Tip o’ the Week #196 – Change Outlook meeting duration

clip_image002It’s seemingly an irrefutable law that when you book a meeting for an hour, it takes an hour. Or what might happen is some people are still rocking up at 3 or 4 minutes after the start, and others start packing up 5 minutes before the end because they have another meeting to go to. Others yet will start a whole new discussion (“oh, just one more thing…”) with 2 minutes to go.

One comedian even made a fortune trying to teach us how to make meetings work. Here’s one video that’s 20 years old – yet still holds entirely true today. It was updated last year, and the original version is almost 40 years old. Clearly we don’t learn.

Now this week’s tip has been a long time coming – since the very beginning of Tip o’ the Week, approaching 3 years ago on this blog (and a year before that internally at Microsoft), it’s something that has been in the back of mind as a productivity tip. Thanks to discovering a blog post that provided suitable inspiration for the idea, and for the majority of the code, here it finally is. Praise be! Huzzah! Etc.

Frustratingly, Outlook has never offered the option to set how long a new meeting should clip_image004be, or what time it should start. There are a few workarounds – you can set the timescale the calendar shows (so each line is 60, 30, 15 etc minutes, and if you double click on a section of your calendar to create an appointment, then it is set to that time slice). Try it out by going into Calendar, selecting the View tab, then View Settings. Select Other Settings on the pop up dialog, and change the view from there.

What we need is a Macro

Today’s tip will let you set both the default duration and the start time of new appointments – so if you want to make all meetings 20 minutes long, starting 5 minutes past the hour or half hour, then you simply set it up as such when you install the code. Don’t be afraid – there is code involved here, but it’s fairly straightforward.

Here it is, step by step:

  • Start Outlook. Well, duh – you already have…
  • clip_image005Press ALT-F11 to open the Visual Basic editor
  • Expand out the tree at the top left, then double-click on the ThisOutlookSession line, which opens a code window to the right.
  • Paste the following into the code window on the right:

Private objMeeting As clsMeeting

Private Sub Application_Quit()
    Set objMeeting = Nothing
End Sub

Private Sub Application_Startup()
     Set objMeeting = New clsMeeting
End Sub

Next, right-click on ThisOutlookSession on the left hand pane, and choose Insert then Class Module.

  • Click on the newly-created Class1 and in the Properties section immediately beneath, select (Name) and rename Class1 to clsMeeting.
  • Now double-click on the new clsMeeting, and you’ll see a code window appear on the right – copy and paste the following code into that window:


Private WithEvents olkIns As Outlook.Inspectors, _
        WithEvents olkApt As Outlook.AppointmentItem

Private Sub Class_Initialize()
    Set olkIns = Application.Inspectors

End Sub

Private Sub Class_Terminate()
    Set olkIns = Nothing
End Sub

Private Sub olkApt_PropertyChange(ByVal Name As String)
    If Name = "AllDayEvent" Then
        With olkApt
        If .AllDayEvent = False Then
            .Duration = DEFAULT_LENGTH
             .Start = DateAdd("n", START_OFFSET, .Start)
        End If
        End With
    End If
End Sub

Private Sub olkApt_Unload()
    Set olkApt = Nothing
End Sub

Private Sub olkIns_NewInspector(ByVal Inspector As Inspector)
    If Inspector.CurrentItem.Class = olAppointment Then
        Set olkApt = Inspector.CurrentItem
        With olkApt
            If .CreationTime = #1/1/4501# Then
                .Start = DateAdd("n", START_OFFSET, .Start)
                .Duration = DEFAULT_LENGTH
            End If
        End With
    End If
End Sub

OK, now you have your code imported. To change the defaults for meeting duration or offset time, simply change either or both of the Const values at the top of the code. You’ll need to restart Outlook for these changes to take effect.

