Even in 1990, NOSS allowed any user to browse a hierarchical directory (showing contact info, job titles, manager/reporting relationships etc), email or instant message anyone, and look at their calendar to see what they were doing. It was 10 years before you could do all those things using Microsoft Windows and Office. In recent years, Big Blue’s email environment has seemingly been less happy.
When Microsoft Exchange first came out, email was handled with the Exchange client and calendaring was from Schedule+, which had been updated to support Exchange (and lives on in some backward Microsoft lingo, where people who start every sentence with “So,” ask you to send them an S+, meaning, invite them to a meeting). Outlook came along in 1996 and became the preferred and unified way to do email, calendars, address books etc.
Some organisations had a default policy when new mailboxes were created that their calendar was shared Read-only, so anyone in the company could see it. You could open someone’s calendar fully in Outlook or by viewing the scheduling tab in a meeting, where you will typically see if a list of people are available or not. Others might have it that only free/busy info is visible by default, and that is pretty sub-optimal.
With M365 in general, newly-created mailboxes have no calendar sharing set up, and the action is on the user to choose how to let co-workers see their info.
Be a nice person, and check to make sure your colleagues can view your calendar.
Ideally, share so that others will see the title and location of any appointment; useful when someone is trying to arrange a meeting, as within the schedule view they can figure out if you are likely to be able to make the proposed meeting time – if your diary is full of blocks marked busy or tentative, they’ll have no idea if you really are in a meeting or have just marked time to do something that you might be happy to move. Or had a colleague’s FYI notice of being on holiday obliterate the view of your calendar.
In the early days of Exchange/Outlook, if you had read access to someone’s calendar, you could open up appointments, see who else was attending a meeting, download any attachments and so on, unless the appointment was marked “Private” – though it’s somewhat possible to open Private appointments programmatically if you know what you are doing.
Nowadays, calendar sharing is more granular – in Outlook Web App, go into Calendar and you’ll see the Sharing and permissions option, which will let you choose specific people and give them ability to see various details, or you can change the default for the whole organisation.
In full-fat desktop Outlook, click on the Share Calendar option on the ribbon, and you’ll get a 1990s-style dialog box allowing you to set the default permissions or to invite particular team-mates to have higher level access should you want them to know where you are and with whom.
If you choose titles & locations, viewers can’t open your appointments to peer inside, so can’t see who else is attending or what the body of the meeting says, but they can at least see if you’re likely to need travel time between meetings. See here for more info on calendar sharing & delegate access.
PowerPoint files can get big. In the scale of small vs large, sending a many-megabyte PPT file around between a few people might not matter much, but if you’re building a presentation that is going to be widely shared, it could cost actual money – data storage costs, bandwidth charges on a website, carbon footprint for transmitting and storing etc.
Estimates of the energy cost to transmit and store data vary wildly, but if 1 GB cost 1 kWh power and the average CO2 output for generation was ~500g/kWh, then even shaving 10MB off a file can make a material difference if it’s going to be heavily used†.
There are a few tricks you can follow to make your PPTs less massive – like compressing the images within, meaning that an embedded picture which was originally sized to print on a poster could be re-sized to fit on a screen.
If you see a few-slide presentation file and it’s dozens of MB in size, then there’s probably other info in the deck which is not necessary for your presentation. Even more likely is that there are some embedded graphic or video assets which are bloating the size of it. Quickly identifying the cause of such largesse might allow you to ditch the offending slide or resize/remove the content.
A somewhat cavalier way of looking for large things you can torch, is to make a copy of your PPTX file and then rename it so you can look within. The OfficeXML file formats (prevalent in Office 2007 and onwards) use the same compression as ZIP files, so if you rename your file as such, you’ll be able to open it in Windows Explorer or other ZIP handling utilities, to see its innards. Opening the file shows you a folder structure, and if you navigate into ppt \ media then sort by Size, you’ll quickly see what’s making your file so big.
Actually doing the rename might be trickier than you think, since Windows hides by default such grubby detail as file extensions. One trick is to flip the switch to show extensions again (in Windows Explorer, look under View menu / Show / File name extensions), then it’s a simple matter of changing the file in Explorer by editing the last part of its name from .pptx to .zip.
