Words evoke times and places for lots of people, and “Pop” certainly has plenty of associations and meanings. For some, it’s the (often cheaply-branded, sickly-sweet) fizzy drink of their youth (see also skoosh, in certain parts of the world), it might be forgettable teeny bop music or perhaps an intransitive verb used to describe how something stands out.
It’s also a familiar word used in annoying UX concepts like a pop-up in your browser, or a toast on your desktop. Applications often put out toolbars or separate content in side windows, to help users make the most of their functionality: especially handy when the user has more than one display.
In its evolution over the past couple of years of explosive user growth (270M MAU!), Microsoft Teams has started to move away from the one-window-to-rule-them-all idea of having all your chats, activities, documents etc in one place, and started offering to pop things out into their own window.
If you’re in a meeting and want to have a side channel going on with a subset of participants, just start a multi-party chat, then right-click on it within the recent chats list, or from within the chat window itself. See more here. Other Teams apps also feature the top-right pop-out icon too.
As well as offering a variety of Gallery and focus views, including the ability to place where the gallery is displayed (if at all), there’s also been an addition to hide your own camera preview, in case you find yourself distractedly checking yourself out during meetings.
You could therefore dismiss all the other sidebars – like chat, or participants list – make the gallery go away, focus on presented content in full screen and hide your own preview – all in the name of being able to see what someone else is sharing.
There is probably more popping still to come. There is a public preview for Teams – which can be enabled by your Microsoft 365 Admin, here – and that enables the early stages of some new features which are being tested. Microsoft has its own internal test programs too.
Once the preview-enabling policy has been applied by Admin, then individual users will have the option (from the … / About menu) to enrol their machine in the preview; after doing so, signing out & in again, and a “Check for updates” cycle should see them have the latest available preview version.
The holy grail for popping out in Teams meetings would be the ability to separate the content being shared so you could have that on one screen, and see a large video gallery of attendees, with chat sidebars etc on another.
In the meantime, keep an eye on what’s new in the main branch of Teams, by looking on the Teams blog.
Lists form a big part of lots of peoples’ lives – whether it’s a to-do list for productivity afficionados, shopping lists for remembering the essentials or compiling top-five lists of favourite things, just, well, because.
A while back, Microsoft released a new app for Microsoft 365 users called Lists, which was essentially a front-end to SharePoint, itself a staple of the Office 365/Microsoft 365 offering since the beginning, and providing much more functionality than simply a place to stuff documents. The original SharePoint Portal Server 2001 (codenamed “Tahoe”) is nearly old enough to buy itself a beer in its homeland, and relatively advanced logic and custom data validation & handling has been a major part of its appeal for a lot of that time.
Recently, the Lists experience was made available – in preview – for non-M365 users who could sign in with their Microsoft Account. A “lightweight” version of the app, it’s still pretty functional and pitched at individuals, families or small businesses who need to keep lists of things.
Taking a slightly different tack, the To Do application is a good way of making other sorts of lists – that could be Tasks or flagged emails as well as simple tick-lists to mark off what needs to be done. In something of an overlap with Lists, To Do can share its lists with other people – think of To Do as primarily for personal use that you might share, whereas Lists is for managing shared endeavours first and foremost.
If you’re a user of both Amazon’s Alexa services and Microsoft To Do, you might want to integrate them together; using the Tasks In The Hand skill. Once enabled and correctly configured, you can use Alexa to manage that service’s built-in To-Do and Shopping lists, and these are then synchronized to the Microsoft To Do app.
You can rename the lists which are subsequently created in To Do and which sync with Alexa, though you can’t yet manage additional ones. You could simply use the Alexa app to manage the lists rather than synching them with To Do, but setting up synch gives you more flexibility – To Do integrates with other software and services, like being able to show lists in the Microsoft Launcher app on an Android phone.
Much digital ink has been spilled over OneNote on ToW previously. The original OneNote application shipped with Office 2003, then it was made available for free download before being supposedly superseded by a new-look Modern app version which was developed to share user experiences with the more recent online web version. OneNote apps were geared for offline use, synchronized to a private OneDrive (via your Microsoft Account) and/or a work SharePoint/OneDrive on Office 365.
The plan was to ditch the original Office app version in favour of the shiny new world of the cleaner but substantially less functional Modern app, but that decision was later unwound and instead the better bits of the Store version (still called OneNote for Windows 10) will migrate to the desktop app during 2022 or thereabouts.
