Tip o’ the Week #278 – Skype for Business UI tips

clip_image001Skype for Business has rolled out across a good number of customers and it’s, generally-speaking, a great UI update compared to Lync. The clients’ histories were covered a few weeks ago, if you’re interested…

But there are a few differences that could catch people out. If you join a conference call, for example, it’s possible you won’t see the list of attendees, where with the old Lync client, you’d be able to quickly show them with a  click of the chunky Participants button clip_image002in the Lync meeting UI. In Skype for Business, during an IM chat or call, you’ll see there’s no equivalent participant button – there’clip_image004s the usual button to show the IM window, which shows the text chat section but not the participants button.

clip_image006This has been moved to higher up in the UI – it varies depending on which kind of chat/meeting/conference you’re in. Click on the icon to the left of clip_image008the text (hover and you’ll see the Open Participant List tooptip) and you’ll be able to view that list.

On a simple IM conversation, the same thing is true, too, only with a smaller button.



If you look in the Settings | Tools | Options page within the Skype for Business client, under the Skype Meetings setting, you can set the default on what happens when you join a meeting.


There are some other tweaks too, such as using the view icon on the top right of the meeting window – Gallerclip_image014y View shows you a horizontally-arranged list of attendees’ mugshots, which can be right-clicked to interact with them. Speaker View hides clip_image016all of that, but still shows  a picture of you next to the person who’s currently speaking, and Content View hides both in favour of the presentation content that’s being shown (the “Stage”).

Tip o’ the Week #279 – Windows 10’s multiple desktops

clip_image002Windows 10 is developing apace. A new build (10112) arrived this week if you’re on the “Fast Ring” for getting updates (check here if you’re already on Win10 but are not sure about how quickly you’ll get updates). Sometimes, latest builds get two steps forward and one step back, though; if you want to be on the leading edge, be prepared for occasional gremlins.

If you’re not using Windows 10 yet, then check out the Windows Insider program (there are millions of participants already).

One of the nice features of Windows 10 that’s maybe less obvious than the Start Menu, the windowed Modern apps etc etc, is theclip_image005 ability to have multiple desktops. clip_image003To access, just click on the the Task View icon on your taskbar – assuming you are showing that icon (if not, right-click on the task bar and enable it). Another means to access it is to press WindowsKey+TAB (remember that Flip 3D feature in Vista that nobody used outside of demos?)


The Task View gives you a nice layout of all the running applications’ windows, so you can see what’s happening and quickly jump between them. Down in the bottom-right corner, there’s a New Desktop button… click that and you can create multiple, virtual desktops to arrange your windows on.

If you run lots of applications and want to group them appropriately, you could dock them onto each clip_image009of the virtual desktops that appear at the bottom of the task view screen – just drag & drop the windows of your running apps.

Now, if you look in Task View, you’ll only see the windows that are docked onto the virtual desktop you have selected, though if you use the old ALT-TAB way of switching between apps, you’ll see all of them in the list, regardless of which virtual desktop they’re currently sitting on.

Keyboard shortcut junkies might want to know that WndKey+CTRL+D will create you a new desktop and jump straight to it, WndKey+CTRL+F4 will close the current desktop and move any windows that are on it, to the next desktop. Perhaps the most useful combo of all is WndKey+CTRL+LEFT or +RIGHT, which flicks between the desktops you have open – so if you’re doing work that needs you to quickly move between two apps, especially if you only have a single physical screen, then this is a great way of doing it.

Tip o’ the Week #276 – Reduce massive PowerPoint files


clip_image004Windows Explorer has a search function which can filter found files, based on some attribute or other – so you return files that are only of a particular type or age, or maybe of a specific size. The problem is, the understanding of what is a big file has changed over the years.

In the days of the floppy disk, any file larger than 1Mb was a bit unwieldy. When server hard disks cost £1,000 per Gb, then file servers would impose quotas of maybe a few 10s of Mbs per user.

But now, with storage so cheap (e.g. a 4Tb hard drive is a little over £100, Azure storage is a few pennies per Gb/month, and OneDrive seemingly can’t wait to give it away) it’s easy to become blasé about very large files.clip_image006

One particular culprit in the generation of unnecessarily mahoosive files is PowerPoint. With the ease of inserting graphics and video, especially, it’s not hard to get files well into double figures of megabytes, which can be problematic to email and take ages to open. There are a few tips that can help you keep the size a little more trim.

clip_image008Delete stuff you don’t need

Well, duh. Obviously, deleting stuff can make a big difference to the file size: before distributing a deck, maybe dump the hidden slides and the many appendix slides unless you feel they might be a useful reference…

It’s sometimes not as easy as ditching slides you don’t need, however – the template you’re using might have a lot of imagery that’s unnecessary in it, so it may be worth cleaning up a little.

Go into the View tab, look under Slide Master and you’ll be able to see the slide templates that define the look and the layout of new slides. It’s not uncommon to find hundreds of these, though in most cases they’re not a cause for concern – unless they have lots of images embedded.

This is particularly the case when an elaborate slide deck is produced for a conference, and people start using that template as the basis for their own presentations, because it’s got a really nice background or whatever – not realizing that the template might have 10Mb of grinning stooges holding long-obsolete mobile devices and conference logos from years gone by. If you don’t use the graphics slides, feel free to delete them from the master, then Close Master View to go back the regular deck. (Might be an idea to save a copy of the deck first, just in case you muck it up…)

Look within

The PPTX file format that has been used by PowerPoint since 2007 is part of the Open XML file formats – the idea being that instead of a proprietary binary file, the artefacts and contents within the file are described using XML according to a published format, so other applications could re-use the files. In order to achieve this and not end up with huge file bloat (XML not being well known for its brevity), the whole shebang is compressed.

