Tip o’ the Week 482 – Paste History

clip_image002[4]Back in 2012, three weeks before Super Saturday, ToW #133 talked about the Art of Cut ‘n’ Paste. How the widely-used CTRL-V keyboard shortcut for Paste can trace its roots back to a program co-developed by Butler Lampson, one of the “Dealers of Lightning” as a founder at Xerox PARC, and now a near-25-year Microsoftie and Technical Fellow. QED was a thing before Neil & Buzz set foot on the Moon (which happened on 21st July, not 20th: Eagle landed on the 20th, but it was 21st before “one small step for a man”… at least it was in UTC).

clip_image004[4]Did you know that in recent versions of Windows 10, there’s a useful new shortcut – WindowsKey+V?

It shows you the history of the clipboard, so you can quickly access something you’d previously copied; you can sync the clipboard between multiple machines (or phones), too.

clip_image006[4]There are other controls you can assert when it comes to pasting stuff, too – CTRL+ALT+V in Office apps will let you paste something and decide how to handle it (the equivalent of Paste Special, in most cases) and you can over-ride the default behaviour in  Word too, by choosing to Set Default Paste.

clip_image008[4]In other apps, there may still be different ways of handling Paste actions – Paul Thurrott recently wrote about how to change the options in OneNote for Windows 10 (the UWP app that is replacing traditional OneNote; the one you can start by running onenote-cmd: from the Win+R box).

The “copy & paste” metaphor dates to PARC, too – and yet it’s still evolving, 45 years later.

Tip o’ the Week 448 – Sometimes, size does matter

clip_image002Once upon a time, users had to deal with email quotas that meant they often had to shuffle messages around to stay within their allowed size limit, or else get limited functionality. The Outlook Thread Compressor tool* was written to help reduce the size of a user’s mailbox, and for a while, had thousands of users inside Microsoft. It inspired the Outlook team to write the “Conversation Clean Up” feature, which works in a slightly different way but does similar things.

Nowadays, with 50 or 100GB mailbox quotas being the norm, most Outlook users don’t need to worry about reducing the size of their mailbox other than to keep it from being too hard to use – a tidy mind and all that. But if you have massive mailboxes, the storage and organisation of all your content may put an unnecessary strain on your PC, so it’s worth taking a few steps to check and clean up if you can.


In Outlook 2016, go to the File menu and lclip_image006ook for Tools > Mailbox Cleanup for a bunch of tools that can help, including being able to view your current mailbox size…

… and marvel at a dialog box that hasn’t changed since the earliest days of Outlook, evidenced by the fact it measures size in KB rather than MB or even GB…

Limits to be aware of

There are some recommended limits that have been given to Exchange/Outlook users over the years – not just about the overall size of the mailbox, but the number of items in certain folders and even the number of folders themselves. See a 2005 post on the Exchange blog here, for example, which advises keeping the item count low on certain folders (< 1,000 items in the Inbox, Calendar and Contacts folder was the recommendation then – also on the Exchange Blog, check out some of the examples in this post for early pioneers of huge mailboxes).

In more recent versions of Outlook, though, there are some guidelines to avoid performance problems:

  • Keep the number of items per folder below 100,000
  • Keep the total number of folders to less than 500

Now, you’re probably not going to have too many folders with more than 100k items though it might be worth checking Sent Items and Deleted Items. Unfortunately, the mailbox size tool above shows you the total size of each folder, rather than the number of items – and if you want to know how many folder you have, you’d need to manually count them in the scrolling list box: not an easy task if you have lots of them.

It’s quite possible if you’ve had your mailbox for a while, and you’re a very diligent filer (especially if you use a methodology like GTD or tools like ClearContext), you could inadvertently have more than 500 folders – and if you use AutoArchive, then you could find a lot of them are empty, since the archive process moves the items out into another location but leaves the folder structure behind.

FolderCount to the rescue

Here’s an interesting little hobby project – a macro-enabled Excel sheet which cycles through all the folders in your mailbox, tells you how many items are in each one and offers to get rid of the empty ones for you.

It can be run in:

  • Read Only mode – it’ll just show you what you have, and leave it up to you to clean the mess
  • Active mode – for each identified empty folder, you’ll be prompted if you’d like to keep or delete it
  • Nuclear mode – just assumes you want to delete the empties, so doesn’t prompt.


Use with caution; though anything that is successfully “deleted” will be moved to Deleted Items first, therefore you’ll need to run it again to actually do the damage (or just empty your Deleted Items… a thought that fills some people with dread).

To run it, click on the link above, save the file locally, open it up in Excel and you’ll need to clip_image010enable the Macros to run – probably by first enabling editing, and then allowing macros by “Enable Content”.

