Microsoft’s OneDrive end-user cloud storage system was in the news this week, as plans were unveiled to allow people to buy more storage space than was previously available. The tl;dr version of this is that in addition to your free 5GB of storage when you sign up for OneDrive, you can opt in to buy an additional block of 50GB for $1.99 a month. Now, you’ll get 100GB for the same amount, and Office 365 users will soon be able to buy even more.
If you visit the OneDrive.com site and sign in, you’ll see the total space being used in the lower left, and have the option of upgrading your service – but it’s pretty clear that Microsoft doesn’t want you to buy OneDrive storage on its own… in a Tarrantesque “We don’t want to give you that!” move, you’d need to click through
several “are you sure you don’t want Office 365 instead?” type dialogs.
The best way to get additional OneDrive storage is indeed to get Office 365 Personal, if you only need one account – and for your $70 / £60 per year, you get 1TB of storage plus all the additional awesomeness of Office 365 for your home delight.
An even better solution would be to fork out an extra $30 / £20 per annum to get up to 6 accounts; even if you don’t plan on sharing O365 with your extended family, you could set up separate accounts for different purposes – eg if you want to backup all your movie files from a home NAS, that could be a separate login to your primary one, or if you store RAW format images you could keep them in one OneDrive login while enjoying your processed photos in your regular account.
If you really need more than 1TB per login, Office 365 will soon let you buy addon storage, so for $2 per month more, you can add storage in 200GB blocks, all the way up to an additional 1TB for an extra $9.99 per month.
Online commenters have already pointed out that you could buy 2TB of storage outright from Google for $10/month without first needing to have an Office 365 subscription, but let’s get distracted by that.
Tip o’ the Week 484 – Saving Office 365 profile pics
Office 365 users will be familiar with the Profile Picture that appears in multiple places, most visibly in Outlook and Teams. Just like their picture on LinkedIn, many users will help people understand what they look like by posting an actual photo of themselves, whereas some will insist on posting a photo of their dog, or their kids, or themselves wearing a hat and shades while standing very far away.
There’s supposedly a lot that your choice of profile picture says about you. There’s a tabloid version (akin to the “What Your Horoscope Says About Your Pet” style nonsense more often to be found on the Edge browser homepage). There are some more scientific resources with views on what people think when they see your picture, and some hints on how to choose the right one. Some fun examples of what not to do could be illuminating.
Facing left-to-right is supposedly best – maybe it makes you look more powerful, or simply, when your photo is on the left side of a load of content (like the details of your LinkedIn profile), then it’s better to be looking toward it rather than away to the left… Similarly, good advice is to stick to a head-and-shoulders shot, or at least waist-up – if your profile pic is your visible brand on LinkedIn and Office 365, then there’s no point in using a photo that shows your face as too small for anyone to recognise you.
How to save photos from Office 365
This tip will probably become obsolete at some future update on O365, such is the march of innovation, but it deals with how you can get to the profile photo that someone else in your organisation has published. The inspiration came from a departmental admin who was trying to build a nice org chart, and had to repeatedly nag members of the team to share a photo of themselves. It can also prove handy when someone has posted a photo of themselves that’s too small to see – if you can open the photo up in a browser, it can show you the original full-resolution image, and you can always use the browser to zoom in, too.
Start by going to the Office home page and sign in; you can then search for someone’s name and click on the People tab for the detailed results.
An even quicker way might be to go to https://www.office.com/search/people?auth=2&q=<name> and follow the q= with the name you want to search for.
When you have the results of the search, hover over the thumbnail of the person’s profile pic, and in the pop-up that appears, right-click on the slightly larger image.
If you’re using classic Edge, then you’ll be able to save the image locally, but if you’re on Chrome or the new Edge Dev browser, then you’ll easily be able to copy a link to it – paste that into a new browser tab, and you’ll get the full-size version of the profile pic so you can zoom in, save it, draw moustaches on it with your Surface Pen and so on.
Tip o’ the Week 478 – O365 and Windows’ Mail and Calendar
On the mobile platforms that still survive, the highly-regarded and rightly popular “Outlook” mobile apps have no relation to the Outlook desktop Windows app which first appeared with Office 97, before smartphones were a glint in anyone’s eye. Mobile Outlook has hundreds of millions of downloads on both iOS and Android; quite a feat, as later this year Windows Mobile sinks quietly beneath the waves.
