Thursday, 4 December 2008

Outlook Onebox

One of the things I like most about GMail is the way it groups messages together into conversation threads, including the messages that are from me. Now that I'm using it, I can't believe I've put up with conversations being split across Inbox and Sent for so long in other email tools.

I use Outlook at work (I won't go into why here - that's a rant for another day...) and wondered if I could achieve something similar by setting up rules to copy incoming and outgoing messages into a single folder. I set it up, naming the folder "Onebox", and it worked - with the list of messages grouped by conversation, each thread contained my messages as well as those of others, keeping everything nicely in context.

I'd only been using it for five minutes when I realised I didn't need the new folder and the rules - I could simply make a search folder, including messages from the Inbox or the Sent folder, which has just the same effect, but keeps a separate Inbox and Sent too, just in case there's a use for it.

I've also added an automatic formatting rule for the Onebox search folder, to make my name appear in a light grey text on my messages in conversations, as a more immediate way to see the pattern of to and fro in the list of messages. Outlook problem down, only five gazillion or so to go...

My Desk - doors and handles

Oops. Where have the last five months gone? I actually finished the desk before the last blog entry, I'm just a bit behind in telling the story...

The two doors were very easy - they're just rectangles after all, so just the edging strips to apply. The handles were attached in no time at all.

The hinges were a bit more trouble. I bought a cutter specifically for the size of hole required for kitchen door hinges. It's probably supposed to be used in a router, but the shaft was too large for my ultra-cheap router, so I had to use the electric drill instead. It worked, but the cutter got really hot - hot enough to make the MDF smoke and make a terrible stink.

The hinges on the doors in our kitchen are rubbish - they squeak, and click as the doors are shut, and won't stay aligned - and I wanted the desk doors to have more of a quality feel to them, so I purchased some from a quality brand - Blum. Because the doors are inset, unlike most kitchen doors, a special type of hinge is required. Positioning the holes for the hinges was quite tricky to work out - a lot of time was spent studying the fitting diagrams - but I worked it out in the end, and the doors fit perfectly.

As the doors are inset, I needed a stop for each door to close against. I wanted to be able to adjust the position of the stop, because even a small error in the position would show up as a difference in the amount the door is inset from the front of the unit on each side.

After much head-scratching, I eventually decided to fit a small dowel into the end of a piece of larger dowel, slightly offset from the centre. A hole was then drilled to fit the small dowel in the side of each unit, measured as accurately as I could manage. I then attached the door, and closed it, and as expected, the closed position wasn't quite correct. Then came the clever bit - by rotating the larger dowel, with its smaller, offset dowel in the hole, the position of the larger dowel altered very slightly with respect to the front edge of the unit, thereby adjusting the closed position of the door. A bit of glue in the dowel hole and it set in position overnight.

I also bought some soft-close attachments, which I'm really pleased with. The doors can be swung shut against the soft-close mechanism, from where they slowly close themselves, ending with a quiet tap as the door touches the dowel stop. It's like clockwork, except it's pneumatic, or hydraulic, or something. Whatever.

In the picture below you can see the newly-fitted doors, handles, and the rear triangle of the desk top all fitted. Looks finished? Wait 'til you see the final step...