Tag: Lync Server 2013

Keyboard Shortcuts in Skype for Business – Where to Find and How to Use Them

Dog on Skype for Business

Sorry buddy, these shortcuts require fingers.
Image by Keith Hanson on Unsplash.

I’ve blogged about Skype for Business all this time, and almost never touched on keyboard shortcuts! Shame on me.

As with most tech learning, this came up out of necessity. I wanted to learn two things in particular…shortcuts to:

  1. Accept conversation invites right away, and
  2. Change my Presence status.

Why two very simple processes? Due to a weird, inconsistent issue.

Some months back I began experiencing a strange delay when clicking “Accept” for conversation invites. I could click and click on the notification, but “Accept” just wouldn’t work for several seconds (up to 15!). Only if I waited a moment, THEN clicked, would the conversation window open.

We checked my system; no issues. Problem with Skype for Business? Possible, but we didn’t see anything weird in the system logs. I could deal with it, or find an alternative.

Well, what’s a good alternative? Keyboard shortcuts!

Dog on Skype for Business

Sorry buddy, these shortcuts require fingers.
Image by Keith Hanson on Unsplash.

A little searching found me the proper shortcut for one of my two needs. The other however, Skype for Business does NOT have a native keyboard shortcut for. Instead, I found an add-on that adds in the exact function.

Here’s what I found, and how you can use it too.

How to Accept a Conversation Invite: Use Built-In Keyboard Shortcuts

First place to look, of course, is Microsoft’s knowledgebase. There must be some existing shortcuts.

Sure enough, Microsoft has a whole list. Some are pretty standard, having come from the Office universe.

Where’s the shortcut for accepting invites…ah ha! There it is!

Accept an incoming invite notification
(also works for accepting an incoming call)
  WINDOWS KEY + SHIFT + O

That’s not the only useful-right-away shortcut for Skype for Business, of course. Here’s a few more:

Mute/unmute yourself in a call   WINDOWS KEY + F4
Start Meet Now   ALT + M
Put a call on hold   CTRL + SHIFT + H

And of course *ahem*…

Decline an incoming call or chat   WINDOWS KEY + ESC

The full list is here: Keyboard Shortcuts in Skype for Business – Office Support

NOTE: The above shortcuts are for Windows. The Mac version does have its own keyboard shortcuts…but they’re a much shorter list. Mac Keyboard Shortcuts in Skype for Business

The most useful I can see:

Start a call   SHIFT + ⌘ + R
Restore the active window   ⌘ + 1
Mute microphone   UP ARROW + ⌘ + M
Start video   UP ARROW + ⌘ + V
Share your screen   UP ARROW + ⌘ + S
Transfer call   ALT + ⌘ + T

One shortcut covered. Yet I don’t see one for changing Presence status. I wanted a Presence-changing shortcut to, shall we say, maintain focus on my work. Taking advantage of “Do Not Disturb” works wonders for productivity.

Alas. More searching says that, gasp! No native keyboard shortcut exists for changing Presence status. Am I doomed to keep changing my Presence manually, day in, day out?

How to Change Presence Status with the Keyboard: Use StatusKey

Nope! The same searches also revealed the existence of StatusKey. It’s a mini-app/add-on written by Randy Chapman over at Lynciverse:
StatusKey for Skype for Business – Lynciverse Blog

Created in 2016, with updates done in 2018. It does one job and one job only – give you a group of keyboard shortcuts to change Skype for Business Presence status.

I installed StatusKey to test it. The add-on runs in the taskbar, though consumes only a tiny amount of memory.

NOTE: Even though Randy wrote it in Visual Studio and hosts it on TechNet, my computer still threw up a warning.

WIndows Protection Screen StatusKey

If you click the “More Info” link you’ll see the Run Anyway button.
(It’s perfectly safe. Windows is just being, well, Windows.)

StatusKey does exactly what it says. I tested each given shortcut in my Skype for Business client, with a Conversation window open. Immediate and in-sync Presence status change.

If you forget the shortcuts, Randy put them in the app itself. Just right-click it in the taskbar, and click “Open.” This is what you’ll see.

StatusKey Shortcuts Skype for Business

Can’t get much simpler than that.

After I’d confirmed StatusKey did what I wanted, I thought, “This is the sort of work Microsoft should fold into newer versions. Did they?”

So I checked. While the Office Support page above appears updated for Skype for Business Server 2019, it doesn’t include any Presence status changers.

I even checked an alternate source: ShortCutWorld.com’s Skype for Business page. No luck there either.
If you want the ability to switch Presence status via keyboard, Randy’s StatusKey is the way to go.

What about Teams? Will StatusKey work with that?

It appears not. I tried loading Teams, but it kept crashing while I had StatusKey enabled. Once I turned it off, Teams could load. Turned it back on, and…nothing. No shortcut activity.

That’s okay though; in Teams, you can use slash commands instead.

(The StatusKey TechNet discussion has a question on whether Randy will update the app to work with Teams in the same way. No response yet.)

Skype for Business Has Many Keyboard Shortcuts – But Could Use More

Keyboard shortcuts are one of those things we rarely think about. They’re always waiting for use, but we don’t realize it until another factor throws them in front of us. In this case, it was a strange notification issue. (That still hasn’t gone away…might be a post on it later.)

I hope this post has been that other factor for you!

That said, I’m a little surprised at the relatively few shortcuts Skype for Business has. Some of its major functions don’t have any associated shortcuts. Randy’s done a great job with StatusKey…but if Microsoft had Presence-related shortcuts, he wouldn’t have had to develop it in the first place. What gives, Microsoft?

What’s your everyday go-to keyboard shortcut?

