, then it will stay in its current position. After pinning, if you drag it around on the taskbar (to the left or top), then it will remain there in future, even when the app isn’t running.

If you’re disciplined about this, you could have it that your browser of choice is always app #1, Outlook, app #2, etc. This would mean it’s easy to switch between apps, but also to start up apps which are pinned but not running.  In the vertical taskbar example shown on the right, the Amazon Music app and Microsoft Word are not running (no blue line to the left of the icon) but the others are; Edge is pinned, but Outlook & Mail might just be active, but not pinned.

If you use Amazon Music, the Win32 program has such poor support for common conventions of UX (despite being an otherwise decent app, especially if you’re a Prime or Music Unlimited subscriber), little things like pausing music can be a right pain it doesn’t support the Pause key found on many keyboards, and doesn’t offer any system-wide control keys to navigate music… the app needs to be in the foreground for anything to work. A solution to hand can be to pin it to a static position on the list (let’s say #1), then press WindowsKey+1 to jump to it, and SPACE to pause or left & right arrow keys to jump back & forth in the current playlist.

Similarly, if Outlook is in #4 on the Taskbar, then WindowsKey+4 followed by CTRL-SHIFT+I will always take you to Inbox, and CTRL+2 will take you to Calendar. If you want to check what’s going on in your schedule, this quick sequence (WinKey+4, CTRL+2) can be a great time-saver in jumping straight to calendar whatever else you’re doing, followed by CTRL+1 to jump back to the mail folder you might have been in previously.

Tip o’ the Week 366 – Night, Night, screen light

clip_image001As many people use their phones or other digital devices just before going to bed, it’s worth exploring the impact that might have on their sleep. Quite apart from the alertedness you’ll have from having been fussing about with a gadget when you should be settling down to the land of nod, the blue light emitted from the screen (as part of the RGB palette used to make white, for example) may make you less likely to fall asleep and to stay sleeping.

Good advice might be to have no screen-time within 30 mins of going to bed, but good advice tells you to not eat bad food, drink bad drink or inhabit bad habits. And when do we ever follow good advice?

A tactical solution might be to limit the blue light bit of our screen at night-time; it does appear to help, though avoiding electronic over-stimulation immediately before sleep is probably best, as a general rule at least.

Should you need to use a PC, tablet or phone just before bed, there are a variety of tools to help. 4½ years ago, ToW #120 talked about a cool bit of software called f.lux which can tune your PC’s – or other device’s – screen, so that at certain times of the day, it reduces whites to be more pinky, by dialling back the blue light.

clip_image003Well, the same kind of functionality is being built-in to Windows 10 as part of the upcoming Creators Update. Perhaps most effective if used in conjunction with some dark mode tweaks (as in ToW #354), this new “Night Light” feature first clip_image005made it into Insider builds from 15002, initially known as “Blue Light Filter”. To check which build you’re running, press WindowsKey+R and enter winver.

The Night Light options live under the Display settings; off by default, you can turn the feature on then configure it to change the hue of the screen either at a set time, or following the sun.

clip_image006It’s possible to set the colo(u)r (localization, tsk, tsk) temperature and the whites of the screen will fade to a vaguely pink hue, or even blood red if you move the slider all the way to the left. It’s not that easy to capture the effect as a screen shot, since it’s a filter that’s put on the display – if you PrtScn or use the snipping tool, you’ll get a regular white-background window even if your desktop looks like a weather warning.

clip_image008