Communities makes WhatsApp more like Discord or Slack

WhatsApp has pushed out numerous tweaks and improvements in recent months, and there's a new one to know about: the Communities feature that works in a similar way to public servers on Discord or Slack, which can then be split up into smaller groups as needed.

As per the official blog post announcing the news, Communities will “enable people to bring together separate groups under one umbrella to better organize conversations”. The update is being rolled out now and will take a few weeks to reach everyone.

The idea is that the feature will make it easier for non-profit organizations, local clubs, schools and other groups to communicate within their groups – these communities might be used by school heads to share important announcements and updates, for example.

Even more new features

WhatsApp is introducing a bunch of other new features for group chats too, whether or not they're part of Communities: voice calls for up to 32 users, upgraded file sharing capacities (up to 2GB), and the ability for admins to delete messages that aren't appropriate for the group.

We're also going to get emoji reactions to messages – the same reactions you've probably become used to in every other chat platform out there, including Discord, Slack, and indeed Facebook Messenger.

It sounds as though at least some of these features will be released to beta users first before everyone gets access to them, so don't panic if you can't see them straight away. For more details on what's involved, see the official blog post.


Analysis: Meta wants all of your chats, all of the time

Meta chief Mark Zuckberg is no stranger to ripping off the best features of other apps – or indeed apps in their entirety. Take the stories feature of Snapchat, for example: once Zuckerberg realized how popular the format was, it was rushed into Instagram and Facebook as quickly as possible.

Instagram and Facebook have since tried their best to copy TikTok and piggyback on its success, though these efforts aren't getting much traction for the time being. Don't forget both Instagram and WhatsApp were bought and swallowed up by Facebook as they were starting to take away its market share, whereas Snapchat famously rebuffed Facebook's advances.

With that in mind, WhatsApp's introduction of features familiar from Discord and Slack shouldn't really come as any surprise. Zuckerberg himself says Communities is “an important evolution for WhatsApp and online communication overall”, spoken like someone who has used these other products that WhatsApp is competing with and see how intuitive they can be.

As Slack has been with us for eight years at this point, WhatsApp is actually quite slow off the mark, but the intention is clear – to make sure you spend as little time as possible in apps that aren't made by Meta. As with every other tech giant out there, Meta is keen to lock you into its products as tightly as possible.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Windows 11 looks like a flop with gamers compared to Windows 10

Windows 11 is not proving all that popular with gamers if you go by the stats pulled from the most recent Steam hardware survey.

Obviously, this is just a limited snapshot of the gaming community who use Valve’s platform, but Steam is a major presence in the gaming world, of course, and the survey for March shows a rather paltry uptick of 1.25% compared to the previous month.

In February, Windows 11 adoption among Steam gamers was 15.59%, so it has now risen to 16.84%. It seems like a real slowdown is setting in when it comes to the number of Windows gamers who are making the transition to Microsoft’s latest desktop OS, as we can see looking back to January of this year, and December 2021.

In January, Windows 11 gamers stood at 13.56%, and that was up 3.41% compared to the previous month – a major gain. But since then, we’ve seen more modest increases of 2.03%, now slowing to 1.25%.

Windows 10 still holds a 74.69% share of Steam gamers, with Windows 7 on 4.14%, and away from Microsoft, macOS has a 2.43% adoption, while Linux slipped just a touch to bang-on 1%.


Analysis: Slow burn adoption could well pick up in the future, though

While we have to take Steam’s figures with a pinch of salt as mentioned – or any such individual report like this, which obviously has a limited capability to inform on the entire PC market – Microsoft is likely going to be disappointed with these most recent figures.

Mainly because as mentioned, when 2022 kicked off, it looked like Windows 11 was starting to gain some serious momentum with gamers, but those larger strides forward appear to have morphed into smaller steps.

Most worryingly, the overall progress of Windows 11 adoption for gamers remains way, way behind what we witnessed for Windows 10. As PC Gamer, which highlighted the release of the latest Steam survey, points out, seven months after release – which is where we are with Windows 11 now – Windows 10 hit a tally of 36.97% of Steam PCs. So that’s more than double Windows 11’s current 16.84% market share on Steam.