The genesis of Outlook on the phone as we know it today, is perhaps the acquisition of a company called Accompli 5 years ago, and a great deal of refinement and effort since.
Somewhat interestingly, traces of the same app have come to Windows as well – namely the Mail and Calendar app(s) that are in the box on Windows 10. Look back to ToW 445, and you’ll see that the names for the apps are outlookcal, outlookmail and outlookaccounts. Stick a “:” on the end and you can run them from a prompt.
e.g. Hit WindowsKey+R then enter outlookcal: and you’ll jump straight into the Calendar app.
Both have come a very long way – at first release, they were pretty basic, but they’re now so well featured that most people could use them as their primary email and calendar apps, most of the time.
The Calendar app is functionally pretty similar to the Outlook desktop app, except when it comes to working with other people – there’s no way to view someone else’s calendar, for example, but for a personal diary of appointments it’s really very good. And if you want the best of both worlds, you can connect your Office 365 account to both Outlook – as might be your primary way of working – and to the Mail and Calendar apps, for some side benefits and quicker ways of getting some things done.
Go into the settings on the Calendar app, then Manage accounts, then + Add account… or just Win+R then outlookaccounts: and you’ll be able to add your Office 365 account onto both Mail and Calendar.
If you have multiple calendars connected – like home Office 365, Gmail or Outllook.com accounts as well as your corporate one – you could selectively enable them for display in the app, and the set of calendars that are shown will also appear in the agenda if you click on the clock / date on your taskbar. You can also see your upcoming appointments in a live tile on the Start menu, if you still use such things.
You’ll also see your next appointment on the Windows Lock Screen if you have it enabled under Lock screen settings.
You may want to go into the Notifications & actions settings page (just press Start and begin typing notif…) and turning off Calendar notifications, or you’ll get a blizzard of reminders from desktop Outlook and the Calendar app.
Tip o’ the Week 474 – Parse and Flow
Microsoft Flow was introduced a couple of years ago, and covered in ToW #401; it’s basically a glue between different online applications, allowing the exchange of data between them and being driven by events and actions.
Sign up, sign in, and when you go to create a new Flow, you can start with a blank canvas, or by customising a pre-built template, of which there are many.
Learn how to build Flows here.
Many of the templates for Flow are quite esoteric – when a tweet on a particular topic appears, write a log to a Sharepoint site and send a notification to a Teams channel, that kind of thing. But there are plenty of really useful connectors that can be combined in time-saving ways; here’s a really handy way of bringing traditional data sources into the modern era: an email parser, called Parserr.
After signing up with Parserr – free if you only need a few uses per month – you can then crack open mail that is consistent in format and contains some information you’d like to extract and use elsewhere, such as confirmation of an appointment or maybe a travel booking. In practice, you get given an inbox with a unique email address within Parserr and you’d set up a rule in Office365 or Outlook.com to send mails that meet some inbox rule to that address, where it would be parsed for you and key data fields then sent back to Flow.
e.g. if email comes from a specific source address or it has a subject that indicates it’s a particular type of reservation, then forward to your email@example.com inbox address, extract the details of the booking then do something with them within Flow.
Start by sending an example mail to your Parserr inbox, then you can define rules to identify content within it (by looking for set keywords, going to specific line numbers and so on).
Create a rule for each piece of information you want to extract, and it will effectively create a field:
Once set up, you create the Flow by choosing the connectors for Parserr and whatever other applications you need to work on the information.
In this example, we’re using Office 365 to create an appointment that matches a reservation – the arrival and departure dates are provided by the source email, and converted to YYYY-MM-DD format within Parserr, then dragged across in Flow to match the Start & End times of an “event”. We’ll tack on T16:00 to the arrival time and T10:00 to the departure as that’s the check in and check out times, and thus create an ISO8601-compliant date/time such as 2019-04-05T08:00, which Office365 will use as the start or end time of an appointment.
“Advanced options” gives you further control (such as adding body text that might contain static text and other fields provided by Parserr, other addresses to forward the invite to, setting if you want it to be free/busy/tentative, reminder duration, time zones etc).
