Windows 11’s Photos app is getting more sophistication with new Designer app integration – but there’s a catch

Windows 11’s Photos app has been getting some impressive upgrades recently, and it looks like another one is on the way. The app is getting Designer web app integration, which is Microsoft’s tool that enables people to make professional-looking graphics, but there’s one little catch – it’ll prompt Designer to open in Edge (Microsoft’s web browser that comes installed with Windows 11). 

The new Designer integration joins a line-up of other features that have been added in the last two years, including the background blur feature, an AI magic eraser, and more. The new feature is  accessible via an 'Edit in Microsoft Designer' option within the Photos app, represented by an icon that will appear in the middle of the Preview window. 

It’s not the most subtle position for it, and I think it’s fair to assume Microsoft is doing that because it wants users to click it. Doing so will take users to the Microsoft Designer website which opens in an Edge window – and due to Edge not being the most popular of web browsers, this could irritate people who have set their default browser to a different app, such as Chrome

This development is still in the testing stages, according to Windows Latest, making its way through the Windows Insider Program. The feature can be found in Photos app version 2024.11040.16001.0, which is a part of the Windows 11 24H2 preview build in the Canary channel. The feature should also be available in the Windows 11 Insider Dev channel build, but the Photos app version has to be version 2024.11040.16001.0.

Apparently, you can also prompt the Designer web app to open by right-clicking the image while in Preview in the Photos app, and clicking ‘Edit in Designer online’ in the menu that appears.

Woman relaxing on a sofa, holding a laptop in her lap and using it

(Image credit: Shutterstock/fizkes)

The apparent state of the new feature

When it tried to activate the new feature, Windows Latest hit a wall as it was presented with a blank canvas in Designer, rather than the image that was going to be edited. Hopefully, this is an anomaly or an error, and it presumably will result in the image you’re looking at in Preview in the Photos app opening up in Designer when the feature is fully rolled out in a Windows update. 

Windows Latest made several attempts at making the feature function as intended, but it wasn’t to be, and I would hope that Microsoft takes this feedback on board, especially if it’s a widespread issue. You can import the image manually while having the Designer web app already open, but this will defeat the purpose of having an easily accessible option in the Photos app. 

Users can edit their image in Designer, but only if they’ve signed into their Microsoft account. Microsoft wrote about the feature in an official Windows Blogs post, explaining that it’s currently being tested in the US, UK, Australia, Ireland, India, and New Zealand.

Having various image editing tools scattered across the Photos app, the Designer web app, and the Paint app doesn’t make things easy for Windows users. People like accessing all the relevant tools from whatever app they’re currently using instead of having to memorize which app has what exclusive feature. 

The approach has been called ‘inconsistent’ by Windows Latest, and I would bet that it’s not alone in that opinion. While it’s clear that Microsoft wants to get people using its new AI-powered tools, the company would be much better served if made them easier to access through one powerful program, rather than being scattered around Windows 11.


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Spotify finally unveils a desktop app miniplayer to end window-juggling, but there’s a catch

Spotify Premium users rejoice – the music platform is finally adding a ‘miniplayer’ for its desktop app to improve users’ experience – a whopping three years after the web app got a similar feature.

The new miniplayer has two different designs and can be activated in the bottom right corner of the full-screen player, prompting the app to shrink into a minimized view showing media controls and song information. As I mentioned above, this isn’t the first appearance of a condensed Spotify player, but it’s the first implementation of the feature for the app's desktop version. 

The new miniplayer will be available for Windows, macOS, and ChromeOS, and looks like the miniplayers of other apps (like Apple Music) and users have been requesting this desktop feature for a long time. Some users have been so desperate for it that they’ve made their own, with a multitude of user-created apps currently available on GitHub. 

Before this addition, there was a small preview box with media controls that would appear while Spotify was minimized and users hovered their mouse over it, so combined with the existing web app miniplayer this development hasn’t come totally out of the blue. It makes me wonder why it took so long to bring it to the desktop version, considering it already existed in the web version for years. 

Man at a computer jamming out to music

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Andrey_Popov)

The benefits of this feature update are pretty obvious – many people have Spotify running in the background while doing other activities on their PCs. Before this update, you’d have to minimize your present activity (or resize your open windows) and switch to the Spotify tab, even if you wanted to do something simple like skip to the next track or episode or adjust the in-app volume – unless you have dedicated media controls on your keyboard, that is. This was outlined in a community post on Spotify's official website, with the aim being to give users better control of the player without having to interrupt their activities. 