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Software Add-on Review: SuperToast V3

Never Miss a Skype for Business Notification Again

In early 2016 I wrote a post titled, Making Sure You See Skype for Business Notifications—No Matter What!.

In said post I reviewed a notification app called SuperToast, made by Modality Systems. It remains one of the blog’s most-read posts today. Evidently lots of Skype for Business users miss notifications…

The other day, Louise at Modality asked if I’d like to review the new, redeveloped SuperToast V3. Of course I was happy to do so!

What is SuperToast?

The SuperToast app sits in your taskbar. Every time you miss a Skype for Business call or Instant Message, SuperToast displays a notification popup with details about the missed event.

Chat Notification

Someone is chatting with me!

SuperToast notifies you of missed Instant Messages, incoming audio/video calls, and missed audio/video calls.

Missed Call Notification

Can’t talk now, writing this post.

The notification windows only displays the first message someone sends. If for example you receive 4 messages in succession from one person (as my co-workers sometimes do), you’ll only see one SuperToast notification. Which is smart—nobody wants a stream of popup windows blocking other work!

The SuperToast settings could not be simpler. Here’s the entire settings window.

SuperToast Settings

The SuperToast Options window. Five settings. Nothing else needed.

You choose which communication types for which you want to receive SuperToast notifications via checkboxes. That’s it.

What’s New in V3

The new SuperToast has two main improvements over old versions.

  1. Full support for the latest Skype for Business clients.
  2. Bug Fixes:
    1. Notifications appearing despite you being active in the conversation window
    2. Not bringing the conversation window to the front when clicking on a notification

The UI is largely the same as before. Which helped it fold back into my day-to-day routine almost immediately. But after a few weeks’ testing, I can say V3 is more stable now.

Two Versions: Single-Use and Business-Wide

SuperToast comes in two versions:

  • SuperToast One is a single-user version.
  • SuperToast for Business is a business version with central management.

SuperToast One has a few limitations the Business version doesn’t. You can’t customize SuperToast One’s look & feel, no central admin, etc. Pretty much what you’d expect for a single-user.

SuperToast One costs $7/year. SuperToast for Business costs $7/year for 5-99 users, $5/year for 100-999 users, $2.50/year for 1000-2499 users, and $1/year for 2500+ users. So no matter which version you buy, or how many, you’re only paying a few dollars a user per year. You even get 24-hour support with this too.

They used to have a free version. Now there’s a free 30-day trial.

Incoming Call Notification

Hold on, better take this. Be right back.

Who Can/Should Use SuperToast?

Modality developed this app to support Skype for Business users. Like us, they didn’t like missing notifications from co-workers or customers. The app works with Skype for Business Server and Online (O365) deployments.

Lync 2013 users still hanging on? SuperToast will work for you too.

That said, here’s a brief mention of SuperToast’s limits. It has 3 that I can determine:

  1. No Mac version yet.
  2. I am not certain if SuperToast will work with the Teams desktop client.
  3. As many commenters pointed out on my 2016 post, this IS a third-party app. Some organizations block third-party apps from user’s devices on security grounds. That is perfectly valid—we see malware apps all the time on customer PCs!
    In such cases, I’d recommend using SuperToast for Business. Its central management and Modality’s reputation should dissuade any security concerns.

I do know that Modality continues to work on SuperToast. We may see these limits resolved fairly soon. If I hear of timetables for such, I’ll update this post accordingly.

SuperToast in Taskbar

Runs in the taskbar. Quiet. Unobtrusive.

Super for Putting Missed Calls/Conversations in Front of Your Eyes

SuperToast is a single-purpose app. It does one job…and it does it well. Plus it’s cheap to buy. I always like simple apps like this; they don’t require a high learning curve, and provide an immediate benefit.

For those who miss a lot of notifications in the course of a workday, SuperToast makes for a quick, valuable solution.

SuperToast Page – Modality Systems

Used SuperToast before? How was your experience?

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What to Do When Skype4B Conversations Take Weeks to Appear in Outlook

You have a normal conversation in Skype for Business via Instant Messaging. The next day, you need to check the status of a task. You recall you mentioned this task in yesterday’s conversation. Better go check it in Conversation History.

Outlook is already open. You click the Conversation History folder and…wait, where’s the conversation? The last one you see is dated 2 weeks ago!

We ran up against this issue with a customer’s Skype for Business deployment. They had a server deployment, up and running since 2016. The Conversation History “delayed appearance” only started this past fall. Even more confusing, it didn’t occur for all users.

Work Conversation in Skype4B

“I KNOW I talked to Beth yesterday…”
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

The Cause: A Low Threshold for Conversation File Size

We checked all the obvious things, of course. But those were all clear. Only after testing & reviewing the Conversation History logs that did appear, followed by some MS research, did we find the cause.

Lync Server 2013 had an issue with long conversations. If a conversation’s history file ended up over 1MB in size, Lync Server could not upload the file to Exchange Server. This bug persisted into Skype for Business Server.

So if you end up having a long conversation with co-workers, plus a few images & documents shared around, your conversation grew past the server’s (tiny) 1MB limit!

The Solution: A Fix for Lync/Skype for Business Server, Then an Exchange Server Workaround

Microsoft did release a fix for this: KB3101496. It’s a security update issued November 10, 2015. Link to the update below.

This isn’t the only fix though. In fact, it might not even work for you. Not to worry…if it doesn’t, we have an alternative! The clever engineers posting on this thread determined it:
Lync 2013 Conversation History not taken from History Spooler by Outlook 2013 when bigger than 1 MB – TechNet

It’s an edit to an Exchange web.config file. Though from the thread and our own experience, we advise approaching the problem in this order:

  1. Apply the update first. Wait a few hours to determine if it took effect.
  2. If the update doesn’t work, use the following workaround.

