687 – Loop de Loop

clip_image001Sometimes, new application paradigms disrupt the old ways of doing things – like real time messaging could sometimes replace email, or shared online document authoring takes over from working in offline silos. Just as software development methodologies and tools come in and out of fashion amongst the cool kidz, so too does the idea of doing everything online in a browser vs using those fusty old desktop apps that you might have installed.

One new application that springclip_image002 to prominence in recent years is Notion; it showcased a canvas-based approach to colloborative workspaces with components that could be shared and reused in an entirely browser or mobile app based environment.

Notion went from a small startup 10 years ago to a multi-billion valuation, despite initially fending off VC cash. The user base is supposedly skewed to teenage-to-mid-30s, though old timers like Paul Thurrott and the team behind the Windows Weekly podcast notably use Notion to manage the prep notes for each episode. He was initially less than complementary when Microsoft unveiled a similar-looking new service, born out of components of the “Fluid Framework” which been unveiled at Build in 2019 as a new way of doing co-authoring on compound documents.

Loop is the name given to this new Microsoft 365 collab tool, announced in clip_image003preview in 2021 and expanded somwhat shortly thereafter. It’s still a preview – some software companies have products in preview lasting multilple years, even if they don’t ultimately cark it.

Loop can be accessed at loop.microsoft.com either by using a “work or school” account as part of M365, or a Microsoft Account to sign-in to a personal version. Loop mobile apps now have support for personal accounts too. Admins in Microsoft 365 environments need to enable Loop for use – if you visit loop.microsoft.com as an end user and it’s not available, you’ll be told as much and asked to find your IT admin to get them to switch it on.

Loop components can belong to a workspace which itself has numerous pages – when you create a new page, you’ll see a selection of templates to get you started:


… and there’s a larger gallery which has more ideas, basically just pre-built pages with a smattering of ready-configured Loop components.


Inevitably, commentators compare Loop and Notion though one major difference is that rather than doing everyting in the online workspace, Loop components can also be shared and embedded within Office documents, emails or in Teams, which is arguably more flexible.

If you copy a Loop component to the clipboard and paste it into an email, you’ll see it embedded – though if using a table in your mail (such as is used in some weekly missives to try to control their layout), you’ll be disappointed as it appears you can’t embed Loop components inside a table.

clip_image007Create a new Loop component inside a mail or Teams session, and it won’t be part of an existing Workspace – it’s basically just an attachment but still offers multi-user capabilities. If you insert the component from the menu then it auto-creates the name assiged to that component and there’s nowhere that you can rename it within the email etc.

Head over to clip_image009OneDrive and look under My Files / Attachments, and you’ll see the created component – just click the ellipsis to the right and choose Rename from there, and it will show up with that name, wherever you embedded it.


Screenshot 2023-06-23 093135

686 – What’s that #:~:text?

clip_image002Hypertext was a concept first coined in the 1960s, inspired by an idea in the early 1940s as a way of thinking about organising information. The first practical implementations of Hypertext let a document or application reference a link to some other content, just as we now know web hyperlinks to do. It’s no wonder that when Sir Tim was conceiving the means of writing what came to be pages on the web, he envisaged hypertext – or even hypermedia – as the glue that holds it all together.

True hypertext documents or applications don’t just link pages to each other, but specific contents – it could be a fly-out or a pop-up with a definition of what a specific term was, or it might be a link that jumps into a particular part of a longer document.


Many web pages have bookmarks defined within – eg Wikipedia typically has links on the left side which jump to parts later in the document, and the bookmark is added to the end of the URL – like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperlink#HTML

Office docs offer similar things – Word and Outlook have Bookmarks, PowerPoint can have hyperlinks inside slides that jump to a different slide etc.

If you look at documents stored on OneDrive or SharePoint, it’s often possible to create a link directly from within the full fat Office application, to a part of that document – eg clip_image006in PowerPoint, right-click on a slide in the sorter view and it will display a URL to that specific slide, that you could share or link from elsewhere.

When dealing with web pages, there are some other tricks you can do to jump straight to a part in the page, even if that page itself has not defined the bookmarks for you to reference like the Wikipedia one above. The WWW Consortium fairly recently defined a standard for handling “Text Fragments”, which means you could link to a specific phrase on a page. Clicking the link will navigate to that point on the page and highlight the text. This is done with a strange looking tag at the end of the URL: #:~:text=whatever.

