Windows 11 steals a great Microsoft Teams feature for better video calls

Windows 11 is set to get one of Microsoft Team’s best features, thanks to “Voice Clarity”, which will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make your voice in calls and recordings much clearer.

Microsoft Teams, an app that many people use for video calls, has a very similar feature that does an excellent job at minimizing and eliminating background noises for people in noisy environments, ensuring they can be heard clearly.

With the feature being so acclaimed, it’s little surprise to see Microsoft bring it to the wider Windows 11 operating system, which would allow the feature to work with other video calling apps. Voice Clarity was announced at Microsoft’s recent ‘Hybrid Work’ event as one of the ways the company is making its products better for people who are now spending their time working from home, as well as in an office.

While the noise-canceling features in Microsoft Teams have proved popular, there’s not a huge amount of love for the application itself, so bringing it to Windows 11 itself could prove a popular move.


Analysis: There’s always a catch

Surface Laptop Studio

(Image credit: Future)

While the idea of making Voice Clarity available to more apps and users, the catch is that at the moment, the feature will only work on the Surface Laptop Studio, a relatively niche product from Microsoft.

That’s certainly a shame, as it means that the vast majority of Windows 11 users still won’t be able to make use of the feature.

It’s a bit of a puzzling decision, and we’ve contacted Microsoft to ask why this is the case. It may be due to some hardware-specific requirements that only the Surface Laptop Studio has. Or, Microsoft could just be limiting the availability of the feature to help boost interest in the Surface Laptop Studio.

But, with an increasing number of us relying on video calls for keeping in contact with friends, family and co-workers, any tools that can help make those calls better is certainly welcome, and we’d love to see Microsoft make the Voice Clarity feature more widely available.

Via Windows Latest

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Windows 11 steals a great Microsoft Teams feature for better video calls

Windows 11 is set to get one of Microsoft Team’s best features, thanks to “Voice Clarity”, which will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to make your voice in calls and recordings much clearer.

Microsoft Teams, an app that many people use for video calls, has a very similar feature that does an excellent job at minimizing and eliminating background noises for people in noisy environments, ensuring they can be heard clearly.

With the feature being so acclaimed, it’s little surprise to see Microsoft bring it to the wider Windows 11 operating system, which would allow the feature to work with other video calling apps. Voice Clarity was announced at Microsoft’s recent ‘Hybrid Work’ event as one of the ways the company is making its products better for people who are now spending their time working from home, as well as in an office.

While the noise-canceling features in Microsoft Teams have proved popular, there’s not a huge amount of love for the application itself, so bringing it to Windows 11 itself could prove a popular move.


Analysis: There’s always a catch

Surface Laptop Studio

(Image credit: Future)

While the idea of making Voice Clarity available to more apps and users, the catch is that at the moment, the feature will only work on the Surface Laptop Studio, a relatively niche product from Microsoft.

That’s certainly a shame, as it means that the vast majority of Windows 11 users still won’t be able to make use of the feature.

It’s a bit of a puzzling decision, and we’ve contacted Microsoft to ask why this is the case. It may be due to some hardware-specific requirements that only the Surface Laptop Studio has. Or, Microsoft could just be limiting the availability of the feature to help boost interest in the Surface Laptop Studio.

But, with an increasing number of us relying on video calls for keeping in contact with friends, family and co-workers, any tools that can help make those calls better is certainly welcome, and we’d love to see Microsoft make the Voice Clarity feature more widely available.

Via Windows Latest

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Google thinks it has a better way to sell you a website

Google has announced that its domain registrar service has finally exited beta and is available as a fully-developed product.

First launched in 2015, Google Domains was initially only available in the US, but with the move out of beta it will now be active in 26 countries – and the company says it already has “millions of active registrations.”

“We know how valuable domain names are to customers, and we take seriously the responsibility to provide a service that’s often at the very heart of a business, brand or passion,” said Google in a blog post

Google Domains 

Google will offer its domain hosting service from $ 12 a year, with private registration, two-step verification and one-click DNSSEC for security.

The platform has over 300 domain endings available for people and businesses to build a website with Google Sites or its website builder partners such as Wix, Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly and Bluehost.

The tech giant is offering new and returning customers 20% off any single domain registration or transfer to Google Domains, until April 15.

Although Google Domains helps users register a domain name, it's worth noting that it doesn’t offer any type of hosting, unlike other popular domain registrars.

Google Domains will be available in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.