Conversation History Bug Fix (KB3101496):

Security Update MS15-116 and MS15-123 for Lync 2013 (Skype for Business)
If your Skype for Business Server doesn’t already have this through Microsoft Update, you can download it here.

If Conversation History in Outlook doesn’t start updating within a few hours (happened for us after Hour 3), then try the web.config workaround.

Exchange Server Web.Config Workaround:

  1. Access your Exchange Server. Make sure you have write permissions.
  2. Navigate to the Exchange installation directory, e.g. C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server.
  3. Open the version folder.
  4. Open the ClientAccess folder.
  5. Open the exchweb folder.
  6. Open the EWS folder.
  7. Edit the web.config file found here.
  8. Within the <appSettings> node, add the following line:
    <add key=”XmlMaxBytesPerRead” value=”1000000″ />
  9. Restart your IIS server.

Again, wait a few hours. The conversations should start trickling into Conversation History, in groups of 10 or so. You may need to restart Outlook & the Skype for Business client a few times to get everything.

Sometimes Conversation Logs Delay Their Appearance. Call Them Out on Stage with These Fixes!

This is an issue which can fly under the radar. Our customer saw no error messages, and had no Outlook crashes related to it. They only noticed when someone did exactly what I portrayed earlier—tried to check a previous Skype4B conversation via their Outlook Conversation History.

Take a second to review your Outlook Conversation History. Hopefully this bug doesn’t affect you…but it doesn’t hurt to check!

Have you experienced a Conversation History “delayed appearance” in Outlook, or something similar?

 

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Poll Results: Some Organizations DO Still Use Lync Server!

We’re working on a big post (again!). It’s directly in response to a reader comment, and deals with a critical part of Skype for Business adoption.

In the meantime, as I promised, here are the results of the Lync Polls I conducted.

On-the-Blog Poll Results

Lync Server Poll Results June 2017

(I’m obscuring actual vote numbers on request.)

58% of the blog poll votes went to “We moved to Skype for Business Server.” No big surprise there. Several votes went to Office 365’s Skype for Business Online, too.

What I found curious was that 25% said they still use Lync Server!

Spiceworks Poll Results

If you’re a Spicehead too, here’s the URL for the voting results over there:
https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/2003305-are-you-still-using-lync-server
All responses voted for: “No, we moved to Skype for Business”

Thanks to everyone who voted.

So, what do the results tell us? Most Lync users moved to Skype for Business, and are doing just fine.

A larger-than-expected percentage still use Lync Server though. I did get a little feedback on this…the main reason? Corporate inertia. Management doesn’t want to invest the time & money to move from Lync to Skype for Business.

For those in such a situation, if you want to move to Skype for Business? You have several ways to demonstrate its value to Management.

  1. Start up an Office 365 trial in one department (maybe IT?). The fastest method, and the closest to Server deployment. Then you can show Management how the workflow benefits from it.
  2. Federate your Lync Server with a colleague’s or vendor’s Skype for Business Server. Might take some asking around, but eventually you’ll find one. That way you can show the differing experiences between Lync and Skype4B.
    • We actually convinced a customer to move to Skype for Business this way…just by using our own Skype4B Server. I’m not opposed to doing so again, if it’ll help you!
  3. Ask to sign up for a Microsoft Teams trial. It’s obviously not the same, but it’s a simple way to show how Microsoft has updated their software since Lync.
  4. Request a live Skype for Business demo from an IT agency. May not change anything, but at least Management gets to see the Skype for Business UI at work!

Lync Users: Lync Server 2013 IS Still Supported, So You’re in Good Shape

If you’re honestly happy with Lync Server, then more power to you! Just keep the server secure and up-to-date. Lync Server 2013 will receive mainstream support until April 2018. It doesn’t reach end of life until April 2023.

We’ll have the next big post coming up as soon as possible. Don’t forget to join us again next week!

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Teams Updates and a Lync Poll

Yes, we’re talking both Teams and Lync today. Old and new.

First, the Teams part. Microsoft continues to expand Teams’ capabilities as the weeks progress. I saw a tweet yesterday from Randy, of the “Randy’s Lync and UC Blog,” talking about the MS Teams May 31 update in his latest post.
Microsoft Teams Update 31st May 2017 – Randy’s Lync and UC Blog

Naturally, I went & had a look.

Current MS Teams Updates, as of June 8

The Teams May 31 update included:MS Teams Settings

  1. Invite people to Teams via chat: Sending non-Teams-users a message will automatically email them with a New Message notice. The email also includes a Teams signup invitation.
  2. [Coming Soon] Manage app behavior on startup: Adding 3 new settings to the Microsoft Teams Settings/Application window. These settings give you options for launching and closing Teams.
    • Teams launches automatically when the computer starts.
    • Teams launches automatically, but stays in the background. (Teams defaults to starting in the foreground otherwise.)
    • Teams keeps running even if you close the window.

Randy reported that he already saw this update in his Teams app. Checking Twitter, I found the same thing for most other users. So I’d consider this a ‘live’ feature.

Yesterday, June 7, saw another update. From the Microsoft Teams Release Notes:

  1. Improved files experience: Look and feel for your OneDrive file library in the Files app is updated to match the Files tab in Teams’ channels. Cosmetic stuff.
  2. [Coming Soon] Group Chat Naming: Gives you the ability to name a group chat even before you send any messages. When you create a new chat, you’ll have an Expand icon, which when clicked, shows you a name field. Using this, you can fork an older chat into a fresh conversation, and differentiate between the two.

I don’t see this naming option yet, so it is still coming. Seems useful though…how many of us have needed to revisit an old topic? Different names give us an easy way to start fresh, without starting over.

Now, we are in June. So I hope the external-user access functionality is almost ready…

Poll: Still Using Lync Server?