There are a few steps to go through now:clip_image008

  • Click the floppy disk icon on the top left of the toolbar to save your changes, then close the Visual Basic for Applications window down.
  • In Outlook 2013, go into File / Options / Trust Center, then click the Trust Center Settings button.
  • Now, go into Macro Settings and change from the default of “Notifications for digitally signed macros, all other macros disabled” to “Notifications for all macros”



Now close Outlook entirely, and restart it – you’ll get a prompt to Enable Macros – this is unavoidable, sadly, but it will only happen when you first launch Outlook. Assuming you actually want this code to run, choose Enable Macros.

Now, what happens is whenever you create a new appointment, the Macro you’ve just installed will jump on it and set the start and duration times as appropriate. If you need to change the defaults, simply go back into the VB code as above, edit the values in clsMeeting, save the whole shebang and restart Outlook again. If you don’t want the code to run any more, go back into Trust Center and change the Macro settings back to the previous value.

Tip o’ the Week #192 – What does your customer run?

If you are in the tech industry and dealing with a customer or partner on pretty much any aspect of their relationship with you, it can often be valuable to have a bit of forewarning about what technology they’re using. In larger managed environments, that knowledge might come from other resources (account manager, technical pre-sales, support contact etc), it may be tucked away in your email from an old thread.

Who knows, it might even be in CRM.

Even if you’re working with a well-engaged entity, it can still be helpful to do a little background research, and that’s near-mandatory if the org in question is new to us all. Here are some thoughts on how to get ahead of the game without needing to spend hours at the task.


This is now an essential business tool for a lot of people, as it both projects their CV into the world so a potential next employer can see it, and it helps them connect with people in other organisations they’re trying to reach. Before you meet your customer, it’s worth looking up the company and seeing who else works there, what skills the individuals have (eg do they position themselves as an Open Source or Linux expert? Are they certified to the hilt in your stuff already, and therefore maybe a friendly face?). Who did they work for previously?clip_image002

One tip for the practiced LinkedIn stalker is that it’s possible to switch off the breadcrumbs that let people see who’s looked at their profile, so if you check someone out and decide to have nothing more to do with them, you won’t end up getting a connection request in return as they’ll never know it was you.

Go to the Privacy & Settings option by clicking your mugshot in the clip_image004top right then Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile, whereupon you can choose full disclosure, partial anonymity (so they’ll see it was someone at Microsoft, for example – might freak them out if they are LAMP fiends) or the full kahuna of diplomatic immunity.

You might also want to think about who gets to see your connections – if you get lots of requests from people you don’t know, they may just be trying to harvest your own connections (as they’d see more details of those users, since they’d now be 2nd degree connections to the recruitment consultant connection spammer). We’ll come back to using LinkedIn in a future ToW.

Mxtoolbox – www.mxtoolbox.com

This one is useful for checking what your customer is using for their email, or at least which service they’re using to clean and filter their in- and out-bound email. Simply enter the customer’s email domain name (the bit after the @) and you’ll find out how they send and receive mail. Sometimes, it’ll be their own address (meaning, they operate their own relay) but often, it’ll be one of a variety of 3rd party “hygiene” services from the likes of Microsoft (Frontbridge, Outlook), Google (Postini), Symantec (MessageLabs) and more.

Netcraft – www.netcraft.com
Their “What’s that site running?” tool and web site survey made Netcraft well known years ago – ostensibly telling you what operating system the web site in question is running on. A useful side effect in these cloudy days is that it can tell you not just what the site is, but where it is running. Handy to know if your customer’s site (or maybe a subset of it which is presenting a web application to their customers?) is running on Azure, AWS, Rackspace etc. Just head over to netcraft.com and paste the URL into their “what’s that site running” box in the lower right – no need to strip it of http:// or any other superfluous guff; the site takes care of all that for you.

