Tip o’ the Week #227 – Moving around Outlook

clip_image001What’s the most-used application on your PC? Maybe it’s your web browser (IE, of course), but if you’re a corporate email slave like many of us, then it’s quite likely to be Outlook. As you spend so much time in the application, it’s worth getting to know how to move around it a little more efficiently, and that could save you, oh, whole minutes every day.

ToW’s passim have covered the subject in part; see way back to #10 in #119. In summary, there are shortcut keys that everyone should know – CTRL+SHIFT+I will always jump to your Inbox, CTRL+1 will take you to “mail” (whatever folder you were viewing last), CTRL+2 jumps to your calendar, CTRL+3 to Contacts, CTRL+4 to Tasks, etc.

There are a few other tricks you can deploy to help getting about in Outlook with more vim. As well as using the keyboard to jump around, move up and get down, there’s always the bottom of the WunderBar (seriously, it is called the WunderBar – and not just in Outlook). If you click on the ellipsis in the shortcut bar then choose Navigation Options, you can change the order of the items in the bar – so if you like to click on the shortcuts and you use Tasks a clip_image003lot, then you could move that folder up clip_image005the chain so the icon will always be available.

clip_image006(The “Compact Navigation” option hides the text description and replaces the words with a simple icon, and is on by default).

If you remember that you can always get Mail by pressing CTRL+1, then you could ditch the icon from the WunderBar and get it to focus on the other folders you use a little less frequently.

Another trick is that you can fire up Outlook with the view already in a specific folder – as well as right-clicking on a folder and choosing Open in New Window, you can get Outlook to do the same if  you press the Windows Key + R keys and enter outlook /select outlook:foldername where foldername is inbox, calendar, tasks and more. If you put a path to a folder in there – e.g. “outlook:inbox/my subfolder in my inbox”, etc – then it will bring up a new window with the focus in that folder.

Try this:

  • Launch Notepad (press start, type Notepad, enter)
  • Paste the following into the notepad app:

cd C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office 15\root\office15\
outlook /select outlook:inbox
outlook /select outlook:inbox/Not direct to me
clip_image008outlook /select outlook:calendar
outlook /select outlook:tasks

If you think Outlook is installed in a different place, try launching Task Manager (CTRL+SHIFT+ESC) and look for Outlook in the list, then right-click and choose Properties to see the location. Edit the first line of the above list to point to the right place…

The second /select above is to a custom folder that you probably won’t have – try either setting it to another folder you want to jump to, or just remove it altogether.

  • Save the file to the default location (should be your “Documents” folder),  by selecting the Save as Type option to All Files (*.*) then call your file olk.cmd.

Now, if you press Start, type olk and press Enter,  you’ll get a bunch of new windows each pointing to a useful place in your mailbox. 

Tip o’ the Week #226 – Reading Mode on IE11

clip_image001Windows 8/8.1 has continued to improve over its life, providing both changes to existing functionality and adding some whole new stuff along the way. One recipient of both such updates is the Internet Explorer browser – Windows 8.1 saw the upgrade to IE11 (also available on Windows 7 machines too) and some subsequent tweaks appeared as part of the Windows 8.1 Update (or Windows 8.1 Update 1 as most commentators refer to it, in anticipation of future updates to follow…)

There have been some notable changes in the way the “Immersive” IE11 works – that is, the Metro Modern UI version which only really made sense if you were running on a small, touch screen since the UI wasn’t exactly optimised for giant screens and keyboards/meeces.


The address bar in the IE11 Immersive mode is still at the bottom of the screen, along with the previews of any tabs you have open. There’s better Favourites integration and a whole bunch of other improvements which make the full-screen M**** version of IE a more palatable default choice for a lot of browsing. There’s improved Compatibility Mode, too, though quite a lot of intranet sites and the likes may still require the desktop version. If you browse to a site using the Immersive IE and it needs to do something that’s only supported in Desktop mode, then it will tell you… and you can always get to it with the spanner icon too.