Once you’ve confirmed in the warning dialog that the apocalypse is nigh and you really do want to change file type, open the new ZIP file and you’re off. Remember to go back in and switch off the Show > File name extensions option if you’re so inclined.
If you’re still unsure about these new-fangled “gooey” interfaces, you could crack open the command line to do it quickly.
If all this grubbing about inside PowerPoint files makes you feel uneasy, there is one other trick that could yield dividends – look inside the Master. Since many people create a new presentation by starting with an old one, they liked, it’s very possible there are slide layout templates with embedded graphics that you no longer need – especially if the originating deck was produced for a conference.
Go into View menu and look under Slide Master, which will open a whole new tab specific to the management of these template slides that form the bones of the presentation. You may well see lots of title slides or similar, which have embedded background images – if you know you don’t need those graphics or those layouts, just delete them.
PowerPoint generally won’t let you ditch a master layout which is being used to format the current slide deck; so, if you have your deck already built and want to distribute it, just go into the Slide Master view, delete everything which looks unnecessary and that PowerPoint will allow you to, then Close the Master view to return to the main menu. Once you’ve checked that the presentation format hasn’t been garbled, go File > Save As and give it a new name. Now compare the size of the new and old files.
This title slide in the Slide Master view had a graphical background which was 17Mb in size; just deleting all the unnecessary visual slide templates dropped the size of the original file from 110MB to 26MB.
Running the Document Inspector to remove other content further dropped another 1.5MB.
Selecting an image from one of the 70-odd slides in the deck, and choosing Compress Pictures from the Picture Format tab reduced it again to only 11MB, or 10% of the original file size – all for a few minutes’ effort.
Going back to the original 110MB file and opening File > Save As, then choosing More options… will open a traditional Save As dialog box; on the bottom is a Tools > submenu which allows you to run the Compress Pictures function at the point of saving the file, so reducing it to 1/3 of the original size, for literally 15 seconds’ work.
Following on from ToW #627, which talked about the efficiency of the latest versions of the Chromium-based Edge browser, avid reader Brad Wilson commented on another natty feature of the
If you’re in Edge already, press SHIFT+ESC, or go to the “…” menu in the top right, choose More Tools > and find Browser task manager under there. Even though the main Windows Task Manager has been overhauled recently with extended support for Edge, the browser task man gives even more insight into what’s going on with the various tabs, extensions and supporting processes.
For one, you can see specifics about the different bits of the browser to find out if things are bogging down and start to troubleshoot why, and kill off potentially rogue processes if you feel like living dangerously.
Right-click in the task list to add more columns to the display, like CPU Time to show longer-term vampire processes, or Profile, to display which of the potentially multiple browser profiles are hosting that tab or extension.
If the browser is taking up a bit more CPU or memory than you think it should, it may be time to prune the installed extensions list somewhat (disabling certain extensions from lesser-user profiles or removing some altogether), or engage in a more protracted exercise to find out where the memory is being used.
In further Edge updates, a new built-in VPN feature is being tested; powered by Cloudflare, it will give users signed in with a Microsoft Account an encrypted channel with up to 1Gb of data every month to run through what it calls “Microsoft Edge Secure Network” – it’s not there to let you watch iPlayer or Netflix while you’re abroad, but it could be handy for syncing email on a coffee shop Wi-Fi network. Presumably, when your free 1Gb runs out, you’ll get some warning and an opportunity to add some more coins to the meter.
Anyone who has delved into writing formulæ in Excel will probably have had to manipulate strings of text at some point, possibly to clean up formatting or to convert what Excel thinks is a simple block of text into more meaningful data that we know it to be, like a number or a date.
There are simple ways of bulk handling text without resorting to writing a formula – copy all the names from the To: line in an Outlook email, for example: paste into a new spreadsheet and you’ll end up with a single line of text containing all of the display names and email addresses in one cell, which you may want to split up, to be of much use.