Example: one of the most-visited articles in the TipoWeek archive, Killing me Softly, part I (a wistful post looking back at some of the Microsoft tech which has ceased to be) has a part which deals with the audio file format, Windows Media Audio – see it on https://tipoweekwp.azurewebsites.net/2016/10/21/tip-o-the-week-350-killing-me-softly-part-i/#:~:text=Windows%20Media%20Audio.

clip_image008Handily, if you want to generate a link straight to a word or phrase on a page, both Edge and Chrome offer a feature if you right-click on some text on the page – it may use other text fragment features to help steer to this specific piece of text, rather than just the first time that phrase appears on the page. See it in action, here.

685 – Browser searching

Screenshot 2023-06-06 181351Research from a couple of years back showed that the most-searched-for term on Bing.com was “google”. While it seems crazy that people would type the name of a search engine into the search box of another, it’s possible they were entering “google” into a box on their homepage or even in the browser address bar, and that term was sent to bing.com as a query, rather than sending the browser to google.com.

If you’re using Edge and have Bing as the default search experience – other search engines are available – then you may see the prominent search box in your new tab page, but it’s worth remembering that the address bar at the top of the browser is also a search box. You can jump to the address bar in Edge or Chrome by pressing ALT+D, which also selects the current site’s URL (if there is one) so you can edit it or just replace by typing something else.

clip_image004If you start putting the name of a site into the address bar, you’ll be offered autocomplete suggestions from your favourites and your previous browsing history, so it may be very straightforward to jump to not just the website but a specific and previously accessed page within.

Entering a site name and pressing CTRL+ENTER will add the https://www. and .com bits so you don’t need to; therefore, to go to the BBC website, you could press ALT+D bbc CTRL+ENTER and you’d go there directly.

Although the address bar will ultimately use your default search engine to query a word or phrase that doesn’t appear to be a web site address, you can force it by starting to type ? in the address bar, then enter your search term after the question mark.

clip_image006Some sites will allow the browser to search within them by adding the site name and then pressing TAB. Whatever text you enter after the TAB will be sent to the specific search page of that site. Not all sites support this method, but many common ones do, like Twitter, Amazon, YouTube and more.

clip_image008Go to the search engine settings in Edge (or jump to the address bar and enter edge://settings/searchEngines) to see which sites are set up already. You can add your own “search engine”, which means you can direct Edge how to search within that site.

Click Add to include one of your own, using the appropriate site URL while replacing the bit where the search term is specified with %s – eg searching the OneDrive photos section for “dogs” would give a URL of https://photos.onedrive.com/search?q=dogs.

Give the Search Engine a shortcut name you want to use and then paste the modified URL and hit save. Now, in this example, typing photos | TAB | cats | ENTER would seach OneDrive for cat pictures.

If you are a Microsoft 365 user then you might be able – if it’s been enabled for your tenant – to search internal work documents and Sharepoint sites, just by typing work | TAB | etc. It’s on by default, but admins could also give you custom keywords / shortcut words too.

clip_image010Finally, on the topic of Searching in the browser, it’s possible to search across all the tabs you have open; start typing something in the address bar and you’ll see the option of filtering that search to apply to Work, history, favourites or tabs.

clip_image012Alternatively, press CTRL+SHIFT+A to kick the search off, type in the word of phrase you’re looking for and it will filter the list of current tabs to show only ones that match.

To quickly jump to that tab, use the up and down keys to select the one you want, and press Enter.

683 – OneNote Docking

imageSince the OneNote desktop app is getting a reprieve from its previously-announced retirement, and the anointed successor UWP app is itself being put on notice, maybe it’s worth looking at a few tweaks which can make the old app a bit more useful. There were a load of updates announced about a year ago, and further improvements to the OneNote family are on the way too.

If you use OneNote to take meeting notes – especially if you’re meeting virtually and want to have your notes alongside the Teams/Zoom/Chime app – then it makes sense to arrange the windows side by side. Students of ToW past will know that in Windows 11, pressing WindowsKey+ ‎← or → will snap the current window to the sides of your display, and there are other ways to control window placement if you have especially complex desktop arrangements.

clip_image002clip_image004There is an old feature in OneNote which is worth revisiting; Dock to Desktop. Invoke it at any time by pressing CTRL+ALT+D or go to the View tab to select it.

You could also try pinning it to the Quick Access Toolbar on the very top left of the OneNote window. The QAT in Office apps was covered way back in ToW #321, from March 2016.

clip_image006Docking has the effect of minimizing the UI for OneNote and sending it to a (horizontally resizable) section of your screen, on right-hand-side.

Usefully, it also means other apps respect that space, so even if you maximize another window, it will only grow to appear alongside your docked OneNote.