Let’s be frank – that’s not really a great advert for how adeptly Windows 11 is managing to tempt the gaming fraternity. That said, with Windows 11 being less of a major upgrade – and more of a case of building on and refining Windows 10 – it’s not too surprising that more folks are taking a wait-and-see approach.

As far as gamers go, there’ll certainly be some seriously compelling reasons to consider a switch eventually, when gaming-focused tech like DirectStorage is supported by more games in the future. (While DirectStorage will be available for Windows 10 users as well, it’ll have much more impact thanks to the storage optimizations found in Windows 11 – and the tech will be about much more than just speeding up load times, too).

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

iPadOS 16: Five features I’d like to see as we head towards WWDC 2022

When iPadOS 15 was announced back at WWDC 2021, I was disappointed to find that it was more of a catch-up to iOS 14, with widgets on the home screen.

While the new Focus feature and better multitasking options were welcome, they didn't go far enough in improving how I used the iPad at the time. As these updates felt so minor to me, I decided to switch to a MacBook Pro 14-inch (2021), and I've been happy with it since.

However, with WWDC 2022 confirmed for June 6, there's a good chance we'll see iPadOS 16. Hopefully, we'll see the operating system set itself apart from iOS, with features that are not only exclusive to the iPad but justifies the 'Pro' in iPad Pro.

With this in mind, here are five features that I'd like to see for iPadOS 16.

iPad home screen with widgets in iPadOS 15

(Image credit: Future)

1. External monitor support

This is a feature that many iPad users have been wanting, myself included when I owned one. While you can connect an iPad to a display, it only mirrors what's being shown on the tablet, and worse, in a resolution that doesn't adapt to the monitor.

We're in a time where completing your work on two or three monitors is normal. You can swap apps and windows between these displays and macOS or Windows 11 handles them fine.

But in iPadOS, that's not possible. Let's see an additional multitasking window show when an iPad is connected to a display. This way, you can swipe an app to another display, and let it display in the full resolution that the monitor is capable of.

2. Redesigned lock screen

There are parts of iPadOS where it looks as though it's an iPhone feature but supersized. Siri was guilty of this for years, where it would cover the entire screen, but thankfully this was resized in a compact menu in iPadOS 13.

The lock screen should be next to benefit from this. While we were given refined notifications in iPadOS 15, there's plenty of space being wasted, especially on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Let's see a widget displayed at least – perhaps weather as the default, followed by the choice of adding another. While you can swipe to the left and have some widgets display, having them show as soon as you wake the screen would be a nice touch.

3. Record more than one person in a call

This has been a bugbear of content creators, especially those who record podcasts. While you're able to take part in calls and group calls thanks to FaceTime, Skype and others, there's been no way to record everyone separately.

This is how many people capture the recordings for a podcast, as it enables audio editors to place separate audio files to make an episode.

Currently, on iPadOS, there's no way of doing this.

So, let's see an easier way to record multiple people on a call and be able to save them all as separate files, ready to edit into a podcast.

This one change could open up the iPad as a portable podcast machine – from recording a guest, to placing the file into Garageband or Ferrite, then saving it as a finished podcast file, ready to upload to a provider.

4. Final Cut

While there are apps like iMovie and Luma Digital that can edit your video projects, some content creators want the extra power and features that an app like Final Cut provides.

This is Apple's pro version of its video editing apps and has only been available on macOS. But with the Mac and iPad both running on Apple Silicon, users have been wishing to see Final Cut on the iPad.

Seeing this as part of iPadOS 16, along with widgets and shortcuts, could really appeal to pro users. And being able to carry on with their Final Cut projects from Mac to iPad would improve workflows, no need to use a different app on an iPad.

5. Better picture-in-picture support

This is a feature that was once exclusive to the iPad, before moving over to macOS, then iOS 15. However, its features have stayed the same since its debut in iOS 9 on iPad. It's time for some improvements.

To have a timeline slider would be a great benefit, as you currently have to go back to the app that's originally playing the video and press the slider to switch to a different part of what's playing.

