Tip o’ the Week #109 – SkyDrive on the move

clip_image001Everyone should know about SkyDrive – the free Microsoft service that gives users with a Live ID (including MSN, Hotmail etc) a 25Gb storage space online, accessible ostensibly from anywhere?

Well, it’s just been made more convenient to access SkyDrive files from mobile devices, thanks to SkyDrive Mobile. In the case of Windows Phone and iPhone (and iPod Touch, and iPad too), there are apps specifically built to make the interface to SkyDrive more smooth – otherwise, it’s still possible to get there via a browser from other devices, albeit maybe a little more clunky.

We’re increasingly stepping up efforts to support non-Microsoft devices in accessing our services – as well as SkyDrive and Tag, there is a growing number of Microsoft apps for iOS and Android.
An example is the newly-released MSN App for the iPad – link via iTunes here.

One of the more useful tricks with SkyDrive is to use OneNote for home-based note taking (making sure you don’t fall foul of MS security policy and use it for work related, potentially confidential stuff) – with a OneNote stored in SkyDrive, it’s accessible from your phone, from multiple clip_image002PCs using OneNote just as  normal, and from any browser you care to point in the right direction. It’s a huge boon for taking notes like holiday booking reference numbers, insurance claim notes, shopping lists etc. We’ve covered this a while before in ToW #52 here, and there’s also an article in the online help.

We’ve also looked in the past at an unsanctioned but still potentially useful 3rd party PC app called SDExplorer, which lets you access SkyDrive folders directly from within Windows Explorer, and therefore within any application. There’s a free version that’s limited in some functions, and a trialware pay-$20-for variant that’s a bit more capable. Have a look but do remember that it’s subject to break any time the SkyDrive team make major changes – the SDExplorer authors seem to have done a reasonable job keeping up, but as they say, YMMV.

Tip o’ the Week #106 – Revisiting Microsoft Tag

We’ve covered Microsoft Tag before on Tip o’ the Week, but it’s worth paying another visit as a few things have changed. Tag is an innovative 2D barcode which can be in colour or black and white, and can even be heavily stylised and worked into logos or other graphics.

If you haven’t tried using Tag before, then point your mobile phone to http://gettag.mobi to download the Tag reader app, unless you have Windows Phone 7.5, in which case it’s built in. just press the search button on the bottom of the phone, and press the “eye” icon on the bottom of the page – then hold your phone over the tag to read it.

clip_image001clip_image003Here’s a customised tag that points to a web URL – http://binged.it/wcQrOr. (Spot the new function within Bing Maps, where when you share a map view that you have, it generates a short URL rather than the massive multi-line one that it used to. like this one.


It’s a piece of cake to create new Tags – go to http://tag.microsoft.com and sign in with you Live ID. You can create a tag that will point to a URL, will contain contact information, a simple block of text or a phone number. Someone can scan your contact and add it straight to their phone, or just call your number directly. Or if your website has mobile-oriented information, then maybe direct them to that.

clip_image005There have been some updates from the Tag team (banish any wrestling analogies from your mind), which have added some interesting new areas of functionality, such as the ability to generate the more widely used if much less visually jazzy, QR Codes. Like this one.

To create your own Microsoft business cards with Tags on the back, visit https://xerox-mscopy.nowdocs.com/ then click on Business Cards / Business Cards / Worldwide Employee Business Cards / . card WITH MS TAG . and upload the Tag image of your contact info you’ve already created

There are some nice analysis tools available, too – if you are using Tags, QR Codes or NFC codes to do some kind of marketing, you can check on:

· Frequency – how many times a Tag barcode, QR Code or NFC touchpoint (or group of them) has been scanned.

· Time frame – how many scans each recognition technology receives each day and overall.

· Geography – where each Tag barcode, QR Code or NFC touchpoint has been scanned, which can be represented on a Heat Map.

Best of all with Tag, though – everything is completely free. Anyone can create and manage Tags, QR Codes etc, so let your customers and partners know that they could be adding rich, mobile-oriented content to any of their flyers, ads, business cards etc – just by sticking a Tag on the bottom. QR Codes are ugly – try using Tag properly!

Tip o’ the Week #95 – the new Windows Phone lock screen

clip_image002One of the most immediately user-friendly aspects of Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango, is also one that is not automatically enabled… Try this out, and I bet you’ll love it. Show to your friends who’ve upgraded: they’ll love it too.

