Office 365: keep email forever

Microsoft has changed their Exchange Server hosting (under the Office 365 banner) to allow for longer holding of Deleted Items up to ‘forever’.

Until now, Office 365 hosting had a fixed 30 days for Deleted Items retention.  Any item in the Deleted Items folder older than 30 days was automatically removed and wasn’t directly visible in Outlook.

That might seem like enough but for many organizations it’s not.  Some have data retention policies that require all communications, even deleted ones, be kept for a specified period.  Some law suits might require handing over all messages on a particular topic, regardless of the date.  Network administrators don’t want to make their boss angry when he/she can’t find the message from 35 days ago.

This change in Office 365 hosting does NOT affect the ‘Recoverable Items’ folder which contains ‘permanently’ deleted items which can’t be viewed in standard Outlook folders but are still retained on the Exchange Server.

The Microsoft blog has details on how to change the Default MRM Policy among the Retention Policies available to Office 365 Exchange admins.

If you do nothing the default retention period will be automatically changed to ‘indefinite’,  meaning that Deleted Items are kept forever or until the user deletes them manually.

To change the new default, open the ‘Default MRM Policy’, change the setting and (this is vital) save it with a new policy name.

We suggest a long retention period like a year or more.  That gives users plenty of time to find older deleted items but still allows for eventual automatic removal.

The same feature is already available to Exchange Server admins hosting elsewhere in in-house.

Free Office 365 goes global

Back in 2014, Microsoft made Office 365, including Office software, available to many US students.  The same program is now available globally.

If the school buys Office software for their faculty and staff, the students get free Office 365 accounts.

The program now covers, among many, 1.1 million students in New York City, all students in Hong Kong, 5.5 million in Australia, 7m each in Germany and Brazil and a staggering 1.3 million at Anadolu University in Turkey.

If the student and school qualify they can get an Office 365 account which has:

  • Office software (Windows or Mac) on up to 5 computers. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access and Publisher.
  • Office mobile software on up to 5 mobile devices (Apple, Android or Windows).
  • Office Online – the web browser versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
  • OneDrive with 1TB online storage.

The school should be able to tell students if they qualify or you can check online:

Hebrew and Arabic languages versions will be available from mid-March 2015.  Self-sign up not available in China.


Access: Filtering for records without attachments

Q:  Don Ruppel writes:  “I am using Access 2010 to track my collection and have photos attached.  I want to filter and list any records that do not have an attachment (photo) so I know which items that need to take photos of.

Every time I try to filter the table or create a filter in a query, the “filter” controls go grey and are unselectable.

Is there any way I can isolate the records without attachments ?”

A:  The Filter selections are disabled in Datasheet view, but if you switch to Design view, you can enter a criterion of Is Null for the Attachment field, to filter for just the records with nothing stored in the Attachments field.

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Access: Control position problems

Q:  Jane writes that when she makes a new form by clicking the Form button in the Create tab of the Ribbon, all the controls are the same width, and she can’t resize them individually, as in older versions of Access.

A:  This is a “feature” of recent versions of Access.  It is called Layout, and here is how you can turn it off:  First, select the group by clicking the little four-headed arrow in the upper left corner (make sure you see orange outlines around all the controls), then right-click, select the Layout item, and then Remove Layout from its context menu:

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The Layout feature is occasionally useful – for example, to create a quick data entry form for heads-down data entry – but mostly not, so I generally turn it off as soon as I create a new form using the Form button (or I just select the Form Design button instead, which lets me position controls individually).

Making an Access Database Taskbar Item

Access Archon Column #237

By Helen Feddema

Access versions: 2007-2013

Level:  Intermediate

The Problem

Back in Access 2003 and Windows XP, it was easy to make a shortcut to open a specific Access database – just right-drag the database from an Explorer pane to the Quick Launch area of the taskbar.  But if you try to do this with Windows 7 or higher, all that happens is that the database is pinned to the Jump menu of the main Access taskbar icon:

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The Solution

Windows 7 doesn’t have a Quick Launch toolbar, but I found a way to get a database shortcut onto the taskbar, as some people like (personally, I like the Jump menu just fine); it should work in Windows 8 as well.  In short, I made a new toolbar, added one item to it, and made the title and database name invisible, so only the Access icon showed.  Then the user can click this item (actually the first and only item in a toolbar) to open the database.  Here are the steps in detail:

  1. Create a folder for the new toolbar – I made one called Taskbar Items under the default folder for my user name.
  2. Right-drag the database to the new folder, and select Create Shortcut Here from the context menu when dropping it.
  3. Edit the shortcut name as desired.
  4. Right-click the taskbar and select New toolbar…
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  5. Select the Taskbar Items toolbar:
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  6. The new toolbar appears on the right side of the taskbar, with the toolbar name displayed:
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  7. Unlock the Taskbar if it is locked:
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  8. Right-click the toolbar name and uncheck the Show Text and Show Title items:
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  9. Now you will see a small Access icon representing the database, that you can click to open the database, just as in Windows XP:
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Lenovo and Superfish

We’ve used Lenovo laptops for a long time, back when they were IBM computers. They are usually good machines with excellent keyboards, pricey but generally reliable.

