Tip o’ the Week 380 – Hey Cortana, take flight!

With the news that Cortana is coming to a consumer audio device near you, it’s worth clip_image001revisiting a few things that Cortana on your desktop can do for you. If you have a Windows 10 PC with a clip_image003microphone, then you may be able to enable “Hey Cortana”, which lets you talk to your machine and ask it stuff. See what’s new with the Blue One in the Creators Update.

You can leave yourself voice notes and Cortana will stick them in the Quick Notes section of OneNote – using the Modern App version of OneNote, look under Settings ->  Options -> choose a notebook for Quick Notes to set the default location.


Even if you don’t talk to your PC, pressing WindowsKey+Q will launch Cortana, as a quick way of searching for apps or documents on your machine, or answers on the web – just type in your query, then filter by the icons on top of the window as appropriate.

Cortana can do a lot more than just be a shim for Bing search; she can offer clip_image007clip_image008immediate advice, like what the time is in a different location, what’s the weather for tomorrow, and more. Type a flight number to see its current status, a stock symbol for a quote or a couple of currency symbols for an immediate exchange rate estimate.


While many of these commands work when you type them (eg type, time new york, as on the left), some will only work when spoken and some will give a better UI and/or more detail when voiced rather than typed (such as the “Hey Cortana, what’s the time in New York” query on the right)

Of course, there are plenty of stupid things you can ask Cortana – open the pod clip_image011bay doors, sing me a song, knock knock, who let the dogs out, etc etc. Just like Alexa or Siri, there are many built-in Easter Eggs.

You can sometimes string some interesting productivity commands together, too – some could be useful in context, like reminding you to buy milk next time you’re in a supermarket (whereupon your phone will trigger a reminder when it knows you’ve just walked into a supermarket, based on GPS) or next time  you talk to a particular contact, to remind you to ask them something (where it will pop up when you next speak to them, exchange emails etc).

You can issue some pretty complex instructions to add reminders – eg. “Hey Cortana, add Pink Floyd exhibition Their Mortal Remains at the V&A to my calendar for tomorrow at 3:45” …  and Cortana can put it on your calendar, or just maintain a list of reminders in her own Notebook.

(NB: screen shot to the right was not faked up, although it did take more than one attempt …)

Cortana’s getting skills, too, from Graph to bots to Rome.

Tip o’ the Week 379 – Delay mail, revisited

clip_image001A couple of years ago, ToW #282 covered how to delay your mail from being sent, by forcing Outlook to work offline, by selectively delaying individual messages or even adding a rule to ensure that every one is held up. It’s a very useful thing to do, sometimes – a great way to prevent accidental mail sending, or give you a chance to revise stuff you’ve sent after maybe reading newer emails in your inbox.

This tip presents a refinement of the process as there is a downside to automatically delaying everything – namely, if you’re in a hurry to go somewhere but you need a mail to be fired off beforehand, it can be annoying to have to hang around for the enforced delay to expire before you can safely pack up and head out.

You will need to do a bit of digging around inside Outlook dialogs, so it may help to park this on a 2nd screen, copy to a Word doc or something…

What we’re going to do is set up a rule to delay all outgoing email – except mail with a particular category assigned to it, so that will be sent immediately. If you know you want the mail you’re about to send to go right now, then you could manually set the category before you hit send, and it will leave straight away.


  1. Go into Rules in the main Outlook window (either from the menu, or just search for Rules in the “Tell me what you want to do” box), and select the Manage Rules & Alerts option.
  2. To create a new rule to delay mail (if you’ve already got one as per Tow#282, then edit it to do the same) try adding one that applies to messages you send, then don’t choose any clip_image005conditions (and accept that it will fire on all messages), then when asked for exceptions, set a condition so that it won’t apply if clip_image007a particular category is set (eg create a Category called NODELAY or SENDNOW or something). The categorisation will still be visible in your Sent Items folder, but the recipient won’t see it.
  3. Set the delay time (in minutes) and apply the rule; try it out with a blank, uncategorised mail to yourself and you should see it sit in the Outbox folder for a few minutes before being sent. Now try to send another message and set the category manually, and you should see it arrive quickly. To set the category on an clip_image009outgoing message, look in the message properties before hitting send – either from the Tags group in the ribbon, or File | Properties on the menu of the message window.

