Goodbye ModNotebooks, Hello OfficeLens

I like taking notes, the old fashioned way (by hand in a notebook, on… paper), but I like finding them the new way (using search on my PC). I love OneNote and how easy it is to keep an online notebook with all sorts of data. For example, due to archival rules some of my email starts to “disappear” from my work account after a couple of years. But some emails I like to keep – little nuggets of wisdom, notices, personal information and such I like to keep around. So, I export them to OneNote, where I can keep them safe.

So, I was living this duplicitous life of daily note taking with pen and paper but also filling my online notebook with all sort of information. I wanted to find a way to bridge these two. A few years back I was at a Microsoft convention and ran into a member of the OneNote team that turned me on to a small startup firm called: ModNotebooks. Their website is now gone, this is all you see:

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What they did was to send you a very high quality notebook, you would fill it up and ship it off to them. In the back of the notebook was a folder with a mail pouch and prepaid postage. They would receive it, scan it in for you and then dump the contents into your OneNote file behind the scenes. I filled 7 notebooks with them. But alas, their business model did not work, I am guessing, and they have gone out of business.

Now, I am left with my seeming duplicity again. wlEmoticon-disappointedsmile.png How do I get back to having my handwritten notes in OneNote again? Enter, OfficeLens.

I have actually been using this app for some time to scan travel receipts to PDF to turn in for expense reimbursement. And while I have always known I can use it for OneNote notes, I never tried it – namely because I had a better thing in ModNotebooks – or so I thought. Being forced to use something is sometimes what it takes. So, I gave OfficeLens a shot.

First, you download it to your phone. It comes on all three platforms (Windows Phone, iOS, and Android). Next, you hook up your Microsoft account (Live/Hotmail/MSN) and then you start scanning. It automatically finds the page and draws a border around it:

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When you click the button at the bottom, it shows you what it got:

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In the lower left, you can click the (+1), to add more page (up to 10 at a time – my only complaint – more on that later)* Once complete with your scanning, you click Done at the top right. This will take you to the “Export To” page.

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From here I select OneNote and it asks me where I want to put it in my Notebook and when I click Save, it begins to upload it to my OneNote notebook:

And once it is in OneNote, it is fully text searchable, based on my handwriting. Yes, I said “fully text searchable” from my handwriting. Here is what it looks like once it gets to the final destination and I perform a search:

OneNote.PNG

Amazing, eh?

So, my only complaint is that the tool only allows you to scan in 10 pages at once. I wish there was a way to override this, for two reasons:

  1. I take a lot of notes and I fill 10 pages quickly. I have to get into the habit of scanning every week at this point to keep up. It is not impossible, but it would be nice to skip a few weeks and then scan them all in – in bulk. Right now, I have to upload it in several different batches of 10.
  2. I recently was working with legal documents and needed to print them out, sign them, scan them in and then send them off. The document had 11 pages. 11. 11! So, I had to scan 10 pages, then scan the last one and then find PDF merge software to merge them all together. That was NOT fun.

With that said, Au Revoir ModNotebooks. You were great while you lasted. I will likely be going back to using Moleskin’s and then using OfficeLens to digitize. We shall see… TUL (the “u” is long, so “tool”) has some nice notebooks too – I love their fine-point pen:

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If you have any suggestions, please leave comments below. wlEmoticon-hotsmile.png

Going back to taking notes by hand…

 

Delay Loading Outlook Add-ins

A customer I work with encountered an issue where a specific add-in was causing Outlook to lose its network connection. Essentially, we were unable to get the “Click here to view more on Microsoft Exchange” (in cached mode) to light up. Here is what we saw:

connect error

Here is what we wanted to see:

connected

It was always grayed out and no mater what we did in Outlook with the connection state, it never same back.