Is it really on Azure? – http://www.kloth.net/services/nslookup.php
Here’s a neat service which lets you check for CNAMEs of a particular URL – in other words, when you enter a URL into your browser, that name may just be an alias for another name, which you’ll never see. Knowing that such a thing exists can be handy, though – it might let you figure out that one part of the website is hosted in one place, but another part is somewhere else.

In this case, you do need to trim any leading or trainling gubbins off the URL, so you’re left with simply the main part. Sometimes the real meat of what a website is offering – the bit of the site you need to log into, for example – might be on a different URL (like login.company.com). If you plug that URL into this handy name lookup tool, and set the option to be looking for ANY or CNAME, then you may see that login.company.com is just an alias for something.cloudapp.net – the clouapp.net bit meaning that it’s a service running on Windows Azure. Not a very efficient way of looking for Azure users en masse, but if you think your customer is already on Azure, it is a handy way of confirming that fact.

Tip o’ the Week #173 – LinkedIn Contacts in Outlook


This week’s tip focuses on the power of LinkedIn. Some people use it as their system of managing customer and partner contacts. Some find new employment by schmoozing their network – some even use it as the launchpad for their next career.

Hands up who’s ever thought that a work colleague suddenly connecting with them, means that work colleague is a soon-to-be-ex one? Or been in the middle of a meeting and had a LinkedIn request from someone (external) who’s currently in the same room?

LinkedIn is undoubtedly a powerful business connection tool, and using clip_image004it in Outlook makes it even more so. First step, if you haven’t done so already, is to enable the Social Connector. In the past, this was a separate addin to Outlook, but in 2010 was included (though you had to install each social network provider as a separate addin). Now in Outlook 2013, Facebook, LinkedIn and internal SharePoint services are all built in.

There was a recent issue with LinkedIn that could mean even if you had previously configured it to work with Outlook 2013, it may have broken – to check all is well, look at the bottom of the preview of an email (in the “People Pane”) from an external user who is in your LinkedIn network, and see if there is an error message, or if you’re seeing LinkedIn status messages. To ensure you have everything configured correctly, go into the View -> People Pane menu in Outlook, then click on Account Settings to ensure you have the correct username, password and options set.

clip_image006Enter your own LinkedIn username & password, and if you also check the “by default, show photos…” option, then you’ll see the LinkedIn photo of any contact – external, or in fact internal too – within any emails etc that sit in Outlook.

An interesting point – if you look at any standard LinkedIn list of people, or of the individual profile of any one person, their photos are typically shown on the left side of any text. Since we mostly read text (in western cultures) from top left, and all the way down to the bottom right, this lends itself to preferring photos which are facing left-right, especially if placed on the left of the page; so it looks as if the individual is looking on approvingly of their own profile, rather than dismissively starting away from it. Thanks to Eileen Brown for pointing this out.

Try it as an experiment on Linkedin.com: look at all your own contacts, then open up a few who are facing left-> right and others facing right-> left, and see if you agree. Time to change your picture?

clip_image008clip_image010Anyway. LinkedIn contacts, once the Social Connector is configured, show up in a separate contacts group within Outlook’s People view – you can “Peek” by hovering the mouse over the People icon on the shortcut bar, and search details of contacts there, both those in your existing Outlook contacts list and those from LinkedIn. If you click on the People icon, you’ll see lists of Contacts that can be searched in or filtered as appropriate – so if your contacts in LinkedIn have allowed it, you can see email addresses and phone numbers within Outlook.

If you open up a LinkedIn contact and make a change – let’s say, added a mobile number that you’ve gleaned from their email – then Outlook will make that a copy of that contact in your own Contacts folder, and make the change there. Synchronisation of content from LinkedIn appears to be one-way – and if you get into creating custom fields and categories on LinkedIn itself, they might not synchronise at all. Best try a few experiments out before relying on information being available everywhere.

clip_image011There are other ways of using, and benefitting from, LinkedIn integration – and we’ll explore some of these in a future Tip o’ the Week: how LinkedIn plugged in via your Microsoft Account can mean you can share info across Facebook, Twitter and other services, for example.

