Calm down, Adobe tells fans – Photoshop’s new small print isn’t as controversial as it looks

Adobe has been under fire lately, having been called out for its “shocking dismissal of photography” by the American Society of Media Photographers for some tone-deaf Photoshop ads it ran a few weeks ago. And now the software giant has been forced to defend itself again, after a social media outcry over some new Photoshop terms and conditions that started rolling out this week.

Over the past few days, a number of high-profile Photoshop users have expressed their dismay on X (formerly Twitter) about a new 'Updated Terms of Use' pop-up that they've been forced to accept. The new small print contains some seemingly alarming lines, including one that states “we may access your content through both automated and manual methods, such as for content review”.

Adobe has now defended the new conditions in a new blog post. In short, Adobe claims that the slightly ambiguous legalese in its new small print has created an unnecessary furore, and that nothing has fundamentally changed. The two key takeaways are that Adobe says it “does not train Firefly Gen AI models on customer content” and that it will “never assume ownership of a customer's work”.

On the latter point, Adobe explains that apps like Photoshop need to access our cloud-based content in order to “perform the functions they are designed and used for”, like opening and editing files. The new terms and conditions also only impact cloud-based files, with the small print stating that “we [Adobe] don’t analyze content processed or stored locally on your device”.

Adobe does also admit that its new small print could have been explained better, and also stated that “we will be clarifying the Terms of Use acceptance customers see when opening applications”. But while the statement should help to allay some fears, other concerns will likely remain.

One of the main points raised on social media was concern about what Adobe's content review processes mean for work that's under NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). Adobe says in its statement that for work stored in the cloud, Adobe “may use technologies and other processes, including escalation for manual (human) review, to screen for certain types of illegal content”.

That may not completely settle the privacy concerns of some Adobe users, then, although those issues are arguably applicable to using cloud storage in general, rather than Adobe specifically.

A crisis of trust?

An image of a waterfall being expanded using Adobe's Generative Fill tool

(Image credit: Adobe)

This Adobe incident is another example of how the aggressive expansion of cloud-based services and AI tools is contributing to a crisis of trust between tech giants and software users – in some cases, understandably so.

On one hand, the convenience of cloud storage has been a massive boon for creatives – particularly for those with remote teams spread across the world – and AI tools like Generative Fill in Photoshop can also be big time-savers. 

But they can also come at a cost, and it remains the case that the only way to ensure true privacy is store your work locally rather than in the cloud. For many Photoshop users, that won't be an issue, but the furore will still no doubt see some looking for the best Photoshop alternatives that don't have such a big cloud component.

As for AI tools, Adobe remains the self-appointed torch-bearer for 'ethical' AI that isn't trained on copyrighted works, though it's landed in some controversies. For example, last month the estate of legendary photography Ansel Adams accused Adobe on Threads of selling AI-created imitations of his work.

In fairness to Adobe, it removed the work and stated that it “goes against our Generative AI content policy”. But it again shows the delicate balancing act that the likes of Adobe are now in between rolling out powerful new AI-powered tools and retaining the trust of both users and creatives.

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Microsoft is testing small but impactful changes to draw your attention to Copilot AI on the Windows 11 desktop

Microsoft has made a relatively minor but pretty useful tweak for Copilot in testing, as part of the ongoing effort to bring the AI assistant into play more often with Windows 11.

This is part of the new Windows 11 preview build 22635 deployed in the Beta channel, and the change to Copilot is rolling out gradually, so not all testers in that channel will have it just yet.

The idea is a ‘new experience’ for Copilot that aims to boost your productivity in Windows 11. How exactly? Well, when you copy a text or image file, the AI’s icon in the taskbar has an animation that’s triggered to let you know the assistant can help with that file.

If you hover the mouse over the Copilot icon, you’ll then get some new options – for example with an image file, you’ll be presented with choices including creating an image like the current one, or getting Copilot to analyze the picture.

Windows 11 Copilot Options

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Build 22635 doesn’t do an awful lot more than these Copilot tweaks, but there is another change here for Windows Share. Microsoft is making it so you can use this functionality to share directly to a specific Microsoft Teams channel or group chat. (This is an ability that had been in testing previously, but was temporarily removed due to bugs – and it’s now reinstated).

As ever check out Microsoft’s blog post for the build to find out the full details and known issues in this preview release.

