Blog Archive

Modern Attachments in OWA

I’ve just been sent an email with a PowerPoint template attached.  All would be fine except this is the fourth version of the template file.  I’m lucky that I don’t need to worry about storage limits in my inbox but I still don’t like multiple versions flying about and duplicated search results.

We all know we should put the file in a shared location and send a link to so we don’t need to worry about different people having different versions.  But it’s never been easy.

Modern Attachments with Outlook Web App

If the file is on OneDrive for Business (we’re assuming you don’t put business files in OneDrive), I can easily attach them to an email and the sharing is done for me.  I don’t need to go into the ODfB folder and share.

Below I have a document stored on my ODfB but shared with no-one.

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

 

In Outlook Web App (OWA), I compose my email in the normal way and insert attachment.

 

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

OneDrive for Business shows me recent files.  This is a fairly new enhancement along with the ‘shared with me’ view.  I select the file I want to attach.

 

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

The all-important question; do I want to attach this file and endure the pain of resending it every time something changes.  Or do I want the simplicity of sharing the file via OneDrive?

 

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

Within the email, I can use the dropdown on each attachment to change the permissions from the default of edit.

 

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

And once I send the email, I can see that the share and permissions have been set for me automatically back in ODfB.  Nice.

 

 

OneDrive Modern attachments

 

An upcoming feature of ODfB is expirations on shared links.  That means I could share a file or folder for a week and the permissions will automatically revoke after that time.  How this will surface in the attachment process, I don’t know.

Currently, this feature is only available via OWA but it will be included in the rich Outlook client sometime in 2015 (no timeline) and in the mobile Outlook apps for iOS and Android before July 2015.

 

 

 


Lync Translator – Klingon vs Welsh

Can you Confused peoplespeak Klingon?  Nope, nor can I.  Unless I eat a hot chilli and then I emit sounds which could be mistaken for Klingon.

Lync can translate from and into not just one dialect but two dialects of Klingon.

Lync 2010 client application (and 2013 of course) has a little-known conversation translation feature which is great fun to try but also very useful if you need to collaborate with people who don’t share your language.  Let’s take an example of a local council.  A newly arrived Romanian strolls into the council office reception and sees a kiosk where they can select help with various councily things.  The resident selects their preferred language, selects their requirement (e.g. housing), is connected via Lync to someone in the appropriate team who can instant message (IM) in English whilst the resident IMs in their preferred language.  Or Klingon.  [Disclaimer: I am not in any way stereotyping Romanians, housing applicants, council employees or Klingons.]

In the early days of this feature, Welsh translation was not an option.  I asked Microsoft HQ why they had chosen to offer Klingon before Welsh and they came back with the perfectly reasonable answer that more people in the world spoke Klingon than Welsh so it was a higher priority.  Sorry Cardiff.

The feature does require enabling (if you want to try it yourself you can see one method on this blog page) but is fun to try.  Microsoft is not promising that you’ll be seen as fluent but it overcomes language barriers quite effectively.

Turn on Lync Conversation translator

 

Start Lync Conversation translator

 

Lync Conversation translator preview

The new Skype for Business will go even further by translating the audio in conversations.  Skype Translator is in preview currently and only works with English and Spanish but is a promising feature.

Sign up for the Skype translation preview at Microsoft.com.  You can also read our blog post on licensing Skype for Business and of course take one of our Office 365 or Lync Server training courses and gain your Microsoft qualification.


Office Demos to Make Customers Cry

User jumping for joy

We don’t mean make them cry in a bad way.  Let me set the scene.  Microsoft have between 1-1.5 billion users of Office applications worldwide.  The Office developers work really hard to make the applications intuitive so users can just get on and use them without needing to take a day’s training course in Outlook or Excel.  However there’s a downside.  Users tend to use new versions of Office in the same way they used the previous version so they don’t really see any immediate improvement and that’s part of the reason we see customer inertia; no-one takes the time to point out some of the fantastic things they can now do.

With new Office versions, there’s really two buckets of goodness – firstly, a bunch of new features and secondly, improvements.  The improvements might include a single button which does what used to take the user 5 minutes and twenty clicks in the previous version.  Or perhaps an improvement will stop users swearing so much!  New features are great too but I find they’re best learnt organically; take a couple of minutes each day to look at a new feature and if it will help, then practice it but don’t try to learn every new trick in Office from day 1.

So we’re starting a series of very quick demos that you can easily emulate either to learn from or to repeat if you have customers that use Office.  Welcome to number 1.