Windows Phone supports having a PIN lock policy so that if you haven’t used your device for a period of time, you’ll need the PIN to wake it up again. Pretty much every phone that supports the Exchange ActiveSync protocol has something similar, and many companies will not allow any device to connect & sync email unless the policy is active and set up.

With Windows Phone 7, the lock policy also kicked in every time the screen went off, either by the user pressing the power button to switch it off, or because of a time-out. Not an amazing hardship to have to enter a 4-digit PIN, but it’s a slight annoyance.

clip_image004Deliverance from the PIN

Mango introduces a number of new and useful capabilities to the Lock Screen – the principal one being that you can set a time-out before a password needs to be entered.

So, you can “lock” the screen with the power button and unlock it again with only a press of the button and a swipe upwards, rather than having to enter your PIN again – up to 15 minutes after the phone was locked. Really handy if you’re walking along the street and need to consult the Maps app again; a simple press and swipe and you’re straight back in.

To set, simply go into settings -> lock + wallpaper.

The first time-out is the one that automatically switches the screen off (and that would have PIN-locked the phone in WP7 too). The second time-out specifies how long a grace period you have before you need to unlock with a PIN.


If you want to customise your phone’s wallpaper, there’s an option (just off the top of the screenshot above) to do so, or you can press and hold on any image, and it will let you set it to be the wallpaper – even pictures that people have emailed you (just open the pic from Outlook, press/hold, and bingo).

The new lock screen in Mango lets you show the Zune-supplied artist’s photo as your wallpaper whilst you’re listening to music. When you stop the track, it reverts back to whatever wallpaper you had before.

Tip o’ the Week #81 – I’m Late!

clip_image002We’ve all had that feeling when you just know you aren’t going to make it in time for your next meeting… You know, you’re in Building 1 and the meeting’s at the top of Building 5, or you’re stuck in traffic, or in another meeting that’s already running over and isn’t going to end any time soon..?

Obviously, it would be polite to tell people when you can’t make it to a meeting on time… but emailing everyone to say you’ll be late will just make you later still…

clip_image001I’m Late! I’m Late!!

If you use Windows Phone 7, have a look in a calendar appointment which is a meeting (ie where there are invited attendees, rather than just an appointment you’ve put in your own calendar), and you’ll see a “late option on the menu at the bottom of the screen…

…tap on that and it will create an email ready to be sent to everyone in the meeting (if you’re the organiser), and if you’re merely an attendee, you can choose if you want the whole meeting to know of your tardiness, or if you’d rather just send an email to the organiser directly.


clip_image003Everyone who uses Exchange 2010 with its Unified Messaging capability (where voice mail is handled by Exchange) can also dial in to collect voicemails, have the Exchange Server read out emails and calendar appointments etc. One of the options when in the calendar, is to say “I’ll be late” – whereupon the server will send an email on your behalf to everyone – useful if you can’t actually type at the time (maybe you’re in the car, or running along the corridor…)

From within Lync, it’s easy to get to your Voice Mail – click on the large telephone icon near the top of the main Lync window, and you can dial into or set up Voice Mail from there.

clip_image004Try calling Voice Mail and saying “Calendar for today”, and the Exchange server will read out details of your current meeting, or others in the schedule. You can then tell it you’ll be late, and by how much, or even simply say “I’ll be 10 minutes late.

To call from your mobile, try setting up a contact in Outlook to dial into your Unified Messaging mailbox – set the contact’s phone number (for Microsoft UK users) to: +44 118 909 nnnn x p12345678#, replacing “118 909 nnnn” with the phone number you’d use to dial in to your own Exchange UM, and “12345678” with the handy 8 digit (or whatever length) PIN that the Exchange server wants you to set. clip_image005

If you don’t know what your PIN is, never fear – you can reset it quickly from Outlook 2010, by going to the File menu and clicking…

Just make sure when you have to change the PIN, you remember to update the Outlook contact(s) that contain it, to reflect your new number. If you call the standard access number from another phone, you’ll need to tell it what your extension number is, but if you’ve got your mobile set up in the GAL properly, then it’s possible that Exchange can tell it’s your phone, so all you need to provide is your PIN. If you dial from Lync (as above), then you’ve already logged into the network so don’t even need a PIN. Clever, eh?

