Is there such a thing as free multiplayer video games ?

Multiplayer LAN games for cheapskates

aka “I prefer free or cheap games”

First of all, a small disclaimer is required. This list is mainly based on my personal experience when roaming LAN parties in combination with the games I like to play myself.

Not all these games require a platform account, but adding friends to your game is way easier like that.

For the biggest part of this list, you’ll be needing  a PC (obviously) and if you haven’t already done so, you need to first create an account on the following platforms through their respective websites :

  • Steam (the mothership of gaming platforms)
  • GOG (for lovers of retro games)
  • HumbleBundle (very cheap games, where your money’s donated to a charity)
  • Origin (that other mothership of gaming platforms)
  • Battle.net (limited amount of games, but huge player base. Does World of Warcraft ring a bell ?)

Steam :

  • War Thunder
    War Thunder
    War Thunder. pew pew vroom vroom

    Lots of fun and easy to learn.
    Flying planes and bombing tanks.
    Cross platform for Linux, Windows, Mac and Playstation 4

  • World of Warships
    A bit more hard core. You get to pilot actual replica of ships in a huge naval battle.
    Starts easy, but gets really intense on higher ranks.
    If you need a slow-paced but action-intensive game, this is for you
  • Warframe
    Yet another Steam game not obliged to run specifically on Steam.
    Sci-fi Spacey third person shooter with a simple and balanced class system.
  • Star Trek Online
    Star Trek Online screenshot

    Command your own crew in your personal NCC-ship.
    Multiplayer Trekkie heaven.

  • Star Conflict
    Massive multiplayer space ship pew-pew.
    Not really a beginner kinda game to start playing, but tons of fun with an experienced group of players. If you’ve played EVE Online and like that game, this is probably for you !
  • Winning Putt
    Sexy golf ?

    Sounds stupid, but it’s stupidly addictive as well.
    Multiplayer golf. What more do you want ? :p

  • Team Fortress 2
    The very first free-to-play game on Steam and still totally worth mentioning.
    This game stood the test of time and still kicks ass in the current-gen list of competitive shooters.
    It’s a team-based shooter where with many game typs such as “capture the flag”, ‘plant the bomb”, “king of the hill”, …
  • OGAT
    Of Guards and Thieves

    The title stands for “Of Guards And Thieves”, in case you’re wondering 🙂
    This little hidden gem has you play as either a member of the thieves or a guard (oooh, unexpected), where you have to infiltrate a mansion ans steal items or prevent the thieves from doing so.
    Sounds simple, but it’s a real blast.

  • DOTA 2
    Defending the Ancients like a bawz

    Spice is the variety of life. Or is it the other way around ? DOTA started as a simple mod for Warcraft 3, but quickly grew towards a thing of its own.
    DOTA 2 (Defense of The Ancients) is one of those games, where you defend your base and conquer your oponent’s. Computer-controlled units are your grunts, where you manually control a leader. As classic as it gets.

Origin :

While Origin occasionally used to have an “On the house” action every now and then, there’s not a lot of actual free games on their platform.
They stopped giving away freebies mid 2018 and don’t have plans to do so again (yet).
Nevertheless, Origin is EA’s gaming platform and it can never hurt to create an account here.

If you’re a fan of specific EA games (list on this Wiki page), have a go at Origin.

Also : PLAY ULTIMA ONLINE !!!

Humble Bundle :

Also, an other website that’s not known for instant-freebies.
HOWEVER….
Humble Bundle’s profit is poured mainly into general healthcare, Red Cross, humanitary help, … projects.
Every month or so, you’ll see a little announcement on their site where you get to buy an “Humble Bundle”,  which usually consists of around 10 to 12 games. Depending on the amount of money you donate, you’ll receive a small, medium o full package of games, usually Steam keys or DRM-free downloads.

It’s a bit of a gamble to get into their “Humble Montly” program, but definitely worth to create an account and stay on the lookout for a good bundle of games.
They even release e-books or specific software such as video editors every now and then !

GOG :

The GOG.COM platform has come a long way over the years.
It started out more like a fan-service to old-school gamers, but quickly grew into a legal distribution platform for the older games.
Now, GOG also provides the newer games on the market but is still known for its classic and historical games.
An easy search (https://www.gog.com/games?sort=popularity&page=1&price=free) will get you into their list  of free games (and demo’s).

  • As a lover of old games, I suggest the Ultima series, but they’re all mostly single-player RPG’s.
  • Gwent is quite likeable though. If you ever played “The Witcher 3”, you’ll love this. It’s the card minigame that has gotten a seperate game of its own. Very addicitve, although most card game players will either stick to Magic The Gathering Online, Pokémon The Trading Card Game Online (basically Magic for beginners) or HeartStone (on Battle.net)

Non-platform :

A couple of game have already been mentioned that are not necesarily platform-bound, but there’s a few ones that are not bound to any software distribution platform.

