Office 365 utilises Azure Intelligent Services for a number of features including dictation, designer and smart lookup. One of the features we love is the automatic alt-text generation when you insert a picture into an Office document.
We are strong advocates that accessibility is not just important to users who need these features; everyone who creates content should be making it accessible.
A picture tells a thousand words but when a screen reader is parsing a document it will read out the alt-text for an image. If there’s no alt-text then you’ll just hear something along the lines of ‘picture’. Not very helpful. It’s been possible to manually enter the alt-text of course and this is very helpful in online content for search engine optimisation.
Intelligent services can automatically generate the alt-text for you based on the image contents. If you are dealing with sensitive images, this feature can be turned off in options as it does require information being sent to Microsoft.
Let’s insert an online image into a document to see how it performs.
For blatant blog-promotion SEO purposes I’m going to search for an online image of the royal wedding. Megan Markle Prince Harry Royal Wedding Windsor Castle. That should raise us at least one place in search results.
When I insert the fourth image, intelligent services analyses it and generates an alt-text tag for me. In this case, it’s accurate but not quite hitting the spot of wedding dress and it certainly doesn’t even try to achieve facial recognition; we know that’s a minefield. This result is far better than leaving alt-text empty though.
So you’ll get mixed results. Insert the third image and you’ll get an amusing result of “A picture containing dancer, indoor, sport, red” when clearly the image is all about the military and boys in culottes.
Now, we’ll try a business image and search for Donald Trump. I can feel our SEO going up.
The alt-text is accurate but again, no face recognition. Last example to see if there’s some Microsoft bias. I inserted the Microsoft logo.
No alt-text was generated but there’s a button in the image option alt-text panel which you can click to generate some. If you need to use this button, the image was typically not obvious enough for intelligent services to work out straight away so the confidence level will be lower.
Our result? A drawing of a face. Perhaps Bill Gates’ face is in the logo subliminally.
It’s common to have recurring meetings in our Outlook calendars. If the unexpected happens, such as snow or disruption on the trains (not so unexpected), it can be useful to change one of the meeting occurrences to a virtual meeting or a hybrid meeting where some staff are present in the same room and others can dial-in.
Outlook doesn’t provide the option of changing a single occurrence to a Skype for Business meeting however so here’s how to solve it.
If you double-click a meeting entry in calendar and select ‘Just this one’ to edit only this occurrence (below)
You will not be offered the Skype Meeting command on the ribbon (below). Note we have the Teams Meeting option because we have the Teams app installed alongside Skype for Business; you may not see Teams. We’ll be blogging about Teams and it’s relationship to Skype for Business at a later date. Note the ribbon tab showing we are editing the Appointment Occurrence.
If we had chosen to edit the entire series, we will see the Skype Meeting option in the ribbon. Note the ribbon tab showing we are editing the Appointment Series.
Outlook is being helpful here because if you edit a single meeting in a series, it will break the recurrence. In this instance, that’s exactly what we want to do though.
To overcome this, we can add the Skype Meeting command to the meeting Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) by right-clicking the command and selecting Add to Quick Access Toolbar.
The next time we edit a single instance of a meeting, we can click the Skype Meeting icon on the QAT to add-in the virtual meeting options.
When we save the updated meeting, our calendar shows we have broken the recurrence with the icon in the bottom right of the meeting block. But at least our colleagues stuck in some rain-soaked train station can still dial-in and take part in the meeting.
Dictation is being made available to Office 365 applications including Outlook, PowerPoint and Word. Currently it’s a first release feature but will gradually make its way into the mainstream release. This is different from the Windows speech recognition feature where you can control your PC using speech and it’s also distinct from the Windows 10 dictation added to Windows last autumn (and only available for US English).
We loved the Learning Tools add-on for OneNote which included dication and a host of accessibility features and were keen to give dictation a whirl in Outlook.
Enabling Dictation in Office 365
Luckily, there’s very little to set-up as this is a feature that’s enabled by default in an office upgrade. It uses Microsoft’s intelligent services (just like the automatic Alt-Text feature for inserted images) so you’ll need an internet connection – dictation can’t be used offline. If you can’t get dictate to work, check Intelligent Services is enabled in the File, Options, General tab. Your Office account must also be up to date.