Separate the text into multiple columns by selecting the first cell, then go to the Data tab and look for Text to Columns, which presents a fairly powerful if somewhat old-fashioned looking dialog box, to step through fixing up your text.
Since we might want to create a table of names / addresses, select the cells spread across the columns, copy or cut them to the clipboard, then on a new line below, right-click and look for the Transpose option under Paste Special. Once that’s done, feel free to delete the original top row, or clear the contents of the first cell as we might come back to that row to add column names later.
There is some other cleaning up to do with this text, though; the Text-to-Columns function chopped everything at the “;” but there’s a space which follows the semicolon, so all the Display Names after the first one have a leading space. We could repeat the Text-to-Column feature on the selection again, but use a Space as delimiter now – unfortunately that would mangle the display names into multiple columns, and if we had a smattering of users with middle names or 3 or 4 part names common in many countries, it could make things look even worse.
Using the leading “<” of the email address as the delimiter is probably simplest, as it will separate the name(s) and email addresses out, though it does still give us a few tidying-up challenges, as there are spaces we don’t want and a trailing “>” at the end of every email address.
In cases like this, it’s easier to use a formula to clean things up – the Trim function being a good place to start; it removes both trailing and leading spaces in string, so the name can be fixed up into a new column.
Since we know the email address has one errant character – that trailing “>” – left behind from the earlier text-to-column operation, there are a variety of ways to strip it off. There’s the =LEFT() function, which keeps the left-most (n) characters of a string – so by combing the LEN function and knocking off a single character, we can chop the final character off.
After all this palaver, you might be thinking that some of this chopping around and formulaic string-handling can get a bit confusing as you start to nest operations within each other. Luckily, the Excel team has released some powerful new text-handling functions to try to simplify things a little:
So, using TEXTSPLIT on our original pasted text from the email, using “<” as the delimiter for the columns and “>; “ as the marker for the end of each row, gives us a near perfect solution – the only clanger being the trailing “>” on the last address.
You could use another formula to find and strip out any left-over characters like that, or just manually delete the last “>” off the original line you pasted in.
Ever since Microsoft switched the Edge browser from its own page rendering technology to instead use the open-source Chromium, it benefits from regular rolling updates and the version number keeps increasing to match. If you use Edge already, you can see what release you have by going to the “…” menu > Help and Feedback > About Microsoft Edge or paste edge://settings/help into the address bar.
The release number ticked over from 99 to 100 recently, causing a few legacy websites to fall over: when you visit any site, your browser’s User Agent String identifies to the web server what type of client it’s dealing with, including the version number (so the server can modify the page to suit the client, if necessary).
In Shades of Y2K, a few sites balked at a browser showing up with a 3-digit number – if you have problems with any, you could make Edge stick to telling sites it’s running v99 – go to edge://flags/#force-major-version-to-minor on the address bar. Mozilla – creators of the Firefox browser which also uses Chromium – tracked known issues in sites and which ones have been fixed.
As well as taking whatever goodies come from the evolution of Chromium, the Edge development team can devote more of their time building stuff with a view to making Edge better than other browsers.
One feature which made it into Edge a while back is sleeping tabs; meaning open tabs you haven’t used it for a while can be put into an inactive mode and consume less memory, CPU and ultimately, power.
Look in Task Manager (CTRL+SHIFT+ESC) and you’ll likely see lots of entries underneath the Edge application; some are processes in support of the overall app, Extensions and the like, but you’ll also see each Tab appear separately. If you think Edge is running amok, it’s worth looking here to see if some specific site is chewing up CPU and consuming lots of memory.
Tab sleeping has been updated and given extra capabilities to manage tabs which are inter-connected, reckoned to mean that 8% more tabs will be put to sleep. When a tab is dozing, it typically saves 99% of CPU and 85% of memory compared to when running.
Other updates which came into v100 include some changes to handling of PDF files and some tweaks to policy-based control and other improvements to the way the browser works.
The Performance view on sleeping tabs Is rolling out now; if you don’t see it in Settings, then sit tight, or try visiting the Edge Insiders site and install one of the test versions, either Canary (daily updates – not really recommended for the average user), Dev or Beta; pre-release and stable versions of the browser can be run side-by-side so there’s low risk in having both on your machine.