If you don’t like the position of the docked window, drag it using the “…” at the top of the pane, and position it on the top, bottom or the left side of the screen instead. If you press CTRL+ALT+D again while docked, it will fill the entire screen – maybe useful if you have a 2nd monitor.

The rest of the minimal UI lets you access the pen menu, restore back to the full UI or you can use a somewhat obscure feature called Linked Notes. This will add a link back to another clip_image010document that you could also be working on; you’ll see an icon showing the source document when you select text that has been linked.

Hover over the icon and you can get a summary or thumbnail of the document, and left-click the icon to open the document.

The original intent with Linked Notes was that you could use it across Office apps and also when browsing the web; how useful to be able to make notes on a specific web page and then jump back to the source when revisiting the notes you took! Sadly, the feature was integrated only to the dearly departed Internet Explorer, and it is not available in modern browsers. The topic of Edge support has been raised in online forums but thus far, responses have been less than forthcoming.

Even the Help page on Linked Notes talks about how it works with Word 2013, PowerPoint 2013 and other OneNote 2013 pages… no mention of Excel either.

clip_image012If you do find yourself going back in time and using Linked Notes, you’ll see an additional icon (when un-docked and back in full OneNote mode) in the top right of any page where you have links, allowing you to go straight to the source docs or to manage the links themselves.

677 – LinkedIn’s Blue Tick


The world’s fascination with what’s happening at Twitter and its charismatic leader (but not necessarily its CEO?) appears to remain high. One headline making topic was what to do with the “verified” blue tick service, previously offered to high-profile individuals but now turned into a monetization strategy. The full hour-long BBC interview with Elon is certainly worth watching.

clip_image004In related but somewhat less controversial news, LinkedIn has just launched a verification feature which lets a user validate that they are who they say they are, and best of all, it’s free.

There’s no obvious verification badge akin to the blue tick quite yet, though you may see some other info about people when you see their profile picture – a green blob means they’re online, a green hollowed-out blob means they’re not active but they will see messages on their phone. If you don’t like to show the green blob/circle, you can always switch it off, so no visible blob means someone else is either offline completely or just going incognito.

Verification is rolling out gradually but will eventually be available to everyone, either by validating their corporate email address, by using the Microsoft Entra verification service (if your company subscribes to Azure Active Directory, that will be an option soon), or by validating your ID using the CLEAR program favoured by smug airport travellers.

clip_image006Work email verification is probably the easiest for most people to use – sign in to LinkedIn.com and click the Me option on the toolbar at the top right and then View Profile to look at your own profile page. Now, click the More button and select About this profile – that will show you what verification options are open to you. Email verification just means entering your company email address, then clicking the link that is emailed to you. Once that’s done, return to the About this profile section and you’ll see that your account has been verified.

Visitors to your profile page wil see a prominent banner showing that you have been verified, and giving some details of how (without giving away the actual email address or details of Government ID etc). The Show verifications option gives some info about the means and timing of the verification.

clip_image008LinkedIn says it might change the way verification is displayed on your profile, in due course; maybe the plan is to make it more visible in search results too. Time will tell.

676 – Calendar spring cleaning


As spring continues to emerge from its wintry slumber in the northern hemisphere, it could be worth spending a little time tidying up your Outlook calendar as well as spring cleaning your nest. The following applies to Outlook on the PC, though similar colour-coding concepts exist for Outlook Web App and on other platforms.

You could start by looking for “Ghost meetings” – those are ones where you’re the organizer, but none of the invited attendees have accepted your invitation. A good example is a 1:1 meeting when the other party is on holiday – they might have declined a meeting but you left it in your calendar.

clip_image004To quickly view Ghost (or maybe Zombie?) meetings in your calendar:

  • Download this ZIP file and open the downloads folder where it is saved.
  • Right-click the ZIP and choose Extract All then right-click the resulting file and Unblock it, so Excel will let you run the macro within (don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe). clip_image006
  • Now open the file in Excel. If asked, tell it you want to edit the file and allow macros to run, then hit the Scan Calendar button. You’ll now get a list of meetings to go and delete, or possibly to nag the invitees to respond.


Another trick is to colour-code your appointments, either by setting categories on them individually or by using rules. This way you could quickly differentiate an appointment (ie something you put in your calendar to block out time) from a meeting (ie an appointment which you invited others, or to which you have been invited).

clip_image010Setting a colour category is a quick exercise once you have the categories defined – right-click on an entry in the calendar to pick a category, or you can set it from Categorize option on the Ribbon while creating or editing an appointment or meeting.

