Microsoft’s Myriad Modules

Choosing the topic for a specialist technical blog is hard when you are a generalist. I pride myself in being ‘not very good at lots of things’, and depending on how you are feeling you can emphasise different parts of that sentence. 

One factor of being a generalist is that I have used a lot of different kinds of software, from monstrous science lab programmes to very user friendly apps. Our technical team abhor the Microsoft suite, and would much rather do everything in Python, but the majority of people in the world have Microsoft apps installed on their computers and company policy won’t let them install anything else. There is also the benefit that anything linked to your Microsoft account will synch, so when you lose your work laptop and get a new one – all your data will still be there! 

There are a lot of Microsoft apps and hidden functionalities that can go a decent way towards solving your problems, and you probably already have them installed. To keep this blog brief, here are my top apps. 

Microsoft To Do 

Microsoft To Do is a list app on steroids. It is accessible either via browser or via an app, and you can assign tasks to other people, and share entire lists with colleagues. You can use it for something as simple as a shopping list (my wife and I have a shared one, available and synched on both our phones) or get into the weeds and add sub-tasks, deadlines, and treat it like a mini-Jira. 

Microsoft OneNote 

I’d be surprised if you haven’t used OneNote before, but I am also always surprised by how many people would rather set up a new account for a new third-party app rather than using something included with your Microsoft license that you already own. This is a notepad on steroids; you can share them so you can collaborate or keep them private, synch them between your devices so you don’t have to carry one of them home, and categorise your notes by deadline and project so you can search through years of meeting notes as if you were googling your professional history. 

Preview New Teams and New Outlook 

Microsoft has been rolling out a preview of the new, faster, version of Teams and Outlook since March; if you have access to it you will see a toggle switch in the top ribbon. This comes with a number of benefits documented on Microsoft’s web pages, and you can always switch back, but for those of you who like linking your Google accounts into Outlook it has a serious benefit – the new version no longer uses an Internet Explorer based window for authentication. This caused problems for anyone who had restrictive policies on Internet Explorer – for example anyone whose system was centrally administered using Endpoint with a Security Baseline applied – meaning that they were never able to click the greyed-out button to allow Outlook to connect to Google. It also means that Google Calendar links to it properly. 

I hope you knew about all of this already, but if not, enjoy trying them out! 

By James Hawkes

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