What you may not know is that all of the Open XML formats use the same compression as ZIP files, and if you rename the .PPTX extension to .ZIP, you’ll be able to see inside it.

clip_image010Navigate to your file location, and make sure can see the file extensions – go to the View tab in Explorer and tick the File name extensions box if you can’t see them.  Make a copy of the PPTX file you want to work on, select it and right-click to Rename (or just press F2). Now overtype the .pptx bit at the end with .zip, and agree to the dire warning that the Earth might stop turning if you continue.

Now open the ZIP file up and look in a couple of places to see what is likely to be making it huge – ppt\media and ppt\embeddings are a couple of notable sources (the clip_image012former when you’ve maybe got a video or just lots of high-res pictures embedded, and the latter is a common source of embedded XLS files which might be unnecessary… ie. Maybe you could get away with a simple copy of relevant data, rather than the whole file?). Maybe the best way to slim down the file is to open the un-renamed one in PowerPoint, then navigate to the place where the huge content was and resize, compress or replace it.

Compress pictures

A very simple way of cutting the size of large files without digging around in their innards might clip_image014be just to compress pictures – you can get to that from the Format tab when you have a picture selected, and clip_image016individually reduce the size and resolution of each image.

Alternatively, when it’s time to save your work, use Save As and under the Tools drop down in the lower right of the dialog, you can invoke the same function, but which applies clip_image018to every image in the deck.

Choose the appropriate resolution – Screen is probably a good one for PPT, though the same picture compression functionality is also available in Word and Outlook, so if you’re pasting images into an email then resizing them, it’s an idea to compress them and you can get away with an even lower resolution there.

Tip o’ the Week #275 – Prioritising External Email

Do you suffer from email overload? The temptation is to get dragged into dealing with all the nonsense internal emails and corporate spam, but it’s worth trying to prioriti(z)|(s)e email from external senders, excepting the genuine bulk guff that you can spot quickly and delete.

Here’s a simple Outlook tip to help; it installs a custom form into your Inbox, which takes some minor faffage, but it’s a one-off process that will stay with your mailbox forever… and it allows you to create rules to prioritise email that comes from outside over the blah-de-blah you get from within.

Here’s a Before & After view of the same mailbox… you’ll guess which emails are from external senders…
{NB: this view was carefully constructed for demo purposes – some of the external emails are clearly bulk mail that could easily be deleted filed, but it shows that anything which originated outside and is still in the inbox, is more highlighted than everything that didn’t/isn’t}

Now to Install the form

The next section involves digging around in Outlook options, which will probably involve a fair bit of flicking to and from this window… and although reading the steps in email sounds horribly complex, it’s actually dead easy to follow if you have it step-by-step in front of you… So you might want to print this article out to make it easier to follow …

Firstly, download this ZIP file to your PC. It contains a couple of icon files and the .CFG file which defines a new form in Outlook, and that form exposes as a custom field, one of the deeply-buried properties of email messages.

  • Save it in your Downloads folder if you like, then open that location in Windows Explorer,
  • Right-click on the ZIP file and choose Extract All.
  • Open the folder where the files now live,
  • Hold down the SHIFT key and right-click on the SenderAddressType.CFG file, then choose Copy As Path

OK, now back in Outlook, go to File | Options | Advanced then scroll down to find the Developers section, and click on Custom Forms…

Now, click on the Manage Forms button, and you’ll see a dialog to do just that… click on the button Install, then a dialog box will pop up to look for the form you want to install – paste the location to the .CFG file you Copied as Path above…  You should see the Sender Address Type form appear in the list, after which you may Close | OK | OK to get back to main Outlook window.

Alright, now you’ve added a form which will allow you to expose a field – similar to the usual ones like sender or size or subject – which shows the type of address that sent the email. It’s not infallible – some internal mail comes from SMTP systems, but almost all internal email doesn’t – so it’s actually more a way of filtering out most internal mail than it is a way of highlighting everything external.

Anyway, here’s how to create the above view…

  • When in your Inbox, Go to the View tab in the main Outlook window, and look under View Settings – this will now let you tweak the settings of the current view, in the current folder
  • Click on the Conditional Formatting button in the dialog which pops up – this can set rules on how  emails are highlighted, or not, and is what’s used by default to make unread emails bold, or urgent emails red.
  • Create a new rule by clicking on Add then give it a name, then click on the Condition button. This now sets the  times when the rule will fire – so the best thing to do is go straight to the Advanced tab…
  • click Field and scroll down to the Forms… option at the very bottom, to choose the form you’ve just installed …
  • Select the new Sender’s Email… form, click on Add-> and then Close.  This will then allow you to use that form to choose attributes for formatting. If you later chose to create Search Folders, Inbox rules or other filtering within Outlook, the same process would apply.
  • Still at the Field drop-down, now choose the new form from the list and select the field, Sender Address Type. This is the one custom field that was added through the whole form shenanigans above – if the sender was internal, it’s probably either blank or EX, if external it’ll be SMTP.
  • Now, set the criteria – if the Sender Address Type is SMTP, then we want to treat it differently – click Add to List then OK.
  • Finally, set the view attributes you’d like on the emails which match this condition – best avoid bold as other rules will probably be setting bold on unread emails, but italics in a different colour and a different size could be a good combination… try it out and if necessary, just go back in here to tweak to your satisfaction.

You may find that the customised view doesn’t show up on every PC, however the form is now installed in your mailbox so should be available everywhere – so if you needed to create new versions of this view, it should be much more straightforward. To edit the view in another folder, repeat the last few steps above (starting from the View tab as above, but this time in your other folder – the form is available all the time so you don’t need to install it again).