So it’s with great dismay they we’ve been reading about Lenovo and the ‘Superfish’ software that was installed on some of their computers in 2014.

Superfish wasn’t ordinary loadware that comes, unwanted, on a new computer.  It intercepted secure certificates used for sending encrypted data over the internet (like secure web pages with the lock symbol).   Lenovo itself now admits “Superfish intercept HTTP(S) traffic using a self-signed root certificate.”  If similar software was installed, unbidden, on a computer it would be called a dangerous hack.

It took time and a public shaming but companies have acted.  McAfee and Microsoft’s own Windows Defender now detects Superfish and offer to remove it.

Microsoft and others are getting praise for doing this.  We’re not sure they deserve it, after all Superfish has been on computers for up to 6 months.  It was only when the problem become public knowledge that action was taken.

According to a Reddit post “I’m a software engineer on the Windows Defender team. A friend of mine sent me an email early yesterday morning that a friend of his from UC Berkeley had cracked the passphrase for Superfish cert. I forwarded this information to the researchers on my team as soon as I got in to work.

What to do

Only Lenovo customers between September 2014 and February 2015 need be concerned, though there might be stock still on sale.  Lenovo have a list of computers which might have Superfish.

If you have a Lenovo computer, you might not be satisfied with the company’s assurances (understandable).  You can check for yourself in several ways:

  • Use Windows Defender that comes with Windows. Make sure the virus and spyware definitions are up to date.  At least version 1.193.444.0 (we now have 1.193.493.0)Run at least a Quick Scan (a good excuse to run a full scan from the Home tab). If Superfish is detected, Windows Defender should remove it, root and branch.
    • As ArsTechnica reminds us, Windows Defender doesn’t always work right away. It’s kept inactive on new computers to keep computer and anti-virus companies happy.
  • There are several web pages that will detect Superfish and display a warning. They won’t remove the junk, but it’s a useful double-check.

They’ve released a partial uninstall tool here.  However that still leaves files and registry entries behind which Lenovo says are ‘benign’- as if customers are likely to believe them.

Firefox and Thunderbird users need to take additional manual steps to clear out Superfish.  Lenovo has the instructions for that.

Why did Lenovo do it?

The big unanswered question is why Lenovo chose to install Superfish on computers at all?

They now say the money involved wasn’t important, which is hard to believe.

Lenovo management must have known how Superfish worked and can’t be surprised that the “user feedback was not positive”.

Outlook apps – a closer look

We’ve been looking closely at the Outlook app for iOS and Android as well as online reviews and the many comments from readers.

We’ve come to the conclusion that there are two different apps.  The preview versions that the public are trying and there’s other, quite different, apps which are being given to journalists.

Truly, we read the glowing reviews of the Outlook apps, singing its praises at the newest and greatest way to manage email on a device.  Even the grossly overused hype ‘killer app’ is being thrown around.

But then we use the Outlook apps ourselves and it’s like a different product from the one being lauded in the press.  We can see some of the interesting features.  Some are different but not necessarily good or appropriate.  Others aren’t really new at all.  Yet others might be good but they don’t interact with the main Outlook programs for Windows or Mac, so they’re more likely to be a nuisance or confusing.

There’s no mention of the security and privacy concerns about the new apps.

There’s little mention of the wide gap in features between the Apple and Android versions of the Outlook app.

What’s the rush?

Overall, the Outlook preview apps show all the signs of something rushed out by Microsoft.  The apps were bought by Microsoft in 2014, been given a quick coat of paint and pushed out under Microsoft’s brand. Little attention has been given to consistency with Outlook or Exchange Server features.   Legitimate security concerns were ignored entirely.

The promotion and developments of the Outlook apps is haphazard and confused – a rarity from Microsoft who are usually so slick and professional.  Depending on where you look, Outlook apps work with contacts or maybe not (it doesn’t).   Microsoft can’t even decide if the Outlook apps are a public release or just a preview.

I cannot believe that Microsoft has done what they’ve done. Even as a non-Microsoft guy I would have expected that they obey the rules of common company security rules.” - Rene Winkelmeyer

Now Microsoft is madly changing the apps to address even basic security concerns like remote wiping.  These are things that should have been fixed before a public preview.   With all the other mobile and cloud announcements about Microsoft Office, surely the public preview of Outlook apps could have waited a month or two so the developers could do their job right?

Let’s look at some of these features that make no sense in Microsoft’s long-established email system with Outlook for Windows or Mac.

Focused and Other views

The Outlook apps separate your Inbox into two views – Focused and Other.  The apps have settings that decide what are important messages (Focused) and the rest go into Other.  Over time, you can train the app to know what you prefer to be in the Focused view.