Careful though – It sometimes makes sense not to cross the streams of “work” and “life”. Like Monty Python said, “…don’t take out in public, or they’ll stick you in the dock, and you won’t come back.”

Tip o’ the Week #172 – Dreaming of Apps

clip_image002Clearly, the most obvious difference in Windows 8 compared to other operating systems (from inferior *NIX based desktops to fancy fondleslabs) is the Start Screen – the colourful, dynamic  and interactive tile-based view of apps available to you with just a click, touch or swipe. It’s also the most controversial aspect of the OS, with a whole slew of “start screen replacements” available, and the environment garners more grumbling in online forums than anything else in Windows 8. There are rumours that the next generation of Windows will allow users to skip the Start Screen and go straight to the desktop. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Those of us with long memories will recall Windows XP being dismissed by some  customers, disliking the green start button and colourful window surrounds, demanding ways of switching it all off and making the OS look like Windows 2000. Now the same people may be clinging on to XP, even as the clock ticks down to less than a year before support ends

The apps that appear on your Start Screen will, of course, evolve as you use it, and we’d all like it that (even better versions of?) the best apps available on other platforms will also be made available for Windows 8. It may take time to really understand what works best on the platform, just like the best games on a console often come out late into its lifecycle, as developers learn how to exploit it best.

Kevin Ashley wrote a great blog post about the developer opportunity for writing Windows 8 Apps – that now is the “Magic Moment” – the time to get established in the store, before it grows to the point where there are lots of apps all purportedly doing the same thing. Kevin’s point is well made because he’s an accomplished app developer – how many of us would still turn up for work if we were taking $30,000 a month in app revenue, I’m not sure.

If you hear anyone saying that they don’t plan to support Windows 8 with their app, and that all their efforts go into iOS or Android development, perhaps highlight Kevin’s blog post above. Maybe some of the top customers could focus their efforts on building their own great apps, and maybe less on taking down the apps that others build. Fingers crossed.

Start me Update


Previous ToWs have harped on about the importance of updating your installed Apps through the Store. We’re now seeing a whole slew of app updates to built-in apps, like the Bing Travel or Maps app. Mary Jo Foley writes about some of the updates, and anyone who’s been using Xbox Music across Windows 8 devices, Windows Phone and Xbox console, will enjoy the latest version of the Music app.

It can take a bit of digging to find out what each of the numerous updates actually doesPaul Thurrott (for example) has unearthed a few of the details.

ToW Update: Several eagle-eyed readers commented on the last Tip. Rather than following the process to wangle SkyDrive to replicate eWallet data, perhaps just take a look at Sky Wallet – a Windows Phone app with free desktop companion (if you buy the app – but then, it’s cheaper than eWallet anyway), and the developer’s apparently working on a Modern UI version too. Oh, and it just stores its data in SkyDrive to start with. I’ll get my coat.

Tip o’ the Week #104 – Windows 7’s clock & date

clip_image001One of the neat little design touches of Windows 7 that changed as a result of usage analysis was the calendar that is shown when you click the clock on your system tray. User feedback taught product designers that in previous versions of Windows, users would often go into the “Date & Time Properties” dialog box, not to set the date but just to see the calendar – eg what date is it 3 weeks from now?, or what day is Christmas Day .?

Of course, in earlier Windows versions, if you changed the date by clicking on another month/year, and hit the OK button, it would actually change the system date. not necessarily a good thing. In Windows 7, the default behaviour is to just show you the calendar, and easily allow you to jump between months, years, even decades.


Of course, you could just use Outlook, but a) not everyone uses Outlook all the time (the poor non-productive fools!) and b) it’s usually just quick & easy to click on the taskbar to check a date. If you are in Outlook, did you know that you can type in expressions into any date field – eg the Start date of a meeting. “3 weeks on Tuesday” , “next Friday”, “in 60 days”, “7d”, “Christmas 2013” . there are loads of variants to try.

