643 – Wireless extensions


A computer on every desk and in every home”; that original Microsoft motto, all the way back from a time when any sane person would have said it was nuts. Looking back now, though – hands up, who has only the one computer at home?

clip_image004[4]The WindowsKey+P shortcut key has been used since Windows 7, for sending your screen output to another device. At one point, this was maybe a meeting room’s projector – hence “+P”. You’d plug it into the VGA port on your laptop, press Win+P and you’re away. These days, does anyone “project”? Or just mirror or extend their desktop to another connected display or monitor?

You’ll commonly be able to wirelessly “project” to a large screen on the wall in a meeting room nowadays, rather than having to faff about with ceiling-mounted projectors, with all their bulb issues, noisy fans and the multitude of connectors required.

clip_image006[4]Windows 10 and 11 has a nice wireless projection UI, used to “Cast” to a wirelessly-available device, such as a TV which uses the somewhat messy Miracast standard. Either through native support, or by adding a media stick like Roku, Chromecast or FireTV, most TVs can be made to receive the display output of your laptop.

One somewhat underappreciated feature, though, is the ability to set your PC to be the recipient of wireless projection from another machine. This could be used to show something to a nearby colleague, displaying your desktop on their PC, or to share your PC screen to a room where someone else is currently plugged into the screen / projector, and you can project to their machine rather than unplugging them.

Lesser known is the ability to wirelessly extend your desktop to another PC, effectively using it as a 2nd monitor.

clip_image008[4]To kick off proceedings, press Start and type project to find the shortcut to Projection Settings.

If you haven’t set it up previously, you’ll need to add the Wireless Display optional feature; have a look through the others in the same dialog to see if there’s anything else that takes your fancy.

After adding Wireless Display, clip_image010[4]you’ll be able to set various options about how and when to receive connections. Start the “Connect” app on the destination PC and you can run a source desktop in a window or make it full-screen.

clip_image012[4]This projection feature can be used to extend the desktop of your main machine onto a second PC.

If you have a spare laptop or a home desktop PC which has Wi-Fi capability, you could set it up to be the recipient of projection from your main work machine, as long as they’re both on the same wireless network, and without the need to join in domains or have the icy grip of corporate control extended to your own hardware.

Select the option to extend your desktop to the remote machine and you can use it just like an additional monitor.


As many of us are used to having multiple screens in our home office, it could be worth carrying a second laptop if you go into an actual office where decent 2nd screens might not be available.

Having better kit at home than in the office is just one thing to deal with when going back to a workplace

642 – Finding work stuff

Data storage has become very cheap over the decades – a while ago, ComputerWorld wrote an article, saying that when it was founded 50 years previous, a 1MB hard disk would cost you $1M, and in 2017, that would work out at $0.02. 5 years later, $0.02 would get >1GB, more than 1,000 times as much.

clip_image002[4]This profusion has turned many of us into pilers – what’s the point of organizing data and deleting old stuff, be that files, emails, camera roll photos?

Outlook has a pretty good search function built in. OneDrive photos has some great organizing and filtering capabilities (like On This Day, or if you have GPS enabled on your camera/phone, you can easily group photos by the location taken from).

clip_image004[4]Still in OneDrive, there is also some AI-based tagging of your pics, which can sometimes be a bit hit & miss… but more often than not gets it about right.

While browsing “All Photos”, if you mouse-over to the right, you’ll get a scrollable timeline too (similar to the Windows Photos app), so you can quickly jump to a reference date.

Assuming you’re using Microsoft 365 / Office 365 at your workplace, there are other ways to find stuff that is more work-related, like documents, email and messages. One easily overlooked source is the “new tab” experience within the Edge browser.

clip_image006[4]The content on the default home page can be customized in a variety of ways, from choosing whether to show a background image or keep it clear; to displaying content from various “news” providers and clickbait advertisers that Microsoft News / MSN has elected to present to you, or hiding that altogether.

You can do some filtering of that content too, though for work purposes, many people may want to leave the page layout in “Focused”, which puts a link bar at the bottom and hides the content to be a scroll away.

