ProtonMail is getting into the email alias game

The secure email provider ProtonMail has announced that SimpleLogin has joined Proton in an effort to make it easier for its users to generate email aliases.

According to a new blog post from Proton founder and CEO Andy Yen, the firm has been following SimpleLogin closely for some time now as the company’s users leverage its service to prevent their email addresses from being leaked to spammers.

For those unfamiliar, SimpleLogin is a browser extension, web app and mobile app that provides users with anonymous email addresses whenever they sign up for a new online service. As its name suggests, the company offers a simple way to create a login by generating an email alias so that users don’t need to disclose their real email address.

If an online service you use gets hacked, frequently sends you spam or sells your email address to advertisers, you can disable that email alias in order to safeguard your inbox. This is why SimpleLogin is a complementary service to ProtonMail as it prevents malicious actors from exploiting your real email address while ProtonMail protects your sensitive emails and other personal data using encryption.

ProtonMail and SimpleLogin

Now that SimpleLogin has joined Proton, in the coming months the company plans to better integrate its functionality into ProtonMail so that its users will be able to hide their email addresses using the service.

If you already use SimpleLogin with ProtonMail though, things will continue to work the same as before. Going forward, SimpleLogin will continue working as a separate service and its team will continue building new features and adding functionality but now with the benefit of Proton’s infrastructure and security engineering capabilities.

Proton itself began as a crowdfunded project and as former scientists, its creators strongly believe in peer review and transparency. In the privacy space, SimpleLogin is one of the few organizations whose values align with those of Proton’s which is why the two companies joining forces is a natural fit.

We’ll likely hear more about how ProtonMail users can utilize SimpleLogin to create their own email aliases directly from the service once Proton adds its technology to its own.

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Microsoft 365 is getting a rather uncharitable price hike

Microsoft has announced it will soon raise the price of its office software subscriptions for non-profit organizations.

The price hike will take effect on September 1 2022, and vary by degree depending on the specific subscription bundle. The most significant change will apply to the Office 365 E3 package, which will rise in price by almost 30% to $ 5.75/user/month.

Although Microsoft has only provided specific figures for US-based customers, the company has confirmed the rise will apply worldwide, with “local market adjustments” in some regions.

Microsoft 365 pricing

The move to raise prices for non-profit customers comes hot on the heels of a more broad-based price hike, announced last month. The change was described by Microsoft as the first “substantive Office 365 pricing update” since the launch of the productivity suite just over a decade ago.

In an FAQ post addressing the latest increase, Microsoft gestured towards the introduction of new Office 365 apps and services as justification for the change.

The company also said it believes both commercial and non-profit customers have recovered sufficiently from pandemic-related turmoil to shoulder the rise, even if conditions remain somewhat unpredictable.

“This is the right time to update our pricing. Although there are still questions and uncertainty, we see clear signs of economic recovery around the world,” wrote Microsoft.

“Moreover, over the past few years our competitors have increased prices, in some cases aggressively. We simply have a better story and proven track record of reinvestment in the product and consistently delivering new value to our customers.”

Despite the price hike, the rates for charities and other non-profits remains considerably lower than for typical commercial customers, with discounts as large as 75% across some packages.

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Windows 11 is getting new Focus tools to boost productivity

Focus Assist has been a tentpole feature in Windows 11, and thanks to a new update, they're improving it further from today (April 5), after Microsoft announcing it at its event, thanks to the introduction of an integrated focus timer.

First introduced in Windows 10, Microsoft’s Focus Assist tools have been a useful ally in the war against notification vying to steal your attention away from work, games, and media.

Working similarly to your phone's alert slider and settings, Focus Assist allows you to filter out some or all of the notifications and alerts that could pop up and steal your attention away from whatever you are meant to be doing, so long as you remember to turn it on in the first place.

