#27: Lookup Image Reverse Using

With all the fuss about AI in recent months (the latest being OpenAI teasing some futures with GPT-4o, and potentially raining on Google’s I/O parade that followed the next day), it’d be easy to overlook that elements of artificial intelligence have been infusing the software and services we all use every day, for years. Google are even revisiting an old Microsoft brand too

Text, handwriting and speech recognition, language translation, cognitive understanding – they’re all milestones to what people might think represents true AI, and using elements in conjunction with massive amounts of data has given us some incredibly useful capabilities.

One such is being able to do a reverse image search – the idea that if I have a thing, or a picture of it, how can I find out more about it, or where it’s being used elsewhere online? Copyright holders might want to search for unauthorised use of their materials, or we can even use the technique to tell us more about what our phone camera is looking at.

clip_image002Visual Search

The Bing search engine has had a visual search feature for many years – that’s right, some people do still use it, even by choice rather than because it’s the default or due to a nag screen.

The simplest way to use Visual Search (if you’re using Edge browser and Bing is your search default) is to right-click on an image and choose the Search the web for image option, which feeds the picture into the visual search page.

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This will show you other places on the web that feature the exact same image (and in different sizes, too) as well as displaying other, similar images.

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If the pic you started with is a recognizable place or person, it may offer a suggestion of what/who it is, with links to further info..

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If you’re not using Edge and/or Bing isn’t your default, you can use it by copying the image you want to the clipboard (or grabbing a portion with the Snipping Tool), the go to the Bing homepage and click on the Image search icon.

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Just paste your image in from the clipboard (press CTRL-V, or if you’ve switched on Clipboard history, WindowsKey-V will let you choose from previous ones too) to run it through image search. You can, if need be, adjust the area being searched for, by clicking the Visual Search icon towards the bottom of the main image, then dragging the handles to crop the area you want – picking out a single person in a group photo, for example.

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Google offers the same kind of functionality, too – from Chrome with Google search as the default, choose Search image with Google,

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… or try search by image from the homepage…

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… and paste the selected image in there.

You’ll see slightly different results from the different search engines, so it’s definitely worth trying both out. The Bing user interface is arguably nicer than Google’s but in the end, it’s the results that count.

Mobile apps

When it comes to dealing with the real world rather than online photos, smartphones clearly provide a great starting point. The main Google app has the same initial image search UI as the web site but lets you point your phone camera at something and extract text from it, identify what it is and find out more. The Bing mobile app (and Microsoft launcher on Android, if you use that) does similar things but nowhere near as effectively, judging by the results it returns.

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There are many specialist mobile apps for identifying specific things, like differentiating between a plant or a weed, but it’s worth trying the Google app first.

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The Bing mobile app purports to do similar things, too…

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Nul points

Coming back to looking for pictures, if you don’t get any meaningful results from search engines when trying to match an image, there are specialist services like TinEye, which offer deeper reverse image search.

Take this image from a blog post many years ago, before mobile video calls were really a thing*. Searching Bing/Google for it brings nothing of note, but TinEye found various sites which took part of the image and repurposed it – various nutjobs used the image in “news” that the next gen iPhone was going to have video conferencing capabilities, neatly overlooking the fact that the main subject of the photo had a curly-wired handset to his ear…

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* in fact, Orange launched the SPV M5000 smartphone – aka HTC Universal – in 2005,

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and it was the first 3G “phone” which had a front-facing camera for doing video calls. It wasn’t very good.

#24: Googly Embalmer

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Late last century, when the big tech firms of the day were often led by sometimes spiky characters (McNeally, Gates, Ellison etc), one such luminary famously wrote about the two helmsmen of Microsoft’s push into corporate computing. Ray Noorda, erstwhile CEO of PC networking pioneer Novell famously referred to Bill and Steve as “the Pearly Gates and the Emballmer: one promises you heaven, the other prepares you for the grave”. Thankfully, they didn’t always take themselves too seriously (and here’s the original).

