Our favorite Microsoft Teams feature is coming to more users

Microsoft is preparing an update for collaboration platform Teams that will extend access to of the most useful features to a wider range of users.

As explained in a new entry in the company’s product roadmap, Microsoft is bringing the meeting transcription service to customers running Teams on virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

The update is currently scheduled to take effect in June, after which employees using virtual machines will have full access to the feature.

Microsoft Teams update

The transcription feature was first made available to Teams users roughly a year ago, giving meeting attendees an easy way to review the conversation after the fact. It also gives anyone either late to join or unable to participate the ability to catch up after a meeting has concluded.

“Live transcripts provide a way to follow along with what has been said and who said it. After a meeting, the transcript file is automatically saved in the chat tab for that meeting,” the roadmap entry explains.

Until now, the feature has been available exclusively to employees running the standard Microsoft Teams clients for desktop and mobile, excluding the fairly sizable section of users running Teams out of a virtual machine.

With the upcoming update, however, Microsoft will ensure that all users are able to benefit from the functionality.

The broad objective is to ensure the meeting experience is consistent for all Microsoft Teams users, no matter which client or hardware they are using to dial in. Beyond the transcription feature, the company has made a number of recent additions with this goal in mind.

For example, Microsoft recently extended access to background blur to VDI users, announced an update that will improve the meeting experience on Mozilla Firefox, and enabled the live captions feature for guest users.

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One of the best Microsoft Teams features is coming to more users

Microsoft Teams is working on an update that will extend one of its most useful features to a wider pool of users.

According to a new entry in the Microsoft 365 product roadmap, guest users will soon gain access to the live captions feature for Microsoft Teams on desktop, a facility currently available to registered users only.

The roadmap suggests the update for the collaboration platform is still under development, but should take effect for all users by the end of April. TechRadar Pro has asked Microsoft whether users can expect the change to be extended to the mobile client in future.

Microsoft Teams live captions

Introduced soon after the widespread shift to remote working as a result of the pandemic, the Microsoft Teams live captions feature is designed to ensure that all video meeting participants can follow the thread of conversation effectively. That includes anyone with hearing impairments or whose command of the language spoken in the meeting is imperfect, but also anyone with a poor connection or working in a noisy environment.

Until now, the live captions feature has been gated behind a registration wall. In other words, if someone was joining a meeting as a guest via a link provided by the host, they would have to make do without the accessibility feature.

Multiple queries from IT administrators in the Microsoft help forum suggest this is a problem a number of businesses have encountered. Strangely, responses from advisors suggest there may be a workaround that involves meddling with settings in the Admin Center, but the reliability of this method is unclear.

With the upcoming update, however, Microsoft will make it far simpler for guests to access the live captions feature in Microsoft Teams meetings, without the administrator of the host domain having to wade through the advanced settings.

The update is the latest in a long line of improvements delivered by Microsoft in an effort to establish Teams as the go-to platform for workplace collaboration, in the face of increasingly fierce competition from the likes of Zoom and Slack.

In recent months, for example, Microsoft has announced new integrations between Teams and Office, chat filters designed to help users focused on the task at hand, and optimizations that reduce the platform’s power consumption.

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Chrome OS is coming to PCs and Macs

Google has announced a new version of its Chrome OS software that should allow it to expand to PC and Mac devices for the first time.

The new Chrome OS Flex is designed to run on older machines, and looks to offer businesses and schools in particular with more flexibility on their software choices.

The “cloud-first” software looks similar to the equivalent already seen on Chromebook devices, offering a stripped-back way to access Google Workspace tools such as Gmail, Meet, Google Docs, with thousands of apps available from the Play Store.

Chrome OS Flex

“End-user computing is complicated. And it’s even more complicated for businesses and schools,” Thomas Riedl, Google Cloud Director of Product, Enterprise and Education, wrote in a blog post announcing the news. 

“Slow boot times, intrusive updates, security add-ons, and burdensome management of legacy devices take valuable time away from employees, students, and IT.”

“Chrome OS Flex modernizes devices you already own, allowing you to experience the benefits of Chrome OS on PCs and Macs.”