And that’s it: you can test the logic is working within each system – in Parserr, you can continually re-run the processing of your initial sample mail until you know the data is being extracted as you’d like, and within Flow you can keep testing your formatting etc by either triggering a new input or by working with the last set of data that came over from the source.
Once you’re happy just save the Flow, and it will automatically create an appointment in your calendar every time you get a matching email forwarded to the Parserr system – all in a few seconds.
See more on using Parserr with Flow and here’s a worked example.
Tip o’ the Week 472 – Update Store & Office apps
We’re all used to Windows Update or other software automatically downloading and installing updates (on phones, TVs, cars…). Sometimes the updates are at more of a leisurely pace than keen users might want though occasionally the recipients demand to hold back the updates until they elect to install.
The Windows 10 October 2018 is now being pushed to (nearly) everyone, though business users will have the option of pausing Windows Updates in case they want to enact a temporary delay for some particular reason – you’re about to go on a trip, for example – though it’s not meant as a centralised policy control: IT departments have other ways to do that. Windows 10 Homes users will soon get the ability to defer updates for up to 35 days, too.
How often applications update themselves is largely down to the publisher, but it’s usually possible to give the apps a prod to see if there are published updates before they get pushed out to you.
In the Microsoft Store app, for example, go to the ellipsis menu on the top right. You’ll see Downloads and updates, which will force the check for updates for all your installed Store apps. Even if you’ve turned on the automatic app update checks, it’s worth taking a look periodically as some of the apps you use most often might have updates pending.
If you find that most of the stuff you’re offered is updates to boring apps that you don’t use, then you could just wait for them to fetch their own in time. If, however, you spot an individual update to an app that you know you want to have the latest version of, then click the down arrow to the right to get it right away, or click the app name to look at its page in the Store and see what’s new.
Of course, non-Store apps may still offer their own updates directly – to check for updates to the Microsoft Office suite, for example, try going into Word (or Excel or PowerPoint if those are your most-used Office apps) and from the start screen that offers a few previously-opened files, templates you’ll never use etc, look to the bottom-left and you’ll see Account.
Click Account to go to the product information page, which will let you check for updates, show you the current installed version number of the the application, and maybe even let you sign up for more updates through the Insider program.
After you’ve installed any pending updates, the What’s New option will be active and will show you a summary of what has changed, in a pane within the app itself.
Or check the View Updates option at any time, and it’ll take you to the web to see what the latest updates contain.
Tip o’ the Week 468 – Get Office, My Office, Office app appears
For a while now, new PCs have been installed with an app that “encouraged” users to install and use Office. Even users with Office already installed sometimes complained that Get Office was nagging them to, er, Get Office.
Get Office became “My Office”, which was a lot more useful in the sense that it was showing documents you used etc, but its main aim appeared to still be to help you find and launch Office apps, or buy them if you’re not already using them.
The latest incarnation – simply called “Office” – moves the game on a whole lot more. For one, it’s a portal into all the Office documents you work with on your machine or online, allowing you to search content across not just the docs themselves – so you can search for documents in your most-recently-used lists, something that the File dialog in Word/Excel/PowerPoint annoyingly won’t do.
The search bar also reaches across SharePoint sites you use, OneDrive locations you have and even brings in the global address list so you can get to people details really quickly, including a really fast org chart ability.
The new Office app will be delivered automatically for a lot of people as it will replace the My Office and Get Office apps in due course; if you’d like to check it out sooner, go to the Store.
Tip o’ the Week 424 – Tracking meeting responses
Office 365 updates roll in on a regular basis – that’s kinda-the-point of delivering a service rather than once-every-three-year upgrades. To see what’s changed over time, be that for early-access Insiders or for regular subscribers, see here.
One seemingly minor but really notable improvement of late has been the ability for attendees of meetings to be able to see who is also joining them. How many times have you gone to a meeting – or conference call (video call even) – and not known who else was attending, since you weren’t the organiser?
Well, one of the small but incredibly useful updates of late has been to show everyone who else is attending – just look at the Tracking icon on the main Meeting tab. If you are looking at a larger meeting and want to know who’s coming and who’s tardy enough to not reply, you could copy the responses to the clipboard and then paste into Excel for easy consumption.