Edge Profiling

If you have a “Work” profile (or you only have a single profile) and it is connected to your work account – ie your Microsoft 365/ Office 365 email address rather than your personal one – then you’ll see a “Microsoft 365” link within the list of content providers, which gives you a simple view of your most recent documents, SharePoint sites you visit and a whole lot more. To learn more about this Edge Enterprise tab, see here.


Also, you’ll see the search box containing your company name – it uses Bing to search for whatever you put in there (somewhat controversially, regardless of what your default search engine in the browser is…). Edge doesn’t give you the option – like IE used to – of starting a tab with a completely blank page, though there are hacks to make that work.

clip_image010[4]If you stick with the standard new tab, it will also give you the choice of restricting your search to “Work”, so looking at documents and the likes. You’ll see a list of content sources clip_image012[4]displayed on the left side as tabs, allowing you to filter what you’re looking for or where you want to search.

There’s a fairly new one that searches “Messages”. At least for now, that means Outlook and / or Teams messages, but it could be really useful when trying to remember if a conversation you had was in email or in a Teams chat.

A quick way to jump to this section is to go to aka.ms/messages

– regardless of which browser you’re using, as it uses the Bing.com/work back end.

641 – What’s the Time, Mr Wolf?


Time-telling technology has always been a hot-bed of invention, from the radically precise first marine chronometer in the early 18th century, allowing more accurate navigation on long sea voyages, to atomic clocks that can measure time with the accuracy of one millionth of a second over 10 years.

clip_image004Computers and smart phones probably never need your intervention to set the time, except when travelling abroad and you want to manually manage the time zone – if you prefer not to let the machine do that for you. To play with the time settings in Windows, just right-click on the clock in the system tray and choose to adjust from there.

clip_image006If you’d like to know what the actual time is, maybe after a power cut has blanked the clock on your cooker or you need to adjust because of Daylight Savings Time, how do you know what the real time is? Call the Speaking Clock? Switch on TV news and wait for the clock in the corner to click over one more minute?

Even better than that, check out time.is, a service synchronized with an atomic clock and which purports to figure out how accurate your computer’s clock is compared with the real time. Open the time.is site on your mobile phone and you’re ready for next time you have to set the clock on your video recorder or bedside alarm.

The chronometer (“time” and “measure”) evolved from a ship’s device for navigation and became a byword for a really accurate watch (they even had competitions until the late 1960s for the manufacturer who could make the most accurate timepiece – right up until the Japanese started beating the organising Swiss at their own game, so they took their ball away and went home). Meanwhile chronographs (“time” and “write”) were devices made to accurately measure time gone by, such as at the request of France’s King Louis XVIII, who wanted to know exactly how long his horse races lasted. Early devices actually marked the passage of time on the dial with a pen.

clip_image008In Windows, you can easily time events or have countdown timers that alert you when your eggs are boiled or it’s time to start working again – look in the Swiss Army Knife that is the Clock app. You can display multiple timers in one window if necessary, make a single timer go full screen (useful if you’re presenting and counting down to getting started) or pop out to a side window.

If you wear an old-fashioned watch, you may have a simple way to measure elapsed time –  some will have built-in timers, and others will have a moveable bezel which lets you rotate the zero-marker to where the minute hand is pointing at the start of something you want to time.

clip_image010clip_image012If you look at the watch a few minutes from now, you’ll see how many markers on the bezel the minute hand has moved on by – not exactly sub-second accurate but it’s good enough for the “about 10 minutes” type measurement.

You could also reverse the process and set the bezel’s 50 minute marker at the minute hand, so counting down 10 minutes towards the zero marker instead. You do need to keep an eye on it as there’s no alarm.

clip_image014Contemporary chronographs are analogue watches with built-in stopwatch functions, usually controlled by start and stop buttons on the side. They may count to fractions of a second marked around the edge, and some sport Tachymetre marking around the outside – designed to let you calculate how fast something is travelling as it goes over a set distance, or how far you’ve travelled if you know your constant speed.

