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.

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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.

627 – Sleeping as Edge hits the ton

clip_image002Ever 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.

clip_image004One 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.

clip_image006Tab 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.

620 – Change your P@ssw0rd!

clip_image002Bad Actors are all over the internet (not just in your local multiplex), mostly aiming to gain access to data and systems for nefarious purposes, though sometimes they try to do good. Data breaches generally start with the weakest link in the chain: PEBKAC, in other words, It’s Your Problem.

Identity protection company SpyCloud reports that more than two-thirds of passwords which have been breached online are still in use and most users still have the same username and password combo across multiple accounts. If you want to keep your own personal identity and data safe, it’s job #1 to make sure you have unique passwords for each website you use, and that the passwords are not made up of guessable words or phrases.

clip_image004clip_image006The Edge browser gives you some tools to manage your passwords better – look for the Password Generator, or the drop-down Suggest strong password option, when you’re registering a new sign-in, and it will generate a long and complex password, stored in your account so in future you can be automatically signed in.

clip_image008Some sites don’t trigger the password generator or suggestion – perhaps due to how they describe or display the password field(s) – so another option is to use a browser extension like btPassnumerous others are available. It simply drops an icon on the browser toolbar and will show a password of varying complexity and length, which can be quickly copied to the clipboard and pasted into password fields. Since some sites don’t like special characters in the password, you can tweak or edit the text it creates.

Security software company F-Secure has launched a free online password generator, if you’d prefer to create your secrets that way.

clip_image010The Manage passwords option seen in some password drop-downs – also available from the settings menu or by entering edge://settings/passwords into the address bar – gives access to Password Monitor, which warns you if passwords you have saved are known to have been breached, and can display a list of the sites where your previously-set password has been found in a trove of hacked accounts.

clip_image012You can quickly check the password used and decide to visit the page to change it – assuming the site still exists – or simply ignore it (on the assumption that you’ll be cleaning up and not using the compromised passwords on any sites you still want to actually visit).

If you install Microsoft Authenticator on your phone and sign in with the same account as you use in your browser, the saved passwords will be available through Authenticator too – so having very complex passwords should be no barrier to usability any more.

615 – Zooming images on webpages

clip_image002There are a variety of ways to zoom into content on your PC, maybe so you can read the tiny text or perhaps look for details in an image. If you have a physical mouse, then it will almost certainly have a scroll wheel or a touch-sensitive scroll-pad which is used to speed through all those LinkedIn posts that clutter up your feed of the good stuff. If you also hold the CTRL key down while moving the scroll-thing up and down, then the Office doc or web page you’re looking at will zoom in and out as well. Pressing CTRL-0 in the browser will quickly reset your view back to 100%, in case you’ve scrolled off the edge of the world.

If you’re using a trackpad rather than a rodent, or have a proper touch-screen, pinching with thumb and forefinger might well do the same thing, though exactly how will be determined by your machine’s settings.

Annoyingly, some websites (like eBay, many estate agents, photo galleries etc) have a habit of not zooming into the image when you make the browser try to scale the page up; they might even make the menus and surrounding text massive, while keeping the image the same size.

clip_image004Sometimes, the page itself is scaling the image down to fit a specific pixel size – so it could be taking a 4000×3000 pixel image but displaying it at 800×600. In order to see the fine detail in the image, maybe you need to open it away from the page it’s on, so you can display it full-size.

A simple way to over-ride the issue might be to right-click on the image and choose to clip_image006open it in a new tab, thus freeing the graphic from the strictures of the page it’s on and allowing you to zoom in as you please. In some cases, the image you see here will be higher in resolution than the one which was on the page, due to the aforesaid scaling (especially true on eBay images, where often the source is many times larger than the view eBay presents). Even simpler, you may find that clicking on the image on a web page will open the full-size version of it, and that will allow you to zoom in even further.

Some sites (like image libraries or photographers’ websites) won’t let you right-click on an image to save it or do anything. But there is another way… If you care to delve into the Developer Tools section in Edge (or Chrome) then you’ll get a frankly bewildering array of tools that let you peek into how the content of the page is set out and even how the site is performing over the network.

