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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This cringeworthy Microsoft Teams feature could soon be forced upon you

Microsoft is readying an update for collaboration platform Teams that will allow admins to change the way meetings are displayed for all attendees.

As explained in a new entry to the company’s product roadmap, meeting hosts will soon be given the option to enable Together Mode for all participants. The update is still under development, but should take effect by the end of May.

Launched in the summer of 2020, Together Mode for Microsoft Teams brings all attendees into a shared virtual background, with the goal of “making it feel like you’re sitting in the same soom with everyone else”.

Together Mode

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams

Although the ambition behind Together Mode is a noble one, the execution leaves plenty to be desired. In this writer’s opinion, the virtual background filled with floating heads only serves to emphasize the fact a meeting is not, in fact, taking place in-person.

While Microsoft’s AI system does a decent enough job of cutting out each person’s home office background, and some people will get on with the feature better than others, there’s an welcome strangeness to the final result.

The idea that meeting hosts should be able to dictate that everyone uses the feature is particularly strange. While there’s something to be said for operating on a level playing field, some users are bound to find the feature more helpful (or unhelpful) than others, which makes a blanket policy counterproductive.

However, not all of Microsoft’s attempts to introduce variety to the way Teams meetings are displayed have been quite so divisive.

Last year, the company rolled out a series of new presenter modes designed to help Teams users flex their presentation style to the occasion. Standout Mode, for example, seats the presenter’s video feed in front of the slide deck, while Reporter Mode places content above the shoulder in the style of a news broadcast.

The features were an example of the way in which virtual backgrounds and clever positioning of content can legitimately improve the quality of video meetings, delivering on Microsoft’s stated ambition to “help presenters deliver content more professionally and offer meeting participants dynamic experiences”.

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This cringeworthy Microsoft Teams feature could soon be forced upon you

Microsoft is readying an update for collaboration platform Teams that will allow admins to change the way meetings are displayed for all attendees.

As explained in a new entry to the company’s product roadmap, meeting hosts will soon be given the option to enable Together Mode for all participants. The update is still under development, but should take effect by the end of May.

Launched in the summer of 2020, Together Mode for Microsoft Teams brings all attendees into a shared virtual background, with the goal of “making it feel like you’re sitting in the same soom with everyone else”.

Together Mode

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams

Although the ambition behind Together Mode is a noble one, the execution leaves plenty to be desired. In this writer’s opinion, the virtual background filled with floating heads only serves to emphasize the fact a meeting is not, in fact, taking place in-person.

While Microsoft’s AI system does a decent enough job of cutting out each person’s home office background, and some people will get on with the feature better than others, there’s an welcome strangeness to the final result.

The idea that meeting hosts should be able to dictate that everyone uses the feature is particularly strange. While there’s something to be said for operating on a level playing field, some users are bound to find the feature more helpful (or unhelpful) than others, which makes a blanket policy counterproductive.

However, not all of Microsoft’s attempts to introduce variety to the way Teams meetings are displayed have been quite so divisive.

Last year, the company rolled out a series of new presenter modes designed to help Teams users flex their presentation style to the occasion. Standout Mode, for example, seats the presenter’s video feed in front of the slide deck, while Reporter Mode places content above the shoulder in the style of a news broadcast.

The features were an example of the way in which virtual backgrounds and clever positioning of content can legitimately improve the quality of video meetings, delivering on Microsoft’s stated ambition to “help presenters deliver content more professionally and offer meeting participants dynamic experiences”.

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Microsoft could soon improve this divisive Windows 11 feature

Windows 11 looks like it might soon support third-party widgets, as another clue that they could be imminent has popped up courtesy of an eagle-eyed Twitter user.

FireCube did some digging and spotted that the widget manifest has been updated to reference downloading widgets – tiny apps that provide at-a-glance info, such as the current weather, or local traffic – from the Microsoft Store.

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The text informing users that they can “download new widgets and widget updates in Microsoft Store” is another piece of evidence that the eventual plan is to let developers put their third-party widgets in the Store, and allow Windows 11 users to download whatever they want.

The widgets panel would then be more useful, of course, with a bigger range of options and plenty more scope for customization, compared to the current situation where people can only use Microsoft’s own widgets in the panel.

As Windows Central, which spotted this, points out, its own Zac Bowden – a prolific source of Microsoft leaks – has previously said that the widget panel is expected to be getting third-party efforts, plus new features, and indeed that developers have already been briefed as to how third-party widgets will function. Previous leaks have pointed to third-party widgets being inbound, too.


Analysis: Expanding the widget panel in more ways than one

Bowden made those comments in December 2021, four months ago now, and with this latest spotting of a nugget of evidence that Microsoft is preparing to implement third-party widgets, it seems a firm enough possibility that they will debut at some point in 2022.

Would that be with the big H2 2022 (Sun Valley 2) update? Maybe, but given that Microsoft has been adding stuff to Windows 11 as and when it likes so far this year – witness the recent arrival of some big interface changes outside of major feature updates – then maybe this clue turning up now is a sign we could be installing third-party widgets in the OS sooner rather than later.