This is all very well if you remember to go in and set the category before you his send. If you regularly have an Outbox full of stuff waiting to go and you’re truly adventurous, you could add a Macro to Outlook to automatically flush the queue. Press ALT+F8 to get to the Macro settings; if prompted to run or create a macro, Create a new one called SendNow, paste the following into the code window:

Sub sendNow()

    Set CurrentFolder = Application.ActiveExplorer.CurrentFolder

    Set Application.ActiveExplorer.CurrentFolder = _


    Set omsgs = Application.ActiveExplorer.CurrentFolder.Items

        For Each omsg In omsgs

            omsg.DeferredDeliveryTime = Now() – 1

            If omsg.Categories = “” Then omsg.Categories = “NODELAY”



    Set Application.ActiveExplorer.CurrentFolder = CurrentFolder

End Sub

clip_image011After saving/exiting from the Macro editor, you might want to add a shortcut to your new clip_image013macro to the Quick Access Toolbar in the main Outlook window. When you add the command to the list on the right hand side of the dialog, you can modify the button to give it a snazzier icon and a name that means something.


Tip o’ the Week 378 – Sharing, caring

clip_image002One of the Charms in Windows 8 promised to make it easy to share content between applications – rather than copying & pasting, maybe it would be better to allow the source application to provide some extra context to the destination app. When it works well, app-app sharing is really useful, but it maybe didn’t take off quite as much as expected.

The Sharing icon from Windows 8.x and early Windows 10 versions was the 3-blobs-in-a-circle which does looks a lot like the Ubuntu logo for some, and doesn’t necessarily convey the meaning of sharing to others. One of the tweaks in the Creators Update was not only a newly-designed icon, but a new Sharing UI that aims to simplify the process further.

clip_image004clip_image006If you are using a suitable Windows app (like Edge or Photos, for example), which touts the new sharing icon (the one with the arrow leaping out of the box), then when you choose the Share action, a UI will show up that lists all the apps that could be the target for Sharing, and a link to the Store to find more.

Click or tap on the destination app, and depending on what that app can clip_image008do and what data the source is providing, you may see more content than simply sharing the URL or copying the file.

Sharing a page from Edge to OneNote, for example, will put a thumbnail image if available, a description of the page, and will let you add your own verbatim notes before saving the content as a new page in your notebook.

clip_image010There are a few Clipboard apps which can be handy for sharing content so you can paste it into an old fashioned app that doesn’t support the Share method. Some “traditional” Windows apps – like the venerable Windows Explorer – are Share enabled, even though their icon may still be using the old design forclip_image012 now (and some Store apps have the same design lagthe Store App itself being one of them…)

Tip o’ the Week 377 – Windows 10 Films & TV

clip_image002In a culturally-sensitive and relatively unusual sort of localis(z)ation, Windows 10 has an app called Films & TV. Or Movies & TV, depending on where you are in the world. Whichever, it’s the de facto video player in Windows 10, unless you start by installing your own.

clip_image004The naming may only be skin deep but in Blighty, still, Kermode & Esler host the Film Review and dear old Barry Norman (and why not?) fronted the Film… franchise for 27 years, keeping sign-writers and logo creators busy as the program name changed annually.

The Films & TV app got a nice refresh to coincide with the Creators Update, recently – so if you haven’t played around with it much, then it’s maybe worth another look.

Films & TV can show off your local video files, or let you explore stuff to rent or buy as well as access previously bought video content. In an ideal world, it would be nice to allow apps to be able to retrieve content from any source, similar to how devices like Sonos can support multiple music sources (Spotify, Groove, Amazon etc). Sadly, for now at least, you can only see content that you bought through the Films & TV (previously Xbox Video) store.

clip_image006clip_image008Still, there are some cool touches to the app UI – like the ability to play back video on a Miracast-enabled device, so you can source the file from your laptop yet watch it back on your monster telly.

Assuming Miracast works, that is. Russian Roulette would give you better odds than with some supposedly Miracast supporting gear, but let’s move on…

The new “Explore” section in F&TV lets you see film trailers and recommended movies & TV series, as well as some highlighted 360° videos from sources like GoPro. Check out the Indy cars driving across the Golden Gate Bridge – Monaco it ain’t but it’s still quite impressive.

clip_image010You can set the playback to a mini player mode which lets you carry on watching something more interesting than whatever you’re supposed to be doing, as the mini player stays on top of other windows.

When playing back ordinary video, you could choose to play it back as 360° video instead – a relatively freaky experience that’s presumably included because you might happen upon 360° video encoded as regular MP4 or whatever, and want to experience that as intended.

Still. Movies Films & TV is a nice, simple video player which is Tip o’ the Week 377 – Windows 10 Films & TVworthy of consideration, even if you do end up installing VLC.