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 #148 – Some top Windows 8 Apps

Ring out the bells, Windows 8 is here! clip_image001

The UPS and DHL fairies have been (eventually) making deliveries of the first Surface with Windows RT devices to lucky folk. If you’ve been waiting for yours, at least it meant you had time to biff off to the flicks to see that film instead of staying home to play with a new “fondleslab”.

This week’s ToW is given over to a quick look at a few Windows 8 Apps, suitable (as any skoolboy kno) for both regular Windows PCs and also for the shiny new RT variants. If you have a favourite app you’d like to see show up here in future, please leave a comment and I’ll look into it. Click on the App name to see more, and follow a link the Store to download.


London Bus Checker

clip_image004Rob Orwin worked with the partner who built this app, and of course, recommends it thoroughly. The IOS version covers London only, but the Windows 8 version covers the whole of the UK! It also uses Bing Maps, TFL travel data from Azure, has a live tile, uses the Share and Search charm and is generally very useful and looks dead cool. Rob says he used it to find the bus from Paddington to Cardinal Place (in Victoria): way nicer than the tube, he had a seat all the way there, enjoyed some sunshine and it took 20mins! It could also put an end to the questions, “when / where does the TVP bus arrive / stop?” question on Social.

clip_image005News Bento

Here’s one of many news aggregator type applications, but not just a me-too. It’s a really slick app that shows you news headlines from lots of different sources, and it also includes news feeds from many sites – as well as the ability to provide your own feeds. It’s not an ideal “Modern UI” app in some ways – there’s no senantic zoom and there are a few UI funnies, but it’s free and it’s also very nice looking.


Thanks to Richard Peers for this tip-off. Didlr is a simple yet very powerful app, and also one of a few in its genre – that of drawing and doodling on-screen. Clearly, it makes more sense on a tablet or other touch device, but has a pretty sweet palette of brushes, tools and effects to keep the budding artist amused for a bit.


Here’s a nice Wikipedia application, which provides a good search front-end to the massed ranks of Wikipedia content, as well as some interesting asides like “On This Day” section. It’s the same content you can get on the Wikipedia web site, but presented in an easier-to-read format.

Metro Commander

clip_image008Geeks needs to be able to fiddle with files. Ordinary folk too, sometimes. Sure, you can still use Explorer to move stuff around, but if you want to operate within the M***o (don’t say that word!) environment, then you could look at Metro Commander to help you move your stuff around. All free, so what’s not to like?

There are more and more apps arriving in the Store every day. Check it out, have a browse, and look under the categories – for each, there’s a “What’s New” and a “Top Free” section.

Tip o’ the Week #147 – Sharing Windows 8 Apps

clip_image001The next few weeks’ Tips will be out of sequence since they coincide with the launch of Windows 8.

As the world continues to enjoy Windows 8 (4m copies sold in the first week, apparently), the number of apps in the Windows Store is growing every day. It’s easy to discover apps – fire up the Store app and browse through the categories, or search for app names (just press WindowsKey-Q and enter the search term, and click on Store in the app list).

Once you’ve found your favo(u)rite apps – and there are already several thousand in the store, with plenty of big names – then you’ll be delighted that you can install them on multiple PCs (up to 5, in fact). So, when you get your Shiny-Shiny Surface device, you’ll be able to install the same Modern apps as you already have on your Windows 8 PC.

In order to install Apps from the Store, sign in using your Hotmail/Passport/MSN/Live/Microsoft ID, and that means you can always track which apps you’ve previously “bought” – whether you paid for them, or they were freebies – and you can always install those apps on other PCs, or if you had to reinstall Windows, you could restore your App portfolio.

clip_image003There is a scenario though, which isn’t so obvious – what if you have other users signing in to your PC, but you want them to see the apps too? Try creating another account on your own Windows 8 PC, and if you sign into it using a Microsoft ID, the default is that the Store will want to use that ID when it comes to seeing what apps are available.

This means that if you set up a PC and install all your bestest apps, then create an account for your Significant Other to use it too, they’ll log in and be offered only the apps that come out of the box.

You can also do this with a Surface or other Windows RT tablet device – so it’s a cinch to switch between profiles and have all the personalisation and content follow each user from other PCs as well as be kept apart on the tablet. Try doing that on your fruit-based, single user tablet Smile

Share your apps

In order to let your better half see the apps you’ve already clip_image005purchased/downloaded and installed, you need to go into the Store, bring up the Charms†  (WindowsKey-C, swipe from the right, or throw your mouse into the top or bottom right of the screen), open Settings then go into Your account and Change user to set the account that will be used for the Store.

† Not to be confused with the lucky variety.

Now, when you swipe from the top or bottom of the screen when in the Store (or press WindowsKey-Z, or right-click the mouse anywhere), you’ll be able to look at Your apps and see the apps that are available but not installed under the user’s account…

clip_image006When you’re finished “installing” the apps, you could – if you want – reverse the process so your S.O. could go and buy/install their own favourite apps on the PC too. And you won’t get to see whatever apps they choose to install, on your “Your apps” list.

Tip o’ the Week #144 – Office 2013 Templates

A short and sharp tip this week, courtesy of Louis Lazarus, concerning the way the New Office clip_image002handles template files… and how to configure search in Outlook 2013 to be a bit more fullsome. See more templates online, and now, over to Louis…

When you create a new document in Office 2013 with Word, Excel, etc, you are not given a choice of the templates on your local machine.  You can fix this by…

1. Click File, Options

2. Select the Save item in the menu on the left

3. Enter the location of your templates folder in the “Default personal templates location”…

4. clip_image005Click OK

Now when you select New, you will see a choice of Featured or Personal Templates – click on PERSONAL to see your templates…

clip_image007Outlook 2013

By default Outlook 2013 only includes your emails for the last 12 months.  You will usually see a message saying something like “there are more items on the server” – clicking the link sometimes returns more items and sometimes does not.  To get rid of this message and have all your items sync’d to your PC…

1. Click File, Account Settings…

2. Click Change… and drag the slider to get All mail items…

3. Click Next and then Finish

4. Now all your mail will be available offline.