587 – New Line please

clip_image002Lots of terms in computing have their roots in an earlier time, where the association has long since disappeared. The mouse was so called because of its “tail” connecting it to the machine; when was the last time you used a wired mouse? Then there’s the apocryphal story of a young person, on first encountering a 3.5” floppy disk (er, not so floppy any more) thinking that someone had 3D printed the save icon.

As well as the QWERTY keyboard layout, a few things were carried over to the modern computer from the typewriter – the backspace and tab keys and the carriage return key. Purely mechanical typewriters had an end-of-clip_image004line lever, which caused the paper to feed one line and the whole mechanism of the roller to shoot back to start a new line. Electric typewriters had the innovation of not requiring the dings and the manual whirrs, by pressing the RETURN key to automate the carriage – the symbol still displayed on most computer keyboards today is indicative of the physical action.

Early computer systems aped the same approach of the line feed (ie the paper being shuffled up one line) and the carriage return (going back to the left side), as being separate activities and they were given specific control codes – so CR, LF and CR+LF are still things. For some time, consternation still applied as Windows considered that CR + LF needed to be noted to really start a new line, whereas the Unix fraternity simply thought that LF was all you needed. It is possible to hack the registry so Notepad acts Unixsy should you need it to.

In most applications, if you want to start a new line, you’d just press Return or Enter (in effect, the same thing, though not always the case). Pedants would say that ENTER doesn’t mean you necessarily need a new line, you’re just committing some data you’ve typed, redolent of the old terminal where you might be submitting a form rather than typing in free text.

Applications perform sometimes completely different actions when you press a modifier key like CTRL or ALT, and ENTER. In Word, CTRL+ENTER starts a new page, ALT+ENTER repeats the last typing action. In Outlook, CTRL+ENTER sends the current email and ALT+ENTER – like the same keystroke normally does when looking at a file in Windows Explorer – shows the properties of the current message.

In Excel, CTRL+ENTER has some other meanings, notably it completes the entry of data into a cell, without moving the selection to the next cell along or to the line below (depending on config). SHIFT+CTRL+ENTER can be used to create a powerful but quite complex array formula. ALT+ENTER also has a useful trick for formatting text in-cell, alongside some tips to control cell text formatting.

clip_image006Firstly, wrap text where it makes sense – so clip_image008to stop it spilling into the next column and getting over-written by whatever text is or may be added in there.

clip_image010Sometimes, however, the layout doesn’t quite sit right unless you resize the column, and that might not be ideal. If typing in new text into a cell, you can force a new-line within the box by pressing ALT+ENTER. For existing text in a cell, one solution to put a new line in is to double-click in the cell, which will insert a flashing text cursor and you edit text directly in the cell rather than the formula bar text box at the top of the sheet. Move the cursor using the arrow keys clip_image012and/or by clicking the mouse elsewhere in the text; press ALT+ENTER  to force a new line in the box.
Much neater.

Another way of editing text in an existing cell; select it and the text will be displayed in the formula bar, but only the first line, unless you have the formula bar expanded out, by clicking the down-arrow on the right.

clip_image014If you show it as a multi-line view, it may be easier to click within that box to edit the text, move the cursor around and hit the ALT+ENTER shortcut to force a new line.

584 – Office Apps expansion

clip_image002Subscribers to Office 365 / Microsoft 365 obviously get a load of services like email, OneDrive storage, SharePoint and so on, as well as client apps like the full-blown Office suite. Over the years, the app experience has got quite a lot closer with the web clients sometimes advancing faster than the desktop or mobile apps, meaning that it’s increasingly viable to live your life entirely in the browser.

clip_image004The Office home page – on www.office.com when you’re signed in using your M365 account, or maybe even installed as an app on your PC – shows a list of available apps if you click the grid icon in the top left. Initially you’ll see the most popular or your own most recently used apps, but try clicking on “All apps” for the full list of what else is offered.