Ticking away, the moments that make up the time of day

clip_image006If you’re a habitual jet-setter, are planning a holiday in foreign climes or just want to know the time in another part of the world, you can also add multiple clocks in Windows 7. Click on the Date/Time part of the system tray, click on Change date and time settings. and then the Additional clip_image007Clocks tab.


Sure beats those £2,000 “executive wall clocks” that feature in the back pages of in-flight magazines.

Tip o’ the Week #99 – Is your hard disk just “on”?

clip_image001One frustrating aspect of a modern PC is when it seems to slow down inexplicably, even when it’s not obviously busy. Sometimes that could be evidenced by the hard disk light flickering a lot of the time, or in extreme cases, solidly lit up. There are a number of reasons why this could be the case – here are some tips on finding out why and maybe what to do about it.

Your PC is just not good enough

A common reason why your disk is really busy (sometimes known as thrashing) is simply that the machine doesn’t have enough oomph to do what it’s being told to. It could be you just don’t have enough of some critical resources, such as memory. If there isn’t enough physical memory (RAM) in the machine, then when an application wants to hold information in memory, something else which is currently in memory needs to be “paged out” – written to disk, temporarily.

clip_image002That’s all very well, until the application that was using the data that’s just been paged out needs it back -then, something else is paged out, and the previous data is read back in. If you get to the point where you’re really short of RAM, the PC will be thrashing to the point of exclusion to practically everything else. The whole process is a lot like the juggling you might need to do when you’re trying to work with more than two things but are limited to having only two hands.

The only solution to not having enough RAM is to add some more (not always straightforward), or make the machine do less. Look in Resource Monitor (press Windowskey-R then enter “resmon“) under the memory tab, and you’ll see how much of your physical memory is being used. You can also look and see which applications are using up all the memory and maybe think about shutting them down, or making room for them by closing other clip_image003applications.

Modern day whack-a-mole

Curing performance problems can be like pushing a blockage from one place to another, or like the whack-a-mole fairground game where you hit one issue and another one just pops up elsewhere. If your PC isn’t running out of memory, maybe the processor (CPU) is the bottleneck, or perhaps it’s the disk itself.

If the CPU is slow, then everything else will feel pretty slow – the whole machine will just feel like it’s overworked. If the disk is slow, then the machine will bog down every time it needs to do something disk-intensive. Combine a possibly slow disk with running out of memory, and you’ve got the perfect storm – a PC that is constantly shuttling stuff to-and-fro between memory and disk, and burdening the CPU with all the additional overhead to do so.

There are some things you can do to mitigate the “disk light on” issue, however.

It’s probably Outlook

ToW #96 covered an issue where Outlook might use up a large amount of disk space, and maintaining that kind of volume will put something of a strain on the PC. Outlook is probably the heaviest desktop application most of us use, and if it isn’t hammering your memory or processor, then it will probably be nailing your hard disk.


It’s still worth making sure your hard disk isn’t badly fragmented, a situation where files end up scattered across the surface of the disk in lots of pieces or fragments. If you have a nice clean disk that’s largely empty, then Windows would write a new file out in one big splurge of “contiguous” fragments or clusters.

When files are deleted, all that happens is those clusters that are currently used, get marked as free so they can be over-written in future. If the disk gets increasingly full up, though, it may be that the only free space exists in small chunks all over the place – meaning Windows has to do more work to read and write files.

clip_image004You can run Disk Defragmentation by going to Start and typing in Disk Defrag, then you’ll be able to run the Defrag process interactively, or schedule it to happen in the background – ensuring that you pick a time that you won’t be really busy on your PC, otherwise it will be the Disk Defrag that’s making the light glow.