For more information on browser evollution, keep an eye on the release notes for the Beta channel and watch the release schedule for when to expect further browser updates. There’s a feature tracker too, to see what’s in development and learn what’s coming, and summary news is regularly shared via the What’s New blog.
Leaving aside dewy-eyed recollections of Windows Phone, Android and iOS mirror Windows and MacOS in many ways – the latter being more closed and single-supplier while the former is relatively open and available from a large number of providers. Android has a far larger market share than iOS, even if the cognoscenti seem to flock to the Apple device.
One way of making your Android device more integrated to your Windows PC has just been refreshed and renamed – Phone Link.
Previously known as Your Phone, this app lets you access a variety of features of your phone from your PC; from reading and sending SMS messages and working with photos easily, to making and taking calls using your PC as a headset to the phone.
There are some things you can’t easily do with Phone Link, though – while it will mirror notifications you receive on the phone, it doesn’t necessarily allow you to interact with the app that generated them (eg a notification from Twitter won’t let you open the Twitter app to view the full thing). It does allow you to clear notifications though, so if you’re the type with loads of unacknowledged notification badges on your phone, this could be a good way to get rid of them.
While on the topic of mirroring, it is also possible to use WhatsApp on your PC – so you can type messages and paste photos etc into WhatsApp messages, without dealing with the vagaries of autocorrect on the phone.
Memoirs and autobiographies are the top selling non-fiction books for good reason, as people like to recall past events through the words and thoughts of someone who was there, in the room or even in the driving seat. World leaders who write their tell-all book on what happened 20+ years ago, better have great memories or perhaps a trove of notes and diary entries from the time. If they are fans of journaling, they would have of-the-moment musings, written down to help clear their minds at the time – on committing thoughts to her diary, Anne Frank wrote, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
Turning to technology and looking back to relatively near-term history brings up all kinds of product that was ahead of its time or was ultimately overtaken by other developments that nobody saw coming. Sometimes, the perfect blend of genius, timing, execution and luck combines and creates a durable and wildly successful category – like the Smartphone and the plethora of services and apps that were created.
Inversely, one of those tech innovations that was just a bit ahead of its time was the Tablet PC; a fully-functional Windows PC that was blessed with a pen and touch screen so you could take notes by hand just like on paper, yet by flipping it around it could be used to run Office apps and all the other stuff you’d need a PC for, 20 years ago.
In hindsight, the idea of the Tablet PC was 10-15 years ahead of the technology that was needed to really make it work – the pen and screen digitizer were a bit too low-res; the processing power and memory was not up to the mark of providing the kind of user experience that the vision hoped for. The battery life was too poor while the whole thing was too heavy. Nowadays, with devices like the Surface Go and the iPad Pro, the reality is much closer – even if the dream of writing meeting notes by hand has been made somewhat obsolete by transcription and the fact that fewer people use a pen to write any more.
One new app that was built for the Tablet PC to take advantage of its pen, was Windows Journal, a relatively simple yet effective note-taking app, with surprisingly good handwriting recognition built in.
To read more from someone who was in the room – figuratively and, at times, literally – around the time of Tablet PC, the Journal software and the Office app originally called Scribbler which went on to become OneNote, check out Steven Sinofsky’s Hardcore Software post. It’s a fairly long but fascinating read.
Using pen and paper for taking meeting notes might be less popular now, but many of us will still jot down reminders or lists on Post-it notes, perhaps doodling on paper to help creativity and flow. If you have a pen-capable computer now, the newly released Microsoft Journal app is worth a look.
Billed as an app for digital ink enthusiasts, this new Journal presents a modern take on the original Windows Journal idea – an infinitely scrollable canvas for jotting down anything, though with AI capabilities in the app providing quiet yet powerful functionality. Journal started as a research project (from the “Garage”), but has now graduated into a fully-fledged, supported app. Read more about it here.
|Even after 2 years of mostly enforced remote meetings, it’s still amazing how many people have yet to master some of the basics of online meetings – like management of the mute button and general audio interference, positioning of screen/camera so you’re not looking up their nose or side of their face, professing to having bandwidth issues as the reason for not enabling video, and many more. One “room for improvement” function is that of presenting PowerPoint slides and not looking like an idiot.
