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How to Use the Steps Recorder

How to use the Steps Recorder

The Steps Recorder is a well-hidden tool available in Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1 and Windows 10. It allows you to record actions and then share the recording with others.

So why would you want to record actions? Well, have you ever had a colleague who is always asking you how to do things in Office? Instead of telling them, record the steps and send them the document. Or how about those occasional error messages that you need to report to your IT Team? Instead of explaining the issue, record the steps you took to get to the error.

Of course, steps recorder doesn’t just limit your recordings to Office.  You can record actions on pretty much anything; how to log expenses or use the line-of-business time tracking tools or how to play sneaky at Fortnite.  And the recorder tool is intelligent enough to black out sensitive fields such as passwords or digitally protected windows.

  1. Open the Steps Recorder (if you do not know where the Steps Recorder is located, search for it from the Start screen)
  2. Close any open windows other than Steps Recorder
How to use the Steps Recorder

NOTE: Steps Recorder will make screenshots of what’s on your computer screen and include those in the final recording. It is important that any unrelated open programs are closed first as this could be distracting.

  1. Click the Start Record button
  2. Complete the steps necessary as normal

You can tell when Steps Recorder is recording when the Start Record button changes to Pause Record and the title bar flashes ‘Recording Now’. The recording can be paused and resumed at any given time. During a recording you can also click the ‘Add Comment’ button to highlight a section of your screen and manually add a comment.

  1. Once you have finished, click Stop Record
  2. Click Save As
  3. Give the recording a name and click Save

A single .zip file containing all of the information recorded will be created and saved to your Desktop unless another location was specified. This can now be shared in one of the following ways:

  • Attached the file to an email
  • Copying the file to a network share drive or flash drive
  • Attaching the file to a forum post
  • Uploading the file to a file sharing service and linking to it

It is worth noting that Steps Recorder is not available in operating systems prior to Windows 7.

 


Quick Access to a SharePoint library

Being able to synchronise a SharePoint document library to your pc in order to utilise it through Windows File Explorer is extremely useful. However the synchronisation will use up storage space on your local hard drive and having organisational documents stored locally will increase the risk of information compromise.

An effective way of rapidly accessing SharePoint document libraries and folders through File Explorer is to add them to the Quick Access section at the top left or the File Explorer windows, aka Favourites.

Step 1 – Navigate to the library through Internet Explorer

Browse to your SharePoint site and click on the document library.

SharePoint Document Library

 

Step 2 – Open the library in File Explorer

This is a great little step which opens the library as if it were a traditional mapped drive.  On the right-hand side of your document library toolbar (New, Upload, Sync, etc.) you’ll see the All Documents view.  Dropdown to see options and choose Open library in Windows File Explorer.  This allows you to act on the files just as you would normally for operations such as bulk copy or move.  The files are not synchronised locally so there is no offline access, storage or latency issues.  You must be online to achieve this and also must be using Internet Explorer as Chrome, FireFox and even Edge don’t support the Open library in Windows File Explorer feature.

Open a SharePoint document library in Windows File Explorer

Step 3 – Pin the library to you Quick Access navigation

When the explorer window opens, right-click the Quick Access on the left hand side and choose Pin current folder to Quick Access.  Or if it’s just a subfolder, right-click the specific folder you want and select Pin to Quick Access.  You’ll now have a handy shortcut to your online document library within File Explorer.

Pin a folder to Quick Access in Windows File Explorer

 

Caveats

This method assumes you are on a domain-joined machine with the same login as your Office 365 account, you have automatic login enabled and your SharePoint intranet is a trusted domain within Internet Explorer.  Otherwise File Explorer won’t be able to authenticate and you’ll get an error window stating access denied.  If this is a problem you aren’t able to resolve, then try one of the alternative methods below.

SharePoint Access Denied Error

 

Alternative methods

You can achieve a similar result in the Office applications.  Copy the URL of your SharePoint library (removing everything from the /forms suffix onwards).  Start your Office application, e.g. Word.  Select File, Save As and paste the URL into the filename box (you may need to click Browse first).  Hit enter and the app will open your document library.  Now you can scroll up the folder tree on the left until you see Quick Access and right-click in the same way as step 1.  This will propagate into other Office apps but not File Explorer and it’s useful if you regularly save into or open files from SharePoint libraries.

Finally, it’s also possible to pin the web page to your Windows taskbar in order to have quick navigation to the portal view of your library.  Drag the webpage tab onto the taskbar until the icon changes to Pin.  Then release the mouse button and you’ll have a persistent icon to that page.