Chrome OS Flex home screen

(Image credit: Google)

Google says that Chrome OS Flex “boots up in seconds”, meaning there's no long wait times for your device to get ready, with system updates downloading in the background.

Admins can install Chrome OS Flex across business or school devices via USB or network, allowing for a speedy roll-out, with user profiles downloaded through the cloud, automatically syncing their settings, policies and bookmarks.

Chrome OS Flex will also benefit from Google's regular security updates against the latest threats, and Google also notes that due to its un-demanding specs, using Chrome OS Flex means you can keep your existing devices for longer, helping cut down on e-waste.

Riedl noted that the launch had been helped by Google's 2020 acquisition of Neverware, whose Chromium-based CloudReady OS helped businesses around the world shift onto the company's software.

Google says that Chrome OS Flex is not a finished product yet, but users can try the new software as a free trial now ahead of a wider release later this year.

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Vivaldi browser is coming to your car, for some reason

Picture this: You're driving along and your passenger asks a question you don't know the answer to. Now, most people would pull out a smartphone and Google it, but not Vivaldi: the privacy-focused browser company is putting its software in cars.

Through a partnership with Swedish electric carmaker Polestar, Vivaldi will become the first browser available on Android Automotive OS, starting now in Europe, North America, and the Asia Pacific, beating even Chrome to the punch. 

“We have listened to our owner community, and it’s great that we could answer their desire for a browser with Vivaldi as a nice Christmas present,” says Thomas Ingenlath, Polestar CEO. “Now there is basically no limit to the web content you can explore in Polestar 2 – even some of your favourite streaming platforms.”

Has science gone too far?

This is all well and good until you consider the fundamental strangeness of having a fully capable web browser in your car, a vehicle that is mostly meant to get you from A to B. Vivaldi says the browser can only be used when parked, but it seems like it could be a temptation too far.  

According to Vivaldi CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, the partnership came about due to the synergies between Vivaldi and Polestar making sense. 

“We are really proud to introduce our browser to a car for the first time and specifically with a brand like Polestar. Our technological and sustainability ambitions are well aligned,” he said. 

“We value transparency, privacy, and responsible innovation – including the fact that we have our servers in Iceland, one of Polestar’s newest markets. Like Polestar, we are a challenger brand, and we take a Scandinavian approach to design, that is based on trust and listening to our users.”

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Windows 11 drive slowdown bug affects more users than thought – but a fix is coming

Windows 11 continues to run into trouble with drive speeds being seriously hampered, as more users are being affected by a previously flagged issue than was first thought – this isn’t just about NVMe SSDs it seems – but the better news is that Microsoft has a (hopefully imminent) fix in the pipeline.

Earlier this week, we reported on the problem with NVMe SSDs running over 50% slower in some cases with write speeds, but as noted, it turns out that this nasty storage flaw affects all disks, as Microsoft has recently admitted (as spotted by Windows Latest, which points out the problem has been observed across all sorts of online forums).

On November 22, Microsoft pushed out a cumulative update in preview, KB5007262, and under the listed fixes, a cure for this issue is present noting that it affects all types of storage medium.

Microsoft said that KB5007262 “addresses an issue that affects the performance of all disks (NVMe, SSD, hard disk) on Windows 11 by performing unnecessary actions each time a write operation occurs. This issue occurs only when the NTFS USN journal is enabled. Note, the USN journal is always enabled on the C: disk.”

As this is an optional (preview) update, you have to manually install it, and as with anything which is still officially in testing, it may also cause problems as well as solve them.

The best course of action at this point is likely to wait, because this preview update arrived a few weeks back now, and the full (finalized) cumulative update will be available for Windows 11 users on Patch Tuesday for this month, which is this coming Tuesday, December 14.

Analysis: A chance to turn over a new leaf squandered

This is another of those alarming bugs which have blighted Windows 11, and made it an unpleasant experience performance-wise for a number of users. It’s worrying to learn that it affects all types of SSDs and even hard disks as well, considering how much of a speed reduction can be caused by the problem, but at least we know that the resolution is (theoretically) just around the corner now.

Windows 11 has also witnessed a number of serious issues around performance on the desktop with File Explorer, and this is such a fundamental piece of the interface that it’s another very concerning facet of what seems to be misfiring QA (quality assurance) at Microsoft.