We’ve never had good experiences with these ‘artificial intelligence’ attempts to arrange email.  They’re dynamite on paper but not good enough to handle all the different ways people get and manage their messages. But the split view might work for some people and they’re welcome to try it.

The Outlook apps need a single Inbox view, if only for consistency with Outlook for Windows, Mac and online.  You can rid yourself of the Focused Inbox and return to a traditional view at Settings | Focused Inbox.

Outlook for iOS also has an ‘Organize Mail by thread’ option (akin to Conversations in Outlook Windows/Mac).  The Android apps should have the same feature soon.

Swipe emails

Lots of praise for the swipe actions in the Outlook app, but we’re not sure why.

Swiping left/right on items is hardly a new concept for mobile devices.  Plenty of Apple and Android apps have it already.  What’s interesting was the two stage swipe to the left.    Swipe a little to the left and the message is ‘archived’, continue the left swipe and the message will be deleted.

At least that’s the way it worked with the first public preview, in the latest release that’s been changed to a single action swipe but it’s now configurable under Settings | Swipe Options

We’ve changed the swipes to Delete and Mark as Read since that’s our most common tasks.  Hopefully the configuration will change so each swipe can have two actions attached to it.

What is Defer and Archive?

The original public preview had message options like ‘Deferred’, ‘Archive’ or even ‘Schedule’ that had no equivalent on the main Outlook clients.  If you use those features in the Outlook apps, the messages will end up in extra folders on Outlook clients.

However Microsoft is acting quickly.  The latest Android version seems to have dropped ‘Deferred’.  ‘Archive’ and ‘Schedule’ are only available as sweep actions.


Flags and Reminders have been important parts of Outlook for a long time.  The ability to flag a message with a reminder popping up later is very useful, if not essential.

Flags are in the Outlook apps for iOS or Android but there’s no way to add a Reminder for future date/time.  An email with a reminder set in Outlook clients doesn’t even show that reminder time in the Outlook app for Android.

One Account

Despite some complaints to the contrary, the Outlook apps will work for more than one email account.  Under Settings, there’s an option to ‘Add Account’.

If you had trouble connecting to an account with the preview Outlook apps …. join the club.  There were plenty of people in the same situation. You can try again with the latest version of the apps.  It appears that Microsoft has done a lot of work already to improve the account connections.

Is one app really a good thing?

A supposedly good feature in the Outlook app is that all your information; email, calendar and contacts are in the one place. Is that really a good thing?

Both iOS and Android have methods of switching quickly between different apps.  With the in-built and separate apps on either system you can fast switch around the email, calendar and people apps.

The same isn’t available with the Outlook app.  You have to switch, rather clumsily, within the one app.


Microsoft has been quietly back-pedaling on the Contact part of the Outlook apps.  Any mention of Contact/People support has been dropped from more recent promotions.

That’s with good reason.  Aside from a list of Contacts with the ability to send an email, the contacts supports in the Outlook apps is awful.  You can’t view all of a contact’s details, not even phone numbers or physical address.

You can only hope Microsoft developers are working hard to fix this astonishing lapse.

iOS vs Android

Microsoft has admitted from the start that the Apple version of the Outlook app is far more ‘mature’ than the Android version.  That’s worth keeping in mind if you’re trying to make sense of online help because it might not yet apply to both flavors of the Outlook app.


The Outlook apps are being updated quickly at the moment.  Not a lot of detail about what’s in these updates but it’s clear that Microsoft is working furiously to make the Outlook apps meet the promises and hype. Our comments are based mostly on the Android version of Outlook.

Hopefully, sometime soon, the Outlook apps will be a lot better and have features that work seamlessly with other programs that share the name ‘Outlook’.

Even when the Outlook apps improve, it’s hard to see they will be that much better than the existing Email, Calendar, Contacts support in Apple and Android.

Outlook apps: Security concerns and Microsoft apathy

Rene Winkelmeyer was the first to detail the worrying and undocumented way the Outlook apps store your email account logins.

Normal programs and apps keep your login details (server, name, password etc) encrypted on the computer or device.  When needed the name/password is sent direct to the mail host to make a connection, send/receive data.

The Microsoft Outlook apps are different.  Login details are saved to a different cloud server!  They store your login details on a remote server (currently an Amazon server) which then checks your mail host for new messages!  It’s incredible, after all Microsoft’s talk about security and privacy that they would casually do such a thing.

This security breach doesn’t look like being fixed.  Among the promises for Outlook apps is “Moving Outlook’s cloud service from Amazon Web Service to Microsoft Azure”.  So it seems that login credentials will continue to be saved in the cloud, just Microsoft cloud instead.  That’s not an improvement, just a change of address and a cost saving for Microsoft.

There’s also trouble with the links to cloud file storage.  Outlook iOS uses the same ActiveSync ID across all devices from the same user.  There’s no way for an administrator to be sure which device is being used.

Outlook apps have links to cloud services like OneDrive and DropBox.  That means corporate users can easily, within the one app, save company attachments to their personal cloud storage.

For more details read Rene Winkelmeyer blog post and his follow up.