Excel Flashfill

1. Download and open the sample Excel file.  Once you’ve downloaded that, pat yourself on the back for ensuring you had up-to-date anti-malware installed and you can confidently download files from the great unwashed Internet.

2. You’ll see a simple table with five columns.  Column 2 (Data) holds concatenated strings which we need to split out into the correct columns, so the Manager column will hold names such as John, Jenny and Bill and the Category column will hold the type of expense such as Advertising, Events and Digital Marketing.  Some Excel users will look in the help for a string function that will work.  Others will look in the ribbon and perhaps try out Text to Columns.  Most users will see there’s only twenty table rows and just type or copy and paste.  That’s how errors occur; one Bill might be typed with three l’s in it; we won’t notice and the reports will be wrong.

Excel flashfill demo step 1

 

Excel flashfill3. Click in cell D4 and type John.  Hit ENTER to go to cell D5 and type Jenny.  As soon as you’ve typed Jen you should see Excel volunteer the rest of the rows.  It’s as if a little Excel intern has been watching and is now stepping into take over your work.  How lovely.  Hit enter to accept the Flashfill.

4. Now click in cell E5, type Events and hit ENTER.  Hit CTRL+E to force Flashfill to evaluate the pattern at this point and you should see the suggestions.  Press ENTER to accept.

5. Flashfill can do smarter things too.  Click in cell F5 and type John heads up events.  Then hit enter to move down into cell F6 and start typing Jenny heads up advertising.  Flashfill will complete the rows for you, including respect to your capitalisation of the category name (keeping it lowercase).

Customers have asked at what point Flashfill is checking.  You can be reassured that this is nothing scary.  We’re all happy with autofill; type in 1 in a cell and 2 underneath and you can have Excel continue the numbering pattern t0 3, 4, 5, etc.  Flashfill is just an extension of autofill, that’s all.

Flashfill step 3Sometimes Flashfill will not guess correctly first time in which case you ignore the greyed out suggestions and keep typing rows.  Your little Excel intern will keep watching and at some point will guess the correct pattern at which point you just hit ENTER to save lots of typing!  Sheet 2 includes an example of this.  Click in cell C2 and type Adriana from Germany.  Go to cell C3 and type Billy from United Kingdom.  Flashfill is suggesting incorrect matches at this point but you just ignore it and keep typing in the rows.  You will need to get down to row 5 (Damien from Germany) before the suggested pattern is correct and at this point you can accept it by hitting ENTER.

Flashfill is available as a Ribbon command too (on the Data tab) and is a feature of Microsoft Excel 2013 and Office 365 ProPlus.

Subscribe to our Twitter feed for more hints and tips, take one of our Office courses or let us run an Office Buzz Day for your users.


PowerPoint Presenter View Says No

PowerPoint Presenter ViewAn attendee had an issue with a PowerPoint file and could not choose ‘Use Presenter View’ as it was greyed out and disabled.  What’s more, when the slideshow was started, it didn’t take up the whole screen but annoyingly, played in a window and left the system tray icons at the bottom of the display.  How is a speaker supposed to present their awesome slideshow on plans for World Domination v1.0 if they can’t even get PowerPoint working?  As you can imagine, we use PowerPoint quite a lot so were happy to point out the issue.

First thing to check of course is whether the dual monitor option in Windows is set up correctly and in this case it was.  The second cause is a feature of PowerPoint that is less well-known because most slideshows are presented live by a speaker.  An alternative is to set-up self-running presentations, either in full screen (for example on kiosk displays) or in a window.  These will typically use recorded timings for each slide and animations so they play and advance in a timely manner and might even loop continuously.  To set your PowerPoint deck up to run automatically, choose Set Up Slide Show in the Slide Show ribbon tab.

Set up slideshow button

 

 

This will open a window where you can set your play options.

Set up PowerPoint slideshow

 

 

 

 

 

In our attendee’s example, the Show Type was set to Browsed by an individual which meant the show would play in a resizable window and not full screen or presenter view.  Kiosk mode plays the show full screen and uses timings to advance the slides; users cannot click or touch to advance.  The default is Presented by a speaker and for some reason this deck had that option changed.  Once we’d selected the correct show type, the Use Presenter View checkbox was active again and the world is happy.

Of course, if you’d like to know more hints and tips on Microsoft PowerPoint or any Office application, we’d love to hear from you.

 


Save the Photographs!