Pin a webpage to Windows taskbar

Don’t Cycle in London

London bike theft data by street

 

3D Mapping in Excel (formerly Power Maps) is one of our favourite features and can make a huge impact on a dull spreadsheet of data.  We were working with the Metropolitan Police recently during their upgrade from Windows XP and we created a customised Excel analysis demo on crime data.

UK crime data is publicly available and we envisaged mapping crimes across police forces.  It turns out there’s quite a lot of crime in the country.  So we limited the data to just the Met Police.  Still a lot of crime.  Then we filtered to just show bicycle thefts.  Still a lot.  So we limited the data to between January and November 2015.  Still 13,500 recorded cycle thefts just within those eleven months.  So the moral is don’t cycle in London.

Turn Dull Data into a Compelling Story

Imagine you are a crime prevention officer (or perhaps you already are in which case just imagine you have a different name).  Your experience tells you a bike anti-theft campaign in Richmond will pay dividends in lowering the crime figures for the area.  You want to take the data to a budget holder to ask for some cash for bike marking, lockable posts, etc. and you show them the following:

London bike theft data sample

 

It doesn’t paint a compelling argument to obtain budget.  And there are 13,500 of these rows too.  Now luckily, you recently saw an awesome awareness session from someone at ImageFrame when they ran a Buzz Day at your office and you recalled Excel 3D maps.

3D maps allows you to create a graphical report (called a tour) with pages (called scenes) on which you can plot data with geographical information such as postcode, town, latitude/longitude.  For example, in the first scene of our bike theft tour, we mapped the count of bike thefts grouped by London Borough.  This gives us a good overview.  Then we mapped the count again but using lat/lon for accuracy down to street level.  This clearly shows us correlation we don’t see from the data alone; the high concentrations of bike thefts are from train stations (notice the highest brown column in the first picture in this post).

3D maps also allow us to overlay different data sets so we could show crime data overlaid onto demographic information.

If that wasn’t enough, we can include a timeline so the map ‘matures’ and plots the data gradually in relation to dates.  This allows us to see which months are the hotspots for bike thefts.

We’ll blog about how to create a 3D map in the near future but for now you can download our sample data set here and the completed map report as a video here.  Once you have the data set, open it in Excel, select the Insert tab and 3D map then Open 3D Maps.  You’ll see our tour already created for you.  In Office 2013, the ribbon tabs will refer to Power Map instead of 3D Map.

Open 3D Maps in Excel

 

Have a play and if you do cycle in London, make sure you have a really good bike lock.

 

 


Simple ways to cut costs through tech

We’re often told how technology can help organisations save money so here are some concrete actions that be used in organisations and teams.

Action 1 – Utilise virtual meetings

Until we develop telepathy we’re going to need to meet with other people but we can do this in a much smarter way.  Think how quick and easy a telephone call is; no travel, no hanging around, we get things done quickly.  Now translate the benefits to a meeting.  Spending time finding, booking or hiring a meeting room, getting to the room (which may involve some participants travelling in), setting up your laptop, waiting for everyone to arrive all put a dent in your time and budget.  It’s incredibly easy to hold virtual meetings from your desk or a quiet corner.  Your virtual meeting room is always ready and waiting, people can join from anywhere and if someone is only needed for part of the meeting, they can be invited into the virtual space at the appropriate time.  Many virtual meeting tools include whiteboards, presentation tools (where all participants can annotate slides), polls and moderated Q&A channels.  Also think about recording the meeting instead of taking minutes or as a record for absent staff who couldn’t attend in person.  There are plenty of free tools to run virtual meetings, share screens and documents as well as the more enterprise-ready and full-featured Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams.

Steps to achieve – Reduce your in-person meetings to once or twice a month and hold the rest using the virtual collaborative tools available to you.

Action 2 – Work from anywhere

We have worked with many enterprise organisations that are reducing physical office space because it is extremely expensive.  It’s possible to work in virtual teams where staff aren’t expected to come into an office.  How did your staff fare during the big UK snowfall of March 2018?  Could they work from home or if not what were the blockers?  Personally, I was stranded in Edinburgh due to the lack of flights and trains.  I was just as productive, perhaps even more so because of the room-service cheesecake on tap.  You can still remain in-touch through collaborative portals such as SharePoint and Teams and using presence information from Skype for Business.  Setting up team portals or collaborative spaces for individuals sectors, projects or clients can add a great relationship benefit because you can include external users, such as business partners, agencies or the customer in your team portals.

Steps to achieve – Set up a team channel in Microsoft Teams (there is a new free version if you don’t already have an Office 365 plan), invite the relevant colleagues and start collaborating on your project.

