Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

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webfork
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Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#1 Post by webfork » Sat Jan 09, 2021 12:18 pm

If you've heard someone ask: What do you mean you don't want to use the Edge browser?

Background

TPFC is dedicated to free tools, many of which get around or fix problematic default Windows tools and functions, some not seeing much change since Windows 95. Additionally, some institutions have decided on requirements for a pure Microsoft environment due to either security requirements, limited IT, or an over-basic understanding of computers, which means only pre-determined software (usually Adobe and MS Office/Office 365).

Portable software is a kind of best-case scenario in computers, opening the door to so many other possibilities from multiple versions/instances, ease of backup/sync/share, and more, but for those of us that must be practical...

Scope

To be clear, the following is focused on Microsoft-only tools, but because at least a dozen different websites I could think of have something similar, I'm also including portable or freeware links for those that can break out of MS jail.

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  • Screen Capture - There are a few ways to do this, but a somewhat-recently added feature allows for use of (CTRL+WIN+S) to send directly to clipboard. Much better than the old, tedious Snipping Tool. I highly recommend using this in combination with the next feature. (Recommended portable program: ShareX - loads of features.)
  • Clipboard manager - (Win+V) - Nice, fairly simple clipboard history view, much better than the one built into Word. (Recommended portable program: ArsClip)
  • Text editor - it's not native to the OS but at least it's something better than notepad or a formatting-restricted Word document. MS Visual Studio Code. This one might actually be natively portable, but in the context of this post, you'll probably want to just install it. (Recommended portable program: Notepad++)
  • Running non-Microsoft programs - Windows Sandbox (Requires Win10 Pro) - as it's part of the standard OS, you might be able to enable it and run unsanctioned programs inside. (Recommended not portable program: Sandboxie.)
  • Browser - If you absolutely have to use Microsoft Edge, look into some add-ons. (Recommended portable program: I prefer Firefox, but we do have Google Chrome Portable, which is only barely portable. X-Chromium is much better.)

Advanced functions
  • Powershell - contains quite a few tools and capabilities to tweak your toolset and capabilities. (Recommended portable alternatives: MobaXterm Home Edition , ConEmu)
  • WSL - access to the Bash shell and thousands of other programs.
  • Tweak search settings - During System Setup: Open File Manager, run a test search, and then click Advanced Options – Check Indexed Locations and change it from C:\Users to whatever your username is e.g. C:\Users\AB123456. This is going to generally result in faster/better search results.


Help wanted
  • Paste to text? - the current process for this is tedious and inconsistent across applications (Excel has one method, Word another, Office365 another). This is maybe my worst gripe.


---

Feedback and other tricks / suggestions are welcome.

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#2 Post by webfork » Sat Jan 09, 2021 2:34 pm

Think I may have already solved the "Paste to text?" problem, though it does require that Powershell is installed:

1. Paste the following text in a text file and save it with a ".bat" ending:

Code: Select all

powershell.exe -command get-clipboard | clip
2. Follow the steps in this article to get it added to the start menu/taskbar.

3. Click on this box whenever you need to quickly remove clipboard formatting.

Image

Again, feedback welcome.

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#3 Post by freakazoid » Sat Jan 09, 2021 2:59 pm

Great post, webfork!

It should be noted that Windows Sandbox requires the Pro Edition. Those with Windows Home will not be able to use it.
is it stealth? ;)

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#4 Post by webfork » Sat Jan 09, 2021 3:25 pm

freakazoid wrote:
Sat Jan 09, 2021 2:59 pm
Great post, webfork!

It should be noted that Windows Sandbox requires the Pro Edition. Those with Windows Home will not be able to use it.
Thanks and good catch -- updated the first post.

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#5 Post by Midas » Mon Jan 11, 2021 6:06 am

webfork wrote: Help wanted
  • Paste to text? - the current process for this is tedious and inconsistent across applications (Excel has one method, Word another, Office365 another). This is maybe my worst gripe.

Feedback and other tricks / suggestions are welcome.

:arrow: Quick note to point out that ClipDiary (https://www.portablefreeware.com/?id=2787), my preferred clipboard manager, solves this off the bat with a (customizable) CTRL+SHIFT+V to paste plain text...

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#6 Post by rbon » Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:34 am

webfork wrote:
Sat Jan 09, 2021 12:18 pm
[*] Running non-Microsoft programs - Windows Sandbox (Requires Win10 Pro) - as it's part of the standard OS, you might be able to enable it and run unsanctioned programs inside. (Recommended not portable program: Sandboxie.)
Sandboxie now has two lines of development:
1. Sandboxie Classic - Install (not portable): last ver. 5.46.1 (32/64 bit)
2. Sandboxie Plus - Install/Portable: last ver. 0.5.4 (32/64 bit)

• GitHub download page: https://github.com/sandboxie-plus/Sandb ... ag/v0.5.4b
• Sandboxie Plus - web site: https://sandboxie-plus.com

From Sandboxie Plus - web site:
The plus installer was improved it now provides a extract function and creates the required Sandboxie.ini and Sandboxie-plus.ini for portable operations.
All newly added features target the plus branch but often can be utilized in the classical edition by manually editing the sandboxie.ini file.

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#7 Post by webfork » Mon Jan 11, 2021 8:43 pm

rbon wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 10:34 am
Sandboxie now has two lines of development
Oh wow, very nice -- this feels like the sort of thing we should push to a Sandboxie thread. Maybe it's time for another unifying thread? Like with Tox?

