#28: Recalling history

tl;dr – press WindowsKey+V on your Windows 10 or 11 PC. If you don’t have Clipboard history turned on, enable it. You’re welcome.

Microsoft unveiled a new range of Surface laptops recently; the foghorn headline is they’re not just PCs, they’re Copilot+ PCs with lots of AI goodness. There was also a lot of news from the Microsoft Build conference this week – Copilot might have mentioned once or twice, but I think they got away with it.


The really big news for PC watchers is concerning the most recent attempt by Microsoft to move away from Intel to ARM processors; tried before with the Windows RT and Surface RT cul-de-sac, then later the Windows 10X project and the Surface Pro X which was ultimately superseded by an Intel-powered replacement.


Apple showed that it was not only possible but desirable to move from power-hungry Intel to lightning fast ARM chips, delivering huge improvements in battery life at minimal expense of application compatibility. The new Surface Laptop 7 purports to deliver power and performance that will finally take the fight to Apple in-house ARM silicon.

As well as flashing the new hardware, Microsoft also announced a bunch of new capabilities coming to Windows, delivered by snazzy new hardware and the Copilot Runtime which will allow advanced AI computation to take place locally on the device, without having to round-trip to the cloud.

One such AI-powered feature is “Recall”, which captures what the user is doing on the PC over time and will use a local AI model to analyse the data, so you can ask it to bring back whichever document, web page or app you might have been using when you were doing or thinking about something.

So far, the use cases being discussed are a little basic (like “I saw a recipe for a goat’s cheese pizza but can’t remember where it was”) but it could prove really useful when in the wild.


Remembering history

There are plenty of other places where history is recorded as you do your thang on a PC. Office apps remember documents you’ve been using in the past either by presenting the Most-Recently Used (MRU) list or letting you search across common document areas.


Outlook will cache the email addresses you’ve sent to before, browsers like Edge have an extensive and searchable history of pages you’ve been to, and even Windows Explorer’s Home tab shows you all the documents you’ve opened recently alongside ones you might have pinned as favourites.

One history feature which is presumably switched off by default due to some sort of privacy worry, is one where when you start using it, you wonder how you’ve lived your life to date without it: Clipboard history. In a nutshell, CTRL+C and CTRL+V have been widely-used shortcut keys for copy & paste since before Windows was an apple in its creators’ eyes. Using WindowsKey+V to initiate a Paste, will present you a list of the last few things you put on the clipboard.


It was covered in Old Testament ToW #670.

Remember Windows Timeline? It was a feature which recorded what the user was doing across many apps, browser sessions and different devices (even on mobile), synched to the cloud and presented in a logical, searchable timeline view. While it still exists in Windows 10, it wasn’t part of Windows 11 and since it relied on Cortana (RIP), the feature which remains has very much had its wings clipped.

“Recall” Chicken Licken

The old fairy tale of the chicken thinking the sky is falling (originally an Indian story about a hare, not a hen, and known by a variety of names around the world) was revisited in relation to Microsoft’s “Recall” feature which is part of this new range of Copilot+ PCs, enabled by the additional NPU chips (and not to be confused the Outlook’s “Recall” feature which purports to un-send a message but rarely works as expected, especially if sending to a lot of people).

The story behind the new Recall is that the PC will keep a history of everything the user does by screen-grabbing every few seconds, so that the user can later ask Copilot for help in remembering what they’ve done previously.


Cue, heavy breathing from all sorts of commentators who’ve never even laid eyes on this thing being used. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office – the Gov data watchdogissued a short statement and was widely reported as “looking into” the potential privacy concerns, however Microsoft was clear to point out that:

  • Recall will (initially) only work on these new (ARM) Copilot+ PCs and is in preview. Other PCs with Intel CPUs and Neural Processing Units (NPU) hardware will get the feature in time.
  • Recall will be enabled on initial PC or user setup, but can be switched off using the Settings menu and sys admins can centrally disable through policy; ditto, the length of time Recall will store data for can be tuned (and the amount of storage it uses).
  • Specific apps (and InPrivate browser windows) can be excluded from the screen-grabbery
  • It holds all the data in an encrypted store on the local PC and is only accessible by the user (i.e. not synced to the cloud, not readable by Microsoft or by any company administrator).

643 – Wireless extensions


A computer on every desk and in every home”; that original Microsoft motto, all the way back from a time when any sane person would have said it was nuts. Looking back now, though – hands up, who has only the one computer at home?

clip_image004[4]The WindowsKey+P shortcut key has been used since Windows 7, for sending your screen output to another device. At one point, this was maybe a meeting room’s projector – hence “+P”. You’d plug it into the VGA port on your laptop, press Win+P and you’re away. These days, does anyone “project”? Or just mirror or extend their desktop to another connected display or monitor?

You’ll commonly be able to wirelessly “project” to a large screen on the wall in a meeting room nowadays, rather than having to faff about with ceiling-mounted projectors, with all their bulb issues, noisy fans and the multitude of connectors required.

clip_image006[4]Windows 10 and 11 has a nice wireless projection UI, used to “Cast” to a wirelessly-available device, such as a TV which uses the somewhat messy Miracast standard. Either through native support, or by adding a media stick like Roku, Chromecast or FireTV, most TVs can be made to receive the display output of your laptop.

One somewhat underappreciated feature, though, is the ability to set your PC to be the recipient of wireless projection from another machine. This could be used to show something to a nearby colleague, displaying your desktop on their PC, or to share your PC screen to a room where someone else is currently plugged into the screen / projector, and you can project to their machine rather than unplugging them.