  • OpenTTD
    Choo Choo mother f*cker

    This beauty is a serious blast from the past, but remains an awesome game over all the years it had to fight to stay in the top game charts.
    As a free game OpenTTD (which is unoficially short for ‘Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe’).
    OpenTTD consists of a very simple concept to create the most optimal and lucrative transport system to get your products from A to B (and even to C and D in the process). The challenge for most people in this game, is getting the awesome train system to work.
    It’s a blast in multiplayer as you’ll soon be fighting over who gets the best coal prices in order to move them to your energy plant and whatnot.
    Fantasic game that gave me a good time in the past and I’m getting the urge to play it again by just writing about it.
    There’s even an Android port for the game, if you’re into that.

  • Pokémon TCGO
    Addictive Pokémon-themed card game from the creators of the all-popular card game series ‘Magic The Gathering’. It’s basically a gateway game to get you to play Magic AND there’s also a physical copy where you receive goodies for the online game per card pack.
    The online game is completely free though.
    You CAN invest real money in card decks, but it’s more of a time investment than an actual cash cow. Very fun to play with your kids, as most of the common languages are translated into it.

Actual non-video games ??? On a LAN party ???

And here we go again with the LAN party thing…
I’ve mentioned it before, but LAN parties are not all about sitting behind a computer screen for as long as you can.
They’re social events.
Part of the main audience happens to love real life party games and/or board games as well, so why not combine both ? As (almost) per definition, the default LAN party will last a complete weekend starting on a friday evening, going on ’till sunday evening. Depending on extended weekends, or going to events such as LANcamp (R.I.P.) this time might get extended to even a whole week.
When you’re my age (old) you lose interest in this mundane task of sitting behind a screen for over 48 hours and need a diversion.

  • SINGSTAR !!
    Hey I just met you and this is crazy, but be my singing buddy and get drunk, maybe ?

    The classic karaoke game that everybody (that sings) loves.
    Get everybody either really drunk and laugh your asses off, or battle in a competition of actual good singing voices.
    Either way, Singstar gets the job done.
    Protip : don’t karaoke near concentrated Counter Strike players (screw you sour-pissing CS player at Frag-o-Matic)

  • Any fricking board game you like to play with friends.
    I mean it, just get together with a couple of mates and pick something (preferably short in game time) as a diversion from your computer screen.
  • Dance Dance Revolution
    Arrows everywhere

    Or In the Groove or Stepmania, whatever floats your boat.
    Just make sure you play it on the controller it’s created for : THE DANCE MAT.
    Oh, and provide a shower opportunity on your LAN party, cause you’ll sweat your ass off…

 

Epilogue

This list of games is never done and you know it.
Let me know in the comments below if you have anything to add to this list of awesome freebies to get your (LAN) party started or throw me a PM on Facebook if you will.

Prepping for a lanparty. (part 2)

Read this first.

Done? Read on.
(keep in mind this text was originally written in 2013. Alterations were made in obvious locations. The games mentioned in this article have also aged nicely)

Back to the future

OCC, Sint-Niklaas, 4th of august 2000.

Over the years, the LAN party scene has evolved quite a bit.
The stereotype idea that people have of a bunch of nerds gathering together, talking geek stuff, eating and sleeping behind their computer screen and constantly playing first-person-shooters is already long gone.
The appearance of a high percentage of female gamers into the LAN scene has cranked up the credibility factor and given these events more of a social background.
Of course, not only the appearance of the opposite sex was the only change of direction.
Social media, free games and a bigger variety and subvariety of games have also played a role in this evolution.
To give you a wild example : expect score beating competitions in simple games such as Peggle and Word Feud Banished, Singstar, FTL, … to be played.
Scrabble Scythe and other board games (classic Warhammer Blood Bowl, anyone?) also take part nowadays.

This little guide will prepare you computer-wise for a fun LAN.

Trackmania Turbo. Keeping the Trackmania hype real

The list below is not and never will be complete. You play whatever game you want at a LAN party. Just try to tune in with your friends and co-gamers to see what they’ll be playing mostly, so you can have optimal fun.
I’ll split up the list in free/paying games so you can decide for yourself.
Also : if you don’t have a Steam account, go and create one. There’s tons of free games on Steam nowadays !

FREE :

  • The Trackmania series (racing – multiplayer)
  • War Thunder (flying – multiplayer)
  • World of Warships (slow boats – multiplayer)
  • JFK Reloaded (banned here and there in the States for obvious reasons – also a score attack game)
  • Team Fortress 2 (first free Steam game – super popular first person shooter)
  • Stepmania (musical madness – plays best with a dance mat)
  • OpenTTD (less played, but still an awesome single/multiplayer game – free version of the original transport Tycoon Deluxe game – still does a great job after years of existance)
  • Tetrinet (not-so-licensed-by-Nintendo multiplayer version of the classic ‘Tetris’ brick-dropping game)

PAYING :

  • EVE Online (MMORPG – space themed)
  • World of Warcraft (MMORPG – fantasy themed)
  • Super Hexagon (psychedelic single player score attack game)
  • Surgeon Simulator (just plain fun – single player – I cried tears of joy playing this)
  • FTL (space ship simulator with a high-score system – single player)
  • Minecraft (incredibly fun sandbox game that actually has an ending – single/multiplayer)
  • Left4Dead 2 (scary zombie first-person-shooter. Absolutely worth every penny – use headphones and play in the dark)
  • Sins of a Solar Empire (old but sturdy real-time-strategy game – single/multiplayer)
  • Borderlands 2 (mature themed first-person-shooter-RPG – 4player co-op)

And don’t even get me started on all the LAN classics such as Battlefield, Counter Strike, Unreal Tournament and the Command and Conquer series and derivatives.