Modern day technology firms have a ruthless attitude to preparing their own products to go 6 feet under. Rapidly killing off failing projects or taking sometimes unpopular and abrupt changes in strategy are the underside of rapid innovation and shifting business models. Two of the most popular posts in the old Tip o’ the Week archive were Tip o’ the Week 350 – Killing me Softly, part I and 353 – Killing me Softly, part II, celebrating some of the old tech that has been and gone.

Apple somewhat aggressively moved the Mac from the Motorola 68000 CPU architecture to Intel X86 and then ARM (at the expense of backwards compatibility – you’re holding it wrong), though hindsight shows both shifts were smart when it came to the ensuing products. Microsoft tried to adopt ARM with Windows 8 and the Surface RT. And we all know how that worked out.

There have been several other attempts at shifting Windows from Intel to ARM architecture, and none have really taken hold – but reports have emerged of a forthcoming Surface Laptop which promises to take the fight back to the MacBook in terms of performance and battery life.

All about the Pod

The term “podcast” (a fusion of iPod and broadcast) might be 20 years old, but the last few years have seen an explosion of content as well-known faces take to putting out regular shows to be streamed, downloaded and listened-to on phones or watched on screens.

Some of the most popular podcasts are depressingly formulaic, but there are so many joyous, informative and hilarious ones that are worth seeking out. It’s no wonder that traditional media is both embracing the format at speed while presumably figuring out how to monetize it.

Google announced last year that they were deep-sixing their popular Google Podcasts mobile app (describing it as a “turndown” like they’re tucking it in for the night rather than euthanising it), in favour of the expanded YouTube Music offering. In some ways, this makes sense as popular podcasts are increasingly using YouTube to also publish video (mostly of headphone-wearing people speaking into a giant mic while looking at 45 degrees to their camera).

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Why miss the opportunity to unify the podcast and video publishing process, while also finding ways to sell more adverts to the listeners?

US users had the rug pulled in April but the reprieve for international listeners has recently been announced as coming to an end, and Podcasts will retire for everyone in June 2024.

So what next? The lead contender for iOS users is probably Apple Podcasts, but for Android users or if you’re an existing Google Podcast user then you might want to try other alternatives. YouTube Music is clearly the preferred option in Google’s eyes, but there are many options – Spotify & Amazon Music both have podcasting support and might push fewer ads at paid-for subscribers.

Free podcasting apps and services abound but run the risk of suddenly disappearing or retreating behind a subscription paywall – current front runner is probably Pocket Casts.

For more fun looking at all the other product Google has binned, see Google Graveyard – Killed by Google and check out Microsoft Graveyard – Killed by Microsoft too.

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#21: Dating OneNote

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It’s not hard to find websites listing “the best apps for … in 2024”, usually covering the same options that were doing the rounds in 2023 and 2022, with a few tweaks. The category of note taking, across web, desktop and mobile, is a common theme, sometimes offering head to head comparisons between leading options like Evernote vs OneNote. If you’re committee to one note-taking app, you’re not very likely to switch, but maybe there are people who scatter their stuff across multiple services and apps and are looking to centralise on just the one.

OneNote has had plenty of attention in ToW’s passimsee the archive – but even with decades of familiarity, it’s easy to miss some really useful capabilities that can improve the user experience. Let’s have a look at some, concerning the topics of date (and time, probably, since the continuum thingy means the two are inextricably linked).

Inserting dates & times

clip_image002This one is easy, and its utility will depend on how you go about taking notes. If you start a new page for each conversation or topic, then you’re probably covered to a large extent. When you insert a page, OneNote will automatically tag the top of it with the current date and time…

In the days when (at least) two OneNotes (yes) were jostling for position, the new One wouldn’t let you edit the date or time of an existing page, but the old One did … and since it vanquished the upstart, still does. Just click the date (or time) and then the calendar (or clock) icon that appears next to it, and you can set the appropriate measure.

clip_image003If you’re more the type who has one long page of notes (around a single topic, or a single person who you meet multiple times, for example), then inserting the present date/time is near essential when appending or updating stuff – just go to the Insert menu and choose your datum | data.

Of course, keyboard warriors will want to remember the handy shortcuts to insert the current date (ALT+SHIFT+D), time (ALT+SHIFT+T) or both (ALT+SHIFT+F). The first two also work in Word and in Old Outlook (which uses Word as its editor), but don’t work in New Outlook, which doesn’t.