What you’ll see depends on what kind of subscription you have and what previews you might have opted into, as well as what apps may have been published by your subscription’s administrators (eg internal HR website or IT support desk sites could be listed there).

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To keep things interesting, you can also install most of these web apps as Progressive Web Apps on your PC – using Edge, go to the Settings “…” menu in the top right, and look for the Apps menu option. They will then appear in the Start menu, can be pinned to the Task Bar and run in their own discrete window, just like a “real” program would.

One app which could roll back the years for a lot of people is Visio. Microsoft bought the diagramming software company at the turn of the century, for what was the largest acquisition to date – check out the list of other deals and see if you can remember many of those other $100M+ names…

Microsoft Visio became a premium addition to the Microsoft Office suite, latterly being sold as an add-on like Project. The software has continued to evolve over the years and has its own band of fans who use it for mind mapping, flowcharting, network diagrams, room layouts and so much more. You can even build Power Automate workflows using Visio (see more here).

clip_image008It was recently announced that Visio is coming to a good many Office 365 subscriptions next month, for no extra charge. The “lightweight” web app approach is not going to supplant the full application for more complex purposes, but it still offers a wide range of templates that can be used to start some fairly snazzy drawings, all done in the browser.

If you’d normally turn to PowerPoint to try to create graphical documents like flow diagrams or simple org charts, keep an eye out on the All Apps list to see when Visio makes an appearance, and give it a try.

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583 – Zooming PPT

clip_image002The Pandemic may have exposed millions of new WFHers to the delights of video conferencing, but the Zoom in this week’s ToW has nothing to do with the eponymous meeting company, rather it deals with a very cool yet somewhat obscure feature in PowerPoint, called, er, Zoom.

Way back when, there were numerous product incubation groups in Microsoft, who tried out new features as addins or companion products; over time, most of them have disappeared or the prototype products they produced made their way into the mainstream (or just quietly went away). Innovation continues within the various engineering groups, of course, and some is curated in the Microsoft Garage.

One OfficeLabs project that showed promise was pptPlex – an addin to PowerPoint that made it easy to create and present “non-linear” presentations, offering a kind of “Seadragon” type experience of zooming into content. The actual pptPlex software is long-gone but if you want a reminder of what it was like, or even to recall how funky Office 2007 looked, check out this video tutorial.

clip_image004But like other Labs innovations, the ideas were re-born in other ways, in this case in the PowerPoint Zoom feature. This lets you essentially embed a thumbnail of a slide into another one, optionally even replacing the mini-version of the slide graphic with a custom image; in the example shown below, rather than a miniscule chart of stock price, we’ve put the company logo instead, but clicking on it drives a nice zoom transition to a separate slide which has the real chart.

clip_image006It’s probably easiest to see by example so check out the download here – to experience the Zoom effect, put the file into Slideshow mode.

For more info on using Zoom, see here.

580 – Let’s Lens

clip_image002For some years now, Microsoft has produced an application for mobile devices, which allows easy scanning of bits of paper, photos from physical whiteboards or importing of contact info from business cards.

The “Office Lens” app was originally produced for Windows Phone before being ported to iOS and Android. Later, a PC version came along but with the death of Windows Phone it hardly seemed worth keeping going, since scanning docs and business cards etc is so much easier from a handheld device. As a result, Office Lens on the PC is now gone – dispatched at the end of 2020; if you had installed it previously, you could still use some of its functionality, though the smarter online services that sat behind it are no longer available.

clip_image004Instead, the old Office Lens mobile apps on the surviving smartphone platforms has been renamed “Microsoft Lens” – along with the release of some improvements and new features.

There are tweaks to the algorithms used to detect edges of documents when scanning pages or turning a receipt snapped at an angle into a square-on image. It’s not always perfect, but you can drag the apices to tidy up the process, and save pages as images on their own or multiple pages of a document into a single PDF file, straight to OneDrive or local on the phone.

clip_image006There is also a new “Actions” feature which lets you interact with reality – grab text from something you point the camera at, and potentially feed it into the Immersive Reader so the phone will read it out to you. You can also extract a table from the physical world, or scan a QR code or barcode from something in your hand.

clip_image008The QR scanning is pretty slick, focussing on URLs or files, quickly enabling you to follow the link or view the doc (and ignoring some types of QRs used for encoding a membership number or serial number of a device, etc).

