Google is nothing if not helpful: the search giant has built its reputation on making the internet more accessible and easier to navigate. But not all of its innovations are either clever or welcome.
Take the latest change to Google Docs, which aims to highlight examples of non-inclusive language through pop-up warnings.
You might think this is a good idea, helping to avoid “chairman” or “fireman” and other gendered language – and you'd be right. But Google has taken things a step further than it really needed to, leading to some pretty hilarious results.
A viral tweet was the first warning sign that perhaps, just perhaps, this feature was a little overeager to correct common word usages. After all, is “landlord” really an example of of “words that may not be inclusive to all readers”?
As Vice has ably demonstrated, Google's latest update to Docs – while undoubtedly well-intentioned – is annoying and broken, jumping in to suggest corrections to some things while blatantly ignoring others.
The idea behind the feature is well-meaning and will likely help in certain cases. The execution, on the other hand, is poor.
Vice found that Docs suggested more inclusive language in a range of scenarios, such as for “annoyed” or “Motherboard”, but failed to suggest anything when a speech from neo-Nazi Klan leader David Duke was pasted in, containing the N-word.
In fact, Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto – a legendary piece of literature – got more edits than Duke's speech, including suggesting “police officers” instead of “policemen”.
The bloatware controversy surrounding Microsoft Edge looks set to rumble on a little while longer following news of another update.
The browser is set to receive a Skype Meet Now extension icon for its toolbar that will allow users to launch a video meeting directly from their window.
However, users have already noted that including such a potentially resource-heavy tool could put extra strain on older machines, and slow down Microsoft Edge even more.
Skype Meet Now extension
Digging into the latest Edge Canary build, WindowsLatest found the new Skype meetings launchers in the toolbar alongside several other existing extensions and services such as screen capture and download management.
The site discovered the new Skype Meet Now icon would let users launch a call with just one click, meaning no need to download other software or even sign up to the service. Users simply need to add a name for their meeting to receive a unique URL that can then be shared with others.
It does seem that the Skype Meet Now tool can be disabled from the Microsoft Edge settings menu, but it's the latest potentially unwanted and unloved addition to the browser.
The news comes as Microsoft looks to make Edge more of a multi-faceted tool for users everywhere as it gets close to Version 100
The company recently revealed it is working on using Edge to make it easier to install progressive web apps (PWAs) across multiple devices, meaning once you have installed a PWA on one device, you will then see an option to install it on other devices with a single click.
Microsoft Edge continues to perform strongly in the global browser market, with recent figures placing it on the verge of surpassing Apple's Safari offering.
The latest StatCounter numbers show Microsoft Edge is now used on 9.54% of desktops worldwide, just behind Safari at 9.84% – although both are still far behind runaway market leader Google Chrome on 65.38%.
If you browse forums and news sites, you'll most likely come across concept ideas from users who want to give their vision of how a product from Apple or Microsoft could be.
Back when owning an iPhone was a wish for many in the early noughties, you would see concept images of iPod Videos with a 'Phone' menu, but in the same iPod body, or a design that would look similar to the bondi-blue iMac from 1997.
However, one user has gone beyond this concept idea, and removed the display to a MacBook Pro, but left the keyboard part intact.
This not only harks back to the days of the Amiga with its 2-in-1 design, but gives me the idea that this could be perfect as a replacement to the Mac mini.
An Amiga and Apple hybrid?
The Mac mini has been around since 2006, and Apple mentioned at the time that they could only do this thanks to the PowerPC to Intel CPU transition.
But with another transition in progress, Apple has repeated the same mantra, which is why we've seen a redesigned iMac and MacBook Pro so far.
While there's been efforts by others to prove that a smaller Mac mini could work for the Apple Silicon chips, you still need to have a keyboard and trackpad in order to use it.
This is why the below makes sense in the long run, instead of being an effort to go viral for a day.
More and more people are buying a MacBook Pro without a screen to use as a Mac mini. Not only does it have a trackpad and keyboard, but it also has better speakers, and the main price is particularly affordable. pic.twitter.com/WtxMQk1h8FMarch 7, 2022
This would reshape how a Mac mini could work, especially if this concept could also run on a battery if needed.