Once users open the Spotify miniplayer, it appears as an “always on top” floating window that stays visible in front of all other opened windows on your desktop, and operates independently of whatever you’re doing in the main Spotify window. The miniplayer will also be able to play any media you can play in the main app, including music, short videos, and podcasts.

The bad news is that the feature is currently only available to Spotify Premium users, so you'll need to shell out for a subscription if you want to use it. It’ll be interesting to see if Spotify makes it available to all users in the future.

A promo shot of Spotify's new DJ feature.

AI DJ was fun, but this is a far more practical feature. (Image credit: Spotify)

To use the feature, open your Spotify desktop app, and start playing some content. Then, click the miniplayer icon: the small white square that’s in a larger white outlined square. This should open the miniplayer, and if you’re unable to see either the icon or your miniplayer doesn’t pop up when you click it, try reinstalling the Spotify app. 

Spotify is just catching up with Apple Music after a decade by giving this feature to desktop users. What makes it a little more puzzling is that there have been Spotify miniplayer features in other versions of the app (such as a Google Maps integration on Android phones) for a while now, so Spotify had already worked it out to some degree at least.

Maybe Spotify thought the demand for a widget-like feature simply wasn’t there, but how many third-party apps there are and how many users have been asking for such a feature paints a confusing picture. In any case, I’m glad it got around to giving users exactly what they’ve been asking for, and hopefully, it carries on putting in features that users explicitly tell Spotify they want to see. Fun novelty features are impressive and entertaining, like AI DJ and Spotify Wrapped, but at the end of the day, users appreciate products that work well. 

Via Digital Music News.

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Apple bows to developer complaints, will allow web apps in EU … with a catch

Apple is walking back some of its restrictive response to EU regulations that have forced it to make changes to the iPhone and iOS. When the EU said that Apple must allow third-party web browsers on the iPhone, the company responded by cutting off web apps for the EU. After developers and some users complained, the company has changed its policy and will again allow EU users to save a website as an app on their home screen. 

Web apps harken back to the original days of the iPhone, when there was no App Store. Instead, you could pin a web page to your home screen and it worked just like an app. The feature evolved to allow web apps to save data and send push notifications to the user. Macrumors has a good walkthrough of how web apps work and why they are a benefit. A web app is much smaller than an app that you download from the App Store, for instance. 

Notably, Xbox Cloud Gaming relies on a web app to function on the iPhone. You can play all of your Xbox games on your phone, using an Xbox controller, thanks to the Xbox website that acts as a web app. By adding this feature back into iOS 17.4, Apple has saved Xbox gamers who stream their game library through their iPhone. The software update will be available in early March, so we expect it any day now. 

Web apps are a security problem, according to Apple

The problem with web apps, described by Apple, is that iOS is only designed to be secure when a Webkit browser creates the web app. Webkit is Apple’s own browser engine, different from Chromium browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, and other browsing engines. If some third-party Chromium browser creates a web app on iOS, it might gain access to the camera, or install extra software without the user’s knowledge. To deal with that problem, Apple announced it was eliminating the ability to use web apps for EU users. 

Thankfully, Apple says in a recent update that it has changed course and will allow third-party browsers to create web apps. When those apps are created and saved to the home screen, it seems they will run in Apple’s own Webkit browser engine instead of using the third-party browser. It’s unclear how this might affect performance, but it seems like a reasonable compromise for now. 

“We have received requests to continue to offer support for Home Screen web apps in iOS, therefore we will continue to offer the existing Home Screen web apps capability in the EU. This support means Home Screen web apps continue to be built directly on WebKit and its security architecture, and align with the security and privacy model for native apps on iOS,” says Apple on its developer page

Apple in the past said that web apps are not very popular, citing “very low user adoption of Home Screen web apps” as a reason why the feature was not worth the extra effort to develop a proper, secure fix for this issue.

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Did we just catch our first glimpse of Windows 12? If so, we won’t get the new OS until 2025

We might have just caught our first glimpse of Windows 12, although we can’t be sure about that – but what we do know is that Microsoft is making a big change with test builds of Windows.

XenoPanther on X (formerly Twitter) noticed that the internal Canary versions of Windows 11 – those in the earliest testing channel, in other words – were just forked with a new build 27547 coming into play.

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The most recent Canary channel build is version 26040 as you may be aware if you follow these preview releases (which comes with a new Voice Clarity feature to improve video chats).

So, now we have builds in the 26XXX range and also the 27XXX range, prompting the obvious question: Is the latter Windows 12 in its first test phase? Let’s discuss that in more depth next.

Analysis: I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!

As Zac Bowden, the well-known Microsoft leaker (of Windows Central fame) points out, the likelihood here is that the next release of Windows is the 26XXX branch, which is currently rumored (by Bowden) to be Windows 11 24H2 coming later this year.