Let’s close out today with a poll.Teams, Skype, or Lync?

I read through my social media yesterday, checked some notes…and a question hit me. I saw a post about someone still using the Lync app on their Mac, even though the company had moved to Skype for Business last year. (They apparently didn’t know about the Skype for Business on Mac client.)

I thought, “How many people are still using Lync Server in 2017?”

I would hope the answer is “very few” or “none.” But this one tweet illustrated otherwise. So I dug around, looking for statistics on current Lync usage. As in, businesses or organizations still using Lync Server 2013 in recent months.

I used to sing the praises of Lync Server on this very blog. And for the time, I was justified–the software had immense power, enabling almost every possible communications medium.

Technology waits for no one, however. Nowadays the Lync system is out of date and a bit troublesome to use now. Especially when you have multiple alternatives (all of which are more recent and safer to use!): Skype for Business Server, Skype for Business Online, MS Teams, even Slack or Workplace.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find many hard numbers on current Lync usage. At least so far. No big surprise; even Microsoft pushes anyone still on Lync to upgrade.

So let’s gather some! I’d like to ask you, our readers, what you’re using. Please select a result from this poll.

[yop_poll id=”10″]

(Comments are welcome, of course.)

I’ve posted a similar poll on Spiceworks, if you’re a Spicehead like me: https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/2003305-are-you-still-using-lync-server

I’ll pool all the resulting data in a future post. In the meantime, thanks for responding!

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Attendant Pro Review: The 2017 Edition

New Features, More Power in Latest Attendant Pro

Last year I did a two-part review of Attendant Pro, made by Landis Computer. Those posts remain some of my most-trafficked.

Software Review: Attendant Pro Part 1
Software Review: Attendant Pro Part 2 – Quick Access Shortcuts

Landis got back in touch the other day, asking if I could review the latest version. “Of course!” I said. (Might have said that out loud too…)

Why not? It’s a great add-on for Skype for Business users. Especially those who must manage a lot of calls, like receptionists or call centers. If there’s a new version, that means more features to work with.

Attendant Pro Logo

I’ve submitted my feedback to the Landis team. The following review is edited from that feedback (all IP & related data removed, as I always do). Yes, it’s time for the big review I promised!

What Attendant Pro Does

For the 5 of you who haven’t read my original review yet (click the links above to see them!), Attendant Pro gives the Skype for Business user a console wherein you can take calls, set up scripts for fast actions (like transfers to specific people), and even control Skype for Business through special hotkeys called Quick Access Shortcuts.

As I said then, it’s “Do call management simple, do it right.”

Attendant Pro Main Window

The latest update dropped on May 4, 2017: Attendant Pro Q2-2017 Update

That makes 4 updates since my last review. In that time, Landis has added quite a few features. Features to keep up with Microsoft’s own Skype for Business-related releases…and in one case, surpass them.

New Attendant Pro Features: MP3 Recordings, UI Selector, Analytics

Last time Landis posted videos to describe the features. This time, we have posts on the Attendant Pro Blog describing the new features.
Attendant Pro June 2016 Update
Attendant Pro Sept 2016 (Q3-2016) Update
Attendant Pro Jan 2017 (Q4-2016) Update
Attendant Pro Q2-2017 Update (May 2017)

(The video playlist for Attendant Pro is right here, in case you want another look. Still helpful! Attendant Pro for Skype for Business (Office 365, Lync) Training – LandisComputer YouTube

There’s a huge assortment of features…Transfer Advisor, Dynamics 365 (CRM) integration, color coding…but I’d like to talk about three in particular. The Analytics Dashboard, MP3 Call Recording, and the UI Selector.

Analytics Dashboard

What it Does: Records & displays KPI data on call activity. Analytics are collected within the app and displayed in Excel; no extra server or Office 365 license required.

User Benefit: Businesses can collect the call data, and use to improve services or make predictions. Which makes this feature particularly valuable for call centers. (Remember the line you always hear when calling Customer Service? “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes…”)

These reports/graphs are enabled out of the box:

  • Today key performance indicators
  • Date Range key performance indicator
  • ACD Activity Chart
  • Transfer Type Chart
  • Incoming versus Outgoing Calls
  • Call Volume by Hour
  • Call Volume by Day

Analytics Dashboard

How to Activate:

  1. In the main Attendant Pro screen, look down at the bottom right corner.
  2. You’ll see three icons—Total Calls Today, Average Time to Answer, & Average Time to Handle Call. Click whichever you want.
  3. Excel will open & display an Analytics Dashboard file.

(Analytics are enabled by default. But if yours aren’t working for some reason, you can reactivate them by checking the “Enable Call Detail Recording” box under Options > Reporting.)

MP3 Call Recording

What it Does: Compresses call recordings into MP3 format.

User Benefit: Attendant Pro previously recorded calls in WAV format only. Which is good for clarity, but not so good for file size. MP3 is more efficient, especially with large call volumes.

How to Activate:

  1. Open Attendant Pro Options.
  2. Select “Recording.”
  3. Choose an active Recording Mode with the top dropdown menu—On Demand, Always Record (Can Stop), Always Record (Can’t Stop).
  4. Click the “Select Upload Folder” button. Choose the folder where you want call recordings to go.
  5. Check the box next to “Compress to MP3.” Click OK.

UI Selector

What it Does: Lets you change Attendant Pro’s User Interface with a click.

User Benefit: You can match your UI to the system used—Lync, Skype for Business, or Teams. As Paul from Landis put it, this makes Attendant Pro “feel less like a separate program, and more like an extension of [users’] current workflow.”

