Friday, October 14, 2016

4 Shocking Microsoft Products You Need to Know About

Whoah! Microsoft did What?

You've been using Microsoft's products for a while now - Office, Exchange, SharePoint, Skype.  You know how to use them, what they do.  Here are a few you probably haven't used.  Some are really interesting and different than what you normally expect from Microsoft.  Some are actually free!
Here are 4 Strange Microsoft Products You Need to Know About:


Are you bored with PowerPoint?  Need to create a quick and easy visual presentation on the web?  Log in with your Microsoft Account at and you can create a visually stunning presentation quickly and easily.

Choose a template then develop your story line with text, pictures and rich media easily - video, audio, Tweets and more.  Invite someone to co-create your Sway or review it if you like, then when you're done if you don't like it, hit the Remix button to give it a new look.

When you're done hit the Share button to share it on Facebook or Twitter or upload it to your public gallery on

Sway is free with a Microsoft account. You can also get free mail and free OneDrive storage with that same account. Go to to get an account, but most people have one already.


Have you ever missed an e-mail from your boss?  Are you tired of posting updates twice - once to Twitter and once to Facebook?  Maybe you'd like to automatically save your e-mail attachments to SharePoint.  You can do all this and more with Microsoft Flow.

Flow has dozens of pre-created automations already built that you can use, or create your own from a selection of "triggers", conditions, and actions.

For instance, you can create a Flow like this:
Receive e-mail from Bob > Create a Wunderlist task > Add the subject from Bob's e-mail as the Title for a new Wunderlist task.

If you're a geek like I am and have played with home automation, Flow is a lot like IFTTT (If This then That) but for business.  It's a cool concept and it will be interesting to see what people come up with.

Flow is another free service from Microsoft and just requires an account. Sign up at
BONUS: Check out Wunderlist - its a great (and free!) to-do and personal planning app for the web and most mobile devices. Wunderlist is a part of Microsoft as well! Thank you Satya!


For those business users already on Office 365 with files in OneDrive and SharePoint, Delve provides a way to share and discover documents, subject matter experts, groups, and more... all based on your own preferences, content and existing contacts and groups.

Delve lets you "favorite" boards and documents to enable easy recall of content you discover. The feature is quite similar to what you see in Pinterest.

For instance, if you share a lot of documents with your marketing team and they publish a new design style guide or PowerPoint template to the public, you can go to Delve and quickly see the new doc without having to go search for it on SharePoint.

Delve also allows you to:
  • Post and share an internal blog
  • View your organization's structure - see the reporting structure for your internal contacts
  • Offer public praise to your coworkers
  • Discover various documents you have security to view for contacts, groups, and contacts of contacts
  • Dive in to MyAnalytics (with an additional license) - get details about how you use your time, who you should stay in touch with, set goals for how to manage your day and more.
Access Delve from within your Office 365 portal at You can open it from the "Waffle" menu in the upper-left-corner if you have access. Requires an appropriate Office 365 subscription.


Need to get organized but think Microsoft Project is overkill? If you have Office 365, Planner goes hand-in-hand with Office 365 groups to allow for easy team collaboration on tasks with light project management tracking and metrics.

If you're familiar with kanban boards and cards, Planner is very similar. You Create a task or card on one of several boards. The boards organize the cards either in to categories or as a reflection of process or backlog for items to do.

You can use Planner to assign tasks to team members and then easily track status of all tasks in the Chart view. Planner is closely tied to Office 365 Groups and you can manage a Notebook, store files, share a Calendar and even use the Conversations view to discuss progress of your project. Office 365 Groups could (and probably will!) be an entire blog of its own. There's lots to like there.

Like Delve, Planner requires an Office 365 subscription and appropriate access to be granted.

Keep an Eye on Office 365 and Microsoft for More

Microsoft has moved to a cloud-first model. You see innovative applications like these popping up regularly now. There will likely never be a full on-premises Office client for any of these applications but they are all built to work well on mobile devices, may be integrated in to other Microsoft apps and may show up in the mobile app stores as well.

The cloud allows Microsoft to quickly develop and market test applications and those that catch on will stick around while others may fall off. You can be sure of one thing, though... you'll see more of these and some may look strange if your only experience with Microsoft is Office.

(This article is cross posted from my LinkedIn Pulse blog)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

E-mail Tip #1 from my Time at Microsoft - Notifying Your Coworkers about Vacation

I recently posted my Top 7 E-mail Tips and Tricks from my Time at Microsoft on LinkedIn.  I'd like to share some of those tricks here as well.  Here is the first of several!

Many companies have a vacation calendar that can be accessed through Outlook.  The problem with vacation calendars though, is that people have to go look at them for them to be useful.  Here's how you can put your vacation on the calendar and notify those you work with in a meaningful but non-intrusive way:

a. Highlight the vacation time on your calendar, right-click on it and choose New Meeting Request:

b. Add your co-workers and vacation calendar to the recipient list and type in a subject that includes what it is (vacation) and your name.  In the location box indicate that you'll be OOO (out of office):

c. Change the Free/Busy status to Free.  This will ensure that when your coworkers accept the invitation it doesn't block off THEIR calendars.  They'll see that you are out of the office but it won't affect their ability to schedule items during that time.

d. Click the Response Options button and uncheck Request Responses.  This way the recipients of your invitation don't need to click to accept the invite and you don't receive back a response from them.

e. Click in the Reminder box and change the default (generally 15 minutes) to "None."

f. Click the Send button to send the invite.  It should look like this on your calendar and theirs:

You just notified your coworkers and the vacation calendar that you would be on vacation and out of the office with minimal interruption to them and without affecting their own calendar availability.

You should note that this just notifies others about you being out of the office.  If you want the your Outlook calendar to actually reserve the time as unavailable you will need to create a second, personal-only, calendar entry.  Your calendar would look something like this if you do:

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