Tip o’ the Week #204 – Mirror, mirror, on the big screen


Many people who’ve had a new laptop in the last year will have experienced the frustration of showing up in a meeting room, only to find that you have no means of projecting onto the screen – there are at least 5 different types of connector that could go into the laptop, and 2 or 3 that might be supported by the screen in the room.

clip_image003Wireless projection has been promised for years, with a series of proprietary and clunky technologies that never really took off. All this is set to change, using a technology which started as a consumer function on high-end TVs, yet is filtering down to £200 tellies and will be mainstream on projection systems going forward. Maybe. For now, we have to live with a profusion of dongles while projecting at work, but what about in the home? Ever fancied delivering a PPT presentation to the gathered family?

Miracast” is a standard which allows devices – PCs and Android tablets, mainly (Apple does not support Miracast, preferring their own proprietary technology) – to replicate their display and sounds onto a remote device. Windows 8.1 now supports Miracast, and if your home TV is new, then you might well find it enables the screen mirroring technology too.

There are third-party Miracast devices which can bring wireless access to your “legacy” TV and sound system, potentially – EZCast HDMI WiFi adapters or the Netgear PTV3000. Maybe it’s worth treating your living room to some remote projection goodness?

A few things to check:

  • You can only use Miracast over WiFi – it’s not applicable using wired connections, and some WiFi networks won’t support it either.
  • Even if you’ve got an appropriate telly and a Windows 8.1 machine with the right kind of WiFi adapter, you may still need to get an updated display driver (either from your PC manufacturer or from Intel directly).
  • clip_image004Surface RT currently does not support Miracast even though the Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC that powers the original Surface, does. Surface Pro and 2 should be OK.
  • You’ll need to add the TV to your PC, akin to pairing a Bluetooth device – a one-off process that is pretty self-explanatory, though if it doesn’t go smoothly, return to the “update your driver” section.
  • As you may see, this is still not exactly Plug & Play…

Having said that, when it works – it works well. Think of Miracast as like HDMI over WiFi, so could be a way of streaming music to a TV connected to a sound system. Hello Xbox Music Pass, bye-bye Sonos?

To find out more, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to project and some more details on how it works, here.

Tip o’ the Week #202 – Screen grabs, reprised

clip_image004Previous ToWs have covered how to capture the screen image on Windows, but things have moved on a little of late and it seems like a good time to highlight how to take an image of the screen on a number of devices. Props to Liam Kelly and Rachel Peck for inspiring this discussion.

There are any number of 3rd party screen grab utilities but here are some integral ways of doing so. Snap, Snap, Grin, Grin

Windows 8.1

ToW #183 uncovered a hack to replace the WindowsKey+S combination OneNote used but which was appropriated by Windows 8.1 preview, meaning that Win+S snappers were left with no easy way of capturing areas of the screen.

GREAT NEWS! The RTM of Windows 8.1 (or is it an update to OneNote?) has restored the ability to capture areas of the screen, this time by using WindowsKey + SHIFT + S. This method has the benefit of being able to screen grab parts of the Start screen and of modern apps too.

Windows 8.x devices

To quickly add the whole screen (or a combination of all of your displays if you’re running multi-mon) to the clipboard, just press WindowsKey + PrtScn.

If you want to capture the whole screen and find yourself lacking a PrtScn button (eg on the Surface) or in fact with no keyboard at all (eg tablets aplenty), you are able to grab the screen(s) by holding the volume down button and pressing the hardware Windows logo, at the bottom of the screen. The screen dims momentarily in both of the above methods, to let you know that the image has been dropped into the clipboard, ready for pasting into Word, Outlook or your favourite image manipulation app. Or MSPAINT.

Windows Phone 8

Simple – lightly press & hold the power/standby button and quickly press the Windows button on the front of the phone. The screen flashes briefly, the camera shutter noise may play (so careful playing with this feature in any situation where you wouldn’t want to look like you’re taking a photo…) and the resulting image is saved to the Screenshots folder within the Pictures hub.