How to Activate:

  1. Open Attendant Pro Options. You should be on the “General” tab (if not, click it).
  2. Look in the group of dropdown menus for “User Interface.”
  3. Click the dropdown and you’ll see four choices: Lync 2013, Skype for Business 2015, Skype for Business 2016, and Microsoft Teams.
  4. Click to select the user interface you want. Click OK at the bottom. Marvel at how similar Attendant Pro now looks like your favorite chat platform!

UI Selector in Attendant Pro

**This is the feature surpassing Microsoft. Landis’ app now gives you control of the UI…does Microsoft do that?

Final Note: Call Quality

You might think using Attendant Pro would hurt call quality. Another app, another layer through which the data stream filters.

I’m happy to say, that is not the case. I did several test calls, in several different situations, all of which I’d used for calls previously. Here’s the list of my test calls.

  • Internal Network, to Skype for Business Contact (P2P)
  • Internal Network, to Skype for Business Contact (on Cell)
  • Internal Network, to non-Skype for Business Contact
  • External/Outside Network (Wi-Fi) to Skype for Business Contact (P2P)
  • External/Outside Network (Wi-Fi) to non-Skype for Business Contact (on Cell)

All calls originated from this laptop: ThinkPad P40 Yoga, Windows 10, Skype for Business 2016

Difference? Nothing at all. Same call strength & clarity. Attendant Pro’s Analytics Dashboard showed the exact same times, proving zero lag between the client and the call. Attendant Pro is a “single pane of glass” both in terms of call management, and response time.

Already THE Call Manager, and it Keeps Getting Better

IMPORTANT: If you previously used Attendant Pro and want to upgrade to the latest version (1.0.6337.15048 at time of posting), make sure you uninstall the old version first. I wound up with two versions on my machine, without realizing it! This may not happen to you, but just in case.

Also, this may cost you your preconfigured Quick Access Shortcuts. Take a screenshot of each beforehand, so you can quickly recreate them.

At this point, I feel confident in saying Attendant Pro is THE call manager for Skype for Business. This is the gold standard. It even works with Teams, too, which can only help drive further adoption (and more features!).

The customers we’ve set up with Attendant Pro always comment on how simple the interface is. One even asked if this product “really worked,” because they thought it looked “too simple.” We only had to show her a few Quick Access Shortcuts. Her eyebrows indicated how (pleasantly) surprised she was.

To try out Attendant Pro, visit https://www.landiscomputer.com/attendantpro/.

EDIT: I heard back from Matt Landis, owner of Landis Computer! I’d asked him where his company plans to go with Attendant Pro in the future. He gave me this quote:

“Looking to the future, one area we plan to focus on is continuing on the track of making Dynamics 365 / CRM, Skype for Business, and Cloud PBX one seamless and integrated experience. Not CRM call pop, but Dynamics merged into Skype for Business’ call handling experience.

Also, we continue to invest heavily in making Attendant Pro have a Skype for Business look & feel that is fresh and clean, so users can just turn on the power features as they need them.”

Thanks Matt!

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3 Ways to Start Conversations With Skype for Business Auto-Contact Links

A reader comment drew my attention to this post from way back in 2011: 3 Ways to Start Conversations With Lync Auto-Contact URLs

They asked a simple question: “Could you do this (set auto-contact URLs) with a Skype for Business ID?”

Yes, you can! What’s more, you have more parameters to work with in Skype for Business. I found several sources to help us out here, with lots of good detail. Links at the end of the post.

I’ll follow the same format as my original post. If you’re curious about adding Skype for Business links in places like emails, on a webpage, etc., this is how you do it.

#1 – Call a Skype for Business Number From Your Browser or Email

In the previous post, I mentioned the “TEL:+12223334444” link format. You use “TEL:” plus the country code (1 for the U.S.), plus the area code, plus the number. No spaces and no quote marks. The HTML structure look like this:
<a href=”tel:+12223334444″>Call 222-333-4444</a>

This format still works! In fact it’s near-universal; almost every app that can facilitate VoIP calls will recognize it, including Outlook. The TEL: link works on mobile as well.

(You might see a popup window asking you which app you want to open the TEL: link.)

Open Link in Skype for Business from Auto-Contact Link

Though we do have a caveat here. The sheer number of VoIP-enabled apps – Skype for Business, Skype (Consumer), WhatsApp, Viber, Google Hangouts, Facebook – means your computer may not associate TEL: links with Skype for Business by default. If not, and you want it to, you may need to reset the association. Here’s how to do that.

On Windows 10, this is done in Settings, under System. Click “Default Apps”, scroll down, and click “Choose Default Apps By Protocol.” Scroll until you see the “TEL” protocol. If Skype for Business isn’t the default already, click the app that is and choose it in the popup menu.

On Windows 7/8, go to the Control Panel. Choose Default Programs, and then Set Default Programs. Locate Skype for Business in the list (it may be under “Lync (desktop)”). Click the “Choose Defaults for This Program” and check TEL:.
Reference: Changing the default app used to open tel: links on Windows – MarkWilson.co.uk

#2 – Auto-Contact Link to a Skype for Business Account Name

Now we come to the reader’s original question…initiating a call using a Skype for Business ID instead of a phone number.

Can you do this with a Skype for Business user account name? Yep! But not with the TEL: link format. And the IM: format doesn’t work too well anymore (I think it’s deprecated).

Instead, we’ll use “SIP:”.

You’d code the link like a regular email link. SIP: goes in place of the MAILTO:. Other than that, it’s exactly the same.

<a href=”sip:buddymike@yourdomain.com″>Call Mike with Skype4B</a>

NOTE: Skype for Business’ default response to SIP: links is NOT to start a call. It’s to initiate a new Conversation. Starting a call only takes one click from there, of course. But I don’t want to mislead anyone.

This is the best way to use Skype for Business account names on websites or in emails. From the Conversation window you can start voice, video, sharing, etc.

