Microsoft Edge is getting a major security boost straight out of Minority Report

Microsoft is looking to give its web browser a significant security upgrade with the release of a new build featuring some useful protection updates.

The company has revealed that Microsoft Edge v.98 will offer a boosted browsing experience that puts safety and security at the forefront, as well as “giving you an extra layer of protection when browsing the web.”

This will allow users to “enhance your security on the web”, the official entry in the Microsoft 365 roadmap says.

Step forward

There's not a lot of detail about what the “new browsing experience” in Microsoft Edge v.98 will entail just yet, but the company says it will be “a step forward”.

It will allow administrators to apply group policies to end-user desktops across not just Windows devices, but also those running macOS and Linux. 

These should help protect against so-called zero-day threats, which are brand-new malware threats that typically look to take advantage of recently-discovered security flaws, and are often extremely dangerous due to a lack of reference points.

Microsoft Edge v.98 will allow users to “mitigate unforeseen active zero days”, the company says, offering an extra layer of protection to keep them safe online.

It's not clear if the new security protections form part of the long-awaited “super duper secure mode” for Microsoft Edge, which launched back in November 2021 as the company looked to boost security for the browser.

Available for Edge v.96 and upwards, the new platform offers two separate configurations – Balanced and Strict – which determine the level of additional protection the user receives. 

Balanced mode learns which sites the user frequents and loosens restrictions on these domains, whereas Strict mode applies restrictions across all websites, which may mean some elements no longer work as intended. Users can also create exceptions manually for websites they would like to be exempt from the extra security measures.

  • Also check out our list of the best VPN services around

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Major WordPress update will make amateurs look like master web developers 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.

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Microsoft 365 updates tackle a major elephant in the room

Microsoft has announced a range of updates for its productivity and collaboration software designed to address common challenges faced by workers in customer-facing roles.

The updates were informed by new research conducted by the firm, which suggests that frontline workers (who make up 80% of the global workforce) are too often overlooked when it comes to software deployment.

The survey found that the majority (63%) of frontline workers are excited about the opportunities technology creates, but many (55%) have had little support from their organization when it comes to adopting new tools. Meanwhile, 60% of those surveyed said their company could better prioritize culture and communication, and more than half said they did not feel valued as employees. 

Microsoft believes technology will be crucial in establishing a line of communication between upper management and staff on the ground.

New Microsoft 365 features

Since the start of the pandemic, Microsoft has worked to deliver new functionality for its various software and services in an increasingly competitive market. However, the majority of these improvements have been geared towards so-called knowledge workers, rather than employees out in the field.

In the face of this new data, the company has developed a number of updates for its Microsoft 365 suite that it hopes will go some way to addressing the imbalance.

For example, Microsoft has announced the general availability of a new feature for Microsoft Teams that allows frontline workers (and anyone else) to use their smartphone or tablet as a walkie talkie, provided they have access to Wi-Fi or mobile data.

The firm has also partnered with rugged smartphone manufacturer Zebra Technologies, which has integrated a dedicated Microsoft Teams push-to-talk button into some of its handsets.

Zebra Technologies

(Image credit: Zebra Technologies)

Separately, Microsoft Teams can now be used by frontline workers to manage scheduled appointments, providing customers with real-time updates on wait times, missed appointments and staffing delays to create a more transparent experience.

Finally, Microsoft has rolled out a number of improvements for Viva, its employee experience platform. The updates will give non-office-based workers easy access to payroll, HR and training resources, which should help businesses establish a more consistent culture.

“It’s no secret that the pandemic is reshaping work for all workers, and at a faster pace than we have ever seen,” said Emma Williams, Corporate VP at Microsoft.

“Empowering frontline workers remains essential for digital transformation. If done well, we believe technology can modernize workflows and enhance job performance while also improving workplace culture and communication.”

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This Microsoft Edge update solves a major headache, but not for everyone

Suffering a juddering scrolling experience with Microsoft Edge could soon be over thanks to a new update for the software set to launch soon.

Microsoft's browser is examining a new option to improve scrolling that will see users get a much smoother experience – but not everyone will be able to enjoy it just yet.

Available in the Edge Canary channel now, the update sees Edge using variable “screen refresh rate” when scrolling. The feature “allows Windows to temporarily boost the refresh rate up when scrolling…this provides an overall smoother scrolling experience,” the update notes.

Microsoft Edge VRR

However the change isn't set to be available to all users, as Microsoft notes that you'll need a VRR panel and a supporting driver to make sure it works as it should.

A VRR panel helps your device operate variable refresh rate (or VRR), giving you a smooth graphics experience. It's more common in gaming TVs and monitors, especially as next-gen consoles such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X become more widespread.

The main job of VRR is to eliminate what's known as screen tearing, where the image on your TV shudders mid-frame before carrying on as before. 

Screen tearing happens when your display's refresh of its image is out-of-sync with the rate at which  your console or PC graphics card delivers frames. You end up with an on-screen image that sees, for example, the top half of the screen display one frame and the bottom the next. 

This happens because TVs don’t refresh their entire screen image instantly. The driver of a display rapidly scans down the screen, usually from top to bottom, updating the state of each pixel. It often happens too fast for our eyes and brains to notice, until something goes wrong and it looks odd. 

Tearing becomes noticeable when, for example, you use a 60Hz TV and the game’s framerate vacillates between 45fps and 60fps. It’s particularly obvious in fast-motion games like first-person shooters, where turning around quickly in-game leads to a huge difference in on-screen information from one frame to the next.