It’s worth setting up a couple of contacts to get you straight into UM – one with the number as above to take you to the spoken voice prompt, and one with the number +44 0118 909 nnnn x p12345678#001, which will automatically switch to using touch-tone numbers, and will drop you into playback of voice mail messages – handy if you know you have a new message to retrieve, especially so if you’re in a public space (where talking aloud to the server will have your tarred with the epithet “loony”) or other noisy environment, where you’d never be understood anyway.

Finally, if you like to update your voice mail message (saying you’re at WPC or MGX or Tech Ready, for example) then set up another contact with the number +44118909nnnn x p12345678#006212 – dialing that from your mobile phone will take you straight to the “record your message after the tone” prompt.

Tip o’ the Week #94 – Have you been Mango’d?


This is another out-of-sequence-because-it’s-topical Tip… normal service will resume soon…

I’m glad so many people enjoyed last week’s tip on getting Windows Phone “Mango” and making your own ringtones for it. Yes, ringtone creation is something of a palaver, but brings a sense of satisfaction that refreshes the parts other fruits cannot reach.

As you use Mango (or Windows Phone 7.5 to give it the full handle), you’ll see lots of incremental improvements in the way things work – the threading of emails, the deeper integration of Windows Live & Facebook in messaging, adding LinkedIn & Twitter etc.
There are a few major areas that are worth exploring though.


One of the best under-the-covers features is the ability to jump between running (multi-tasking) applications. Want to copy a URL from Internet Explorer and paste it into an email…? Well, instead of going back to the Start Screen from one app to then start another, just press and hold the Back button on the bottom of your phone, and you’ll see the “App Switcher” – allowing you to swipe across and dive straight into another running application. ALT-TAB comes to your phone!

Apps that are written to take specific advantage of Mango’s multi-tasking can run in the background too… if you look in settings -> applications under background tasks, you’ll see a list of which apps are running in the background, and if you press advanced you’ll see which ones are able to.

The other buttons

It’s worth noting that the buttons on the bottom have changed their meaning somewhat – press and hold the Windows logo and you’ll get to give your phone spoken commands – not all new, but one nice addition is the ability to text someone by just talking to the phone… eg say “text <contact name>”, and then have hours of fun with freeform dictation, tarring with appropriate epithets in the hope that the phone will recognise what you say.

The magnifying glass/search button also changes its behaviour now, so it always takes you to the Bing app, rather than searching within an application. You’ll see a magnifier icon within apps, and tapping on that lets clip_image002you find content in that application.

An example, and another really nice tweak in Mango, is the way it handles the App List (when you swipe right->left on the Start Screen) – if you have lots of apps installed, you can now jump straight to a grouping of apps by letter tile (like you can in Contacts, for example) or can search all your installed Apps, even extending the search to the Marketplace.

The Bing application is very cool now, too – it includes “Local Scout” search functionality that will show you what’s nearby (if you have the GPS function switched on), and will take you straight to the further improved Maps application to show you not only where your search result is, but can show you how to get there. Really very nice.

Internet Explorer

Finally, for this week, there’s the much-improved, hardware-accelerated, HTML5-supporting, mobile Internet Explorer 9. [In some tests, it’s waaaay faster than the iPhone 4 and Android].

clip_image003As well as making it a lot faster, the development team redesigned the browser to make it even less intrusive to the web experience than before – see here for more information. One notable change is moving the address bar from the top to the bottom of the screen – simple usability feedback drove that change.

Incidentally, did you know that when you’re entering an address in the browser, if you press and hold the “.com” button, it will offer a few variants…?

Might just help you get your address there a little quicker…

Tip o’ the Week #58 – Find your meeting, or your Windows Phone

clip_image003This week, a couple of smart tips concerning Windows Phone 7. Both revolve around finding something – in one case, how to find your phone if you’re not sure where you left it, and the other, how to remind yourself where you’re going.

Dude, where’s my phone…?
This tip uses the location services built in to Windows Phone 7 – services which you may want to switch off if you’re having battery life issues, but which can help you out by geotagging photos (so the GPS location of the photo you take is recorded in the photo, and it’s supported in Windows Live Photo Gallery too) or by finding where you are on the map.