Streaming music at home

imageThose of us who like the idea of streaming music around our homes have a plethora of technologies available to make it a reality. Sadly, all of them – at least all the ones which work well – are proprietary and have some degree of “lock in” to the suppliers. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing from a user experience perspective, once you’re locked in, then you’re at the whim of a manufacturer deciding to continue supporting the system you’ve invested time and money into building up.

I’ve been playing around with streaming music for years, and have a few experiences to share, with some links to interesting discussion topics elsewhere on the net. Hands up – I work for Microsoft, and my preferences in the past have been to go down the Microsoft-compatible route as much as possible. Not necessarily the easiest route to take, as it turns out…

Apple AirPlaysee more on Wikipedia

Introduced in 2010 as an evolution of a previous proprietary protocol (AirTunes), Apple’s AirPlay is the slickest system around – as long as you have Apple devices everywhere. This alone makes it compelling enough for consumers who have already got an iPhone/iPad/iPod, to invest in other kit that purports to be compatible. There’s something of a dependency on Apple not shifting the goal posts in future, but for the majority of users who are in the Apple device fold, “it just works”.

Chris Hoffman recently published a great overview of all the wireless standards on How-To Geek. Chris highlights the various efforts the non-Apple industry has tried to counter AirPlay with – Intel’s WiDi wireless display, the somewhat disappointing DLNA alliance and the frustratingly non-aligned Miracast standard. In time, there might be a credible and non-proprietary alternative that works as well as AirPlay, but nobody seems to know when.

I have one old iPod bought only because a previous car had a 3rd party device available that swapped out its CD changer for an iPod; that side of things works well enough, but having to suffer iTunes on the PC ever since is the cross I have to bear.

Slim Devices / Logitech Squeezebox

Logitech bought over Slim Devices in 2006, to acquire their network streaming product, Squeezebox. After bringing out a number of well-regarded devices which supported the proprietary Slim Server (later “Logitech Music Server”) software, which offered a web interface as well as a number of 1st and 3rd party mobile control applications (such as SqueezeRemote for Windows Phone or Windows 8). Squeezebox devices have been discontinued now, and Logitech switched the brand to “UE Radio” – which used basically the same hardware as the last Squeezebox Radio, but with new operating software which was not Squeezebox compatible. After some disquiet from existing users, it’s now possible to “downgrade” the UE Radio back to Squeezebox however there appears to be no future development for Squeezebox apart from occasional updates to the server software. The UE Smart Radio has now disappeared from the US web site, and the UK one is showing pretty deep discounting. Looks like that’s the end of that.

I’ve had a Squeezebox Boom for a number of years, and it’s a great piece of kit – they change hands on Ebay now for not much less than they sold for brand new.

Logitech have switched tack to being a wireless speaker provider (eg the UE Mini Boom), which is possibly more user friendly if all you want to do is play music on your mobile device, but doesn’t really help if you’re looking to stream music around the house from a central library. it’s a pity, really – the Squeezebox worked really well when you got it up and running, and attracted a devoted set of users, audiophiles amongst them. Those looking for something else to replace SB with, seem to inevitably draw the conclusion that without relying on DIY or community-driven open source projects, there’s nothing much out there, but…


Been around for since 2002, selling one platform for streaming over WiFi or over their own proprietary wireless standard. The range of devices is expanding (and to a degree contracting – the dedicated Sonos controller has been superseded with mobile apps for iOS and Android). A whole bunch of new devices have been released in the last year. SONOS starts to make a lot of sense once you have multiple devices, as you can specify different zones within your house, and play different music in each zone. Some of the devices can even be combined together – so the PLAY:1 speaker could be a standalone player in one room, could combine with a 2nd PLAY:1 to make a stereo pair, or could even be configured as satellite speakers for a home theatre system.

Downsides with SONOS? Well, they still haven’t come off the fence as to whether they’re going to build a Windows 8 or Windows Phone app controller app – ask SONOS directly and you’ll be sent to request it on their online forum, but at the time of writing and despite being the single most asked-for feature, the last comment from SONOS themselves was 6 months ago and doesn’t say whether they are planning on doing either. There are 3rd party apps out there – like Phonos or Sonata – but they don’t offer the same degree of control as the kosher apps do on other platforms, or on Windows 7/8 desktop.