Rules are set by creating instructions that apply to the view you’re using; go to the View menu on the ribbon and choose the View Settings menu item.

This presents a somewhat old-fashioned looking clip_image012dialog box which lets you change the view, including using Conditional Formatting, where you define rules that will mean the select colour applies.


In “My Meetings”, if your name is the organizer, then the meeting shows as green.

Explore the conditions dialog a little and you’ll see all kinds of things you can filter by. It includes a powerful advanced mode that will let you set a condition on any property of the meeting or appointment (so you could have different colours for meetings whose locations were in different buildings etc).

The “External meetings” condition above does require further hoops to be jumped through to get it set up, but it’s a one-and-done exercise. It involves adding a custom form to Outlook, which in turn exposes a new property called “Sender clip_image016Address Type” – if the value is SMTP, that means the message – or calendar meeting request in this case – came from outside, so you’ve been invited to a meeting organized by a 3rd party. The same field could be used to colour code your inbox so as to prioritize emails differently too.

To see how you could use the Sender Address Type to alter how your inbox is displayed, and for the instructions on how to install the form so that field becomes visible to Outlook, crank up the time machine and head back to Tip o’ the Week #275 – Prioritising External Email – Ewan Dalton’s Tip o’ the Week (tipoweek.com). Great Scot!

673 – Where is my mouse?


The “mouse” was invented 60 years ago, as a means of moving a cursor around on-screen. Through many generations of hardware, it evolved from using wheels to rubbery balls, before eventually going sensor-based and even losing the tail that may have helped coin its original name

Since many people now use laptops with touchpads, they won’t even use an external meecely peripheral but the term “mouse” is still often used to refer to the pointer that it controls. Finding that pointer on your desktop can sometimes be a challenge, especially if you have multiple screens on your computer, and particularly if at least one of them is a snazzy ultrawide job.

mouseyThe free PowerToys addons to Windows 11 includes a section of Mouse utilities; install the full PowerToys suite and you can usually enable each feature individually, and set what mechanism you’d use to invoke it. Perhaps the most useful is the “Find my Mouse” keyboard shortcut – just press the CTRL key twice in quick succession, and the screen dims with a spotlight on where your pointer currently is. Press CTRL once again to remove it and go back to normal.

crosshairsThere are loads of settings to tweak how some of the utilities work – Find my Mouse could be enabled by shaking your mouse if you’d prefer. There’s also a highlighter feature that indicates if you’re pressing a left or right mouse button, or a crosshair view which, when turned on, sets a permanent crosshair display (again, configurable in numerous ways) that remains in place until you repeat the key combo to switch it off.

clip_image008Mice can jump high – who knew?

A new mousey feature in the latest release of PowerToys is called Mouse Jump – erstwhile known as FancyMouse – and lets you teleport your mouse pointer from one side of a potentially massive desktop to another.

This is particularly handy if clip_image010you have multiple screens set at different heights, and in order to traverse from one side of the desktop to the other would take you multiple swipes of a physical mouse or strokes of a touchpad.

Press the activation key and you’ll see a shrunken version of the desktop in a small window; click where you want the pointer to vamoose to on that depiction of the display and it will teleport to the other side of the desktop.


672 – Why your meetings are clashing


Look at your work calendar for the next two weeks or so; if you’re a part of a multi-national organization that routinely has meetings with people all over the world, your nicely ordered diary might be a maelstrom of overlapping and clashing appointments. Welcome to the start of the 6-monthly Daylight Saving Time Shuffle! Of course, you might have clashing for other reasons.

Meetings in Outlook – apparently, other PIMs are available – are created in the time zone of the organizer. If you’re in London and have set up a weekly 4pm meeting, most of the time that’s at 8am for the people in San Francisco, but for the next 2 weeks it’d be 9am and therefore possibly conflicting with whatever else they had planned for then.

The topic of time and its zones has been covered ad nauseam on ToW passim, but it’s worth a quick reminder of what is ahead (and other countries / regions still do vary – see a summary of the global daylight saving time dates and regions, here), especially since the US has a habit of doing things differently to the rest of the world:

  • 12 March 2023 – Most of the US, Canada, Carribean enters DST (if observed)
  • 24-26 March – most of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere enters DST (if observed)
  • 2 April – Australia, New Zealand leaves DST

Practically, that means that today, a noon meeting in Seattle would be 8pm in London and 7am (tomorrow) in Sydney, but in a little over 3 weeks that would have moved to noon/7pm/6am and eventually settled back at clip_image004noon SEA and 8pm LON, but now at a refreshing 5am SYD.