It’s hardly red-hot technology, but millions of watches have this fantastically complicated but nowadays basically useless feature. They have to sell wrist furniture somehow.

Perhaps the most over-sold and fantastically-named wrist watch from the 1960s was the now re-issued Croton Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver – a single device that could be used for so many things as it combined various chronograph and bezel-rotating features in one 38mm-wide watch, billed as a “wrist-sized computer”.

Just make sure you have a magnifying glass handy to be able to read all the tiny markers and numbers on it.

640 – Smart Dates


For all the time that computers have been used, date handling has been a problem. Bad dates cause problems from sorting lists to processing payments, yet many systems force the user to figure out what it expects by way of date entry – from web sites which force 2-digits (a la 01/01/22 vs 1/1/22) to non-localised apps which assume a date format without allowing it to be changed?

If you ever say a date out loud like “this report is due by eight-one”, meaning 8/1 or 1st August, then 91% of the world’s population will need to interpret that differently to how they represent dates, since most will expect the format to be day-month-year, or arguably most sensibly, year-month-day.


Try saving things like expense reports or invoices using the file name starting yy-mm-dd or even yyyy-mm-dd and they’ll be much easier to handle (aside from just sorting by created date, of course).

When a user enters a date into a Windows app, the vast majority will respect the format set by the operating system, known as the User Locale.

clip_image006That doesn’t help too much if the author of a spreadsheet – for example – is in one locale and clip_image008other users are elsewhere; if the default date format is numeric, then the field remains in the format of the author, and that may cause befuddlement.

Switching display format to Long Date – or even setting a shorter custom format – could avoid confusion. Under the covers, Excel still stores the date in a universal format, but people might interpret it incorrectly when display in a different format.

clip_image010Other tools can handle dates in surprisingly smart ways – even since its first version in 1997, Outlook lets you enter text into date windows like a Due Date for reminders or tasks – any time you are presented a date field that lets you type as well as select a date from a calendar picker, you can put stuff in like tomorrow, 2 weeks, next Friday, third Tuesday in October etc. There are shorter versions – 2w, 3m 10d – or you can string things together, like Monday before Christmas.

clip_image012Microsoft To Do has also has some date smarts; if you type in a new task to track, it can read dates and times out of your task description and automatically set due dates and Reminders.

clip_image014It has other kinds of parsing – in 3 days etc – though not quite as comprehensive as Outlook’s. There are also a load of special dates recognised (at least in the US).

So far, this functionality is available on Windows and iOS apps and for the most part it’s really neat. If it detects a date you don’t like – you’re suggesting something may happen, rather than it is happening on 1st May, for example – then just hit backspace to clear that association.

#639 – Macros, Ghosts and GALs

VB and MacrosSince the early days, Microsoft always kept an eye on what its competitors were doing. It was once de rigeur to produce “battlecards” which would show feature-by-feature how one product is better than its competitor, thus assuring the customer they should buy this one. Thankfully, times have mostly moved on to just building as good a product as possible and then let customers and the markets decide – sometimes, they get improved and honed over time to be the best out there, and sometimes they get dispatched to the boneyard as times move on.

Exchange Server boxIn the late 1990s, Office and Exchange (and later, SharePoint) Server were seen as Microsoft’s entrants into the burgeoning “Groupware” market, which became subsumed into “Knowledge Management” c2000. Key competitors to Exchange & Outlook were Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise, both of which came from being collab tools and gained email functions. Notes was arguably much more mature and feature rich even if the UI was sometimes clunky, GroupWise was much leaner but found a niche in several industries. Amazingly, GroupWise is still a thing and Notes evolved first into IBM Notes/Domino and was eventually sold off to now be HCL Notes and HCL Domino.