My wife takes digital photos and downloads them onto her laptop.  Then she deletes them from the camera.  If you have ever taken a hard-drive apart, on those rainy days to avoid doing dull IT tasks, you’ll know how fragile they are.  Lots of memories on those small platters of film.  No matter how many external hard drives I buy, or funny-shaped USB sticks to persuade her to back up her files, she never does.  So it’s with great anticipation that Microsoft Azure Backup Vaults now support Windows client OS (Windows 7 and Windows 8) as well as Windows Server.

Windows Client backup to Azure

 

If you’re a techie, you might be thinking why didn’t I set up a home active directory domain on an HP Microserver, back-up the client devices that log-on, including my wife’s laptop, and then back the server and thus the client files up to Azure?  Well, I did but the big blue light on the front on the Microserver started to annoy me at night because it was really bright so I keep turning it off and that’s not really a good infrastructure decision.

Let’s walk through how to set your home pc to back-up to the Azure cloudy goodness.  A couple of basics first; you will need an Azure subscription and this back-up solution will cost you money.  However, backups are compressed, encrypted, triple-replicated inside Microsoft’s datacenters and once you’ve set up your back-up schedule, it’s automatic.  And think of your photographic memories safe and sound (although of course you should periodically test your recovery processes as well).

Log onto www.azure.com and go to the Azure portal.  Select Recovery Services and create a new Backup Vault.  Once you have your vault, the dashboard will show you the next steps to take.

Azure backup vault dashboard

 

The client machine needs to register with the Azure Backup Vault.  A few months ago this required creating a certificate but now Azure simply provides a credentials file to download and save onto your local machine.  Next, download the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) agent onto the local pc and run it.  The Azure portal provides two options for the backup agent; pick the first option (Windows Server or System Center Data Protection Manager or Windows Client).  The setup wizard is going to ask about proxy settings and will also download the pre-requisites but typically on a home network, you’ll be able to breeze through accepting the defaults.

Azure backup agent installation

 

Azure backup agent installation

 

Azure backup agent installation

 

The final step allows you to Proceed to Registration (or you can Close the setup but if you’re ready to schedule the backup, you may as well proceed to register your pc with the backup vault).  The backup agent will ask for the vault credentials file that you downloaded and then you’ll need to specify a passphrase.  This will be used for encrypting the data before transfer to Azure.  Note the data is encrypted on the client device and stored in Azure encrypted.  Microsoft do not hold the passphrase so it’s vital this is kept safe and secure otherwise you’ll only be able to restore encrypted data.  In fact, the agent will not let you proceed to the next step until the passphrase is saved to another location.

Azure backup agent

Once you’ve registered the server (the agent still refers to your client pc as a server; can’t change everything overnight), the Azure Backup app will be started and you can set your backup schedule.

Azure backup app

The wizard is pretty straight-forward to navigate; you select the items from you local pc to backup (note that Azure will only backup the data that changes after the initial backup).

Azure backup app

The next step is to set up the frequency of the backup, i.e. when it will run, and how long Azure will retain the backups for.  A recent change was the increase of the maximum retention period to 3,360 days; essentially about 9 years so this is an archiving solution as well as a disaster recovery.  However, remember your costs.  Even though Azure backup will compress the data before storage, the more backups you keep, the more storage you’ll use and the higher the monthly cost.  There’s also a limit of 120 recovery points so you may need to balance the frequency with the retention range or you’ll get an error message when you hit the Next button.  For example, the screenshot below is trying to backup once a week and keep these recovery points for 9 years which would easily exceed 120 points.  However, if I set the frequency to monthly (4 weekly to be exact), I’d be fine.

Azure backup app

There’s also a size limit of 1700GB per volume to each backup operation (so if you’re backing up files from multiple drives, you have around 1.7TB from each).  You can stop the backup or change the items to backup and then schedule by clicking Schedule Backup in the main Azure Backup application window.

Recovering items is also straightforward; you can specify the recovery point (date) to restore from and which items you want to restore.  You can also restore these items to the original location or a new location.

Back in the Azure portal, you can see the registered server (or in this case client pc) and also view the protected items and the recovery points.  You can register up to 50 machines against each backup vault and as of December 2014, you can have up to 25 backup vaults per Azure subscription.

Azure backup protected items

And just as a final part to this blog, we have to thanks one of our trainers, Thomas Lee who scored this coup by asking nicely for it!


