Windows 11 bids farewell to WordPad as Microsoft axes longtime favorite (oh, and Cortana)

Microsoft finally gives its iconic WordPad app the chop as a new Windows 11 Canary build reveals that the long-time word processing app’s time is up. The Canary channel is one of four release channels in the Windows Insider Program, Microsoft’s community that gives testers, developers, and enthusiasts access to try out new versions of Windows and new features to gather feedback and improve them before releasing them to the wider user base. 

In WordPad’s place, Microsoft is directing users to use Microsoft Word to work with rich text files, which feels a little cheeky (more about that in a moment). 

We found out that WordPad was being deprecated a little while back, and now Microsoft is making good on its promises. The company elaborated that no new WordPad developments were being worked on at the time of the announcement, and that future Windows 11 releases wouldn’t include it – which is what has happened with the latest WordPad-less Canary build. 

Microsoft also revealed that the WordPad and People apps won’t be included by default upon a clean install of Windows 11, and you’ll no longer be able to reinstall WordPad at a later date.

Man typing on laptop

(Image credit: Chase Chappell/Unsplash)

Users react

This development comes with a tinge of melancholy for many Windows fans because it has been one of Microsoft’s flagship programs for a long time. For many users, it was their preferred choice for a basic and straightforward simple rich text editor, being included in nearly every version of Windows starting with Windows 95. 

Microsoft recommends “Microsoft Word for rich text documents like .doc and .rtf and Windows Notepad for plain text documents like .txt” for users who would like to know what to use instead. 

Of course, the full version of Microsoft Word is part of the Microsoft Office suite, which isn’t free, so recommending a paid-for alternative to a free app they’ve just cut probably won’t go down too well. A much better alternative is LibreOffice Writer, which is part of the free, open-source LibreOffice suite – although I can imagine why Microsoft would be hesitant to send people to a free rival app.

The newest preview build, Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 26020, also saw a move that was long expected from Microsoft – giving Cortana the chop. If you’ve already forgotten what Cortana is (or, rather, was), Cortana is Microsoft’s previous effort in its mission to create a personal productivity assistant. 

Now, it’s leaving Cortana in the past and trucking forward with Windows Copilot, its newer and fresher take on the all-purpose digital assistant that’s powered by AI. According to Tom’s Hardware, Microsoft is so keen to make Copilot a hit (unlike the rather unpopular Cortana), it is now requiring partner keyboard manufacturers to have a dedicated Copilot key. 

A final bow for WordPad – or is it?

To some, this move reminds them of when Microsoft wanted to ax Windows Paint. Many users were incensed, which is understandable, in my opinion, as I think Paint is one of the best apps ever made. In the case of Paint, Microsoft actually listened to users’ outcry and made the app available for download from the Microsoft Store. Since then, it’s been developed and upgraded for Windows 11, and even getting its own AI assistant named Cocreator

It’s speculated that if there’s enough uproar about WordPad’s departure, Microsoft might consider doing something similar for WordPad. WordPad is a quality, solid app that’s simple and straightforward, installed by default, quick to load and get going, and offers more features than NotePad for simple text editing. 

It’s safe to say many users are lamenting WordPad’s exit and are hoping it’ll be made available as an optional download. I guess we’ll have to see if Microsoft is actually interested in continuing to give users the option to work more simply and without unwanted AI features, or if it really is committed to dropping popular basic apps in pursuit of its vision of an AI-powered future.

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Good news Windows fans, the Ayaneo Next Lite gaming handheld will support your favorite OS

The latest in a long line of Ayaneo PC gaming handhelds, dubbed the Ayaneo Next Lite, will not only be an incredibly affordable portable option but will also be changing course on its OS.

According to a statement posted on the official Ayaneo Twitter/X account, the handheld will come with Windows 11 64-bit Home Edition pre-installed instead of Linux. A great option for those who are more familiar with Windows OS versus a Linux-based one. However, for those who prefer the latter, users will still have the option of the open-source HoloISO project version of Linux, which is based on SteamOS.