Reviewing old edits

clip_image004One easily-missed trick in OneNote is to see when a piece of text was last updated. It’s pretty clear if you’re sharing the workbook with someone else, as their updates are (optionally) highlighted and can also be searched for.

clip_image006Look at your own notes and if you hover the mouse over any text or other content, you’ll see a small grey paragraph marker on the left; right click on the text and you’ll see, at the bottom of the context menu which appears, the author who made the last change, and when.


Search and find by Date

If you have a lot of notes, searching for a specific term might return many results, possibly spread across multiple notebooks and not necessarily presented in a useful order:

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Look at the bottom of the search results dialog, however, and you’ll see an obscure feature: Pin Search Results (ALT-O), which will open the results in a side window, allowing you to filter and sort them more effectively.

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This clearly makes it easier to find the most recent edits you’ve made with your search term. Add this ALT+O to your OneNote arsenal. While you’re at it, make sure you also install OneCalendar, which shows a view of your previously-edited pages on the days you edited them.

#20: Choosing Characters

clip_image002Windows still has lots of really old bits that can trace their lineage back to Windows 95 or even before. One such app is “Character Map” – used for picking a specific letter or symbol from the many fonts available, the idea being that you can then paste it into the document you’re working on.

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Selecting some of the characters, you’ll see a “Keystroke” comment on the lower right; if you hold the ALT key down and type those numbers on your numeric keypad (only), it’ll insert that character in your document, email or whatever. Or just Select it, click Copy then paste as normal.

clip_image006There are other ways to choose characters, of course – press WindowsKey + . (ie Win+full-stop) and you’ll get the dialog introduced to make it easy to pick emojis, but which also presents myriad symbols.

Office Apps typically have a “Symbols” item on the Insert menu, which lets you pick the more commonly used ones too. There’s a somewhat obscure Office feature, too, where if you type the corresponding hex number (like 00F1 as in the screenshot above) then press ALT+X, it will convert that code to the requisite symbol. Insert a special symbol through another means, and if you put the cursor after it and press ALT+X, it will replace the symbol to show the code you could use – press ALT+X again and it’ll be back to symbol as before. How obscure.

21st Century Charmap

If you fancy a modern looking character chooser which also gives you lots of info about the fonts as well, check out the free 3rd-party Character Map UWP from the Microsoft Store.

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There are lots of other functions, like an easy visual comparison of different fonts – even if the default phrase has a quick brown dog and a lazy fox…

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See more on its history on GitHub.

#19: Where have you been?

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There are lots of topics that divide people into ‘them’ and ‘us’; politics, religion, fashion, belief in science, PC/Mac, iPhone/Android… just about everything to some extent.

One set of related considerations concern the tendency of Big Tech to track users’ every moves so they can sell advertising and other stuff. Tin-hat wearers will be playing snake on their Nokia 6310 so they don’t have social media companies snooping on them. Ordinary people may passively recognise that using any mobile and a credit card gives away so much about your movements, that they just submit, accept all cookies and don’t really care about trying to be “private”.

If providers give you – the user – enough functionality in exchange for knowing all about you, most people will happily subsume to their free services. If you’re a smartphone user who takes lots of photos and they’re uploaded to the cloud, there’s every likelihood you’ll also be adding GPS coordinates for where the picture was taken, as well as date/time and all the other usual EXIF stuff about the picture, the model of phone and more.

clip_image004Upload those pics to Google Photos (or Apple Photos if you’re an iPhone user) and you can look at all the images you’ve ever taken in a given place, helping you realise both when you visited that place in the past but also giving the easy ability to compare photos over time.

Look at Google Photos in a regular web browser (having signed in with a Google Account) and by clicking Explore, you’ll see your photos grouped by the place they were taken. If you upload photos from a phone or camera which doesn’t have GPS tagging on the pics, you can add location manually.

clip_image006The experience is considerably better using Google apps on a phone, though. Go to the Google Photos app and you’ll see various groupings of photos based on time or on what the has been identified as a “trip to…”, where you’ve clearly taken a cluster of photos in a specific place.