Similarly, barcode reading just brings back the number, whereas some other apps will provide a bit more context – Lightning QR Reader for Android, for example, can read any text encoded in a QR code and will also give some more details for barcodes, like decoding ISBN codes on books to let you search for more info on that specific title. Still, Lens provides a neat & quick solution for scanning or capturing all kinds of info.

clip_image010Microsoft Lens (on both Android and iOS) is described as a PDF scanning tool, but it’s also got a ton of extra functionality which is worth checking out if you haven’t used it for a while.

578 – Let’s talk about fonts

clip_image002Most people don’t really think too much about which font they’re using in written works. The novelty of having different font designs, weights and sizes soon wears off, especially if you like to try all of them in the same document.

clip_image004Some strange choices do persist, though – Comic Sans on a warning sign at an electricity substation?

Yet, there is a lot of thought which goes into creating a font, especially when considering how it’s likely to be used. Typeface design goes back to the earliest days of printing, with fashions changing from heavy and elaborate block type to lighter and perhaps easier to read lettering. To serif or to sans?

The author Simon Garfield has written extensively on the subject of typography, including articles on What’s so wrong with Comic Sans? or The 8 Worst Fonts In The World and his really excellent book, Just My Type, which delves into the history behind lots of common typefaces and how or why they came about. It really is fascinating.

Even the design of the text used on road signs was a hot topic in the 1950s, with the UK facing a need to choose a standard for the upcoming motorway network, which could be easily read at speed. Designers Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert came up with many road signs and the typeface design still used today (theorising that at 70mph, a driver looking for Birmingham won’t actually read the letters, but will recognise the shape of the word). Trials were done by fixing words to the top of a Ford Anglia and driving it past a group of seated, bemused volunteers, to test the fonts’ efficacy.

A lot of technology we take for granted today has its roots in the 1970s at Xerox’s PARC research establishment or was materially advanced there – ethernet, bitmapped displays, laser printers, the mouse, the GUI, object orientation, distributed computing and so much more – and the two founders of Adobe, who went on to define PostScript, started their work together there. This font-rendering software – along with the Apple Macintosh & LaserWriter and the Desktop Publishing software PageMaker – laid the way to revolutionise the printing industry.

clip_image006Most fonts used until the 21st century had been designed to look good in print, but 14 years ago, Microsoft shipped a new font in Office 2007 and Windows Vista. Designed specifically to be easy to read on-screen, presuming that most documents and emails will be read on a display rather than printed out, that font was Calibri. It became the default font used in Office applications and has remained so since.

But that’s all about to end.

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Cloud Fonts” are available to Microsoft 365 subscribers (more info here) – in Word, go to File / Account and look for the optional settings.

Five of the Cloud Fonts collection are being considered to be the new default font for Office apps in the future… which would you choose?

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577 – Wir Fahren auf der Autobahn (virtuell)

clip_image002Fans of the fathers of elektronische music will get the reference to the seminal track Autobahn, written to mimic the repetitive noises of driving along the motorway. Since most of us have not being doing much of that for a while (and nobody misses being stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 on a Friday evening), a new addition to Microsoft Teams from the previously announced Microsoft Viva could be a welcome distraction.

clip_image004Start by looking for the “…” menu on the left-side icons bar in the Teams client, and you’ll see additional apps that can be added to the menu (and once there, you can right-click on them to pin in place); a previous update to Teams lets you drag the icons’ placement to your own preference too.

You can jump between the apps in Teams by pressing CTRL+n, where n is the corresponding location on the bar (ie CTRL+1 for the top app, CTRL+2 for next down etc).

Open the Insights app to see the first-released Viva application, which has also been recently updated.