Action 3 – Save on software licences

We worked with a marketing firm a few years ago and due to acquisitions, an aggressive hiring plan and allowing their staff to use the tools they were familiar with, they had almost 300 disparate business intelligence reporting tools in use.  That’s an extreme example but we often see companies paying for software which is available to them in another licence they own.  For example, paying for WebEx or paying an external provider to host virtual meetings when you already have an Office 365 plan with Skype for Business.  Or paying for screen recording software when PowerPoint has the ability to record and trim screen recordings (brilliant for creating training videos) and Windows has Steps Recorder built-in (brilliant for capturing a series of screenshots for documentation).  The latest update to the Office applications allow for dictation when creating emails and documents so if you’re paying for dictation software this could be your first reduction in licence costs.

Steps to achieve – Perform an audit of software (many tools available to do this including Intune, the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit or Spiceworks Software Inventory Audit) and look for duplication of functionality.

Action 4 – Use project management tools

Breaking down projects into assigned tasks, delegating and distributing workloads can save time, duplication of effort and enable working to tight schedules.  There is a host of choices including no-cost options.  Microsoft Project is a full-featured suite for enterprise project portfolios or again, Office 365 can help here with the Planner app for simple task management across your team.

Steps to achieve – Choose a project to pilot with a project management tool and monitor the benefits from stronger planning, time management and budgeting.

Action 5 – Reduce stationery

Yes, we had to check we had the right spelling of the word; we’re not perfect!  Notepads, pens and all those colourful post-it notes cost a lot to buy, no surprise there, but they also cost a lot to store and then recycle after use.  You can’t password-protect or encrypt a notepad (bad handwriting doesn’t count as encryption), it’s not easy to search back through hundreds of pages of notes, you can’t add rich content such as graphs, videos or pictures and you can’t share notepads so people can work on a common set of notes.  Even if you don’t have mobile or touch devices, OneNote is a superb tool for digital note taking with the ability to accept handwriting (and convert to text if needed), paste pictures and then search the text within the image (or even extract the text), dictate, tag, assign tasks share and record audio and video.  The notes also synchronise between devices so you can browse your notes on your mobile phone whilst you’re on the train travelling to the next meeting.

A common task we see users perform is signing documents.  The user prints the document, walks over to the printer, signs it with a pen, scans the signed copy, shreds the printout, walks back to their desk and emails the signed scan.  Open the document in Word (even if it’s a PDF, Word 2013 onwards can open and edit PDF files), use your mouse, finger or stylus to sign the document and then select File, Share, Send a PDF.  Word will convert the annotated document to a PDF and attach it to an email for you saving time and paper.  We’ll blog about how to do this in an upcoming post.

Steps to achieve – Use OneNote in your next meeting (In your Outlook meeting, choose the Meeting Notes button on the ribbon).

 

We’ll continue this blog in part 2 with some more steps on moving to VOIP and easy steps to move to the cloud.


Automatic alt-text in Pictures

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.

Button to insert pictures in Office

 

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.

Search results for online pictures

 

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.

alt text for an image

 

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.

Alt text in a picture

 

Now, we’ll try a business image and search for Donald Trump.  I can feel our SEO going up.

alt text in a picture

 

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.

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.

Office generating alt-text for a picture

 

Our result?  A drawing of a face.  Perhaps Bill Gates’ face is in the logo subliminally.

 

Alt-text result for the Microsoft logo

 

 


Change a Recurring Meeting to Skype

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)

Editing an Outlook meeting entry

 

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.

Outlook meeting toolbar without Skype for Business

 

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 meeting toolbar with Skype Meeting option

 

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.

Add to quick access toolbar option

 

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.

Outlook quick access toolbar

 

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.

Outlook icon to indicate broken recurrence

 


We Try Out Dictation in Outlook

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.

Office 365 intelligent services in options

 

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.

Office 365 dictation languages

 

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:

Dictation in Outlook

 

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.


Get your Virtual New York Office

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.

Link for the Skype for Business admin center

 

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.

Skype for business phone system admin

 

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.

 

Skype for business acquire new phone number

Once you have acquired numbers you can assign them to voice users.  There are two limitations here:

  1. the user’s country in their licence profile needs to match the country for the phone number you want to assign.
  2. 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.

Office 365 user licence properties

 

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.

Skype for Business call forwarding

 

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.

Skype for Business auto attendant

 

Give it a go and create your “London, Paris, New York” office locations.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


Cut and paste with Microsoft Spike

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
  • Press CTRL+F3
  • Select the next paragraph of text you would like to cut
  • Press CTRL+F3
spike

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 spike and 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.


The Dynamic Duo – Cortana and Microsoft Edge

Using Cortana within Microsoft Edge

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.

Dynamic Duos

Introducing the Dynamic Duo –  Cortana and 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?

paperclip

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’
cortana1
  • Use the slider to turn Cortana on
cortana2

 

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’
cortana3

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.