Tip o’ the Week 457 – Clipboard improvements

ClippyWindows 10’s latest update – the October 2018 Update – has now started rolling out again, after a series of issues reported by some users about data going missing. Here’s how to get it if you don’t have it already and don’t want to wait until it trundles along via Windows Update.

One of the neat new features is a revamped clipboard – something that has been tried a few times before, supporting additional features like keeping a history of what you clip, and/or allowing clips to roam across different machines. This has at times been achieved in standalone apps (eg via The Garage), or through individual apps managing the process – did you know, for example, that Office had a clipboard that supported multiple items, back in 2000?

And it’s still available – in some respects – today, where you can see previous stuff you put in the clipboard; just click the little expand arrow out on the bottom-right of the clipboard tile on the Office Ribbon, to show the list or set the options for using it. It’s an Office feature, but will also remember items clipped from elsewhere.

In Windows 10 with the October 2018 update (version 1809: to check your version, press WindowsKey+R then enter winver), there’s a new paradigm for managing the clipboard right across Windows applications – and it harks back to the old CTRL-V key combo that is more than 50 years old itself… from ToW #133 (from mid-2012):

CTRL-V goes back a loooong way. Its first use was years ago in the “Quick Editor” – aka QED – co-developed by Butler Lampson, one of the giants of computer history, now employed as a “Technical Fellow” in Microsoft Research.
There are some other alumni of Xerox PARC nestled inside Microsoft too (as was Chuck Thacker, RIP) – in a few years in the 1970s, they invented or developed/perfected the mouse, Ethernet, the graphical bitmapped display, laser printing, the GUI as we know it, distributed computing and a whole load of other technology. If you’d like to read more about what they got up to at PARC, check out Dealers of Lightning.

The new clipboard mechanism is an opt-in arrangement, where you can carry on using the one-hit clipboard as normal, or you can enable history or even cross-device Syncing to allow multiple machines to get the same history, just like browsing history, Timeline etc can roam across different machines if you wish.

To access the new Clipboard UI, press WindowsKey+V. There isn’t much obvious control over the experience (other than enabling it via Settings).

For more on how to use the feature, see here or here.

Tip o’ the Week 456 – Alexa on PC

clip_image002[4]There’s no doubt that Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant has been hugely successful – and Black Friday will likely have a load more offers to tempt users. Despite Windows 10 closing in on being the most-used OS around, other commentators predict that in future more people will interact with a digital assistant than use a traditional computer. Cortana is perhaps less-fancied, though partnering with Alexa has been underway for a while, and was previously covered in ToW #444.

Amazon meanwhile has brought the Alexa app to the PC, not just on select new machines but for everyone running the latest release of Windows 10. See here to install.

This gives you the option of talking to your PC to control the plethora of 3rd party devices that support the Alexa ecosystem, as well as all the other stupid stuff you might ask of Alexa already. Find out more, here.

Tip o’ the Week 455 – Pin your PMAs

clip_image002Progressive Web Apps were covered some months ago in ToW 426, and are seen by many as the next generation of mobile apps. They provide a handy way of meeting the needs of a website suitable for mobile browsers as well as a way of delivering an app-like experience to multiple devices of varying sizes, without needing the developers to target specific platforms individually.

Microsoft published a bunch of 3rd party PWA apps directly into the Microsoft Store (eg start with SkyScanner then click on “Microsoft Store” when opened with the Store app itself rather than the web UI), though there haven’t been any new ones for a while.

Google is also throwing its weight behind PWAs – so much so, that version 70 of the Chrome browser has support for PWAs that can be installed to look like a desktop app on Windows, so when the PWA is running it hides the browser UI and is launched from either within Chrome directly, or from the traditional Windows app UI.


clip_image007When installed, eg https://app.ft.com, via the Chrome browser, the PWA behaves a lot like a desktop app – it can be found by typing its name on the Start menu, and can be quickly pinned to the Start menu or taskbar.

clip_image009That said, Edge browser users can treat pretty much any website in that way – if you browse to a PWA or simple page you like, as well as adding it to favourites/toolbars etc, you can pin it to your taskbar or start menu by going to the settings menu in the top right. Otherwise, when opening PWAs in Edge they look and behave the same as in other ways, though the Edge toolbar remains.

To look for dedicated PWA resources, check out this list, or look here, here or here.