That isn’t a new thing, and we’ve got used to this state of affairs with Windows 10, sadly. But it’s something we hoped might be rectified, given that Windows 11 could have been a new leaf for the software giant – but Microsoft certainly hasn’t got off on the right foot here, bug-wise. Indeed, these performance problems with drives and the UI were in evidence before Windows 11 was even released, so it’s not like Microsoft hasn’t had some time to get things right.

Clearly, the drive issue was a thorny problem, and it’s better late than never with the fix – but we won’t stop banging the drum that Microsoft needs to do better when it comes to keeping its desktop operating systems in more bug-free shape than this.

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Android games are coming to Windows 11 with Google Play

The Game Awards, hosted by Geoff Keighley, wrapped up last night, and it came with a fair share of surprises.

Google was one of many companies to appear, announcing that Android apps from the Google Play Games store are coming to both Windows 11 and Windows 10 in 2022.

This is an effort being made by Google itself. While Microsoft has an agreement with Amazon to host Android apps from the Amazon App Store on the redesigned Microsoft Store in Windows 11, this is a different approach from Google.

This will be its own app, enabling users with a Google Play account to download their Android games without having to purchase them again. They can also resume where they left off in a game on their Windows device.

How will the app work?

Google was light on the details during The Game Awards, but the company did explain to The Verge that this will be available in Windows 10 and above.

If you’re playing a game on your Pixel 6 Pro for example, and you decide to switch to your Windows device, you can carry on your progress through this new app from Google.

“Starting in 2022, players will be able to experience their favorite Google Play games on more devices: seamlessly switching between a phone, tablet, Chromebook, and soon, Windows PCs,” Greg Hartrell, Product Director of Games on Android and Google Play explained in a statement. “This Google-built product brings the best of Google Play Games to more laptops and desktops, and we are thrilled to expand our platform for players to enjoy their favorite Android games even more. We’ll have more to share soon!”

It’s a surprising move, but one that’s always seemed inevitable ever since the Amazon App Store was announced to be coming to the Microsoft Store in Windows 11.

Analysis: It’s happening sooner than we expected

We have said before that it would be a matter of time before Google would be interested in bringing Android apps to Windows, but it’s much sooner than we were expecting from the company.

Granted, this is just games from the Google Play Store for now, but it could be the start of other categories of apps eventually arriving on Windows.

With Amazon apps already in testing on the Windows Insider developer channel, where you can test out features in development for Windows, it did seem that Google was the odd one out in this partnership. There were already unofficial efforts where you could run your Android apps in Windows 11.

Google Play Games could make an impact on Windows, but that depends on whether the most popular games will be available. On the Google Play Store, games such as Candy Crush, Coin Master, and Monopoly constantly appear on the charts, so it’ll be important to see these arrive in this new app for Windows.

It won’t be a stretch to see games such as Minecraft appear on the app as well, as it’s owned by Microsoft, but it does depend on whether developers want their games to appear on the app as well.

As with other storefronts that users can visit on their Windows devices, such as Steam and Epic Games Store, it may be a challenge to showcase to users what the benefits of having Google Play Games on Windows will be. Some may think it is just another store that will clog up their PC.

However, being able to resume your progress in Candy Crush may be a tempting feature for some. This effort could encourage Google to not only bring more games to this app but other categories from the Google Play Store in time as well.

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Windows 11’s new emoji – including Clippy – won’t be coming to Windows 10

Windows 11 has just got some nifty looking new emoji, as you may recall, which are Fluent-style and modern-looking affairs – but these won’t be coming to Windows 10.

They landed earlier this week as part of a preview update for Windows 11, so are officially still only in testing even on that OS, although Microsoft will send them fully live for Windows 11 in December (on Patch Tuesday, which will be December 14).

The emoji – which include the paperclip being replaced by Clippy, the iconic assistant who pestered, er, we mean helped us in Word back in the day – will not arrive in Windows 10, or at least that appears to be Microsoft’s plan as reported by Windows Latest.

