Office Lens is amazing, if you’re not using it, you probably should

I have been using Office Lens for a while now. Every time I have a use for it I am blown away at how good it is. This tool works well in real life and not just the demo scenarios shown on product pages.

Office Lens trims, enhances and makes pictures of whiteboards and docs readable, and saves them to OneNote. You can use Office Lens to convert images to PDF, Word and PowerPoint files too.   Office Lens is like having a scanner in your pocket. Like magic, it will digitalize notes on whiteboards or blackboards. Always find important documents or business cards. Sketch your ideas and snap a picture for later. Don’t lose receipts or stray sticky notes again!  You can convert your pictures to PDF files with selectable text, in addition to Word and PowerPoint files, and save them to OneDrive.

I was at a training day on the weekend. Here is the shot I got with the Lumia 930:

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Here is the slide captured by Office Lens:

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Here is one of my boys’ drawings never to be lost:

Office Lens_20150314_124344

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You can include up to 10 photo’s within the one document. I use it for receipts, business cards, kids drawings, white board sketches and notes, handouts from school. It is then uploaded to OneNote (now completely free), which is what I use for all and any note taking. As a hoarder by nature, having a digitalization path so quickly to get rid of the clutter is fantastic.

Get it from the Windows Phone Store for Windows Phone, iTunes for iOS or sign up for the Preview for Android.

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A totally over-complicated way to show PowerPoint slides on a TV

I did not want to move my laptop and plug it into the TV via HDMI and use my Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 as I normally do. So I thought I’d try a complicated way to get the slides on the TV.

Firstly, I need to the presentation shared. PowerPoint has this feature, Present Online.

Present Online

 

Secondly, I needed a browser on the TV. I don’t have a Smart TV. For all that functionality I use my Xbox 360. On it goes and I launch Internet Explorer which I can fortunately do now without an Xbox Live subscription.

Xbox 360 Internet Explorer

Thirdly, I have a giant URL I need to type in for the presenting online presentation. Doing that on the Xbox controller would be horrible, especially since I can’t see the computer screen and TV at the same time. Instead I connect to the Xbox via Smart Glass from the laptop running the presentation. Here I can just launch the remote control and copy and paste the URL right into the Xbox 360 browser.

Xbox 360 Smart Glass Connecting

Fourthly, I need to control the slide show in front of the TV away from computer. I could just use my Bluetooth presenter mouse. The downside to that however is that I would be missing out on my slide notes. Microsoft has recently released Office Remote. It’s a Microsoft Office add-in with a Windows Phone app. So connecting my phone to my PC via Bluetooth and connecting Office Remote I get slide navigation, speaker notes and more presenter mode features.

Office Remote in PowerPoint

 

Although this is overly-complicated and many moving parts it all connected quickly and easily and gave a good experience. Just goes to show how many options we have to do simple things, and that is just on the Microsoft stack. This was more for experimenting with what could be done. I would not recommend it!

Publish Apps and Get a Nokia Lumia

I had been wanting to create Windows Phone apps for about 6 months now but had been continuing to put it off. When Dave Glover announced the challenge, it was the kick I needed. Publish 3 or 4 apps and receive a Nokia Lumia 710 or 800. Working almost every night, from early January, this is what I achieved:

Memory Speed

This is NOT a standard game of Memory. Once a pair is matched, it will flip back over if you do not find all the others quick enough. This game comes complete with 3 difficulty levels with up to 21 pairs to match. You must match all pairs within the Matched Pair Timeout. If a matched pair flips back over you can simply match it again, and it will be another matched pair timeout interval for that pair. If you are not quick enough, you’ll end up spending all your time rematching pairs you have already found. Game high scores and statistics are recorded to ensure you always have a goal to beat.

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Maths Defender

There are incoming bombs falling towards the city. The only way to stop them destroying the buildings is to denote them with the code. The code is the answer to a maths equation. This game comes complete with individual operator (+, -, x, ÷) or all options, adjustable number range from 0 to 100 and 3 speed settings to challenge everyone

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Count With Me

Keep the little ones entertained while they learn to count. Tap each object to highlight the numbers as you count. Select the right number and they objects will fly off as the count goes up. It features many different objects from robots to trees to cars and bright varying backgrounds.

