A True Dark Mode for Microsoft Word

Some users consider dark mode a fad. Because of my deteriorating eyesight, I don’t have such a luxury: I can’t read dark text on bright/light colored background, be it on screen or on paper.

Before dark mode was a thing, I was using a high contrast accessibility theme—which is great but also way too radical for my specific needs. Dark mode has given me the best of both worlds: a more or less ‘normal’ looking setup, only with bigger fonts, less eye candy and, well, darker colors.

So, how does Microsoft Word deal with dark mode? Very well, as long as you do not limit yourself to what the majority of guides will suggest you do, that is to use Office 365 dark mode. There is more to it, as you will see.

Illustration: the left of the screen shows Word using its dark mode plus the Immersive Reader: the text is white on a black backround, with an image that is unchanged. There is no page break or margins, the document almost feels like a basic text editor save that it shows an image too. The other half of the screen shows the wallpaper: a night view of a desert scene with many stars.
Microsoft Word in all its dark glory, once fully configured.

But let’s start with the obvious: activating Office’s dark mode.

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10 tips to reduce clutter and to get the most out of the taskbar

Clear the Notification area

A thing that strikes me is how quickly the notification area of the taskbar can become a mess, filled with apps trying to grab our attention.

Illsutrative. A view of my desktop with a wallpaper of the earth photographed from the moon, and a taskbar filled with icons in its notifcation area.

If I don’t know any quick solution to avoid apps stuffing their icons in there—some will provide an option to turn their icon off (thanks so much, guys), many won’t (booh!)—Windows itself provides an easy way to decide which icons you want to see and which must stay hidden until you decide otherwise.

Illustration. A close-up view of the tasbar with a cleaned notification area.

This is how my notification area usually looks like on my desktop, showing only the apps I want to check on a regular basis: the status of my VPN, the status of OneDrive sync and the volume button.

All other icons are kept hidden, but still quickly accessed, behind the up arrow, on the left.

Illustration. Teh same view, showing a popup window with all the hidden icons.

The selection of icons will be slightly different on my laptop, showing also the Battery status indicator, which also lets me quickly switch between the power saving or power hungry modes.

How do you change that?

Continue reading 10 tips to reduce clutter and to get the most out of the taskbar

Get Things Done with Windows 10 Timer

For years, I frowned at the idea of timing my work—“I write dude, I’m not getting paid by the hour!” I repeated myself. But I was wrong. Sure, I’m not paid by the hour, or it would be a misery if not less than that, but writing takes a lot of time and one’s time is limited. One’d better know how and where one spends it.

Timing my writing, in fact all of my work, was the best change I’ve ever made to my work routine. And it is still is, even if the way I do things, and the time I need to do them, constantly evolves.

It helps me to roughly know where I’ll be at the end of every day, no matter what. It’s also very useful to realize where I waste most of my time during any day, and to fight procrastination.

Every morning, accompanied by a big cup of coffee, I will start working around the same time (very early) for a 45’ or a 2h session, depending on what I want to do. I’ll take a short break after that first session, and have breakfast. Then I’ll start another session often, but not always, followed by another break. Rinse and repeat, until a day’s worth of work is done. After that, I’m free to do whatever I want.

During a session, I’m not allowed to go check my emails, Twitter, and so on. It’s just the work to be done, and me.

Here is another trick I use: to make sure I’m not tempted to waste my time online, I have a separated ‘work’ account on my computer, where I don’t have Twitter or email configured, no games either. Nothing but my word processor, a couple dictionaries and the notes I need in order to write (using OneDrive for storing my files, makes it really easy to share the one I need between my two accounts). During a session, I’m allowed to not write if I feel like it but the thing is that I quickly found out that looking at an empty screen, with nothing else to do but stare at it, is quite motivating to start working 😉

As you can see, beside the use of two separated accounts, there is nothing fancy in my ‘method’, that is merely a stripped-down version of the Pomodoro technique. And there is nothing complicated to it: it doesn’t require any sophisticated app, any timer should do.

To my surprise, I discovered that Windows 10 comes with its own timer. I wasn’t expecting much of it, but I thought I could give it a shot before spending money on yet another app.

You now what? It does the job.

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Using the Traditional Save/Open Dialog Box in Microsoft Office

By default, when you hit Save or when you try to open a file, the latest versions of Word and other Microsoft Office applications will use a new kind of window called the Backstage. As Microsoft wrote, the backstage “is everything that you do to a file that you don’t do in the file.”

A view of the new Save As dialog box, aka the Backstage Continue reading Using the Traditional Save/Open Dialog Box in Microsoft Office

Convert Multiple JPG Files Into a PDF

What to do on a Saturday night?

Well, convert a bunch of Jpeg images of course. Like scans of the XXIVa 1883 issue of the “Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque Nationale”. What else is there to do?

Something quite easy to do under macOS, but that I had no clue how to do under Windows… Long story short: it’s a lot easier. Continue reading Convert Multiple JPG Files Into a PDF

A Minimalist but Powerful PDF Reader: Xodo

Xodo comes with every tool and feature I need:

  • Annotation tools (pen, underline, highlight, comments), that work great with the Surface Pen,
  • Basic page editing: reorder, delete or add pages to a PDF. No heavy editing tools, though. If you need to edit the content of a page, or use an OCR on it, it can’t,
  • It has a Modern UI,
  • It fully respects Windows 10’s dark theme,
  • It’s lightweight and fast,
  • It can be used in a true full screen mode,
  • It’s totally free: no ads, no in-app purchases, nada!

Just get if from the Microsoft Store.

One thing that has always bothered me though, is the screen real estate wasted by tabs and the menu bar. But there is something, I’ve just discovered: you can hide it!

Continue reading A Minimalist but Powerful PDF Reader: Xodo

A Surface Book with a Matte Screen?

I’ve never been a fan of glossy screens. I have been cursing at Apple the day the introduced glossy screens on their iMac lineup, and then on their MacBook Pro line too. Because what Apple does will eventually—and have since then been—copied by the rest of the industry.

So we now have amazingly color-accurate screens that are also mirror like and riddled with distracting light reflections. Everywhere.

Of course, this is a totally subjective opinion. Glossy screens are not worse or better per se. But I can’t stand them, as it makes seeing what’s on screen much more difficult for me, with my already bad eyesight. And what’s making things worse is that we almost have no choice anymore: it’s glossy or nothing. Even more so when you’re looking for non 16:9 laptops.

In that regard, the Surface Book 2’s screen is very reflective, much more than, say, my 15” retina MacBook Pro was. Since I’ve started using the Surface, it has been a constant problem for me. So I did the same thing I did with my glossy MacBook Pro, I put a matte screen protector that, once again, did its magic.

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Quickly Create a Focused Workspace

My desk is a mess, so is my desktop.

A screenshot of my desktop filled with various windows, plus the ebook I'm reading opened on top of them all. A mess.And that is only one of my two screens. I fill the other one with Sticky Notes, OneNote, the spreadsheet where I outline my work, and a couple other stuff.

But even if I thrive in a such a mess, I often like to focus on a single task, be it reading, or writing, or whatever. At those times, I don’t like having any mess around me on my screen.

I could use virtual desktops, or I could Win+D to hide everything save the wallpaper, and then only show the app I’m working with. But there is a simpler, more focused, and much faster solution. Continue reading Quickly Create a Focused Workspace

Add a Period After Pressing the Spacebar Twice

Typing a period after each sentence is something the computer should do for me. It’s something a Mac will do: I press the spacebar twice and, bam, I get a period. No need to use the stupid “Shift+;” on my azerty keyboard.

Windows 10 can do it too, with a little help.

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