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ISSUE 21.06.F • 2024-02-05 • Text Alerts!Gift Certificates
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Susan Bradley

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In this issue

BROWSERS: Edge Workspaces for work and play

Additional articles in the PLUS issue

PUBLIC DEFENDER: Do you need a password manager?

ONEDRIVE: The state of OneDrive

ON SECURITY: Taming BitLocker and other encryption methods

The Nokbox

The Nokbox

Estate Planning & Organization

If something were to happen to you tomorrow, would your next of kin be prepared to manage all of your assets, finances, and wishes?

They will if you have a Nokbox: a Next of Kin box.


Edge Workspaces for work and play

Mary Branscombe

By Mary Branscombe Comment about this article

Given how often we all share links to webpages, it’s past time for some tools to manage that better. Workspaces is Microsoft’s latest attempt to share and organize Web links with a group of friends or colleagues.

Tab groups in the Edge browser are great for organizing yourself, especially now that you can sync between your different desktop devices. But they don’t help with organizing Web links you need to send to someone else, or the ones other people send to you.

Much of the work people need to do — or the fun things your friends want you to join in — includes a browser link that you’re never going to remember easily. If you send someone a OneDrive file, that’s a URL; if you share a Microsoft To Do list with them, that’s another URL. Chat channels in Teams and Slack and Discord are full of links that you need to open or get back to. Finding the right one is usually as much work as whatever you need to do when you finally find it. Sharing URLs one at a time this way makes it hard for people to keep track of all the webpages you’re asking them to look at — or to remember what the five links you sent them last Friday were about, by the time they get around to looking at them.

It would be much easier if you could send a group of links with a name that makes it clear why they matter. Tab groups and collections do that for your own browsing, but you can’t share either of them with anyone else — except by exporting a collection to OneNote and then sharing the notebook. What’s more, many people recently found that the export options are missing from the three-dot action menu in the Collections pane.

To share a tab group — or just the set of tabs in your current browser window — you can turn it into an Edge workspace to share with colleagues or friends.

Figure 1. Turn a tab group into a workspace that you can share with colleagues or friends; it’s a lot more manageable than a bunch of URLs.

Click on the three-dots icon to get the Action menu for your tab group. Choose Move tab group to a new workspace, pick a color, and type a name that tells everyone what it’s for. Moving a tab group to a workspace closes the tab group in the browser where you’re working. But if it’s a synced tab group and you have it open on another machine, it doesn’t get closed there — however, it does turn into a local rather than a synced tab group.

You can create a blank workspace by clicking on the Workspaces icon (it looks like three overlapping windows) in the top-left corner of the Edge title bar and then selecting the Create new workspace button (the icon looks like a circle with a plus sign in it). But by the time you have a group of tabs to share, you probably already have them all open.

If you don’t have the tabs you want to share in a group and you wish to save time, you can move them all to a new browser window. Here, you can right-click any of the browser tabs and choose Move all tabs to a new workspace. And if you’ve already made the workspace, you can right-click on tabs individually and choose Move tab to pick the appropriate workspace.

You can’t turn a collection directly into a workspace, but you can choose Open all in new tabs or Open all in new window from the action menu to allow the collection to get either a tab group or a new window; after this, you can turn that into a workspace.

Figure 2. Although it looks like a color-coded browser window, a workspace has some extra tricks such as showing you who opened, navigated to, and closed different tabs.

A workspace is a new browser window with its own set of tabs, which you can organize with tab groups if you want. The window includes a default tab that explains what a workspace is, what its own favorites are, and its own history. You can share the workspace with colleagues or friends by sending a single link. The title bar shows the color you picked for the workspace. Instead of the Workspaces icon, the title bar has a button with the name of the workspace; click it to get the Workspaces menu, which lets you manage this and all your other workspaces.

Figure 3. A few tools can be used for managing workspaces — including renaming them, picking a new color, creating them, or deleting them.

Anyone who opens the workspace sees all the open tabs. You can identify who else is in the workspace by the account icons that show up in the top-right corner. You can even see which webpage they’re looking at, by using the presence icon on the tab or by hovering over an icon in the title bar. This is ideal for team projects at work, in education, or with friends and family.

Figure 4. Keep track of which tab people are on, so you can look at the same page together.

A workspace isn’t just a new window in Edge. It’s an isolated session and has its own history under Recently Closed in the History tab. You can still see other tabs from your main browser, under All.

You can also change some of the Edge toolbar settings for a workspace window. For example, you can hide the Collections and Share buttons without affecting other browser windows. If you hide the Extensions button, however, it will disappear on all browser windows. Although you can collapse the Edge sidebar on normal browser windows by selecting the Auto-hide sidebar button on the sidebar, that doesn’t currently work for a workspace window.