Lesser known is the ability to wirelessly extend your desktop to another PC, effectively using it as a 2nd monitor.

clip_image008[4]To kick off proceedings, press Start and type project to find the shortcut to Projection Settings.

If you haven’t set it up previously, you’ll need to add the Wireless Display optional feature; have a look through the others in the same dialog to see if there’s anything else that takes your fancy.

After adding Wireless Display, clip_image010[4]you’ll be able to set various options about how and when to receive connections. Start the “Connect” app on the destination PC and you can run a source desktop in a window or make it full-screen.

clip_image012[4]This projection feature can be used to extend the desktop of your main machine onto a second PC.

If you have a spare laptop or a home desktop PC which has Wi-Fi capability, you could set it up to be the recipient of projection from your main work machine, as long as they’re both on the same wireless network, and without the need to join in domains or have the icy grip of corporate control extended to your own hardware.

Select the option to extend your desktop to the remote machine and you can use it just like an additional monitor.


As many of us are used to having multiple screens in our home office, it could be worth carrying a second laptop if you go into an actual office where decent 2nd screens might not be available.

Having better kit at home than in the office is just one thing to deal with when going back to a workplace

596 – Sorry for the eye-chart

clip_image002Before The Event, you’ll probably recall being presented at in a stuffy airless room, mainlining caffeine to stave off the postprandial doldrums in attentiveness. “On this slide…”, the presenter might have said, before reading out all the text that’s now being shown on a slightly-too-small screen.

Some would apologize for the fact that the chart/table of data/timeline with 6pt text annotations etc, was too small for the audience to read. “I know this is an eye chart, but…”

So hurray when all such in-person meetings were banished to Teams or Zoom if you’re lucky, or if you’ve been a horrible person in a previous life, you may have inflicted upon you Webex, Amazon Chime or whatever Google calls Hangouts these days.

When presenting in Teams, there are some simple best practices to follow; some have been covered previously in ToW 576, with more online elsewhere.

clip_image004As an attendee, however, the Teams UI can get a bit busy if you want to follow online chat and see other attendees as well as the content being presented. You can make life a bit easier by going full-screen, from the view control in the top left.

As well as tweaking the layout, and hiding/showing components like chat or the participant list, you can zoom the Teams client in and out by using CTRL = and CTRL – (or CTRL + / – on your numeric keypad if you have one), or by holding CTRL and moving the mouse wheel up and down, if you have a suitably-equipped rodent connected. This method, however, just makes the Teams UI get bigger and smaller, so although it might increase the size of the pane being used to present content, it is a marginal gain.

clip_image006Enter, a greatly useful tip espoused by Belgian usability maestro, Ingmar Boon – click on the content being shown in a meeting, then use CTRL+mousewheel (or if you have a Surface device and the touchpad is enabled then use the pinch in & out gesture on the touchpad). Teams will now let you zoom in & out and pan around the content being shared. C’est manifique!

501 – Next of Kin

clip_image002ToW’s #350 and #353 looked back at technologies of old which are long gone – or at least should be. Lots of tech somehow lives on, though – did you know,  for example, that pagers are still a thing, and that more than 10% of the world’s remaining bleeps are used in the UK’s NHS? The same organisation has even been told to ditch the fax machine by April 2020 – a target that looks like being missed.

Some old tech has just been superseded by better, cheaper, easier alternatives – the erstwhile fax message gave way to email, the film camera largely replaced by digital photography, though there are always people who doggedly prove exceptions. Vinyl records came back from the brink, even prompting a potential rebirth of physical music retailing. There’s even a revival of cassette tapes for goodness’ sake (Hey kids! throw away your DVDs and get those VHS tapes from the attic…)

The path of progress is littered with the wreckage of ideas that didn’t quite work out; sometimes, they’re just a development that nobody wanted, or at least the target audience didn’t want in enough numbers, or maybe other forces combined to nix them (eg Google Glass) or at least to sustain their development enough. Some ideas were subsequently proven to be on the right path, but the first executions didn’t succeed: maybe the technology wasn’t advanced enough at the time.

The fab new devices previewed at the October 2019 Surface Event gave cause to recollect some old and perhaps before-their-time devices. The forthcoming Surface Pro X looks like the ultimate evolution of a Tablet PC, the due-next-year Surface Neo brings to life the “Courier” prototype that never made it out of the lab, and the especially groovy-looking (and also “available Holiday 2020”) Surface Duo makes Windows Mobile fans shed the remaining tears by embracing Android, though don’t dare call it a “phone”.

clip_image004Remember when 3G was going to set the world on fire? When people would pay handsomely to watch football clips or do video conferencing on their mobile device? The first such thing to enable that dream was the Orange SPV M5000, aka the HTC Universal. It was a folding device, had front-facing camera, 3G, Bluetooth, WiFi… It was ground-breaking, though too big and heavy to be a phone and too small and cramped to be a laptop replacement. It ran Windows Mobile 5.0, soon-to-be-eclipsed by the awesomeness that was Windows Mobile 6.0 (jokingly codenamed “Crossbow”, after a weed killer that had a deadly effect on blackberries…)

clip_image006Before Windows Mobile / Windows Phone was really a platform, Microsoft had the vision to build a tablet device with touch screen, UI navigation and handwriting recognition via a stylus, and all sorts of use cases and software that would differentiate it from other laptops.

The Tablet PC specification spawned a whole new version of Windows that eventually merged into the mainstream with Windows Vista. It only took maybe 15 years for technology and successive software improvements to turn the original dream into something of a reality.