Of particular interest here, though, is to be found under the Elements tab – this shows a hierarchical representation of the code behind the page, with sections that can be expanded and collapsed by a little arrow to the left of each. [Browsers other than Edge or Chrome may behave differently and call it something else – if you’re weird enough to still use Firefox, it’s Inspector vs Elements].

Normally, you’d be looking somewhere in the body section, and when you hover your mouse over an element, it will highlight that section on the page so you know you’re dealing with the right one. You’ll probably need to drill in to quite a number of <div> or <table> tags to find the one you want, though if you right-click on a part of the page and choose Inspect, it might jump straight to that particular clause . Try it on a fairly simple website and you’ll get the gist quickly.

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If you find an image file listed in the site coding, hover that section and you should see the properties of the image (depending on how it’s encoded); click the Current source URL and it will launch that image in its own tab.

Press 12 again to close Developer Tools and return to normal browsing.

608 – Shopping Season

After clip_image002Americans celebrated “Turkey Day” yesterday, the phenomenon of Black Friday is now well underway. Originally coined for bricks & mortar retailers to kick off the shopping spree in the run-up to Christmas, it’s now exported around the world and applied across all retail channels with consumer electronics being routinely discounted for a few days (stretching through the weekend to what grew to be called “Cyber Monday”).

Around a year ago, the Edge browser debuted the Shopping feature which showcased vouchers from various sites you might visit – similar to the Honey add-in which offers coupons and vouchers proactively when you visit e-commerce sites.

clip_image004There have been some recent updates to Shopping, including a price tracking feature which tells you if a specific item has been reduced in price recently – as with all these things, YMMV depending on the retailer and your own location, but it’s certainly worth a look – find out more, and see which retailers are supporting the Shopping feature with coupons and price alerts.

There are other improvements on the way – including a rare UK-first rollout, of a Bing Shopping collaboration with Good On You to highlight ethically sourced fashion. Have fun on your shopping spree!

582 – Edgy Profile Switching

clip_image002The “new” Edge browser has been around long enough to be just “the Edge browser”, given that old Edge is not only deprecated but being removed from Windows 10. If you’re still clinging onto Internet Explorer, then get ready for its demise; it’s got a year left, then the plug gets pulled. Plenty of ToW’s past have dealt with the Edge browser, especially the benefits of having multiple profiles (useful to keep work and personal stuff separate, or even having different sets of credentials for common sites, like demo accounts vs real users).

A feature which was added to the profile functionality was the ability for Edge to switch between them automatically – in other words, Edge would try to determine if you’re opening a site in the “wrong” profile, and it also lets you set the default on which profile should be used when you click an external link in an email or a document (other than in the browser itself). This not only changes how the site might be displayed, but also sets where the browser history is saved, and which set of cookies, cached usernames / passwords etc should be used…

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You could set that a specific profile should be used for “external” links; if set to “Work”, then all external links (from other apps) would open in that profile; automatic does a pretty good job but sometimes gets flummoxed by M365 sites like Sharepoint, which could mean clicking a link to a doc in Outlook will try to open it in your personal profile, and fail to authenticate (since you’d want it to use the work profile’s credentials).

Similarly, if you had it set up to open links in whichever profile was last used or to hard-default to Work, then clicking a URL that you’d want to view in Personal might cross the streams. Fortunately, an unreleased feature could be just what you need in this scenario.

There’s a still-experimental “flags” feature set that is part of both Google Chrome and Microsoft’s Chromium-based-Edge; different releases of each browser have a changing set of flags features which can be enabled if you know they’re there and are prepared that they might not work, or at least might not work in the same way as they eventually will.