Another bummer about moving from Squeezebox to SONOS is that the latter doesn’t support Lossless WMA playback – years ago, I ripped my whole CD collection in WMA, so it’s a bind to have to convert the whole lot to FLAC just so that SONOS can play it back without reducing the quality to 320kpbs. The free conversion software FOOBAR2000 did the trick of batch converting everything, but that’s just a pain to have to deal with.

SONOS supports Spotify (Premium only) so the next decision is whether to move off Xbox Music and take the plunge to a more expensive Spotify service…


Tip o’ the Week #199 – Checking your home network speed

As winter bites, as roadworks cause pandemonium, there may be a trend for staff to work at home more. Microsofties all know Lync powers the ability to effectively work and be contactable when you’re sitting in your shreddies in your home office.

If you have a less than perfect broadband connection, though, Lync may be a cause of frustration as it reverts to warning of a “pretty bad” connection, and remote clip_image001participants might complain about not being able to hear you, even if you can more-or-less hear them.

This is a symptom of a poor internet connection at home – very likely nothing to do with whether you’re on WIFI or wired, as the connection to the internet is likely the bottleneck in both cases. If in any doubt, there are a few tests you can run to see if your network is under pressure, and maybe even figure out why.

Test, test and test again

It’s always difficult to get an accurate idea of your own broadband speed – it’s quite variable so from one minute to the next, you can get wildly different results. If there is a bottleneck, it could be anywhere between you and the resource you’re trying to connect to – and any *** in the chain could be causing the issue.

clip_image003Speedtest.net is a popular site for testing your connection  speed over a minute or two (making sure you don’t click on any of the adverts to speed up your PC, clean the Registry, install Google Chrome etc).

It will first test your “PING” (the time in milliseconds it takes to send a request and get a response, ideally in single or low double figures), then tries a download followed by a short upload test. Typical ADSL speeds could be 2-6mbps (megabits/sec, so 6mbps would equate to 0.75 Mb per second) download, and a few hundred kbps upload (kilobits/sec, so a 250kbps rating equates to only 31.25 Kb per second). Fancy-pants cable or fibre broadband types need not worry – generally – clip_image005though sometimes may see varying spikes and troughs in the connection fidelity. The very rural who insist on living miles from the nearest telephone exchange may be stuck with 1mbps down though your upload speed may still be in the few hundred kbps.

If you imagine being on a Lync call, the upload speed is the bottleneck to decent quality – where you might be made sound like a fast/slow/quick-quick/slow Dalek to other participants if  you have too low bandwidth, or too high latency, or PING results (a symptom of the latency in the network being too high to effectively support real-time communications such as a voice call or an Xbox Live game).

To find out what your theoretical maximum speeds should be, you might be able to check in the configuration of your router, or else (assuming you’re on BT provided broadband), try using the BT Wholesale Speed Tester. Run the first test, then click on Further Diagnostics, provide your landline phone number and you’ll get more info.

clip_image007Pingtest.net needs Java (oooh, how quaint) installed on your PC to get the most out of it, but still kinda-works without it. It will test the quality of your connection (as opposed to the speed of it) and can be a useful barometer of troubles elsewhere. One issue that can cause very high reported latency could be that your connection is being maxed out by something else – kids in the house streaming movies, downloading large files etc.

Uploads can kill the capacity of your connection, however – if you’re uploading files to a SharePoint site over DirectAccess, for example, you’ll see a drop in perceived download speed too and your reported latency will likely shoot up.

clip_image009There’s a nice utility called WinMTR which can be used to track the latency between you and the internet (or in fact, of your broadband supplier’s network – who knows, maybe the problem is upstream and in the telephone exchange?). Drop in a URL or IP address and you’ll get the equivalent of a TRACERT performed repeatedly, showing average, best & worst response times for each hop between you and the eventual resource – if you’re seeing averages that are reasonable but the odd very high spike, then you’ve got a problem.

What’s causing the bottleneck?