You could take this hybrid on a commute to work, and plug in the HDMI or Thunderbolt cable to start your day. This would cut down the setup you would normally have to do for a Mac mini, as the keyboard and trackpad are already there.
But this also harks back to the days of the Amiga, a PC from the eighties that allowed you to do this in a similar design.
It's one thing to look at an image, but to see someone use a snapped MacBook as if it's an Amiga 600 in 2022, makes a lot of sense.
The design can work in an age where you can easily find a spare monitor in the office and get going on some work, without also having to find a keyboard and mouse.
If this was to replace how we see the Mac mini in the near future with an M2 chip, it could be the best recommendation from me for family and friends, especially if they're looking for a new device for their bedroom or office.
Back in August of last year, the software giant announced in a blog post that its first “substantive” price increase since launching Office 365 in 2011 was set to occur on March 1 of 2022.
For those unfamiliar with Microsoft's pricing changes, Microsoft 365 Business Basic will increase from $ 5 to $ 6 per user per year, Microsoft 365 Business Premium will go from $ 20 to $ 22, Office 365 E1 will go from $ 8 to $ 10, Office 365 E3 will go from $ 20 to $ 23, Office 365 E5 will go from $ 35 to $ 38 and Microsoft 365 E3 will go from $ 32 to $ 36.
Thankfully though, pricing will not increase for consumers or Microsoft's education customers at this time but businesses that use Microsoft's office software can expect to pay quite a bit more depending on how many employees they have when they need to renew their subscriptions.
Pricing grace period
In a support document published at the end of February, Microsoft informed its reseller partners that it had created a “transitional grace period” due to high demand by businesses looking to renew their subscriptions before the company's pricing changes went into effect.
As a result, Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs) now have until 5pm PDT on March 14 or 12am UTC on March 15 to submit transactions and have them invoiced at the software giant's February 2022 pricing. This means that the next few weeks will likely be quite busy for CSPs as businesses try to renew one last time with the old Office 365 pricing.
While Microsoft did wait over a decade to raise the price of both Office 365 and Microsoft 365, some businesses could turn to Google Workspace or other Microsoft Office alternatives following the implementation of the company's planned price increase.
Windows 11's February feature update is causing issues for some users, where the Start menu disappears as soon as you hover over to it, thanks to a conflict with widgets trying to appear at the same time.
The update brought a preview option for Android apps on the Microsoft Store, alongside dark mode in Notepad, the return of Windows Media Player, and more.
But there's a growing number of users who are reporting issues with the Start menu, where it looks to be conflicting with the widgets in the Taskbar.
In our tests, we also found the same issue, while pressing the Windows key to keep the menu from disappearing, instead of using the mouse to click on the Start menu icon, seemed to fix the problem.
Analysis: a glaring bug that should have been fixed before release
It's certainly a frustrating bug, and it raises the question of why wasn't this fixed before the February update landed? The Taskbar and the Start menu have both seen polarizing changes since Windows 11 was announced in June 2021.
This bug won't help matters for – to have the Start menu disappear, especially when you want to quickly launch an app or a document, is going to frustrate many people.
But Microsoft is aware of the bug, according to Windows Latest, so we may not have to wait long for the next fix to arrive. But, in a time when a big change to a feature that's been in Windows for almost thirty years is rendered useless because of a bug, it isn't going to be a good advert for Windows 11.
So the company has to act fast here and make sure that something like this doesn't appear in the release update for all users in the future. But if you're also experiencing the same or other issues, let Microsoft know in the Feedback Hub.
Unlike the recent update, which is available to all Windows 11 users, and had a blog post from none other than Microsoft’s Panos Panay, Chief Product Officer, Windows + Devices, Windows 11 Build 22557 has only been released on the Nickel Release branch. This is an active development branch that allows developers to get access to early versions of the operating system to help ensure their apps and products work well with the update.
Usually, we wouldn't pay attention to these kind of updates, but this one is noteworthy as it gives us an idea of what will be coming in Windows 11’s major update later this year, which is currently known as Windows 11 22H2.
It also brings some tweaks and fixes to Windows 11 that many of us have been waiting for since the operating system’s launch last year.