Another welcome feature would be the ability to place the video anywhere on the display. While you can do that to a point now, the video has been known to place itself below menus or obstructed by an app. On macOS, you can solve this by holding down the command button and dragging the video anywhere on the display.

If these two improvements arrived on iPadOS, there'd be an increase in its use, especially with YouTube's decision to bring the feature to its app for Premium users.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Meta is making Messenger a lot more like Slack

Meta has announced that Slack-like shortcuts are coming to Messenger to make it easier to get the attention of an entire group chat.

Just like in Google Workspace and many other online services today, typing “@” and a person's name will tag that specific person in a group chat or document. Now though with the new @everyone shortcut, Messenger users on iOS and Android will be able to ensure that everyone in a chat sees what they have to say.

When you start a message with @everyone in Messenger, all of the participants in the chat will be notified which is perfect for group reminders, impromptu get-togethers or when you need everyone's help to answer a specific question.

In addition to the new @everyone shortcut, Meta is rolling out its new /silent shortcut for those times when you want to say something in a group chat but don't want to wake up others with a notification or disturb those who live in different time zones. This shortcut is also available on Instagram though on the service it is written as “@silent” instead.

Messenger shortcuts

Meta's new @everyone and /silent shortcuts are just the beginning though as Facebook's parent company plans to add even more shortcuts to Messenger going forward according to a new blog post.

Messenger users in the US will soon be able to use the /pay shortcut to make it easier to send and receive money directly from their one-one-one chats. To use the shortcut, simply type /pay to send or request money securely without fees.

GIFs are another way that users like to express themselves which is why Meta plans to add its new /gif shortcut to Messenger on iOS. Typing /gif followed by a topic at the beginning of a message will pull up a row of GIFs that users can choose from to insert into their chats.

Likewise on Messenger for iOS, Meta plans to roll out its /shrug and /tableflip shortcuts so that users don't have to type out the old-school text based tableflip “(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻” and shrug “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” emoticons.

While @everyone, /silent and /gif could be quite useful for Messenger users, /shrug and /tableflip are more of a throwback to a simpler time before emoji became what they are today.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

It looks like Android 13 might include an important Apple AirTag safety feature

Google might be working on its own Bluetooth tracker detection software for Android smartphones, according to the latest reports.

Bluetooth trackers like the Tile Mate and Apple AirTag have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, by using Bluetooth connections, and an army of phones hooked up to the Tile or Apple’s Find My network, these tags can help users find lost objects at home and out in the wider world.

Unfortunately, plenty of bad actors use these same devices to stalk unsuspecting individuals.

Tile and Apple have introduced various safety measures to reduce the risk their devices pose, but there are still issues with the current system. The main problem is that, for Android phone users, the free Tile and Apple Tracer Detect apps don’t offer automatic detection – you have to manually initiate searches on each individual app.

Now it looks like Google is taking matters into its own hands according to a 9To5Google report. The site details lines of code it found in a Google APK that was recently uploaded to the Play Store that references tag detection for devices named Tile tag and ATag (likely referencing AirTags).

The code is still fairly bare-bones right now, but it strongly suggests that Google is working on in-built tracker detection for Android. 

It’s not clear if this detection can be set to run automatically – though this should absolutely be an option – but this feature would at least give Android device users a pre-installed one-stop-shop to check if they're being stalked by unknown trackers.

We don't know when this feature will be available, but it could drop fairly soon. There’s a chance that this tracker detection will be available later this year when Android 13 launches, and it might even launch as part of the next Android 13 beta. We’ll have to wait and see what Google announces. 

Even though there are early signs that the feature is being developed, there’s no guarantee that it will ever see the light of day.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

It looks like Android 13 might include an important Apple AirTag safety feature

Google might be working on its own Bluetooth tracker detection software for Android smartphones, according to the latest reports.

Bluetooth trackers like the Tile Mate and Apple AirTag have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, by using Bluetooth connections, and an army of phones hooked up to the Tile or Apple’s Find My network, these tags can help users find lost objects at home and out in the wider world.

Unfortunately, plenty of bad actors use these same devices to stalk unsuspecting individuals.