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#8 Post by rbon » Tue Jan 12, 2021 7:37 am

webfork wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 8:43 pm
Oh wow, very nice -- this feels like the sort of thing we should push to a Sandboxie thread.
Before posting here I was in doubt with the discussion 'Sandboxie becomes free' viewtopic.php?t=24629, and probabily is better choice.

Please note that in my previous post I have writed link to a download release instead of GitHub project (there is a new release):
• GitHub project page: https://github.com/sandboxie-plus/Sandboxie
• GitHub download page (all releases): https://github.com/sandboxie-plus/Sandboxie/releases

B.T.W.
note that GitHub site name is 'sandboxie-plus'.
webfork wrote:
Mon Jan 11, 2021 8:43 pm
Maybe it's time for another unifying thread? Like with Tox?
I'll think about it. Thanks.

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#9 Post by Midas » Tue Mar 09, 2021 12:45 pm

This only marginally related -- in fact, it can be deemed outright off topic -- but I just came across this long(ish) article extolling the virtues of MS Excel: "Excel has been around for 36 years, so we should expect that it will be around for another 36."

While I am not even a user anymore, I think the overview is pretty good as reads go, covering history, software implications, impact, and strategy. Should you care for this, start at is at "Excel Never Dies".

Excel may be the most influential software ever built. It is a canonical example of Steve Job's bicycle of the mind, endowing its users with computational superpowers normally reserved for professional software engineers. Armed with those superpowers, users can create fully functional software programs in the form of a humble spreadsheet to solve problems in a seemingly limitless number of domains. These programs often serve as high-fidelity prototypes of domain specific applications just begging to be brought to market in a more polished form.

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#10 Post by Andrew Lee » Tue Mar 09, 2021 11:20 pm

I think the article should be re-titled "Spreadsheet never dies".

Replace "Excel" with "Spreadsheet", and the entire article pretty much still stands.

The spreadsheet has always been in my arsenal of tools, but I have long left Excel for Google Sheet and LibreOffice Calc for various reasons.

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#11 Post by Midas » Wed Mar 10, 2021 9:23 am

Well, once upon a time I learned and used Lotus 1-2-3 and my "wow!" moment really happened there.

Plus, I was a little surprised to not find even a passing mention of Quattro Pro in the historical part.

Oh, well, like they say "a victoribus historia scriptum est"...

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#12 Post by Andrew Lee » Wed Mar 10, 2021 9:55 pm

Well, I don't want to appear competitive here, but I was introduced to the spreadsheet via VisiCalc on the Apple ][ :D

I was still a teenage then, so I didn't really appreciate the significance of the concept. Only used it as a glorified calculator! Same with Lotus 1-2-3 when I moved to the PC.

I must admit for me, any real world use of spreadsheet only began with Excel on Windows 3.x.

Good times...

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#13 Post by Midas » Thu Mar 11, 2021 5:47 am

:lol: I don't doubt it for a minute -- but I meant to highlight how a primitive UX could be earth shattering for some of us.

The main difference in my case was I was actually working when this happened -- corporations were the only ones healthy enough to afford any decent computers back then...

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#14 Post by webfork » Thu Mar 11, 2021 8:31 am

Midas wrote:
Tue Mar 09, 2021 12:45 pm
This only marginally related -- in fact, it can be deemed outright off topic
This is a great article ... so many thoughts here.

First, TP109 and I actually built a simple application collaboratively here on the site for consuming output by SigCheckGUI (TP109's being a bit smarter), so that definitely checks out for me.

Two things the article doesn't dig into, both positive and negative:

Positive: Excel can make spreadsheets palatable. Meaning with a little work you can even make an Excel file not look like a spreadsheet at all. That's not something their competitors have been able to do much on. It doesn't seem like much but when you spend hours and hours building something and then the presentation is a bit dry, it means those hours you put in don't have a result. Even one of my smartest and most capable managers would just NOT look at a simple spreadsheet.

Negative: VBA. Multiple organizations I've worked for have turned off VBA at the enterprise level and that's a GOOD thing. I had a friend work for an institution where complex Excel VBA programs written in 2003 were running major systems and critical functions. Worse, it was written by someone who didn't code but basically added layer after layer of tweaks over the years without doing a code cleanup. I would not be surprised if it was still in use on that same computer. That's the worst of it. The best cases are that organizations have to adjust their VBA tools to respond to every new version of Office for anything but simple tools.

A major selling point of LibreOffice, at least in presentations by their team is that their macro system is far simpler and more stable.

On the note about other spreadsheet programs ...
Andrew Lee wrote:
Tue Mar 09, 2021 11:20 pm
I have long left Excel for Google Sheet and LibreOffice Calc for various reasons.
I too have switched most of my functions to LibreOffice Calc, just trying to keep in line with my effort to keep things local and open source. But I admit a lot of my ability to shift that way is because of good compatibility with published Excel formulas. And I definitely miss the polish that I was able to give spreadsheets under Excel. Also, the Lindy effect mentioned by the article might be more accurately applied to LibreOffice.

I don't miss Excel's poor CSV support by comparison to LibreOffice. Speaking of something that's never going to die...

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Re: Recommended standard Windows/Office tweaks

#15 Post by webfork » Sat Mar 13, 2021 10:14 am

[Moderator note: a post about Browser-based search highlighting (with regex) was given its own thread.]

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