Tip o’ the Week #135 – Outlook 2013 Calendar first look

clip_image001You may have seen news of Office 2013 (aka “Office 15”), and if you’re a committed early adopter, you might even have started using the preview. It’s possible to run Office 2013 alongside an existing install of Office 2010 using “Click To Run” application virtualisation technology, so there’s perhaps a lower risk in dogfooding it than there has ever been before with test releases of Office.

Since Outlook is the application we’ll spend more time in than any other, let’s have a look at a few tweaks in the new version. The early experience of Outlook is that it’s quite different – it certainly looks more “flat” and more “white” than previous versions: a bit odd at first, but it’s  quick & easy to get used to.

Take the Weather with you

clip_image002One neat feature in the new Calendar is the weather forecast being brought into the calendar. To manage your locations, click on the down arrow to the right, and if you click on the x next to any existing location, it will get removed from the list. Obviously, clicking on Add Location will let you search for places to put on the list.

clip_image003Somewhat obtusely, if you live in the majority of the world which uses Celsius, basing your temperature on one where water freezes at 32 and boils at 212 degrees seems a bit odd. Brits still talk centigrade, but since the late 1940s, the preferred term was Celsius since a centigrade is a French and Spanish term for a unit that is 1/10,000th of a right angle. And we don’t want to get our temperatures and our miniscule fragments of angles mixed up now, do we?

Anyway. To change the default temperature scale, simply (when in the main Outlook window), go into File | Options | Calendar and scroll all the way to the bottom, then look at the Weather options. Maybe it’ll get a bit more obvious by the time of release.

Zoom Zoom

This function is really designed for touch use, but it also works with desk-based rodents or touchpads on laptops. Go into your Calendar and if you want to switch from day view to see the whole week or month (or vice versa), you could use the view option on the Ribbon. Since many of us may hide the Ribbon by default (and Office 2013 makes a good job of getting itself full-screen), you can do the same thing using Zoom in and out. On a touch screen, just pinch fingers in & out, or if you’re using a mouse, press the CTRL key and use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out.


Remember Microsoft’s Actimates Barney consumer electronics product? No?? Check him out here… One of Barney’s tricks was to play Peek-a-boo, though there was once a related knowledge base (KB) article titled, “Sometimes Barney Starts Playing clip_image006Peekaboo on His Own”. Creepy.

Well, “Peek” has a new meaning in Outlook 2013, where you can see what’s in your calendar on a given day without needing to switch from the Inbox view to the Calendar view – just hover over “Calendar on the Navigation pane at the bottom of the Outlook window, then click on any one of the dates to see a scrollable list of the appointments on that day.

Double-click on the appointment to open it in a separate window.

Tip o’ the Week #133 – The Art of Cut n’ Paste

Like many concepts in everyday computing, the widely-adopted functionality of Cut & Paste has its descriptive roots in an antiquated process. A bit like a floppy disk as the “Save” icon, or an envelope for the email/send functions, the scissors used in Cut refer back to the old method of compositing printed materials, in the days when editors would literally make up a newspaper or magazine page by chopping up other sources and sticking them onto a master copy.

Everyone must surely be aware of the keyboard shortcuts for Cut & Paste – CTRL-X to Cut (or CTRL-C if you just want to Copy), and CTRL-V for Paste. So much quicker than clickety clicking with a mouse.

CTRL-V goes back a loooong way. Its first use was 45 years ago in the “Quick Editor” – aka QED – co-developed by Butler Lampson, one of the giants of computer history, now employed as a “Technical Fellow” in Microsoft Research. There are some other alumni of Xerox PARC nestled inside Microsoft too (like Chuck Thacker) – in a few years in the 1970s, they invented or developed/perfected the mouse, Ethernet, the graphical bitmapped display, laser printing, the GUI as we know it, distributed computing and a whole load of other technology. If you’d like to read more about what they got up to at PARC, check out Dealers of Lightning.