Firstly, have a practice with Teams if you’re not sure how things are going to work out – just go to the Calendar tile and you’ll see a Meet now option in the top right; that creates a new instant meeting in which you can play.
Don’t share your screen to present slides in PowerPoint (unless you really insist). Instead, save your PowerPoint to OneDrive for Business or SharePoint, and you’ll see a Present in Teams button in the top right, or a larger button on the Slide Show tab.
Choosing this opens up a Presenter View akin to the one in PowerPoint, which is the default if you have multiple monitors and you start a Slide Show. This view lets you see Speaker Notes, jump quickly to specific slides rather than paging through them, and be more interactive with the meeting than you could ever be if you were simply sharing a screen showing a PowerPoint slide on your computer.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of this mode in Teams is that you can still show the Chat or People pane to the side of the window – allowing you to keep an eye on attendees who might have their hands raised, or who ask questions in the meeting chat.
There are some other controls of note – the eye icon lets you decide if attendees can flick through your slides or whether you want to lock them to seeing only the slide you’re currently presenting. Useful if you have a Big Reveal coming at the end.
Next to that icon, there are some others which define the presenter mode – Content Only on the left, shows just the slide you want. Next to that is Standout, which takes your video and overlays it onto the slide rather than having it appear as one of the surrounding gallery of other attendees. And next to that is a new preview PowerPoint feature called Cameo, which integrates with the Teams Client.
A downside of the Standout mode is that you don’t get to control where your image goes on screen, or how big it is – so you might well obliterate some part of the content you’re presenting. This new feature gives you a way to solve that.
In PowerPoint, go to the Insert tab and on each slide add a Cameo (or a Camera as the object it creates is described in some controls), then place and size it as you want.
If you select the new object, the Camera tab will give you more customization options.
You will need to add a Cameo to every slide you want to show up on – potentially useful if you want to only appear for intros and Q&A but perhaps leave the content on its own for other parts.
Since each slide has its own Camera object, they can be of different shapes and you can even use the groovy Morph animation effect to transition too.
While in Presenter view, try using a “laser pointer” to temporarily show traces around something on your slide, with mouse or Surface pen to control it. There is a pen or highlighter to make more durable Ink markups, and if you double-click/tap each icon, you can set options like size, colour, adding arrow tips etc.
One downside of the Presenter View is that it shrinks the content on your own screen to the point of possibly making it difficult to read, especially if you’re showing the People or Chat pane as well – in fact, the content is only about 20% of your screen real estate.
Using Pop Out might help if you have a larger second screen connected, though chances are you’ll be using the camera on a laptop so ideally want to be looking at that display.
Since nobody really uses Speaker Notes anyway, you could try Hide presenter view, which means you’ll lose the slide thumbnails and speaker notes, but still keep the other controls. Go to the View control on the top left of the window and choose Full Screen to increase it even more.
For more details on using the new Cameo feature, see here – it is in preview which is rolling out through Office Insiders first so you may not see it right away. If you are presenting using simple app or desktop sharing rather than the PowerPoint Live model described above, there are some other options in how you appear alongside your content.
As well as launching the PowerPoint Live sharing from within PPT itself, you can choose to share recent presentations while in Teams – just scroll down past the various “share screen / app” options and you’ll see more. This topic was covered previously on ToW #576.
Many products evolve due to exposure to their competitors – adopting and refining the best features, and sometimes that evolution even starts to overtake the original. Many traditional desktop applications moved to online variants or were supplanted by newer concepts, such as shifting to mobile apps. Experiences that were clunky – like banking – moved to sometimes lower-functionality but more convenient apps, just as consumers adopted mobile payments and contactless cards.