But when it comes to meetings, there’s an even simpler way.

#3 – Auto-Contact Link for Conversations or Meetings

Links using SIP: work to start a Skype for Business Conversation. If you want to post/share a link to a Skype Meeting though, you don’t even need a special link format. You just need the meeting’s URL. To get that…

  1. In Outlook, click New Items > Skype Meeting.
  2. The New Skype Meeting window opens. Enter whatever details & attendees you want. Before clicking Send, copy the “Join Skype Meeting” link from the meeting invite.
  3. Paste the link into any email, chat, or webpage you want. Meeting links normally look like this:
    https://meet.yourdomain.com/skype.accountname/2394FS3J
    (I inserted random numbers at the end; they’re normally an auto-generated meeting ID number.)

When clicked, the computer will either open a Skype Meeting window, or take you to this message:

Open Skype Meeting Page from Auto-Contact Link

One click to the Skype for Business Web App. Either way, you’re able to access the Skype Meeting.

Auto-Contact Links Help You Get More Use out of Skype for Business

As promised, here are the sources for this post.

Depending on your computer and Skype for Business configuration, your TEL: and SIP: links may respond slightly differently. You should still get the same result; Skype for Business spawning calls and Conversation windows. I’m giving you a just-in-case warning.

This one capability illustrates a lot of how much the communications world has changed since I wrote that 2011 post. In less than 6 years, the pace of Technology exploded Voice over IP across millions of devices. Almost every computing platform out there can click one of these links and make a call.

With links in TEL: and SIP: format, you’re extending Skype for Business out even further. Customers can click a link on your website and talk to a support rep or VP in seconds. Pretty handy for a link, isn’t it?

Do you use TEL: and SIP: links with Skype for Business? In what capacity? Please comment, email, or tweet us at @PlanetMagpieIT.

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Can You Turn Off Skype for Business New Message Alerts?

The other day, a reader commented with this question. 2016-11-30_14-08-04“Is there an option in Skype4B to have it set up where your chat does NOT blink or pop up on your screen? I would like just an icon on my taskbar, until I acknowledge it.”

You know this one. Whenever you get a new IM, or an incoming call, a little box appears in the bottom right of your screen with a message – “John Smith is calling!” – and an Accept button.

I replied to the comment, saying, “I’m not sure the option you’re looking for is available. Part of Skype for Business’ central approach is to show you notifications when someone wants to chat or call you. That said, you CAN turn Push Notifications on & off for the mobile apps.”

Afterward, I did a little more research. Judging from the results, this reader is definitely not the only person interested!
Disable Pop-up Notifications – SkypeFeedback.com Forums

I pored through help files, forum threads, and even the cmdlets index. We know that you can limit alerts on the Windows client–for example, stopping them when your Presence is set to Do Not Disturb.

What about a universal “turn off alerts” setting though? Does it exist?

Skype for Business – Disable Notifications – Answers.Microsoft.com

After the research (example: the above link) and user comments, I can say this. No, you cannot totally disable the Alert notification popup. But you can control where it appears, and how often.

So we have something, at least! Let’s list out how to control what we can control here.

Control Where the Alert Popup Appears

By default, the Alert Popup appears on the bottom right of your screen. But you can change that.
Enter Settings by clicking the gear in your Skype for Business client, and select Alerts in the left column.
Look in the first box on the right. You’ll see a line saying, “Where should alerts appear?” with two dropdown menus.

2016-11-30_14-32-36

Click the second dropdown (titled “Position”) and you’ll see the options. Lower-Right Corner, Lower-Left Corner, Upper-Right Corner, Upper-Left Corner.
Click the option you want, and then click OK.

Control How Often the Alert Popup Appears

The Alerts window contains more options than just Position. They’re broken up in three categories: “General Alerts,” “When my Status is Do Not Disturb,” and “Contacts not Using Skype for Business.”

  • In “General Alerts,” you can turn off alerts for someone adding you to their Contacts list.
  • In “When my Status is Do Not Disturb,” you can turn off all alerts, show only alerts from people in your Workgroup, or show all alerts (but only conversation alerts from people in your Workgroup).
  • In “Contacts not Using Skype for Business,” you can block all invites and communications, allow invites but block all other communications, or allow anyone to contact you.

2016-11-30_8-20-14

Your system admin may set some of these via Group Policy. Otherwise, you can change them yourself.

If the “Don’t show alerts” option was in the “General Alerts” section, this post would be over. One click and we could shut off alert popups. Sigh.

Control Push Notifications on Mobile

We have a little more Alert Popup control on mobile devices than on desktops. There are two ways to control Push Notifications on mobile: on the phone itself, and on the Skype for Business Server.

On the Phone (iPhone):
Open Settings.
Navigate to the Skype for Business app (it may be labeled just “Business”) in the apps list.
Tap Notifications.

img_1191

To turn off all notifications, tap the toggle next to “Allow Notifications.”
*Note: If you have grayed-out options, then push notifications are not enabled on the server. See the next section.

On Skype for Business Server:
Log into the Skype for Business Server Control Panel.
Click the “Clients” menu.
Click “Push Notification Configuration.” You may have an existing Global policy set. Like this:

2016-11-30_8-54-47

If so, double-click the Global policy. (If not, click “New” to generate a new policy.)
Check (or uncheck) the boxes next to “Enable Microsoft push notifications” and/or “Enable Apple push notifications.”
Click Commit.

Control Notification Sounds

For this, I hearken back to the original 2015 post I did on notifications: Make Lync Stop Bugging You – How to Shrink its Powers of Distraction

Look at Option 1, “Turn off the annoying “Ding!” sound when an IM comes in.” We end up doing this a lot for customers, for some reason…

We Cannot Make the Skype4B Alert Popup Go Away. Yet.

