Tip o’ the Week #294 – OneDrive sharing & syncing


OneDrive – the consumer-oriented file-sharing service, www.onedrive.com – has added a nice new feature which replicates functionality that used to be possible with other Microsoft file syncing technologies in days gone by, and is a key part of other services like DropBox.

It’s been possible to share folders with people for a long time on OneDrive, or even share individual documents (handy for when you want to make a presentation available to a customer or a conference organizer, for example, and don’t fancy emailing them a 30Mb file), but it’s just been stepped up a gear by allowing people with whom you share your stuff, to synchronise that content onto their own PC.

To get started, put your content into OneDrive either directly from the web UI, by using the OneDrive app or by clip_image003using the built-in OneDrive client in Windows 10 (look for the white cloud in your system tray, if you’ve set up your Microsoft Account within Windows 10).

Windows 8 can have the OneDrive client installed, and there’s one built-in to Windows 8.1, but, as yet, it appears not to support this sharing functionality – the line is, “Windows 8.1 users, upgrade for free to Windows 10…”

clip_image005You can also see what other people have shared with you by looking here, or by going to the OneDrive homepage and clicking on the Shared section on the left. You’ll see all the stuff that’s been shared with you previously, and can selectively decide not to show some folders in future – or in the case of content that you’ve been given the ability to add to or edit, you’ll be able to sync those folders to your local PC too.

If you view such a shared folder in OneDrive (via the link that’s emailed to you when your friend clip_image007sends the sharing email, for example), it will take you straight into that list of shared content, and (again, if you have Edit rights), will give you the option of adding that folder to your own OneDrive. As well as appearing in your Shared list, the folder will now show up in the regular list of folders you see when you look in OneDrive, even though it doesn’t belong to you.

If you’d like to sync that content for offline consumption on your own machine, then users of Windows 10 can right-click on the OneDrive client icon in your taskbar and choose Settings, then clip_image008Choose Folders, you’ll see the newly-shared folder appear in the list of folder available to sync, just as if it belongs to your own OneDrive storage. Check the box next to the new content to keep a synchronised copy along with your own OneDrive content. Looking at the shared, synced files in Windows Explorer, you won’t be able to see who originally posted the file into the folder, but if you view it in the browser, then it’s possible to see that info.

You might want to think about this when setting up shared folders with lots of contributors – collecting photos from a stag do or a company event, for example, it may be best to ask each contributor to create their own folder so it’s easier to see who’s responsible for the pictures, and to stop them inadvertently mucking around with each other’s

Tip o’ the Week #295 – Outlook 2016 tweaks

 Office 2016 for the PC is nearly here. Many Office users have been already running a preview version, detailed here, but according to Julia White, the rollout of the final 2016 release will begin on 22nd September.

With many new capabilities that might appeal to IT admins, and with distribution increasingly being done as part of Office365, end-users might be forgiven for missing what the differences are over 2013 or even noticing that the upgrade has taken place.

In Excel and PowerPoint, there are new charting types, additional polish to numerous capabilities in data presentation, analysis tools and the likes. OneNote goes largely unchanged, except for some high-DPI capabilities on very large or very dense screens. Outlook has some tweaks for being shown in portrait mode on tablet devices, and also gets some changes to how it goes about connecting to the Exchange/Office365 back end. Office apps also now support multi-factor authentication, so it’s possible to get users to strongly authenticate when trying to open a specific document, for example.

I’ll tell you what I want

 One nice end-user additions to most Office apps (sadly, not OneNote) is a new feature called “Tell me” – a text box that sits to the right of the menu bar, which lets you tell the software what you want it to do. Think of it like Help on Steroids, or Clippy’s Revenge.


 Click on the light-bulb on your menu, (keyboard warriors press ALT+SHIFT+Q, or just ALT then Q), and type what you want the Office app to do… and rather than just showing you help about how to do it yourself, it may jump straight to that command.

Try this – press ALT+SHIFT+Q and type forward (and as you’ll see, that is the top option anyway, after only a few letters, for… at least, it is in English…); press ENTER, then send a copy of this tip to all your friends. Simples.

You can enter help requests too, and Office will try to figure out what you’re doing, and if all else fails you can search the Help files for your phrase, or perform a “Smart Lookup” – which searches the web and displays the results in a pane to the right of the application.

Outlook has a history of incremental smart additions, like the attachment detector that first appeared a few years ago now – if it thinks you’re trying to send a message with an attachment, but you haven’t attached a file, you’ll get a pop up to check …

 Well, attaching files got a bit different in Outlook 2016, and it’s one of the  neatest new features, even if it’s not rocket engineering.

When attaching a file within Outlook 2016, you can drag & drop files as before, but if you click on the paper-clip icon on a message, you’re presented with a list of most-recently-used documents.

If the document you’re selecting lives on a SharePoint site, then (depending on how you have Office configured) the default paste behaviour may be to include a link to that doc rather than to paste the original into the email – so you can do what people have talked about for years, and that is send around pointers to the current version rather than attached copies which will go stale.

Obviously, sometimes people won’t be able to access the online variant, so it’s still possible to decide to attach a copy instead, in the traditional sense.

 Be careful when sending attachments to external users as it could be quite easy to send them a link to a shared document (which they won’t be able to access) instead of a proper attachment.

Maybe a future “attachment detector” will sense that you’re trying to email a shared document to an outside recipient, and offer to replace it with an attachment instead.

ß Who knows, maybe there’s a hidden Easter Egg already in Office 2016 already…?

There are some features in Office that might appear to be Eater Eggs but are actually designed to be useful, if hidden, functions. Try typing =rand() into a Word doc, or =lorem(100) (or number of your choice), to generate lines and lines of lorem ipsum guff.

Tip o’ the Week #293 – STOP SHOUTING ON CONF CALLS


Keeping track of the characters on conference calls could be a new type of buzzword bingo – from the people who stay muted the whole time (the only word they say being “bye”, at the end), to the unmuted furious typer/clicker/lunch eater/talker-to-somebody-else.

This brilliant spoof of conference calls in real life features most of them, but not the blast-radius shouter that is probably more of a nuisance to people physically sitting next to him/her than to others on the call. Sure beats real meetings, mind.

Thanks to Brett Johnson, for pointing out that there’s a feature in Windows that might help reduce the volume of the well-meaning noise pollutant, something known as Sidetone. Turns out, this has been in Windows for ages, if you have a headset that supports it.

clip_image004What Sidetone does is to play your own voice back into the audio stream you’re listening to, so if you have a headset that covers your ears entirely and blocks out background noise, you don’t completely isolate yourself and end up shouting to compensate.

To access the setting, plug in your headset then right-click on the volume icon in your system tray and select Playback devices to open the Sound settings applet, then  clip_image005double-click on your headset and look in the Levels tab.

Try it out and have a play with the levels, with a willing guinea pig: it’s a surprisingly subtle effect, but one that you won’t want to overdo.

Now, all we need to do is to build a Skype addin for meeting organisers to subvert the Sidetone on chosen attendees, to put a bit of a delay into the replay of their spoken voice, which could effectively deal with some of the other characters on the calls… and now we know how Garth from Wayne’s World achieved his effect.