One of the early moves Microsoft made to elevate Office apps to more than just writing documents, was to try to make the docs more capable through adding Macros, and later, Visual Basic for Applications. This allowed a moderately skilful user to dabble in programming to make smarter applications centered around documents; what seemed like a good idea at the time unwittingly unleashed a wave of malware, where bad actors wrote macros to do undesirable things. Following the “Melissa” worm in 1999, Office stopped Macros running without asking the user for permission. Using Macros for anything more than tinkering never really took off.

Blocked Macro warning

Macros disabled entirely

Microsoft announced in February 2022 that all Office Macros in content received online would be disabled completely; this was temporarily rolled back in some test builds for some changes to be made in how it works, but for many, the warning will still be there if you open a Macro-enabled file that you’ve downloaded or been sent.

Unblocking MacroThere are still some very useful Office macros out there, and if you do need to run one that you know is from a trustworthy source, there is a workaround – save the file to your PC locally, then right-click on it to look at the file’s properties, tick the “Unblock” option and apply that. You’ll now be able to choose to run the macro unencumbered.

One such handy macro was discussed back in December 2021 in ToW 611, and is used to find Ghost meetings – ie ones you have arranged but everyone has declined (or at least not accepted). The macro spins through all future meetings in your calendar and lists the ones you’ve organised but where you’re likely to be the only attendee who shows up. Particularly useful at this time of year if lots of people are about to take time off over the summer, and may have declined a few recurring meetings but you – as organiser – still have them in your calendar.

Ghost Meetings

For the latest version of the macro, download the ZIP file to your machine and expand it (or just copy the XLSM file that’s within and put it somewhere else), do the property Unblock thing as above, open in Excel, click the button to allow content, then the Scan Calendar button and you’re all set. You still need to go into Outlook and look at the appropriate date then decide if you want to cancel those meetings or not.

Another more powerful macro – though a little more esoteric – is one which does bulk resolution against the Global Address List, so if you give it a list of display names and/or alias names, it will show the full name, title, department, office, email, and alias name of that person. Handy if you want to get the full details of everyone who is going to attend a meeting, but if you just have a longish list of names then you could just paste them in and see how it goes. This was covered back in ToW 575. One usage scenario recently was to estimate the number of people who were attending a group meeting, but were based at other offices and would therefore need accommodation.

Here’s an example output of over 500 names who were invited to a large meeting; by just providing their display names in column A, it took the sheet about 30 seconds to complete, with 10 identified as distribution lists and 50 unknowns who couldn’t be resolved, either due to no longer being in the GAL or because there were more than one possible name listed.

GAL resolving

If you can manually find the unknown person/people in the GAL, then get their alias name and paste that into column 1 instead of the ambiguous display name, then try to run it again.

638 – Tracking and Mapping

Looking back over the smartphone era of the last 15 or so years, one of the most transformative technologies is the confluence of mapping and geo-location, providing route guidance, finding things and even people. How did we manage to make our way around cities before maps in the palm of our hands? Just exit a tube or subway station anywhere in the world, and observe the herds of people spinning around looking at their phone trying to get a GPS fix.

Although Microsoft ceded the mobile phone space around 5 years ago, effectively leaving Android and iOS as the only options, the Bing Maps service still survives, even if fewer websites and mobile apps make use of it today. clip_image003[4]Windows 11 comes with a built-in Maps app which offers some decent functionality (and offline use), but lacks some of the features of Bing Maps in a browser, like the Ordnance Survey view showing public footpaths and other attractions in the UK (if you have the country setting to United Kingdom, that is).

Given the lack of “Bing Maps mobile” – and the commensurate lack of usage – the data that sits alongside may be less accurate, too; look at the reviews on the Windows Maps app in the store, and the main complaints are from people who don’t want it at all or comments about the map and PoI data being stale.

clip_image005[4]Some neat features in Bing Maps make it stand out from others – the Bird’s Eye view is cool, though not always as fresh or widely available as it used to be.

The team still updates imagery for the web view, provides data to the awesome 3D Cities feature in Windows Maps and contributes to the amazing scenery in Flight Simulator (even if some modders are switching Flight Sim to using Google Maps instead).