Anyway, back to the present. Did you know there’s a recognised religion in Sweden which reveres CTRL-C and CTRL-V as sacred symbols? Must be those long, dark winter nights…

For the most part, cut/copy & paste does pretty much what it says on the tin, but there are a bunch of options you might not have come across. When you paste content from a website into a document or OneNote page, for example, Office might not just take the content straight from the Clipboard but will go back to the source server to read the information, which might take a few seconds for each paste to occur. If you see a dialog which is taking a while (maybe even “Contacting server for information…” too), then there is an alternative, especially if you don’t need all the formatting to come with the text.

When in your favourite Office application, rather than pressing CTRL-V to paste (or just clicking the Paste icon), try clicking the down arrow under Paste in the Ribbon, and you’ll see various options – Paste Special offering the same gamut of choice as historically has been offered in previous Office versions, but the icons beneath provide a quick way to getting to the most common options.

At this point (ie when the icons are displayed), keystrokes can come back into play – press K if you want to paste and keep the source formatting, M if you want to merge the two formats, or simply T to keep the text and the text alone.

So, if you’re a Microsoftie doing your annual commitments setting, and you’ve gone to the http://performance website to update them, you might find it’s quicker to copy & paste into Word, edit your commitments there, agree them with your manager then paste back the changes… in which case, the Text Only option might save you a lot of waiting as changes are sent back and forth to the cloud… Just a thought.

Tip o’ the Week #132 – tweaking IE10 compatibility

clip_image001This week, a tip concerning Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8 Release Preview. Not running it yet? Booo. Unless, of course, you’re now running the newly released RTM version. Hurray!

Anyway. Once you have IE10, you may find that some sites don’t work as well as they’d like. There are a few ways of fixing this – if you’re using the new full-screen App version and get any issues, the fix is basically to try opening the site clip_image003in the desktop variant. Click or touch the spanner icon, then on View on the desktop option to flick over to the regular Windows desktop and view the site in desktop IE.

Once there, if you’re still seeing issues, click on the compatibility icon that IE may show clip_image005you, to set the browser to a mode which is more amenable to sites that haven’t yet adopted HTML5 or are not expecting to see IE10.

You may not see the compatibility icon in all sites: if not, you could press ALT to show the menu bar, offering the ability to add your current site to the list (via the Compatibility View or Compatibility View Settings options) of sites that should be treated with kid gloves.

If you come across niggly compatibility issues, you could try this great advice suggested by Microsoft’s Helen Wright …

· Whilst browsing your suspected incompatible site in the desktop IE10, press clip_image006F12

· Click on the “Browser Mode” menu, then Select the IE10 Compatibility View, and close the debug view by clicking the X in the corner.

· If the IE10 view doesn’t work out, then try setting to a previous mode by repeating the F12 trick and choosing an older version of the browser from the menu. clip_image008

This tip has been known to work on troublesome websites. In time, hopefully all of the key sites will support IE10 specifically (as hundreds of millions of PCs will soon be using it, if all goes well). Who’d want to miss out on their website working with the awesome-looking Surface, after all?

Tip o’ the Week #130 – Searching in Outlook

Ever since the 3rd party “Lookout” add-in was built for Outlook about 8 years ago, the pilers have inherited the earth. That’s pilers. No connection with Chaka Demus.

Research as far back as the early 1980s into how people organise their desks suggested there were “filers” – meticulously organised people who have a place for everything and put everything in its place, or “pilers” who just let it all build up.

Actually, it’s more complicated than that – pilers have “hot”, “warm” and “cool” areas of their desk defined by the level of activity, so stuff they were working on was commonly nearby. Filers on the other hand, might inadvertently squirrel stuff away and forget all about it. Common belief might be that outwardly more “organised” people are more effective, but the research shows this isn’t necessarily the case. Read more here.

Lookout introduced the ability to just search across your whole mailbox, in literally an instant – doesn’t sound all that special today but in 2004, it was absolutely revolutionary. Imagine searching your whole mailbox (all 200Mb of it, wow!! – though some companies gave their users bigger mailboxes) in the blink of an eye… No longer did you need to file anything, or remember the subject line, or the date it was sent – recall any attribute of the message and you can always find it later.