Diablo 3 – every reason’s a good one to play D3 – good old 4-player fun

Other software

  • DC++ (software that makes downloading easy – I can’t stress enough that it’s illegal to share licensed software, and other copyrighted stuff.
    DC++ is basically used to easily share your shareable data through means of a searchable index by connecting to a local server. If you plan to use this software, please hash all your shares beforehand as this takes a long time to complete. For more info on hashing, check the DC++ software manual) Stay on the lookout for my DC++ config guide in a nearby future 😉 – let me throw you a Spanish bone first ==> Manual de Direct Connect
  • A good antivirus solution for your computer (some downloads can and will contain viruses)
    As of the coming of Windows 10, there’s the very lovely built-in Windows Defender, holding the fort for you.
  • Filezilla Client. Want to go old school? Connect to a server using FTP
  • MIRC. Want to feel back in the 80s ? Connect to an IRC server for chatting and file sharing purposes 😀
  • Other than that : come to a LAN party with the right attitude ! You’re here to have fun and so is everyone else. There’s nothing worse than a whiner ruining the atmosphere for all the other players.
  • Oh, and don’t bring a Macintosh… There’s a special place in hell for people who bring a Mac to a LAN party…

Alternative ways to go and much more

Depending on the LAN party, there’s tons of alternative stuff going on besides the default ‘bring-your-PC’ mindset.

  • Board games.
    Yes, board games are having a revival for a long time now. They can find their place one certain LAN parties, depending on the theme
  • Game consoles.
    Kronenburger park, anyone ?

    Ever since the early nillies, video game consoles have started to appear on the otherwise PC-filled LAN scene. I personally have helped to push this fact in the fact, so I’m always ravished to be able to mention it at any given time.
    It’s not frowned upon to even appear at a LAN party with only your game console? Computers are over-rated 😉
    Party games on consoles are a great competitive way of having fun aside from sitting behind the PC. Like I said before, LAN parties are more of a social event than you’d think.
    Games like SingStar, Mario Party, Super Smash Bros, … come to mind.
    I even recall a certain somebody bringing his own arcade machine *cough*

  • Rentals.
    *Winks at Speedseats*

    No-one likes to drag their heavy computer around or stash their personal desk chair somewhere in the trunk of their car.
    Nowadays, it’s possible to rent a computer or even an excellent gaming chair for a very limited amount of money on most bigger events. There’s nothing worse than having to finish your gaming weekend with a soaring back ache.

 

There’s so much more to tell about LAN parties.
Just visit one (preferrably more) and convince yourself.
*mumbles something about Waasmunster*

Virtua *cough* Fighter 3

Prepping for a lanparty. (part 1)

And now for something completely different.

Those that know me personally, also know that I’m totally hooked to LAN parties.
With an upcoming one at work (yeah, that’s right, we hold LAN parties at work), I decided to necro an old topic of mine from 2013. I even had to look it up through this site, as I never saved the text locally.
This only proves that once you put something online, there’s no un-posting. Ever.

Here goes.

LAN parties …

oldschool yo
Before the hip kids all did it

You might have heard of them before, and maybe want to attend one (or preferably more) in your lifetime.

In case you don’t know what a LAN party is, I’ll give you a brief rundown :
First of all, the abbreviation “LAN” stands for “Local Area Network“.
LAN parties basically consist of a gathering of people, bringing their own home-computer setups with them, in order to connect them all into one big network.
Mostly with the common goal to play computer games together and hang out in an alternative social environment.

With the coming of high-speed internet, the “social” part has become a larger part of the LAN-life. The reason behind this, is that “in days of olde”, people could not achieve the data transfer speeds needed for fast network gaming of fast data tranfer altogether, over a simple phone line through a dial-up internet connection.

Plus, it’s way more fun to be able to punch someone in real life, who just shot you down in a video game, instead of scolding him over the internet.

Come prepared

In any way, the following list will provide you with sort of a ultimate LAN party checklist as a preparation for your visit to a LAN.

Very important :

  • A computer + its power cable (I can’t state this enough, and yes I’ve seen people arrive without their PC…)
    Some LAN parties provide you with a rental PC, but very few do this. Check your LAN website when in doubt.
  • A screen + its power cable + its connector cable
    Unless you’re carrying a laptop with you, a screen is as important as your actual PC
  • Input devices, such as keyboard and mouse
    Or a braille input device as I once had the privilege to witness
  • Network cable of sufficient length (preferably UTP CAT5 straight cable or anything of higher quality)
    In few cases, the organisation itself provides you with network cable. Sufficient length mostly means 10 meters or more.
  • Power Strip with more than enough connectors for all your PC hardware (for you Dutch speaking who don’t know what a power strip is : “ne priezenblok”)
    Most LANs provide one group of tables with only one power strip onto which you can branch your own one.