Once you’ve done that, click on the appropriate button to let it run. I’d suggest starting with the top one until you feel brave…

*The Thread Compressor tool was made available externally after a time, but the domain disappeared… the actual Outlook Addin is again available here, but you’re a bit on your own as far as installing and using it is concerned…

Tip o’ the Week 363 – Erasing past mistakes

clip_image001[4]Using a Windows PC with Office presents many opportunities to make it easier to do things repeatedly – from shortcut keys which speed up regular tasks, to remembering things you’ve done before or accessed recently, so you can easily repeat them. Sometimes, however, they remember stuff you do mistakenly, and thereafter clutter up the system that’s supposed to simplify the way you work. Now, it’s time to look at ways of erasing those mistakes.

Custom Dictionary

clip_image003[4]Following the ToW #362, a reader asked how to remove misspelled words that are accidentally added to Word’s custom dictionary – if you’d like to edit that, within Word, go to File | Options | clip_image005[4]Proofing, then click on Custom Dictionaries… and then

select the default dictionary and click on Edit Word List…

clip_image007[4]Outlook Auto-complete cache

When you type a name into the To: line of a new Outlook email, the autocomplete cache will offer you a list of previously-used addresses. If you got the original address wrong or someone’s email address has subsequently changed, you may want to remove the suggested name.

In order to do that, when you’re presented with the list of suggestions, either use your mouse to hover over the name you want to ditch, and click the X to the right, or use the up & down arrow keys to move the selection and click the X or press the Del key. You could also clear the whole list, or switch it off entirely – see here for details.

clip_image009[4]Windows Run list

If you’re a habitual user of the Run command in Windows (press the WindowsKey+R) to enter commands, then you may rue mistyping one that sticks around getting in the way, as it is presented to you next time you’re doing something similar. To fix this Most Recently Used (MRU) list, it’s a bit more involved:

  • Start Registry Editor (WindowsKey+R / regedit, natch)
  • Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\RunMRU
  • Find the entry you want to fix from the list of values on the right, and either edit or delete it

clip_image011[4]Explorer recent files

Windows Explorer (WindowsKey+E) shows a list of recent files and folders, which is a handy thing if you want to quickly access things you use regularly, though if you accessed a file in error, you may not want it hanging around in the list. To remove a file from the list, just right-click on it and select to Remove from Quick access.

The Frequent Folders and Quick Access views in Explorer are essentially the same thing, so if you see a folder there you’d rather not have, just right click it and choose Remove from Quick Access or Unpin from Quick Access.

Tip o’ the Week 362 – Working with symbol characters

clip_image001One of the coolest things about the PC as it developed from the earliest days, was the ability to represent “foreign” symbols through expanding beyond the 7-bit ASCII character set, meaning it’s feasible to use all sorts of exotic symbols, accents, icons and the like (without resorting to art).

As well as “Dingbats” fonts (like Zapf or Wingdings), there is a plethora of symbols available within regular fonts too, and there are a variety of techniques to access them…

Symbols in Outlook / Word

There’s a Symbol menu in both Outlook and in Word, that lets you access some relatively commonly used symbols, or go to another dialog to pick from a more extensive range, and from special clip_image003characters too.

Word & Outlook do a pretty good job of anticipating some through AutoCorrect rules – like the En Dash that is used when you type a straight hyphen but with spaces around it – but there may be cases where you want to force it rather than relying on AutoCorrect.

You’ll find special accents embedded within each font, so if you want to spell someone’s name correctly, you may need to delve within. On an English keyboard, you can make an acute version of the relevant letters by pressing ALT-GR – so instead of e you can quickly write é, but if you want to do something else, you’ll have to try harder.

clip_image005If you go into the More Symbols option above, you can pick one of your fancy accents from the many presented, and just press Insert to stick it into the cursor at the current location, and in the current font/size. If you’re not using Word / Outlook, you could always run the old Windows app, Charmap, which will let you copy the right character to the clipboard.

Another less-well known technique is to use Alt-x in Office, in combination with the Character code (as shown within the symbol dialog, as 00E2 in the case of â). Type the code of the character you’re looking for and immediately press Alt-x to convert that code into the character you need. In case you find it hard to remember the handy 4-digit hex code, if you put the cursor immediately after any special character and press Alt-x to replace it with the Character code (and press it again to restore the character). Or, if you can remember that instead, try the Shortcut key shown at the bottom of the dialog above…


Of course, if you regularly want to correct Jurgen to Jürgen/ J00FCrgen, or Cecile to Cécile / C00E9cile, then without butchering their name every time, you could add your friends’ names to your AutoCorrect rules. In Word, either click the AutoCorrect button in the Symbol dialog, or else go into the menu at File | Options | Proofing | AutoCorrect Options, and you can add the automatic corrections you’d like to apply.

The same AutoCorrect options for Word will also apply to Outlook, but if you want to set them there, go into File | Options | Mail | Spelling and Autocorrect | AutoCorrect Options (avoiding the branding inconsistency) and do the same.