· clip_image005If you do want to switch off Location Services, go into settings | system and under location, switch off

          • To turn off geotagging by default, go into settings | applications (by swiping to the left), then under pictures and camera, switch off Include location (GPS)
          • To use location services in maps, just go into the Maps app and press the crosshairs button (bottom, middle) to have the phone show where you currently are on the map. When in the map view, try using use the search button on the bottom right of the phone – enter a term like restaurants, pubs, vets, petrol etc… and the map will show you what’s nearby.

If you habitually leave your phone and don’t know where, there is a facility to find out where the phone was last seen, but you need to switch it on (it’s off by default), in settings | system and under find my phone.

To check where you left your phone, you’ll need to have already set up a Windows Live address on the phone (giving access to SkyDrive etc), and then visit http://windowsphone.live.com/ on your PC – under the “FIND MY PHONE” link, you can see your phone’s approximate location on a map, erase its contents if it’s hopelessly lost, lock the device so it can’t be used (and include a “please return to… “message on the home screen) or even make the phone ring, regardless of whether it’s on mute or not… so if it’s in a hidden pocket, you’ve got a chance of giving it a poke to make some noise.

If and when you find the phone, to stop the special ring-tone, just press the power button once (the same trick that you can use to silence any ringing phone, even when locked).

Where do you want to go today?

clip_image007One reader started using a great trick for remembering where he’s going – by pinning the map location to the home screen. Start by searching for a location, address, facility etc in the Maps app, then press and hold on the flag to see a detailed view of that location offering “about” (including address details, phone numbers), possibly some restaurant reviews etc, and “nearby (other places in the vicinity).

If you look to the bottom left of the screen, you’ll see a pin shape that lets you pin a tile to the home screen; tap on the tile to return to the “about” page, and tap on the map image in the about page to go straight to the map in the Bing Maps app.

Tap and hold on the map tile on the home screen to remove it when you’re done.

Nice. Really nice. For more map tips, check here.

Tip o’ the Week #57 – Using Microsoft Tag on Windows Phone

clip_image002The “Tag” initiative has been around for a little while, in beta guise initially, then general release. The idea is that anyone can generate a 2D “barcode” that can could be a link to a website for more information, could be contact information, some plain text or even a “dialer” that would redirect a mobile device to call your number. If you’re printing posters or any other ad material, it’s easy to include a tag, and it can be customised so it’s not such an eye-sore as other, similar tagging approaches.

The ideal consumption device for tags is a mobile phone with a camera, and the team behind this technology have been profligate with their support for phone platforms – send anyone to http://gettag.mobi and they can get software for Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Java, Symbian, Windows Mobile & Windows Phone 7 (also available from the Zune Marketplace on your PC if you’re using WP7).

To use a tag, just fire up the app, point your phone at the physical – or on-screen – instance of the tag, and within the app, “scan” it by taking a picture. It’s as simple as that. The phone will then take you to the website, call the number, display the text or give you the option of saving the contact details.

If you want to generate your own tags, it’s a piece of cake – head over to http://tag.microsoft.com and sign in with your Windows Live ID. You can then create tags and download in a variety of formats, and even track how often the tags you create have been opened.

For stories of how Microsoft Tag is being used – including a photo of a guy with a Tag tattoo on his head –   check out the team’s blog. Here’s another example of tag customisation that blends in a bit more than the relatively ugly QR Codes that some ads contain.

Tip o’ the Week #52 – OneNote on 3 screens & a cloud

After the first year of ToWs, let’s start the 2nd with a short celebration of a cool feature in OneNote – not revolutionary, but the kind of thing that makes one smile when encountering it – somebody really thought about how OneNote was likely being used.

clip_image001Try typing a sum – like 52×1045= (that’s the number of ToW emails times the current readership) and when you press Enter, Space, TAB etc, you’ll see that OneNote does you the service of calculating the answer. It even works with brackets and everything… try out different operators (*, x, /, ^2 etc).

Not everything in OneNote’s garden is rosy. Try copying a table (with formatting) from Excel and pasting into a OneNote notebook and you’ll maybe feel a little short changed. You could try grabbing the screen area (by looking for the Screen Clipping tool on the Insert tab), or by pressing WindowsKey-S, which will immediately grab a screen area of your choice and paste it either into a OneNote book, or put it in the Clipboard.