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That means the 27XXX preview versions could be the next incarnation of Windows after that, the one arriving in 2025 (and these builds probably won’t go into testing with Windows Insiders for some time yet). Hence the (tentative) conclusion that this might be Windows 12, or an all-new Windows, whatever it may be called.

(Although we should further note that technically, Windows 11 24H2 will be all-new. Not the front-end mind, but the underlying foundations – it will be built on a new platform known as Germanium, which will offer considerable performance and security benefits deep under the hood).

At any rate, this pretty much underlines the idea that Windows 12 (or next-gen Windows, whatever the final name) is not coming this year, and will probably arrive next year. After all, Windows 10 gets ditched in 2025, so it makes some sense that a new OS comes in as one shuffles out the exit door (in October 2025 to be precise).

As we’ve discussed before, one of the dangers of bringing in Windows 12 this year is that the move would fragment the desktop user base into three camps, which is clumsy and a headache for organizing updates. So that scenario is neatly avoided if Windows 12 doesn’t turn up until 2025.

As a side note, Microsoft has codenames for its OS development semesters, and the next one should have been arsenic – but due to it being perceived as “scary and violent” Bowden tells us, the software giant has avoided it, and is instead using the codename Dilithium. Which is pretty cool for Star Trek fans (maybe Duranium will be next in line when another unsuitable real-world element pops up).

Via Neowin, Deskmodder

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Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses finally get the AI camera feature we were promised, but there’s a catch

When the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses launched they did so without many of the impressive AI features we were promised. Now Meta is finally rolling out these capabilities to users, but they’re still in the testing phase and only available in the US.

During their Meta Connect 2023 announcement, we were told the follow-up to the Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses would get some improvements we expected – namely a slightly better camera and speakers – but also some unexpected AI integration.

Unfortunately, when we actually got to test the specs out its AI features boiled down to very basic commands. You can instruct them to take a picture, record a video, or contact someone through Messenger or WhatsApp. In the US you could also chat to a basic conversational AI – like ChatGPT – though this was still nothing to write home about. 

While the glasses’ design is near-perfect, the speakers and camera weren’t impressive enough to make up for the lacking AI. So overall in our Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses review we didn’t look too favorably on the specs. 

The Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses Collection is stylish looking on this person's face

Press the button or ask the AI to take a picture (Image credit: Meta)

Our perception could soon be about to change drastically, however, as two major promised features are on their way: Look and Ask, and Bing integration.

Look and Ask is essentially a wearable voice-controlled Google Lens with a few AI-powered upgrades. While wearing the smart glasses you can say “Hey Meta, look and…” followed by a question about what you can see. The AI will then use the camera to scan your environment so it can provide a detailed answer to your query. On the official FAQ possible questions you can ask include “What can I make with these ingredients?” or “How much water do these flowers need?” or “Translate this sign into English.” 

To help the Meta glasses provide better information when you’re using its conversational and Look and Ask features the specs can also now access the internet via Bing. This should mean the specs can source more up-to-date data letting it answer questions about sports matches that are currently happening, or provide real-time info on what nearby restaurants are the best rated, among other things.

Still not perfect

Orange RayBan Meta Smart Glasses in front of a wall of colorful lenses including green, blue, yellow and pink

(Image credit: Meta)

It all sounds very science fiction, but unfortunately these almost magical capabilities come with a catch. For now, the new features – just like the existing conversational AI – are in beta testing. 

So the glasses might have trouble with some of your queries and provide inaccurate answers, or not be able to find an answer at all. What’s more, as Meta explains in its FAQ any AI-processed pictures you take while part of the beta will be stored by Meta and used to train its AI. So your Look and Ask snaps aren’t private.

Lastly, the Meta Ray-Ban smart glasses beta is only available in the US. So if you live somewhere else like me you won’t be able to try these features out – and probably won’t until 2024.

If you are in the US and happy with the terms of Meta’s Privacy Policy, you can sign up for the Early Access program and start testing these new tools. For everyone else hopefully these features won’t be in beta for long, or at least won’t be US-exclusive – otherwise we’ll be left continuing to wonder why we spent $ 299 / £299 / AU$ 449 on smart specs that aren’t all that much better than dumb Ray-Ban Wayfarers at half the cost.

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Gmail will finally get a time-saving emoji feature, but there’s a catch

Google is working on giving Gmail users the opportunity to react to emails with a single emoji on iOS and Android phones.