Relatively important :

  • Sleeping gear
    Unless you want to sleep on a hard concrete floor, or in a chair with your head on your keyboard, some sleeping gear is handy.
    You can also be a “tough nut” and stay awake all night, cause that’s what tough guys do. However, I strongly suggest getting a little sleep in order to improve your concentration level when you play games on a need-to-win basis.
    My suggestion is to use a camping bed, a sleeping bag and a pillow to a default LAN party
  • Food
    Most LANs provide food at an affordable price. It is however recommended to bring along some snacks for yourself so you don’t have to rely on otherwise mostly fast-food.
    Healthy mind, healthy body, that sorta thing.
  • Software
    Bring all your necessary software with you. This includes, but is not limited to :
    … your Windows (or other Operating System) CD or install medium (a USB stick for instance)
    … drivers for your hardware, in case you need to reinstall your PC
    … games (although nowadays with platforms such as Steam, you can download your games after you formatted your PC, just by logging into the game client
    … anything you can think of, basicallyTrust me when I say that if ever you are in need of a piece of software when you’re hours away from home, you’ll think back to the day you have read this article
  • Personal hygiene stuff
    Basically you bring this along, so you don’t bother your fellow gamer with bodily odors.
  • Sound
    Although most bigger LAN parties have a headset-only policy, in some cases it’s always nice to have someone bring along his speaker/woofer combo for all of us to enjoy his weird choice of music.Seriously, if it doesn’t say ‘speakers allowed’ on the LAN website or in their invitations, DON’T BRING SPEAKERS

Optional :

I can think of a lot of stuff that would be optional for you to bring to a LAN. It depends on what transportation you’ll be taking and how much room is in/on your car, bike, bus, …

  • Your own chair from behind your desk is nice to have, for instance. So are extra blankets or pillows.
  • Extra clothing is not considered as must-have, but it tends to improve your social life if you attend a +3day LAN
  • Money is another thing. If you brought enough food with you to survive the entire LAN, and you’re absolutely sure you will not need to buy anything locally, then be my guest and show up as a bum. However, as Murphy’s Law lurks around every corner, I wouldn’t be surprised you’ll need some extra cash.

With that in mind, you’re somewhat prepared for your first LAN event.
Another handy tip : if you’re new to LANs, don’t go taunting the locals and brag about how awesome you are at some game. Even if you were good at a game, and even if (very slim chance) you’re as good as the LAN visitors who played for ages, you’ll be socially excluded within the minute. The ones I met in real life will know who I’m talking about.

“OK, Zupertails, you got me all worked up now. Where do I go from here with all this info?”

Basically, if you’re from Belgium, like I am, you stay on the lookout on various LAN websites.
Some of them are :

Lanparty.be (basically a calendar where you can see all other LANs in Belgium)

Frag-o-Matic (the biggest commercial one in Belgium we have atm)

9 Lives (one of the bigger gaming communities in Belgium)

The Gathering (the Mothership of all LANs, located in Norway, visited form all over the world)

The Gathering - 2005
pic from Wikipedia

I hope you enjoy this helpful little guide on the world of LAN parties.
Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to mail me, or post a comment (comments are moderated, so it takes a while before they appear).
Facebook is also a popular place where you’ll see me hanging around.

GAME ON!

Also… read on 

O365 product training

Good news

Microsoft just recently sent me one of their spammy messages that I usually overlook.
Instead, this time, it was a bringer of good tidings. Finally, Microsoft will force-feed you or your users with documentation, tips and tricks on how to use your Office 365 products and get the most out of it.  There has been a built-in training centre for admins as well as regular users in the portal.microsoftonline.com landing page for a while now, but – speaking out of personal experience – not a lot of end-users visit this page.

Kindly read the message below, that contains the interesting part of the original mail :

The mail :

We’re pleased to announce that starting on November 29, 2018, all users of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 will receive helpful product training and tips for services in their subscriptions via email. This feature has administrative controls to enable and disable.

[How does this affect me?]
After this change takes place, email communications will be enabled-by-default for your organization’s users, allowing us to provide product training and tips aimed at helping them increase their productivity and to maximize their utilization of the products and services they use most. End users will only receive emails regarding services that they have been enabled for, and you can control whether or not your users receive these communications in the End User Communication tab in your Office 365 admin center. Your users also have the ability to opt-out of receiving these emails on an individual basis by accessing the Security and Privacy pane of their My Account Portal.

This feature will be on-by-default for all Office 365 and Microsoft 365 organizations on November 29, 2018.

If you wish to disable this service for your users, you can do so between now and November 29, 2018 and your settings will be honored.

