Tip o’ the Week 339 – Happy Anniversary!

clip_image002It’s exactly a year ago that Microsoft launched Windows 10. And the free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users is due to run out… don’t delay, act today (yes, really, today).

And as of 2nd August, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update will be available to everyone who’s already running current Windows 10 build, based on the Windows 10 November Update. In the meantime, there are a few offers of note to celebrate the anniversary – like the 3 free months of Groove Music (UK | US). See more here.

What’s new in the Anniversary Update?


Well, you could look at the beautiful but relatively content-light website, here. Or if you’re a mobile user running Windows 10 Mobile (hello?), check here. In truth, there are a multitude of updates, many seemingly incremental but collectively a significant step up in user experience. The Groove music player, for example, now sports a mini-player that pops out from the task bar, allowing you to control the currently playing music.

clip_image004If you bother to sync your email & calendar from your work email account into the (much-improved) built-in Windows mail & calendar apps (as opposed to using Outlook only), then if you click on the time & date part of the Taskbar, the pop up will show you the next events as well as the calendar.

clip_image005If you have a microphone on your PC – most likely built-in if you’re using a laptop, or part of a webcam you might have attached to a desktop – then you can also use Cortana at the lock screen: it’s actually a really cool thing to be able to pick up your tablet without unlocking it and ask Cortana for the weather or how the traffic is on your drive to work. Try switching it on (go into Cortana, click the settings icon and you’ll see the ability to enable the Blue One under lock screen) and have some fun looking like a loony as you sit and talk to your PC.














The Edge browser gets a series of extensions and loads of other usability improvements, like the ability to swipe left and right on a touch screen to move back & forth (handy on a tablet); restoring functionality that was part of Windows 8 with the Internet Explorer modern browser but which was lost when Windows 10 replaced the default browser with Edge. See here for a list of the feature improvements in the latest builds of Edge.

If you’re on the Insiders program, Fast or Slow, you’ll already have build 14393 pushed out to your Windows 10 machine (check Windows Update to be sure): if not, you’ll be offered the upgrade sometime after 2nd August. Insiders will already have seen a couple of update rollups happen since 14393 was released, which suggests that it’s the last build before the final release, and any further updates will just be shipped via Windows Update.

If you’re not on Insiders, you might want to join so you can grab the latest build of Windows before the weekend arrives. If you’re still unsure, check out MJF’s non-reviewer’s review on the Anniversary Update.

Tip o’ the Week 338 – And now for something completely different

clip_image002If you’re a Skype user – desktop, consumer Skype, or the various mobile platforms (including the Skype Preview on Windows 10 Mobile), as opposed to Skype for Business, you may know about smileys and emojis, but have you used “mojis”?

Put simply, they’re short, often pithy and funny, video clips that can be quickly inserted into conversations. You can shut up your colleagues. Or they could retort back at  you. There are hundreds of mojis, from naff Hollywood to Bollywood, Macca to the Muppets.

clip_image004Now, Skype has released a whole selection of the finest Monty Python clips, as mojis. Click on the smiley icon in the bottom right of a Skype conversation window, then look for the new “foot” icon, and you’ll see an array of classic Python videos.


Try not to waste all day mucking around with it.

If you don’t see the icon, make sure you’re running the latest version of Skype.

Tip o’ the Week 337 – PPT premium groove things

clip_image002Sometimes, news can pass you by and it’s only some time later when you are confronted by it, that you realise just what it all means. There’s been a lot of news in the UK of late (eg Larry the Downing St cat not only keeps his post as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office but is confirmed as one of the great survivors of modern British politics, outlasting the leaders of Labour, the Conservatives, Greens, Liberals, SNP and UKIP).

On a slightly more mundane front, a demo was shown clip_image004during the day #2 keynote at Worldwide Partner Conference, which drew mild gasps from the audience, even though the feature had been unveiled more than 6 months ago. The coolness in question was PowerPoint Designer, something available only if you’re running Office 2016 and have an Office365 subscription.

The Designer manifests itself as a selection of suggested layouts that will be displayed in the right-hand task pane of the PowerPoint app, after you’ve inserted some photos from your own collection or from the various online sources. A suitable colour scheme will also be found, depending on the predominant colours in the photo(s) you’ve pasted or inserted. It’s subtle and clever.

There’s a Design Ideas icon on the Design tab, if you want to manually invoke the Designer functionality too. When you start the Designer for the first time, you need to accept that the images you use within the designer will be sent to a cloud service for analysis. See here for more.clip_image006

At the same time as the Designer appeared, another premium O365 service was also added, called Morph (not to be confused with Tony Hart). The Morph service makes animating slide transitions really easy, and it’s probably simpler to demonstrate than to explain. Try this:

  • Create a new slide in PowerPoint, and paste an image, sized to a thumbnail in one corner of the slide
  • Add a text box with any old text in it
  • Now, in the slide thumbnails on the left side, right-click on the new one and choose Duplicate Slide.
  • Move your image to a different corner of the 2nd slide, and make it bigger – try adding some artistic effects or recolouring if you like, and try moving your text box to a different place, and change the font size, type, colour etc
  • Now select the 2nd slide, go to the Transitions menu and click Morph. Prepare to be amazed…clip_image002[5]

For more details on Morph & Designer, see Kirk Koenigsbauer’s blog post from November 2015.