Using Office 365 Dictate in Outlook
In a new email, click the Dictate button on the right hand of the Ribbon Home tab. The dropdown menu shows the languages this is available in. This should default to your Windows locale and having UK English gives me a good excuse to test for UK spelling.
It’s unlikely many built-in pc microphones will provide good results in a noisy office so I grabbed a Sennheiser headset and recorded the following:
My favourite colour is purple to wear and green to see. I also like black but it’s not really a colour. I still can’t get dictation to type pounds. My favourite neighbour is the one down the road with the aluminium blinds. I drank too much at a party and made a bit of an arse of myself. It’s my mum’s birthday soon.
You need to specifically add punctuation by saying ‘full stop’ or ‘period’, etc. and also formatting such as ‘new line’ to add a carriage return. I was speaking in a normal cadence but did add a bit of a Windsor accent. This is the result:
Quite an impressive outcome. I like the way offensive words are automatically censored. Spelling is UK English. Why it shortened road I don’t know and the final ‘I’ would have been capitalised had I said ‘new line’ to move to a different paragraph. And I still can’t figure out how to get it to type a £ symbol.
You can say the following to add punctuation:
Period Comma Question mark Exclamation point Exclamation mark New line New paragraph Semicolon Colon Open quote Close quote Open quotes Close quotes
This should be a real boon for users and because it uses Microsoft’s online intelligent services with machine learning, recognition and accuracy should improve over time.
If you have clients around the world it can make a very favourable impression if you provide them with a number local to them. It can cut their costs and gives your organisation a ‘just around the corner’ feel. Imageframe is based in Reading, UK but we do have clients in the US so we set up a New York phone number which seamlessly transfers to our switchboard. This costs roughly £181 per year per number and it also gives us additional UK calling minutes for the organisation.
Let’s start with the basics.
Skype for Business (either as standalone or part of an Office 365 plan) allows you to make calls to other Skype for Business and Teams users. If you want to make calls to PSTN (public switched telephone network) phone numbers and you don’t already integrate with a phone service provider, Office 365 offers the Phone System and Calling Plan licences. The Phone System licence provides cloud-based call-management features such as hold, forward, transfer and voicemail and will cost (as of the date of this post) £6+VAT per month as an add-on for Office 365 E1 or E3 plans. Once you have assigned the Phone System licence to a user, you can add-on either the Domestic Calling Plan for national calls or the International Calling Plan for calls to both domestic and international numbers in hundred of countries. Each of these provide a number of included minutes for calling per-month, rather like an included minutes mobile phone contract.
Purchase the Phone System and a Calling Plan licence and assign these to one of your Office 365 users. Now you can choose their phone number from a wide choice of countries and cities.
The World is Your Oyster (almost).
You can transfer an existing landline number or choose from a selection of phone numbers for your call-enabled users. Sign into the Office 365 admin centre and select the Skype for Business admin centre.
In the Skype for Business Admin Centre, you’ll be able to click on Voice and then Voice Users to see staff who have the phone system and calling plan licences assigned.
You’ll also be able to obtain new numbers from the available countries. The nice thing is that you can keep requesting new numbers until a funky one comes up like 0118 370 1234. The image below is a selection of numbers for San Francisco (415). We can acquire any of these or cancel and try again later to see a new selection.
Once you have acquired numbers you can assign them to voice users. There are two limitations here:
the user’s country in their licence profile needs to match the country for the phone number you want to assign.
you must set up an emergency location address for each country for which you acquire phone numbers.
We have a couple of unused Office 365 licences that we apply to demo personas. These are ideal for assigning the international numbers. View the user properties in the Office 365 admin centre, click on licensing and select edit. Then change the user’s location in the drop-down at the top. This will propagate to Skype for Business after a while and you can assign the US number.
We have also set up a redundant emergency location address for the US as the US number will only ever be used for routing incoming calls and will not actually be used by a bona-fide person. You can set up emergency locations in the Skype for Business admin centre (under the voice option).
Finish by Setting Up Call Forwarding.
Our demo users now have exotic phone numbers but they are not real users so will never answer the phone. We can sign into the Skype for Business client as them and configure call forwarding so if someone rings their number, it will forward the call to one of our real users, or our switchboard. The Skype client also tells us the call has been forwarded so we realise this is an international client.
No unused Office 365 licences?