[What do I need to do to prepare for this change?]
If you prefer your users receive product training and tips that are all tailored to the services in their subscription, then there’s nothing you need to do to prepare for this change.

If you do not want us to send product training and tips to your end users, please follow these steps to disable:

  1. Log into the Office 365 admin center
  2. Click on Services & Add-ins
  3. Click on End User Communication
  4. Flip toggle to “Off”

 

 

Sharepoint (online) for beginners (2)

Preparation (again) is everything

Should you eventually still be interested in Sharepoint Online after reading all the horror-stories and getting yourself mentally up to the task of making this key decision, prepare yourself for a lot more decisions 😉

If you’re a Belgian SME, you can probably skip most of this thought process. If you’re a somewhat larger company or an SME according to American standards, you’re in for a treat if you love planning things.
Consider the following tasks, depending on the size of you IT implementor and the size of the Sharepoint customer :

  • Plan hub sites 
    In short, hubs connect your libraries and sites into one easy-to read-and-manage central entity with its own look and feel.
    The example picture (for a larger company) shows a specific hub (in green) for the HR department, where all department libraries are centralized.
    The general idea behind this is to create a seperate hub for (e.g.) Finance, Marketing, Sales, …It’s common practice for smaller companies to put everything in one hub (with maybe the IT documentation in a separate one)
  • Managing your Search and Discovery result sets.
    You can take feature this as far as you want. Managing search results in a Sharepoint environment and administring keywords can either be something you completely let live a life of its own OR you can fully manage your keywords, result templates OR anything in between.
  • Actually creating the site and developing graphical layout, customizing content.
  • Will you be sharing your documents externally to users not in your organization ?
  • Mentioned before in the previous post : plan the physical content of the Sharepoint site.
    What will you be showing your users ? Will your SP environment become a complete file archive of all your documents or will you just be using the platform’s collaboration function on a project-basis ?

I won’t go as far as explaining everything in detail, seeing Microsoft has done this for me already.
You can find a very extensive planning overview on https://docs.microsoft.com/nl-be/sharepoint/introduction

As mentioned before, small enterprises are likely to use 1/10th of Sharepoint and might require a very limited amount of planning, to the point where it even comes down to replicating the original folder structure of a to-be-decomissioned on-premise server.
Sounds like a mouth-full, but practically speaking this is nothing more than a copy-paste action (albeit a tad more technical in the background)

On a note of keeping things simple and understandable, I’ll provide examples for an imaginary small company that starts using Sharepoint for the first time, so we can skip the whole larger planning phase and go straight to using Sharepoint Online (SPO).

 

Situation sketch

Remember our straw-producing company in an earlier example ?
They’ve gotten inspired by the entire Office 365 thing after experiencing the fun technical advantages of their mail and decided to move their data to ‘the cloud‘ as well.

Being the Belgian SME that they are, Shortstraw LLC has data hanging all over the place, spread among various computers, USB disks, cell phones and tablets.

They started out without a centralized server and are now ready to move to Sharepoint as a data storage platform. (or at least, that’s what they told you   *dramatic music*)

Questions, questions, questions …

You, as IT partner for Shortstraw, can now start a limited amount of planning and meet up with CEO and CFO Oliver and Annie.
There’s a certain amount of practical questions you will need answers to, before even starting your move to SPO.

  • Total amount of data in GB/TB ?
    This M$ page will tell you more about these limits.
  • Do they want all data synchronized on their computer(s) as local files ?
  • Who REALLY shot JFK ?
  • Will they be sharing files through SPO (especially to external sources) ?
  • What files will you split up into a personal Onedrive for Business account and a Sharepoint library?
  • How fast is the internet on-premise ?
  • Free disk space and operating system on the machine(s) that holds the data.
    In case you’re wondering : Windows 10’s native Onedrive has support since halfway 2018 for so-called ‘streaming files’, which downloads your files on-the-go when you open it from Onedrive. Windows 8/7/… all need an actual physical copy on the disk when synchronising.

 

Setting it up. Getting started. Doing your thing.

The right tools for the job.

When starting a migration to Sharepoint Online, a couple of tools come to mind. There are a few nifty pieces of software that can do the job quite well.

I’ll be discussing the last three, as they are free of charge (not counting the actual license cost of your O365 subscription obviously) and have little to no learning curve.

For the ease of this example, I’ll just assume we have some structurally placed files and folders on an on-premise file server/NAS/other easily accessible location for a Windows computer.

More prep !

Nothing ever comes easy (except for your mom – obligatory mom joke, couldn’t resist). More prep work is required before we can move our files to SPO.

A small theoretical explanation (practical examples will follow, don’t worry) :

First of all we’re going to want to create the location(s) where we want to store the files online. This is usually done by creating one or more document libraries. Simplified, you could compare them to shared folders on a file server.
Best practices tell us to set your initial user rights (more on this later) on a library basis, if necessary.
In a more extreme manner, you could even create Sharepoint subsites or Site Collections.