You may have noticed a new icon appearing to the right of the Immersive IE address bar on some sites – a clip_image005new “Reading Mode” which aims to make browsing easier by removing graphics, ads, unnecessary navigation etc from some sites. You won’t see the Reading Mode icon on every site, though – IE analyses the page and will only show the icon if the content is deemed to be suitably structured that it can be displayed in this new way. Web site owners have the option of putting in a tag to disable this too, so if they really want to retain control of the layout then it’s straightforward to do so.


Here’s a simple comparison – a page with navigation, inline graphics and text…

There may be several Next Page type links on the article, which Reading Mode will try to follow and show you the whole thing in one bite.

clip_image009Here’s the same blog page displayed in the new mode… Read more about it yourself, here.

The same group of Microsoft typography gurus who built the ClearType font-rendering technology which was designed to make it easier to read text on-screen, have even developed a new font called Sitka, which is said to be the first font developed with legibility being measured scientifically during its design.

If you have Sitka installed on your machine, you’re reading it now…

At first glance it looks a bit more like Times New Roman due to its seriffed style (in contrast with the more in-vogue sans serif fonts like Segoe, Calibri, Arial etc… they even make films about such fonts). Wonder what Simon Garfield, author of the excellent Just My Type, would make of it…

Tip o’ the Week #225 – Surveys R Us


Have you noticed an increase in online surveys asking if you have a few minutes to complete them, when you visit web sites? Do you duck & dive when walking along the street and are confronted by a just-a-little-too-friendly student in high-vis and brandishing a clipboard?


Surveys are undoubtedly useful to the people collecting the information (as long as they screen out the loonies) though there’s always the possibility that the people who bother to fill in surveys might not always be the typical user – who has a spare 5 minutes in their day to tell some website what they think?

All that said, there are many tools that can be of use if you’re the surveyor and you want to ask people their opinion. In SharePoint Online (see here for a tutorial) it’s really easy to create surveys that contain structured and unstructured questions, even branching logic (eg. If you answer “No” to one question, jump to the next relevant one rather than asking you further questions about the thing you didn’t do).

Thanks to Phil Cross for pointing out that there has been a super-simple solution available for more than a year, courtesy of SkyOneDriveExcel Surveys. Ready for your Mum and Auntie to use, it’s a really simple way of asking a few questions and collating the responses you get – here’s an example survey.

It looks nice, but there are few fancy features like branching, however it’s really easy to set up a survey and it’s on OneDrive, so anyone can fill it in.


One thing to note, though – the originator doesn’t get any more information than what’s entered in the actual survey, so you might want to add questions about who the respondent is, what date it is etc. Answers are retrieved in a straightforward Excel table, and can use Excel functionality to filter and analyse – if you think you’re going to get enough replies that you’ll need to do that.

Still, Excel Surveys are easy to initiate, simple to complete and can be filled in by anyone who can access OneDrive.

Tip o’ the Week #224 – Alarem Scarem in Windows 8.1


If you’ve installed Windows 8.1 Update 1, there are many great additions which will be  doubtless delighting you as you use clip_image004them, especially if you’re working on a PC which isn’t primarily touch-oriented. There are hundreds of incremental updates (more here), but there are still bits in Windows 8.1 which are commonly unknown.

Windows 8.1 introduced the idea of an “Alarm” function , and also debuted an in-the-box Alarms app, akin to the equivalent on the phone.

The new Alarms clip_image006app (just start typing alarm on the Start page to find it) does what you’d expect of the similar Windows Phone app – set one or a series of alarms that will throw an alert at the prescribed time, make some noise and generally be alarming.clip_image008

The idea of using your PC to wake you up might not be all that useful, however – if your machine goes to Sleep then the Alarm won’t wake it up unless your PC supports “InstantGo” – the new monicker for what was previously known as Connected Standby.

If you set an alarm on a PC which does not support the required mode, you’ll see a notification within the Alarms app that it will only work when the PC is awake… (Booo….)clip_image010

The good news is that even the original Surface RT supports the necessary sleep  mode, as do many of the SoC machines such as the growing band of 8” tablets running Windows 8.1. See here for a bit more info.

Even if your PC doesn’t support the ability to wake you, the Timer and Stopwatch functions are very slick and well worth a look, and the UI is really smooth, particularly for touch users.