2016 Thought Asylum Annual Review
Friday, January 6, 2017 at 11:10PM
Stephen Millard in General

Another year ends and so it's time to take my regular look back at what's been particularly popular on thoughtasylum.com over this period and to also reflect on what I've been doing.

2016 was much quieter than 2015 in terms of adding new posts to the site. Work and a new addition to the family havce just sapped my time substantially so I consider myself fortunate to have published what I have. I'm expecting 2017 to be more of the same to be honest but I'm just in a period where the demands on my time are particularly high and hopefully things will settle down at some point and permit me to have another big push. I had hoped to rework the site for secure delivery (HTTPS) and in particular make it much more mobile friendly but that's a big effort and time is very much against me doing that right now ... but these things are absolutely on my to-do list.

The last eight or so months at work I've been focused on a new technology area for the organisation and whilst I've learnt a lot it has been an incredibly challenging and frustrating experience. Hopefully in 2017 things will settle down with this and I'll come out all the better for it. Certainly I'm not going to let the outstanding issues persist if I have any say about it.

Outside of work I've continued to expand my library of Workflow (iOS) workflows and help out fellow workflow users on Twitter. You can find lots of Workflow content over in the Workflow section of the site and in particular the Getting Started with Workflow page has proven to be a popular non-blog post destination on the site and the Workflow Examples by Name even more so.


10. Creating a Daily Journal in Evernote (~1,400 hits)

Published 15 March 2010.

  After a bump up to seventh place last year this post has dropped back down to last place on the top ten. Even so this is a firm favourite. Unfortunately I still haven't quite found the time to write up the way I actually create my daily journal note which is automated in the cloud meaning there's no dependence upon local scripting and scheduling. I still keep the script described in this post to hand as sometimes I work on days when I wouldn't normally have a note created and so I can still use this to manually create a journal note.

9. Notepad++ Workflow: Find Lines Not Containing (~1,800 hits)

Published 30 April 2013.

  This post has dropped one spot since last year but has retained a top ten presence which is testament to the ubiquity and versatility of Notepad++. Whilst it isn't my daily driver (that's still Sublime Text I use it extensively on client devices where being able to run a full featured text editor that has no license costs is a great time saver when compared to trying to use Windows notepad for complex text manipulations and examining the details of XML and less structured data files or code - syntax highlighting is a huge boon.

8. A Flexible Progress Window in VBScript (~1,800 hits)

Published 19 July 2009.

Another entry from last year's list is the post about incorporating a flexible progress window in VBScript. It's the oldest post in the top ten and it's surprising just how much VBScript continues to be used versus newer scripting options such as PowerShell. The post describes how to use VBScript to control some HTML content in an Microsoft Internet Explorer browser instance; so given the continuing move to Edge I expect this post will slip from the top ten in the next few years as Microsoft Internet Explorer is deprecated out of use. But until then this is still a useful way to tackle status updates and information presentation and several of my VBScript solutions still in use today take advantage of exactly this.

7. Workflow (iOS): Some Example Workflows for Dates (~2,000 hits)

Published 14 January 2015.

Up from last year's tenth place this post is a bit of a surprise. Whilst Workflow is alive and kicking the dates functionality was updated fairly early on it's life and this post described various workarounds for limitations present at that time. As such it is out of date for the way to work with dates (it is much simpler now), but the methodologies I dare say still have merit in helping people learn how they might approach other similar string manipulation issues in the application.

I expect with the improvements in Workflow that are bound to surface in 2017 that this post will drop off the list next year.

6. VBScript to Convert Microsoft Office Files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) to PDF (~3,200 hits)

Published 20 December 2012.

Dropping one place from last year is a post about the VBScript I probably use most in my work. The script allows you to convert any Word, Excel or PowerPoint file to a PDF; even multiple files in one go. This is our standard approach when we want to issue files that are not intended to be edited by the recipient or where the precise formatting is important. Because I use this so frequently I am not surprised it is still in the top ten and I think it's more than likely we'll see it here again next year.

5. Using SED on Windows (~4,200 hits)

Published 30 September 2011.

Dropping a few places is the post where I provide a simple worked example of using GNU SED on Windows. I used it when I started my current job to help me process a log file that was over a million lines and since it took me a little trial and error to get it working in the first place I figured I'd jot down a few pointers for others wanting to use it. Turns out that quite a few people look for the same things as I initially did so hopefully this post has proven useful to them.

4. Adding Multiple Sets of Looping Slides to PowerPoint (~4,600 hits)

Published 30 May 2014.

This year's biggest climber; moving up from ninth position and more than double the previous year's hits; is the post on running looping sets of slides in PowerPoint. There was a commonly understood method for having a set of looping slides at the start or end of a presentation within the same slide deck but my method allows you to have multiple loop sets. This came out of a desire to have an initial loop pre-presentation and a final loop for the closing period.

3. View Your Android Device on Your PC Using Droidscreen (~4,700 hits)

Published 30 January 2014.

Dropping just one place I'm still surprised to see this post ranking quite so highly given how much Android and screen sharing options have moved on. My preference is still currently for Reflector 2 by Air Squirrels and I'd certainly recommend looking for simpler solutions over the one presented in this post.

2. 24-Hour Clock Calculations in Excel (~4,700 hits)

Published 28 December 2012.

Creeping up two spots from third place last year this short post appears to remain rather popular. The post describes a couple of ways to do 24 hour clock calculations. The first just uses some inbuilt functions and the second a VBA function. It's relatively straight forward logic, but my guess is it just seems to be one of those little frustrations that crop up for the average Excel user.

1. Auto Incrementing in Excel (~26,500 hits)

Published 29 June 2013.

Continuing on the Excel theme the post covering several ways to apply auto incrementation of numbers in Excel and is holding firm at number one with over 2.5K more hits than the previous year. Now you may know how to increment numbers in Excel, but I would say that even if you do that this post is worth a quick scan through. There's more than one way to do it and you may find an alternate way that better suits some scenarios than the way(s) you may already be aware of.


The biggest surprise in this year's top ten may already have been spotted by the more numerically focused reader. Every single one of this year's entries was in last year's top ten. I also noted that whilst the overall hits were maybe down a little, the top spot's hits have actually increased by several thousand.

And that's the 2016 wrap-up. Based on the last six months I can see 2017 will be a difficult year for me in terms of putting out blog content as time demands from family and work take priority ... but I'm going to do my best to keep some content coming out and hopefully retain or maybe even improve the quality. I doubt I'm going to find the time to revamp the site and get it more mobile friendly but should a sufficiently large time slot appear then this activity remains high on my list of things to don on the site.

Hopefully you found this review useful and maybe even read or re-read some of the top posts. Do keep checking back for new content throughout 2017 and maybe we'll see some more significant changes in the top ten of the year.

Article originally appeared on Thought Asylum (http://www.thoughtasylum.com/).
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