All this shows that Microsoft really doesn’t understand or care about customer security or privacy … unless they are caught.

After these embarrassing disclosures the company is saying:

Over the coming weeks and months, we will deliver additional security and management features that matter to IT as well as user-focused features to help you get even more done while on the go.”

Buzzzt … wrong answer.  Security isn’t a bug fix or afterthought.  It’s vital development that’s supposed to be done BEFORE going public, even in a preview.  We’re not talking about obscure hacks, but fundamental security flaws in an enterprise level product.

The fact that Microsoft bought the Accompli app with these security issues isn’t an excuse.  It was a reason why the company should have delayed the public preview until the app security was up to the supposed Microsoft standard.

OneNote is now even more free

I’m not sure how something can get better than free, but a marketing genius at Microsoft has done it.

OneNote for Windows has been available free to all comers since 2014 but with some features blocked and only accessible in the paid versions.

Now more of the features have been made available.  Previously these features were only available in the paid version.

  • Password protected sections—Add a password to protect sensitive information.
  • Page history—Easily see or go back to prior versions of a page.
  • Audio and video recording—Take notes while recording, and easily jump to the relevant section later.
  • Audio search—Search for a word in a voice or video recording.
  • Embedded files—Insert Office documents or other files directly in your notebook.

This removes all free/paid limitations on OneNote.

Microsoft hasn’t said if this change requires a new download and install or existing free OneNote installs will release the new features after an automatic activation check back to Microsoft’s servers.  We suggest you try OneNote and if the above features aren’t available, download a fresh version and reinstall.

OneNote 2013 stores its data in your OneDrive account.  That’s limited to 15GB for unpaid accounts while Office 365 ‘subscribers’ get effectively unlimited online storage.

OneNote 2013 runs on Windows 7 & 8. It’s available for free from

Of hyphens, em-dash, en-dash and more

You might think that the hyphen is a simple small horizontal line … but no.  There’s hidden depths even in horizontal lines within Microsoft Word.

Let’s start with the standard hyphen, actually called a ‘Hyphen-Minus’ with ASCII code 45.

That hyphen is the one to separate hyphenated words.  We have more on hyphenation and special hyphens below.

Technically there’s a difference between a dash (aka hyphen-minus), a hyphen and a minus sign, see the table below. In everyday life, most of us use the same key to type all three. We’ll use the terms dash & hyphen interchangeably because that’s what most people do.  If you delve into typography keep in mind that there is a difference.

Em-dash and En-dash

These are two other hyphen-like characters in Word, the Em-dash and the En-dash.

They were not on a standard typewriter keyboard so they weren’t in general use until word-processors made them available to the public.

The names come from the amount of horizontal space they use, relative to the M and N characters (lower or upper case, depending on the font).

Wikipedia has a page on the various dashes with examples of their use.  Here’s a summary:

Word shortcut: Ctrl + Alt + Num –  (that’s the hyphen/dash on a number pad)

“show an abrupt change in thought or be used where a full stop (period) is too strong and a comma too weak”

sometimes used to set off summaries or definitions”

Word shortcut: Ctrl + Num –  (that’s the hyphen/dash on a number pad)

To indicate ranges (“20-25 degrees”) or to join up words (“Dagg-Bayliss Act 2015″)


The Em-dash and En-dash are on the  ‘Special Characters’ menu (Insert | Symbol | More Symbols …) along with many other characters.

Here’s a table showing some of the many hyphen/dash symbols available. The commonly used ones with Word shortcuts are first, followed by others in the Unicode set for interest/comparison. The first column has been enlarged so you can see the differences.

With the Unicode value, you can use any of these in your documents using The Old Alt + X Trick

Optional hyphen

Word can hyphenate long words when they are at the end of a line.  This makes paragraphs look better and removes large gaps on the right before long words like this:

The same paragraph with hyphenation turned on Page Layout | Page Setup | Hyphenation | Automatic

If you have hyphenation on, Word has information and rules to work out the right place to break most words.

But there’s also the ability to enter an optional hyphen – that’s a hyphen which appears only when Word is hyphenating a document and the word needs to be split between lines.  Use this for long technical or product names that aren’t in the standard Word hyphenation data.

Typing Ctrl + –  (Ctrl and hyphen) inserts an optional hyphen.  In this example each word has an optional hyphen after the letter ‘c’ so it only appears when the word needs to be split at the end of a line.

Non-breaking hyphen

The opposite of an optional hyphen is the non-breaking or compulsory hyphen.

Type Ctrl + Shift + –  (hyphen) to insert a non-breaking hyphen.

As the name suggests, this type of hyphen appears all the time AND isn’t used by Word when hyphenating the word.

Here’s an entirely artificial case of a non-breaking and optional hyphen in the same word.  You would not do this in a real document, that way madness lies.

Old Romantic words in the Office dictionary

We love words, especially old words that have been largely forgotten.

This Valentine’s Day there’s a short item in The Independent UK about 10 old words that modern romantics might like to revive.