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Viva Insights lets you send praise to colleagues, do some quick & mindful breathing exercises, check on actions you may have mentioned in email (eg “I’ll get back to you on Monday…”) and block out time that’s currently free in your schedule to give you a chance to focus on work you’re supposed to do, rather than meeting with people to talk about it.

Newly added, is the Virtual Commute – go to the Protect Time tab, or look in the top-right settings menu “…”, to set up the time to finish your work day.

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You can now have Teams remind you that it’s time to go home, even if you’re home already.

Jared Spataro wrote recently about the need to give yourself breaks between meetings and to transition from “work” to “home” modes.

If you’d like to jazz up your Teams background image rather than showing your real backdrop, check out the Viva backgrounds now available in the custom backgrounds gallery for Microsoft Teams.

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576 – Presenter guidance

clip_image002Remember when presenting to a room full of people was a thing? At some point, we may get back to needing to do that, but in the meantime we’re probably presenting to smaller groups of people using Teams or some other form of video meeting.

It’s still worth tailoring your presentation style, especially so when you can’t necessarily see the audience – that guy who’d be dozing off in the front row of the presentation room? He’s now doing that on mute and with camera switched off. Creating compelling content is another huge topic which is even more important than the means by which you present it.

clip_image004Firstly, when it’s time to present your slides in a Team meeting, please don’t just share your screen. Most of the time, the PowerPoint sharing experience that is built into Teams is good enough.

If you have a specific reason to share the screen or app then please at least “Present” in PowerPoint, since simply showing a PPT window is a massive waste of screen real estate and your attendees won’t be able to read it.

clip_image006If you’re wary of presenting in a multiple-monitor setup (in case your slides end up on the screen you’re not sharing, and the non-existent speaker notes gets displayed to the meeting attendees), then go into Set Up Show on the Slide Show tab in PowerPoint and choose which monitor you want the slide presentation to appear on (and share that one in Teams). Worst case, just disable Presenter View in that same dialog, and then PowerPoint will only use one monitor.

The simplest way to present slides on Teams is to use the clip_image008PowerPoint Live feature from within the Share icon – it will show you a list of recently opened PowerPoint decks, or let you browse your machine for one if it’s not visible.

This view will let you share content in a more efficient manner, and also gives the option of letting other presenters easily manage the transition from slide-to-slide, rather than having to rely on trying to take control of the presenter’s PC in order to advance them, and avoiding the “Next Slide Please” request. Attendees can privately move around your deck if you allow it.

You can also start the sharing from within PowerPoint, as long as the source slide deck is saved to OneDrive or Sharepoint, as the content is rendered as a web view. Go to the Slide Show tab clip_image010and you’ll see a Present in Teams icon; click on that when you’re in a meeting, and it will automate the whole sharing process to start presenting your current slide deck.

Assuming you’ve managed to create slides which are not a mess and are comfortable about how you’re going to present them, the next step might be to polish your own performance.

You could use Rehearse Timings to do a dry run of your presentation, and it will record the time it takes to cover each slide (and will also save that timing so clip_image012you could auto-matically advance the slides during a future presentation).

If you’d like an unbiased assessment of your presentation style, try out the new Rehearse with Coach feature – as well as getting some real-time tips during the rehearsal, you’ll get a report when completed, praising for a job well done or admonishing you for speaking too fast, just reading the slides out loud, using, errm, non-inclusive language etc – all of which might be used to help improve your delivery for the next time.

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Have a play with the Presenter Coach – presuming it’s an automated service rather than a real human listening in, it’s fun to try and see how the recommendations given – see how many profanities you can get it to recognise?