To allow fragmentation a better shot of cleaning up the disk, it may be a good idea to close applications that are likely to be using big files (like Outlook, whose OST file is probably the biggest file on your hard disk), and if you have a high degree of fragmentation, then it would be worth getting rid of the hidden Hibernate File on your hard disk – that’s where Windows writes the contents of memory if the battery on your laptop runs out, so it’s gigabytes in size.

clip_image005To delete your Hibernate File, you need to fire up a command prompt in Administrator mode – go to Start menu and start typing command then right-click and choose Run as administrator.

A quick alternative is to go to Start, then type cmd and press CTRL-SHIFT-ENTER, which tells Windows to run whatever you’ve typed in as an administrator. Try it: you too can run notepad as an admin.

Once you have your admin Command Prompt (denoted by the window title of Administrator C:\Windows\etc), then type powercfg -h off to switch the Hibernate functionality off, and in so doing, ditch the hiberfil.sys file. Once you’ve finished defragmenting, you can switch hibernate back on by repeating with powercfg -h on.


Is your disk just too slow? How would you know?

Finally for this week, there’s a possibility that your disk is just basically slow and there’s not a lot you can do about that short of replacing it. If you look in Device Manager (Start -> then type Device Manager), and expand out the Disk Drives section, you will see what kind of hard disk you have – try Binging the cryptic model number and you might find the specifications of the disk – does it spin at 5,400rpm or 7,200rpm, or is I solid state? Does it have any cache? Maybe reviewers on Amazon et al will pan that model’s performance, or even suggest that a simple firmware upgrade of the disk itself will solve performance issues. [Here Be Dragons – be very careful if you go down this route].

You can see if your disk is the bottleneck to PC performance by looking at the Disk tab in Resource Monitor, clip_image007expanding out the Storage section. You’ll see Disk Queue Length as one of the columns on there – that’s a measure of how much stuff Windows is waiting for to be read from or written to the disk. If the machine is busy and doing a lot of disk work, this might be legitimately quite high (maybe double figures) but if it’s sustained then it could be illustrating that the disk is struggling to keep up with the requests the PC is making of it.

That could be a symptom that it’s just not quick enough, but it could be a forebear of the disk being faulty – maybe the reason it’s taking ages is because it’s physically about to fail. Best get it checked out.

And don’t forget ReadyBoost

After sending this original tip above within Microsoft, a reader (Rob Orwin) responded to remind me about ReadyBoost – so I added the following in a subsequent tip. In Rob’s own words.

clip_image001[1]Whenever my computer is being a bit sluggish, I stuff two memory sticks, which I always carry around in my laptop bag, in the USB ports and as if by magic everything starts running as if it’s on steroids. It’s instantaneous as you only need to dedicate a device to ReadyBoost once, and then every time you put it in the USB drive it gets automatically used as pseudo-RAM. Another option is to get a ReadyBoost compatible SD card and stick it in the laptop’s SD card slot – which pretty much no one ever uses. [and 4Gb SD cards can be picked up for a few £s]

Yes, it’s not quite as fast as actually adding RAM but it’s a lot easier and a great deal faster than having to use the HDD for virtual memory. I learnt this from a friend who’s a graphic designer. She uses ReadyBoost whenever she needs to do huge batch operations in PhotoShop. The ReadyBoost feature was apparently the main reason why she got her company to buy her a PC instead of a Mac. When a Mac is out of RAM, it’s out of RAM.

I even use ReadyBoost at home to run Windows 7 on a laptop that is 12 years old and has 256Mb RAM.

Tip o’ the Week #92 – Take and Share better meeting notes

clip_image002[4]Be the scribe

OneNote is a great audit tool.

When you’re in meetings with customers and partners why not offer to take the notes on your tablet, slate or laptop and then when the meeting is done simply save the notes as a PDF to create a simple, (almost) non editable version of the notes that you can share with colleagues, customers and partners.  This is especially useful if you hook up your device to a projector (using duplicate screen mode) and use your tablet as an electronic whiteboard. 

