Tip o’ the Week #289 – Edge, Cortana & Win10 keyboard tips


Assuming everyone has upgraded to Windows 10 by now, it’s a useful time to post some tips that could help the new user get a leg up more quickly. So far, reaction seems to be going well – even some Mac users quite like it (though if you read to the very end, it’s not all a bed of roses) – and if, nothing else, there are some notable improvements over previous Windows versions.

I’m close to the Edge

The new Edge  browser is one of the more celebrated bits of Windows 10, at least for now. It’s fast, it’s standards-compliant (and that’s something of a double-edged sword to a degree, as it means legacy plugins and old-layout web pages might not work). Even naysayers admit that Edge is a Good Thing, on the basis that it’ll put a firecracker into the Webkit bonfire, even if it’s not perfect itself.

 For new upgraders, the first thing you might decide to do with Edge is to restore your favourites from IE – click on the multi-line icon on the toolbar, then the star (which represents Favourites), and click Import favourites to bring yours from IE. Some degree of username/password history will come across as well, though you may need to select the username on the first visit to a web page (as cookies are not migrated across).

To use Edge on intranet sites when attached to a corporate network, you can force the browser to try the intranet address only by adding a trailing slash to the end of the name – eg msweb/. This will stop it from trying to find that name on the internet, if for any reason it can’t get to the site internally.

 If you are find sites that don’t like Edge, you can always click on the ellipsis (…) menu on the top right, and click Open in Internet Explorer, and the page will launch in IE11. Whilst you’re at it, you might want to pin the IE icon to your taskbar by right-clicking on it – then you can always go straight to IE next time.

If you’d like to change your default browser altogether, just type default web browser at the start menu, and that will let you reset to IE or another browser.

Keyboard CTRLs R US

Most of the usual keyboard shortcuts still apply in Windows 10, though there are a few changes & additions – with the removal of the Charms bar,

  • WindowsKey+C fires up Cortana with voice input, if you’ve already got that working (see below)
  • WindowsKey+S for everyone else, reduced to typing Cortana search commands or not having Cortana at all
  • WindowsKey+A for the Action Center – the new notifications area that appears to the right of the screen
  • WindowsKey+I for Settings of all sorts – very handy
  • WindowsKey+TAB – quick way of seeing all the running apps, across multiple desktops
  • WindowsKey+X still brings up the “power user” menu – a great way of getting to otherwise fairly hidden functionality like Device Manager

There have been some keyboard-related tips in recent weeks, and others regarding new apps that come with Windows 10. If you’ve not been using the preview, you might have missed them. See:

  • #279 – Windows 10’s multiple desktops
  • #280 – Telling time on Windows 10
  • #281 – Calculator rebooted
  • #286 – Windows Explorer tweaks in Win10

Hey Cortana! Oh, you’re not available…

Depending on how your upgrade has gone, Brits who run Windows 10 might find that Cortana isn’t showing up as available in the region, even though she’s supposed to be. The same might be true of other lingos – your mileage may vary.

If you’re having trouble getting old Blue Eyes to play ball and you’re in Blighty, you’ll need to make sure all your language settings are tickety-boo.

Check you’ve got the right country set in the  high-level settings, but don’t stop there –make sure the language pack isn’t still searching Windows Update, and that each of the components has been downloaded.

Select the Windows display language shown, and within Options, click on Speech and clip_image005make sure the language you speak is correct.

clip_image007If you make sure that you have the correct language pack installed, and that it’s set as the speech language, then you should be allowed to enable Cortana.

If you have a microphone on your PC, then you can also switch on “Hey Cortana”, clip_image009which will mean she’s listening out for you to say that all the time… and will jump in with a spoken response to your every query. Just make sure your Windows Phone isn’t nearby or you’ll end up cheating on one Cortana with another. Let’s wait for the Cortana vs Cortana Youtube videos.

Tip o’ the Week #286 – Windows Explorer tweaks in Win10


Here’s a quick tip on navigating around Windows 10, courtesy of Stuart Leeks, concerning the File Explorer app (now, thanks to Internet Explorer being moved to the background in favour of the Microsoft Edge browser, maybe the name Explorer will be primarily known again as way to get to the file system).

The simplest way of getting the File Explorer running is either to click clip_image004on the icon that’s pinned to the taskbar by default, or else simply press the WindowsKey+e. Out of the box, you’ll see a couple of changes to simplify File Explorer when compared to Windows 8, namely to show recent files and folders and the Quick Access pane, as the main display of the Explorer window, rather than clip_image006just showing a list of drive letters or network locations.

If you prefer going back to seeing “My PC” as the default, click on the View menu > Options > Change folder and search options, and modify that behaviour. Quick Access is new in Windows 10, and replaces the previous Win8.x Explorer’s Favorites section.