At the end of the day, you’re still going to see someone’s face pop up on your screen, when they want to talk to you. It’s central to Skype’s communications.

That said, nothing says this won’t change in time. We’ve already seen third-party tools for modifying alerts & notifications, like SuperToast. I’m not a developer, but I can easily see one building a tool to control Alert Popups.

I’d bet many of us would gladly pay for such a tool, wouldn’t we?

What do you think about Skype’s Alert Popups? Useful reminder or productivity-attacking pest? Please weigh in, in the comments or via email.

 

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Hardware Review: Polycom RealPresence Trio 8800 (Part 2)

“It makes audio conferencing a visual experience.”

That’s what my colleague Stephen had to say when I asked him about the RealPresence Trio. He, along with the rest of the Lync/Skype4B team, spent some time working with the Trio these past couple weeks.

We’ve gathered our experiences for this blog post. There were a few surprises and snags. But overall, we all came away with the same impression – the Trio 8800 is a powerful conferencing system that works with Skype for Business very well.

(If you haven’t read Part 1 of this Trio review yet, go back and do that! It’ll only take a moment. All this juicy content will wait right here.)

Trio 8800

The Trio 8800 Hub.

Audio/Video Quality: Awesome!

As I mentioned last week, we have plenty of bandwidth in the office to test the RealPresence Trio. And test we did – running several conferences internally, with remote participants, audio-only, video-only and audio/video.

The audio quality? “Phenomenal.” Careful not to tap on the table; the hub picks it up! No configuration is needed either.

Video Quality: In JB’s comment last week, he mentioned that he’d occasionally see remote meeting participants’ video freeze up. But only on the Trio – when viewing on a laptop, no freezes occurred. We tested this with two remote participants, but didn’t encounter any freezing.

Now, freezing could occur from any number of factors. I’m not discounting JB’s experience at all; we just didn’t see it ourselves. One remote participant did lose audio once. But their video just kept on going!

One final note here: I’ve written about Music on Hold in the past. With the RealPresence Trio, you can turn it off with a toggle! It’s under Features in the Settings menu. If you’d prefer changing the music, you can do that from the same menu.

Setup: A Few Hurdles, Easy Afterward

I will limit my descriptions here, out of respect for Polycom’s ongoing development. Suffice to say that initial setup was easy. “Straightforward and clean,” as another colleague described. The webcam didn’t even need configuration – we just stuck it to the top of the TV, plugged it into the Visual+, and done.

First off: Update the Trio 8800 to the latest firmware as soon as possible. As of this post, the latest update was released 1-29-16. Jeff Schertz has a blog post on how update the firmware: Updating Trio 8800 Firmware – Jeff Schertz’s Blog. You’ll use the USB ports on the hub to administer the update. CAB files are also listed for download on the post.

Secondly, it’s critical to change the Trio’s base profile to Lync Mode.

Why? The Trio 8800 is set to “Generic” by default. This works only by plugging in a phone. You must enable it for Lync/Skype. The best way to do this, we found, was to use the Trio’s setup webpage.

This is accessible by getting the hub’s IP from your network, and loading it in a web browser. Like you’d do to configure a wireless router.

(This step is NOT in the documentation right now, as far as we could tell. If it is in there and we missed it, please let us know!)

After we updated the setup webpage, we discovered that the Base Profile setting is also buried in the hub’s Settings menu. You’ll find it here:
Advanced Settings/Administration Settings/Network Configuration/Base Profile

The Base Profile has only two choices – “Generic” and “Lync.” You must select “Lync” to use the full Lync/Skype for Business conferencing feature set.

Advanced Settings: Now here’s something very interesting. The Trio 8800 has TWO levels of advanced settings. Which you get depends on the password you enter.

The “initial” level only gives options like Change User Password and Reboot Device. I thought this was a great way to enforce security – users have some control over the Trio’s functionality, in case they get locked out. But they’re prevented from accessing (or even seeing) the “deep” advanced settings, so they can’t break its configuration.

The Base Profile settings are only visible in the “deep” advanced settings.

Ease of Use: As Simple as Skype for Business

I’ll start here by talking about connectivity. The Trio 8800 has USB ports for sharing content, Ethernet for network audio/video, and Bluetooth for device pairing.

Trio 8800 Hub Screen in Icons Mode

I paired my phone to the hub with two taps on the LCD. One to Search Devices, the next to pair the phone. Then I played some music and heard it loud & clear through the hub speakers. The quality was just as good as expected.

Next, let’s talk about the hub itself.

The hub’s LCD screen defaults to a keypad, but you can change it to icons. We kept it on the icons menu; making choices takes less time. Starting a meeting & adding users only takes a couple icon taps.

At all times the hub LCD indicates the Skype user account on the icon menu. If you need the Trio’s conference number, it’s displays on the connected screen (as well as its IP and user account name).

JB from the last post was correct – the hub boots up in a couple minutes, and does maintain its settings. Meaning CypherBit’s desire to “keep it in a drawer and place it on the table a couple minutes before the meetings” is totally doable!

However, the hub does not support touch screens. You can connect a screen to the RealPresence Trio, but it won’t recognize touch. I found this out with my touchscreen laptop.

Privacy Screen: The Logitech cam has a fun little feature – a flip-down privacy screen.

Logitech Cam Privacy Screen

Behold, the privacy screen!

If you’re installing the Trio 8800, make sure all its users know about the screen! Someone who doesn’t know about it may think the cam’s not working when it’s down. Stephen had a good suggestion – put a colored sticker on each side of the screen. Instant recognition of open screen/closed screen.

(If you don’t need or want the privacy screen, you can remove it by unsnapping it from the bottom.)