We have assigned our numbers to demo users. If you don’t have spare Office 365 licences then you can acquire Service Numbers instead of User Numbers. Service numbers are intended to be assigned to services such as Audio Conferencing in Office 365, auto attendants or call queues. Service phone numbers have a higher concurrent call capacity than user numbers but you are allowed fewer service numbers than user numbers.
If you acquire a service number, then you can create an Auto Attendant to forward calls to your switchboard. You do this through the Call Routing option of the Skype for Business admin centre.
Give it a go and create your “London, Paris, New York” office locations. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Did you know you can cut and paste with Microsoft Spike? Probably not! Word has a hidden feature that most people do not know about to collect text on the clipboard from multiple locations and then paste it in to your document all in one go! Most Word users are familiar with using the clipboard to copy and paste text, but Spike works in a slightly different way.
Highlight the paragraph of text you would like to cut
Select the next paragraph of text you would like to cut
Continue cutting text from your document in this way. The paragraphs do not need to be next to each other, you can cut from anywhere in the document to move them to the clipboard.
Once you have finished cutting, you can paste all of the paragraphs in the order that you cut them into another part of the document,
Press CTRL+SHIFT+F3, OR
Type spikeand press F3
This clever piece of functionality utilises the Quick Parts feature in the background and is a useful trick to remember next time you are formatting a long document.
There are many great partnerships in life; Bert and Ernie, Batman and Robin, Yin and Yang and of course the humble Cheese and Pickle sandwich.
Introducing the Dynamic Duo – Cortanaand Microsoft Edge. These two separate applications seamlessly interact to provide you the consumer with a much more fluid and full browsing experience.
Lets back track a little. If you are reading and this and thinking ‘What in the world is Cortana?‘, then you are not alone.
Cortana is your clever new personal assistant! Cortana will help you find things on your PC, manage your calendar, track packages, find files, chat with you, and tell jokes. Yes, I said tell jokes. That was not a typo. The more you use Cortana, the more personalized your experience will be.
Now if you are anything like me, the words ‘Microsoft’ and ‘Assistant’ may conjure up this image in your mind…
Remember this guy?
Ah, Mr Clippy. Everyone’s favourite letter writing obsessed friend. The good news is, Cortana is very different to previous Microsoft Assistant tools and it can be utilised very effectively from within Microsoft Edge.
Turn on Cortana
Before you can use Cortana in Microsoft Edge you need to turn it on in System Settings.
Click the Windows button in the bottom left-hand corner OR press the Windows logo key on your keyboard
Start typing ‘Cortana’ to search
Select ‘Cortana & Search settings’
Use the slider to turn Cortana on
Once Cortana has been turned in, you can now ‘Ask Cortana’ questions directly from your we pages as you are browsing.
Ask Cortana when browsing the web
For example, I was looking at the BBC News website this morning and I was reading an article on the Falkland Islands. I was curious as to where the Falkland Islands were located so I utilised Cortana within my Edge browser.
Highlight the word you would like to search
Right-click and select ‘Ask Cortana’
Cortana will load information related to your search in a pane on the left-hand side of the screen.
NOTE: You must ensure you turn Cortana on within settings in order for ‘Ask Cortana’ to show in the menu when you right-click.
Hands up if this applies to you. You’ve spent hours working on an awesome document, typing and formatting like a mad thing, switching from one window to the next when suddenly….ahh! You’ve accidently closed the document you were working on without saving. *Cue lots of colourful language and crying*. Fortunately, Word 2013 allows you to recover your unsaved documents.
Click File to go to the backstage area
Click the Manage Versions drop-down arrow
Click Recover Unsaved Documents
Select your document and click Open
A yellow warning message will display across the top of the document.
Click Save As
Save your document as normal
Tip 2: Edit a PDF in Word 2013
If there is one thing sure to infuriate me, it’s receiving a form or document that I need to complete in PDF format! For years, PDF was the ‘go to’ file format if you wanted to prevent others from editing your document. Well not anymore! In Word 2013, you can easily edit and make changes to a PDF document. You can almost hear the sound of Microsoft users everywhere rejoicing!
Click the File menu to go to the backstage area
Click the Open tab
Navigate to the correct folder and select the PDF file
A dialogue box will appear informing you that your PDF file will be converted to an editable Word Document. It is worth noting that if your document contains a lot of images or graphics it might not look exactly like the original PDF and may need some ‘tweaking’.