Via Slashgear

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Firefox 98 launches with better features to download files

Mozilla has updated its Firefox web browser across all available platforms to version 98, with a refreshed look for iOS and Android, and an easier way to download files.

Since its refreshed look in 2021 called Proton, Firefox has been busy working on smaller refinements to improve the overall experience of its web browser across desktop and mobile devices.

But this also applies to Firefox on iOS and Android, where its appearance has been inspired by Apple's efforts to refine its Safari browser. That's right, the Firefox mobile browser address bar is now at the bottom of the interface, alongside being able to set a wallpaper to the main page.

Version 98 is available for everyone on the web, while you can download or update the web browser from the App Store or Google Play Store.

How are Downloads improved in Firefox 98?

Clearly, this is a release focused on how and where you download files. It's something many of us do almost every time we use a web browser. Back in the days of Internet Explorer, you could only download one file at a time, with a window that displayed the progress on a dial-up modem.

Thankfully the web has moved on since then, but Mozilla has improved download management further with Firefox 98:

  • Go To Download Page: Locates the download reference page even after leaving the site or closing the tab.
  • Copy Download Link: Copies the download link to let you share it or save it.
  • Show In Folder: Opens the folder that contains your downloaded files.
  • Remove From History: Removes a file from your list of downloaded files.
  • Clear Preview Panel: Clears the list of downloaded items in the preview panel that opens when you start a download.
  • Always Open Similar Files: Makes Firefox automatically open downloaded files of the same type with the system default application.

These improvements will help if you download multiple files frequently. If you're a designer or a researcher, having Firefox know which app to open for certain file types will cut down the steps from downloading a file to opening it in the app of your choice.

As we approach version 100 in the coming months, we may see more refinements to Mozilla's web browser to mark the big number. But even if we don't, better management of your downloaded files is still a big win for your workflow.

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Safari may be getting a better dark mode in rumored update for iOS 15

Safari in iOS 15 looks to be getting its own dark mode function, alongside better features for your privacy involving cookies.

Apple's web browser works off an engine called WebKit, similar to how Google's Chrome browser is powered by an engine called Chromium.

But as WebKit is an open-source project hosted on GitHub, which allows any developer to add their programming to the engine, there have been some new features uncovered that may see an appearance in iOS 15.4, or iOS 16.

While there may be a rumored March event coming, it does raise the question of whether more regular updates should appear to Apple's apps, instead of waiting for a major iOS update every year.

Analysis: More regular updates for Safari are very welcome

Safari on iPadOS 15 Beta

(Image credit: Apple)

In the last few years, since iOS 13, Apple has made a concerted effort to roll out more features to its software across multiple releases, instead of aiming to have all of them arrive in one big release alongside the latest iPhone.

iOS 13.4 was a great example where mouse support was brought to the iPad line, alongside the Magic Keyboard peripheral which included a trackpad.

But Safari has had a rough ride recently, with its new design at WWDC 2021 criticized by users, then rolled back significantly once iOS 15 and macOS Monterey were released in September 2021.

There's currently a design that is halfway between what was shown in 2021, and what every Apple user has had since Safari 1.0 in 2007 with the original iPhone.

However, new features such as a custom dark mode and more privacy options could give more faith to users of Apple's web browser that the company isn't focusing on a new look that just wasn't needed or asked for. Instead, there are features coming up that's going to benefit their privacy, and how the browser will look in a different shade of dark.

For that, at least, is a sign that Apple is not only listening to what its users want in software, but also bringing the features out for .1 releases, way before the rumored WWDC event happens in June this year once again and we most likely hear about what the company has in store for its next major software updates.

Via 9To5Mac

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There are better ways to take a photo of your pet in iOS 15, thanks to Obscura 3

Taking photos in iOS has always been a relatively simple affair, just by using the Camera app by Apple. But third-party developers have gone further to make the iPhone camera work harder for you and the photos you take every day.

This is what Obscura has been doing since its launch in 2015. Developed by the Obscura team of Ben Rice McCarthy, Adam K. Schmidt and Sara Lovic, the third version of the app launched this week (February 17) for $ 9.99 / £9.99 / AU$ 10.99.

This new version brings a redesigned gallery view, video capture, refined layouts for controlling exposure settings, and the multiple lenses of the iPhone models, alongside controller support. This allows anyone with an Xbox or PlayStation controller, to take a photo through Obscura 3.