Tip o’ the Week 336 – Onetastic Update

clip_image001As has been covered repeatedly on previous ToWs, OneNote – for some people – is a life-blood app that is more heavily used than many others, and when people depend on it, they tend to care about it. And though there are a variety of addins and templates available for OneNote users to get more from the tool, the best addin is Onetastic, and has just been updated.

clip_image002The  version 3.0 of Onetastic introduces some subtle improvements to the OneCalendar function – possibly the most obviously useful part of Onetastic, as it shows a calendar view with a list of which pages were updated on each date, hot-linked so you can jump straight to each. If you have lots of different OneNote pages, sections, notebooks etc, then this can be absolutely invaluable.

The OneCalendar function is activated from the toolbar in OneNote, though you can create a shortcut to the separate executable if desired:

· Press WindowsKey+R and enter %appdata%\Onetastic

· Right-click on the OneCal.exe file and choose Create shortcut

· clip_image003Right-click on the new shortcut and choose Cut, then try running %userprofile% and Paste the shortcut in there.

· Rename the shortcut to just “OneCal”. Right-click it to Pin to Start if you like, or open the app and right-click on its Taskbar icon to Pin it there if you’re truly devoted

· Now, you can quickly start it by pressing WindowsKey+R and entering OneCal

· Or you can install just OneCalendar on its own, should you insist.

Anyway. Whether or not you want to do the above steps, you can still find some cool stuff in the new Macroland functionality within Onetastic. The author, @Omer Atay, has completely rewritten the macro language to make it more like a number of regular programming environments. There are hundreds of macros to carry out everything from minor text formatting to wholesale changes like colouring or changing sections of the notebook.

Some of the most  useful macros include the ability to create tables of contents, breadcrumb links or even lists of all the notebooks currently open.

If you’re a OneNote user and you don’t have Onetastic installed, you’re missing out.

Tip o’ the Week 335 – Battery life on Windows 10

clip_image001Everyone with a laptop or tablet will know the range anxiety of running out of juice. Making a few tweaks to reduce your machine’s battery drain could give you a good chunk of additional run time before needing a plug.

For a start, check out Battery saver – clip_image003it’s basically a port of functionality that was in Windows Phone for a while, meaning that when the battery charge falls below a set level, the machine will automatically clip_image004clip its wings to eke out the remainder.

Look in the Battery saver options (just type Battery at your Start menu), and you’ll also see the current charge and estimated duration, but also will let you see a breakdown per app, allowing you to control on an app-by-app basis how they will affect your battery life. One such trick might be to decide which apps you want to allow to run in the background, as each one will use some amount of system resources, though for the most part, it makes sense to leave them as “managed by Windows”, and then the battery saver will intervene if required.

If you’d like a bit more info on what your machine’s battery is doing, try running (WindowsKey+R) powercfg /batteryreport, which will generate an HTML report showing you details. To view the file, just type battery-report at the Start menu and you should see the battery-report.html file show up in the list.

Clearly, you can manually turn off things you don’t need – like Bluetooth or even WiFi (if you’re mobile and don’t need/want to connect), you could dim the screen or get into the practice of looking for marginal gains by doing things like switching off Start Menu transparency or even picking your colours appropriately

If you’re already running a preview of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (now due to go public on August 2nd), then make sure to use the Edge browser: the browser tunes itself to be kind to your laptop or tablet’s battery life. Using test data and real world info collected from telemetry, the Edge team has revealed that it is notably more power efficient than Chrome, Opera and Firefox. Read more here.

Opera took issue, though Thurrott concurred (“Opera is still a thing?”, said one commenter).
Paul even suggested that he might use Edge more than Chrome, at least for now.

WSJ found that Edge was more power efficient than Chrome, and PC World agreed, though with a smaller margin of victory (though marginal gains are all about the 1%…) So, if you’re a Chrome fan, you might want to take a look at Edge under the Anniversary Update and see if it’s improved enough to win your heart over.

Read more battery saving tips for Windows 10 here (though they are very phone-centric rather than PC oriented).

Tip o’ the Week 334 – Windows Maps app updates

A few monthsclip_image002 ago, ToW #318 talked about mapping on Windows 10. Well, a new update to the Maps app on Windows 10 desktop and mobile has appeared recently, and at the same time, the old Here Maps apps will stop working on Windows 10 Mobile devices at the end of next week.

clip_image004The Maps app that is now native to Windows 10 devices has been given a fresh look, moving from old version’s dark and vertical icon placement on the left to a more minimalist look where the principal navigation clip_image006icons are along the top.

There are loads of functional and fit-n-finish UX improvements throughout the apps on both PC and mobile, plus some notable new or overhauled features. A few highlights:

· Details Card – now displayed when you select a point on the map, with clearer display of clip_image008info including what’s nearby and giving you common actions like directions, sharing etc.

· Favourite places improvements – it will keep your favourites offline, sync between devices if you sign in with your Microsoft Account and will migrate previous faves from Here Maps too.

· Guided navigation – the nav option, especially useful for phone users with offline maps, works much better in landscape mode with a clearer layout.

Find out more about the updated maps app, here. And see what Paul Thurrot has to say, here.

To check your current version, launch Maps and look in the ellipsis (.,,) and under Settings, then scroll to the very bottom – the previous version was v4.1603.nnn whereas the new release is showing up as 5.1606.nnn.

clip_image010To force an update, try going into the Store – here – or just look in the Store clip_image012App under Downloads/Updates (click on your own avatar on the top right on PC then select that options from the list, or tap the hamburger icon on the top left of the Phone app).

Either view will let you force a check for app updates, which may be delayed from arriving automatically if you’re not on WiFi or plugged in.