It’s baaaack… Tip OF the Week returns

OnMSFT.comOK, I said it was gone but it’s just been resting.

Tip o’ the Week is no longer the internal email in Microsoft, but was being published weekly on the OnMSFT.com site – as “Tip of the Week”…

[UPDATE – January 2024 – OnMSFT.com has been acquired by another site so may be transitioned, or disappear altogether…]

Tip of the Week #1: That function key most Office users don’t know about deals with function keys in general and in particular that shortcut to repeat the last thing you did in an Office app…

Tip of the Week #2: The OneNote addin everyone needs covers the shift to and from UWP apps and the benefit of moving back to OneNote’s traditional architecture due to the incredible OneTastic addin that is only available on that version.

Tip of the Week #3: Using Multiple Calendars in Outlook – Most people who use Outlook probably know that you can show multiple calendars at the same time, even overlaying them. But have you ever tried using the list view to show a table of appointments instead, so you can see everything that is coming up?

Tip of the Week #4: Calendar sharing using Bookings with Me – Microsoft has had a few goes at making it easier to share your availability with other people, from the basic Free/Busy in Outlook (typically within your organization) to tools like FindTime, which sends a poll to every attendee to get them to vote on the best time for them.

If you’re looking at offering your availability to others – especially if outside your organization – then the relatively new “Bookings with me” is worth a look. Think of it like Calendly but it’s part of (some) M365 packages…

Tip of the Week #5: Time management in & out of Windows – Did you ever have to call the speaking clock or set your watch off the clock at the bottom of the TV news? Fortunately, time setting in Windows is mostly automatic but here are some tips for how to tweak it, how to display other clocks and how to know what the time really is…

Tip of the Week #6: Managing Screenshots – SHIFT+WindowsKey+S is a supremely useful key combination; capturing parts of the screen with Snipping Tool and its numerous variants has long been a handy feature and as it gets updated, it’s getting better all the time.

Tip of the Week #7: Taskbar icons for Edge profiles (and other apps) – How to change the icon on your Win11 taskbar for different profiles of the browser, to make it easier to distinguish between them.

Tip of the Week #8: Juggling with Daylight Saving Time – Handling that awkward period where multiple parts of the world move into a different time, but not all on the same week…

683 – OneNote Docking

imageSince the OneNote desktop app is getting a reprieve from its previously-announced retirement, and the anointed successor UWP app is itself being put on notice, maybe it’s worth looking at a few tweaks which can make the old app a bit more useful. There were a load of updates announced about a year ago, and further improvements to the OneNote family are on the way too.

If you use OneNote to take meeting notes – especially if you’re meeting virtually and want to have your notes alongside the Teams/Zoom/Chime app – then it makes sense to arrange the windows side by side. Students of ToW past will know that in Windows 11, pressing WindowsKey+ ‎← or → will snap the current window to the sides of your display, and there are other ways to control window placement if you have especially complex desktop arrangements.

clip_image002clip_image004There is an old feature in OneNote which is worth revisiting; Dock to Desktop. Invoke it at any time by pressing CTRL+ALT+D or go to the View tab to select it.

You could also try pinning it to the Quick Access Toolbar on the very top left of the OneNote window. The QAT in Office apps was covered way back in ToW #321, from March 2016.

clip_image006Docking has the effect of minimizing the UI for OneNote and sending it to a (horizontally resizable) section of your screen, on right-hand-side.

Usefully, it also means other apps respect that space, so even if you maximize another window, it will only grow to appear alongside your docked OneNote.

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If you don’t like the position of the docked window, drag it using the “…” at the top of the pane, and position it on the top, bottom or the left side of the screen instead. If you press CTRL+ALT+D again while docked, it will fill the entire screen – maybe useful if you have a 2nd monitor.

The rest of the minimal UI lets you access the pen menu, restore back to the full UI or you can use a somewhat obscure feature called Linked Notes. This will add a link back to another clip_image010document that you could also be working on; you’ll see an icon showing the source document when you select text that has been linked.

Hover over the icon and you can get a summary or thumbnail of the document, and left-click the icon to open the document.