In the background, the workspaces use Microsoft Fluid Framework (the same technology behind Loop) and OneDrive to store data — such as the list of tabs and who opened and closed them. Thus you will need a Microsoft Entra ID (as Azure Active Directory is now called) to use it for work or a Microsoft account to use the consumer version. The latter is still in preview, so the user interface may change slightly from what I’ve described here. The enterprise version of Workspaces adds a chat button so you can talk to colleagues; I haven’t seen that in the consumer workspaces interface yet.

What gets saved and shared excludes passwords, cookies, or any other identity information. If someone shares a webpage you don’t have access to, or a Web app you don’t have a license for, you won’t be able to use it.

The tabs in the workspace are saved, so closing the workspace doesn’t affect anyone else. But when one person closes a tab in a workspace, it closes for everyone else as well — so you might want to lock some or all of the tabs. This can be done by right-clicking on a tab to get the lock and unlock option. Anyone can lock a tab; only the person who created the workspace or the person who locked the tab can unlock it. Similarly, anyone can leave a workspace they no longer need, but only the owner can delete a workspace.

On the other hand, if you see that someone has opened the draft version of a file when the final version is what people should be working on — because anyone with access to the workspace can click New Tab and add pages to it — then it’s handy to be able to close the wrong tab and know that it goes away for everyone.

A workspace isn’t a shared browsing session. If you scroll down a webpage, it doesn’t scroll for anyone else using the same workspace. If you want to show someone exactly what you’re seeing on a webpage, sharing your browser in a Teams call might be a better option. But workspaces are useful as a way of navigating sites where you want to do co-browsing, such as collaborative editing (e.g., Google Docs or Office online). They’re also useful for planning group travel or even for doing your grocery shopping. Because my husband and I share an account for our usual supermarket site, we could sit at our own computers and each pick what we wanted in our big Christmas order — everything went into the same basket — instead of one of us doing the shopping alone and the other asking why we didn’t get more mince pies.

Figure 5. If you need help choosing between half a dozen options for a new purchase, share a workspace showing all the various products with a friend and ask them what they think.

The most confusing task may be getting back to workspaces you made or that were shared with you. You’ll find them by clicking the lonely Workspaces icon on the Edge title bar next to your account picture, or by right-clicking on the Edge icon in the Windows taskbar.

Figure 6. Workspaces are hidden away on the Edge context menu and under the new Workspaces icon that clutters up the Edge title bar.

Annoyingly, you can’t pin a workspace to the Windows taskbar. It acts like a browser window, so if you click the Apps button in Edge, it tells you the site can’t be installed as an app. To be fair, that feature is intended for individual Web apps such as LibraryThing or Bluesky, but if a group of websites is useful enough to turn into a workspace you’ll want to use a lot, it would be nice to have a way of pinning it to the Windows interface to make it easier to find.

Talk Bubbles Join the conversation! Your questions, comments, and feedback
about this article are always welcome in our forums!

Mary Branscombe has been a technology journalist for nearly three decades, writing for a wide range of publications. She’s been using OneNote since the very first beta was announced — when, in her enthusiasm, she trapped the creator of the software in a corner.


Here are the other stories in this week’s Plus Newsletter


Brian Livingston

Do you need a password manager?

By Brian Livingston

It seems we all have to deal with different usernames and passwords for every website we visit and every device we own. The situation is rapidly changing, as I’ll explain below. But at the moment, the need for you to remember or juggle all these credentials can strain your brain.

One approach that many pundits recommend is to invest your time and money in a password manager. The best of these apps can store for you hundreds of passwords, make up ridiculously strong password strings that are impossible to guess, alert you if one of your passwords was exposed in an Internet security breach, and more.

My column today is the first in a four-part series. In this multipart analysis, I’ll explain the pros and cons of the highest-rated password managers and, most importantly, whether you need one at all.


Ed Tittel

The state of OneDrive

By Ed Tittel

Microsoft OneDrive is a cloud-based file storage service that dates all the way back to 2007.

It has become more tightly integrated into Windows since the Vista days, through Windows 7, 8.x, 10, and now 11. OneDrive is also available for MacOS, iOS, Android, and Xbox.

And, of course, Microsoft 365 apps also work directly and automatically with OneDrive.

This article seeks to describe OneDrive’s status as of early 2024 and to illuminate some specific issues or potential gotchas that OneDrive can present — at least, for some users.


Susan Bradley

Taming BitLocker and other encryption methods

By Susan Bradley

Our audience consists of several different segments. As a result, there are many different risk levels.

My risk tolerance may not be the same as yours, and vice versa. Ultimately, it comes down to your specific comfort level in your specific environment. And, of course, risk levels change over time.

Once upon a time, we would authenticate to our mail providers in plain text, with usernames and passwords clearly visible, and send all emails in the same fashion. You could “tap” the line with special equipment read every email – in the clear. That’s no longer considered secure, so now nearly all mail providers offer some sort of protection, especially for the credentials.

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