We tried them out in Office 2013 to see if the in-built dictionary could cope.  No real surprise that 9 of them got the red squiggly line. That’s in English US, Canadian, UK and Aussie variants.

Only ‘Smuggle’ made it past Word’s word police and that only because it’s a common word with another meaning. added two variants.  Snuggle is accepted by Word and known to any fan of The Simpsons.  Smooch is also OK in Word as the modern spelling of Smouch.

I suspect I’m too old to be ‘canged’ which sounds painful but a touch of

Get Office 2016 now – if you dare

Would you like a peek at the next version of Microsoft Office for Windows?  Well you can, if you’re willing to take a risk and play by Microsoft’s rules.

Office 2016 (also called Office 365 Desktop) Technical Preview is now available for download.  Details on how to do that are below.

Say Nothing

To qualify you have to agree to a ‘Non-Disclosure Agreement’ (NDA) which means you won’t say anything publically about Office 2016 until Microsoft says that’s OK.  IT Professionals and journalists are familiar with NDA’s because they are regularly used for pre-release software. NDA’s are serious and Microsoft drops from a great height on NDA transgressors.

Keep it separate

This is a very early Technical Preview (TP), far from a public preview release, let alone final software.

There will be bugs, crashes even the possibility of lost data in documents. Not all features will be there, some may change or be dropped before the public release.  Installation and upgrades are not the smooth and easy experience that you’re used to.

Don’t use the Technical Preview on any important or production computer.    TP’s are better and safer on a virtual machine, most likely Hyper/V or VMWare Workstation.  Virtual machines let you run different copies of Office on the one computer without any conflicts.

Windows 8.1 for Microsoft Office users has a whole chapter on Hyper/V intended for both novices and more advanced virtual machine users.  It takes you step-by-step through setting up a virtual machine with Windows and Office.

An Office 365 account is required.

We’ve already mentioned some of the changes in Office 2016 that have been disclosed.  One that’s come to light is automatic image rotation which means someone at Microsoft may have finally listened.

How to get Office 2016 Technical Preview

  • Go to Microsoft Connect and sign in, preferably with the same Microsoft account that you use with Office 365.
  • Look for ‘Office Consumer Technical Preview’ on the list and click ‘Join’
  • ‘Sign’ the non-disclosure agreement. This isn’t your normal ‘terms and conditions’ stuff that we all ignore and just click OK.    So read and understand what you’re getting into.
  • You’ll be asked for the email address that you received the invitation to join the program. Putting in your own email address (or any address) seems to satisfy.
  • Download the various parts and documents.

Never Lick a Stamp Again, Thanks to New SnappyStamp Microsoft Word Add-In

Press Release:

The Innovative New Add-In Allows People to Securely Post Letters Directly from Microsoft Word

Sydney, Australia (PRWEB) February 10, 2015

SnappyStamp, a Microsoft Word add-in that allows people to quickly, easily and securely post letters to anywhere in the world, is now officially launched and available.

As Greg Donaldson, founder of the Australian-based SnappyStamp explained, the new Microsoft Word add-in lets people send a letter via their 19 global printing stations. People who wish to use the SnappyStamp service simply need to post their letter directly from Microsoft Word. SnappyStamp will automatically determine the nearest location to then print out and send the letter to its recipient. In addition to being easy, convenient and fast, SnappyStamp is also secure.

“Your data security is our top priority and we’ve taken measures at every level to ensure that your letter is secure and your privacy is protected,” Donaldson noted, adding that unlike traditional post offices, the service is available 24/7/365.

“Your letter is securely transported via 128 bit encryption between you and our servers and onto our global printing partners. Your letter is printed under strict policy guidelines and securely delivered to the local printing courier.”

Donaldson was inspired to create the innovative new add-in because he understands how time consuming it can be to send a letter the old fashioned way. As he explained, there’s a reason that traditional letter posting is referred to as “snail mail.”

While it is sometimes necessary to send a letter on paper, it can be a long process that involves composing and printing out the letter, putting it into an envelope, and then trudging off to the post office to purchase adequate postage. Then, once the letter has been posted, the recipient has to wait for days, if not weeks, to receive it.

“Our service makes posting letters as easy as sending an email,” Donaldson said, adding that the add-on supports single letters or mail merge/bulk mail.

“Just post your letter at any time and we will take care of it.”

About SnappyStamp:

SnappyStamp is a Microsoft Word add-in that empowers people to securely post letters to anywhere in the world via their 19 global printing stations. Stop printing out letters, stuffing them in envelopes and heading off to the post office to buy a stamp. Just post a letter directly from Microsoft Word – job done. SnappyStamp is based in Sydney, Australia. For more information, please visit

New edition: Organizing Outlook Email for Outlook 2013 and more

A substantially improved and upgraded Organizing Outlook Email ebook is available right now.  The 3rd edition goes deep into Outlook 2013/2010 & 2007 with new ways to get the most out of your email.