The original intent with Linked Notes was that you could use it across Office apps and also when browsing the web; how useful to be able to make notes on a specific web page and then jump back to the source when revisiting the notes you took! Sadly, the feature was integrated only to the dearly departed Internet Explorer, and it is not available in modern browsers. The topic of Edge support has been raised in online forums but thus far, responses have been less than forthcoming.

Even the Help page on Linked Notes talks about how it works with Word 2013, PowerPoint 2013 and other OneNote 2013 pages… no mention of Excel either.

clip_image012If you do find yourself going back in time and using Linked Notes, you’ll see an additional icon (when un-docked and back in full OneNote mode) in the top right of any page where you have links, allowing you to go straight to the source docs or to manage the links themselves.

682 – Lens scanning

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Continual advances in the quality of smartphone cameras mean that most people don’t use a physical camera any more; unless you are really demanding when it comes to control over digital imagery, phone cameras are good enough for most people, most of the time.

Compact cameras have evolved too, providing phone-beating snaps through better sensors and lenses than could possibly fit in the body of a handheld communicator. More light hitting a larger sensor through a bigger, higher quality lens gives you a better starting position to get a decent picture, though smartphones have powerful software and – increasingly – cloud services available to help improve the photo after it’s been captured. Higher-end cameras are changing, too – even Hasselblad (famed for moon shots but also for the most famous photo of the world) is ditching the DSLR model and going mirrorless. The horror!

clip_image004Marrying high-resolution imaging with powerful software in the palm of your hand does give you access to new capabilities that a generation ago would be almost unimaginable science fiction.

clip_image006Check out Plant Viewer to identify which is weed and which is flower, or Google Lens to capture information from the camera or even just to try to identify whatever you’re pointing it at.

As the world has discovered with ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, responses from AI powered services are not always quite correct, even if they appear convincing.

As any fule kno, this item in question is in fact a Seiko RAF Gen 2 (not a Gen 1), even though Google successfully found one for sale, that looks identical.

Google Lens is available on iPhone and iPad too, and depending on the Camera app you use on Android, it might also be launched clip_image008from there (and most Android devices will launch the Camera app if you double-tap on the power button, so it’s a quick way of getting to Camera, even if the device is locked).

Microsoft Lens is one of the best “Lens” or scanning apps in either mobile store (Fruity | Googly). Formerly “Office Lens”, at one point also available as a Windows app (but now discontinued) and since rebranded somewhat by its listing in the mobile app stores as Microsoft Lens: PDF Scanner, though it can do lots more.

The premise of Microsoft Lens is that clip_image010you can point the camera at something and scan it, by taking a high-resolution photo of the thing and then using the software to manipulate, crop and adjust the image. The most obvious use case is scanning a Document; start the Lens app, lay the doc out as clearly as you can and then step through grabbing each page in turn.

clip_image012The red > icon in the lower right shows how many pages have been captured so far. In earlier versions of the Lens app, you’d try to frame the page at the point of capture but now you just grab the images one-by-one (using the big white button) and do the tidying up later.

Press that red button and you’ll go to the UI where Lens tries to identify the corners of each page, and lets you tweak them by dragging the points. You could retake that individual image or delete it from the set of captures.

Press the confirm button on the lower right and you’ll jump to a review of the captured images, giving the option of rotating or adjusting each one, cropping, applying filters to brighten and sharpen them and so on. Once you’re happy that you have the best-looking images, tap on Done to save your work.

clip_image014You could send all the pictures into a Word or PowerPoint doc, drop them all into OneNote or OneDrive as individual files, or combine all the “pages” into a single PDF and save to your device or to OneDrive.clip_image016

There are other tools on the primary screen of the Lens app, too, if you swipe left to right. The Whiteboard feature lets you grab the contents off the wall and applies a filter to try to flatten the image and make the colours more vibrant.

There’s a Business Card scanner which will use OCR to recognize the text and will drop the image of the card and a standard .VCF contact attachment into OneNote, ready to be added to Outlook or other contact management tool.

The Actions option on the home screen gives access to a set of tools for capturing text and copying it to other applications or reading it out. There’s also a QR code and barcode scanner too.

clip_image018One somewhat hidden feature of Lens could be particularly useful if you’re sitting in a presentation and want to capture the slides for your notes.

clip_image020Start the Lens app, and instead of using the camera to grab the contents and then faff around trimming them, tap the small icon in the bottom left to pick images from your camera roll. This way, you could just snap the slides quickly using the normal camera app and do the assembling and tweaking inside the Lens app, later.