The tech site claims that Microsoft has no intention of drafting the modern emoji over to Windows 10, and that they will remain exclusive to Windows 11, at least for the time being anyway. Windows Latest does further observe that Microsoft might change its mind in the future, though.

Analysis: Emoji aren’t high on most folks’ Windows 10 wish-lists

Of course, many Windows 10 users will say that they won’t especially be losing much sleep over the lack of refreshed emoji, and that’s a fair point. They aren’t a huge deal, and not a reason anyone would be upgrading to Windows 11, that’s for sure.

That said, they are nice to have, and it wouldn’t be much of an effort to pipe them over to Windows 10. Maybe Microsoft feels that they’d stick out a bit as odd, as the old operating system hasn’t had the benefit of the Fluent Design-style makeover that Windows 11 arrived with.

Whatever the reasoning right now, we could see them ported over eventually, as the report observes. In the meantime, Windows 10 users will just have to stick with their tired old vanilla emoji.

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Free VPN might be coming to a Chrome-based browser soon but it is not Edge

Vivaldi has brought a new stack of features to its eponymous challenger browser, Vivaldi browser. The fifth iteration of the browser brings theme sharing to the fore as well as Vivaldi Translate, one that doesn’t use Microsoft or Google technologies and will live in a dedicated Translate panel on the desktop browser.

Vivaldi on Android will get two-level tab stacks for extreme browser users, while Chromebooks/tablet users will get a side panel to optimize screen space better. The browser has historically shunned many of the tracking and data collections techniques used by rivals as it aspires to be one of the  best browsers for privacy and anonymity

Is Vivaldi VPN next?

Speaking of which, a source close to Vivaldi has confirmed to TechRadar Pro that they are actively looking for the right partners to launch their own VPN service, one which is likely to cost nothing given that Opera, which was founded by Vivaldi’s CEO Jon von Tetzchner, has integrated a free VPN in its browser for several years.

Our source cheekily added: “You never say never, we may come up with our own solution, just the way we've got Mail, Calendar, Feeds (in beta currently). Having our own VPN is not trivial so it would be premature to make a headline of sorts. But yes, we are looking at potential partners.”

Mozilla went the other way by having Mozilla VPN that sits alongside its popular Firefox browser as a paid for service. Safari developer Apple, on the other hand, offers a Privacy Relay, which is similar to a VPN Lite service as part of iCloud+ subscription. 

Google Chrome doesn’t have any VPN attached to it although Google has started to roll one as part of its Google One subscription. That leaves Microsoft as the only big browser outfit without a consumer facing VPN or privacy product but for how long.

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Adobe Max 2021: the 5 best new features coming to Lightroom

Adobe Max is the software giant's equivalent of Apple's WWDC, and some of the event's most exciting announcements have been for its popular photo editing package Lightroom.

Photoshop is likely the more famous app of the two, and has just stolen some of the Adobe Max headlines with the arrival of Photoshop for Web. But Lightroom is the organizational and editing bedrock of many photographers' workflows, and all three versions of the app – mobile, desktop and Classic – have just received some great-looking updates.

We’ll bring you a full review of the latest version of Lightroom as soon as the updates roll our into our Creative Cloud subscription – look out for Lightroom Desktop version 5.0, iOS version 7.0 and Android version 7.0 any day now.

But whichever version you use – or are thinking about stumping up for – here are the five biggest new features coming to all versions of Lightroom.

The 5 best new features coming to Adobe Lightroom

1. Proper masking and selection tools

For the longest time, 'masking' has been a solid answer to give when someone asks why you would round-trip an image to Photoshop. Sure, Lightroom has always offered masking – we could barely function without its excellent and easy-to-use gradient filter – but now, for the first time, we'll get proper, adjustable and refine-able masks. 

Lightroom will also get two new types of mask, joining the gradient, circular, and brush options, with Select Sky and Select Subject both making their AI-powered way over from Photoshop. Masks can be inverted as well – this was possible before with gradient and circular masks, but not with masks that you’d applied manually with the brush tool. As you’d expect, you can create multiple masks.

