I won £500 in a pub quiz recently because I answered a question incorrectly. The question was “Which suburb of Seattle was Microsoft founded in?”
I started at Microsoft in 1991 and knew full well Microsoft was founded in Alberquerukey, New Mexico. So that left me with Redmond or Bellevue. Bellevue was the first Seattle office but I figured the quizmaster had checked a press article or something stating Microsoft was founded in 1975 in Redmond (their current location). So I gave Redmond as my answer and won £500. Do I feel guilty winning by giving a knowingly false answer?
No but the point of this blog post is where can you find official facts about Microsoft, the products, interesting numbers, quotes and stories? Check out Microsoft Story Labs. As well as news articles there are fun facts and figures like how much Fanta Microsoft employees drink (the company offers free beverages on campus) and details about the company in the Press Tools dropdown. It’s a good resource to be aware of.
Had the quizmaster asked me to spell Alberqwerky, I would have gone home empty-handed.
It’s common to have recurring meetings in our Outlook calendars. If the unexpected happens, such as snow or disruption on the trains (not so unexpected), it can be useful to change one of the meeting occurrences to a virtual meeting or a hybrid meeting where some staff are present in the same room and others can dial-in.
Outlook doesn’t provide the option of changing a single occurrence to a Skype for Business meeting however so here’s how to solve it.
If you double-click a meeting entry in calendar and select ‘Just this one’ to edit only this occurrence (below)
You will not be offered the Skype Meeting command on the ribbon (below). Note we have the Teams Meeting option because we have the Teams app installed alongside Skype for Business; you may not see Teams. We’ll be blogging about Teams and it’s relationship to Skype for Business at a later date. Note the ribbon tab showing we are editing the Appointment Occurrence.
If we had chosen to edit the entire series, we will see the Skype Meeting option in the ribbon. Note the ribbon tab showing we are editing the Appointment Series.
Outlook is being helpful here because if you edit a single meeting in a series, it will break the recurrence. In this instance, that’s exactly what we want to do though.
To overcome this, we can add the Skype Meeting command to the meeting Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) by right-clicking the command and selecting Add to Quick Access Toolbar.
The next time we edit a single instance of a meeting, we can click the Skype Meeting icon on the QAT to add-in the virtual meeting options.
When we save the updated meeting, our calendar shows we have broken the recurrence with the icon in the bottom right of the meeting block. But at least our colleagues stuck in some rain-soaked train station can still dial-in and take part in the meeting.
Dictation is being made available to Office 365 applications including Outlook, PowerPoint and Word. Currently it’s a first release feature but will gradually make its way into the mainstream release. This is different from the Windows speech recognition feature where you can control your PC using speech and it’s also distinct from the Windows 10 dictation added to Windows last autumn (and only available for US English).
We loved the Learning Tools add-on for OneNote which included dication and a host of accessibility features and were keen to give dictation a whirl in Outlook.
Enabling Dictation in Office 365
Luckily, there’s very little to set-up as this is a feature that’s enabled by default in an office upgrade. It uses Microsoft’s intelligent services (just like the automatic Alt-Text feature for inserted images) so you’ll need an internet connection – dictation can’t be used offline. If you can’t get dictate to work, check Intelligent Services is enabled in the File, Options, General tab. Your Office account must also be up to date.
Using Office 365 Dictate in Outlook
In a new email, click the Dictate button on the right hand of the Ribbon Home tab. The dropdown menu shows the languages this is available in. This should default to your Windows locale and having UK English gives me a good excuse to test for UK spelling.
It’s unlikely many built-in pc microphones will provide good results in a noisy office so I grabbed a Sennheiser headset and recorded the following:
My favourite colour is purple to wear and green to see. I also like black but it’s not really a colour. I still can’t get dictation to type pounds. My favourite neighbour is the one down the road with the aluminium blinds. I drank too much at a party and made a bit of an arse of myself. It’s my mum’s birthday soon.