Having used the update for a month, it’s a significant improvement over Obscura 2. The new gallery view brings your albums front and center, giving you a quick overview of what you want to select.

There’s also the ability to rate your photos, not just a thumbs up or down as in Apple’s Photos app. Here, you could take a selection of photos, say different locations for a wedding venue for instance, and rate them in order. It makes sorting some photos much easier, as it could help you decide on certain locations or products for those important situations.

Gallery view in Obscura 3

(Image credit: TechRadar)

It’s the gestures that help make Obscura 3 shine – especially the exposure gesture. As you’re taking a photo, you can press the exposure icon on the bottom-left of the app to change how light or dark you need the image to be. But if you use your thumb to slide up and down on the icon, you can more accurately choose the exposure point instead.

These little touches are found across the app in this third version. While you can’t currently change the default camera app in iOS, Obscura 3 makes a compelling case for why the option should be there for pro users.

A chat with Obscura’s developer

Speaking with McCarthy after the launch of Obscura 3, I asked them whether the pandemic inspired the development of the new update, in regards to features and what users were asking for. “Not particularly. In an ideal world we would have taken a trip to somewhere exciting to take incredible marketing photos of rainforests or glaciers,” McCarthy clarifies. “But for the most part, the production of Obscura 3 wasn’t all that different to Obscura 2.”

With every major update to an app, there’s always the question of what the main objective was for the newest version. We asked McCarthy what the aim was for Obscura this time. “Am I allowed to say everything? Because we really did throw it all out and start from scratch,” McCarthy continues. “There are obvious changes like the new camera interface, but everything has been rewritten and improved, like the gesture to close the camera, the photo capture pipeline, the filters to support P3 color, I could go on all day. 

“If I had to choose just one though, I’d probably say the Image Detail view,” McCarthy reveals. “There’s an astonishing amount of complexity to it. It was honestly pretty janky in Obscura 2. It now has better support for RAW files, depth data, video (for the first time!), and is much smoother at handling changes to the photo library while you’re browsing. The triage features are also really neat if you care about keeping your library organized.”

Focus feature in Obscura 3

(Image credit: TechRadar)

We wanted to mention the Exposure wheel, which we found very intuitive for allowing certain amounts of light in. We asked McCarthy how this came to be, and why it’s arriving in this update.

“Conceptually, the Exposure and Focus dials were planned from the very start. In fact, I had built a very rudimentary version of them in Obscura 1, but it wasn’t great,” McCarthy explains.

“We played around with the functionality quite a bit. Should the dial have values displayed around the ring? Should the sensitivity vary as it expands? How sensitive should the haptic feedback be? But everything we added made it feel less intuitive and more distracting. In the end, the simpler it was, the more natural and like using a physical camera it felt.”

With the new gallery view being a tentpole feature of Obscura 3, we asked McCarthy whether there was going to be an option for opening the app and having the gallery appear first.

“I had thought of making that an option for the forthcoming iPad version, which is well suited to browsing and editing photos, but I hadn’t really considered it for the phone,” McCarthy explains. “But if we build that functionality anyway, I don’t see why we wouldn’t add it to the phone.”

Obscura 3 video mode in landscape

(Image credit: TechRadar)

In-app purchases, or IAPs, are ways for users to buy more features for an app. In previous Obscura versions, this allowed you to buy additional filters, but for Obscura 3, there are no IAPs this time.

We asked McCarthy what the reasons for this were, and if IAPs have had their due, especially for photography apps.

“There were a few reasons behind this decision, benefitting both us and the user. The first is that we wanted to avoid the feeling of upselling, especially when the user is in the middle of taking photos,” McCarthy explains.

“Secondly, the StoreKit API has also been a pain to work with in the past and was the source of more support email than any other part of the app. And thirdly, having IAPs for filters necessitated having example photos for the product pages, and those added quite a considerable amount to Obscura’s download size (O2 was about 70MB and O3 is down to about 5MB, though the sample photos weren’t the only factor).”

The gallery view also shows promise for other Apple platforms, such as macOS, an operating system that doesn’t have an Obscura app. We wondered whether this is something up for consideration.

“I’m certainly not promising anything right now, but I have tried building it for the Mac using Catalyst and it mostly runs without issue,” McCarthy reveals. “The real work would be in making it feel more at home on macOS, so I guess we’ll have to see if we can find the time to make it happen.”