Licensing Gotcha #1 – OWA

Microsoft Licensing ClarityIf you’ve dealt with Microsoft Licensing, you’ll know there are lots of exceptions, gotchas, myths and riddles.  We want to clear some of those up in our blog posts so number one is a good place to start.  These all assume basic Microsoft licensing knowledge but if you need to top this up with some free training, look at our licensing courses or contact us.

Microsoft Exchange Server is licensed in a server and CAL (client access licence) model.  The CALs can be per-user or per-device.  These CALs provide the user or device rights to access the Exchange server but you need a client to read and send email, deal with calendar entries and so on.  The obvious client is Outlook; part of the Office family of applications.  In the past the Exchange CAL included an Outlook licence but this was no longer included after Exchange Server 2003 and since then, Outlook needs to be purchased separately.

Perhaps you don’t have Outlook?  That’s ok because the Exchange CAL provides the rights to access e-mail, calendar, contacts and tasks through either Outlook Web App (OWA) or through a mobile device via Exchange ActiveSync.

Typically a user will access their mailbox from a number of devices.  This is fine if you have deployed Exchange per-user CALs; the user can log into OWA from pretty much any internet connected device (hotel kiosks, airport lounge machines, home, work, internet cafés, etc.) and the user can synchronise to any supported mobile device.

If you have deployed per-device CALs then the user can only use OWA from licensed devices and can only synchronise from licensed mobile devices.

Hopefully you see the gotcha here.  Exchange is brilliant at providing access anywhere, anytime and on any device but only if you licence per-user.  For organisations that have per-device Exchange licensing, anywhere access becomes extremely restricted.


IE Auto-Scaling Annoys Me

Like many people, I work on multiple monitors.  Take now for example; I’m writing this blog post on my main monitor and Jeremy Kyle is playing in Internet Explorer on the second monitor (is he the father and the brother?  Who really cares?).

My monitors are set to different resolutions and when I drag an Internet Explorer window from my main monitor to the second monitor, it automatically scales to 150% which makes it unusable.  This ‘helpful’ behaviour is actually extremely annoying to me but there is an easy way to prevent this from happening.

Right click your desktop and select Screen Resolution.  Click Make text and other items larger or smaller and then check the box for Let me choose one scaling level for all my displays.

Stop Internet Explorer auto scaling

 

You may need to sign out of Windows and back in again for some bizarre reason but that should solve the issue.

Now, back to Jeremy Kyle, “My teenage son picks his nose too much”.


Dude, where’s my data?

Office 365 Logo

A play on the film title from “Dude, where’s my car?” in which, well actually, we can’t remember the plot but we do remember the title and something about a scene with tattoos.

Putting movies to one side, customers often want to know where their mailboxes reside in Office 365 and Exchange Online.  If my billing address is in Europe I can assume my data centres are located in Dublin and Amsterdam but can I verify that?  Also, the mailboxes for individual users and resources might be in either of those locations.  Here’s where a little PowerShell comes in handy.

There’s a useful getting started with Powershell resource on the Microsoft website.  You can also search the web for myriad explanations but be aware many of these will be out of date especially if you’re using Windows 8.1.

Windows 8.1 includes PowerShell by default so on the Start screen, type PowerShell, right-click Windows PowerShell in the search results and select Run as Administrator.  I’ll explain why you need to run it as admin in a moment.

How to run Windows powerShell

 

So many memories of the old DOS window.  PowerShell doesn’t speak Office 365 by default so we have to teach it by installing the Windows PowerShell cmdlets for Office 365 management and deployment.  Your keyboard should now be bristling with all the power you have at your fingertips.

1 – Set the PowerShell execution policy.  The default setting for execution policy is restricted which would not allow PowerShell to run scripts at all; secure but not very useful.  RemoteSigned tells PowerShell it can run scripts on the local machine but any scripts downloaded from the Internet must be signed by a trusted publisher.  This is also why you need to run PowerShell as administrator; in order to change this setting.

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

2 – Set your Office 365 admin credentials.  A popup window will appear where you type in your Office 365 admin user and password.  This will also tell the PowerShell cmdlets which Office 365 tenant you want to connect to.

$cred = Get-Credential

3 – In order to perform administrative tasks on Office 365 you can connect to the online service using the credentials you supplied.

Connect-MsolService -cred $cred

4 – You can list all the Office 365 admin commands.  Note that Exchange, SharePoint and the other cloud services have their own set of commands.

Get-Command –Module msonline

5 – To connect to Exchange Online, type the following commands.  You don’t need to change anything here; again, the tenant to connect to is specified by the login ID in the credentials.