Secondly, you’re going to need to create security groups to apply to your libraries, where we’ll be removing the default security settings, in order to set specific rights to specific libraries.
This can either be done in Azure AD or straight from Sharepoint.

My n°1 suggestion is to keep the admin user as an owner of your libraries – or at least as power user – as we’ll be needing a specific user account for the automated migration process anyway.
If you’re into manual labor, you can have your users perform their own migration, but this is ill-advised.

My three free tools

Before you start to panic, I promise I’ll get more into detail about every method mentioned. The examples below will just give you a sneak peek on the easy of use.

Sharepoint out-of-the-box upload/drag-and-drop

Quite straightforward.
You either choose ‘Upload’ in the menu above your library or just drag and drop your file to where the library is located on-screen.

Screenshot of the open Upload menu in a document library.

OneDrive synchronisation

Same approach, different method.
You select the ‘synchronize’ button above the library, whereas you’ll get a verification from OneDrive to see if you really want to start a synchronization between your computer and this specific library.

Sychronizing will require a significant amount of disk space if you’re not working on Windows 10 (W10 uses the aforementioned file streaming method)

Microsoft Sharepoint Migration Tool

This tool automates the uploading (and pre-analysis) for your data towards the Microsoft Cloud.
Preferably, use the migration tool, when all your local data is stored somewhat centralized. This tool is best run from the (Windows) server itself where the data is held, for speed reasons, among others.

Microsoft SPMT has a very easy and intuitive look and feel, but will require you to create the libraries before starting the migration process.
Also make sure you have sufficient disk space, as this tool creates a temp folder as large as the entirety of the data to be transferred. (temp folder can be selected in the migration options)

SharePoint Migration Tool

That’s all folks.

Prepare for a hands-on moment in the next Sharepoint post  !

Sharepoint (online) for beginners (1)

What the flip ?

Introducing “Sharepoint” is always a tricky one.

Microsoft simply puts it down as an “Online Collaboration Platform”, which is actually one of the most simple ways of explaining the whole thing.
Sharepoint can be used as a sort of online organized file dump, but that would be something like using only the glove compartment of a Ferrari.

It’s often compared to a mixture of “Google Drive”, “Huddle” and a WYSIWYG website editor like WordPress, where you can manage all of your corporate content (to a certain limit), create intranet webpages, automate business processes through workflows, build custom apps etc.

I’ll mainly be talking about Sharepoint Online (SPO) , from hereon. Know that there exists an on-premise version as well, that had its root somewhere between the year 2003 and 2007, but still exists on current-gen Windows servers.

 

Is Sharepoint the right product for you ?

As with all products, it’s best to perform a study on why you would need it and if it’s the best solution for you, before you actually buy it. There’s a very big change SPO might not be exactly what you need and there’s that other chance, you’ve struck gold and it fits your needs perfectly.

A 30 day demo can be obtained through various means, of which the classic Microsoft demo environment is the most popular one : https://products.office.com/nl-be/try
If in doubt –> always demo it first.

Consider the following questions before usage :

  • Do your employees work remotely?
  • Do your employees often move from one client location or meeting to another?
  • Do your employees need access to various devices so they can do their jobs?
  • How are your employees currently accessing the content that they need?
  • Do you have customer-facing requirements, like a place to share information, an online catalogue, an online Request for Information form, or an online Request for Quote form that your customers need to fill out?
  • Do you share documents with your customers often?
  • Are you using USBs to transport and work on presentations, requests for information, or marketing collateral?
  • Does your staff ever complain that they wish there was an easier way to access your content?

You might have guessed, from the commercial way these questions have been formed (thank you, proserveit.com) , that Sharepoint will be a fitting answer for all of them.

 

I’ll also gladly push away some common misconceptions surrounding Sharepoint and its use, since potential users will start Googling and will eventually find articles that scare them away from this online platform.

Sharepoint is just a place to store your files

NO!
It’s a friggin’ collaboration platform. You’ll be able to work on project-based or group-based items, follow up your colleagues, create automated tasks, …

The IT department will be in charge of setting up our environment and maintaining it

NO!
Maybe the IT department will need to explain the very concept of Sharepoint and set up the initial workspace environment a bit, but you as a user will be very able to create your own project pages, invite colleagues, change the look and feel of your SP workplace and much more.

You can’t customize Sharepoint. It will look like any other SP environment

NO!
Sharepoint (Online as well as the on-premise version) has a relatively easy way of customizing every page and/or creating templates based on your company colors or personal preferences. Not only the page theme, but also the way your libraries are shown and much more can be fully customized.

SP is not user-friendly

NO!
C’mon, really ? You’ve worked with Microsoft products before, right?
Can you really say Microsoft’s end-user products are not user-friendly ? And be honest !
If you can actually find a software package by M$ that you find to be user-unfriendly, try to find an alternative and tell yourself again how great that alternative works out for you, will you ?
As with all new software, you might have to learn the basics, but even creating a new Sharepoint project or page just feels like typing a Word document or creating a flyer in Publisher.

 

 

I’m pumped! Let’s do this!