Tip 3: Preserve your eyeballs and switch to Read Mode
Read Mode is a great option to use if you find yourself spending time reading or checking long documents. Also, if you are like me and find it easier to read text on a darker background, you can switch the background colour and give your eyeballs a well needed break from black on stark white. All of the document review options you know, love and need are still available in Read Mode.
Click the View tab
Click Read Mode
The document layout will change to an easy-to-read, two page per screen format.
Click the grey arrow to move to the next two pages
To maximise the ‘real estate’ on the page, you can hide the toolbar by clicking the ‘Auto-hide reading toolbar’ button in the top-right corner
To change the background colour of the page
Select Page Colour from the menu
Select Sepia or Inverse
Tip 4: Replying to comments
Collaborate smarter on documents by utilising Word’s reply to comment feature. This is an inline option that enables you to directly reply to any comments added by colleagues ensuring a smoother workflow.
Ensure that you have comments showing
Right-click on the comment icon within the comment
Select Reply to Comment from the menu
Add your reply comments. These will appear slightly indented underneath the original comment and will display under your name.
Click on any colleagues name in the comments section to directly IM, Call, Video Chat or Email without leaving Word.
Tip 5: Permanently delete cropped areas of a picture
This was something that I didn’t discover until recently. Did you know that if you crop a picture in Word and then send that document to a colleague, they can see the full, uncropped picture and restore it to the original? Imagine the embarrassment of cropping out a company logo or sensitive information only for it to re-appear again with a simple click of the Crop button by a ‘Word savvy’ colleague. Don’t be an amateur, ensure you permanently delete all cropped areas before sending.
Select a picture in your document
Click the Picture Tools contextual ribbon
Click the Format tab
Select Crop from the drop-down menu
Drag the handles to select only the part of the picture you would like to retain
Click Crop again
Once the picture has been cropped ensure that you permanently remove the cropped section so that it cannot be restored by a colleague.
Select the picture
Click Compress Pictures
Place a tick in the ‘Delete cropped areas of picture’ tickbox
Tip 6: Touch/Mouse Mode
In an increasingly mobile world it is becoming extremely important to be able to access and work on documents and files ‘on the go’. Mobile devices play a huge role in this with more and more people working from Smartphones and tablets. The new Touch/Mouse Mode in Word (available across all Office applications) optimises the spacing between commands for use with a mouse or a touchscreen. Yes, Microsoft have developed a solution to ‘fat finger’ syndrome. Hoorah!
Select the Touch/Mouse Mode icon on the Quick Access Toolbar
Tip 7: Border Painter Tool
This new feature in Word 2013 enables you to fully control your border style and placement in a table. Go crazy with your painting and decorating and really make those tables stand out!
First, setup the colour, weight and line style for the border
Select the table
Click the Design tab under the Table Tools contextual ribbon
Set the desired Border Style, Pen Colour, Line Weight
Click Border Painter. The curser will change to a paintbrush
Paint over a border of the table to apply the new style
Tip 8: Adding online video
Have you found a really awesome video on YouTube or Bing that you would love to be able to insert into your Word document to really make it come alive? Utilise Word 2013’s Online Video feature to search and add any video into your document.
Click the Insert tab
Click Online Video
Select Bing Video Search, YouTube video search or paste the video embed code directly.
Select a video
The video will be inserted into your document.
Click the Play button
You can also share the link to the video on social media from within the Word document.
Click the Share icon
Select a social media service to share the link on.
Performing a clean install of the free Windows 10 upgrade is a 2 step process. Firstly as an in-place upgrade to register the free upgrade and then as a clean install. This is an inconvenience especially when upgrading multiple desktops and sometimes in-place upgrades from one version of an OS fail to complete.
In-place Upgrades can Fail
Reasons for failed upgrades range from undetected incompatible hardware drivers, erroneous applications, user tweaked settings, malware, antivirus and hard disk accelerator software through to not enough disk space, underlying bad disk sectors and proprietary disk compression or encryption software.
Although these possibilities have been around for many years, the free offer of a Windows 10 upgrade has made more people than ever want to jump up onto this new release and because of the time limitation before the free upgrade offer expires in July 2016, it has made the heightened the perception of urgency to do it now (it could just be because ‘the grass is greener’ or maybe even some think Microsoft will suddenly have a change of heart and whip this free upgrade from under them).