All this and the Next Lite is still launching at the very budget price of $ 299 up to and during crowdfunding, which is far less expensive than other options on the market. It’s a switch-up from the Next and Next Pro, which seems to be sticking with the Linux-based OS. And that makes more sense as they’re both meant to compete with the Steam Deck.

Ayaneko could differentiate itself from the market 

While in general, I’m quite agreeable with the idea of using Windows OS for the Ayaneo Next Lite, since it’s the most widely used operating system by a longshot, there needs to be a reckoning for PC gaming handhelds that use it in general.

What makes SteamOS so excellent is that it’s tailor-made for the Steam Deck, so it feels smooth and intuitive. However, other PC gaming handhelds that use Windows OS like the Asus ROG Ally and the Lenovo Legion Go, make the mistake of not tailoring said OS to the system which results in a much clunkier user interface.

Though we don’t know what Ayaneo is planning with the Windows 11 OS it’s using for the Next Lite, crafting a unique user interface would be a great way to differentiate it from other handhelds that otherwise have gotten more attention due to its brands being more well known.

Then again, Ayaneko has also made some unusual decisions, like choosing HoloISO which hasn’t been updated in months (at the time of this writing) instead of ChimeraOS for the Linux-based OS. So there’s no telling what the manufacturer is planning other than targeting a much larger market. We'll have to wait and see how things shake out when the handheld finally launches.

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WhatsApp Channels may be the best way to follow your favorite sports team

WhatsApp Channels is preparing for a global tour as the feature will be released to users in over 150 countries over the coming weeks.

As a quick refresher, Channels is the platform’s “one-way broadcast tool” allowing specific entities to send various forms of content like photos or videos to followers. It’s primarily a way for people to receive live updates from local government institutions, sports teams, artists, and celebrities. Channels is kept separate in its own section so you won’t have to worry about your chat rooms suddenly getting flooded with extra messages. The company states in the announcement post it protects “the personal information of both admins and followers.” The Channels you’re subscribed to will not be visible to anyone else. 

Alongside the official launch, WhatsApp will also be adding four new Channels-centric features. All these are the result of user feedback the platform received during the testing phase.

First, there's Reactions to, well, react to posts using a single emoji. Everyone will be able to see the total amount of emojis a piece of content has to gauge whether it was well–received or not. Next is Forwarding, which lets subscribers share posts with friends. The forwarded message will “include a link back to the [source] so people can find out more.” Then there's the Enhanced Directory to help you find popular or newly formed Channels to follow. Do note that what you see in the Directory is “automatically filtered” for your country only.

WhatsApp Channels new features

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

There is more on the way as WhatsApp plans to expand the feature even further. Soon, Channel “admins will be able to make changes to their [posts]”. They have up to 30 days to make edits. After that, the platform will delete everything from their servers. Later down the line in the coming months, it will be possible for the average user to create their own personal Channel. A specific date was not given.

Rolling out

The upgrade is currently rolling out so keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives. 

There is a waitlist for mobile devices that you can join on the WhatsApp Help Center page for Channels. The link doesn’t work on desktop however, possibly hinting that the expansion will be exclusive to smartphone users. We should mention WhatsApp has created its own Channel for users to follow and stay up-to-date on the future of the platform.

We reached out to WhatsApp asking when will Channels for desktop launch as well as when will people be able to create their own feed. This story will be updated at a later time.

In the meantime, check out TechRadar's list of the best encrypted messaging apps for Android in 2023.

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YouTube hatches plan to protect your favorite musicians from AI copycats

YouTube announced that it’s working with Universal Music Group (UMG) to create a new program that would ensure artists and rights holders would be properly compensated for AI music.

The program, called YouTube’s Music AI Incubator, will create a partnership with music industry talent like artists, songwriters, and producers to decide on how to proceed with the advent of AI music. According to YouTube, “In 2023 alone, there have been more than 1.7 billion views of videos related to AI tools on YouTube.” And the video hosting and streaming site is interested in harnessing that level of viewership.

UMG was most likely chosen as the first partner for this problem because of its reservations toward AI, most likely due to the issue of music being fed into algorithms to train it and then recreated into new songs without compensating any of the artists involved. 