Visual+ Unit: The Visual+ is basically an HDMI output. It operates separately from the hub, with its own IP. You must pair the hub with it to display on the screen, and connect the cam to it for the video. After setup, we stuffed it behind the TV and that was pretty much it.

Skype for Business/Exchange Integration: Acts Like Another Client (On Steroids)

The Trio’s integration works excellently! The Trio hubs acts as a virtual attendee for joining or managing a conference. You can even set it up as a resource you can book. I’d argue that this is the most efficient way of managing a large meeting.

The LCD has a Contacts list, just like the Skype for Business client. Contacts display their Presence status. Groups do too.

Content Sharing: You can share content a few ways – share from an attendee’s computer, or plug a USB drive directly into the hub. We found it’s best to use a PC for sharing. It’s easier to control the application shown.

Issues: Early-Version Snags

So far, we saw 3 snags with the device.

  1. Sparse documentation. Some data sheets, a FAQ, and some Knowledge Base articles are what’s available. Made setup a little time-consuming. But in fairness, this is a very new product. More documentation will come with time.
  2. Early-version software. Most of the issues we encountered appear like simple bugs. Things you’d expect from an initial software release. Minor frustrations, but that’s all.
  3. Video is limited to the Logitech C390e cam. I understand the limitation here–you’ve got to make sure the hub works with at least one cam, before you can make others work. I note it here just for everyone’s reference. It’s very likely Polycom will add compatibility for additional webcams in future firmware updates.

Verdict: Great Conferencing System with Lots of Usefulness

Our testing experience? Great! Polycom did a solid job with the RealPresence Trio. The audio quality alone makes it worth a look.

For the capabilities you get, the price point is very good too. (You can get pricing on request from Polycom here.) No, we weren’t paid for this post. But I do know some good folks at Polycom (hey Adam!) and appreciate their work.

It IS a new product. You expect a couple rough edges. We expect improvements to come soon – added functionality, support for more webcams, etc. That said, there’s no reason you couldn’t put this in your conference room right now.

I’ll end with an anecdote. We had the Trio 8800 hub on the conference room table yesterday, and another customer came in for a meeting. He asked about the device, so I told him what it did. 2-minute intro kind of deal. I wasn’t actually trying to sell it to him.

Afterward he asked where he could get one. Two minutes was all it took!

We hope this information helps anyone considering the Polycom RealPresence Trio 8800. If you have more questions about the device, or are interested in help configuring it, please comment or email me.

And don’t forget to join us next time!

 

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Lync Doesn’t Like a Recreated Active Directory User? How to Fix It

A reader sent in a Lync Server/Active Directory support request the other day. I responded, but they solved it without much input from us (a credit to their fast troubleshooting skills!).

Afterward, we discussed their solution, and I asked if I could publish the issue. They said yes. So here it is!

Deleted a User from Active Directory & Recreated – Now Lync Won’t Accept

Alex’s email started with:

“I’m having an issue with a Lync 2013 server. I hope you can help me with it.”

“I had to delete a user account from the AD and my Exchange 2010. After that I made a new account for the user with the same login ID and email address. After that I’m not able to enter the user into the Lync 2013 server. Is there anywhere in the Lync 2013 I have to remove the user, or what can I do?”

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My initial thought was that both Lync and Active Directory had “ghost” user accounts now. The deleted user account still existed someplace, possibly within the Lync Front End server.

I asked Alex: “Did you remove the user from Lync, as well as AD? It’s possible that Lync retained a record of the user account from before, which it doesn’t now match up to the new account.”

“Look in Control Panel under Users. Remove this user, and recreate the user account. If that doesn’t work, you might try removing the user account from AD, Exchange and Lync in that order and re-creating it again. Tedious, I know, but that way Lync can re-establish its AD integration for the user.”

At this point Alex indicated that he’d resolved the issue. He’d done so “by changing the security settings on the AD account, so it is inheriting all security settings.”

Naturally I was curious for more details. How did he make the security change? Which specific permissions did he modify? Did he remove/recreate the user account first?

A Matter of Domain Administration

Alex was happy to provide. I’ve edited & reformatted his response slightly, below.

“On the domain controller, select the user’s profile. Select the Advanced view. Then I selected the Security tab, and could see that the group “Domain Admins” didn’t have any access to the account. I added the Domain Admins group, and then I made sure that all rights were inherited from the parent folder.”

“After this all my problem with Lync was solved. It also solved the problem we had with ActiveSync to Android Phones. ActiveSync to iPhone was working all the time, but not to Android before this operation.”

Makes sense. If the Domain Admins have no access to an account, they can’t authorize it for access to other services—like the Lync Server.

To check this myself, I went into our Active Directory through Active Directory Users and Computers. (This is not the exact way Alex indicated; I wanted to see if I could achieve the same end from another route.)

I made sure to select “Advanced Features” under the View menu. Then located a user, and opened the Properties window.

Sure enough, there’s a Security tab in this window. Click it, and you should see something like this:

userindomainadmin

(The login I used for this screenshot did not have full admin privileges; accordingly, it has grayed-out elements.)

This particular user is a member of Domain Admins, and has Full Control. Which means they are configured properly. If they were not, the highlighted line would not be present. Then I’d have to click the “Add” button and add permissions.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an Android phone on hand to test the sync. But it’s always nice when a fix for one issue resolves another too!

If you do face a situation where you need to delete a user & re-enter them, I’d suggest creating a slightly different AD username first. That way you’re sure the new account has no “ghosts” lurking amid the servers. But if you do need to recreate the exact user account, I hope Alex’s quick fix helps you!

Thanks to Alex for agreeing to share his issue with us.

Have you encountered a similar issue between Active Directory and Lync Server/Skype for Business Server? If so, please comment or email. We’d love to hear the details!

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