Select the Search option on the lower right, however, and as well as seeing similar place groupings to what you’d get on a PC browser, you can also look at your photos arranged on a map, under the “Your map” heading.

clip_image008Initially, you’ll see a map broadly centred on your current location with splodges of colour which indicate where you’ve taken photos. If you zoom in, you’ll see more specific blobs and a gallery showing only those pictures which feature those particular locations on the map; it’s an incredibly powerful way to look back over the years at how favourite views, landmarks, people or pets might have changed.

There’s no immediate equivalent of the “Your map” functionality when viewing Photos or Maps in a full-size browser – there is a Timeline view in Maps which shows you places you’ve been (regardless of whether you took photos or not), and there is a “My Maps” feature where you can create your own map view and import all kinds of info, such as a list of location coordinates to make a custom route.

Bing Maps, despite spending years trying to be as good as Google, removed the ability to import and export GPS trails unless you’re a developer embedding a map in your site. Boo.

Anyway, back to Google and My Maps (not Your map, they’re mine):

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Custom maps – and the photos associated – can be shared with others too, so if building a route map for guidance, photos of key landmarks can be easily inserted to let people know they’re going in the right direction.

#18: Linking Phones and PCs

If you’re using a PC with Windows 10 or 11 and you have a smartphone, it’s worth exploring the Microsoft Phone Link app which lets you interact with the handset from your computer.

Microsoft has made several attempts to link phones and PCs, from the Continuum feature at the twilight of Windows Phone’s life (before it was knifed) to a variety of bespoke apps for Samsung devices and ultimately “Your Phone”. The latter has now evolved and expanded to be “Phone Link”. The array of features varies slightly depending on what OS your phone is using, and which manufacturer it originates from.

The app is likely pre-installed on Windows; make sure it’s up to date. It then needs to pair with a companion app called Link to Windows on your phone – either Android or iOS. For step-by-step instructions on how to set it up, see Sync Your Smartphone to Your Windows Computer.

For Android users, arguably the most compelling quick win is being able to easily access Photos without requiring them to have synced to Google Photos or OneDrive first – while the phone is connected to the PC either via Bluetooth or through the same WiFi network, you can interact with the last 2,000 photos on the device’s camera roll, so copying and pasting them into other apps is a snap.

iPhone users will have to use other means to get their hands on pics, at least for now.

The Phone Link app allows notifications on the device to be seen and managed on PC, which sounds more useful than it really is. It can also set the PC up to use the phone to make and receive calls (think of it like the PC is a smart Bluetooth headset), though some handsets might be a bit flaky. It seems even new phones don’t always provide the right level of support for some features to work well, such as Google nobbling the ability to output to an external display over the USB-C port on Pixel phones (a behaviour which will be fixed, at some point).

Some Android devices will allow you to display and control phone apps on the PC itself (or even mirror the whole phone screen) – which can be very useful, especially if you’re having to input a reasonable amount of text. It’s pretty much always going to be quicker to type on a keyboard than tap on a screen. Other options do abound, though, depending on the apps you use – there’s a native WhatsApp client for the PC, for example, so you could use that rather than relying on Phone Link.

You can use the PC to work with text messages on the phone, even supporting iMessage for Apple devices. Arguably the handiest part is when you get a text message as part of a multi-factor authentication sequence like logging into a bank account. The notification which Phone Link displays includes a “copy” shortcut so you can easily grab the code and paste it into the waiting logon page… even if the phone is on the other side of the room.

#17: Stickier than a sticky thing

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When a researcher at 3M accidentally failed to invent the kind of adhesive they were trying to, and instead produced what went onto become the iconic yellow sticky note, no-one could have imagined that more than 50 years later, there would still be a $2.5B market for them.

Even digital note-taking hasn’t quite replaced the scribbled-down utility of a little note by the side of your desk, though IT security boffins would surely wish that users would stop writing their passwords down and sticking them to the side of the screen.

Software developers have, of course, produced many apps which can be used to semi-replicate the quick note-taking capabilities of the paper version, and 3M even sued Microsoft back in 1997 for referencing a similar feature in Office 97 as “post-it”. Oops.