The original feature that Stuart referredclip_image008 to has been found to partially exist in Windows 8.1 too, so maybe it’s a bit of a hidden gem – when in File Explorer, if you press ALT+d, the cursor & focus jumps to the address bar and you clip_image010can start typing the name of key folders and recent files, and you’ll see the name show up in autocomplete – so to get to Downloads, just start typing down and then with a single press of the down cursor key then enter, you’ll jump straight there. This may seem trivial but to hardened keyboardistas, any reason to not use the mouse without getting too obscure, is a good one.

clip_image012If you still like using the pointing doodah, you can click on the caret to the side of the icon that shows whatever folder you’re in (and it will change as you move around), and you’ll get a short cut menu that also includes regularly used folders.

clip_image014Another neat one, for some at least, is that if you select a folder within Explorer, and go to the File Menu, you’ll get the option of launching a command prompt or PowerShell window with the focus directly on that folder

Tip o’ the Week #284 – Music on OneDrive


Did you know you can now put music on your OneDrive, and stream it to the Xbox music app on your phone, your PC, the web or even your Xbox Console?

You don’t need an Xbox Music Pass to do it, either – though in time, you may find that having both XMP and music on OneDrive is a good thing, especially if music-playing hardware that supports them both is available.

Uploading loads of uploads

The trick is to basically copy or even move all your music to your OneDrive storage – you may need to get some more of that. It can be a bit challenging doing the actual upload, though – what if you’ve got 500Gb of music ripped from your CD collection at home? Try uploading that little lot over your domestic ADSL and you might well break the internet as far as your family is concerned.

Upload speeds on a lot of broadband connections are pretty poor, you see. The A in ADSL stands for Asynchronous, meaning it’s very much not 50:50 up and down. Doing online backup and/or bulk upload of loads of files could take a looooong time, and whilst you’re maxing out the upload bit of clip_image003the link, the download bit will be getting very constrained too – so you could see your overall network performance drop dramatically. Take a look using the Network Speed Test app (for Windows, for Windows Phone) to see the latency (otherwise known as network delay or sometimes PING time – anything into 3 figures is basically bad news), upload and download rates that are available – during heavy usage periods, it’ll seem like your network is performing poorly.

Managing music & OneDrive together

One trick to making sure your music is synced properly, is to put music folder into your OneDrive cache. If you have the OneDrive app installed on your PC, you’ll have a location that is set to sync the OneDrive storage from the cloud onto your machine. If you move your Music folder to be a subdirectory of your OneDrive location, then your PC will sync all that music up into OneDrive for you, and yet it will still show up as local choonz library for playback on your PC, if you tell it so (find Music library in Windows explorer, right-click and you can Move from there).

The downside? It might take weeks to actually copy your music to the cloud and you may not want to nail your broadband to the ground in the meantime. A solution is at hand, however – take your PC into the office and use the network there set up a schedule so your home machine starts OneDrive at times when nobody is using the network, and can kill it off when you might want to.

clip_image005clip_image007Depending on your version of Windows, the specifics may vary a little, but they generally start by looking for the Task Scheduler in control panel – something that’s existed since the very earliest days of Windows NT, though used to be a command-line only thing. Now with Task Scheduler, you can create jobs that do something on your machine according to a load of conditions – running at user logon, or at a time but only if someone’s logged in, if it’s been idle for a while etc.

It’s a snap to create a task that will start up OneDrive on a timed basis clip_image009– just create a new task, tell it when you want it to fire (midnight, when everyone’s gone to bed, and 9am, when everyone’s left the house could be good times?) and set the action to run.

Now, rather than running the OneDrive app directly, you might want to create a little command file that can do some other goodies too – try running (WindowsKey+R) notepad %userprofile%\start.cmd to create a new start command, and paste the following into it (and save it when you’ve done that):


echo Started OneDrive %date% %time% >> %userprofile%\onedrive.log


… and, while you’re at it, create a similar stop.cmd file with:

echo Stopping OneDrive %date% %time% >> %userprofile%\onedrive.log

taskkill /IM onedrive.exe 2>> %userprofile%\onedrive.log


Now, schedule the start.cmd to run at the times you like, and stop.cmd to do the same – eg if start is midnight and 9am, maybe stop should be 7am and 6pm. Both will write a line to a log file to say what date/time they ran.

clip_image013clip_image015Assuming it’s running at the time, you should be able to see the OneDrive icon in the Windows taskbar, and if it’s busy uploading you’ll see just how it’s getting on by clicking on the icon.

If you find your network is taking a hammering and you need all the bandwidth you can get for a Skype call, right-click on the icon, choose Exit and then click on the Close OneDrive button. This will stop all syncing of OneDrive content until either you manually start the program again, or until the next scheduled time kicks in.