Obscura 3 and DualSense controller

(Image credit: TechRadar)

A surprising feature was the integration of controller support in Obscura 3. You could use a Dual Sense controller to take a photo if needed. We asked whether this was always intended and if there are further plans to expand this in the future.

“As I was working on the Apple Watch companion app, it occurred to me that it would be nice if there was an alternative for people who don’t have one. And I had a spare PS4 controller (in theory for playing more games on iOS, though I rarely use it) and I realized that could be a decent alternative,” McCarthy reveals.

“There’s not much functionality there right now, but we have plenty of ideas on improving this feature that just didn’t make the cut for launch.”

Finally, widgets are still being heavily used on iPhone and iPad devices, where you can place bite-sized information on your home screen without launching the app. For Obscura, this seems to be a natural step, especially for rated photos and shortcuts for launching different modes of the app.

We asked McCarthy whether this was something that they were considering. “Definitely. As soon as the launch chaos is over we’re going to start work on widgets, and we already have a few planned,” McCarthy continues. “Having access via the lock screen is a big bonus that widgets also provide. And given that we may never see an option to set third-party camera apps as the default, we have to take what opportunities we can get.”

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Windows 11 Settings app to get even better with Sun Valley 2

Microsoft continues to improve parts of Windows 11 in the run-up to its first major update, with the Settings app gaining new icons, a more colorful look, and the handy Storage Spaces tool moving over to the app.

Since the release of Windows 11 in June 2021, we’ve seen plenty of refinements that have modernized iconic apps such as Paint and the return of Windows Media Player.

After the  launch of Windows 98, Control Panel became the go-to in finding the right settings for your PC, whether it was for changing the display resolution or checking user accounts. However, Microsoft has recently focused on replacing Control Panel with the Settings app, first introduced in Windows 10.

While Storage Spaces is moving over to Settings, the move from Windows 10 to 11 has seen colorful icons to better showcase which options are available, alongside rows in each section that better explain how you can use the accessibility options for example.

But with more updates coming to the app, it gives the impression that Settings is almost ready for Sun Valley 2, the next major update for Windows 11.


Analysis: Making life easier in Windows 11

Microsoft appears to be aware that parts of Windows are starting to show their age, such as Task Manager and user interface elements in Explorer. There’s been a renewed effort to redesign apps to better fit in with Windows 11’s new look, as well as introducing and improving tools to help you better manage your workflow, thanks to the newly-renamed Focus feature, previously called Focus Assist.

Changing settings on a Windows PC has always been confusing for some people. Back in the days of using Windows XP to Windows 10, you would click on the Control Panel app in My Computer or My PC, and be greeted with loads of icons, not knowing where to go for your query.

Windows Control Panel

(Image credit: Future)

But Settings is already a step in the right direction, and the coming improvements in Sun Valley 2 look to go further. This is the first major update to Windows 11, similar to the six-month updates that would appear with Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft is aiming for a big yearly release with Windows 11, showcasing a better Task Manager, better controls for the taskbar, and much more.

Small touches such as splashes of color, refreshed icons for the sidebar, and more prominent descriptions of the settings you’ve selected to manage will be a big help for everyone, and this also gives the app plenty of room for more settings to move over from the Control Panel app in the future.

While we’re also going to see stickers to place on your wallpaper for some reason, all of these refinements are a step in the right direction. With Sun Valley 2 tentatively scheduled for the second half of 2022, we may still see more improvements to existing apps and Settings in the coming weeks and months.

Via WindowsLatest

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Chrome 98 brings better screenshot support and a privacy guide

Another month brings a new version of Google’s web browser, with Chrome 98 showcasing a bunch of features that are hidden behind a flag.

A privacy guide gives you a better understanding of the sites that have been tracking you for example, alongside a better screenshot function that’s been in development since 2021. Chrome should have updated itself automatically, but you can check by going to About Google Chrome and seeing if it’s either at version 98 or if it’s in the midst of being updated.

For the time being, however, these need to be enabled through the flag feature. This hides experimental features under development, but by going to chrome://flags, you can enable the screenshot and privacy guide function that Google Chrome 98 brings.

With Chrome being released on a monthly schedule, and version 100 being on track to be released in March, there are features being brought to the forefront to better help users, rather than the incremental background updates that are invisible to the casual user. But it shouldn’t be long until we see the privacy guide appear without having to be enabled through a flag. 