Fortunately, hatchets were buried and 3M even launched a Post-It® app for Teams, though that lasted less than a year and has since “gone away”.

Microsoft produced its own Sticky Notes app (also for iOS devices and Anroid phones, especially if you’re using the Microsoft Launcher) which latterly integrated with OneNote and even back to the old Outlook notes capability.

Windows users might also be excited to learn of the new Sticky experience which was announced a few weeks back – currently available in the preview version of OneNote, but soon to arrive as a fully-fledged replacement of the previous Sticky Notes app.

You may see “Sticky Notes” appear next to the Share drop-down at the top right of the OneNote window; click that to open a new window showing your current notes.

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There’s an easy way to take screenshots with a single-click though it will grab the entire window so you might need to go and do some after-the-fact editing. In that vein, it appears that the notes are stored in your M365 mailbox – https://www.onenote.com/stickynotes – rather than in the “Quick Notes” section as defined in the OneNote app.

At some point, it may appear as a separate application which will retire the current UWP-based Sticky Notes 6.0 application that’s still listed in the Store. For now, you could launch the new Sticky Notes from within OneNote, then Pin to the taskbar so you can quickly jump to it in future. An alternative is to press WindowsKey+ALT+S, which will start it up.

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The app can be docked to the side of the desktop so even with other apps in full-screen mode, you can reference numerous recent notes, and when you create a new note, it will add a link back to the web page or document you were viewing when the note was added.

If you like to get the latest previews of Office apps and services, sign up to Join the Microsoft 365 Insider Program and decide how often you’d like to get updates containing both features and fixes.

#16: All about dat font

Typography and the use of lettersets and fonts was the preserve of (mostly) men working in the printing industry, until the invention of the laser printer alongside DTP and word processing software brought to the masses that ability to have 20 different fonts in all the sizes you like in a single document.

Historically, using lots of fonts, sizes and weights might have been a way of attracting attention – look at the 1843 poster which was the inspiration for John Lennon to write “Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite” as one example …

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… but these days, simplicity and consistency is generally preferred.

For a fascinating diversion into modern history, check out Jock Kinnear and Margaret Calvert’s seminal work on the UK’s motorway signage. Most people wouldn’t give it a second thought, but carefully designing the font and the layout of the signs to be employed in the late 1950s was a central part of the rollout of the new motorway network.

To test how legible signs might be at speed, an assembled group of volunteers sat on a platform at RAF Benson airfield while sample signs were driven past on the roof of a car. The thinking was that if you’re travelling as fast as 60mph, you won’t have time to read the words on a sign, instead relying on their shape – so the consistency of capitalization, the tail of the g and the stem of the h in Birmingham become second nature to the driver.

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For more font-related history, check out Simon Garfield’s surprisingly engaging Just My Type.

Back to the present

Typeface trends tend to be a dating mechanism; Times New Roman looks very mid-1990s, whereas cool kids would use a sans serif default like Arial. Microsoft switched to using the newly designed Calibri for Office 2007, moving from a default font whose primary purpose was to look good in print to one which was specifically designed to be readable on screen. Similarly, the Segoe font family took a leading role as the default font for Microsoft logos and in the UI of many apps.

Incidentally, if you want to try a font out to see how it looks in a large block of text, you can enter =lorem(nnn) onto a new line in Word, and it will generate nnn paragraphs of the ‘lorem ipsum’ cod Latin gobbledygook to fill your pages up. Or you could go to Copilot or ChatGPT and ask it to write a 1,000 word essay for you

Well, Calibri’s default-ness has been under threat for a few years – Microsoft announced its intent to switch and outlined several new fonts which might be the default. Last year, it announced the decision to switch Calibri to a newly-named font called Aptos, previously known as Bierstadt.

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After a period of testing for preview customers, the switch has now been flicked and M365 users will see Aptos as their default. Cue some amusing anthropomorphism of the fonts’ particular characters and histrionic headlines from the usual clickbait foundries.

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#13: New Outlook gets in own way

Many people rely on email for their work, and in some cases the inbox and calendar are the primary tools they use. Gen Z’ers might put up a struggle on entering the workforce, preferring to commune via instant messaging or Tik Tok, but for the most part we know that email isn’t going away. Unless you have an alternative product to sell, that is.