575 – Who’s meeting?

clip_image001Organising a meeting in Outlook means sending out requests to participate – effectively you’re creating an appointment or event in your own calendar, then converting into a meeting by inviting other people to join you. If you’re putting something in your diary and want other people to know about it, but without expecting them to join you (eg you’re going on vacation and presumably don’t want your teammates to tag along), simple tricks can reduce the annoyance you might foist onto your co-workers…

  • clip_image003Create a separate appointment for sharing (rather than forwarding one already used to block out your own calendar)
  • Under Response Options, clear the default “Request Responses” option, so they don’t need to respond
  • Set Reminder to None so people don’t get a notification fired, unless you think you’re important enough to make sure they know at the time, that you’re away
  • Show As: Free, so your appointment doesn’t block out their calendar and get in the way of other people who are trying to book proper meetings with them. Think of this as an FYI for colleagues’ calendars.

Who has responded? Have most people declined?

clip_image005When you open a meeting you’re organising and which you do want people to respond to, you’ve always been able to see (in the Tracking tab) how many people have accepted or declined etc. A couple of years back, Outlook added the feature of Tracking if you’re an attendee, so anyone in the same tenant as the organizer can see who else has accepted etc.

If you are organising or attending a large business meeting with lots of attendees, it’s useful to be able to slice and dice the attendees more effectively – have most people declined and should I move the date, for example – click on the big Copy Status option at the top of the list.

clip_image007It’s now easy to paste the info into a blank Excel sheet, and before even changing selection, hit the Format as Table option on the Home tab; confirm the selection area is OK, tell it you want to add a header row and choose a style that suits.

If you right-click the table and select Table > Totals Row then if you filter the headings – like the responses, for example, you’ll be able to quickly see how many Accepted, Declined and so on.

What could be interesting, too, is showing attendees names alongside their role, department, which office they’re from, their actual email address etc…
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Well, thanks to the magic of macros, use this Address Book Resolver spreadsheet, and just paste the responses from the Copy Status… step into cell A1, then hit the Resolve button.

Some attendees might be external users (so won’t be known to your address book), and some of the names in the first column might not be unique enough to resolve, and will be highlighted (alongside external users) by a red Unknown in the Job Title column.

clip_image011If you manually look up an unresolved internal user in the Outlook address book, and find the correct alias name for that person, paste it into the first column instead of their name, and re-run the Resolve function.

To use this sheet for resolving any list of bulk display names or alias names, just paste them into column A (and hide Columns B and C if you’re not using the output from a meeting invite tracking list).

To prepare the spreadsheet for use, download the Address Book Resolver file as above (here it is again). Open the ZIP file and open the enclosed XLSM file or save it somewhere on your machine, then open it. Make sure you Enable Editing, then Enable Content so you can run the Macro that does the lookups.

This is an evolution of the Alias resolver sheet posted back in ToW 417.

566 – Who’s Better, Who’s Best?

clip_image002A little over 10 years ago, a then-Microsoftie called Philip Su rolled up his sleeves and wrote a website that helped him – and others – to traverse the corporate organisational structure; over time, other people and teams added functionality and even depended on the service, to the extent that it was eventually picked up by the IT function and supported as a corporate tool.

“Dr Whom (sic) showed profile pictures of people along with reporting hierarchy and other contact info gleaned from the corporate directory, alongside self-provided stuff like what projects you were working on or what interests you.

There are plenty of other ways to look at corporate structure and profile information, assuming they’re correctly defined in the directory – there’s the /who app in Teams, for example, as featured in ToW #487, and there’s also a quick way of looking at someone’s Org chart by entering /org in the search bar on Teams – the quick way being to press CTRL+E to jump to the Search bar, then type /org [TAB] name (or enough of the name to have your target showing at the top of the list) then [ENTER] to jump straight to the Organisation tab of their contact.

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You can find the same information in desktop Outlook by opening someone’s contact or profile card, or in the Microsoft 365 “People” web app. Outlook & People bring together both a corporate directory and your own personal contacts list. Did you know, incidentally, that the silhouette shown in Outlook 2010 for a new contact (if you didn’t provide a photo) was based on an infamous photo of a well-known business leader?

But inside MS now, Dr Whom has been succeeded by Who+ (accessible to FTEs), which brings much tighter connections with LinkedIn, giving more of an emphasis to discoverability for networking internally, finding new career options and the like.