And while UMG cracked down on AI music on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube through copyright strikes, pulling songs, and filtering out AI tracks, it also entered a partnership with artificial intelligence music company Endel earlier in 2023 to create AI-assisted music. This shows that it does have a willingness to work with AI, but on its terms.

AI

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Balancing rights with progress

According to Rolling Stone, UMG repeatedly stated that there’s potential for AI to assist artists in the song-making process. Music industry stakeholders, however, should draw a hard line on practices that infringe on artists' intellectual property and draw ears away from ‘real’ human-produced music.

It seems that YouTube also understands that desire to both use AI as a tool to assist artists, as well as set up structures that would guarantee permission and compensation for any music used to train these AI models. The official blog post discusses how YouTube has balanced protecting the rights of copyright holders with users over the years, as well as its content ID that “ensures rights holders get paid for use of their content and has generated billions for the industry over the years.”

YouTube also noted its existing policies that protect against “technically manipulated content” that could be used to mislead users or make false claims. And it’ll work to apply new standards to make sure AI isn’t used for “trademark and copyright abuse, misinformation, spam, and more.”

YouTube CEO Neal Mohan stated that “I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity of AI to supercharge creativity around the world, but recognize that YouTube and the promise of AI will only be successful if our partners are successful.” We’ll see how much that statement holds true, depending on the success of this program.

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The Meta Quest 3 might get my favorite Quest Pro feature

The Meta Quest 3 is reportedly getting a charging dock, as per a US regulatory filing, meaning it’s stealing yet another great feature from Meta’s best VR headset.

With this charging dock – which sounds exactly like the one that came with the Meta Quest Pro – you wouldn’t need to plug the headset into a USB-C charging cable. Instead, you’d just set it down on the base when you’re finished using it, and it’ll recharge via contact charging (metal pins on the base line up with contact points on the headset, and the charge is passed through this connection).

Interestingly, while the base will use contact charging for the headset, it will apparently use 2.5W wireless charging for the controllers (by smartphone standards this is low, but for much simpler controllers we expect charging will be speedy enough). This is a minor upgrade over the Quest Pro’s base, as wireless charging requires you to be a lot less precise with how you place the controllers on the base.

It’s because of this wireless charging change that we know about the base this far in advance of the Meta Quest 3's September 27 official announcement at Meta Connect 2023 – it was listed with the US Federal Communication Agency (FCC), which is tasked with certifying all products with electromagnetic emissions. If the base only used contact charging Meta wouldn’t need to get FCC certification for it, and it would have been kept under wraps for a little longer.

A must-have Quest 3 accessory

Charging docks are not all that exciting – I’d say the Quest Pro's was the most mundane upgrade that headset offered over its predecessors. At the same time, it’s also the best improvement by a country mile because of how much it improves the gadget’s usability.

The Meta Quest Pro on its charging pad on a desk, in front of a window with the curtain closed

The Quest Pro and its controllers on the charging dock (Image credit: Meta)

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve strapped on my Quest 2 only to discover that the battery is completely dry because I forgot to plug it in when I last stopped using it. In the roughly eight months I’ve had a Quest Pro I’ve never had the same issue, and that’s entirely thanks to the charging dock – when I’m done, I just put the headset back in its place and it instantly starts recharging.

The controller charging is handy too. Sure, the Quest 2 handset’s batteries need changing infrequently, but the less I have to think about whether I have AA batteries at the home the better. What’s more, the base is a significantly simpler solution for charging controllers than what other VR brands have used – when I was testing the HTC Vive XR Elite I found that it didn’t come with a helpful charging base, but with separate charging cables for each controller and the headset, necessitating the use of three plug sockets for charging instead of one.

The only question that remains is if the base will be included in the Quest 3’s box or sold as an add-on. Given Meta’s open desire to keep the Quest 3 relatively budget friendly with a streamlined suite of features we can see a world in which it sells the charging dock separately. Equally, $ 499 / £499 / AU$ 829 is a decent chunk of change, and we hope Meta wouldn’t nickel and dime us by forcing us to pay extra for charging accessories that improve the experience significantly.

We’ll just have to wait and see what it announces at Meta Connect 2023.