Increasing your Focus further

Thankfully that should not be as much of a problem anymore, as Windows 11 will soon be getting an integrated focus timer that is able to schedule dedicated blocks of ‘focus time’ into your schedule based on your calendar and working habits for the week.

Previously this useful Focus tool has only been available to customers of Microsoft’s paid Viva Insights program, which helps users build better working habits, so it is great to see the feature roll out to all users across Windows 11 who want to be more productive.

Currently, users looking to maximize their productivity and get the most out of Focus Assist have had to rely on setting up automatic timers or conditions upon which Focus Assist would activate, such as when a second monitor is connected or when you are playing a game.

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Gmail on Android notifications are getting a whole new look that might divide users

Android users will soon be able to quickly see whether they have a notification from Google Chat or Spaces right from the status bar as a new update is now rolling out to Gmail.

As Hangouts will soon be replaced by Google Chat for Google Workspace users, the search giant has added new status bar icons that make it easier to differentiate between Google Chat and Spaces notifications.

Up until now, Google's messaging app Chat and its Slack and Microsoft Teams competitor Spaces have both used a filled-in message bubble with another one behind it as their status bar icon. This made it difficult for users to determine whether they had a message from a single co-worker or if someone had said something in a group chat.

Thankfully, this will no longer be the case once Google's latest update for Gmail becomes widely available.

New status bar icons

As spotted by 9to5Google, Gmail for Android is currently in the process of rolling out separate icons for both Chat and Spaces notifications.

The new Chat icon is a single message bubble that's outlined and has an empty interior while the new Spaces icon depicts three people next to each other. If either of these new icons look familiar, that is because they're currently being used on Google's email client for desktop.

While the new Google Chat icon makes sense, some users might be confused by the new Spaces icon at first since it looks more like a social networking app than a workplace chat app.

According to 9to5Google, the publication has only seen these new status bar icons appear on a single Android smartphone running Gmail version 2022.02.20. However, Google will likely roll them out to more Android devices soon.

Via 9to5Google

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Gmail on Android notifications are getting a whole new look that might divide users

Android users will soon be able to quickly see whether they have a notification from Google Chat or Spaces right from the status bar as a new update is now rolling out to Gmail.

As Hangouts will soon be replaced by Google Chat for Google Workspace users, the search giant has added new status bar icons that make it easier to differentiate between Google Chat and Spaces notifications.

Up until now, Google's messaging app Chat and its Slack and Microsoft Teams competitor Spaces have both used a filled-in message bubble with another one behind it as their status bar icon. This made it difficult for users to determine whether they had a message from a single co-worker or if someone had said something in a group chat.

Thankfully, this will no longer be the case once Google's latest update for Gmail becomes widely available.

New status bar icons

As spotted by 9to5Google, Gmail for Android is currently in the process of rolling out separate icons for both Chat and Spaces notifications.

The new Chat icon is a single message bubble that's outlined and has an empty interior while the new Spaces icon depicts three people next to each other. If either of these new icons look familiar, that is because they're currently being used on Google's email client for desktop.

While the new Google Chat icon makes sense, some users might be confused by the new Spaces icon at first since it looks more like a social networking app than a workplace chat app.

According to 9to5Google, the publication has only seen these new status bar icons appear on a single Android smartphone running Gmail version 2022.02.20. However, Google will likely roll them out to more Android devices soon.

Via 9to5Google

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Microsoft 365 is getting a load of features we already knew about – and a few we didn’t expect

Microsoft has provided an update on a number of upcoming features for its suite of productivity and collaboration software, designed to help support the demands of hybrid working.

In conjunction with its latest Work Trend Index report, Microsoft has clarified the release windows for new facilities spanning Microsoft Teams, Outlook and other services, on which TechRadar Pro has previously reported.

However, the company also announced a handful of brand new features, including new meeting room hardware, tools to assist with virtual presentations and an addition to the newest Microsoft 365 service, Loop.