If you’ve managed to rule out errant family members as possible causes of your poor connection, it’s worth checking your own PC before chewing out the broadband supplier – you never know, it could be a background process on your own machine that’s doing the damage.

With Windows 8.1 and the deep SkyDrive integration, as well as SkyDrive Pro and the ability to take files offline with SharePoint 2013, it’s quite possible that your own PC is busy uploading Gbs worth of content back to the office, all the time hammering your home network uplink, and causing massive latency for Lync and other applications. To perform a quick check on what is using the network on your machine, then Resource Monitor is your friend.


To start the tool, go to Task Manager (right click on the Taskbar and choose Task Manager, or else press CTRL-SHIFT-ESC, a simple three-finger gesture all along the left on your keyboard). Once in Task Manager, you can get some basic info on what’s hogging your machine’s resources, both now and (for Modern Apps) historically, and you can also see some pretty detailed stats on how the machine is performing all-up.

In the Performance tab, there’s an Open Resource Monitor button. If you know you want to go straight there, clip_image013you could just type resmon at the Start menu to jump straight to the app.

clip_image015Once you have the Resource Monitor up and running, a simple check is to look in the Network tab – click to sort by Send B/sec and you can see if something is bogging down the machine’s performance trhough upload…

If you tick one of the check boxes next to a particular process, you’ll see (under Network Activity, TCP Connections and Listening Ports) what activity that particular application is doing. Watch out for GROOVE.EXE and SKYDRIVE.EXE as potential file synchronisation clip_image017villains…

You could try right-clicking on the SkyDrive Pro applet in the system tray, and choose to Pause syncing. That’s GROOVE taken care of (you thought you’d seen the last of that application? Think again…). If you’ve other processes causing problems, try right-clicking on the process name and Search Online to find out what it might be, and get you one step closer to figuring out how to return normality.

Tip o’ the Week #194 – Windows 8.1 Reading List

Windows 8.1 is now available free for existing users of Windows 8, and in a break with tradition, will not be sold as an upgrade to existing installed Windows versions – it’ll just be the full version, and that’s it.

Upgrading from Windows 8.1 Preview isn’t officially supported – though it can be done (you do need to match the language version exactly – if you installed the Preview as English US, you’ll need the English US ISO from the MSDN etc site, to upgrade).

clip_image002There are plenty new features in Windows 8.1, as well as the much-documented return of the Start button (after all the fuss about the removal of the Start button from Windows 8, and the subsequent rush from application vendors to restore it, there’s already a Start Killer app for Win8.1 which removes the reinstated Start button… you can’t win, sometimes…)

There are a bunch of new apps with Windows 8.1, and major improvements to existing ones. One new app of some interest is the Reading List: the idea being that if you’re looking at web sites in the IE11 browser (the Modern UI version) or possibly reading content in other apps (like the Store), if you flick the Charms out and choose Share, then you can add the site/content link to you Reading List.

Start the Reading List app up, and it will show you the list of sites you’ve bookmarked, and also make use of Windows 8.1’s improved side/side view, to show the content shown alongside.


Tip o’ the Week #157 – Bing photos R Us

clip_image002Everybody loves the lovely photos that feature every day on Bing. Did you know the images can and do differ in disparate markets (eg PRC, USA and UK tend to have different images from each other)?

You can set the flavour of Bing you’d like to see on http://www.bing.com/account/worldwide, so if you don’t love the current pic, you could always have a look at what’s online elsewhere.

clip_image003Or click/push back to get an image from the previous week.

If you’re a budding snapper (FTE), you can submit your own photos to be included on the Bing homepage – here. You could even join the Bing Homepage Monthly Report DL here to keep up with developments.

If you’re interesting in photography in Blighty, you could try tagging along to one of the short courses by Going Digital to get you off “Auto” mode.
Snap snap, grin grin, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more…?

Viewing on your lock screen & desktop

Since most of us are simply content to enjoy the daily pic, there are a few apps that can assist. The Bing Desktop App (for regular PCs, and it even runs on Windows 7), has been around for a little while, but usefully serves up news headlines as well as optionally providing a fresh desktop photo every day. If you don’t like the fact that it eats up a space on your taskbar (even when you right-click on that icon and choose Close Window), then you can drag the bar to the top or bottom of your screen and dock it – whereupon it shrinks nearly out of sight when not in use.

