Tip o’ the Week 328 – Clip for art’s sake

clip_image001As discussed in Tip o’ the Week 28, Office Clip Art changed a while back – out was the staid clip art composed of vectors and 1990s bitmaps.  In was an online search for stuff you might like, filtered loosely by content that’s maybe not always what it seems.

clip_image002You can, of course, use your own photos – in fact, the Online Pictures option within Office apps includes Flickr, OneDrive and Facebook – and you’ve always got the option of uploading from your PC or any other URL.


If you’re after some high-quality clip art to insert into you magnus opus, you could try a service called Pickit, previously known as PicHit.me.

The Pickit Photo Finder app gives you a nice Modern app way of finding cool photos given a theme or keyword (though there’s a subscription fee if you want the higher quality pics). It’s even Cortana enabled, supposedly. There’s an Office Addin too, which lets you search for and add photos and art straight into your documents.

Pickit is a Microsoft BizSpark success story, and the service runs on Azure.

There are many ways of finding decent clipart for your projects – there’s Open Clip Art for an archive of more traditional vector & standard clipart image fare, or image hosting services like Pixabay, which offer free Creative Commons photos. Check out these other alternatives too.

Tip o’ the Week 327 – To sleep, perchance to dream

clip_image001Some old bard, about 4 centuries ago, wrote about sleep. We all know how important sleep is, for us organic life forms as well as for our intelligent devices.

The Windows Insider program is delivering various new builds to improve battery life for Windows 10 PCs & tablets that use “modern standby(the mode previously known as “connected standby”) that lets them stay on the network and update certain data feeds whilst ostensibly being in sleep mode.

Surface 4 and Book machines have had a few issues with sleep, but recent firmware updates should sort that out.

As for the organic machine, there’s plenty of advice on getting better sleep. Problem page gurus warn against drinking coffee or caffeinated tea after lunch, recommend eschewing alcohol & talk about avoiding “screen time” up to 2 hours before bed in order to fall asleep more easily and get a better quality of sleep while you’re there.

The Microsoft Band 2 does a good job of tracking its wearer’s sleep, either through detecting that you’re in the land of nod, or by the user initiating the sleep mode. The auto-detect function is there for times when you’re too tired/drunk/forgetful to remember to tap the sleep tile on the Band before dropping off, but there are other clip_image002benefits to using the sleep tile proactively – the Band will report your “sleep restoration” (which it doesn’t when auto-detecting), the screen is turned off (as is auto-rotate, which otherwise might be showing you the time), the Band itself will go into Do Not Disturb mode so you won’t get any notifications during the night, and the Bluetooth link to your phone is switched off to save battery power too.

clip_image003Further refinements to the Microsoft Health Dashboard are on their way too; the competitive amongst you may already compare quality and duration of sleep with your partner if you’re both wearing Microsoft Bands, but you’ll soon be able to set yourself targets for sleep duration & quality, get the band to remind you to start winding down for bed, report on how well you’re doing against your targets and so on.

The advice on reducing screen time before bed is partly because reading email or other things that stimulate your mind won’t let you doze off easily, but also because the device you’re using to do the reading might be fooling your brain into thinking it’s still daylight. The LCD/LED screens used by lots of devices – PCs, tablets, phones etc – have a bright, blue/white light that apparently stimulates the noggin in ways you don’t want as you’re about to drop off. Agony Aunts say, don’t use that technology in your bedroom at all, but there could be a better way, if you’re a habitual browser dans le lit.

4 years ago, ToW talked about the “colour of time”, and the same tool/advice is still very useful today – F.Lux is an app that runs on Windows PCs (and versions are available for Macs, iOS, Android & Linux).

clip_image004It’s simple to install & use, and could help to reduce the glare on your laptop if you’re working after sunset, so that when it’s time to go to bed, you’re not still wired. There’s little hard scientific fact that it works as described, but there’s plenty of opinion that it does – and since it’s free, it’s worth a whirl. At first, it looks a bit weird & pink, but you soon get used to is as your eyes adjust.

Install it on your tablet, turn up the wick on its dim settings, and use it happily in the sack without fear of staying awake all night worrying. Unless, of course, you’ve got something to worry about.

Tip o’ the Week 326 – Skype for Business, meet Skype consumer

clip_image002Power Skypers will probably know this week’s tip already, but it’s a fair bet that it’ll be news to others, even though it’s been possible since Lync gave way to Skype for Business (and was available in a slightly different form prior to that).

Put simply, Skype for Business has the ability to communicate with users on the consumer Skype platform, as well as to federate with other parties, and Office365 has it enabled by default. This means you can exchange IMs and see presence for Skype for Business users outside your organisation.

clip_image003The simplest way to check if you have Skype for Business federation set up with a customer or partner’s own Skype for Business estate, is to double-click on their name/address in an email, and you’ll see the Outlook “Contact card”. If you’re signed into Skype for Business, the speech bubble icon will be shown, giving you the option of IMing with them: click that icon to start an IM conversation.

Now, if you’re not federated (or clip_image004maybe depending on the privacy settings your contact’s organisation has set up), then you’ll just see “presence unknown” as their status within the IM window, and attempts to send messages will fail. If you are federated with them (again, subject to privacy settings), then you’re likely to see their email address change to their actual name, and their job title and status should get completed too. If they’re offline, you obviously still can’t IM them but at least you know they should be available at some stage.

clip_image006If you have contacts who use Skype the consumer service (and Skype helpfully positions the consumer and business offerings together, here), you can add them as contacts and have IM chats with them just like you could do with internal users too. clip_image007 Click on the little add contact icon on the right of the Skype for Business client, and you can include contacts from a number of external sources (the list may vary depending on your own profile or setup).


An even easier way is just to start typing the person’s name, Skype ID or Microsoft account, into the “Find someone…” search box within Skype for Business and click the Skype Directory button: you might well see them listed, profile pic & all – right-click on their profile to add them as a contact (which will kick off a contact request just like in consumer Skype).

Once someone has been added from consumer Skype to your contact list, you can IM them, see their presence, and even fire up an audio or video call with them, without needing to use the consumer Skype client yourself. Nice if you’d prefer to keep your business contacts and your personal ones separate, but if your customer is asking to have a Skype chat with you…

You can try this out by running both Skype and Skype for Business side-by-side and adding your contact, sending yourself a test IM, even cracking open a video or audio call.

clip_image011If you’re in a call between the two worlds, it’s literally 1:1 – you can’t convert it into a conference call by adding other people, nor can you invite your Skype contact into an existing Skype for Business call or meeting. When you’re in a 1:1 call from Skype for Business with a consumer Skype user, you just don’t see the options for inviting others etc, and if you’re in Skype for Business on an existing conf call and try to bring in a Skyper, sadly, you’ll just get an unhelpful error message. Too bad.

Options are to ask the Skype user to join using the Skype for Business Web App, or use the consumer Skype client to call the phone number the Skype for Business meeting offers to regular phone users.

For more details on how to set up and use Skype for Business federation, see here. Check this post for instructions about getting it working with consumer Skype (or here). And another.