Microsoft 365 for hybrid working

Since the start of the pandemic, Microsoft has worked doggedly to turn collaboration and video conferencing platform Teams into a central hub for working, by rolling out a variety of feature updates and new integrations designed to create synergies between its apps. 

Now, with many businesses shifting towards a new working model as offices reopen, the company is making a series of tweaks that better align its software with the hybrid working era.

In December, we reported that Microsoft was developing a new feature for Outlook that would allow users to specify whether they will be attending a meeting in-person or online, called Outlook RSVP. Microsoft has now confirmed the feature will become available at some point in Q2, 2022.

Separately, TechRadar Pro reported on a new video call layout coming to Microsoft Teams, which is supposed to enable more equitable hybrid working meetings by bringing remote participants eye-to-eye with those in the office. The feature is now available in preview, with “enhancements” to arrive later in the year.

Microsoft

(Image credit: Microsoft)

What's new, Microsoft?

Microsoft also had a few surprises in store, however, the most notable of which is perhaps a pair of updates designed to improve the online presentation experience.

In the coming months, Microsoft will integrate recording studio and cameo, two PowerPoint features that allow users to record and add a video feed to their presentations, respectively. And second, the company unveiled a feature called Language Interpretation for Microsoft Teams, which lets human interpreters dial into a presentation to provide live translation for international attendees.

The company also took the opportunity to announce a new AI-powered business webcam for the Surface Hub 2, which offers intelligent framing and image optimization, and two touch-enabled displays from Neat and Yealink. Microsoft says the third-party devices are undergoing certification for Microsoft Teams Room and should be available to purchase in Q2.

Microsoft webcam

The new AI-powered webcam for the Surface Hub 2. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Finally, Microsoft revealed plans to integrate portable Loop components into Outlook, which will supposedly help employees “brainstorm and complete action items” without having to switch apps. The functionality is already available with Teams, and members of the Office early access program can now sample Loop components in the Outlook email client too.

“Whether it’s creating more engaging meeting experiences, enabling collaboration with external partners, or giving you the flexibility to work where, when and how you want, these new features address the new expectations people have for the workplace,” wrote Nicole Kerskowitz, VP Microsoft Teams.

“While so much has changed about work, one thing remains constant: people are at the center. With technologies like Microsoft Teams supporting people, we can make hybrid work really work by bringing everyone – and everything – together.”

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Microsoft 365 is getting a load of features we already knew about – and a few we didn’t expect

Microsoft has provided an update on a number of upcoming features for its suite of productivity and collaboration software, designed to help support the demands of hybrid working.

In conjunction with its latest Work Trend Index report, Microsoft has clarified the release windows for new facilities spanning Microsoft Teams, Outlook and other services, on which TechRadar Pro has previously reported.

However, the company also announced a handful of brand new features, including new meeting room hardware, tools to assist with virtual presentations and an addition to the newest Microsoft 365 service, Loop.

Microsoft 365 for hybrid working

Since the start of the pandemic, Microsoft has worked doggedly to turn collaboration and video conferencing platform Teams into a central hub for working, by rolling out a variety of feature updates and new integrations designed to create synergies between its apps. 

Now, with many businesses shifting towards a new working model as offices reopen, the company is making a series of tweaks that better align its software with the hybrid working era.

In December, we reported that Microsoft was developing a new feature for Outlook that would allow users to specify whether they will be attending a meeting in-person or online, called Outlook RSVP. Microsoft has now confirmed the feature will become available at some point in Q2, 2022.

Separately, TechRadar Pro reported on a new video call layout coming to Microsoft Teams, which is supposed to enable more equitable hybrid working meetings by bringing remote participants eye-to-eye with those in the office. The feature is now available in preview, with “enhancements” to arrive later in the year.

Microsoft

(Image credit: Microsoft)

What's new, Microsoft?

Microsoft also had a few surprises in store, however, the most notable of which is perhaps a pair of updates designed to improve the online presentation experience.