Copy Status to Clipboard, paste into a brand new Excel sheet, select the area in question and Format as Table if you’d like to easily manipulate the responses.
So you can nag the people you think should be there, but haven’t showed up yet…
Tip o’ the Week 420 – Office 365 updates
As part of the usual round of updates, Office 365 has had a bunch of changes during February and March. For many businesses (and a good few consumers), the traditional Microsoft Office (Word/Excel/PowerPoint…) app suite is now Office 365, with dozens of apps & services; even the app start banner says so.
As the world shifts from discrete software purchase to a subscription model – and it’s happening everywhere – it allows software purchasers to get more incremental functionality sooner (rather than a 2-3 year refresh cycle… or more). Software publishers can charge an ongoing amount, neatly dealing with software piracy and giving themselves a more predictable revenue stream, whilst probably lowering overall support costs and maybe even making the software less expensive for the end user as a result.
The latest updates for Office365 include some new additions to Word – like the consolidation of the Spell Check and Grammar functionality under the new “Editor”, found on the Review tab (just look under Check Document to see the pane on the right hand side).
There are some other interesting features on the same tab (like language translation or accessibility checks), as well as dealing with style and content of your writing. Delving into Settings from within the Editor pane lets you switch on all kinds of checks for common errors in writing, or highlighting the use of words & phrases that are best avoided.
Now, don’t turn on the profanity check and see how many squiggles you can generate in a single document – and stop sniggering at the back!
A variety of online services now benefit from general availability of Compliance Manager, part of the tool chest that might help businesses deal with GDPR.
Take a look at the Compliance Manager if you want to scare yourself silly about the amount of checks that people will be expected to complete, in order to be in line with GDPR.
Tip o’ the Week 412 – I Stream a Stream
Not to be confused with iStream, a manufacturing process dreamed up by legendary car and Formula 1 tech guru, Gordon Murray (and who also basically invented the pit stop as we know it… if you’re interested, watch this film… it’s fascinating, really).
No, this stream is about Microsoft Stream, a video service first unveiled about 18 months ago, launched last Summer and expanded in its reach to Australia, India and the UK, in October. Expect to hear more about Stream in the coming months, if ChrisCap’s appearance on Windows Weekly is any sign.
In a nutshell, you could describe Stream as a corporate video sharing service – think of it like an internal YouTube/Vimeo type service that organisations could use to securely publish internal videos (like training, exec message broadcasts etc) without exposing it to the wider world.
Anyone can sign up for a free trial at https://www.microsoftstream.com/. Have a play…
There are lots of other enhancements besides just sharing video, that are built onto the Stream service – such as auto-captioning or speaker identification, which use elements of Azure cognitive services to parse the video and identify various components within.
If you’re interested in this kind of thing, check out the Azure Video Indexer preview – it’s amazing. Try it out, then show it to your friends, family, customers, partners… and make sure they know about Stream, too – they may already be licensed to use it.
Stream is a companion service to Office365 – see more on https://stream.microsoft.com/ and for pricing details specifically, see here.
Tip o’ the Week 403 – Office Insiders and training
The Windows Insiders program is well known as an early-access scheme for Windows, with millions of users trialling out new versions regularly and getting new functionality ahead of general release. A new “fast ring” version of Windows 10 came out just the other day, in fact.
Did you know that Office has a similar programme? Office Insiders is geared towards Office 365 subscribers who want to opt-in to early releases.
Regardless if you are or are not in the Insiders group, you can see what’s new in the latest version of Office you’re running (assuming you’re on Office 2016 and subscribing to Office 365).
Try looking under File | (Office) Account menu, and check under the Office Updates section to make sure you’ve got the latest versions available to you.
Click on What’s New and you’ll see a pop-up of the latest features, with a “Learn More” link to find more. To see the latest for Office Insiders, check here.
One new feature that’s previewing for Insiders but available to anyone on the web is the new Office Training Center, which offers help in a number of features, templates and the like. There are short videos showing tips on how to use Office apps in conjunction with Office365 – check out some of the “try new things” category to see if they really are new to you.