Rumors regarding emoji reactions on Gmail have been circulating for several weeks although, outside of a few screenshots, we hadn’t seen it in action until recently. Industry insider AssembleDebug managed to get the feature working on their Android device and shared their findings on TheSpAndroid blog

According to the report, a new button will appear “to the right of the email” next to the three-dot menu. Tapping it opens a small menu where you pick from five default emojis: a sparkling heart, a party popper, a thumbs up, a laughing face, the praying hands (which people use to say thank you), as well as your run-of-the-mill smiley face. Once selected, that emoji appears in a reaction bar below the message, as you see in messaging platforms.

Gmail emoji reactions

(Image credit: AssembleDebug/TheSpAndroid)

TheSpAndroid states there will be two other places “from where you can react on an email”. There will be an Add Reaction option in the three-dot menu plus an extra button at the bottom of an email next to Reply, Reply All, and Forward. 

This feature will reportedly work on email threads that include multiple people. They explain that “it may be possible to react just by tapping” emojis somebody else added previously. Of course, users will be able to send any emoji they want by tapping the Plus symbol in the small window that pops up. You’ll have the full library at your disposal.

Gmail emoji access

(Image credit: AssembleDebug/TheSPAndroid)


As fun as this update may sound, there are several limitations present with one in particular that could potentially ruin the experience. 

If other people don’t use the official mobile app, they’ll receive the emoji reactions in separate emails. Imagine sending an email out to a group of people and getting spammed with multiple “emails of emoji reactions”. Not fun. It's important to note that the browser version of Gmail may not have the new emoji support.

It looks like Google is aware of the spam problem as users won’t be allowed to react to emails sent to a large group. So there is some mitigation, but it probably won't be enough to stop the spam. Also, you won’t be able to send emojis to encrypted emails or any received via BCC. The limit for reactions is capped at 20 for one person. In a group, the limit is bumped up to 50 for all.

It’s unknown when this update will roll out. However, AssembleDebug claims it will most likely happen sometime this month and “in batches.” If this comes true, we hope Google quickly releases a version for browsers soon after or installs extra preventative measures to slow down the spam. 

Gmail is a widely used service, but you might find its security capabilities rather lacking. For more options, be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best secure email providers for 2023

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Windows Photos could finally catch up to Apple Photos with these new features

Windows Photos is getting a significant update that will introduce a selection of new features designed to improve user experience. 

According to Microsoft’s official blog post about the Photos improvements, users can expect features like in-depth search, background blur, location search, and ‘Motion Photos’ – think live photos on iPhones – which will bring a little life to the currently rather drab photo software. 

Background blur will surely be welcomed by Photos users who want to remove backgrounds from their photos, highlight certain subjects, or modify the area being blurred. To be honest, it may be cruel to say it, but like the majority of these updates, it’s about time. Many of the new features have already existed for a while on other platforms, most notably within Apple’s software ecosystem.

Get with the times, man

You’ll also be able to search for specific photos by the type of content within the photo. This means you can now type in things like ‘cat, car, beach, holiday’ and more, with the app attempting to identify and collate relevant images. You’ll have to log into your Microsoft account to be able to use the feature, and the blog post does warn that the enhanced search bar may not work right away. 

Other features to expect include live photos and location searches, which will help you find the right picture when you’re ready to reminisce (or plan your next vacation Instagram post). If you went to the beach, you can type in either ‘beach’ or the name of the specific beach, the city you visited, or just home and school. 

Microsoft seems to be on a roll recently, dishing out updates and new features across its product range, and it’s really good to see. With updates to Microsoft Edge, the continuing popularity of Bing AI, and now a Windows Photo refresh, we’re really eager to see what the company has to offer in the near future. 

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Microsoft is finally changing this annoying Windows 11 behavior – but there’s a catch

Windows 11 has a change in testing which will please anyone who is fed up with Edge popping up when opening certain links in the OS, despite it not being the default browser – but there’s a catch, sadly.

You’re surely familiar with the scenario where you open a link via a Windows system component – meaning in a Windows 11 menu somewhere, maybe a help link for example – and it fires up Edge, rather than your chosen favorite web browser.

There’s no way to modify that preference either, but in preview build 23531 which was released at the end of last week in the Dev testing channel, Microsoft has changed it so these system components use your default browser, as they should.

As the blog post for build 23531 makes clear: “In the European Economic Area (EEA), Windows system components use the default browser to open links.”

And in that sentence, you can spot the catch: for now this is just in European countries (specifically the EEA), so it’s not happening in the US or elsewhere.

Analysis: Come on Microsoft, push this out globally

Hopefully this feature will witness a wider regional rollout in time – it’s a small tweak to make, and one that’ll definitely lower the annoyance factor when using Windows 11.