Analysis: Google, let’s refine the flags page at last

The flag feature has been in Chrome for as long as the web browser has been released to users. Since 2010, the feature was renamed from Labs to Flags, where the experimental features have remained at chrome://flags.

But the way of navigating these flags has always been a struggle, as you can use a search engine to find a feature, but there’s currently no way of filtering the flags that are enabled. It’s either scrolling up or scrolling down to find these.

Google Chrome flag page

(Image credit: Google)

While Google maintains that this is strictly for power users and developers, having to enable a better screenshot function in Chrome 98 seems pointless for these types of users. It would be great to see a refresh of the flags page, with screenshots for each flag, alongside a way of displaying what flags have been enabled so far.

As we’re heading into triple figures in March with version 100, it could be a nice touch to see this page be modernized for the next 100 updates that Chrome is inevitably going to get.

In recent releases, we’ve seen improvements to the engine that powers Chrome and how it displays web pages, but it would be encouraging to see more features be showcased on the flag page, for the casual user instead.

We’re heading into an age where the web browser is going to be used for much more than work and gaming, as Opera has currently showcased. To appeal to users of features that they can switch on and off by themselves while explaining the benefits could be a good next step for Chrome going forward.

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Closing tabs in Chrome is getting much better on Android

In a future release of Google's web browser on Android, you'll be able to avoid the mistake of closing all your tabs at once, thanks to an additional message box to confirm if you want to go ahead with it.

Google Chrome is the most widely-used web browser app on Android, mainly due to it being pre-installed on the majority of Android smartphones. But there may be an occasion when you've got multiple tabs open at once.

Some could be related to shopping, birthday ideas, or brainstorms for holidays in the summer for example. You may want to close all of these at once when you're finished.

In Chrome Canary, the test version of Google's web browser, you can enable a flag that will display a message box to confirm if you want to close all your tabs at once. This will help prevent occasions where you accidently close all the browser tabs when you didn't mean to.

How do you enable the message box confirmation?

By going to chrome://flags when running Google Chrome Canary 100 on Android, there will be a 'Close all tabs modal dialog' option.

Switching this on will make the message box appear when you're about to close all your tabs.

This can be useful if you've found yourself having mistakenly closed all your open tabs, and having to go through your history to open the links again.

This may sound like a very obvious feature, but if you mainly use Google Chrome on your phone as you're sharing links on social media and messaging apps, having all your tabs closed can be a huge annoyance.

Sometimes the little things like this can make a big difference, so it's encouraging that Google has this ready to go in its development releases for now.

Via XDA Developer

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Microsoft Teams is more popular than ever, so you’d better get used to it

The success of Microsoft Teams just keeps on growing as more and more users around the world sign up to the platform.

The video conferencing service now boasts over 270 million monthly active users (MAUs) according to the latest figures released by Microsoft.

This is up from the 250 million Microsoft Teams MAUs that the company reported just six months ago, as the hybrid working age continues to drive the platform from strength to strength.

Record Microsoft Teams numbers

In its latest quarterly financial report, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella noted that although the growth of Teams has been encouraging, it does expect this to slow somewhat as usage begins to plateau.

Microsoft changed how it measures Teams usage last year, switching from daily active users to monthly active users, which again possibly suggested numbers may be slowing somewhat.

The company is still busy working on updates and upgrades for Teams, however, with recent releases including a way for users to hide their own video feed whilst on a call, apply an emoji as a reaction to chat messages, and even add its Cortana voice-recognition software to the platform.

Overall, Q2 2022 was an incredibly successful one for Microsoft, with the company beating analyst predictions to record another major quarter.

The company reported a 20% increase in revenues, which hit $ 51.7 billion, with net income up 21% to hit $ 18.8 billion. Windows OEM revenue increased 25% compared to the previous year, with Windows Commercial products and cloud services revenue increasing 13%.

“Digital technology is the most malleable resource at the world’s disposal to overcome constraints and reimagine everyday work and life,” said Nadella.

“As tech as a percentage of global GDP continues to increase, we are innovating and investing across diverse and growing markets, with a common underlying technology stack and an operating model that reinforces a common strategy, culture, and sense of purpose.”

Recent data collected by software firm StarLeaf found almost all (97%) businesses say that tools such as ZoomWebex and Teams are now essential to their operations.

More than half (57%) of the 2,000 UK-based respondents claim their company would not be able to operate for more than an hour without access to their communications tools, while 27% admitted they would struggle to function for even 30 minutes.

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