Tile and Apple have introduced various safety measures to reduce the risk their devices pose, but there are still issues with the current system. The main problem is that, for Android phone users, the free Tile and Apple Tracer Detect apps don’t offer automatic detection – you have to manually initiate searches on each individual app.

Now it looks like Google is taking matters into its own hands according to a 9To5Google report. The site details lines of code it found in a Google APK that was recently uploaded to the Play Store that references tag detection for devices named Tile tag and ATag (likely referencing AirTags).

The code is still fairly bare-bones right now, but it strongly suggests that Google is working on in-built tracker detection for Android. 

It’s not clear if this detection can be set to run automatically – though this should absolutely be an option – but this feature would at least give Android device users a pre-installed one-stop-shop to check if they're being stalked by unknown trackers.

We don't know when this feature will be available, but it could drop fairly soon. There’s a chance that this tracker detection will be available later this year when Android 13 launches, and it might even launch as part of the next Android 13 beta. We’ll have to wait and see what Google announces. 

Even though there are early signs that the feature is being developed, there’s no guarantee that it will ever see the light of day.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Google Chat is starting to look even more like Slack

Keeping in touch with your colleagues around the world could soon be a lot easier thanks to a new update to Google Chat.

The online collaboration service is now allowing users to create group chats (known as Spaces) within Google Chat that you can then share with others in your organization.

Much like Slack, once a new custom Spaces group has been created, you'll be able to share it with whoever you choose, with participants able to join by clicking on a custom link. 

Google Chat or Slack?

“With this launch, Spaces are no longer restricted to only people added to the conversation,” Google said in a Workspace blog post announcing the news.

The company says the update will be particularly useful for creating and sharing “topic-based conversations” within your business, such as team discussions, how-to guides and mentoring opportunities. 

Google Chat spaces share

(Image credit: Google Workspace)

The change could also help leaders or admins share organizational and policy updates, or gather together a particularly interested or skilled group, such as when investigating an outage. Or, it could be great for just finding those with similar interests to yourself, allowing for custom groups to celebrate anything from sports to cooking.

Spaces will only be able to be shared with those inside your organization, and will have to be entirely new groups created from this date forward.

The feature is available and rolling out now to all Google Workspace customers, as well as legacy G Suite Basic and Business customers.

The news is the latest change to Google Chat to bring it more in line with some of its rivals, offering tools such as in-line replies and native content search, bringing Google Chat closer in line with services like Slack and Teams.

Google Chat officially replaced Google Hangouts earlier this year, with all enterprise and business users on “Classic Hangouts” having been upgraded to the new service by March 22, 2022.

The company says the move will ensure all Google Workspace customers are using the same platform, with anyone trying to access Hangouts being redirected across to Google Chat.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft looks like it’s going ahead with this unpopular Windows 11 move

Windows 11 could be about to get a watermark on the desktop when installed on a PC which doesn’t meet the official system requirements for the OS.

You may recall that the watermark, which appears above the system tray, bottom-right on the desktop, was previously spotted in limited testing with certain Windows preview builds, but the change has now made its way to beta and release preview builds (version 22000.588) that Windows Insiders use.

See more

This was highlighted by @XenoPanther, a keen Windows tester on Twitter, and as the move is reportedly now widely deployed to Release Preview, it’s likely only a matter of time before the change debuts on the full version of Windows 11.

This would mean that anyone who has installed Microsoft’s latest OS on a machine that isn’t officially supported by the software will see the warning message. It informs these users: “System requirements not met. Go to Settings to learn more.”


Analysis: Get ready for more restrictions on unsupported PCs

This is no major surprise, as Microsoft has always said that people shouldn’t be running Windows 11 on a machine that isn’t up to the required hardware spec, and has even observed that doing so could ‘damage’ your PC.

A one-line warning watermark is quite annoying and intrusively placed on the desktop, but on the bright side, it could have been worse – meaning that Microsoft isn’t placing major restrictions on Windows 11 with unsupported devices, such as not allowing apps to run, or removing the facility to get vital security updates.

