Posted in Tools

OneNote on Android improves search

MSPowerUser reports that OneNote on Android will be getting improved search capabilities in the near future. This is great news since finding information on the go is easiest with robust search. More than once I’ve wasted time tapping through section and page trying to find something only to wind up frustrated.

The improvement of search on Android will be a big help for me when I use OneNote. Will it help you? Let me know in the comments below.

Posted in Tools

New Features in Outlook for Android

New features are coming to Outlook on Android so I wanted to take a minute to highlight the ones that have the biggest impact from a productivity perspective. 

Sync Draft Folders 

Now when you start an email on your mobile device you don’t have to finish it there. The Drafts folders will be synchronized so you can pick up where you left off on your Windows machine, Chromebook, iPad, or whatever you’re most comfortable with. This capability is a great way to take advantage of those small windows of time without having to inconvenience yourself later. 

Office Lens in Outlook 

Office Lens is the Microsoft application for capturing images, documents, and drawings from your mobile device. The addition of Office Lens support to Outlook cuts out unnecessary steps when sending images to others.  Now rather than having to capture an image, create a draft, and then go back and find your image to attach it you’ll be able to add the image right from your draft email.  

I’m speculating on this next part but it would make perfect sense that the images would sync in your draft folder as mentioned previously. If so this could be a bigger feature than expected. 

Quick Reply 

A feature that has received positive reviews on Google applications is coming to Outlook on Android. You’ll now be able to reply to emails with smart responses from a single button providing an experience more akin to chat than email. I use Quick Reply on a few of my apps and when I do it’s been fairly useful. We’ll keep an eye on how this feature develops. Personally, I’m hoping they bring Quick Reply to Teams…but that’s a different post. 

Office 365 Groups Calendars and OneNote Notebooks 

This is a bit of a mouthful so let me explain. In Office 365 Groups (a type of SharePoint site) you have the ability to have shared calendars and OneNote notebooks. This update to the Outlook Android client will give access to those calendars and shared notebooks from Outlook. If you’re working in a collaborative environment (and if not…we need to talk) this is a step in the right direction. 

Thanks to the good people over at DroidLife for bringing this to my attention. 

Posted in Techniques, Tools

Power user tip for OneNote and Action Launcher

If you’re running an Android device and have Action Launcher as your launcher of choice, you can take advantage of a nice feature to streamline your use of OneNote.  As you can see from the screen shot below I have OneNote (it’s the big N…I’m using an icon pack) in my dock.  The marker in the bottom right corner indicates this icon is a “cover”, which means that by swiping up on the icon I can open a frame that will contain a working Android widget.

I’ve used the large OneNote widget as the one attached to the cover for the app, so now with a single swipe I can see my most recently accessed pages, add new notes, photos, and voice recordings right from the home screen. Talk about being productive!

What’s your favorite OneNote / Android tip?

Posted in News

The sorry state of Android upgrades

This is going to be a bit of a rant today so be prepared.  I’ve been an Android fan for a long time, using phones, tablets, and wearables since early in the alphabet of software versions.  It’s those software versions causing my pain and anguish today.

Android updates – Hurry up and wait

It’s unacceptable that it takes so long, if ever, for Android devices to receive software updates.  Now before you break out the flamethrowers understand that I get the idea some devices are too old to support upgraded operating systems. Those devices that are out of date I don’t have a problem with being left by the side of the road (unless they’re only a couple of years old, then I start sensing the ugly head of planned obsolescence). Where I do have an issue is when a flagship device (something sold at the high end of the pricing scale) either does not receive updates until long after other devices more recently released of possibly not at all in their lifecycle.

Apples and Androids

This is usually where I get told, “Well, if you used Apple devices you’d have your updates.” Yes, and if I cared about Apple devices I might do that, but I use Android. It’s not a difficult concept. To have to change platforms, both hardware and software, just to keep your devices current is poor engineering, plain and simple.  I know this can be accomplished.  Look at how Chromebooks are kept up to date.  Hell, even Windows manages a better update cycle than Android devices.

Would you like a two-year contract?

There are so many benefits to the open Android environment from not only an application but also a flexibility position. You would think that one of those advantages would be the ability to not abandon devices by the side of the road when it comes to operating system updates.  Yes, I’m aware the carriers are a major obstacle in the upgrading cycle. But yet, they’re not an obstacle in the Apple world?  Hmmm, seems selling Android’s soul to the devil continues to cost the users when it comes to the lifespan of their devices. Take a look at Android Wear devices as another example. Updates are rolling out to older, less popular Android Wear devices, leaving flagships from key companies such as ASUS languishing.  Is this any way to treat a loyal customer base?

Enough is enough

Google, get your act together when it comes to software updates.  Find a way to fix this problem. The issue only continues to grow and your lack of response is an ongoing embarrassment to the Android community. Hell, it’s not like this is a complicated as unifying your messaging strategy.  Oh, wait…strike that.

Posted in Tools

Smartwatches are dead, long live smartwatches

There’s been a rash of articles out as of late proclaiming the death of smartwatches as a technology without a future. Delays in the Android Wear operating system, pushing back of hardware releases by major manufacturers, and protests by Tim Cook as to the volume of Apple Watch sales all lend to the “where there’s smoke there’s fire” argument when it comes to the demise of smartwatches. Yet, there are signs the news of their death may be premature.

