Thursday, July 7, 2016

Thinking Putty in the Cube Farm: free range or caged

Various companies like Think Geek and Crazy Aaron's sell palm sized blobs of  "Thinking Putty" as a thinking aid, as a form of stress relief and as nervous energy sink.  Once released into an office, you will find people subconsciously picking up their putty to pull, knead, squeeze and fold it while working on projects or while in discussion.

Putty has some odd properties.  It can be squeezed and shaped. It can also bounce like a rubber ball. It is solid but acts sort of like a very thick liquid.  Sculptures made out of the putty start slumping immediately and end up as a pool of putty within hours.  Putty can be pressed and worked but can also be torn as if it is a solid.

Putty, comes in fun colors with and effects.  It can be plain, UV sensitive, glow in the dark, magnetic and heat sensitive.  The can at the right is heat sensitive, changing color from orange to yellow when warmed by friction, body heat or by some other heat source.

Caged or Free Range

I personally recommend penning your putty at night.  Its just going to damage itself or something if it is left to its own devices at night.You don't want your putty working into every crevice after leaving it on your keyboard at night.. 

Putty comes in a can that keeps it safe and clean.  It is usually best to leave putty kenneled in its shipping container at night.  The putty in the picture at the right was just dropped into the its pen.  It will spread out covering the whole bottom of the container by morning.

Some folks insist on leaving their putty on the desktop or some other place.  This invariably leads to trouble with the putty running into other items in the area.  

The next two pictures show some putty that has run into a pack of cube clips and post it notes.  You can see that the putty has filled all available crevices. We were able to fix this situation by hanging the mess above a desk. The putty eventually all dripped/ran to the table top dropping its connection with the other objects. This will not work for some surfaces like hair and clothing.

Young versus Old Putty

Thinking putty never really wears out.  I've had a couple cans for over 10 years.  It does start to look and feel old as it picks up contaminants like dust, hair and dirt.  This is especially true if you bounce it off the floor , drop it a lot or use it with dirty hands.

The two cans to the right are the same product with 10 years difference in age and usage. The one on the left still changes color with heat. It just isn't as noticeable.  The new one on the right is significantly brighter and more obviously changes color from orange to red


Thinking putty is an awesome work place item.  Keep it penned at night. Don't let it free range across your desk and gear.  Keep it out of stuff you will have a hard time separating from the putty.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Received and sent messages in a single mailbox with MS Outlook for OSX

Microsoft Outlook for the Mac and PC behave differently when showing conversations in the Inbox. The PC shows received and sent messages. The Mac shows only the received messages.  There is no default way to show a threaded conversation on Mac Office 2016.

Microsoft Outlook for the Mac is integrated with OS/X spotlight search so that AppleScript and Spotlight can be used to create Outlook Smart Mail folders. Smart Folders are more like views into mailboxes than actual mailboxes. They are virtual folders that are created from the results of a search.  This blog leverages Outlook's raw search capabilities that come from OS/X integration.  You can find out more information about this integration on the Microsoft answers web site. Portions of this blog came from this excellent blog posting.

Identify Mailboxes to be included in Smart Folder

Our conversation SmartFolder is made up of the contents of the Inbox and Sent mailboxes. We first need to identify the Microsoft Outlook folder identifiers for the two mailboxes.

  • Run Outlook
  • Highlight the Mailbox,  we are going to include, Inbox or Sent. We want to get this mailbox's folder id.
  • Start a Mac Spotlight search
  • Enter applesoft and Enter to bring up the applesoft editor.
  • Enter the following in the applescript editor and run it
on run {}
tell application "Microsoft Outlook"
get selected folder
end tell
end run

  • It should return the results of the execution
    mail folder id 109 of application "Microsoft Outlook"
  • Do the same thing for the other mailbox.  
  • My mailbox numbers were 109 (Inbox) and 112 (Sent)

Create an integrated Threaded Conversation 

Build Smart Folder with a Raw Search

  • Click on the Search field in the upper right hand corner of the Outlook view.
    • This will enable the search tab and ribbon
  • Select the Search tab
  • Select All Mailboxes" in the Ribbon Bar
  • Press the Advanced search button in the ribbon
  • Select Raw Query from the drop list. 
  • Enter the following query, replacing 109 and 112 with the mailboxes numbers retrieved above.
    com_microsoft_outlook_folderID == 109 || com_microsoft_outlook_folderID == 112
  • Press Enter.  The Smart Folder should populate with the combined content of the two folders. Conversations in this combined Index/Sent folder will include both inbound and outbound messages.
  • Press Save Search in the Search ribbon bar and enter the name of your new Smart Folder.
Your search bar should look something like the following


Smart folders are query result views and not real folders. You can use the standard Search functionality against a Smart Folder.  The system treats the additional Search terms as part of the Smart Folder's query and will ask you if you wish to change the folder query every time you move Outlook from the Smart Folder to a traditional folder.  You can tell Outlook to "not save" the changes.  Yeah, it is kind of annoying.

Create an Unread Email Smart Folder

You can create a Smart Folder of just unread messages similar to the conversation folder described above.
  • Select the Inbox
  • Select Search
  • Select the Search Tab if it is not showing
  • Select Advanced Query in the Search Ribbon
  • Change the query type to Raw
  • Enter the following into the raw query area:
com_microsoft_outlook_unread != 0
  • Press Save Search and enter the name of the new Smart folder.

Additional Resources

Discussion on the mdls command and Mac / Outlook variables for raw queries can be found in this Apple discussions thread.

Created 2016 Feb 02