Analysis: Treading a fine line

The fresh tweaks for Copilot are simple but quick ways of interacting with files using the AI. Microsoft is putting these various abilities at the fingertips of the user, and highlighting that the AI can help with said animation on the icon. Clearly, the hope is that having brought Copilot to the attention of the person sat at the Windows 11 PC, this will result in more usage of the AI.

With this change being in the Beta testing channel – the step before Release Preview, where things are finalized for the stable builds of Windows 11 for everyday users – we’ll likely see this introduced with the 24H2 update later this year.

As to the overall concept of having Copilot pointed out actively, if Microsoft is planning to do more along these lines, it’ll have to tread a thin line between helping the user, and perhaps getting on the annoying side with too many little calls for attention.

There’s a fine balance with some aspects of OS development – such as, for example, when recommendations or suggestions in menus become more like adverts – and sometimes Microsoft has strayed beyond the acceptable boundaries, at least in our humble opinion. We’re hopeful this won’t be the case here, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with the current Copilot rejigging in testing.

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New Windows 11 update makes a small but important tweak to Copilot and fixes some nasty bugs

Windows 11 just got a new cumulative update that applies a bunch of security fixes, and makes a small number of changes to the OS, although they include some important tweaks.

The most interesting change here is that Microsoft has decided to give the Copilot button a new home on the taskbar.

As previously seen in testing with Windows 11, the icon to invoke the AI assistant is now on the far right of the taskbar, in the system tray area.

Patch KB5034765, which is for both Windows 11 23H2 and 22H2 versions, also applies an important fix for Explorer.exe which is affecting some PCs. This bug can happen when restarting a PC that has a game controller attached, and means that Explorer.exe stops responding – basically, the desktop (File Explorer) locks up, which is obviously bad news.

Microsoft also let us know that a bug that meant announcements from Narrator (the screen reading tool) were coming through too slowly has been remedied (when using natural voices with Narrator, that is).

Analysis: Don’t expect Copilot relocation right away

As mentioned, there’s the usual raft of security patches with this new update, which are important to apply to keep your Windows 11 PC fully secure.

The big change is the shift for the Copilot button, with it being ushered along the taskbar to the system tray area as mentioned. Why do this? The reasoning is that the Copilot panel is over on the right, so having its button just below where the UI appears makes sense, which is fair enough.

Remember that those who don’t want a Copilot button can drop it from the taskbar, anyway (and folks who want to go further than that and strip out the AI entirely from Windows 11 can do so – kind of, though we wouldn’t recommend it).

Note that not everyone will get this repositioning of Copilot straight away, as Microsoft notes that Windows 11 PCs will get this tweak at different times. In other words, this is another gradual rollout, so it may be some time yet before Copilot shuffles over onto the right of your taskbar – but rest assured, it’ll happen.

While we’re always somewhat cautious around any new update, at least for the first couple of days after it debuts, thus far it seems there are no known issues being reported with KB5034765 (on the likes of Reddit). So far, so good, then, and hopefully the mentioned bug fixes don’t come with any unintended side effects elsewhere in the OS.

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Windows 11 update makes Copilot AI better in small but meaningful ways

Windows 11 just got its latest cumulative update which applies a bunch of fixes to the OS, along with bringing improvements to the Copilot AI.

It’s Copilot that’s the main focus here, with Microsoft introducing the AI assistant to the Alt+Tab function in December’s update (patch KB5033375). In other words, when you use that to tab through the various running apps on your PC, Copilot will be one of those running processes.

On top of that, Microsoft has made it so that you can use Copilot across multiple monitors. You can invoke the AI on any monitor now (with its taskbar icon), and by using the Windows key + C shortcut you can bring up Copilot on the last display it was present on.

Another smaller tweak, but a very useful one, is that the December update makes Copilot open faster when you click its icon on the taskbar. It’s always good to have tasks happen in a speedier fashion, of course.

A bug which previously meant that the Copilot icon on the taskbar wasn’t showing as active when the AI was in fact running has also been fixed.

Elsewhere, KB5033375 solves a widely reported problem whereby Narrator (the screen reader feature) failed to work during the installation process for Windows.

Another interesting move here is a tweak for the Dynamic Lighting hub, and we’re told Windows 11 now reduces the amount of power it uses on your PC. Savings on wattage are always welcome, of course.