Fortunately, the Clock app on Windows 11  has a “Word Clock” feature that lets you pin cities to the map and you’ll see what the current time is (and what the time zone offset is currently). You can also get a tabular view of what the relative time will be at any given date.

Windows Clock app

671 – Excel-lent

imageEven old dogs like Excel have some new tricks up their sleeves. The spreadsheet application category was defined by VisiCalc in the late 1970s, and was a driving force behind the success of personal computers; accountants and finance managers and the like could quickly do their own sums instead of waiting for a report from the Data Processing department which fed and watered the big iron. When the PC came out, Lotus 1-2-3 was king of the hill and Microsoft’s Multiplan was an also-ran, until Windows arrived and the new Excel program moved from underdog to top enchilada.

clip_image001First off, if you’re going to use Excel to create a table of some sort, start by Formatting as Table. It makes it so much easier to manage the data later – sorting, filtering, formatting are straightforward.

If clip_image003you choose that your table has headers, the name of the top row will also be marked with an arrow to filter the list, and also appears in any formulae you might develop.

clip_image004Rather than referencing cells in a formula by A2 etc, you could put the cursor onto the field you want to reference, and the name of the column will be used, and when you enter that fclip_image006ormula, it can be easily copied to every row.

clip_image007Excel has other smarts, though – let’s forget about formulae in this case, and just type the First name in column B; dragging the bottom right corner of that cell all the way to the bottom of the table, will fill every cell with “Mary” but a little Auto-Fill Settings prompt will appear at the bottom. Click that and you can change it to Flash Fill.

clip_image009Et voila! Excel has figured out the relationship between the text and applied the same clip_image011pattern to all the other rows in the table. Repeat the exercise in this case by filling Green in the Last name and MG in initials. A quicker way of applying auto-fill is to put the cursor in column C and press CTRL-E, then repeat on column D.

If you find yourself working with tables and the columns aren’t wide enough to show the data fully, you can clip_image013quickly widen one column by double-clicking on the bar to the side of the column heading; select several colums at the same time and double-click on one of the width adjustors and they’ll all be resized to fit. The same trick works on rows, by double-clicking on the height adjustor on the far left of the row.

If you want to select all the table, put the cursor in the very top left corner of cell A1 and you should see it change shape to a diagonal pointing arrow; click once to select the whole table. Another way would be to put your cursor in the table and press CTRL-A; that selects the entire data portion. Press CTRL-A again if you want to include the header row too.


clip_image017If you have the table selected, press ALT and release it – you’ll see a load of letters appear over the menus, which jump to specific functions. Press and release H to go to the Home tab, then O to jump to the Format menu, then I for auto-width or A for auto-height.

The final magic Excel trick for today is autocomplete.

If you start typing a text value in a cell, Excel might clip_image019look at others in the rows above and offer you an autocomplete option – just clip_image021press tab or downarrow and it will fill in that value for you. Another option is to press ALT and and down arrow when you first enter or select the cell; it will show a drop-down list of all the previous values, and you can either use mouse or up/down/enter keys to select the one you want. Excellent!

670 – Clipboard history


Some tips deserve multiple bites* especially when the recipe changes between software versions. This one harks back to ToWs #457 and #482, yet it’s still seemingly little known. If you ever have to watch someone share their desktop on Teams and fuss about when copying and pasting stuff, this could be a useful tip to share with them.

*ToW readers will probably know there are 8 bits in a byte; did you know that half a byte is called a nibble?
There is no accepted name for 2-bits, though Bing AI suggested it might be a “crumb”

clip_image003The metaphor of cutting and pasting has been around since the early days of interactive computing, taking inspiration from the way that printed publications would be edited together by physically cutting parts of one page and gluing/pasting them onto another. They might have been kept on a physical clipboard between the snip and the stick.

The Windows clipboard is common across all applications, and has an opt-in feature to keep a history so you can go back to something you copied previously; turn on the history or interact with your previous clips by pressing WindowsKey+V. See more on using Clipboard history. You can also sync the clipboard across multiple devices too.

The same UI for clipboard clip_image005history can also be used to insert special characters, emoticons and the like, into any application – in fact, pressing WindowsKey+. (that’s a full stop or period) brings up the smiley-picker, which is just another one of the tabs on the same dialogue as clipboard.

You can pin clipped items if you like, and pressing the ellipsis … gives the option of removing an item, or pasting it as text – handy if you’d like to paste a URL rather than a smart link that results in the title of a web page with hyperlink behind it.