Category Archives: Productivity

Better character map in Windows 11

The Character Map is where we go to include special symbols in our epic works, like è, æ, and .

Previously it was quite a task, but the improved clipboard in Windows 11 makes it easier. Open the clipboard with the Win key + v. Along the top of the window you can see emoticons, emojis, GIFs and special characters that can be searched or browsed by category to find the one you want.

If you use certain characters a lot, consider using autocorrect in your word-processor, for example, to replace the character what you type with the character(s) you want. For example, if I type -> it gets replaced with → on my word processor.

Take note of your meetings

I’m involved in a few meetings and I’ve been experimenting with transcribing them using Otter on my Android phone (Sorry Apple users).

Just start the App, and it transcribes what it hears through the microphone, and turns it into text on your Android device. The free version allows for up to 40 minutes a recording. Quite clever as it pauses when you are on a phone call and so on.

I also tried it on a radio programme, which worked well. So it looks like you can use Otter on other recordings that you have, such as dictation recorded by someone else.

It does use quite a bit of data, but you can set it to do live transcription over wifi only.

Otter does offer to connect to your calendar and your Google account, but I decided to not let it have access to all about me.

Transcription quality so far is both good and fast so I’ll keep using it and finding out more.

Capture web pages from Microsoft Edge

A useful feature of the Edge web browser is that you can take copies of all or part of a web page that interests you.

Just go to the page you want and press the menu button (three dots at the top-right). Now you can copy a selection that you outline or the whole web page (not just what you can see on the screen, Next press the ‘copy’ icon to paste the image or the’ save’ icon to create an image file.

Another reason to use Edge rather than Chrome. Firefox has a similar feature in the latest versions. Just right click on the web page and choose what you want to copy.

Make looking around your Windows computer easier

File Explorer or ‘My computer’ enable you to look around files and folders, delete, copy and paste. Sometimes I end up with several windows open, especially if I am copying or moving folders. Gets to be a bit of a pain.

So I’ve found QTTaskbar which adds tabs to File Explorer, a bit like web browsers. This organises my various views and lets me work a lot faster.

Download and run the program, which creates an add-in to File Explorer. On the view tab click the down arrow under options where you can see the various toolbars you can open. I’d start with QTTabbar, so you can see the tabs, and QT Command Bar, where you can change the many options. I tend to close QT Command Bar once I’ve set the options but you may prefer it.

Convert handwriting into text

Google Lens keeps getting better and better. It can now scan and convert handwritten notes and upload them to Google Drive for transfer to your computer.

Start up Google Lens, select the text icon at the bottom and get the stuff you want to convert in the screen. Wait for it to find the text. Now press the text button, ‘select all’ and ‘copy to computer’.

I’ve tested it on a load of scribble and it is scarily accurate! Worth a go for meeting notes and stuff.

But research has shown that only 10% of flip charts are transcribed and only 10% of those typed-up notes are ever looked at again. So you takes your choice…..

Windows clipboard saves mutiple entries

How often have you cut or copied an item to the clipboard, then forgot yourself and sent something else to the clipboard and overwritten the previous one? Annoying to say the least! Or maybe you needed to copy several things to a number of places.

Windows now has a feature where it saves multiple items. Go to settings-system-clipboard (it’s near the bottom) and turn on clipboard history. Now when you send something to the clipboard it is saved even if you clip something else. Press the Windows key and V to see the list. Then just click the one you want.

Personally I like Clipboard History Pro as it lets me set up ‘stickies’ or permanent entries in the list such as boilerplate text.

Private video conversations

I have a number of customers who are consultants, therapists, etc. Due to the virus outbreak, I did some looking into working over the internet with other people to stay in business.

Some of the accrediting bodies are quite rightly very cautious on customer confidentiality. This can be compromised on a number of methods that we all use. The issue is that other people can intercept the audio and video streams going past.

To prevent this, we need End to End Encryption (E2EE). Fortunately, there are several excellent open-source (free) tools. Another benefit to open-source is that the code is available to anyone to review and comment, potentially making it better than proprietary solutions who can build in secret monitoring.

Before we get to them, Skype itself claims to offer e2e as an option: select ‘new private conversation’ from the new chat menu as long as you both have versions of Skype that allow e2e, however commentators claim that there are records of the call, but not of the content of the call.

Skype’s Private Conversations is based on Signal, a rather good tool from Open Whisper Systems. Signal is even supported and trusted by the famous or infamous Edward Snowden.

With Signal, just install the software at each end (phone or PC), allow certain permissions and off you go.

To do lists and workflow

I’ve mentioned Evernote before in my musing as a great tool to grab notes and tasks that need to be done. If you are a list-based sort of mind it is great: I have customer notes, my technical library, a shopping list and things to do when I am in certain locations all organised.

If you are a person who feels more at home with mind-maps and post-it notes stuck on walls, the Trello is a similar but more free flowing. I’ve used it to work on various projects and it it probably better for when you want to involve teams.

Worth a look.