As for the other plans Microsoft has for the widget panel, at its recent Windows 11 reveal, we did catch a glimpse of a full-screen panel; so that could be in the pipeline too (and it’d provide more screen real-estate to populate with third-party widgets).

The widget panel is, of course, a divisive feature, and some folks really don’t appreciate it, viewing it as a rather pointless element of the UI. Its usefulness is certainly limited in its current form, being restricted to Microsoft services (like OneDrive, for example, and the likes of MSN weather).

Opening up the ability to add a huge range of new widgets from all over the shop would certainly help to make the panel a more compelling feature for Windows 11, and markedly improve the perception of this part of the interface.

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Windows 11 could get this popular macOS feature

Windows 11 would appear to be bringing in a popular feature from macOS, or at least a rough equivalent to Apple’s Quick Look capability is reportedly in testing at Microsoft.

Windows Latest claims that the feature is being considered for inclusion in Windows 11 – and Windows 10 for that matter – via the PowerToys suite of tools, and it’ll supposedly be called ‘Peek’.

Like the Mac’s Quick Look, the idea is that you can highlight a file – say an image – and tap a key to see a preview of that pic pop up on the desktop (then you can tap the key again to dismiss that preview). As the name makes clear, it’s a way of quickly peeking at a preview of the file in question.

Windows Latest reckons that this feature was experimented with during a hack week at Microsoft, and was well-received, so the functionality has been drafted into internal builds of PowerToys at this stage.

Whether or not it’ll make the cut and actually get released – and how much truth there is to this report, which remains speculation, of course – we’ll just have to see.


Analysis: You can already do this in Windows (sort of) 

It’s certainly true that this is a feature that a good number of Windows users have been longing for in the past. Indeed, there’s already an app for Windows 10 called ‘QuickLook’ (ahem) which can be grabbed from the Microsoft Store, and enables swiftly previewing files (or at least some files – ‘tons’ of formats are supported, the developer claims) by tapping the spacebar.

Having an official solution, rather than a third-party app, would of course be a much more preferable situation and a generally neater state of affairs.

The power of Peek or Quick Look is to be able to quickly glance at an image to, say, check if it’s the right one you want to upload somewhere, rather than having to fully open the photo and wait for an app to fire up. It’s a highly convenient way of working for certain situations.

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Windows 11’s best new feature comes with a big catch

Microsoft has announced a powerful new feature for Windows 11 that can protect users from malicious apps and downloads – but to enable it, you’ll have to deal with a pretty big catch: a total reinstall of Windows 11.

The Smart App Control feature aims to keep your PC protected from malicious apps, and as PCWorld reports, this “major enhancement to the Windows 11 security model,” as Microsoft calls it, will be baked into Windows 11, with every new app you run checked to see if it may be a virus – or worse.

It appears to be based on similar tech to SmartScreen, which is included in the Edge web browser, but will go much further in checking apps you run on your PC, including ones you download using other browsers.

This increased level of threat protection is great to have, and will be of particular use to businesses and enterprises that want to ensure their devices are protected. However, it comes with a pretty big caveat: existing Windows 11 users will need to reinstall Windows 11 completely. This means wiping your entire PC and starting again, and that could be a real pain for many users.


Analysis: is it worth it?

Angry man ripping out his hair in front of his laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As Microsoft explained when it announced the feature, “Devices running previous versions of Windows 11 will have to be reset and have a clean installation of Windows 11 to take advantage of this feature.”

For new Windows 11 devices, this shouldn’t be an issue, as hopefully they'll ship with the latest version of the operating system which includes this feature. However, if you're already running Windows 11 you’ll be faced with a dilemma: do you wipe and reinstall Windows 11, or miss out on added security?

Performing a fresh install of Windows 11 is not a minor task. Although it’s certainly easier than with previous versions of Windows, you’ll be erasing all your apps, documents and settings. You’ll need to make sure all your important documents are backed up before you do this, and then spend time re-downloading and installing your apps and games, and tweaking your settings.

This is a time-consuming process on a single device, but for businesses that have a large number of Windows 11 PCs already it could cause major logistical issues.

Despite this, it’s advisable for many people to perform the reinstall to get the new feature, as any additional protection against online threats is worth having, especially if that protection is baked-in at a system level, which should minimize any impact on performance.

For people who download a lot of programs from the internet, and businesses for which the protection of devices and the data they hold is of the utmost importance, this is an inconvenience that's worth enduring – and the earlier you do it, the less impact it should have.

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Windows 11’s best new feature comes with a big catch

Microsoft has announced a powerful new feature for Windows 11 that can protect users from malicious apps and downloads – but to enable it, you’ll have to deal with a pretty big catch: a total reinstall of Windows 11.

The Smart App Control feature aims to keep your PC protected from malicious apps, and as PCWorld reports, this “major enhancement to the Windows 11 security model,” as Microsoft calls it, will be baked into Windows 11, with every new app you run checked to see if it may be a virus – or worse.