To export your results to PDF, choose “File”, “Save As” and then “PDF”. When the save dialog is displayed you can choose to save selected pages, the current section or even the whole notebook. If you don’t want the PDF step you can share your notes even more quickly by using the Share tab and selecting the “E-mail Page” button to send the page as a picture. The “audit” part comes in because both you and the customer has a permanent copy of the notes – this has extricated me from a number of potentially taught situations?

For collaborating with colleagues, an even better option is to use shared notebooks. Using SharePoint 2010 (e.g. your MySite) you can create shared notebooks which are synchronised between team members and always kept clip_image002up to date.

This is great for going to a customer meeting, taking notes and then automatically having them shared with your extended account teams. The only thing to be aware of is that shared notebooks (especially with ink) can take up a fair bit of disk space – but don’t worry, a call to 5000 or through ITWeb can get your quota increased easily.

To share a notebook that already exists go into “File”, “Share” and then choose the SharePoint server (“Network” option) server where you want to store it. When you’ve done this make sure that the location you stored the notebook has the correct permissions for your colleagues. To share a new notebook on SharePoint, go into “File”, “New” and select “Network” and choose the SharePoint. This is great for collaboration but even better for showing customers how we “live the dream”clip_image003.

Did you know you can create a meeting note directly from an Outlook Appointment, and that note will contain the date, time, location and names of all the attendees of the Outlook item?

Just go into the meeting in Outlook and you’ll see a nice big OneNote icon – click that and the rest is obvious.

Using and creating templates

clip_image004One way of gettng better organised might be to use a common template for meeting notes – if you click on the down-arrow next to the New Page command in the sidebar, you’ll see available templates and a link allowing you to set up new templates or find others online.

Some templates on microsoft.com.

Tip o’ the Week #90 – Advanced Windows 7 Calculator


Yes, really. When did you last use Windows Calculator? When did you last look to see if there are any new functions you haven’t used before? clip_image004 Most of us probably can’t remember what all the functions on a scientific calculator do, and don’t have much need for trigonometry or advanced calculus in our daily lives.

Our friend on the right, is “Businessman with Calculator” in Office Clip Art.
you do any business with him?

However, we often need to do simple arithmetic, and that can be handled easily by the built-in Calculator application in Windows, one of the few functions that can trace its lineage all the way back to Windows 1.0, more than 25 years ago. To fire up Calculator quickly, just press WindowsKey+R then enter CALC.

clip_image006Did you know that Windows 7’s revamp of the CALC application included a whole load of useful additions…?

Perhaps most useful, there are hundreds of unit conversions built in (from the predictable Fahrenheit to Celsius, to more esoteric such as how many kilopascals per PSI, how many minutes are there in two weeks, etc).

There are a few other useful calculations too (like how many days there were between two dates), and the Worksheets function also gives you a simple way of working out some standard tasks like mortgage payments or fuel economy…

Tip o’ the Week #86 – Jump into SharePoint sites


Following last week’s IE9 “turn websites into apps” tip in ToW#83, here’s an early Christmas present, showing a couple of nifty ways of working with SharePoint 2010. It’s possible to add clip_image002SharePoint sites to your taskbar or start menu in exactly the same way as in that tip – open the site up in your browser, then drag the icon to the left of the site’s address and drop it onto your taskbar.

If the administrator of your site loves you very much, maybe they’ll follow the instructions below to add the ability to expose Jump Lists too. If your favourite SharePoint site doesn’t already have Jump Lists activated, maybe you could plead with the site’s administrator to do so…

If you don’t know who administers your SharePoint site, you could try “Request Access” from the drop-down box next to your name on the very top right of a site – in the “justification” section, explain what you’d like to do and if the wind is blowing in the right direction then your email will reach whoever is listed as the site admin…

Admins: get your site timezone right!

