#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.

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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the Windows RT and Surface RT cul-de-sac, then later the Windows 10X project and the Surface Pro X which was ultimately superseded by an Intel-powered replacement.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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


Tip o’ the Week 440 – Break out the whiteboard

clip_image001Teachers of any tenure will probably have used a blackboard, with the dusty chalk and the other paraphernalia that goes with it, and be thankful that whiteboards came along to make things easier. Many companies will have whiteboards in meeting rooms too, and most will have the good sense to never allow permanent marker pens within 100 yards of the whiteboard, and to throw away whiteboard markers when they stop working well, rather than put them back and pick up another one…

clip_image002As we move to a more digital future, the days of the whiteboard – like the flipchart before it – are giving way to electronic smart boards, first seen as a projector/camera arrangement over a relatively normal whiteboard, but now more integrated with screens and multi-touch sensors in front. Much like the Microsoft Surface Hub, in fact.

The Surface Hub 2 will be with us in 2019, and looks like a great step forward while mimicking some of the flipchart form factors of old. Just make sure no clown goes near it with a flipchart pen…

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Before the gorgeous-looking SH2 appears, there is some news for 1:few collaborators who like to use a smart board, especially if they’re not in the same room – the general availability of the Microsoft Whiteboard store app.

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Get it here. Oh, and Teams has a free version too, now… Go forth and collaborate!

Tip o’ the Week 439 – Go! Go! Go!

clip_image002The legendary Merry Talker made a big thing about his “Go(quite apart from his Colemanballs). Public Service Broadcasting celebrated the iconic Gene Kranz (nearly 49 years ago) calling round all the flight controllers to get them to agree whether the Eagle should “Stay” or “Go”. And, of course, there’s an ancient board game.

But if you haven’t been hiding under a rock for a few weeks, you may have seen news about the Microsoft Surface Go being announced.

Is it an “iPad Killer”? No. The tablet market is pretty saturated, and even if potential buyers of one device flock to the Go, it’s not likely to be kryptonite to the other. It’s probably more likely that the Go exists to appeal to potentially erstwhile Chromebook buyers, in sectors like education, or as companion device to existing Windows fans in the same way that some people use a tablet as a PC alternative when they travel.

Given its performance, the Surface Go is likely to be a useful 2nd machine for many PC users, rather than an alternative primary device – though some early reviews seem to make it sound pretty good. MJF reckons many variants (LTE, 8GB RAM/256GB SSD) will be forthcoming, so maybe the mix will change in time.

clip_image004So, Brits: like pretty much every “low-cost” device, the entry level £379 machine – now available for pre-order – isn’t the full story. It’s fairly low-spec and doesn’t come with a keyboard or stylus/pen, so ordering the one most people would want will be nearer double the headline price…

Oh well, start saving up now – or wait until late August and decide (after playing with it in the flesh – in store, maybe?) if it’s the right thing for you.

Tip o’ the Week 409 – Touchpad settings

clip_image002Once upon a time, mice had balls, and there was even a joke field service bulletin telling customers how to manage them better.

Microsoft has had a few funny KB articles over the years, too, though not necessarily intended to amuse. Barney sometimes plays on his own…, for example – who knew?

Given that a defining feature of mechanical meeces was the fact they had a rubbery ball inside, it seemed obvious to early laptop designers that a trackball would make sense to move the pointer around.

Eventually the touchpad took over, and divided opinion – some people just couldn’t live without a USB-tethered proper mouse, which they carted around with their laptop, while designers sought to add more and more functionality to the touchpad.

clip_image004A slew of 3 or even 4-finger gestures can change the behaviour of the machine, from switching between apps to controlling the system volume.

On a Windows 10 laptop, if you type touchpad at the start screen to find the settings that control it, you’ll see a load of clip_image006additional gestures have been added over time, depending on what capabilities your machine has (specifically, if it has a Precision Touchpad or not).

If you’re especially particular about how your touchpad works, you may wish to look into tuning it further through registry tweaks.

Tip o’ the Week 340 – Windows 10 Ink Workspace

clip_image002clip_image004One of the new features of Windows 10 with the Anniversary Update* is the Ink Workspace, which shows up on your taskbar if you have a pen-equipped device, like a Surface. If you don’t have a pen-capable device but you’re a bit insane, you can still make it appear (right click on your taskbar to see the option), though good luck in trying to emulate Ink with just a mouse. Surfaceers, unclip your pen and go.

clip_image006The Ink Workspace is designed to be a starting point for many ink-related capabilities: see more about it here.

There are some quite cute sticky notes that you can scribble on-screen, a one-screen-sized sketchpad that’s at least handy & interesting but of somewhat limited use (seriously, use Plumbago, which has recently been updated to support OneDrive sync, and will show up in the “Recently used” list if you have it).

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The Screen Sketch function lets you doodle on-screen and save grabs for future reference, and also surfaces he new Ruler function that is showing up in other ink-enabled apps – tap the ruler icon, and you get a rotate-able, moveable, virtual piece of plastic to help you draw straight lines on-screen.

clip_image010Other apps are being updated to support Ink, as with only a few lines of code, they can integrate the Ink Toolbar and fit into the Ink Workspace, too. A variety of other apps are also being suggested through the Workspace, leading to the Collections section of the Store. See here for a quick preview.

One example of a newly ink-capable app is Maps. It’s getting an inking menu that will let you drawn on the map and measure distances between drawn points, which is quite cute. Insiders on the Fast Ring have the new Maps app already; in time, it’ll surely percolate out to everyone else.

Whatever happens to other apps in future, inking within Windows is getting a good bit more mainstream, and that’s great news for anyone with a pen or even a touch-oriented device.

*if you don’t have the Anniversary Update yet, you can wait for it to appear on Windows Update, or force it by downloading the installer, here.