As it turns out, Microsoft bought the company and then incorporated similar technology into Outlook and Windows directly. The main man in LookoutSoft left MS after his career peak and a couple of clip_image003years, to go and work at a grubby advertising company. Never mind.

Anyway, back to the present day. Outlook gives the user the option of searching within folder (press CTRL-E to jump straight in and type a search query, then press CTRL-ALT-A to expand the search to all folders if required).

The Ribbon changes when activating the search box to show a bunch of criteria that can be searched upon, with a click:


There are, however, a few other options… mostly to do with the way one expresses a query in the search box. Just type in a word and your query will return any item which contains that word, however if you put subject: search word or subject: “search phrase”, then you can restrict the search results to only key words from the subject line.

Similarly, from:”joe blogs” or from:”joe bloggs” subject: “blah blah” will restrict ever further to just mail from an individual or even specific mail from that person with certain words in the subject.

There are some other esoteric search terms, too. Running out of mailbox space? Try messagesize:>5mb and you’ll see only the huge emails. Or for the same filter, simply add messagesize:enormous.

Many more examples of search criteria can be found here.

Tip o’ the Week #128 – Train Tickets & Times on WP

clip_image001[5]This week’s tip aims to shine a light on a selection of Windows Phone Apps dedicated to letting the train take the strain. There have been a slew of newly released apps which let you plan your journey, find information about stations and even buy your ticket in advance, ready to collect at a ticket machine. Best not get caught on board without a ticket, or your inspector might not be so friendly as this fellow on the right.

‘Allo, John, gotta new motor?


One of the oldest railway information apps has been updated recently, namely the Avanade-written Train Travel. The update added some snazzy new features, including a “Where am I now?” augmented reality train & underground viewer.

Do bear in mind that it’s expensive to buy (£4.99 is a lot for an app on any mobile platform) and it’s had some pretty stinky reviews since the update, due to a (now fixed) bug that refused to recognise a previous purchase. And as you’ll see shortly, the majority of the functionality is available elsewhere for Brussel Sprout.

clip_image002The Journey Pro app tries to meld travelling on national & London metropolitan rail, bus, tube, ferry and DLR all into one app – with a mixed degree of success, if truth be told.

Some reviewers (one, a train conductor, even) complain that it offers illogical routes or even ones that don’t exist, though this could be as much down to the back end than the app itself. As with all these things, your mileage may vary but since it’s free, then it’s worth having a look.


clip_image003Whilst on the topic of travelling in London, of course it’d be remiss not to point out Bing Get Me There. This app combines all of the necessary travel services to get your around in the Smoke, including excellent turn-by-turn walking directions to get you from the nearest transport stop to your eventual destination. It’s a much slicker app than Journey Pro, too. London Travel Lite and City Travel London might be worth taking a butcher’s at too, stop ya getting Jonathan Ross’d.

clip_image004There are a bunch of new apps getting great reviews because of national coverage (despite the association with a single train operator), and being free makes them a great alternative to other paid for apps and they carry some weight of being official, unlike some other train times apps which have come and gone in the past.



clip_image005The FGW and ScotRail apps appear to be the same under the covers; no great surprises since the First Group sits above both operators. In fact, the First Capital Connect and The Transpennine Express appear to be the same thing too. All will allow you to query times, buy tickets etc.



clip_image006Finally, as if too much choice was ever a good thing, TheTrainLine.com has gotten in on the act too – offering a quick & slick way to find fares, make bookings and collect your tickets up to 10 minutes before boarding. This appears to be one of the most fully-featured when it comes to buying a ticket. No surprises there…

Don’t forget, (as covered in ToW #74), there’s a snazzy Internet Explorer 9/10 optimised site at http://ie9.nationalrail.co.uk/ which lets you do a lot of the searching you might need to, from your desktop.

One can only look forward to all the lovely Win8 apps due sometime soon…