The Outlook application that comes with Microsoft 365 and Office suite has been with us since 1997, but can trace some of its roots back some years before that. Students of history may want to delve into the writings of ex-Office supremo (who went on to bring Windows 8 upon the world), Steven Sinofsky, as he revisits some of the tensions between and the decisions being made by the various development teams. There’s a good one on Outlook’s gestation, or the one where BillG gets presented with the idea for the Office Assistant: 042. Clippy, The F*cking Clown.

In a trope briefly discussed last week, we all know how Microsoft has historically loved to use the same name for wildly different things. “Outlook” is one such case – at various times, the core application which has had quite different capabilities during its growth (especially the difficult second album version, Outlook 98) and the name was associated with a whole slew of other products and/or services.

In the Windows 95 / Internet Explorer 3 days, there was a free app called “Microsoft Internet Mail and News” which combined internet email – POP3, IMAP4 – and the long-dead USENET newsgroup infrastructure based on the NNTP protocol. This was rebranded as “Outlook Express” even though it had nothing to do with the main Outlook application; the actual executable file for Outlook Express was still MSIMN.EXE for its whole life…

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[Outlook Express … the solution for all your messaging needs…]

The Exchange Server that sat behind much corporate email added a web view of your mailbox back in 1996, called Exchange Web Access, later renamed Outlook Web Access and then Outlook Web App. As the functionality developed, so the old Hotmail.com service was rebranded Outlook.com, and the functionality of Outlook Web App for Exchange users and the free Outlook.com web client converged to a degree, as Outlook.com was moved to the same Exchange-based Microsoft 365 infrastructure.

Then there’s the mobile Outlook apps – Microsoft acquired email and calendaring companies Acompli and Sunrise Calendar, and folded their stuff into the highly-regarded Outlook mobile applications for iOS and Android.

Finally, when Windows 10 released, there were built-in Mail and Calendar applications; in fact, it was the same application under the hood, but it could be started with different criteria which would set how it looked. This app is still available in the Windows Store and came with OG versions of Windows 11. If you delve back to August 2018 and Tip o’ the Week 445 – Finding Modern App names, you’ll see how to find out what “modern apps” are really called within the system; as it happens, under the hood, the Mail and Calendar app was … ms-outlook.

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One Outlook to rule them all

There has been a long held dream in Microsoft of having a replacement for the sometimes creaky old PC Outlook application and the Windows 10/11 Mail & Calendar app, to bring them together under a shiny new application. Sometimes known as “Project Monarch” or “One Outlook”, this new version will use web technologies to effectively be running Outlook Web App but with offline capability, on your PC or Mac.

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Spot the difference? The New Outlook above has lots of mail accounts added with different inboxes etc pinned to Favourites. Here’s the same primary mailbox in Outlook Web App:
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The New Outlook for Windows has been available in preview for a while, and you might be getting nagged to migrate from Windows Mail to try it out, or if your M365 administrator hasn’t switched off the prompt, you could even be getting it in full-fat Outlook.

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Having been in Preview for a while, Microsoft announced in September 2023 that this new client is now generally available, and was to be pre-installed on latest versions of Windows 11. By the end of 2024, the old Mail & Calendar apps on Win10/11 will no longer be supported and won’t be available in the Store anymore. It could be a long time coming to migrate desktop Outlook users to the new-fangled version, but the signalling is saying it’s happening someday.

Check those horses

By all means, have a play with the New Outlook – it’s actually pretty good, if you don’t get 10,000 emails every day; in fact, if you have several accounts, it does a better job of keeping on top of them all than old Outlook does (though, arguably, not as well as Mobile Outlook, which lets you see a single Inbox view of all accounts). If you decide to go for it, then you’ll still have access to the Old Outlook app as well (should you need it), and if you’re moving from Windows Mail to New Outlook and don’t like it then the move back should be smooth too.

But currently, there is a gotcha. And it’s the cold hand of license enforcement mistakenly stopping play.