In the coming months, Microsoft will integrate recording studio and cameo, two PowerPoint features that allow users to record and add a video feed to their presentations, respectively. And second, the company unveiled a feature called Language Interpretation for Microsoft Teams, which lets human interpreters dial into a presentation to provide live translation for international attendees.

The company also took the opportunity to announce a new AI-powered business webcam for the Surface Hub 2, which offers intelligent framing and image optimization, and two touch-enabled displays from Neat and Yealink. Microsoft says the third-party devices are undergoing certification for Microsoft Teams Room and should be available to purchase in Q2.

Microsoft webcam

The new AI-powered webcam for the Surface Hub 2. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Finally, Microsoft revealed plans to integrate portable Loop components into Outlook, which will supposedly help employees “brainstorm and complete action items” without having to switch apps. The functionality is already available with Teams, and members of the Office early access program can now sample Loop components in the Outlook email client too.

“Whether it’s creating more engaging meeting experiences, enabling collaboration with external partners, or giving you the flexibility to work where, when and how you want, these new features address the new expectations people have for the workplace,” wrote Nicole Kerskowitz, VP Microsoft Teams.

“While so much has changed about work, one thing remains constant: people are at the center. With technologies like Microsoft Teams supporting people, we can make hybrid work really work by bringing everyone – and everything – together.”

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Windows 11 is getting an eco-friendly update, but could Microsoft do more?

The latest Windows Insider preview is testing a feature that could make future upgrades to Windows 11 more sustainable. While this is currently still in the testing stages, Insider build 22567 includes the ability to schedule system updates for specific periods of time when your local energy grid is pulling more energy from renewable energy sources than traditionally harmful ones.

To do this, Microsoft will take regional data on carbon intensity from sites like electricityMap and WattTime, and you’ll only be able to enable it if your laptop or PC is plugged into an outlet. If preferred, you can still choose to install updates immediately by navigating to Settings > Windows Update and choosing “Check for Updates”

On the Insider Blog, Microsoft states that “Most electrical grids are powered by multiple sources, including renewables and fossil fuels. Whenever possible, Windows 11 will now prioritize installing updates in the background at times when greater amounts of clean energy sources (like wind, solar, and hydro) are available”

You'll see a small message in the Windows Update section of your settings that reads “Windows Update is committed to reducing carbon emissions”, but this doesn't think to anywhere just yet. Interestingly, the blog also mentions “We’re still working on the content that the text links to – stay tuned for future updates” so we have reached out to Microsft to see if we can get some clarification.

Sadly, If the carbon data isn’t available, it doesn’t look like this feature will be available to you and the blog also notes that not all Insider members will have access to this feature just yet, but it certainly feels like a step in the right direction, even if it’s a small one.

Technology is unavoidable, so we must do better

The Acer Vero laptop resting on a pile of recycled plastic

Laptops like the Acer Vero use a chassis made from recycled plastic (Image credit: Acer)

Modern technology uses a lot of power. It’s sometimes a hard pill to swallow for people who love the latest gadgets and hardware, especially if you’re as eco-conscious as I am, but our drive to constantly improve and build upon previous technology now means that we consume more electricity and energy than ever. 

I want to see more companies pushing developments like this. It often feels as though in this new world where every aspect of our lives can be dominated by technology – from video gaming hobbies, daily mobile phone usage and now even smart home technology running 24/7 in our houses and apartments – the only alternative for a clear conscious is to simply avoid it all and live in the woods somewhere off-grid.

As appealing as that can sound at times when you just want to escape, it's not a healthy or practical way of approaching the situation for everyone. Technology is here to stay, and without building in environmentally-conscious policies and features into things as they develop, things could quickly get out of hand.

It feels slightly ridiculous that an operating system needs to make adjustments towards sustainability, but I’m grateful that something this small (in the grand scheme of things) is also making an effort. Microsoft is a huge company, and its actions not only set a good example to other smaller brands, but the number of people across the wider market that will use Windows 11 is only going to grow as older operating systems start getting phased out.