Having blazed a trail with email in Hotmail and later Outlook Web Access, in 2010 Microsoft launched the first version of the Office web applications, meaning you could run lightweight Word, Excel and PowerPoint in your browser, as a companion or even as an alternative to the full-fat desktop versions.
A few years earlier, Google Docs released as an online word processor (and later, other types of productivity apps, rebranding as G Suite and now Google Workspace). There are pros and cons of the browser-only experience; you tend to sacrifice some functionality compared to the desktop applications in favour of ubiquitous availability, though web clients can be updated more easily and sometimes new features appear there first – as ToW #605 covered, with snoozing email.
Check out What’s new in Excel for the web or look for the summary covering Visio, Forms, Words and more, here.
If you like being browser based rather than desktop bound, you could start a new document from the address bar by simply entering word.new, excel.new or powerpoint.new. Others include docx.new, ppt.new, teams.new, sway.new …
You could add such links to your browser favourites; therefore, a new doc is but a single click away. There are many more .new shortcuts – Google’s in-house domain registry launched the service a few years ago, so not unsurprisingly, Mountain View hoovered up a lot of the relevant ones if you’re of a Googly persuasion. See docs.new, sheets.new or slides.new, mail.new …
Many years ago, computer operating systems competed for the attentions of those who cared about such things by bundling other apps and experiences that might previously have cost extra – media players, web browsers, simple word processors and the like. After the turn of the millennium, as consumer digital video started being a thing, editing packages were added to that list and Microsoft joined the fray with its Movie Maker offering, initially included as part of the much-maligned Windows ME.
Movie Maker is sadly no longer with us, and if you find something online that purports to be Movie Maker then it very likely isn’t. Bowing out finally in 2017, Windows Live Movie Maker (because everything was Live in the days, just as everything was .NET before that) had been developed to be a freely-downloadable and pretty capable video editing package, offering simple to use features to crop and adjust video, add incidental titles, music and the like. It was replaced with some much more basic video editing capabilities in the Photos app, also appearing as “Video editor” if you search for that from the Start menu.
There must be a lot of stored up love for Movie Maker, as searching the web for it will give you hundreds of “Movie Maker alternative” downloads, many of which are even published in the Microsoft Store.
Be careful of the “Free+” labels in the store, though… it probably means that after you spend an hour figuring out the often confusing UI of whatever app you’re trying out, it’ll knobble your video by only allowing you to save the first 2 minutes, or slapping a watermark on it unless you pay extra for the not-quite-so-free version.
If you’d like a fully-featured, completely free† video editing application and are prepared to put in a bit of work to figure out how to use it, then look no further than Shotcut. It’s open source, cross platform, and has numerous extensions and addins to enable pretty much any kind of effect you may want.
† It’s in the Store, too, meaning it’s clean and keeps itself updated too but costs $10 since you no longer need to visit the ad-supported website to get updates, thus supporting the developer. Comme ci, comme ça.
Another video editor of interest which manages to do a good job of having lots of powerful features but without being bewildering to use, is Clipchamp. It, too, is in the Store, though it’s actually browser-based so you can just go to the site, sign up for a free account and start playing.
The free version is missing functions from the paid-for ones, and also only lets you export video at DVD-quality resolution of 480p. Great if you’re planning to watch your vids on a 1990s CRT television.
If you want to use the more 2010 HD-era 1080p (the max res for Clipchamp, unlike the 2020s 4K that Shotcut and every modern smartphone can support), then you need to pay extra; a not-inconsiderable $19 per month, at least. A fact not lost on Brad Sams and Paul Thurrott at First Ring Daily, who commented on the fact that Clipchamp is being included in forthcoming versions of Windows 11 as a built-in app. Maybe pricing will change in time.
Yes, Microsoft acquired Clipchamp 6 months back, and hopefully its evolution will mean that in these tough times, it becomes a little less swingeing to use it properly. Find out some more about using Clipchamp, here.
Oh, one more thing. Sign into the Clipchamp app with a Microsoft.com email address rather than a Microsoft Account, and you’ll get an activation link sent via mail. Click that and you’ll be in the high-fidelity, first-class-travelling set of Business Platinum, for free. Bonus!