Users of certain M365 subscriptions – Business Basic, or Exchange Online Plan 1 as two examples, are being blocked from using the New Outlook as their license supposedly doesn’t allow it. There is a confusion having a license for a piece of software, and having the rights to use your software against a separately licensed service.

If you look at Compare All Microsoft 365 Plans, you’ll see that Business Basic include “Web and mobile apps only” for Outlook; another way of putting that is “you don’t get the Office applications on your PC or Mac” by buying that subscription. But what if you had the actual software already, through another route? If you have a M365 Family subscription, you can install the Office apps on 6 machines, and there’s nothing stopping you from connecting to a separately-paid-for M365 Business Basic mailbox from your legitimately-licensed Outlook application.

But New Outlook thinks differently. Trying to add a low-cost M365 mailbox gets you an unhelpful error:

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Raise a ticket through official support and you’ll be told “you can access your mailbox by upgrading to a premium subscription”. The irony of “Add all your email accounts” is also not lost (especially since free services like Gmail, Outlook.com and Yahoo! seemingly have no problem), but penny-pinching paid-for Microsoft 365 subscriptions do.

Looking at the Exchange Online Service Description

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The service that is being paid for should allow access from “Outlook for Windows”. Regardless of whether that means the full-fat Outlook app that you have to buy, or the freely available “New Outlook”, this document says you can access those mailboxes. But the New Outlook app is now enforcing something different.

Predictably, there are furious users on the internet. The Powers That Be have been made aware and are trying to think up an appropriate way round the issue, apparently. How about, don’t be a Doofus, Rufus? Excellent!

#11: Widgets a Go-Go

There’s been a trend in computing and related technologies running back to the birth of the Graphical User Interface in the 1970s at XEROX, for representing real-life things with digital versions that follow their design.

Take your average Calculator app; its form has changed little from the desktop calculator on which it’s based, or any Calendar application used for organizing appointments which still follows the idea of a planner or physical monthly calendar.

This “skeuomorphic” approach has its pros and cons – it might be easier to pick up a new concept through association with the old way of doing it, but that might over-complicate things in the long run or just take up lots of space.

How many people born in the 21st century have ever used a Floppy Disk, or the non-floppy version that is still widely used as the “save” icon? There’s even a meme about that.

 

When Apple brought out the first Mac forty years ago, the new paradigm of the “gooey” (or WIMP) extended to having a virtual desktop with things on it that might be on or beside your real desk – the wastepaper basket, a clock, a notepad, calendar, inbox and so on. Apple thought of these ancillary programs as “ornaments”, but the Mac and other OSs adopted them as widgets that could run on the desktop behind other application windows.

Apple’s commitment to a widget ecosystem has waned and come back to a degree, as has Microsoft’s – remember Gadgets in Windows Vista?

After parading the Sidebar and its gadgets as a new dawn for Windows, the whole thing was killed off after security vulnerabilities rendered it risky.

Widgets in Windows

Windows 11 introduced “Widgets(press WindowsKey+W to get them, or wave your mouse on the lower left of the screen) and later bulked up the UI with the same stuff you get on Microsoft Start, the Edge home page feed and so on, which probably means few people will use Widgets unless they want to find out about that heater that energy companies don’t want you to find out about, or that one thing (do it) that all Android users should know.

Great news, readers! The ability to switch off the “News” section is coming; at the moment, it’s dribbling out to some users on the Windows Insider program but at some point will be more widely available – read all about it here.

If you get the option (you should see a settings icon at the top of the Widgets board, rather than having to click on your profile photo to get to Settings), you can go into the Show or hide feeds option and be able to switch off the Start feed.

As well as being able to control the entire “feed” of content and present the gadgets on a 2-wide grid instead of a single column to the side, this update lets you choose which account to use to sign in to the Widgety experience, thus allowing users to sign in with their M365 account and use the widgets to surface stull like To-Do lists of tasks, or Outlook Calendar, showing data from their work or school account rather than only the Microsoft Account that it was previously locked to.

At some point, it looks like the Widgets feeds will be supplemented by other sources besides the Microsoft Start one (via the Add more feeds from Microsoft Store link in the show/hide feeds settings), with enthusiastic content providers lining up to publish their high-quality materials for all to consume…

But not today.