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Color Bubble

Help the kids learn their colors by popping bubbles. The player is given a colored instruction of which color bubble to pop. The bubbles then bounce around while they try and pop only the specified color. If they hit the wrong color it just bounces the bubble around more.

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I wanted applications that would engage the brain in some way. I’ve never been interested in writing games and never done it before, but taking the approach for educational games that will be also entertaining for my three boys (3, 2 and 1/2) became very fun. I would draw the concept on the white board and then my eldest boy would watch as the development progressed and the game came to life. And he really enjoyed them.

Having developed back in 2004 for the Pocket PC I wanted to see how far the development tools had come. I thought they were really good back then and what I have found is that the experience is even more seamless. Considering I have now published 4 apps on the store without ever running them on a physical device should give a good testament to the development environment. Not to mention 4 games in a few hours a night over 2 months, never having done games development before. A far cry from my first horrible experience in 2008 in the Android Development environment. However, I assume it has progressed and would now love to port these apps over to it now.

Unfortunately, my last app was published on the 04/03/2012, two thirds through the competition and by half way through the limit of 50 entries had already been received. So I missed out on a phone. A big thank you to Dave Glover for organizing the challenge and really engaging the Australia development community. So much so that he currently has another competition running for the most download app. Unfortunately, I’m fresh out of ideas, especially ones that would appeal to the masses of Windows Phone users. Although, I still do need a Windows Phone to be able to have my boys play them whenever we are out, and they need to be distracted.

XPS Unknown by Microsoft Support

Recently I had to contact Microsoft support. I stated my issue and gave a copy of my print out relating to the issue, as an XPS. This is convenient to do, as after installing .NET 3.0 Framework, which gives you XPS support, the option to print to XPS is available. The reply I got back however, was

“The file you had sent to us was not in a file type I could bring up. I would advise you to send it back to us in a different format so we can easily view the file.”

This knocked me to the floor! How could Microsoft support not open an XPS! Firstly, as stated on fileinfo.net:

“XPS files can be opened with Microsoft’s XPS Viewer, included with Windows Vista”

So why is Microsoft support not using Vista? Secondly, when opening an unknown file type, Windows default file type unknown dialog would point them to the the page http://shell.windows.com/fileassoc/0409/xml/redir.asp?EXT=xps, which clearly states what it is and what they need to do.

So I sent an email to the XPS team about my issue, and got very polite replying saying thanks for the interest and feedback, and they are following up the issue with the teams involved. Let’s hope they do. XPS from a .NET developers perspective is just brilliant. Even if the format is not as featured or whatever as PDFs, the ease of creation due to the XAML declaration is just too easy to ignore. Not to mention the Adobe Reader (currently version 9.1 and 41.1MB!) is way too bloated (use Foxit Reader, version 3.0, 3.26MB).

The issue holding XPS up is that is it not in wide enough support yet. I have sent them to family and friends and get the same type of reply from them, as I did from Microsoft support. Hopefully with more applications using .NET 3.0 and Windows Vista & 7 adoption on the increase, this will be resolved soon. Then, as a developer, I can say goodbye to painful PDF creation.

To make sure you have got all you need for XPS, be sure to install the Microsoft XPS Essentials Pack (7.2MB – 9.0MB, after .NET 3.0 Framework, which you should have anyway!). Although you get viewing and creating abilities with just .NET 3.0, the pack also gives you an IFilter for Windows Vista\Desktop Search and IPreviewHandler for Windows Vista Explorer previews, and Outlook 2007 previewer:

On a positive note, Microsoft support was very good. Very fast responses and when I sent the print out as a PDF my issue was very quickly resolved.

Aside: Same issue with internal adoption of Microsoft’s standards. The Inside Windows Live Messenger blog, has flash at the front, instead of Silverlight. I would have thought, since Messenger 9 has sprinkles of WPF, Silverlight would be a no brainer.

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