The Third Edition is totally updated and revised to cover Outlook 2013/2010 & 2007 email management in detail.

There are all sorts of features in Outlook to help you arrange your email, some obvious, others not so obvious.

We’ll take you through all the features available from simple moving of messages to adding Categories, Flags, Reminders and much more with examples and plenty of color images to illustrate.

Many people want to see Outlook and their email on multiple computers, smartphones and tablets.  We’ll show you how to do that cheaply, easily and probably with the software you already have. Migrating Email There’s an entire chapter on how to move your email accounts to another service like Gmail,, Office 365/Exchange Server or Yahoo Mail.

Attachments – how to preview, open, manage and delete attachments.

Viewing and sorting messages in various views.  That includes restoring the Unread messages view inexplicably dropped from Outlook 2010.

Searching is an important part of Outlook so we look at it in considerable detail.  There’s simple searches through to complex finds as well as the invaluable Search Folders.

Conversations are a new and better way to keep together email exchanges on the same subject.

All the anti-spam choices with advice on which to use and, crucially, which to avoid.   The book explains how modern spam filters work with Outlook being just one part of the process.

We’ll show you how to get Outlook to do some of the arranging and management of messages for you.  Quick Steps let you create your own buttons to reduce multi-step tasks to a single click. Outlook Rules are very powerful and you’ll be able to harness that power with our step-by-step examples.

Organizing Outlook Email 3rd edition is a substantial update. It’s now over 200 pages including new chapters.

How to get it

Unlike paper books, and most ebooks, we offer upgrades for past purchasers.  Instead of paying full price all over again, past customers can get all the benefits of the complete new book for less money.

How many publishers offer buyers of older editions a cut price on the new version?   We do.

We’ve already emailed all customers who qualify for an upgrade with the details:

  • Free upgrade automatically to anyone who purchased Organizing Outlook Email in the last seven months (July 2014 to 9 February 2015).
  • Discount upgrade to all other past readers of Organizing Outlook Email 1st or 2nd edition available now from their account at the Office Watch shop.
  • Subscribers to any of the Office Watch newsletters gets a $5 discount on the retail price and pay just $6.95.

Organizing Outlook Email has been a popular ebook since 2006, through several editions. This is the first paid update in all that time.

The 3rd edition for Outlook 2013/2010/2007 edition costs only US$6.95 for Office Watch subscribers compared with the retail price of $11.95 – a $5.00 savingclick here.

Your email and switching Internet providers

A few questions from readers about their ISP (Internet Service Provider) based email service that comes with their internet access.  We’ll try to explain what normally happens.

Keep in mind that each ISP has it’s own rules so you should check with them.

Michael B writes:   “Once I switch to RoadRunner, will Earthlink disappear our Earthlink email addresses?  ”

Almost certainly yes.  If you move from, in this case, Earthlink to RoadRunner, your old ISP based mailbox will be cancelled.

The normal practice is that the ISP hosted mailbox is closed when you stop using that ISP’s services.   The companies would argue that the mailbox is part of what you pay for as a broadband customer – you stop paying and the service (all of it) stops.  Usually right away, maybe there’s a grace period.

The ISP mailbox is often sold as a ‘free’ addon to Internet access, when it’s really part of a package of services you get.  If you stop paying, the services will stop.

The Internet providers know that if people use their mailbox service, they are more likely to stay as customers.   People who give out their ISP based email address (e.g. or many others) are making it harder to move from that ISP.  If you’ve used that address widely, changing Internet providers means losing that email address.

(Apple does a similar thing to their customers by encouraging them to get Apple based email accounts)

Nancy G writes:  “If I switch from ATT to Comcast how can I move my email to Comcast?

This question shows a common misunderstanding – that the best email service is from the ISP.  Or even that you have to use the ISP’s email hosting.  You definitively do NOT.

The point of using Gmail, etc – is to permanently separate your mailbox service from your broadband account.  That will give you flexibility of broadband provider and better email hosting as well.

By forwarding the old mail to a new account with Comcast, Nancy is just continuing the same email/broadband link with a new ISP … which skips the main point of the whole process.

Most ISP’s have limited email storage and features.  Gmail, and Yahoo Mail offer larger storage and features than any ISP’s we’ve seen.   Those advantages include calendar and contacts sync as well as email.

Smart email users don’t use their ‘free’ ISP mailbox at all, it’s just ignored.

Compulsory ISP emails

It’s possible that your ISP will only send emails about your broadband account to the mailbox that comes with the account.  Usually you can change the customer email address, but occasionally it’s fixed or difficult to alter.

That’s another reason for using the ‘fetch’ feature that all the major mail hosts provide.  It can check your ISP mailbox, grab any stray messages and put them in your primary mailbox.


Outlook App – Preview or not?

The Outlook app for iOS and Android is a ‘preview’ release, meaning it’s not a fully tested release, ready for the general public.  But some people at Microsoft don’t realize that and are promoting it as a fully public release.