SharePoint sites have a standard “locale” which sets the way they behave in different languages, time zones,  different ways of measuring the calendar etc. The default when a site is created is (at least in the way it’s clip_image004been implemented in Microsoft), that the site locale will be English (US) – in most cases, not something that will really affect the end users, except for in one important aspect – date format (assuming you’re not in the US…).

That document you’re looking at, created on 07/08/11 … was it the 7th August or the 8th July? Was 01/08/11 the 1st August or 8th January…? In the first example, it might not matter a whole lot but if the document is 7 months older than you at first thought, it could be important.

clip_image005Changing the locale of your site takes only 1 minute – but will require you to have admin rights on the site, denoted by you being able to see a Site Actions button at the top of the page, and on clicking the down arrow button, the menu would offer you a Site Settings option. Click on that, then look for clip_image006the Regional Settings option under the Site Administration heading. Set the local as appropriate and check that any sub-sites will also inherit the same settings.

clip_image007Enable Jump Lists

There’s a sweet little addin to SharePoint that also takes moments to add to a site, but which automatically exposes all of a site’s lists, libraries etc as a jump list to a taskbar-pinned icon. There are detailed instructions, and a walk-through video, on the SPJumpList site, but essentially:

  • Download the SPJumplist.WSP file to your PC
  • On the root site of the Site Collection (eg sharepoint/sites/yoursite), go into Site Settings, and under the Galleries section, go into Solutions and upload the WSP file
  • Click on the arrow to the right of the SPJumplist item and choose Activate, then click on the Activate option in the following screen

This should now make the SPJumplist solution available to any sites within the collection, and it’s just a matter of switching it on – for each site you want to enable it on, go into Site Settings and under the Site Actions heading, look in Managed Site Features. Scroll down to the SPJumplist item, click Activate, and a jump list should appear, showing everything in the site’s navigation list.

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Tip o’ the Week #52 – OneNote on 3 screens & a cloud

After the first year of ToWs, let’s start the 2nd with a short celebration of a cool feature in OneNote – not revolutionary, but the kind of thing that makes one smile when encountering it – somebody really thought about how OneNote was likely being used.

clip_image001Try typing a sum – like 52×1045= (that’s the number of ToW emails times the current readership) and when you press Enter, Space, TAB etc, you’ll see that OneNote does you the service of calculating the answer. It even works with brackets and everything… try out different operators (*, x, /, ^2 etc).

Not everything in OneNote’s garden is rosy. Try copying a table (with formatting) from Excel and pasting into a OneNote notebook and you’ll maybe feel a little short changed. You could try grabbing the screen area (by looking for the Screen Clipping tool on the Insert tab), or by pressing WindowsKey-S, which will immediately grab a screen area of your choice and paste it either into a OneNote book, or put it in the Clipboard.

Share and Share alike
OneNote is such a useful way of sharing info, using SharePoint to host shared OneNote documents for work purposes, or synching personal info around – there was a way of sharing a notebook between work & home PCs, using the now-superceded Live Mesh (which was replaced by Windows Live Mesh as part of Windows Live Essentials).

imageA potentially simpler way of achieving the same thing is to use the newly-upgraded SkyDrive & OneNote in concert with one another, using SkyDrive to create a notebook that lives in the cloud and then, having opened the Notebook in the OneNote Web App, it’s a snap to open it in OneNote and to synchronise it onto multiple PCs.

If you have a Windows Phone 7, check out the Office Hub and look in there at OneNote – if you set the WP7 up to use your Windows Live address and choose to sync OneNote with SkyDrive, it will (by default) create a notebook called Personal (Web) in the Documents / My Documents folder. You can keep it to yourself or share it with others – click the “Shared with:” link on SkyDrive to assign permissions.clip_image003

If you use this OneNote notebook to keep your scraps of personal stuff, it will synch to the cloud (accessible via a browser and OneNote Web App), via any number of PCs that you choose to synchronise it to, and it’ll also be accessible from – and updateable with – your phone.