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Huge visual enhancements could be coming to your favorite Oculus Quest 2 software

Your favorite VR games and apps’ visuals could soon be sharper than ever as Meta is unlocking a new resolution-boosting tool for developers.

Developed in collaboration with Qualcomm – the manufacturer of the Snapdragon chips used by Meta’s headsets – Quest Super Resolution upscaling tool promises to boost image quality and deliver a smoother experience. So expect the best VR games and apps to have sharper images, and be running at higher framerates on your Oculus Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro than they did before the upgrade.

The Quest Super Resolution upgrade follows a major boost to the CPU and GPU performance of Meta’s headsets that came last month in June 2023. Both the Quest 2 and Quest Pro’s CPUs saw a 26% speed boost last month, while the Quest 2 and Quest Pro’s GPUs got a performance boost of 19% and 11% respectively.

Meta was able to achieve these upgrades via a software patch rather than releasing new hardware because it has allowed the existing components to run at higher clock speeds. To avoid the systems getting too hot while you’re wearing them, the Quest headsets’ components were underclocked – read: their maximum performance is held back compared to what it should be able to do running normally. June’s update removed some of these limitations, with Meta likely deciding it was being a bit too conservative with its underclocked approach.

Thanks to Quest Super Resolution, developers have a new way to utilize the Quest system’s improved GPU capabilities. But we’ll have to wait for them to implement Super Resolution into their software before we see any improvements in the VR software we love.

How does Meta Quest Super Resolution work? 

Meta’s blog post gets a little jargon-heavy in its “What is Meta Quest Super Resolution?” section – calling it a “single-pass spatial upscaling and sharpening technique.” What you need to know is that upscaling is a way to get better visual quality out of your hardware without sacrificing performance.

Quest Super Resolution in action (Image credit: Meta)

In general, upscaling works by having a GPU render an image at a lower resolution (say, 1080p or full-HD) and then using tricks to scale it up to a higher one (like 4K, or even 8K). While an upscaled image typically won’t look as crisp as one rendered at the target resolution, it’s a lot less taxing for a GPU to create an upscaled image – as such it can usually run upscaled software at a higher framerate.

Higher smoother framerates are a must-have for VR apps. If the visuals are choppy, or run below a minimum of 90fps, that’s when wearing a headset can make you feel motion sick.

Meta Quest Super Resolution's upscaling algorithm has a few special tricks up its sleeves, too. The highest setting can apparently greatly reduce artifacts caused by upscaled objects blurring into one another at their edges. You can see this in the image above, the Super Resolution image looks the most crisp, with well-defined edges to the objects in the complex scene.

Want to learn more about upscaling? Check out our Nvidia DLSS vs AMD FSR piece to learn about how these two technologies stack up against one another.

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Our favorite free video editing software gets unexpected performance boost from new macOS Sonoma

One of the big announcements at Apple’s WWDC 2023 was macOS Sonoma (we looked it up; it means “Valley of the Moon”). 

Apple claims the new operating system has a sharp focus on productivity and creativity. It says “the Mac experience is better than ever.” To prove it, the company revealed screensavers, iPhone widgets running on Macs, a gaming mode, and fresh video conferencing features. 

But the new macOS has another surprising feature for users of our pick for best free video editing software.  

The final cut 

Beyond WWDC’s bombshell reveal – yes, Snoopy is an Apple fan now – the event served up more than enough meat to keep users happy. There’s a new Macbook Air 15-inch on the way, said to be the “world’s thinnest.” The watchOS 10 beta countdown has started. And the Vision Pro is dividing opinion. Is the VR headset the future or will it lose you friends?

The reveal of the new Mac operating system, meanwhile, feels quieter somehow. Muted. Perhaps new PDF editor functionalities and a host of “significant” updates to the Safari browser aren’t as eye-catching as a pair of futuristic AR/VR ski goggles.  

However, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, said, “macOS is the heart of the Mac, and with Sonoma, we’re making it even more delightful and productive to use.” 

What he didn’t say, but the company later revealed, is that Sonoma adds an extra bonus for video editors. 