Bing Maps in a browser does sometimes offer a City Flyover option, which is akin to the Flight Sim view.

clip_image007[4]clip_image009[4]Bing’s Streetside can be sparse compared to Google’s Street View, even though the Google Maps car is sometimes thwarted with a “None Shall Pass” situation. Search the web and there are many – some NSFW – weird attractions found on Street View.

Some odd things can be found on Streetside too.

Apple used Google Maps data for its own maps app on the iPhone at first, but replaced with its own service which was at first poorly received. 10 years later, Apple Maps – available, of course, only to fruity device users – does a much better job and purports to be less cavalier with the user’s data than the advertising company. Despite a much larger number of users flocking to the universally available Google Maps, Apple Maps provides a good service for iOS users, and is there by default.

clip_image011[4]If you choose to surrender the use of your personal data to the advertising industry, Google Maps does offer some very useful capabilities in recording where you’ve been; it will remind you where you parked your car and let you see if you’ve visited a particular place before, and when.

clip_image013[4]If your family and friends consent, you can also share your whereabouts in real time, showing a pin in the map where they are, and when the location was last recorded.

This could be handy for checking if your kids are where they’re supposed to be, for friends arranging to meet or just knowing when to expect someone to come home. You can enable sharing of your location to each specified contact for a limited time or until it’s turned off, and it will also let you see their name, picture and other info including (!) battery level of their phone.

clip_image015[4]Sign into Google Maps on your computer, and you’ll be able to keep track of people a little more easily, too (as well as manage your own location sharing), and review your own timeline of where you’ve been. It’s usually somewhat fascinating and sometimes a little creepy.

Fortunately, you can choose to edit or remove certain items of data, export it to other formats or disable the collection of it altogether.

You give up some control of personal data, and you get some benefit from it.

As some say, them’s the breaks.

637 – Focus and disturbance


Happy New Year! Now that we’re into the second half of 2022, we can look forward to new stuff coming to Windows 11, in the guise of the next update, currently in test with the Windows Insiders and due sometime soon, known as release 22H2.

This new version comes with a bunch of visual and some functional tweaks (which some might argue should have been like that since the release of Win11 nearly a year ago). The Start menu has had some attention, something to be revisited in a future Tip.

One welcome area of deeper integration is a broad subject covered in ToWs passim – the varied ways of managing do not disturb, quiet hours and attempting to focus.

clip_image004In Win11 22H2, the Focus sessions feature which was previously added to the Clock app has now been tied into the Windows shell more neatly – if you click on the date/time on your taskbar to show the calendar (or press WindowsKey+N to see notifications, which does the same thing), you’ll see a little Focus button with an adjustable time next to it.

clip_image006Click that and it will launch a new mode of the Clock app which displays a simple control showing the elapsed time on a circle, and clicking on the square in the middle will stop the session. The expand icon on the top left will launch Clock showing the Focus blade, also displaying To Do Tasks, Spotify (if you have it set up) and a history of today’s other Focus sessions.

Settings for Focus have also been placed in the main system Settings app, providing some configuration on what happens during a Focus session (and you can start a new session from there too):


At least for now, there’s still no Teams or Outlook integration so merely being in Focus won’t change your Teams availability status, nor will it switch Outlook into Offline mode as did the old internal-to-MS “FocusTime” app.

clip_image010The Do Not Disturb feature in Windows 11 also has some rich settings to make sure your machine doesn’t give you notifications at inappropriate times – including a little button next to the notifications list on WinKey+N. If DND is switched on either here or by an automatic rule, you’ll also see a little bell icon emitting Zzs, on the taskbar next to the clock. Subtle yet useful.


Still more focusing options are offered by Viva Insights – that has the ability to proactively book time in your schedule to ensure you can focus, and will silence chats and so on while you’re supposed to be concentrating.

Read more here.

To make your focus all the more effective, maybe go and grab a coffee or something stronger.

636 – That’s not my name (again)

Starbucks name manglingAt a social event this week, a reader asked if topics for ToW’s were ever recycled – the answer? “Of course”. Well, not really recycled but sometimes revisited and updated – which brings us again this week to the topic of name pronunciation.