This photo was taken on a 4-year-old Android phone, 3 rows back from the stage at an event using the Camera app with no tweaks or adjustments. It was then opened in Lens, which automatically detected the borders of the screen and extracted just that part of the image into a single, flat picture.

clip_image022That logo on the top right looks familiar…

For more info on Lens, check out the Android and iOS support pages. Oh, and it’s completely free.

657 – Bye Bye, OneNote (for Win10)

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When Windows 8 was at the planning stage, a new model was envisaged which could deliver Windows applications consistently through an App Store (rather than needing each app to have its own install/uninstall mechanism). Other benefits would come, too –automatic app scaling of the UI depending on the size and orientation of the screen, improved security and power management… not to mention the same app running on phones, tablets, PCs, Hololens, TVs… such nirvana! And the charms!

Both the the app platform and the Windows Phone had lots of great ideas, but when the Phone went away and the multi-platform app dream then stopped being viable, the ”Modern” app model (which became the Universal Windows Platform, or UWP) was on borrowed time. Perhaps the zenith of UWP app functionality, and still one of its best apps, is/was the OneNote store app, later described as OneNote for Windows 10.

clip_image004Inevitably, having multiple apps which share the same name yet are fundamentally different can cause confusion. Fortunately, apart from Skype, Teams, Office, Xbox and a few others, Microsoft doesn’t typically have this problem.

Previously, if you’d searched in the Microsoft Store for “OneNote”, you would find the Modern / Metro UWP version, listed as just “OneNote” in the Store even though it called itself OneNote for Windows 10 upon installation, assuming it wasn’t there already by dint of being preinstalled. Capiche?

After deciding to reprieve the traditional Win32 OneNote, having hitherto announced it was to be dropped in favour of the shiny new one, the plan is now to port some of the best features of the UWP app back to the Win32 version and instead consolidate on that. The UWP variant will stop being supported in October 2025, at the same time as Windows 10 reaches end of life.

If you search the Microsoft Store for “OneNote” now, you’ll get clip_image006an app with the same name and basically the same icon as the old UWP app, but this one is an updated packaging up of the desktop/Win32 app. The description even points out that some of the pictured features are planned for the future vs available now.

Both versions of Windows OneNote have been able to coexist for years – WindowsKey+R onenote <ENTER> will fire up the desktop application whereas Win+R onenote-cmd: <ENTER> starts the UWP version. Both could even open the same Notebooks so apart from user preference, it didn’t really matter which one was used. The UWP app had a similar look and feel to the web and mobile apps, though they have diverged somewhat in recent months.

clip_image008clip_image010One benefit of keeping both is that it’s a great way of having all your work notes in one and all your home stuff in the other, so when you search for something, it won’t cross over and give you meeting notes when you’re looking for shopping lists.

If you want to more easily distinguish between the versions, you could change the icon of the full-fat version, and potentially pin them both to Taskbar or Start menu.

If you don’t have “OneNote for Windows 10” installed on your Windows PC, you can still get it if you know the secret – well, it’s not much of a secret, you just need to know the direct link to the Store that lets you find it. Shhhh.

646 – Finding stuff in OneNote

clip_image002[6]Many people ❤️ OneNote. It has evolved much over the ~20 years since it sprang from the “Scribbler” project at the turn of the century and was released in the Office 2003 wave, under the name which the developers disdainfully referred to as “Onay-no-tay”. A recent update to the OneNote strategy for Windows was covered in Tip #632.

clip_image004[4]There were other OneNote tips a few weeks previously, in Tip #617, including OneTastic, a great addin to the traditional desktop app – the Metro Modern app never had an addin capability.

As well as powerful macro capabilities, which can do things like generate tables of contents or sort pages and other works in ways that the base app doesn’t offer, the OneTastic addin includes the OneCalendar application – also available to install separately – which lets you see which OneNote pages were edited on each day.

If you keep a note of every meeting, stored in different places – by topic, by customer etc – then this is invaluable when it comes to finding notes, as you can see what you last wrote on a given day.