After a lot of troubleshooting we found one particular in-house add-in was causing the problem. Oddly, everything worked great with the same add-in in previous versions of Outlook, but in Outlook 2016, we started seeing this problem. Therefore, we knew it had to be a change made in Outlook 2016. What we found is that Outlook 2016 had been greatly reconfigured in the startup code to optimize network connections as it now connects to the cloud (Office 365). So we started working with the product team on identifying the root cause and in the end we were unable to find a solution (in time). My customers deployment was delayed.

As such, I had to come up with a workaround. We found that if the add-in was not loaded when Outlook started, but was manually enabled after Outlook  launched, the problem would NOT occur. This got me thinking: What if I created an add-in that loaded add-ins AFTER Outlook was done loading all other add-ins?

The Outlook Delayed Loading of Add-ins for the Enterprise was born. By the way, that name is credited to my customer. The catchy acronym stuck: D-LAME Add-in. wlEmoticon-disappointedsmile.png

I have posted the project for it here on GitHub here:

https://github.com/davecra/DLAME

You will need to load it into Visual Studio and compile it and then sign it with a certificate on your own. The code is provided AS IS. The README.md on the page explains the installation, configuration and usage of the a add-in once you have it ready for deployment. Some key points:

  • You will want to make sure it is not disabled by setting the Resilience policy key for the add-in.
  • You will want to move the add-in(s) you wish to delay from HKLM to HKCU registry locations.
  • You can load DLAME as either HKCU or HKLM. The suggestion is HKLM.

So, what can you use this for? Well, it turns out this add-in has a lot of uses and as I have started discussing it with other support folks at Microsoft, several use cases came out:

  1. You have a lot of add-ins that you need to have loaded with Outlook. They keep getting disabled by Outlooks resiliency feature, so you add policy settings to prevent them from being disabled, but now Outlook takes forever to launch. You can now set only DLAME to be resiliency policy blocked and then delay load all your other add-ins.
  2. Because it is a .NET/VSTO add-in, added to the above scenario, you can have all your VSTO add-ins load after Outlook has completed loading all other add-ins.
  3. Because the loading occurs on a background thread, the user will see Outlook fully load and then will start to see the other add-ins load (Ribbons and buttons appearing) after they are able to see their inbox and start reading/selecting items.

Bottom line, this add-in is useful for helping an enterprise manage their add-in without impacting the loading of Outlook or user productivity.

However, there is ONE major caveat. You will need to thoroughly test your add-ins because some add-ins might not like being loaded AFTER the fact. Technically, I have not found any that behave this way, but there could be some that register to certain events (like Application_Load and NewExplorer) that will not get fired if loaded after Outlook is already fully loaded.

OneNote: Do Your Tabs Disappear?

Recently, a customer I work with asked me to investigate why the tabs in their shared OneNote notebooks were disappearing. It is especially prevalent when they moved to OneNote 2016. The cause as it turned out was something called Windows Deduplication. At its simplest, it is a way to reduduplicate files and similar streams of data on a disk. It is a form of compression at its simplest which is to say it is a mechanism to allow you to stick more stuff on a computer or server disk. What we found was the deduplication was corrupting the OneNote index (toc) on the server and each time someone went to make changes to the OneNote file on the server. Tabs would start disappearing for other users when multiple users were editing the files. When we enabled the exception for OneNote files in the data deduplication feature and then moved the OneNote files from one folder to another and then back (which is required to de-optimize the files), the problem went away. To resolve this problem you will likely need your administrator involved:

  1. You will need to set an exception for the OneNote file extensions in Windows Server 2012 Data Deduplication.
    • Here are some details on configuring that with PowerShell. See the “Modifying Data Deduplication volume-wide settings” section.
    • You will need to exclude these extensions: *.one, *.onebin, *.onetoc2
  2. Next, have everyone close OneNote on their systems.
  3. Finally, you will need to “deoptimize” (or, and I love this, de-dedup) the files. To do this, you will create a folder somewhere in the shared folder, move all the files in the OneNote folder to that location, then move them back.

NOTE: Nothing needs to be done on the clients, they will just work the next time the users launch OneNote. You might notice the tabs will still initially appear to be missing, but they will re-index and come back. This might take a few minutes depending on how many tabs there are.