As mentioned at the outset, there are a bunch of security fixes applied in the December update, and general troubleshooting work besides. Check out the support document for KB5033375, or rather, for the same update in preview (which is where the tweaks are listed in full – that preview arrived earlier in December, just over a week ago).

Analysis: testing the waters

The slight catch with the major two additions for Copilot here – the support across multiple monitors, and within Alt+Tab – is that not everyone will get them to begin with. Only a small subset of Windows 11 users will benefit off the bat, ahead of a broader rollout which will be ongoing.

It’s likely that this will be the approach for much of Microsoft’s Copilot tinkering, testing the waters in a limited way before a wider deployment is initiated.

We can expect Microsoft to be constantly improving Copilot every month, pretty much, now that the AI has rolled out to the general public in Windows 11. It’ll without doubt be the focus for Microsoft going forward into next year – and the potential release of next-gen Windows in 2024 (which may or may not be Windows 12).

Via Bleeping Computer

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Google Search adds Notes tab and takes a small step toward social search

Google is updating its search engine with new tools to help you personalize the experience by making it tailored specifically to you.

Among the three reveals, the most impressive, in our opinion, has to be the upcoming Notes feature. This tool will pull together different “tips and advice” on a topic from across the internet if a search result isn't particularly helpful. In a demonstration shown to us, a Google rep played the role of someone looking up instructions on how to make frosting for a birthday cake. Let's say the first search result wasn't what you were looking for. 

Selecting the Notes button below that result connects you to content uploaded by other people offering unique insight to your query. By giving users the opportunity to learn from other people's experiences, Google explained, you might find information better suited to your needs that an official source may fail to address. On the surface, it feels like the tech giant is launching a mini-social media platform on Search since the feature allows for a free-flowing exchange of information.

Google Search Notes

(Image credit: Google)

Be aware that Notes is a type of short-form content. There doesn’t appear to be enough room for long pieces of text. You won't be able to write, for instance, a 500-word recipe for frosting. These Notes need to be short and sweet. It's all about having people provide bite-sized tips on how to make something better such as suggesting adding a bit of lemon zest to a batch of frosting.

Guardrails and limitations

Google is aware that implementing such an update could expose Google Search to a bunch of bad actors coming in and uploading a bunch of inappropriate content. To combat this, it’s adding several guardrails. First, Google will be “using a combination of algorithmic protections and human review” to double-check what is uploaded. Second, the content in “each Note is ranked” according to a search result. The more relevant it is, the higher it’ll place. Finally, “anyone can report a note… for human review” if they run into any inappropriate content.

There are several limitations you need to be aware of. The search feature launches today, however, it will only be made available to users living in the US or India, plus they must be a part of the Search Labs program. Additionally, it will be exclusive to the mobile web version of Google Search as well as the official Google app. 

If you want to try this out, we have a guide teaching people how to try out Google software betas. The guide describes gaining access to the Search Engine Experience, but it's the same process.

Notes will start as an “experiment”. The company wants to see how well this feature will work on a grand scale. It’s unknown how long the trial will last or if it'll see an official release.

Follow your favs

The rest of the update isn’t as dynamic, but it’s still interesting. Over the coming weeks, Google will introduce a Follow tool to American users on mobile. It’ll help you stay up to date on topics you frequently look up by providing “new-to-you” information. Follow can deliver news articles on the latest events of your favorite sports team or specific fashion trends. 

In the image below, you'll see how Follow changes. The left screenshot displays a fairly generic feed with a few pictures, but over time, Google will deliver videos from content creators specializing in your interest once it learns what you like.

Google's new Follow tool

(Image credit: Google)

Finally, the Perspectives tab will roll out to Google Search on desktop to, as you can probably guess, people living in the United States. This tool lets you find content from various online communities like forums or social media platforms. Prior to this, it was exclusive to mobile devices.

As you can see, the US is getting the lion's share of this update. We asked a Google rep if there are plans for an international launch. All we were told is that they working on bringing the “features to locations”, but have nothing more to share at the moment.

We can see these tools becoming really useful helping you track great deals for tech during the holiday season. If you want our advice, check out TechRadar's list of the nine Black Friday deals we recommend buying now.

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Windows 11 gets a bunch of small but useful changes – including something nifty for Notepad

Microsoft has pushed out a new preview build for Windows 11, and made some useful changes in the earliest development channel – plus the company has applied some nifty tweaks for default apps in testing, too.