Of course, OneNote has searching capability where you could look across notebooks for key words. There is the ability to Tag notes too, and you can search across notebooks for tagged content.

clip_image006[4]A powerful yet somewhat hidden search capability in desktop OneNote is also available – you can press CTRL+F to search on a given page, or CTRL+E to run a simple query across multiple places, for where a particular word is mentioned.

clip_image008[4]Look, however, at the “Pin Search Results (Alt+O)” option at the bottom – it opens search results in a pane to the side, and lets you sort by different criteria, e.g. date modified.

This ALT+O option can only be invoked from within existing search results, so if you want to find all your recent notes with a searched-for word, press CTRL+E to start, then ALT+O and search by date modified to see the results clustered by month.

632 – New Old Things

old and new shoesMicrosoft veteran Raymond Chen has a great developer blog, The Old New Thing, which inspired the subject line for this week’s Tip, coming as it does, hot on the heels of the Build developer conference. There is also timely news around refreshment of old productivity applications.

OneNote has featured plenty in ToW previously, including a mention in the recent Journaling tip, with a nod in SteveSi’s ongoing historical missive which described members of the development team unhappy with the change of name from its code-name “Scribbler”, referring to the new “OneNote” app as “Onay-No-Tay.

A few years ago, OneNote was dropped from the Office suite and was due to be replaced by the new “modern” version in the Windows (now Microsoft …) Store. For a while at least, that shiny new one got all the innovation, even if its brand-new architecture meant it missed a lot of the old app’s functionality. In a somewhat surprising but welcome turn-around, old OneNote was reprieved, and both apps are going to converge at some later point – ie the desktop one will pick up features that only exist in the Store app, and eventually that version will cease to be.

New OneNote UIOld OneNote UIPending an eventual confluence of the two OneNote Windows apps, the desktop one is gradually getting new functionality and a visual refresh. The graphics bring it into line with Windows 11’s theme of rounded corners, subtle animations and a gentle 3D feel. To some, blink and you’ll miss them, but it does make the app look quite a bit smarter.

There’s a more prominent “Add Page” buttonSort and add, with the page sort function that was added back in February 2022 alongside. There are a few other tweaks in the refresh that has started to roll out, like some new Ink functionality with Ink-to-shape and handwriting-to-text like in other Office apps.

More is to come, including improved sharing capabilities and a neat dictation functionality that would allow you to record a spoken explanation for something while using Ink to highlight or illustrate; when another user plays back your monologue, the ink will be synchronised too. For more info on what’s coming, see here.

Results of OCRCopy Text from ImageOne handy feature that has been in desktop OneNote for years but never made it into the Store version, is the ability to use OCR magic to extract text from images. Try pasting an image into a notebook, then right-click on it to Copy Text from Picture into the clipboard. It does a surprisingly good job, even when the pic is not very clear and if the text on it is really small.

Copying screen-grabs when someone is doing a demo in a browser, so you can get the long and complex URL for the thing they’re showing is a particularly useful way of using this feature.

625 – Journaling now and then

Compaq Tablet PCMemoirs and autobiographies are the top selling non-fiction books for good reason, as people like to recall past events through the words and thoughts of someone who was there, in the room or even in the driving seat. World leaders who write their tell-all book on what happened 20+ years ago, better have great memories or perhaps a trove of notes and diary entries from the time. If they are fans of journaling, they would have of-the-moment musings, written down to help clear their minds at the time – on committing thoughts to her diary, Anne Frank wrote, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”

Turning to technology and looking back to relatively near-term history brings up all kinds of product that was ahead of its time or was ultimately overtaken by other developments that nobody saw coming. Sometimes, the perfect blend of genius, timing, execution and luck combines and creates a durable and wildly successful category – like the Smartphone and the plethora of services and apps that were created.

Inversely, one of those tech innovations that was just a bit ahead of its time was the Tablet PC; a fully-functional Windows PC that was blessed with a pen and touch screen so you could take notes by hand just like on paper, yet by flipping it around it could be used to run Office apps and all the other stuff you’d need a PC for, 20 years ago.