Before you get all over-hyped, there’s a few things to take into consideration before moving your data to the cloud and de-comissioning your old server(s).
Doing so, will avert potential headache afterwards, for either the IT implementor as for the users that will actually be … using … Sharepoint.
The baseline here is : “Don’t do a full copy-paste”

Just in case, we might need this document…

Take a breather and think about how much data you’d like to move over to SPO.
Do you really want to bring over all those old archived files, that you will never ever be looking into?
There’s no real harm in actually copying them over to SPO, but wouldn’t you rather work in a clean and clutter-free environment than be surrounded by piles of old paperwork ?

 

New document (1)(1)(2)-final_by_john.docx

The various options for versioning
Various options for versioning

For the love of God/Allah/Vishnu/The Flying Spaghetti Monster/…
Having a document like this is bad enough practice as it is, but don’t bring this over to your new Sharepoint environment.
Judging by this filename, there have been tons of new versions of this document created over time, while keeping the original ones around for … I don’t know … archiving ?

Sharepoint has built-in versioning, that can be customized to your heart’s content : approval options, type of numbering, amount of copies to keep, …

You’ll only end up using more storage than you actually need as well as creating a chaotic and unstructured work environment.

Next to all that, the above filename situation might be created by multiple users trying to access the same file and saving it as their own version.
Again in Sharepoint, you can actually co-author a document or even set a certain lock notification on the document for obligatory check-out of the document before editing it.

No more excuses 😉

 

Don’t think “Files and Folders” anymore

If you know how a database structure works, you’ll have better insight in why and how you shouldn’t be using the classic files and folders layout anymore, because Sharepoint, when you simplify it, is just one giant database.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what the internal workings of a database server are. I’ll gladly explain the Sharepoint way of thinking, so that you get the most out of your new structural storage.

First of all, keep in mind that Sharepoint is a collaboration platform. The essential part here is that one word : “collaboration“.
Obviously there’s still a need for rights and structural placement of folders, but the main idea is the working-together part.

You can create cross-functional groups, completely separate from your existing classic company structure where you now have a CEO > Management Group > Employees rights piramid.
Consider the people who own the file content, as opposed to the ones that get to “use” it and base yourself on “projects” instead of folders. Create Sharepoint pages per project, for instance.

Try to add as much logical keywords to your documents instead of categorizing in one single folder. Remember those many times you thought about that one file that was good for folder A , folder B and even folder C, and you had to make the decision of putting it at least somewhere?
Well, Sharepoint uses sort of a labeling system called Enterprise Keywords, where the actual location of your file matters less than the correct label(s) you attach to it.
Just make sure that the users who need this file, have access to the file, folder or library it’s in and you’re good to go. The Sharepoint search function will do all the work for you.
Not even to mention the awesomess of the program called “Delve“, that digs deeper in projects, files, statistics etc.

 

Planning your libraries

The Internet, Jen !In Sharepoint everything is divided into lists and libraries. Remember my database reference above ? Well, a list or library is nothing more than a database table.
As with all database systems, there’s a certain limit to what you can do. In this case, the often discussed 5000-items limit in a Sharepoint library is to be taken with a grain of salt.

You might have heard from the above mentioned item limit.
The number of items in a Sharepoint library should not exceed 5000 according to Microsoft advice. So, what happens if you get you 5001st item in a library ? Does the internet explode ?

Let me elaborate on this.

First off, the Sharepoint definition of an item is either a folder or a file, meaning that if you have 200 subfolders that contain 1 file in total, you have 201 items.

This whole limit thing has to do with the indexing speed for the software that runs in the background.
In order to quickly find your data, your server environment needs to read and analyze your data first, after which this analyzer-process writes something like a table of contents.
This table of contents is then used for search actions, because a ToC reads faster than actually having to scan your documents on-the-fly.

Microsoft has set a pretty round number on this, so it is easily remembered.

Should you go over the limit of 5000, the automatic indexing process simply becomes not-so-automatic and will take around 24 hours, depending on the process timing by Microsoft, which is something you yourself cannot change.
There’s actually another limit : 20000 items. Here, the indexing starts to go wrong and may start reporting faulty results or missing files.

What I’m saying is : “DON’T PANIC ; don’t limit yourself to the 5000 items barrier if indexing within 24 hours is good enough”

 

Onward !

Hopefully, I didn’t scare you too much here on the whole Sharepoint thing.
If you’re still planning to move your data to Microsoft’s cloud environment, keep reading on the entire process of migrating and what tools to use best in a next post.

Peace out!

Public Contact Folder in an Office 365 environment

Get global

Imagine coming from an obscure mail system in which you got a couple of public folders, such as a Public Address Book (not to be confused with the GAL – Global Address List) or some public Agenda.
Basically, this could also be a non-obscure system, as even the most generic or widely-used mail systems provide this functionality.

Having heard so much about Office 365, you decide to take the leap towards the cloud and start migrating all you mailboxes, only to find no default out-of-the-box public folder.