Image 1 of 2

A screenshot of Adobe Lightroom's new masking tools on a landscape photo

(Image credit: Adobe)
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A screenshot of Adobe Lightroom's masking tools being used on a photo of a horse

(Image credit: Adobe)

Another power-user feature of the new masking and selection tools is the ability to name masks, which is another useful feature that Photoshop users will like. All in all, the new masking and selection tools make Lightroom significantly more powerful – in a lot of ways they become de facto adjustment layers, and in our experience, will save on round-tripping images out to Photoshop pretty often. That’s not to be sniffed at – round-tripping images is expensive both in terms of time and storage.

We have questions. What will happen to masks if you create them in Lightroom and then attempt to open an image in Photoshop? Is there a limit to the number of masks you can create, and does the inclusion of “select sky” presage the development of the “replace sky” tool currently in Photoshop proper? These questions should largely be answered when the upgrade touches down.

The new masking feature is coming to all versions of Lightroom, plus Adobe Camera Raw. The sky and subject selection tools, meanwhile, are coming to all versions, with the exception of a currently-unannounced list of unsupported mobile devices. Are we jazzed about this one? Embarrassingly so.

2. Crop shop

The other main improvements to Lightroom are constrained to the cloud-based Lightroom (rather than what we refer to as 'proper' Lightroom Classic), as well as Lightroom Web and its mobile iOS and Android versions. 

These include the 'strange it wasn’t there at launch' inclusion of crop overlays – you know, the ability to see gridlines on your images when you crop them.

A screenshot of Adobe Lightroom's new crop overlays on a laptop screen

(Image credit: Adobe)

These will include traditional grids and rule-of-thirds guidelines, as well as golden ratio and spiral guides to go alongside the already-included ability to crop to a particular aspect ratio. 

A little strangely, this one’s only coming to the desktop version of Lightroom, with keen-to-crop mobile and web users left out in the cold.

Adobe is continuing to lean into cloud computing and AI with recommended presets, a feature that's coming to Lightroom (not the Classic version), as well as the mobile and web versions of the software. 

Described as a “springboard” for those looking for editing inspiration, Recommended presets will look at the image in question and suggest a preset that might suit it. Impressively, this won’t be restricted to the presets you have stored locally, but will include presets released (presumably) for free by the community.

A screenshot of Adobe Lightroom's new recommended presets

(Image credit: Adobe)

This could be a really great way of finding appropriate presets, and for those stuck without a clear vision for how an image should look, a great way of getting started without the trial and error. 

On the subject of presets, Adobe is continuing its foray into the world of paid-for presets, with another pack of eight preset packs to be released soon and available for all versions of Lightroom.

4. Community Remix

The question of creating a successful social network that appeals to photographers has been a vexed one for some time. With Instagram increasingly focusing on video to counter the threat caused to its numerical supremacy by TikTok, Adobe fancies it can see a gap in the market. Consequently, give a warm welcome to Community Remix, coming to the desktop versions of Lightroom initially, with rollout to other platforms coming “soon”.

A screenshot of Adobe Lightroom's new Community Remix feature

(Image credit: Adobe)

The premise is simple – share an image online and the community will be able to open it locally, edit it, and upload the results to the applause (perhaps) of the masses. You’ll also be able to do that the other way around, of course, opening the work of others to provide your own interpretation of their image. 

It’s a really interesting idea, particularly for those starting out photographically and looking to do justice to their images in post-production. A useful way of learning new skills, looking at your images differently, and stretching your knowledge to the limits? It all depends on how warmly the new feature is greeted by the community, but it’s a promising idea to say the least.

5. Lightroom Academy

On a similar educational theme, the web version of Lightroom will also be branching into photography education with a new resource called Lightroom Academy.

The aim is apparently to teach learners some of the fundamental concepts of photography in an interactive way, starting with a series on composition. You can work through the lessons at your own pace, and they looked nicely laid out if not exactly revolutionary.

A screenshot of Adobe Lightroom's new Lightroom Academy site

(Image credit: Adobe)

The images come from the Lightroom community, while the quiz-like challenges and 'On Your Own' exercises bring a crucial interactive element, although it's a shame these don't take place within Lightroom. Still, it's entirely free (including non-subscribers) and Adobe is promising to update Lightroom Academy with new classes and resources in 2022.

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