You need to specifically add punctuation by saying ‘full stop’ or ‘period’, etc. and also formatting such as ‘new line’ to add a carriage return. I was speaking in a normal cadence but did add a bit of a Windsor accent. This is the result:
Quite an impressive outcome. I like the way offensive words are automatically censored. Spelling is UK English. Why it shortened road I don’t know and the final ‘I’ would have been capitalised had I said ‘new line’ to move to a different paragraph. And I still can’t figure out how to get it to type a £ symbol.
You can say the following to add punctuation:
Period Comma Question mark Exclamation point Exclamation mark New line New paragraph Semicolon Colon Open quote Close quote Open quotes Close quotes
This should be a real boon for users and because it uses Microsoft’s online intelligent services with machine learning, recognition and accuracy should improve over time.
If you have clients around the world it can make a very favourable impression if you provide them with a number local to them. It can cut their costs and gives your organisation a ‘just around the corner’ feel. Imageframe is based in Reading, UK but we do have clients in the US so we set up a New York phone number which seamlessly transfers to our switchboard. This costs roughly £181 per year per number and it also gives us additional UK calling minutes for the organisation.
Let’s start with the basics.
Skype for Business (either as standalone or part of an Office 365 plan) allows you to make calls to other Skype for Business and Teams users. If you want to make calls to PSTN (public switched telephone network) phone numbers and you don’t already integrate with a phone service provider, Office 365 offers the Phone System and Calling Plan licences. The Phone System licence provides cloud-based call-management features such as hold, forward, transfer and voicemail and will cost (as of the date of this post) £6+VAT per month as an add-on for Office 365 E1 or E3 plans. Once you have assigned the Phone System licence to a user, you can add-on either the Domestic Calling Plan for national calls or the International Calling Plan for calls to both domestic and international numbers in hundred of countries. Each of these provide a number of included minutes for calling per-month, rather like an included minutes mobile phone contract.
Purchase the Phone System and a Calling Plan licence and assign these to one of your Office 365 users. Now you can choose their phone number from a wide choice of countries and cities.
The World is Your Oyster (almost).
You can transfer an existing landline number or choose from a selection of phone numbers for your call-enabled users. Sign into the Office 365 admin centre and select the Skype for Business admin centre.
In the Skype for Business Admin Centre, you’ll be able to click on Voice and then Voice Users to see staff who have the phone system and calling plan licences assigned.
You’ll also be able to obtain new numbers from the available countries. The nice thing is that you can keep requesting new numbers until a funky one comes up like 0118 370 1234. The image below is a selection of numbers for San Francisco (415). We can acquire any of these or cancel and try again later to see a new selection.
Once you have acquired numbers you can assign them to voice users. There are two limitations here:
the user’s country in their licence profile needs to match the country for the phone number you want to assign.
you must set up an emergency location address for each country for which you acquire phone numbers.
We have a couple of unused Office 365 licences that we apply to demo personas. These are ideal for assigning the international numbers. View the user properties in the Office 365 admin centre, click on licensing and select edit. Then change the user’s location in the drop-down at the top. This will propagate to Skype for Business after a while and you can assign the US number.
We have also set up a redundant emergency location address for the US as the US number will only ever be used for routing incoming calls and will not actually be used by a bona-fide person. You can set up emergency locations in the Skype for Business admin centre (under the voice option).
Finish by Setting Up Call Forwarding.
Our demo users now have exotic phone numbers but they are not real users so will never answer the phone. We can sign into the Skype for Business client as them and configure call forwarding so if someone rings their number, it will forward the call to one of our real users, or our switchboard. The Skype client also tells us the call has been forwarded so we realise this is an international client.
No unused Office 365 licences?
We have assigned our numbers to demo users. If you don’t have spare Office 365 licences then you can acquire Service Numbers instead of User Numbers. Service numbers are intended to be assigned to services such as Audio Conferencing in Office 365, auto attendants or call queues. Service phone numbers have a higher concurrent call capacity than user numbers but you are allowed fewer service numbers than user numbers.
If you acquire a service number, then you can create an Auto Attendant to forward calls to your switchboard. You do this through the Call Routing option of the Skype for Business admin centre.
Give it a go and create your “London, Paris, New York” office locations. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.