July 2011

I started my blog back in December 2010 and it's still going strong. I've posted at least once post a month since then, so feel free to browse through the archives.

Task Management in Windows Phone Mango

At least one* of the 500 new features in Windows Phone Mango is the addition of the to-do items in the Calendar app.

The fact Exchange Tasks was not supported in Windows Phone 7 was a very sore point for a lot of users. Some even going as far as to say that the platform was not suitable for business at all until this was rectified.

It’s understandable for users to be upset. Task support has been in the Windows Mobile platform since forever, and users have come to expect it to be there. Currently the best solution is to buy a task application like the one by APPA Mundi which I use (and seems to be the best of the bunch) – but paying for something that many feel should be baked into the operating system leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

The to-do list is included as part of the Calendar application in Windows Phone Mango – not a separate application. There is no support for folders or categories – which is somewhat annoying – and all tasks from each account is just shown in one list. But the synchronisation of the tasks is much more robust than is available in third party applications, and includes the handy features of being able to see tasks with a due date on the calendar (though  this doesn’t seem to show up on the tile) and the ability to have reminders pop up just like an alarm or calendar appointment.

As a ‘power user’ of tasks in Outlook, I’d much rather the this as a separate application in future versions of Windows Phone. I’d also like to see the ability to use organise tasks with folders and categories, and to be able to pin each of these to the start screen in a similar way to OneNote’s impressive implementation of tiles.

Until then, I’m probably going to end up using some combination of APPA Mundi tasks and the built in support.

* I’m unsure how they count a ‘feature’

Note Taking in Windows Phone Mango

One of the nice new features in OneNote for Windows Phone Mango is the ability to pin a ‘new note’ tile to the start screen. I absolutely love this feature, and I don’t remember reading about this anywhere else – so it was a bit of a surprise. When you tap on this tile you are taken to a brand new note inside your default OneNote location. For me this is synchronised with SkyDrive and is accessible from my any of my other computers. Very handy for capturing information when on the move.

Another new addition when it comes to pinning, is the ability to pin a whole OneNote notebook. Currently missing (in this build) is the ability to pin a OneNote section.

When you tap on the notebook tile you’re taken directly into the list of sections just as expected. Here you can make sure you have the latest changes from SkyDrive or pick your default location for new notes.

Once you are inside a section you can see the pages. Above you can see a few of my pages are actually nested. I don’t recall seeing the nesting like this on the previous version of Windows Phone – but it might have been there!

Once you’re actually editing a page you can now create to-do items which can be ticked off. This mirrors the functionality on the desktop version of OneNote. I’m pretty sure this feature was actually available in OneNote for the older Windows Mobile 6 operating system, so I don’t know why it wasn’t in the initial release of Windows Phone 7. I actually use these to-do widgets for simple project management, so I’m very pleased to have the feature back.

Finally, as in the previous version of Windows Phone, you can also pin a note itself directly on the start screen. All of the OneNote tiles now match the colour of the icon on the desktop version of the product, unlike the ‘Office orange’ that was used last time.

Using Hair Bands to Keep Things Tidy

Some of the more observant may have noticed that the cables in my last post were fairly tidy – and kept together by a black band.

The thing I use to keep stuff like this together is hair bands… bit of a strange thing to use – you may think – but I’ve tried using elastic bands (look horrid, feel horrid) and plastic tie wraps (permanent, big) and a few other potential solutions, but one day I decided to try using simple black hair bands from Superdrug and it worked really well.

I keep them tucked away inside a small mesh case by MUJI which is much more convenient than just wrapping them around each other like I used to do. By having a supply of them I always know that I can quickly tidy things away without having to think about it.

Thanks to the stretchy nature of hair bands, they can be used to keep all kinds of things organised such as cables, belts and accessories, small notebooks, and much more. Always keep in mind that they are not the strongest thing in the world, so do not try to stretch them out too much!