If people habitually get your name  wrong, you could adopt an easier-to-say handle or just put up with people mangling your name and don’t worry about it. Or you can try to teach people how you pronounce your own name.

In the days of Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging, you could choose to record your name, as you might have done in those old-fashioned conference call systems that announce your arrival into a call. Exchange UM let you call in to set your voicemail greeting, manage your calendar and so on. That made a great demo back in the day, but presumably didn’t get used enough as it has now gone away.

Outlook address book with speakerFor a while, if your organization used UM and you’d bothered to set your name, you’d see a greyed-looking loudspeaker icon next to yours or others’ names in the address book. It’s not there anymore, now – too bad.

LinkedIn speaker An alternative way of sharing your preferred pronunciation is to use LinkedIn – if you record your name, it’ll show up on your profile and you can make it public so that anyone can listen to it.

To make the recording, you’ll need to use the LinkedIn mobile app, not the regular browser view.

LinkedIn profileTap on your own photo in the top left of the LinkedIn app, then choose View Profile, then tap the pencil icon to edit your profile.

Look in your profile settings and you’ll see options like recording your name or listing your preferred pronouns, as well as the usual headline, title etc. After recording your name, others will see the speaker icon on your profile, and clicking it will play your voice.

Record video on LinkedInAnother neat option is to record a short video which previews if someone views your profile and plays fully if they click or tap on your photo.

Just tap on your own profile picture in the app, and you’ll see an option to edit it and also add a video.

Separately, on the topic of how to say various words, YouTube has a variety of pronunciation tutorials.

635 – Outlook Wunderbar and Full Screen

Outlook iconMany Office users rely so much on Outlook, it’s their most-used application by far. Over the years, numerous other apps – such as Yammer, Slack or Teams – have presented other ways to collaborate and communicate yet with billions of messages being sent every day, email just doesn’t seem to slow down.

Outlook 2003 WunderbarThe bones of the current Windows release of Outlook date back to Outlook 97, with some dialogs and settings having changed little since even if the main UI has been refreshed over the years. One recent change was the further evolution of Outlook 2003’s “Wunderbar”, the menu on the bottom left of the main Outlook window that switched views between mail, calendar, tasks etc (yes, it really was called that internally – look in the Registry).

Outlook 2016 navigation barBy Outlook 2016, the navigation bar had collapsed into a series of icons along the bottom, which did the same thing but took up less screen real estate. It’s long been possible to use keyboard shortcuts to jump between the options on the navigation bar – CTRL+1 will go to the 1st one (usually Mail), CTRL+2 to the second and so on. You can reorder the options on the bar if you like, so CTRL+1 could be Calendar if that’s what’s most important to you.

configuring the Outlook 2021 navigation barOutlook 2021 changes things again – the navigation bar has moved to the side, in a UI design shared with both Outlook.com and the Microsoft 365 Outlook Web App.

Other apps can be pinned to the new bar, too – including things like the Org Explorer, which presents a much more graphical way of looking at the org chart than the old Address Book in Outlook.

Adjusting the ribbonMoving these icons to the side of the screen might help organize screen real estate; another option would be to collapse the Ribbon, so you only see the many icons and options along the top of Outlook, when you need to use them.

You could try Simplified Ribbon to reduce the size and hide some of the more esoteric functions.

Show tabs only reverts to a simple menu bar, and when you click on one of the options, the ribbon for that tab is displayed. You can toggle easily between Tabs Only and the full ribbon by pressing CTRL+F1. There are loads of other shortcuts for Outlook though some are a little obscure.

Full-screen modeTo truly maximize your screen area, try going into Full-screen mode;  that removes the menu and ribbon at the top of the screen entirely, including the search box.

If you need to search your mailbox while in full-screen, press ALT to temporarily display the ribbon, and look for the highlighted keys that can jump to specific tab or function.

Press ALT to see shortcut keysPress Q, then type your search, hit enter and you’ll return to your results in full screen again.