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Many flags tweak how the browser operates under the covers and will never be noticeable by the average user; others enable features that are hidden by default or are still early in their development cycle.
The plan is that (in some form) flag features will be part of the mainstream release, though not necessarily in the same way. You can view the flags by entering edge:flags in the address bar.

clip_image008One flag which is eminently and quietly useful in this potential multi-profile befuddlement is edge://flags/#edge-move-tabs-to-profile-window. It does pretty much what it says; right-clicking on a browser tab will let you switch it between the profiles, so if you’re presented with a login screen for a site that should be opened in the other profile, one click is all it takes to flick it across.

560 – Shopping in the Edge

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The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated digital transformation and societal change in many ways, bringing years of progression into a few months to quite a few industries. That change felt revolutionary in some – working from home in organisations that previously would have thought it impossible – and in others, like retail, it may have brought forward things that were going to happen eventually.

Online retail has been a clear beneficiary of people spending more time at home (and possibly less time working), in some cases having more money (since they’re not travelling for fun, eating out less – if at all – and so on). One aspect of online shopping that has grown over the last few years has been the use of voucher codes – perhaps as a way of trying to award loyalty while combating the dominance of certain online behemoths.
(It’s a really compelling podcast, that one – well worth a listen).

Websites who offer vouchers will often target them to existing customers, possibly previous customers who haven’t been active for a while – they’d email a time-limited code that could get money off, or free delivery and so on, or add a “money off your next purchase” printed code, in the box with the thing you just bought. People will often share these codes with their family and friends, and inevitably a load of websites sprung up purporting to offer voucher codes, though quite a few seem to be a vector for spam and unwanted advertising.

clip_image004The Edge browser has recently added a feature which can help to discover active vouchers for a given site – with the idea that they are known to be good, active and not spammy. The idea is that when you go to a site that has current vouchers/coupons, then a little shopping label will clip_image006appear on the right clip_image008side of the address bar, with initial pop-out text which disappears after a few seconds, but the badge on the icon indicates how many vouchers are available. At the opposite end of the address bar, you’ll clip_image010probably see the handbag icon illustrating, on this site, that it’s safe to shop.

Click on the vouchers icon and a pop-up will show the list of coupons; clicking a coupon copies it to the clipboard, ready to paste into some box during the checkout process.

The Shopping feature in Edge has started rolling out, beginning with the various dev and beta channels. To check if it’s on your build, and to enable/disable it, look in edge://settings/privacy and look for the Save time and money… option as pictured above. Right now, the availability of sites with vouchers may seem thin on the ground, but that’s likely a regional thing (ie concentrating on US retailers for now).

An alternative that was previously being pushed somewhat by the Edge team, is Honey – a simple Edge addin which does much the same as the Shopping feature, but more widely supported. On the example given above (from US retailer www.target.com) the orange Honey icon found lots more coupons that had been submitted and supposedly verified by other users saying they worked, and when. As with any of these things, YMMV.

544 – Farewell, IE

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In 1998, when anti-trust hearings were perhaps more spiky and combative and certainly not delivered by a flaky Zoom connection, Microsoft was arguing that the free Internet Explorer web browser was so intrinsic to Windows that it could not be removed.

Ever since Windows 98, Internet Explorer 4 was built-in to Windows, though versions of IE were available for the Mac (Steve Jobs chose to use it!), Unix and even OS/2, through the mid 2000s, before it settled on being a PC-only thing. If IE4 was installed on other versions of Windows, it was basically not possible to remove it and revert back to an earlier version, without reinstalling the operating system.

Since 2014, when Microsoft announced Windows 10, it was clear that IE would not evolve beyond the latest release, version 11. IE11 is still included in Windows 10, and will continue to be so until the end of days – or the end of the support lifecycle, whichever comes sooner.

clip_image003You can still launch Internet Explorer in Windows 10 – just press Start and type internet – though the default page does leave you in no doubt that you’re better off elsewhere…

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If you want to remind yourself what it’s like to drive without a seatbelt, or go to the shops without wearing PPE, try using IE to browse the web for an hour.