Windows Journal appIn hindsight, the idea of the Tablet PC was 10-15 years ahead of the technology that was needed to really make it work – the pen and screen digitizer were a bit too low-res; the processing power and memory was not up to the mark of providing the kind of user experience that the vision hoped for. The battery life was too poor while the whole thing was too heavy. Nowadays, with devices like the Surface Go and the iPad Pro, the reality is much closer – even if the dream of writing meeting notes by hand has been made somewhat obsolete by transcription and the fact that fewer people use a pen to write any more.

One new app that was built for the Tablet PC to take advantage of its pen, was Windows Journal, a relatively simple yet effective note-taking app, with surprisingly good handwriting recognition built in.

To read more from someone who was in the room – figuratively and, at times, literally – around the time of Tablet PC, the Journal software and the Office app originally called Scribbler which went on to become OneNote, check out Steven Sinofsky’s Hardcore Software post. It’s a fairly long but fascinating read.

Using pen and paper for taking meeting notes might be less popular now, but many of us will still jot down reminders or lists on Post-it notes, perhaps doodling on paper to help creativity and flow. If you have a pen-capable computer now, the newly released Microsoft Journal app is worth a look.


Billed as an app for digital ink enthusiasts, this new Journal presents a modern take on the original Windows Journal idea – an infinitely scrollable canvas for jotting down anything, though with AI capabilities in the app providing quiet yet powerful functionality. Journal started as a research project (from the “Garage”), but has now graduated into a fully-fledged, supported app. Read more about it here.

Microsoft Journal appMaybe time to take a leaf from erstwhile storyteller Steve Clayton’s Friday Thing, and spend a few minutes every day handwriting a journal. Now where did I put that pen?

617 – OneNote online & off

clip_image002Much 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 seclip_image004eing 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 clip_image006meeting 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).

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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…

clip_image010OneCalendar is also available as a separate app which can be run alongside OneNote, pinned to the taskbar or launched separately.

612 – New Year, New You (someday/maybe)

clip_image002The years go by so fast, let’s hope the next beats the last”– a sentiment that rings so true over the last couple of new year celebrations. Whether setting resolutions to do new things, read more, lose weight, be a better human etc, we all tend to reflect, even if just trying to do the same things as before but a bit better. Steve Clayton’s Friday Thing for the end of December had some great tips on things to do and try in the coming year.

If we can’t reduce volume of professional communications (be that emails, Teams messages, whatever – just look at Steve cleaning his mailbox and removing >100,000 Sent Items from a single year), then maybe we could do a better job of managing the stuff that we have to deal with. Much ink has been spilled on how to be more effective and how to get things done, but one useful time/focus management principle to revisit is sometimes known as Eisenhower’s Matrix, of which a variety of depictions exist:

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The premise is that any task has separate degrees of importance and urgency; we tend to prioritize urgent and overdue things versus things that are actually important. Discipline in task management can give us the clarity to not worry about seemingly urgent yet non-important tasks, and to stay focussed on things which are important, regardless of their urgency.

Carve out 75 minutes if you can – because this stuff is important – to watch Randy Pausch’s lecture on Time Management, with the context that when it was recorded, he knew he only had weeks left to live: talk about prioritizing important vs urgent.

How you put time and focus management into practice will differ depending on your own style and what tools you want to use. For the Windows / Microsoft 365 user, there are a few quick wins to consider:

  • clip_image005If you use flags in Outlook to mark messages needing your attention, think about setting a “Follow Up” search folder as the top of your list of Favorites. You can even make the Follow Up folder the default one so Outlook always opens that instead of your Inbox. You could try setting up a scheduled task to open your Follow Up folder every day (since most of us don’t restart our PCs very often, Outlook will typically stay running; this way will make sure you’ve got Follow Up open first thing every day)

  • Take better notes – remember that you can quickly create a OneNote notes page from an Outlook appointment; we’ll see some improvements coming to the original OneNote client in 2022, so if you’ve switched to using the Metro Modern Store app “OneNote for Windows 10”, then it’s worth revisiting the original. Do check out the fantastic OneCalendar addin to desktop OneNote, which helps you look back on notes you took.
  • Remember that Outlook Tasks and Microsoft To Do integrate with each other; see the Ignite session for how to use them more effectively. You can also highlight action items (from your meeting notes?) in OneNote, and quickly create Outlook tasks. While Tasks and To Do items don’t quite have full interop, there are 3rd party solutions out there and there are lots of templates in PowerAutomate which can do groovy things with Tasks, notifications and so on.
  • The Windows 11 Clock app has a nice new “Focus sessions” time management feature, to help you concentrate on important tasks, and it now supports signing in with Microsoft 365 credentials so you can see your corporate Tasks / To Do items in the list.