It appears to be based on similar tech to SmartScreen, which is included in the Edge web browser, but will go much further in checking apps you run on your PC, including ones you download using other browsers.

This increased level of threat protection is great to have, and will be of particular use to businesses and enterprises that want to ensure their devices are protected. However, it comes with a pretty big caveat: existing Windows 11 users will need to reinstall Windows 11 completely. This means wiping your entire PC and starting again, and that could be a real pain for many users.


Analysis: is it worth it?

Angry man ripping out his hair in front of his laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

As Microsoft explained when it announced the feature, “Devices running previous versions of Windows 11 will have to be reset and have a clean installation of Windows 11 to take advantage of this feature.”

For new Windows 11 devices, this shouldn’t be an issue, as hopefully they'll ship with the latest version of the operating system which includes this feature. However, if you're already running Windows 11 you’ll be faced with a dilemma: do you wipe and reinstall Windows 11, or miss out on added security?

Performing a fresh install of Windows 11 is not a minor task. Although it’s certainly easier than with previous versions of Windows, you’ll be erasing all your apps, documents and settings. You’ll need to make sure all your important documents are backed up before you do this, and then spend time re-downloading and installing your apps and games, and tweaking your settings.

This is a time-consuming process on a single device, but for businesses that have a large number of Windows 11 PCs already it could cause major logistical issues.

Despite this, it’s advisable for many people to perform the reinstall to get the new feature, as any additional protection against online threats is worth having, especially if that protection is baked-in at a system level, which should minimize any impact on performance.

For people who download a lot of programs from the internet, and businesses for which the protection of devices and the data they hold is of the utmost importance, this is an inconvenience that's worth enduring – and the earlier you do it, the less impact it should have.

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Home Widget brings a feature that I hoped would come in iOS 16

During the first few months of the pandemic in 2020 when the UK was in lockdown, I decided to finally follow through with some plans for the house to help make some appliances easier to manage.

The first easy win in this was smart lights. Over a weekend, I replaced every light that we used across the house with a smart one that would be available to manage over Apple's Home app, or Amazon's Alexa as a way to command the lights in the living room.

But while Apple's Home app, in which you can manage all of your lights and other smart home appliances, was easy enough to use, it's never had widgets, which has always baffled me.

Widgets first arrived in iOS 14 back in 2020, but it's taken an innovative app called Home Widget to lessen my annoyance with the lack of a Home one. Now, I've got a bunch of widgets on my home screen for my lights, without opening a single app.

Let there be (smart) light

Home Widget app in iOS

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Available for free, alongside an in-app purchase of $ 8.99 / £8.99 / AU$ 10.99 to let you create an unlimited amount of widgets, the app will monitor every smart appliance that's connected to your iPhone, and these will show in the app.

After this, you can create different panels for the lights or other appliances in your home, alongside choosing the colors, icons, and more.

Once you're done, you can place them on your iPhone or iPad home screen. Pressing one of these will either switch on or off what you've selected, without having to go into an app like Apple's Home.

Yes, this may sound very obvious to those who don't have smart lights in their home that manage them through an iPhone, but after two years of using the Home app, it's always felt off that a tentpole iOS feature that Apple has been showcasing since 2020, is nowhere to be found in its own Home app.

But Home Widget does it well, especially in how easy it is to manage your widgets. There's also a nice touch of the app showing all the widgets you've made on its launch screen, in a Tetris layout.

The app recently updated to 1.2, which brings support for HomeKit cameras, battery sensors, the color of your lights, and more.

Regardless of whether Apple brings widgets to its Home app in the future, perhaps at WWDC 2022, Home Widget is already a favorite and scratches a big itch that I've had for my house for two years.

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New Google Docs feature lets you provide feedback in an entirely different way

Collaborating with others in Google Docs is about to look a whole lot different especially when it comes to giving and receiving feedback.

While Google’s office software already allows users to highlight sentences and paragraphs to leave comments, the search giant will soon be rolling out reactions to provide a less formal alternative to comments.

According to a new post in the Google Workspace blog, Google is adding emoji reactions to Docs. In practice, this new feature will look and feel similar to how users can react to messages in a group chat, for better or worse.

Emoji reactions

Whether you like it or not, this feature will be on by default and can not be disabled by users according to Google.

To access reactions in Docs, users simply need to select a sentence or even a paragraph they want to react to and they’ll be able to add an emoji reaction from the pop-up menu on the right side of the screen just like adding comments to a document.

If you’re a fan of emojis and use them frequently, you’ll be happy to know that any preferences set in Google Docs will also be shared with Google Chat. These include emoji skin tone and gender preferences and Google has also added gender-neutral options for gender-modifiable emojis.

Emoji reactions are rolling out now to Rapid Release domains and will roll out to Scheduled Release domains beginning on April 20. All Google Workspace users as well as users with personal Google Accounts will be able to use this feature once it goes live.

While emoji reactions could potentially make using Google’s online collaboration tools more fun, the ability to disable the feature altogether would be a nice touch for more serious organizations and users.

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