$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://ps.outlook.com/powershell -Credential $cred -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection

Import-PSSession $Session

6 – Return your mailbox information to see where they’re located.  If the server name begins with db you’re in Dublin and if it’s am you’re in Amsterdam.  Happy travels!

Get-Mailbox


How to Access the Old Print Preview

Microsoft have to please over a billion users of Office so there will always be some elements that people aren’t so keen on. You can tell we’re being diplomatic here can’t you? I must admit I stayed with the Windows Classic start menu when I used Windows Vista back in the day.

I had a question from a user at Land Securities during an Office demonstration session. The person was working on a small device and the Word print preview in Office 2010 and 2013 only shows the document in half the window. He missed the old print preview dialogue box where he could view the document as full screen.

Office Print Preview Window

 

When features of Office are deprecated, some of them remain in the product but are moved into the background. This is one of those features. To access the old-style Print Preview window you need to customise the Ribbon or Quick Access Toolbar.  Let’s use the Quick Access Toolbar for our example.  To add commands to the toolbar, click the arrow to the far right.  As the command in question is not in the common commands list, select More Commands….

Customise the Ofice Quick Access Toolbar

 

This will show the Customise Quick Access Toolbar page in the options window.  Click on the dropbox and select All Commands to display an alphabetical list of all the Word commands; a surprising number of them.

Office Ribbon Commands

 

Scroll down in the list until you see Print Preview Edit Mode.  Double-click the command to add it to your Quick Access Toolbar.

Add a command to the ribbon

 

And now you have the Office 2007 style Print Preview window at the touch of a button.

Command added to the Quick Access Toolbar

 

Whether it will still be there in the next version of Office is anyone’s guess of course, so caveat emptor or another suitable Latin phrase for be careful when using old Office commands.

Old style print preview

 


Excel Chart Conditional Formatting

Craig from Lloyds Banking Group asked if Excel’s conditional formatting can be applied to charts.  I’d like to provide the answer in the form of a news sandwich (good news, bad news, good news).

It’s a nice sunny day as I’m writing this article.

No, you can’t I’m afraid, Craig.

You can create a pseudo conditionally formatted chart.

Excel Conditional Formatting – a Recap

You have a list of customer accounts and due dates in Excel.  You want to highlight customers who have due dates within the next week in orange and you want to highlight customers who have due dates within 2 days in red.  That makes your list more readable and Excel more human.  Back in the old days of Excel 2003 you’d need to do some functions to achieve this and you were limited to 3 conditions per cell.  Conditional Formatting was introduced in Excel 2007 and has improved ever since.  It allows the user to create some nifty formatting based on cell values with just a few clicks.

Excel Conditional Formatting Date Example

 

You can also choose conditions based on averages, top %, text occurring, duplicate values and many more.  You can also use icons such as red, amber and green or perhaps smiley faces.  And also you can choose data bars which allow you to visualise the value according to magnitude.

Excel 2013 Data Bars screenshot

 

So Craig’s question asked if one can apply this Conditional Formatting feature to bars or segments within Excel charts?

And if you recall, the answer is no but you can create a similar experience by categorising the data into distinct, banded columns and charting those.  Let’s take a table (below) with data series and values which we want to chart.

Excel table ready for conditional formatting

 

A default chart will represent each column in the same colour (below).

Excel chart without conditional formatting

We want each bar coloured according to the band of values it falls into.  To do this we can create the bands we want to chart as additional columns in the table (below).  In rows 1 and 2 we list the boundaries of each band (e.g. 0 and 500).   Each value cell (G4-M16) is then calculated using a formula =IF(AND(G$1<$F4,$F4<=G$2),$F4,””).  For each cell, the Amount (F4-F16) is compared to the boundaries.  If the value falls within a boundary then value is written into that cell, otherwise it’s left blank.  The result is our mapped table below.

Chart with additional columns for conditional formatting

 

Now if we click on the default chart we created earlier, Excel highlights the table data used for the chart (below).

Excel data used for the default chart

 

Drag the red and blue boxes to select our new data (below).

New data selection for chart

 

And voila, we have our chart with conditionally coloured bands and a key to those bands (below).  Note, in true Blue Peter fashion I’ve adjusted the colours for each band and also adjusted the gap and spacing of the bars (simply double-click on any of the bars and you’ll have access to those settings).  This is a rough and ready but effective solution.  It won’t be the most efficient for large volumes of data because we are running the calculations for every cell repeatedly.  We could use VBA for a more efficient method but that’s another blog entry for the future…

Excel chart with conditional formatting