The app itself is called ‘Microsoft Outlook Preview’ and the first notice of the app’s release said it was a preview release.

But not everyone at Microsoft got that memo.  We, and millions of others, received a marketing email from Microsoft encouraging us to get the new Outlook apps.

Nowhere in that email, not even in the fine print, does it mention the ‘not ready for prime time’ state of the apps.  Especially the Android version which Microsoft itself admits needs work to bring it up to the standard of its iOS sister.

Make no mistake, both the Outlook apps are in ‘preview’ meaning there’s development work yet to be done.

Even when the final apps are released, you may not want to use them due to the limitations.  Despite the ‘Outlook’ name, these apps are no good partner to Outlook for Windows itself or even the inbuilt apps that link to the same email, calendar and contacts data.

Have you tried the Outlook app?

Tell us what you think.  What do you like?  What don’t you like?

How to lose your job and $17 million via email

If you thought email scams were all about Nigerian princes and unknown lottery wins, think again.

An Omaha man has lost his job after being tricked into sending $17 million of company funds to scammers.

The tricksters sent emails that appeared to come from the CEO and its auditors, but not his usual email address.  They knew enough about the company and its plans to make the whole thing seem plausible, including the need for secrecy.

It shows the need for data and email security on many levels.  You’d hope that emails asking to move millions of dollars would have a digital signature to identify the sender and encrypted to stop snooping?  We don’t know what security measures the company has in place, presumably there are a lot more now.

Digital Signatures

Part of the scam “the email address used by that accounting firm’s fake employee looked like it was from a valid email address for that company”.  That could have been made harder to do by using digital signatures that confirm the source of any email.


Does your company use secure email with digital signatures and encryption?  Probably not because Microsoft makes it hard to do that.  Outlook software supports signatures and encryption in a basic form.  Despite all the talk about security, Microsoft has made no effort to make Outlook’s signature/encryption features easier to use.

Privacy and Security in Microsoft Office goes step-by-step on how to get a digital signature and use it in Outlook.  Then how to secure/encrypt emails to other people.

Office ‘touch’ apps finally released, sort of.

After years of teasing, Microsoft has today released beta versions of their touch interface Office applications.

These are proper touch interface versions of Office programs, not the lame ‘touch’ button in Office 2013 which merely makes the ribbon spacing larger.

For Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook, there’s now beta versions released of the software that will be released later this year

Update:  After a rocky start, the three apps are now available from the Windows 10 Store.  We found them quickly by searching for   ‘Word Preview’ ‘Excel Preview’ and PowerPoint Preview’.

There a special requirement if you want to try the apps out:

Windows 10.  The apps will only work with the Technical Preview of Windows 10.  That’s currently at build 9926 and you’d be a brave geek indeed to run it on any computer you rely upon.  The current Windows 10 release isn’t stable enough for that (there’s a long way to go).  Microsoft talks about trying it on a desktop or laptop computer, but most will be running it in a virtual machine instead.

The arrival of these apps has been greeted with the usual hype.  Gushing praise appears in comments and social media from the moment of release.   The only question is whether Microsoft pays for it or the uncritical hype is from Redmond fanboys eager to jump on the latest bandwagon.

Office Watch will reserve judgement until we’ve actually tried the apps properly, but here’s a few quick thoughts.

  • These apps are far from being replacements for the ‘full’ Office for Windows or even Office for Mac.  They are a subset of the full array of Office power, more like the Office Web Apps in scope.
  • Some commentators are saying Office for Windows 10 has a ‘cleaner’ interface than Office 2013. That’s a polite way of saying that Office for Windows 10 has LESS features than Outlook for Windows/Mac.
  • Windows 10 apps work in a re-sizable window, not just full screen (as in Windows 8). It’s possible to use these Office apps in windows on a traditional desktop.
  • You can only edit one document at a time!  We can see no way to open multiple documents or worksheets, which people commonly do.  If so, this is a severe limitation, a deal-breaker for many people.
  • Word for Windows 10 supports DOCX, DOCM, DOC and ODT file formats only.  No RTF support.

Universal Apps

These apps are called ‘Universal’ by Microsoft.  That means they are a single program that will run on any device with a compatible operating system.  In this case the Office apps will run on any computer, laptop, tablet to smartphone which runs the Windows 10 preview.

That’s different from the current situation where there’s different programs (with different features and behaviors) for desktop/laptop Windows, the (few) people with Windows RT and yet another set of programs for Windows Phone.

Here’s Microsoft’s example of OneNote as both a full screen app and the same program on a smartphone (bottom right).  All the images in this article are from Microsoft (due to their troubles delivering the apps).

Outlook Calendar and Mail

Still don’t like this.  The ‘Outlook’ app for Windows 10 is only Calendar and Mail with Contacts ignored (much like the preview Outlook app for iOS and Android). Is Contacts coming later?  Will we be expected to use the in-built Window 10 People app (yuck)?

Word for Windows 10

There’s only 6 tabs in the preview (File, Home, Insert, Layout, Review, View) with Design, References, Mailings and Developer missing compared to Word 2013.