And while the vast majority of people will simply perform the in-place upgrade and allow Windows 10 to merge onto their existing PC setup, some, however, prefer to go down the ‘purists’ route of a clean install. Migrate all the useful data off their existing system, wipe the drive (preferably after having run a HDD surface scan on older drives), install a fresh OS and enjoy the challenge of searching out any missing drivers for those odd hardware pieces.
In order to be eligible for a Windows 10 free upgrade you must allow the upgrade process to identify that your existing OS installation is valid in terms of version (Windows 7, 8.0, 8.1), edition (Home or Pro), and activation (genuine software, not a trial, or otherwise not properly activated). For those interested in more detail, go to the Windows 10 FAQ.
Two-Step Upgrade Process
This leads us back to our original point; performing a clean install of Windows 10, whilst trying to qualify for the free upgrade, is a 2 step process. Firstly the existing OS must be registered as being eligible and secondly that eligibility must be migrated over to the new clean install.
Given that quite often the reason for a clean install is that this existing OS is experiencing some of the issues I mentioned right at the very start of this article this can mean that this initial in-place upgrade never completes, preventing enrolment of the PC to enable a subsequent clean install.
However, this is a shortcut to this initial step – that of enrolling/registering/certifying (call it what you will) the PC’s existing OS that it is indeed suitable and eligible for a free Windows 10 upgrade without having to perform the entire Windows 10 in-place upgrade first.
Naturally, before proceeding, any data migration from the old PC must be completed, either in the form of a backup, file transfer or Easy Transfer Wizard. You may even want to consider performing a full system image copy in case you do not successfully complete the fresh install phase. Proceed only if you have a way to recover.
Use your preferred method to access the files within the downloaded ISO (such as burn it to disk, mount it within Windows or use a 3rd party utility to expand it).
Search for gatherosstate.exe. Depending on the version of the image you chose, it will either reside in sources or \Windows\x64\sources or \Windows\x32\sources. Copy gatherosstate.exe to your desktop.
Ensuring you are properly connected to the internet, run the gatherosstate application. After a few seconds, an additional file should appear on your desktop – GenuineTicket.XML. This is confirmation that your existing PC and OS have passed the pre-requisites needed to perform a clean Windows 10 install. Save the file GenuineTicket.XMLto a location NOT on your system HDD (as this is going to be wiped). Any location will do; USB, network share, even email it to yourself!
Perform your clean install of Windows 10. When requested for the product key, click the ‘SKIP’ button.
When the clean install has completed and you’re looking at your fresh desktop, locate GenuineTicket.XMLand copy it to the hidden folder C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\ClipSVC\GenuineTicket. You can navigate to it directly by pasting this URL directly into a RUN dialog box (Win+R to activate, or Win+X,R or just type in RUN into the Cortana search box).
Reboot your PC.
That’s it! In order to confirm activation, bring up the SYSTEM panel (Win+Pause, Win+x, S, or type SYSTEM into the Cortana search box). The System dialog box will now confirm that this new installation is activated.
Allow updates to be performed on your new system, via SETTINGS, Update & Security.
Enjoy that new-fresh Windows 10 installation smell!
Select Disable Updates and none of your Office applications will be updated; you won’t need to do this in each application. Somewhere in the world a puppy will start crying however, because you are defying Microsoft.
This action shouldn’t be taken lightly though; you will also not receive security patches so your products may become vulnerable. And at some point, your installation of Office will become unsupported.
Option 3 is performed by running OfficeC2RClient.exe from an administrative command-prompt and using the updatetoversionswitch with the specific version you want to deploy which can be newer or older than the current version (or you may not have one installed at all). If you don’t specify a version, it defaults to the latest one. The versions only go back so far but theoretically you could deploy an older release going back a couple of years.
How will rollbacks work when Office 2016 applications are brought into mainstream Office 365?
We’ll post an update to this blog when we try it.
The last point may seem obvious and irrelevant but we have to mention it for completeness. You can of course still use Office 2011 for Mac on the device whilst connecting to the Office 365 cloud services. But this is not going to help if you’ve subscribed to an Office 365 plan which includes Office applications; who wants to pay twice for the same thing?