Once completed, you should find that your tabs are no longer disappearing.

Outlook Export Calendar to Word Add-in

I have been working with a number of customers over the years that come from the world of Lotus Notes. And one of the areas they often complain about with regards to Outlook is the calendar printing options. There are certain things you just cannot do in Outlook from the printing perspective that leaves them wont for more.

So, I have been working over the years on this add-in. This has actually gone through a few iterations – the current version 1.2.0.9 is the most recent and most fully-featured version.

The full source code is on GitHub, here. It is totally open source and free to use, modify, etc. Here is what it can do:

addin

  • Printing calendars not available in Outlook by default.
  • The ability to create your own custom calendar
  • The ability to combine calendars for multiple people at once:
    • Displaying only overlapping schedules on the same calendar
    • Displaying all meetings including overlapping meeting
  • The ability to export in daily, weekly, by-weekly, tri-weekly or monthly formats.

The exact details on customization, installation and usage are all covered in the user guide, here.

#Excel: “Large Address Aware” #Patch

Ever since Office 2010, Excel has become more and more burdened with memory issues. The most common problems I have seen are hangs, crashes, errors about resources, and problems with cut/copy/paste. This has occurred more and more often with each subsequent build of Excel. The symptoms have become more apparent as Excel Spreadsheets have become more and more complex. Users have become more savvy with formulas, pivot tables, slicers, etc. And Excel has started using more and more memory to enable these features. The problem is 32-bit architecture on a system. Although application are supposed to have 4GB of memory, Excel is actually limited to 2GB where the system uses the other 2GB for shared process memory.

Now, there is a fix which makes Excel 2013 and 2016 “Large Address Aware.” This is a feature of Windows that limits memory for the system to 1GB, freeing up 3GB for Excel. This should help tremendously. Most of the problems reported with Excel usage should decrease as a result of this. For more information on this fix, see:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3160741

Counting down…

With one month and one week to go, it is time to start moving off Windows XP and Office 2003. Here is another great article from Microsoft about how/why:

Support for Windows XP and Office 2003 ends April 8, 2014 — what’s next?
http://blogs.technet.com/b/firehose/archive/2014/02/26/support-for-windows-xp-and-office-2003-ends-april-8-2014-what-s-next.aspx

A few interesting highlights from the article:

  • Windows XP and Office 2003, however, have been supported for more than a decade, or since “Baywatch” went off the air.
  • Computers currently running Windows XP and Office 2003 won’t stop working on April 9, but over time security and performance will be affected: Many newer apps won’t run on Windows XP; new hardware may not support Windows XP; and without critical security updates, PCs may become vulnerable to harmful viruses, spyware and other malicious software that can steal or damage personal information and business data.
  • Office 365 — the next generation of familiar Office productivity applications in the cloud. The subscription-based service offers familiar Office tools and maintains file integrity and design when documents are edited by multiple people, and it provides enterprise-class security and privacy.

If you are considering the move and have questions about your Microsoft Office Integrated Line of Business Applications, there are many ways Microsoft and Microsoft partners can assist you in assessing and remediating these solutions.

You can learn more about Office 365 for your business here: http://blogs.office.com/office365forbusiness/

XP/2003 Deadline Looms

If you are still on Windows XP and Office 2003, if you have not already started your migration, you should start ASAP. The end of support for BOTH is this April. Here is a great link that explains all the reasons you should start today: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/enterprise/endofsupport.aspx.

I have heard from a number of folks that are “stuck” in XP/2003 land. Namely, because they have a large number of Office based solutions, Excel VBA add-ins, XLL’s, UDF’s, macros and Access 2003 databases that must be migrated and no idea how to begin to remediate them. There is help out there and a number of partners and even service offerings from Microsoft that can help you.

If you have a solution in Office 2003 that you need help to remediate, please contact me. Send me a private tweet or send me an InMail on LinkedIn.