Okay, so it isn’t that often that you click one of these system links, but when Edge pops up unannounced, it can be quite annoying. Especially as it inevitably also throws some kind of banner into the mix upon being opened for the first time in a while (“hey, don’t forget about me, make me your default browser, go on, you know you want to,” and so forth).

Is there a reason Microsoft may have been forced to do this in Europe, pertaining to regulations or compliance issues? We’re not sure, but the chatter on the rumor mill seems convinced enough this is something Microsoft is only doing to head off the danger of being penalized by the EU in some way. It does seem strange that the change is Europe-only, after all.

That said, if the feedback is positive enough, maybe the software giant will listen, and roll out this change more widely anyway, even if this somehow a forced move in Europe.

Elsewhere in build 23531, Microsoft has reinstated the search flyout when you mouse over the search box in the taskbar – not something everyone will appreciate. The good news is that you can turn off this function if you find it irritating.

As ever with test builds of Windows 11, there’s no guarantee that the features being tried out in earlier previews will make the cut for the final version of the OS.

Via Windows Central

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Windows 10 is getting a new cloud backup feature – with a catch

Windows 10 is getting a new feature to backup and restore your system that was previously thought to be exclusive to Windows 11 – but there’s a twist in this tale.

We’re talking about the Windows Backup app which Microsoft pushed out to test versions of Windows 11 earlier this year (in May).

What this does is to back up pretty much everything for you – not just your files and folders, but apps, system settings, login details, the lot, so you can be up and running with a new PC in no time. These details are tied to your Microsoft account and backed up online to the cloud (OneDrive, or one of the other best cloud storage services).

So, this application is coming to Windows 10, and as PhantomOfEarth on X (formerly Twitter) noticed, it’s present in the new Release Preview build for the OS (version 19045.3391, KB5029331).

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However, the mentioned catch here is that while this works to facilitate a full (and seamless) Windows 10 cloud backup, it doesn’t actually let you restore the system to a Windows 10 PC.

Analysis: What’s this all about, then? Migration, in a word

Huh, you might now be thinking – so, what’s the point? Well, while you can’t restore to a new Windows 10 installation as part of setting up a fresh OS, you can restore your backup to a Windows 11 installation.

In other words, this is designed to be used to help those upgrading to Windows 11 bring across all their bits and pieces with a minimum of effort.

This makes sense, as you may recall that earlier this year, Microsoft told us that it would no longer be adding any new features to Windows 10 – outside of very minor tweaking (and security fixes, of course). This does indeed count as a pretty big feature, but as it’s just to aid in migration to the newer OS, it’s not technically of much use to those sticking with Windows 10.

This, then, is essentially a Windows 11 feature, or one to bridge the gap between the two operating systems in a seamless manner when upgrading – which is still a welcome ability. It’s just that it’d have been nice to see it introduced fully for Windows 10, too. Ahh well.

Via Neowin

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Windows 11 Moment 3 update arrives for everyone – but there’s a catch

Windows 11’s Moment 3 update can now be downloaded by anyone who wants to grab it, but you still might want to let caution take the driving seat (and leave valor in the passenger seat) for now.

Wait a minute, you might be thinking: hasn’t Moment 3 already been released? Well, technically yes, it has, but as we covered recently, the feature update hasn’t been made available to all Windows 11 PCs.

In fact, when Microsoft first opened the gates with Moment 3, it was only offered to those who had enabled the option to ‘Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available’. But even then, having turned on that setting was not a guarantee of receiving the upgrade – Moment 3 was still rolled out gradually in a phased manner among that user base.

However, if you’ve missed out on Moment 3 so far, now anyone can get it, as the upgrade has been released as June’s optional update (patch KB5027303).

Whether you should jump on this update right now, though, is another matter, as we mentioned at the outset. Let’s discuss that further…

Analysis: It’s optional for an important reason

Why shouldn’t you download KB5027303? Well, it might have all those juicy Moment 3 features you’ve been hungering for – and there are some nifty bits of functionality added, as we’ve covered previously – but it is still a preview update.

That’s why it’s optional, because this is the last stage of testing for the package. And as it’s effectively beta software – albeit in its final incarnation, so likely pretty stable – you still have a higher chance of encountering bugs than with the full release version.

This is why it’s generally better to wait for that full release version, which in the case of Moment 3, will pitch up next month (it should arrive on July 11, as part of Microsoft’s monthly cumulative update for Windows 11).

At that point, of course, you’ll have no choice but to take Moment 3 onboard your Windows 11 installation (beyond the ability to delay it for a short time, if you choose – as with any cumulative update in Windows 11 Home).

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