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    clip_image009To help maintain focus, you can quickly set your Teams status to Do Not Disturb by hovering over the application icon on your Taskbar and clicking the appropriate status.

    If you’re easily distracted, you could also switch Outlook to Offline mode so you don’t get any new email whilst you focus – a good alternative to closing Outlook down altogether, since you may need it for whatever work you’re doing.

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    clip_image013Go into Outlook, under the Send / Receive menu, click the Offline button on the taskbar and you won’t get any more email until you click the Offline button again to reverse the process and re-emerge later.

593 – It’s a Date

clip_image002Following last week’s missive on Notepad, including the obscure tip on how to create a log file, the topic of inserting and handling dates in other applications is worth a (re-)visit. Each individual app may choose to offer different methods and formats, but for common Office applications there are a handful of memorable tricks and shortcuts.

clip_image004In Word, there are plenty of ways to insert and manage dates – perhaps the most useful way to remind the reader when the document was last updated (manually showing when a document was last reviewed or published). On the Insert tab, you’ll find Date & Time on the right-hand side, letting you add appropriate info in the format of your choice. You can also tick a box to update the field automatically, though that simply means every time the document is opened, it will show today’s date… which feels a bit pointless.

clip_image006More useful could be to tell the reader when the document was created or last saved, by referencing the actual properties of the document clip_image008(though be careful; auto-save might mean someone opened an old document, realised it was irrelevant, but had inadvertently saved it back).

On the Insert tab / Quick Parts, look under Field, then pick the doc property and format you’d like to show.

It is worth pointing out that showing a date as 10/1/21 (or similar) is ambiguous given that a few hundred million people will expect it be month-day-year while many of the remaining 7 billion will assume the day comes first, with a couple of billion presuming the format should normally start with the year, such as yyyy-mm-dd (which is arguably the most sensible of all; and it sorts properly, too).

A more daily usable short format like dd-mmm-yy (ie 13-Aug-21) should perhaps be the norm, especially when the date is appearing as text in a document. Pressing SHIFT+ALT+D in Word will insert the current Date as a field (so you can edit the format to remove ambiguity) and SHIFT+ALT+T inserts the current time too. In PowerPoint, both of these combos bring up the “Date & Time” dialogue to add the chosen content and format as plain text.

clip_image010When formatting dates, incidentally, the convention is that two letters refer to the short number (eg dd = 13), whereas 3 d’s or m’s will use the short form of spelling the day or month, with 4 meaning the whole thing (ie Friday, August). Try formatting a cell in Excel as Custom, and you can preview what the format would be, by typing in a variety of letters.

While in Excel, it’s worth learning the short cut key to insert the date and time – CTRL+; and SHIFT+CTRL+; respectively (no doubt there’s a reason why Excel has a different shortcut to other Office apps – some legacy of Lotus 1-2-3 perhaps?).

OneNote fans will want to remember that SHIFT+ALT+D / T combo as it inserts the date/time into the notebook; really handy when taking notes of a phone call or similar. SHIFT+ALT+F puts both day and time, something that Word doesn’t offer. In both Desktop OneNote and users of the Windows Store version, it’s just plain text that gets added, so you’re on your own when it comes to formatting.

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OneNote pages will typically have a date & time showing under their title – on the Desktop version, it’s possible to change that so as to mark a page as having been recently updated. No such luck on the lame duck Store version.

At least when stalwarts insist on writing – or worse, saying – a short-form date as something like “ten one”, there’s more than half of each month where one number in the date could only mean “day” – starting with the thirteenth (as in, 8/13 can never by the 8th of a month, but 8/12 could be a few days before Christmas to Europeans, or the date when tweedy Americans start looking for grouse in the Yorkshire moors and Scottish Highlands).