Excel for Windows 10

Similarly, the Excel preview has File, Home, Insert, Formulas, Review and View tabs only.

PowerPoint for Windows 10

Conditional Formatting – beyond the presets

Excel has some nifty and simple options for color highlights the extremes in a list of values.  It’s called Conditional Formatting and you can do all sorts of clever things with it.

First let’s look at the simple presets that Microsoft has given us, some of the obvious choices they’ve left out and how to make the limited presets work in the real world.

Here’s a simple list of values.

Hardcore space/NASA nerds will immediately recognize the true first names of the Mercury 7 astronauts (Peter Deegan can’t help himself).  The column B numbers have no meaning.

It’s hard to immediately see which is the lowest and highest until you apply some conditional formatting:

Now it’s easier to tell that Alan is the lowest and Walter is the highest value.

That’s done by selecting the column of numbers then Conditional Formatting from the Home tab.

The choices are bewildering but Excel has Live Preview to make selection easier.  As you hover over each choice, the selected cells will change to see how that choice will look.

There’s all sorts of options to play with.  Data Bars, Color Scales, Icons, Shapes, Ratings and so on.  You can check those out for yourself with Live Preview to make it quite painless.

Let’s look at how Microsoft’s presets let their customers down.  As with many Office features, the presets are designed to look good in product demonstrations and impress novices.

In daily use there’s some presets and options that even occasional users would like to have.  Let’s look at some and how to do it.

Highest and lowest value

The color scales are a great idea but often you don’t want the entire spectrum of color – just highlight the highest and lowest values.

That’s easy to do using the Conditional Formatting | Top/Bottom Rules | Top 10 items … and changing the default ‘Top 10′ to just 1.

With the same group of cells selected, choose Conditional Formatting | Top/Bottom Rules | Bottom 10 items … and change the Bottom value to 1.

Change the formatting to another selection or a Custom Format.

Now the lowest and highest values are highlighted and automatically update when the values change.

Outside the value range

Often you have a situation where values are supposed to be within a certain range.  For example older than 18 but younger than 60 years.

There’s two ways to handle this.  Use the Highlight Cells Rules for both Greater Than and Less Than to set the range.  You can have the same color setting or different colors for higher and lower values.

Or, highlight the values within the accepted range with Highlight Cells Rules | Between:

Using Cell Values

It’s better and more flexible if you don’t ‘hard code’ the values in conditional formatting.  Better to link them to cells that you can more easily change.  This also makes the conditional formatting more obvious to anyone using the worksheet. (conditional formatting can hide away on a worksheet then pop-up unexpectedly and without explanation).

To use a cell, click in the value box then click the cell you want to link with.  Excel will add the cell reference as an absolute reference.

Even better a Range Name instead of a cell reference.  That will be clearer to anyone trying to figure out the logic in future.

Apply color to other cells

Microsoft’s concept of conditional formatting is quite limited.  It assumes that you want to apply colors only to the cell that holds the value.  But that’s not always the case.

It’s quite reasonable to want a whole row or column to be highlighted when a value is reached. In our small example, you might like the name to get the same formatting as the value cell.

That’s possible, but not as easily done as you’d like.

Here we’ve selected the two columns, name and value, then chosen Conditional Formatting | Color Scale.  Even though the ‘Applies to’ range is both columns, only the value cells are changed.

Microsoft would probably argue that’s how Excel is supposed to behave but we consider it a bug and a long-standing one.

We don’t know of a way to copy the color scale formatting to other cells.  If you know a way (aside from many rules; one for each color), please tell us so we can share.

You can apply other types of conditional formatting like this.

Select all cells to be formatted then go to Conditional Formatting | New Rule.  Select rule type ‘Use a formula to determine which cells to format’.

Enter the formula to check against.  As you can see, the column is an absolute reference ‘$H’ and the row isn’t ‘2’ so the row used in the formula will change for each row.

Here’s the result with two Conditional Formatting rules, one each for upper and lower age limit.

Office 2016 screen shots

Also from NeoWin are some screen shots from Office 2016.  They don’t reveal a lot but are still interesting.

Here’s the Word 2016 ribbon with the Word 2013 ribbon below for comparison.

The Office 2016 example uses the Black theme which Microsoft seems to unduly love these days.  Redmond hopes that the ‘new’ look will fool people into thinking there’s more new substance in Office 2016 than there really is. But don’t worry, there will be other lighter themes available too.  The Office background patterns (top right of the ribbon) will continue in Office 2016 for no good reason.

The Quick Access Toolbar icons have changed a little.  The Gallery has flattened a bit.

The major change is the more prominent help in the form of ‘Tell me what you want to do …’. Here it is in PowerPoint 2016.

This is already in the Office Online web apps.  You can type in a question or phrase and the initial responses are actual commands, instead of text telling you where the command is.

Keep in mind that these are images from a relatively early test version of Office 2016.  There will be more changes before any public preview, let alone final release.