If you’ve set up Windows 8 with a Microsoft account synchronising your settings, then you’ll even see the daily image on your other devices – like a Surface or home PC.

Bing my lockscreen and desktop

If you’d prefer to actually set the image from a Windows 8 Modern App (aka an orteMapp), suitable for running on your Surface, you might want to try Bing my lockscreen, as recommended by Simon Boreham. If you search the store for Bing Wallpaper, you’ll find a slew of other apps to view or download previous images, but there don’t appear to be any that will automate the setting of your desktop wallpaper to the daily image in the same way that the Bing Desktop app does.

Tip o’ the Week #145 – Fun with Drag ‘N Drop

Some things in computing have been around for so long, that it’s hard to envisage or remember a time before them. Take the humble mouse – Mr Scott might not recognise what it’s for, but at least until touch and gestures take over the world, we are all familiar with its basic operation.

clip_image002Doug Engelbart prototyped the original “mouse” (pictured left) and despite it being patented, never managed to really make anything of it – though Xerox did. Well, Xerox PARC boffins developed the idea, but it took a young Californian Hippy to really put it to the market. The mouse moved on from a couple of metal discs in Engelbart’s version, to a rubber coated ball then laser or LED variants, driven largely by Microsoft’s hardware designers evolving how the thing was being used.

Basic rodentry activity is pretty well understood, but there are a few Windows-oriented actions that a lot of people just don’t seem to realise they can do. In Windows 8, for example, the mouse is a central way of invoking a lot of the new UI capabilities – and it’s not about clicking on a specific place, but more about making gestures with it.

  • Move your mouse to the top left of your screen, and you’ll show a thumbnail preview of the last “Modern App” that you were running, if at all. You can click on it to switch to it, and keep clicking to switch through any other apps you’re running (including the Desktop itself).
  • When you move the mouse to the top left, if you then start to move down, you’ll see a list of all the Modern Apps you’re running, including the Start menu, shown in the bottom left. If you put the mouse in the bottom left, you’ll see the Start screen.

There are a few further actions that are as old as the hills, yet many people never discover them or get told about them. Everyone knows about drag & drop, right? You know, click on a file to select it, hold the button down to pick it up, then drag it and release to drop it somewhere else…?

Did you know if you have an Application open (in trad Desktop mode on Windows 8, or in many previous versions), and you drag a file onto its icon on the task bar, that will bring the application window to the foreground… and if you subsequently clip_image003drop the file into the open window, it will open the file or do something else interesting with it?

What could “something else interesting” be? Well, if you’ve a file on your PC that you want to attach to an email, for example, then go Explorer or where the file is located, drag the file to the taskbar where your email is open, hold it over the Outlook application icon and you’ll see a list of open messages… drag and hold over the one you want and (even if you get a little “no way Jose icon”, meaning you can’t drop it yet) you’ll bring that message window to the front.

Simply now drop your file into the waiting window, and attach it to the message. Where this really works well if is if you want to send someone a document you already have in email – instead of saving it out of the original message then re-attaching it, or worse, dragging it to your desktop just so you can send it on, simply:

  • Start writing the message you want to send (and if in Outlook 2013, “Pop Out” that window)
  • In the main Outlook window, find the message with the attachment you want to forward
  • Click & Drag the attachment from that message to the taskbar, hold it over the Outlook icon, then hold it over the thumbnail of the new message – this will cause your new message window to come to the foreground
  • Move your mouse over that new window and let go – you’ve now dragged and dropped, and attached the prior attachment to a new mail. Hooray!

Of course, you could use SharePoint, or SkyDrive Pro, or any number of ways to do it properly. But who’s got time for all that?

Tip o’ the Week #149 – Take up thy Surface and Walk!

clip_image003Far out, man! The Surface, maybe more correctly described as the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT, has finally landed and, despite the odd bump in the logistics road for some, it’s flying out of (the) store(s).