The recent news from Google they will be releasing two Nexus branded smartwatches combined with the scheduled release of Android Wear 2.0 makes one think perhaps the manufacturers are not backing away from the platform but rather biding their time to see what moves are made by the major players to cement their interest in producing new models of devices. When this argument is made the pundits often devolve their positions into two main points: wearables are only good for fitness and there is no real reason for smartwatches to be compelling.

I for one wear a smartwatch daily. Yes, there are issues.  Yes, I wish it had better battery life. Yes it’s much larger than a standard watch. But when I look at the purposes it serves for me, I can’t help but wonder if people are really missing the point of the wearable.  Let’s lay down some guidelines to evaluate wearables:

  1. Wearables are not phone replacements.  Due to limited screen size, storage, and battery life a wearable is not a realistic replacement to a smartphone. Some companies have been trying through the addition of LTE technologies to position the wearable as a replacement for the phone, but I’d pose it’s unrealistic with current tech. A few years from now maybe, but even then I don’t see any clear solution to the screen size issue which is a linchpin to the device usability. With that in mind I’ll stipulate that a smartwatch is an accessory and enhancement to a smartphone, not a replacement to said device.
  2. Wearables should be able to do everything your smartphone can do. Again, another false equivalency positioned around the technology. Smartwatches are very good at things such as notifications, reminders, and prompts for action. Their ability to capture and process information is much more questionable. Here’s a practical example. As an American Football fan I follow our local team on Twitter. During games, when I frequently have conflicts preventing me from watching right then, the team tweets out updates and score changes.  Without a smartwatch I’d be pulling my phone out every time an update came in…a rude action when in polite company. However, with my smartwatch, I’m able to glance at my wrist, see the update, and immediately continue what I’m doing or the conversation I’m having. Would I expect my smartwatch to provide all the play by play and in depth analysis I can get from my phone? Not in the least. By leveraging what the smartwatch is best at I can be more efficient in my consumption of the information and remain more engaged in the activities around me.
  3. A smartwatch works best by voice. We’ve seen the ads of people “talking” to their smartwatch, giving commands and getting information, all with a slightly smug / happy face as part of the process.  Let’s be realistic.  Even in today’s technology wonderland, holding your watch up to your mouth and talking to it still looks funny. For those old enough to remember the Dick Tracy comics it is the epitome of “the future” but in daily use it becomes rather impractical. A better perspective is the ability of the smartwatch to pass commands to your smartphone without having to interact with the phone directly. This not only makes the interactions more convenient, sometimes even safer, but also improves the battery life on your phone (and we all know how critical that is.) An example of this is my predilection for podcast listening while working. If I’m at task in the outdoors, such as my annual battle with the leaf deluge in my yard, being able to adjust the volume and podcast choice on apps such as Pocket Casts from my smartwatch makes the process far more convenient than having to take out my phone each time to make an adjustment.

Are smartwatches the logical next evolution to smartphones?  No more so than the mouse was to the keyboard. It’s an extension, an improvement, but not a replacement. You may be thinking to get the most from a smartwatch you need the latest and greatest (as is so often the perception with tech) but that is far from the case.  My smartwatch is the original Android Wear device…the LG G Watch. It’s not receiving the Android Wear 2.0 update, it’s like an old Volvo (boxy but good), and it does the jobs I ask of it. Smartwatches have a much longer cycle of use, requiring far less frequent updates from a hardware perspective to reap the benefits of the feature set.

So to the smartwatch manufacturers of the world I say, stop trying to make them into Swiss Army knives and focus on solid tech, good displays, and excellent battery life.  Let the application developers produce the breadth of functional variety for people to tune their devices to their needs and those of us who find benefit from a digital assistant on their wrist will be the loyal fans we are want to be.

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This article was originally posted on LinkedIn

Posted in Uncategorized

Safer driving with Android and Google Now

Recently I moved to a longer commute than I had in the past and as such thought it was as good an opportunity as any to see how much hands-free control I could wrangle from Android and Google Now.  I installed the Google Now launcher on my LG G4 and put it to work.  Now by just saying “Ok, Google” I can…

  • Launch Google Maps
  • Listen to incoming text messages
  • Reply to those text messages or send new ones
  • Open other applications by just saying “Launch [application name]”
  • Get directions by voice command
There are a number of things you can say to Google Now, but some of my favorites are:
  • “Ok, Google, launch Maps”
  • “Ok, Google, navigate me home”
  • “Ok, Google, text [person’s name here]”
  • “Ok, Google, note to self [say the note]”
  • “Ok, Google, read my last text messages” (this is a good one)
Do you have ways you’re using your Android (or iOS device) in a hands free way when driving?  Share them in the comments below.
Posted in Uncategorized

Clocking in and out the automated way

I’ve started using an app on Android called Automate-It Pro to help keep track of my time in and out of work.  Since my time is billable, I need to know when things start and stop.  For now what I’ve done is added a widget to my phone that sends an email to Evernote recording the location and time in a new note categorized for my work notebook and tagged for the client.

This is all done through a single tap on the widget when I arrive and when when I leave each day.  While I could accomplish this through geotagging, since this is a test I’m sticking with manual for the near term.