Share and Share alike
OneNote is such a useful way of sharing info, using SharePoint to host shared OneNote documents for work purposes, or synching personal info around – there was a way of sharing a notebook between work & home PCs, using the now-superceded Live Mesh (which was replaced by Windows Live Mesh as part of Windows Live Essentials).

imageA potentially simpler way of achieving the same thing is to use the newly-upgraded SkyDrive & OneNote in concert with one another, using SkyDrive to create a notebook that lives in the cloud and then, having opened the Notebook in the OneNote Web App, it’s a snap to open it in OneNote and to synchronise it onto multiple PCs.

If you have a Windows Phone 7, check out the Office Hub and look in there at OneNote – if you set the WP7 up to use your Windows Live address and choose to sync OneNote with SkyDrive, it will (by default) create a notebook called Personal (Web) in the Documents / My Documents folder. You can keep it to yourself or share it with others – click the “Shared with:” link on SkyDrive to assign permissions.clip_image003

If you use this OneNote notebook to keep your scraps of personal stuff, it will synch to the cloud (accessible via a browser and OneNote Web App), via any number of PCs that you choose to synchronise it to, and it’ll also be accessible from – and updateable with – your phone.

Tip o’ the Week #46 – Reduce your influx of Corporate Spam

clip_image001[4]We’ve all had unwanted emails from external sources – so-called “Spam”, after the famous Python sketch that featured a café with Spam in every dish on the menu.

A further menace is “Corporate Spam”, or stuff that you don’t want, but which originates from within the corporate network. Usually, C-Spam is simply being cc’ed on a long email that you really won’t ever read, but Distribution Groups provide many other opportunities to send large volumes of email to people who don’t want it.

There are, however, several weapons in Outlook 2010 to help the C-Spam burden be reduced, eg…

Ignore Conversation – find yourself on an email trail with lots of people saying “me too”, “+1”, “please stop hitting reply-all” etc? Simply right-click on any message in that thread, and choose “Ignore…” and the whole lot will be moved to the Deleted Items folder. Any future message in the same thread will be automatically deleted too. See a Demo.

This feature was semi-inspired by a legendary incident that occurred within Microsoft some years ago, known simply as “Bedlam DL3”. Someone in Microsoft IT had been testing automatic creation of very large distribution lists and adding people – alphabetically – to the DL. There were a whole series of Bedlam DLs, but one person spotted they were a member of DL3 one day, by looking at their own entry in the GAL, in the “Member of” tab.They emailed Bedlam DL3 asking “why am I on this DL, please take me off”. The other 20,000+ people on the DL received that message,many of who also said “me too”, followed by many “STOP SENDING EMAILS TO THIS LIST” type messages.

In the 24 hours after the Bedlam DL3 touch-paper was lit, the Microsoft internal email system sent more messages than was normal for a whole year. Needless to say, the quality of service was less than optimal.

Do Not Reply All – Information Rights Management (something we’ll cover in a future ToW) gives us lots of control over what can happen to an email, but it’s a little heavy handed if all you want to do is stop people replying. IRM is now supported on some mobile devices and within Outlook Web Access, clip_image001but it’s not quite ubiquitous, and can be a little intrusive for the recipient.

Well, Gavin Smyth of MS Research sent in details of a great Outlook addin he’s written, which exposes a little-known tweak that will stop Outlook from the “Reply-All” syndrome – the root of the Bedlam DL3 problem.

Simply click on the appropriate Ribbon icon, and when you send an email, you can prevent internal recipients from passing it on. The No Reply All and No Forward functions aren’t rigidly enforced like in IRM, and they only work within the organisation – but they’re quick and easy to use, and have no negative impact for the recipients – it just looks like a normal email, but in Outlook, the “Reply All” or “Forward” buttons are grayed out. Simple.

More details are here.
Download the ZIP file for the NoReplyAll addin’s setup here.

Playing with Microsoft Tag

I know it’s been around in some form for a little while now, but I’ve only started looking at Tag – a way of essentially representing URLs in a camera-phone friendly way, such that merely pointing the phone at the “tag” takes you there.


Head over to http://tag.microsoft.com and sign in with a Live ID, P1010616to create your own tags – you can generate them in colour or black & white, in several formats and sizes. I’m thinking of putting a tag on the back of my next set of business cards, pointing to a vCard – then anyone with Tag software on their phone could add my contact details in an instant.


Ewan_Dalton's_Blog_2009728173249[1] (this tag takes you to the blog’s URL)

Point your mobile at http://gettag.mobi to install the software – available for a whole host of platforms, including iPhone, Symbian, Android and, of course, Windows Mobile 😉