Tip o’ the Week #282 – Delay your mail

There are several techniques to delay sending messages, something that could be considered good practice – according to Harvard Business Review, for example, bosses who send email late in the night are causing lots of stress as people feel obliged to respond immediately. A counter-argument would be that if people don’t want to respond to emails late at night, one tactic might be to not be reading them late at night in the first instance.

There may be good reasons to be emailing late on, although sometimes the sender might appreciate a delay or a sanity check – like the Google Mail Goggles idea unveiled some years ago, that would check that the sender isn’t steaming drunk when sending mail late at night. Expect the Google Beer Scooter to be along any time soon.

Sometimes, it’s easy to spot that your boss is travelling – if you suddenly get an email dump, then maybe s/he has been offline in the air or on a train, and has used the time to catch up on stuff which only gets sent when they arrive and connect. This is, of course, a good use of time that would otherwise be spent looking out of the window, watching movies on the seat-back screen and/or getting tanked up on inflight vino.

Back on terra firma, if you do need to write emails that may not need to be sent or read over a weekend or during the night, you could try Offline mode: simply go into the Send/Receive tab of the main Outlook window, and click the icon in Preferences.

Outlook being in Offline mode lets you review the emails you’ve got sitting in the Outbox, before committing to sending them, which could be handy especially if you’re bulk-sending. Alternatively, when in online mode, you, you can delay individual emails’ sending time by looking in the Options | Delay Delivery section of the actual message window.

Delay everything

Another safety valve that some people rely on is to slightly delay everything they send – a technique that lets you fish out messages from the Outbox folder in case of accidentally sending them to the wrong person, hitting send too soon, etc.

The trick is to create a rule in your mailbox (NB – if you want to follow these instructions, you may want to arrange your windows so that you can see this on a 2nd monitor, or arrange the main Outlook window and this message side-by-side, as when you start digging around in Outlook rules, you won’t be able to flick back to this message if it’s behind the Outlook window).

  • In the main Outlook application window, go to Manage Rules & Alerts and click on New Rule
  • Select Apply rule on messages I send and then determine if you want to apply some other conditions – maybe you only want to delay emails being sent to certain groups of people or if they contain certain words; if you don’t want to restrict to a given set of conditions, just leave everything blank and hit Next – and accept the fire-and-brimstone warning message that this rule will apply to every message…
  • Next, set the timing you want to apply to the rule and hit OK – and when you go to save/apply the rules, you’ll get a warning that this rule will only run on this PC, which is as expected, since it’s a client-side one.
  • Now, be careful – outgoing messages will sit in the Outbox folder on the PC you’re using, but that’s a special folder that exists only on your current machine and isn’t synchronised with the server or anything else – so if you hit send and then immediately close the lid on your laptop, your PC might go to sleep and the email will stay in Outbox until it resumes again…
  • If you get cold feet on sending, or decide you need to edit your missive, just go into the Outbox folder, and if the email shows with the recipient name or address in italics, then it means it’s waiting to be sent – if you open up the mail and then just save it again, it’ll stay in the Outbox but won’t be sent until you edit it again and press the Send button again.

Finally, it’s possible to send mail in the future/from the past when you’re offline entirely. That’s a whole other topic that’s been covered 4 years ago.

Tip o’ the Week #285 – Windows 10 picking up pace

clip_image002The release of Windows 10 has started to pick up speed as it nears its planned July 29th RTM. If your home PC isn’t running Windows 10 yet (ie. you haven’t opted in as a Windows Insider), then you can reserve your free upgrade today and you’ll get it via Windows Update when it releases in a few weeks’ time. Windows Insiders will get theirs first, and reserved upgrades will roll in waves thereafter.

The latest builds of Windows have been coming thick and fast – 10158, 10159 and 10162 have all been pushed to the “Fast” ring this week, meaning users who opt in to be a bit more on the bleeding edge and to get their builds quickly will see upgrades more frequently. “Slow” ring users may well get 10162 next week. ISO images of 10162 are available now.

This is the first time Microsoft has really done the “flighting” approach where a quality bar is set, and if the daily build meets that bar, it gets released to a wider audience. Now that we’re getting nearer the end (the deathmarch, as it’s sometimes known in software engineering), the quality of daily builds is that much better and therefore we’re seeing more frequency of upgrades.

Latest in the crop, are the new login experience with the fancy new Windows 10 wallpaper, the proper appearance of the Microsoft Edge browser, some new apps and a load more. Build 10158 also fixed a blocking issue with Surface 3 meaning it couldn’t upgrade, and the whole thing is optimized better for Surface devices. In fact, the word is that 59 and 62 builds have a load more performance improvements across the board. There are some cool new features in Cortana, and a load more – see here for one take on the top 5.

It’s going to be an exciting few weeks!