Tip o’ the Week 354 – Alone in the Dark

clip_image002Now that the northern hemisphere has put the clocks back, and a new age of darkness has begun, it seems a good time to share one reader’s tip for making things go dark on your Windows PC. Deep Fat suggested this is a good way of using your PC in places where bright lights may not be welcome, that it can help reduce eyestreain and there’s probably a power saving element to it too.

There’s a school of thought that it’s easier to read light coloured text on dark backgrounds than the other way around, even though we’re conditioned to have black text on white paper. It’s largely a personal preference thing, so might be worth having a play with a few options within Office & Windows (and a few other apps) to see how you fare.

clip_image004In Windows 10, the color settings page lets you pick the various system colours to be used, but also lets you choose the theme for apps to use – not every app necessarily respects the theme, but most of the modern applets (like the settings pages themselves, the calculator, clock, even bigger apps like Groove or Film & TV) will switch between a predominantly white background and a black one.


Go into Settings -> Personalization -> Colors to tweak the app mode on your PC.

The Edge browser inexplicably ignores the app mode on the main settings page, but does implement its own light/dark theme, accessed via the Settings (click or tap the … in the top right, then Settings).

clip_image008In Office, go into File -> Options and look for the Personlize your copy… option on the General page. The default option is Colorful (ie mostly monochrome with the odd accent of colour) but you can choose a few alternatives, including black. It can look a bit weird at first, as all the menus turn to black with white text, but the main document / email you’re working on stays regular black on a white background…

Users of Visual Studio and the Azure Portal probably know this already but they also feature dark themes…


Tip o’ the Week #295 – Outlook 2016 tweaks

 Office 2016 for the PC is nearly here. Many Office users have been already running a preview version, detailed here, but according to Julia White, the rollout of the final 2016 release will begin on 22nd September.

With many new capabilities that might appeal to IT admins, and with distribution increasingly being done as part of Office365, end-users might be forgiven for missing what the differences are over 2013 or even noticing that the upgrade has taken place.

In Excel and PowerPoint, there are new charting types, additional polish to numerous capabilities in data presentation, analysis tools and the likes. OneNote goes largely unchanged, except for some high-DPI capabilities on very large or very dense screens. Outlook has some tweaks for being shown in portrait mode on tablet devices, and also gets some changes to how it goes about connecting to the Exchange/Office365 back end. Office apps also now support multi-factor authentication, so it’s possible to get users to strongly authenticate when trying to open a specific document, for example.

I’ll tell you what I want

 One nice end-user additions to most Office apps (sadly, not OneNote) is a new feature called “Tell me” – a text box that sits to the right of the menu bar, which lets you tell the software what you want it to do. Think of it like Help on Steroids, or Clippy’s Revenge.


 Click on the light-bulb on your menu, (keyboard warriors press ALT+SHIFT+Q, or just ALT then Q), and type what you want the Office app to do… and rather than just showing you help about how to do it yourself, it may jump straight to that command.

Try this – press ALT+SHIFT+Q and type forward (and as you’ll see, that is the top option anyway, after only a few letters, for… at least, it is in English…); press ENTER, then send a copy of this tip to all your friends. Simples.

You can enter help requests too, and Office will try to figure out what you’re doing, and if all else fails you can search the Help files for your phrase, or perform a “Smart Lookup” – which searches the web and displays the results in a pane to the right of the application.

Outlook has a history of incremental smart additions, like the attachment detector that first appeared a few years ago now – if it thinks you’re trying to send a message with an attachment, but you haven’t attached a file, you’ll get a pop up to check …

 Well, attaching files got a bit different in Outlook 2016, and it’s one of the  neatest new features, even if it’s not rocket engineering.

When attaching a file within Outlook 2016, you can drag & drop files as before, but if you click on the paper-clip icon on a message, you’re presented with a list of most-recently-used documents.

If the document you’re selecting lives on a SharePoint site, then (depending on how you have Office configured) the default paste behaviour may be to include a link to that doc rather than to paste the original into the email – so you can do what people have talked about for years, and that is send around pointers to the current version rather than attached copies which will go stale.

Obviously, sometimes people won’t be able to access the online variant, so it’s still possible to decide to attach a copy instead, in the traditional sense.

 Be careful when sending attachments to external users as it could be quite easy to send them a link to a shared document (which they won’t be able to access) instead of a proper attachment.

Maybe a future “attachment detector” will sense that you’re trying to email a shared document to an outside recipient, and offer to replace it with an attachment instead.

ß Who knows, maybe there’s a hidden Easter Egg already in Office 2016 already…?

There are some features in Office that might appear to be Eater Eggs but are actually designed to be useful, if hidden, functions. Try typing =rand() into a Word doc, or =lorem(100) (or number of your choice), to generate lines and lines of lorem ipsum guff.