In the UK, the Surface 32Gb with no cover keeps selling out – the only option if you want an other-than-black touch cover, unless you buy one with the black cover and splash out on a more lurid one as an accessory. The good news is, a few more colours have now appeared on the UK store – so if you’re holding out for a magenta or red cover, then fill your boots. Or you basket. Big-time Surface fanboy Edward Hyde is waiting for a camouflage-coloured keyboard; or perhaps some paint.

If you haven’t bought a Surface, then go and order one now. Yes, Santa Claus might be bringing you one in only a few weeks, but it’s such a beautiful device that you need one beforehand, and you wouldn’t want to run the risk of missing out, would you. You can always palm it off onto someone else in your family if you get one as a pressie, anyhoo.

clip_image005Regardless of which version of Windows 8 you use, make sure you keep the Apps up to date – there were lots of updates which came out shortly before General Availability. If you look at the Store tile on the home screen, and there’s a number showing, that indicates that some of the apps you have installed need to be updated. To download & install those updates, go into clip_image006the Store app, and click on the Updates link at the top right to list what’s available and to kick off the process. Apps, you see, are not updated by Windows Update.

Here’s something demo-worthy of Windows 8, that works particularly well if you have a Surface already…

Have you looked at the Bing “Travel” app in any detail? Even if you’re using Windows 8 on a non-touch laptop or desktop, it’s still a very cool app to play with and show people as an example of the Modern UI.
Somewhere to go after dark if you fancy getting chibbed, perhaps?

Try the Panorama view whilst holding a Surface, or some other Win8 device with the appropriate accelerometers, and it’s impossible not to be impressed. See this demo if you can’t experience it first-hand right clip_image007away.

If you do have a Surface already…

  • Did you know that if you press the Windows button on the device (ie the one on the front below the screen) and the volume-down key on the left hand side, it takes a snap-shot of the screen to the clipboard…?
  • Make sure you run Windows Update and get the new version of Office 2013, which moved the code from Preview to the final release.
  • Did you know that the video out is just a regular micro-HDMI port, so you can use the VGA dongle from the Samsung Series 9 ultrabook or 7 tablet?
    Or get a micro-HDMI – HDMI or VGA cable from Amazon for a fraction of the cost of the official accessory? Shhhh.
  • and that you can even run the Surface in multi-monitor Mode (press WindowsKey+P on the keyboard after you’ve plugged into an external display)…?

app o’ the week


AudioBoo – free

clip_image010this week’s featured application…

Here’s a cool app highlighted by Liam Kelly… in his own words:

If Twitter is too outdated for you and you also believe that the “spoken word has been left behind in the current explosion of online innovation”, then Audioboo is the app for you. Come and join the likes of Stephen Fry & fellow Boo’ers and capture your own audio “Boos” and share them with the world!

Comedian Fred MacAulay knows that sometimes Boo isn’t enough (that link will take you to videos you shouldn’t listen to at work, unless you have headphones). In this case, AudioBoo is worth it only to hear an ex-Dr Who reciting the lyrics of S. Ballet’s “Gold” in a Shakespeare stylee.

Look out for the falsettoesque “Gold! Gold!” – diamond!.

Click on the logo or link to the left to find out more, and install the app on Windows 8 PC.


Tip o’ the Week #139 – Taskbar fun

clip_image003Windows 95 (aka “Chicago”) introduced us to the wonders of the Windows “Taskbar” as a way of managing open apps.  It was a response to people’s increased ability and need to multitask in Windows, as previous versions of the OS provided no ready visual indication of how many windows were currently open. Other than a pile of open windows on the screen, obviously.clip_image005

Windows 7 brought with it some brilliant enhancements to the taskbar that have pretty much remained unchanged in Windows 8 (even the spirit of the Start Button is there, if only you drift your mouse over to the bottom left of the screen…)  Useful functions like Jump Lists and the ability to pin Internet Explorer favourites by dragging them directly to the taskbar (see ToW #83 and #86) are all retained in Windows 8.