Fear not, as the functionality is still there. Even though it was rumored Microsoft was going to stop support for public folders in an Exchange environment. User pressure caused M$ to re-evaluate their choice, thus public folders are here to stay (at least for 3 years minimum).
This also applies to Exchange Server 2016, by the way.

 

Howstuffworks.com

I’m going to assume you follow the necessary steps to set up a working O365 environment

In the admin menu

  1. Open the Admin > Exchange menu in your O365 admin page
  2. Once inside the Exchange Control Panel, select ‘Public Folders’ in the leftmost menu or on the dashboard.
  3. A new menu will appear, where you are to select “Public Folder Mailbox” in the topmenu.
    For some reason yet unknown to me, you have to create a public folder mailbox first before you can actually create a public folder.
    One would expect this to have all of this process automated…
    Oh well, best go with the flow.
  4. Click the little “Plus” icon and fill out the necessary info.
  5. Once this is done, you get to create the actual shared folder in that same top menu, by selecting *insert drum roll* “Public Folders”.
    Click the little “Plus” icon in order to start creating your first Public Folder and name it as such.
  6. Click save and *BOOM* your folder has been created.
    Now you should be assigning user rights to this folder, as you’re not going to be admin’in this folder yourself as global admin for this O365 tenant.
    Ideally leave the administration of public folders for contacts, agenda’s etc. to the end-customer as this is a specific task for a specific kind of manager.
    If you’re reading this as the IT guy/girl for a small company, you’re probably screwed and get to do this task yourself.
    Click the newly created folder once so that the focus is on its name and next click on “Manage” in the right column.
  7. You can choose who you want to allow specific rights to this folder, by clicking the necessary rights ticks or selecting prefab permission levels in the dropdown menu.
    Press “Save” when done.

 

 

Actually creating contacts

  1.  Start by opening Outlook as a user that has owner rights (or sufficient rights to create folders) to your public folder and go to “Folder View” (that’s the three little dots in the bottom of your left column, in case you don’t have a 4K screen)
  2. Next, open the new public folder by expanding “All public folders” until you’ve reached your root folder (which should just be one click, normally)
  3. Right click the root folder and select “New folder”, after which you give it an appropriate name and select “This folder contains Contact Items”
    As you see, other options are available, such as a public agenda etc.
  4. We’ve already set the rights for admin, but as an owner, you can easily set other user’s rights afterwards through Outlook, instead of having to run over to your Exchange Control Panel as the global admin user.
    In any case, you can right click your newly created folder, that will now have a Contact icon and select “Properties”
    …where you can tick the option  “Show this folder as an e-mail address book”, so that Outlook (and you mobile as well as webmail) will be able to display this list for you to search through.
    Confirm with OK.
  5. Clicking the “To” button in your Outlook, will now let you select your newly created address book.
    Everybody happy !
  6. Now either import your PST file from the previous public contact list or start typing.
    Good luck !

 

 

 


Many thanks to Peter from Kalmstrom.com for providing the necessary ‘missing links’ in my to-do list. I also shamelessly took the imagery from his website, as my own O365 30-day demo was expired ;).
In my defense, it looks like the Pakistani Rimza.com domain in the example is possibly not Peter’s domain either :p

Onenote 2016 spontanously gives up its screenshot function

It’s a hot summer’s day and you’re working in your favourite Microsoft Office packet.
When suddenly … you want to take a screenshot in Microsoft OneNote, using the classic keyboard shortcut you’ve always used in the past couple of years :

  • WINDOWS + SHIFT + S

You wait. And wait.
And nothing happens.

It appears Microsoft has suddenly forgotten how to make a screenshot.

I’ve read in the meanwhile that this sudden loss of functionality has to do with the same keyboard shortcut also working in Windows 10 without the use of OneNote.
Nevertheless, my PC is dumb AF and hadn’t gotten the specific Fall Creator’s update yet (yes, I’m running behind…)

Cut the crap, Zupertails. How do I solve this ?

A little bit of Google here and there quickly leads me to a solution –>

First of all, Microsoft uses a non-ascii way of looking at your keys.
As a reference, they have a comparison table for this :

https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/dd375731(v=vs.85).aspx

Memorize it (or bookmark the link ^_^)

Next, you’ll be needing to access your registry –>

  1. Open RegEdit.exe
  2. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\OneNote\Options\Other\  (number may vary depending on your version of Office)
  3. Add a new DWORD with the name “ScreenClippingShortcutKey” with the Hexadecimal value “53
  4. Note: You can use any character code you want. In this case, “53” is the ‘S’ key
  5. Restart your computer (because this specific registry entry is read on booting)
  6. You can now use Win+Shift+S again to take a screen clipping and let OneNote do its thing again

 

And there you have it.
Problem solved.
And there was much rejoicing.

If by now you still happen to live under a rock and haven’t heard of OneNote (which exists since Office 2007), I suggest you take a good look at it (and at yourself in the mirror) on https://products.office.com/en-us/onenote/digital-note-taking-app

Feel free to use OneNote as it’s *drumrolls* COMPLETELY FREE