That said, Microsoft has always said that unsupported PCs won’t be able to get updates – even though they still can – but it seems clear enough that eventually, updates will likely get cut off for these devices.

If you have hardware that doesn’t meet the requirements, the idea of allowing Windows 11 to be installed at all is just to give you a flavor of how the OS works – not to let you keep running it permanently. And then if you like it, the theory is that you’ll perform whatever hardware upgrades are necessary (like, for example, a TPM module) to support Windows 11, or at least that’s the impression we’ve always been given.

So, in short, this watermark is likely only the first step towards clamping down on folks who are permanently keeping Windows 11 on unsupported hardware.

Via Windows Latest

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Gmail is getting a sleek new look – but you may not like it

Your work Gmail client is set for a major makeover within the next few weeks as Google begins to roll out its new view of the future of working.

The company has announced that its new approach to email will be available for users to experience from the end of February 2022, ahead of a wider release by April 2022.

The approach looks to provide users with a one-stop shop for all their communication needs – whether via email, video conferencing, or just good old-fashioned instant messaging – without them having to open up extra tabs or windows.

Gmail integrated view

“We’re introducing a new, integrated view for Gmail, making it easy to move between critical applications like Gmail, Chat and Meet in one unified location,” a Google Workspace update blog noted.

When logged in, users will still see emails displayed front and centre, but shifted significantly over to the right-hand side of the display. This is to make way for a new sidebar on the left side that contains quick links to Chat, Spaces and Meet, shifting your email folders and label options over slightly.

Gmail integrated view

(Image credit: Google)

Google says that the new “integrated view” and navigation menu allows users to easily switch between their inbox, important conversations, and also join meetings without having to switch between tabs or open a new window. To demonstrate, it showed how a Spaces chat let the user jump straight into a Google Sheets without leaving the Gmail window.

The company adds that you'll also see all your notifications in one place, with bubbles flagging when you have a new message or chat to engage with.

Google is also working on the ability to see email and chat results when using the search bar, making it easier to find what you need by eliminating the need to search within a specific product.

“We hope this new experience makes it easier for you to stay on top of what’s important and get work done faster in a single, focused location,” the company added.

The new-look Gmail will start rolling out to users in the rapid release pipeline from February 8 2022, with other customers following soon after. The new view will become the standard look by the end of Q2 2022. 

It will be available to all Google Workspace user accounts (except Google Workspace Essentials customers) as well as G Suite Basic and Business customers.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Major WordPress update will make amateurs look like master web developers

WordPress.org has announced the release of WordPress 5.9, a new version of the famous CMS that will change the way many people build their websites.

The new iteration of WordPress delivers a series of fundamental changes. Perhaps most notable is the introduction of new themes made entirely of blocks, which give users far broader control over the site experience.

To help users make the most of the changes, WordPress 5.9 comes bundled with a new default theme called Twenty Twenty-Two. The theme is designed to be highly flexible and can be moulded and tweaked from the Site Editor, where users can make global changes to color scheme, font combinations, page templates and more.

Beyond block-based themes, WordPress 5.9 also features new typography tools, layout options and detailing controls (for borders, spacing etc.), which WordPress says will give sites an additional feeling of polish.

WordPress 5.9

(Image credit: WordPress)

WordPress 5.9 update

The new release marks the halfway point of the Gutenberg project, a multi-year initiative that will eventually see the entire WordPress publishing experience reimagined. The overall idea is to streamline the building process such that non-technical users are incentivized to get creative with their sites.

“This release is a major milestone on the journey toward being able to manage all areas of your WordPress site using the same basic block concepts,” said Josepha Haden Chomphosy, Executive Director at WordPress.

“It puts a focus on how people can and should be able to build their space on the web without necessarily requiring that they be a brilliant developer. Because publishing should belong to artists and creators just as much as it belongs to designers and developers.”

WordPress 5.9 is the first build to feature this new set of foundational tools, which will continue to be refined and improved over time with the help of the WordPress community.

To access the new full-site editing facilities, users need to either download WordPress 5.9 directly or update from their site dashboard, then activate Twenty Twenty-Two or another of the block-based themes available.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More