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It was announced recently that – even if the IE11 browser is still included in Windows 10 and will still be technically supported for another while – “support” for using it will start to be removed from Microsoft 365 services from November 2020. Just as friends don’t let friends do crazy things – like virus scan the M: drive – it’s time to stop them using IE11 as their daily and default browser.

All paths lead to the new Edge browser, built on Chromium for added compatibility – though somewhat ironically, issues have cropped up when using Google as the default search engine, all since fixed. Additionally, some angry-from-Manchester types have complained you can’t uninstall Edge if it arrives via Windows Update or pre-installed. Tried uninstalling Safari on your iPhone or your Mac?

There’s been a subtle change in nomenclature, too – “Edge” is the new Edge, or Chromium Edge, or ChrEdge or whatever you want to call it. The old Edge – the one which shipped with Windows 10 as the successor to IE and as a whole new web experience – is now Microsoft Edge Legacy. LegEdge is not even visible on latest versions of Windows, but if you need it and are the type who likes to live dangerously, you can re-enable it by hacking around in the registry.

509 – Edge Beta profiles & sync

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If you haven’t tried out the new Edge Browser beta yet (go to microsoftedgeinsider.com to have a look), here’s another reason to give it a go – the ability to have multiple Profiles set up, and to sync various contents across several machines / phones.

At a simple level, Profiles lets you specify your work account and personal account(s) separately, and you can switch between them quickly. Look under Settings or go straight to edge://settings/profiles in the browser if you already have it.

For anyone who’s ever had to sign into a work-related website but using their Microsoft Account (eg Outlook.com / Hotmail / MSN / Zune etc credentials), this can be handy as you do it without resorting to an InPrivate tab.

clip_image004Once you’ve set up profiles, you can individually enable Sync, Password retention etc, for each, though you will see that only some of the options are lit up in the current version of the Beta. More to come soon – ahead of the expected January 15th release. Probably.

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To change profiles, just click on the associated picture on the browser toolbar and if you like, you can even pin the clip_image008individual profiles to your taskbar so you can quickly jump into each one, rather than having to clip_image010launch the browser and do the switcheroo.

You may want to import and export favourites between profiles – like Chrome, Edge no longer stores these as shortcut files that can be simply moved around, instead holding the favourites to a “bookmarks” file.

If you want to see where Edge Beta is saving your profile info, go to edge://version in the browser and check out the Profile Path. Mind how you go if you decide to start editing stuff directly.

To read more about profiles and the new Edge, see here.

505 – Edge closer to release

clip_image002At the Ignite conference, the roadmap for Microsoft Edge was confirmed – the beta effectively moved to Release Candidate level, and a new logo was unveiled.

clip_image004Not without comment, the new logo maybe stylises the old “e” logo while evoking surfing a wave, perhaps, and putting clear blue water between the Internet Explorer and previous Edge logos.

clip_image006If you’re using a preview of the new Edge, you may spot an update icon in the top right – click to get the latest.

The Beta has been bumped to version 79 of the Chromium engine, and is expected to release in mid-January. The Dev channel will soon jump to the version 80, being more experimental and potentially less stable.

clip_image008There are plenty features in Edge which are in development and may or may not make it into the first released version – they can typically be played with by typing edge://flags/ into the address bar.

One experimental feature is Collections. Currently only in the Dev channel but sure to arrive in Beta at some point, it’s a way of grouping sites and content together, like a smart Favourites; it’s been in test for a while, with the dev team trying out a number of approaches and responding to user feedback. To enable it, go to edge://flags/#edge-collections.

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If you’re already on the Dev channel, try enabling Collections, create a new one called Microsoft Edge and then add 4 shortcuts to it, renaming each one S U R and F (it doesn’t matter what the underlying site is).

Now if you drag one of the shortcuts to reorder them – eg move R after F, and then put it back, you’ll get a link to a hidden “Easter Egg” game that brings back memories of the early 1990s.

If you know any company who still has intranet sites also rooted in the 1990s, they might like the Internet Explorer mode, which will effectively allow IE to be a tab in Edge, so the users can enjoy a single browser while retaining compatibility.