Let’s start with the freshly deployed preview build 25941 in the Canary channel, which introduces a toggle to turn on dynamic refresh rate (in Advanced Display settings). This allows Windows 11 to adjust the refresh rate of the screen on-the-fly, so when you don’t need to be running at the display’s maximum refresh, it can be toned down, thus saving a bit of power with your high refresh rate display.

Another related tweak is that when choosing a refresh rate, Windows 11 will now mark rates (with an asterisk) that can’t currently be selected due to the resolution you’re running at (but could be used at a different resolution).

Build 25941 also has a raft of bug fixes as detailed in Microsoft’s blog post introducing this new preview version.

Elsewhere in testing, Microsoft has rolled out updates for the Snipping Tool and Notepad apps in Windows 11 (for Canary and also Dev channel testers).

With the Snipping Tool, users now get the benefit of a ‘combined capture bar,’ a panel that easily allows you to switch between capturing screenshots and video clips. And with those videos, screen recording has been bolstered so you can record the PC audio and a voiceover using a microphone should you wish.

As for Notepad, this is getting an auto-save feature. Anything you write will be saved, and sessions will be saved when you close Notepad, coming back up when you next start the app.

Analysis: Small tweaks with bigger results

Dynamic refresh rate is a neat feature to see arrive in Canary (it was previously in Dev channel, too), and hopefully this will be inbound for beta builds before too long, and shuffling its way through to the release version of Windows 11.

It’s going to be of considerable benefit to laptop owners, as the energy savings to be made by lowering the refresh rate (where possible – such as when you have a screenful of text you’re reading, which really doesn’t require any smoothness) will add up to longer battery life when out and about.

As for the beefed-up Snipping Tool, that’s a more streamlined experience, and the support for voiceovers will doubtless be welcomed by those knocking up, say, a quick help video on how to do something on the Windows 11 desktop.

It’s certainly useful to give Notepad auto-save – it’s a favorite app for some folks – for obvious reasons (and there’s the ability to switch it off, if you don’t want it). What’s also cool about this is that you don’t have to engage with any dialog boxes (such as confirming ‘Do you want to save?’). Notepad just keeps the content saved without prompting you when you close the app, bringing the text back when it’s reopened.

Via Neowin

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Google takes aim at Microsoft 365 with small but important update

Google is taking the fight to Microsoft with an update for Workspace that introduces new synergies between its productivity and collaboration apps.

As detailed in a new blog post, Google Workspace users will soon be able to launch into various applications easily from within messaging platform Chat.

“While you’re having a conversation in Google Chat, you can now more easily take actions in other Google Workspace products. The options vary by context, and can include Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Photos and Calendar,” explained Google.

“This will make it easier to take action across Google Workspace and enable a faster and more seamless workflow.”

The update will begin to take effect for Android and desktop users over the next couple of weeks, but won’t land on iOS until the new year.

Google Workspace update

Since the birth of G Suite in 2006, Google has competed directly with Microsoft in the office software space, going up against the famous Microsoft 365 suite, which houses the likes of Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc.

One of the defining features of Microsoft’s offering is tight integration between apps and services, extending all the way out to the Windows operating system on which most business devices run. And although Google stole the march on Microsoft when it came to the cloud-based model, individual G Suite apps have historically felt much more isolated.

When Google rebranded its productivity suite as Workspace last year, however, the company announced it would make a concerted effort to create a more “deeply integrated user experience”, by improving the level of interoperability between its various productivity apps.

The latest Workspace update takes steps towards achieving this goal, but is just one of a number of improvements Google has made in recent months where interoperability is concerned.

In June, for example, the company announced an integration between Chat and Calendar, which helps users connect quickly with co-workers ahead of or after an upcoming meeting. This was later followed by a separate integration that allows users to share documents and messages with meeting attendees from within the calendar marker.

At its annual Cloud Next event, meanwhile, Google announced it will invest heavily in the Workspace Marketplace, the third-party app library that services its product suite. The goal is to create ways to expand the functionality of its services and cut the number of apps workers are required to juggle at once.

While these updates might appear insignificant in isolation, each contributes to the goal of stitching together Google Workspace in a way that will make the user experience feel less disjointed and more coherent.

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