Designed for remote and hybrid in-studio workflows, the operating system brings a high-performance mode to the Screen Sharing app. Taking advantage of the media engine in Apple silicon, users are promised responsive remote access with low-latency audio, high frame rates, and support for up to two virtual displays. 

According to Apple, “This mode empowers pros to securely access their content creation workflows from anywhere – whether editing in Final Cut Pro or DaVinci Resolve, or animating complex 3D assets in Maya.” It also enables remote colour workflows that previously demanded the best video editing Macs and video editing PCs

It seems Final Cut Pro is getting a lot of attention lately. May saw the launch of Final Cut Pro for iPad – how did it take so long? – and now better support in the operating system. What next? Perhaps that open-letter from film & TV professionals pleading for improved support really did focus minds at Apple Park.  

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Our favorite free 3D modeling software gets free AI add-on

Free 3D modeling software Blender now supports AI art generator Stable Diffusion, courtesy of an equally free Stability AI add-on. 

Dubbed Stability for Blender, the text-to-image generator lets users “add AI post-processing effects to renders,” Stability AI has revealed. Working inside the 3D software, they can experiment on scenes without endless remodeling, generating textures, animations, and images through text prompts and the tool’s style presets. 

By integrating Stable Diffusion within Blender, the firm hopes to streamline the design process, and make the tools more accessible without investing in dedicated hardware like high-end GPUs and graphic design laptops

But the AI tool may also offer an unexpected bonus for creatives. Artists, animators, and modelers who download the addon will be able to use the platform’s image editor to create textures and images. 

According to the company, users can go further, keyframing all properties and creating animations that “use Blender's built-in animation system to automate properties in Stable Diffusion.” By entering a text prompt, the tool creates an image using the artist’s existing render. 

3D model made in Blender

(Image credit: Stability AI / Blender)

In doing so, Stability for Blender could potentially swerve one of the biggest challenges facing content creators, content distributors, and AI developers: copyright infringement.

With everyone from artists to Getty Images suing AI platforms for illegal use of copyrighted materials, employing rendered frames as a starting point for the diffusion process may yet prove a (somewhat) definitive answer to the question “Who owns AI art?” 

The launch comes just months after rival AI platform OpenAI revealed its own 3D model builder. Its POINT-E solution “produces 3D models in only 1-2 minutes on a single GPU”, the developer said, while admitting it currently “falls short of the state-of-the-art in terms of sample quality”. 

Users with a Stability AI API key can get the Blender add-on by clicking here.  

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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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Everyone’s favorite Windows 11 tool is getting a dark mode

Microsoft is giving its iconic text editor a visual redesign for Windows 11 along with new features to help programmers and others who rely on Notepad in their day-to-day workflows be more productive.

According to a new blog post, the redesigned Notepad for Windows 11 is now rolling out to all Windows Insiders in the Dev Channel and the software giant is encouraging users to submit any suggestions on what can be improved further to its recently launched feedback portal.

Right off the bat, Notepad users will notice that the application now has a completely updated UI that aligns with Windows 11's new visual design including rounded corners, Mica and more. However, one of the most requested new features in Notepad is dark mode.

By default, Notepad will adapt to your system theme preferences in Windows 11 but you can change this option in the software's brand-new settings page which is also the new home for font options.

Find and replace and multi-level undo

The current version of Notepad which ships with Windows 11 houses the text search tool and the find and replace tool in two separate pop-up windows that can be accessed using two different keyboard shortcuts. Thankfully though with its new Notepad redesign, Microsoft is combining these two tools into one floating bar that is much more streamlined and should help improve users' productivity.

Another big change in the next version of Notepad will replace the software's old undo system that only allows users to go back once with multi-step undo. Just like with other modern applications, users will now be able to undo multiple actions which will give them a bit more flexibility when writing.

Despite all of these new features, Word Wrap is still turned off by default in Notepad but it can now be accessed more easily right from the View menu.

As Microsoft's redesigned Notepad app is currently being tested by Windows Insiders, it will likely roll out to other Windows 11 users in an update sometime next year.

We've also highlighted the best free office software, best online collaboration tools and best Microsoft Office alternatives

Via The Verge

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