We obviously need to be making changes to our daily habits as individuals, but most of these are facilitated by what we have access to – you can’t be expected to buy an electric car with sufficient charging infrastructure for example, and in many regards, we’re entering a future in which anyone who doesn’t have access to devices like laptops or tablets will be at a huge disadvantage within the workplace and education.

Not everything is 'greenwashing'

The oceans plastic mouse from Microsoft with eco-friendly packaging

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft already makes many notable pledges towards sustainability and ethical working, using recycled marine plastics to create peripherals like mice. It also works towards creating a more equal space across both work and play, creating adaptive controllers for the Xbox console series and implementing inclusive features across its entire hardware and software range to help the disabled community.

There's a lot to cover in that bracket, but if you feel disadvantaged using mainstream technology because of things like mental illness and neurodivergent, or physical disabilities that affect your hearing, vision and mobility then you can read more on the accessibility section of the Microsoft website

That said, there’s always more to be done, and I fear that a recent trend of ‘greenwashing’ has only thrown additional spanners in the works. For those unaware, greenwashing refers to a marketing tactic where brands will use sustainability or otherwise ecologically virtuous features to sell their products. Think 'bio-degradable' bags that actually take decades to break down into dangerous microplastics.

I’ve spoken to companies like Dell and Razer about its own sustainability pledges in the past, and who were keen to prove that its efforts come from a place of genuine care and concern for our planet and its people, but there will always be those that are happy to label any work towards a more sustainable future as greenwashing to appease the public.

I also like to take things with a healthy dose of skepticism, but I fear that condemning any and all efforts to improve on current policies will demotivate privately-owned companies from making any additional improvements in the future. Let’s not settle for just the bare minimum, but let's also use our common sense and not sabotage genuine efforts towards improving our planet for the generations that will inherit it.

Can Microsoft be doing more? Absolutely, and as one of the driving forces in computing alongside Apple, I demand additional features and policies to reduce carbon emissions, as well as proof of ethical material sourcing and manufacturing, and a promise that the desire for profits won’t come at the detriment of our planet’s health. My expectations are kept low, but I remain hopeful that our pursuit of fresh technology won’t be a driving force behind ecological collapse.

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

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

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

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

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

Analysis: More regular updates for Safari are very welcome

Safari on iPadOS 15 Beta

(Image credit: Apple)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via 9To5Mac

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Office and Microsoft Teams are getting even closer

Using Microsoft Teams apps will soon be possible across Office.com and the Office app for Windows as the company looks to widen the reach of its video conferencing service even further.

A new entry in the Microsoft 365 roadmap notes that users will soon be able to add apps built for Microsoft Teams to both Office platforms.

This should help improve the user experience for Teams customers around the globe, meaning there's now no need to switch between platforms in order to use specific apps.

Microsoft Teams Office

The roadmap entry notes how the feature could be a key selling point for many Office users frustrated by the current constant switching process.

“Users will be able to acquire and use these updated Teams apps (with personal tabs) without leaving Office.com and Office app for Windows,” the entry notes.

Microsoft Teams offers a wide variety of apps for users looking to enrich their video calling and collaboration experience, with options such as task management, polls and even mindfulness and good behavior tools available.

The update is available in preview now for certain Microsoft Insider users as the company looks to test the software and iron out any kinks. A wider global release is currently set for December 2022 across all web and desktop Office users across the world.

Microsoft Teams has enjoyed a rolling schedule of updates and upgrades in recent months as the company looks to ensure its platform remains on top of its game.

This most recently includes the ability to control calls using Bluetooth devicescombine work and business accounts and access screen-sharing controls across all clients.

Microsoft Teams continues to go from strength to strength, with the latest figures from the company showing that the service now boasts over 270 million monthly active users (MAUs).

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

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

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