While the OneNote offerings continue to evolve ahead of the quickening, we’re seeing some small improvements to both the offline client and the online experience. A simple example is the ability to sort pages in the desktop OneNote app – i.e., not the store app, which already had that capability. See the latest features added to the OneNote for Windows 10 store app, here.
It is possible to use both clients at the same time – perhaps partition work stuff in the more capable OneNote for desktop, and then keep your home notebooks in the store version. Doing so makes it easy when searching, so you don’t end up with shopping list items mixed up with your meeting notes. The icons are very similar, though – you might find it easier to differentiate the apps by changing the icon of the desktop one (since you can’t edit the icon of the Store app).
Try pinning the desktop icon to your Taskbar and right-click on the icon; on the pop-up menu, right-click on the OneNote label, choose Properties and then click the Change Icon button to select a different one.
The web UI has evolved considerably too – go to onenote.com and sign-in with either your Microsoft Account, for your own personal notebooks, or your work/school M365 account, for the content associated with your job or school. The same web application is also the view that you see when accessing OneNote from within Teams.
The recently improved web client includes some new capabilities like having a Read Only / Edit mode, akin to other Office web apps, as well as some improvements in handling embedded content, inking and more. There’s a short video showing the new capabilities in both desktop and online versions.
If you’re a fan of desktop OneNote, make sure you get OneTastic, a suite of addins and macros to make OneNote more productive. Some of the macros plug gaps in OneNote functionality that have somewhat been filled – like sorting pages – but there are still many useful ones, like creating a table of contents for a large notebook.
OneTastic also includes OneCalendar, which shows you all the pages – across any of your notebooks – which you have edited, on a calendar view. It sounds simple, but try it out and you’ll realise how useful it is to find notes based on the day you took them…
The Windows Insiders program which, for a good many years, has provided a way for the product team to develop aspects and features of Windows with the help of millions of early testers, announced some changes in its focus recently. The distinction between Dev and Beta channels will blur to some degree, with A/B testing of new experimental features showing up in Dev before some may make it into future releases.
The path to how new features for Windows 11 will be rolled out is changing a little too. Having previously said that there would be only one Feature Update each year, rather than the spring/fall update cadence that has been with Windows 10 for some time, there are going to be intermediate feature experience packs which will deliver some updates, like the forthcoming Android subsystem which will allow Windows 11 users to install and run a subset of Android apps and games on their PC.
If you’re outside of the US, don’t get too excited about the Android apps – the initial preview needs both your PC region to be US and you need an Amazon account in the US, in order to use the Amazon Appstore (which is the home of the subset of available apps). Enterprising tinkerers have found ways to install the software without meeting said requirements – if you choose this rocky path, however, you’re on your own.
If you want some groovy new features for your PC without grubbing around in the command line or waiting for a future update to arrive, do check out the recently-refreshed PowerToys package. The tl;dr history is that PowerToys started as a collection of side projects built during the Windows 95 days, shipped as freebies for power users to play with. The name was dusted down a couple of years ago to collect up similar skunkworks projects for Windows 10 (and now, 11), and has been updated fairly regularly – though the release version is still way off v1.0.
The New PowerToys comprises a collection of addons which will be of varying interest to your average Windows user, but some are so neat on the occasions you need them that you’ll be glad of having installed the package. Image Resizer, for example, is a File Explorer extension to kick off resizing a large picture to a more manageable size – handy for the kind of website where you need a thumbnail or a profile picture that’s of restricted dimensions. There are other file-related tools like Power Rename, as well as power usage, window-handling and a whole lot more.
Of particular interest (and most recent) are utilities to do with your mouse – how many times have you tried to find the location of your pointer (especially if you have multiple screens) by waggling the mouse or tickling the trackpad? Press CTRL key twice to Find My Mouse and the screens go dark, except for a spotlight that shines on the current pointer location. There’s a Mouse Highlighter which – when activated via a configurable shortcut key – leaves a little short-lived blob on-screen where you clicked the mouse; great if you’re recording a training video or doing a demonstration.
Finally, there’s the somewhat more dramatic Mouse Pointer Crosshairs, which puts a big cross centered on wherever your pointer is, and follows it around. This might be hugely distracting to leave it on all the time, but fortunately, a quick press of the shortcut key will turn it off.
The PowerToys use a lot of different shortcut keys – some configurable – and also have a handy Shortcut Key guide, which displays common Windows shortcuts; none of those used by the PowerToys themselves, though.