Like every step forward, however, there was a down side to the changes made in Windows 7 (& by the same token to Windows 8), in the way the taskbar behaves with certain apps that offer no additional functionality by situating themselves on the taskbar (other than cluttering it up). Lync and Skype are examples of ‘always on’ but not as frequently used as Outlook, which has a permanent place on just about all of our taskbars.

There are other taskbar villains out there too – the Windows Live Messenger app always wanted to stick itself there, even if you didn’t sign in – but with the groovy “Messaging” app now part of Windows 8, you could spam FB & Windows Live Messenger, all from a single, chromeless, modern, Windows UI app style UI app, so who needs separate apps to do all those things anyway?

Here’s how to banish those Skype & Lync apps to the ‘tray notification area’ (a.k.a. systray) while they are not in use. [Rumour has it that we’re going to merge Skype & Lync together at some point and call it Slync. Actually, that isn’t true but it would be amusing and certainly better than “Klype”].


Lync 2010/2013

  • Open Lync and click on Options (cog wheel) located in the top right
  • On the General tab, locate a section called Application Window and check the box next to it
  • Click OK and watch the icon disappear from the taskbar (that is if you don’t have any open Lync conversations) clip_image007


  • Open Skype and navigate to the Tools > Options menu
  • Uncheck the ‘Keep Skype in the taskbar while I’m signed in’ checkbox
  • Click Save and close the Skype window

If you’re using a widescreen monitor or laptop, try setting the taskbar to the side of the screen – it’s more efficient and allows better navigation for most people. Try it out by checking out this KB article.

Tip o’ the Week #135 – Outlook 2013 Calendar first look

clip_image001You may have seen news of Office 2013 (aka “Office 15”), and if you’re a committed early adopter, you might even have started using the preview. It’s possible to run Office 2013 alongside an existing install of Office 2010 using “Click To Run” application virtualisation technology, so there’s perhaps a lower risk in dogfooding it than there has ever been before with test releases of Office.

Since Outlook is the application we’ll spend more time in than any other, let’s have a look at a few tweaks in the new version. The early experience of Outlook is that it’s quite different – it certainly looks more “flat” and more “white” than previous versions: a bit odd at first, but it’s  quick & easy to get used to.

Take the Weather with you

clip_image002One neat feature in the new Calendar is the weather forecast being brought into the calendar. To manage your locations, click on the down arrow to the right, and if you click on the x next to any existing location, it will get removed from the list. Obviously, clicking on Add Location will let you search for places to put on the list.

clip_image003Somewhat obtusely, if you live in the majority of the world which uses Celsius, basing your temperature on one where water freezes at 32 and boils at 212 degrees seems a bit odd. Brits still talk centigrade, but since the late 1940s, the preferred term was Celsius since a centigrade is a French and Spanish term for a unit that is 1/10,000th of a right angle. And we don’t want to get our temperatures and our miniscule fragments of angles mixed up now, do we?

Anyway. To change the default temperature scale, simply (when in the main Outlook window), go into File | Options | Calendar and scroll all the way to the bottom, then look at the Weather options. Maybe it’ll get a bit more obvious by the time of release.

Zoom Zoom

This function is really designed for touch use, but it also works with desk-based rodents or touchpads on laptops. Go into your Calendar and if you want to switch from day view to see the whole week or month (or vice versa), you could use the view option on the Ribbon. Since many of us may hide the Ribbon by default (and Office 2013 makes a good job of getting itself full-screen), you can do the same thing using Zoom in and out. On a touch screen, just pinch fingers in & out, or if you’re using a mouse, press the CTRL key and use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out.


Remember Microsoft’s Actimates Barney consumer electronics product? No?? Check him out here… One of Barney’s tricks was to play Peek-a-boo, though there was once a related knowledge base (KB) article titled, “Sometimes Barney Starts Playing clip_image006Peekaboo on His Own”. Creepy.

Well, “Peek” has a new meaning in Outlook 2013, where you can see what’s in your calendar on a given day without needing to switch from the Inbox view to the Calendar view – just hover over “Calendar on the Navigation pane at the bottom of the Outlook window, then click on any one of the dates to see a scrollable list of the appointments on that day.

Double-click on the appointment to open it in a separate window.