This may all seem a bit detached from using Microsoft Edge as a day-to-day browser, but with more users looking to view HD video and even virtual reality experiences through their browser, it's clear Microsoft feels it needs to keep up.

You can check your devices' Refresh rate panel on your Windows devices via the Start menu, then clicking on Settings > System > Display > Advanced display.

Via WinCentral

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Google is facing a major video conferencing issue

Google will no longer be merging its two video conferencing software products as the company has decided to prioritize Google Meet for enterprise users over Google Duo for consumers.

As reported by 9To5Google which first broke the news of a merger of the two products last year, the software giant initially set out to have a single video calling service aimed at both personal and business users. Following this decision, Google created a “unified team” to work on both its consumer and enterprise-focused video conferencing services.

The undertaking was originally billed as a merger with the code name “Duet” which 9To5Google points out is a portmanteau of Duo and Meet (Du + et). Although the combined team worked for most of last year under the impression that Duo and Meet would merge, Google's interest in building a dedicated video calling service for consumers waned.

Instead, the company shifted its focus to have Google Meet be primarily an enterprise product. This is because there was no longer a desire to build a video calling app that works equally well for consumers as it does for enterprise users.

Prioritizing Meet over Duo

Over the course of this year, Google's combined Meet/Duo team spent a majority of its time working on Meet and its enterprise features while Duo saw minimal development.

When 9To5Google reached out to the software giant regarding its upcoming plans, a company spokesperson said that there was “no change in our plans to continue investing in our consumer users”. Google also highlighted the new features added to Duo this year which include expanded tablet and foldable device support, HD screen sharing, new video effects, Google TV support,  improvements to quality and reliability and more.

The biggest change to Duo this year though was a refreshed UI that replaced the old homescreen, that showed a live feed from a smartphone's front-facing camera, with a new simplified list of a user's call history and a “New call” button. However, a similar redesign was rolled out to Meet in October of 2020 which helps make the case that Meet and not Duo was the company's main priority.

While Google says that it has a “rich roadmap next year for both consumers and business users”, the company didn't expand on whether Meet or Duo will be the service receiving new features and upgrades next year.

We've also rounded up the best video conferencing software and the best online collaboration tools

Via 9To5Google

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Google Docs is finally solving this major editing pain

Google is currently working on a new update for its office software that will make customizing tables in Google Docs more intuitive and easier to do.

While Google Workspace includes its own spreadsheet software in Sheets, many people prefer to use Docs to add inline tables to their documents.

According to a new post in the Google Workspace blog, the search giant is adding several new ways to customize tables in Google Docs to give users more ways to present information to their readers. 

This new update is rolling out now and will be available to all Google Workspace customers as well as G Suite Basic and Business customers and even those with personal Google Accounts.

Customizing and editing tables in Docs

First off, Google is adding a new sidebar to Docs to make it easier for users to manage a table's rows, columns, alignment and other properties. Just like when editing an image in Docs, all of these edits are “reflected in your document in real time”.

At the same time, the company is adding a new, intuitive button for creating new rows or columns in a table that will appear as an overlay as you hover over a table in Docs.

When it comes to pages, Google Docs users can now pin a table header row to repeat on each page to make it easier to see column headers for long tables while navigating a document as well as designate that a row should not be split across pages.

Finally, Google is making it possible to sort the rows of a table in either an ascending or descending order. However, any pinned table headers will still remain at the top of your tables.

Now that Google is making it easier to use tables in Docs, we'll likely see more users incorporating them into their documents to present information as opposed to linking to a separate spreadsheet in Sheets.

We've also rounded up the best free office software and best online collaboration tools

Via 9To5Google

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Your Microsoft Office subscription price might be about to see a major hike

Microsoft is preparing changes to how it charges its cloud-based productivity suite Microsoft 365 (formerly known as Office 365) that could leave many customers facing higher software bills. 

CNBC reports that the “New Commerce Experience for Office” offering, set to be introduced in January 2022 will result in prices for the productivity suite spiking 20% for customers who pay on a monthly basis. 

Furthermore, Microsoft seems to be eliminating the option to scale the subscription back. If customers decide, halfway through the subscription, to stop using the service, they will still need to pay for the remainder of the term.

Unhappy customers

CNBC claimed the news has been distributed through third parties and via several Microsoft employees who did not want to be named. 

Microsoft’s official statement is that the company “provides flexible purchasing options to meet our customers’ diverse needs, and we don’t publicly disclose information around our premium and pricing approach for partners.”

Discussing the matter with the publication, one Microsoft partner said its customers had already raised concerns about the changes. Intivix co-founder Rob Schenk said he’s been notifying clients about the 20% increase for month-to-month arrangements, and the responses have been “mixed”, with some clients saying they “don’t like it at all”.

Some people have also taken to Reddit and to, to voice their dissatisfaction with the changes and to try and urge Microsoft into abandoning the idea.

Initially, the company planned on implementing the New Commerce Experience in October this year, but pushed it to January. From March 2022, all new orders will have to go through New Commerce Experience, with renewals having until July.

For the first half of the year, Microsoft will charge the same price for both monthly and yearly offers – with those who opt for an annual subscription apparently spared the price hike.

Having multiple payment options, as well as the ability to scale up and down easily, proved to be essential for the survival of many businesses during the pandemic. 

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