One question not listed in the Who+ FAQ is, “Will Who+ be available to customers?” – and the answer is: no, not yet – it’s just a Microsoft internal tool for now.

One reason may be the recent announcement of Microsoft Viva – an employee experience platform, which appears to be an amalgam of existing Microsoft 365 services (Teams, SharePoint, Yammer…) with LinkedIn, and a load of forthcoming new functionality plus 3rd-party services and tools.

Back in September, it was announced that Microsoft was working to try to help employee burnout during the pandemic, and partnering with mindfulness experts Headspace was one example bringing in external content. Satya talked with Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe during the Ignite 2020 keynote.

Most of the Viva platform is still in development, but some applications – like Insights – are being repackaged as part of the initiative.

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Check out the Viva Insights app which should already be visible in Teams – click the Apps icon in the clip_image010Teams bar on the lower left, and search for Insights to add it. Insights helps to surface things from your email, and also identifies time that you could protect as Focus Time – so you don’t get interrupted.

Thinking about naming, make sure you don’t confuse Viva with the 1970s saloon from Luton (as El Reg pointed out) or its revived but short-lived modern snooze-box cousin. Or with paper Mexican donkeys. Or that song by the well-known crooner. Just visit http://aka.ms/viva to find out more.

564 – Do Mention It

clip_image001One of the features in Office apps that has come to the fore in recent years is the concept of @mentions – something that started in the early days of Twitter. The use of the @ before someone’s name lets you quickly tag them to a piece of content, and in some cases gives them a proactive notification that you’re trying to reach them.

clip_image002Exactly how the notification occurs differs slightly depending on the medium – in Yammer, for example, starting to type someone’s name after an @ sign will give you a picker to choose which person you might want to tag; pressing TAB will accept the name at the top of the list, and cc: that person to the specific post you’re making, so they’ll be notified in Yammer and possibly by email too. If you know someone’s alias then you can quickly type @aliasTAB to tag and accept them. You can also use mentions in comments within Office documents.

The same behaviour is commonly available in Teams as well, though it may be more limited as to who you can mention – in the chat for a meeting or in a Teams channel, you’ll typically only be able to @mention the people who are taking part or who are already members of the team. Like other uses of the @mention idiom, tagging someone will insert their full Display Name, as defined in the Microsoft 365 environment (or the address book if you like) – which can make mentioning people in a chat feel a little directorial or formal, especially if the format of their display name is something like FamilyName, GivenName (DEPARTMENT).

In most uses of the mention, you can edit the full name of the person, though it’s not quite consistent how to do it – in Teams, for example, merely pressing backspace (after the display name has been resolved) will remove the last word … so if you want to tag a colleague and their display name is Jane Doh, then a quick tap will reduce that to simply Jane. If they were Doh, Jane (IT) then it’s a little more complex to lose the formality – holding CTRL+SHIFT while pressing the left arrow will select a word at a time, so you could ditch the last part of the name then simply CTRL+Left arrow would skip the middle part, then CTRL+SHIFT+Left arrow/Delete will remove the first part again.

Lesser platforms might allow a user to set a nickname that is used in place of their display name; that’s not (yet) an option in Teams etc, though in Outlook when you mention someone, you could insert a nickname in-between other names then remove the original ones, leaving only the short name you’ve added, but still hot-linked to their contact card etc. It’s a bit clumsy but might be preferable to calling them by their more formal name.

clip_image003Entering a mention in Outlook also invokes the person by adding them to the To: line of the message and will show up in their default inbox view, indicating mails which mention them specifically.

clip_image004You can’t sort by that special field, but you can filter the inbox to only show you the mails where you are being called out. Handy when people have a habit of assigning you tasks in an email, assuming that you’ll read it…

Just click the sort/filter option found to the top right of your Inbox or other folder, and choose Mentioned Mail to show only messages where you are mentioned.

As with all such features, it works for some people and work cultures/environments better than others. For some external best practice guidance, see here or here.