New features coming to Windows 11
One of the biggest features that’s arrived in Windows 11 Build 22557 is the ability to drag and drop files onto an app in the Taskbar in order to quickly open the file in the chosen app. It’s a handy feature in previous versions of Windows that many people use every day, so the fact that it wasn’t included in Windows 11 frustrated a lot of users.
Adding app shortcuts to the Windows 11 Taskbar is also getting easier, as you’ll be able to drag and drop apps from the Start menu to the Taskbar, automatically pinning them there.
The Windows 11 Start menu is also getting updated, and will get support for folders. Again, this is a handy feature that has been present in previous versions of Windows, and its absence in the latest version was certainly perplexing.
Folders in the Windows 11 Start menu will can be created by dragging and dropping one app onto another, and these folders can be named for easier organization.
As we expected, Focus Assist is getting a big overhaul. In the new update, it’s now just called “Focus” and will allow you to easily mute notifications from some apps and start a “Focus Session” with a focus timer and calm music from Spotify. This allows you to minimize distractions when you need to focus.
Microsoft has also introduced a useful accessibility feature known as Live Captions which cleverly displays subtitles for any audio content you play.
Other tweaks include the ability to pin files to the Quick Access part of Windows Explorer (which yo can already do with folders), and integration between Windows 11 and services such as OneDrive and Office.com have been improved.
Snap Layouts for quickly organising your desktop have got a new design and animations, and the useful Task Manager tool has got a visual makeover as well to better fit in with Windows 11’s aesthetic.
Analysis: should you download this Windows 11 update now?
Windows 11 Build 22557 certainly sounds like a feature-packed update that will address many of our problems with the operating system. But how do you get the update right now – and should you?
As we mentioned earlier, this is a preview build for developers, and that means you can’t just go into the Windows Update tool and find it there.
Instead, you’ll first need to sign up to the Windows Insider Program and then choose to join the Dev channel. You can find out more about doing this at Microsoft’s Windows Insider website.
Once signed up, you should be able to download and install Windows 11 Build 22557.
However, we recommend that you think carefully before doing this. As exciting as the new features sound, because this is an early build there will likely be bugs and unfinished features that could cause problems for your computer.
So, for most people, we’d recommend holding on tight until the official release of Windows 11 22H2 arrives, which will be some time in the second half of 2022. This will hopefully give Microsoft a chance to iron out any problems, making the wait for these much-needed Windows 11 improvements worthwhile.
The web app of Microsoft OneNote is getting a range of updates and upgrades as the company looks to help users boost their efficiency and productivity.
The company has revealed a host of new features for the Microsoft OneNote web app, including a new mode switcher and an improved copy and paste experience.
Going forward, the company hopes that its note-taking app will play a crucial role in helping users across the world transition to the new way of hybrid working.
OneNote for web updates
“We are happy to announce a set of upcoming features and improvements in OneNote for the web and in Teams to better serve millions of customers who have turned to these experiences for their notetaking needs over the last two years,” Microsoft's Chetna Das wrote in a blog post announcing the news.
“We are also investing in making these experiences faster, more reliable, and on par with the OneNote desktop apps so users can confidently get their jobs done on whatever platform they prefer.”
Not all the updates have been released immediately, with some rolling out gradually, and one, improved link sharing within Teams, scheduled for the future.
Available now, the new mode switcher follows in the footsteps of other Office web apps such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to let users quickly switch between editing and viewing mode, helping prevent accidental changes to read-only sections or files where users may not have edit permissions.
The improved copy and paste function will allow users to paste rich content such as tables and lists from external sources to a OneNote page without losing the source format. Users can also paste from the context menu user interface (UI) in Teams and the Chrome browser using the Ctrl+Shift+V shortcut to paste text only.
There's also a zoom feature that will allow users to get a closer (or further away) look at their pages, and an option to lock pictures and printouts in place as a background. Also announced is the ability to re-size videos, an auto-inking with Stylus feature, and the ability for OneNote to remember the last page you were on.
Windows 11 looks set to get some exciting new features in upcoming updates, with a leak emerging that apparently shows off Microsoft’s plans.
As Neowin reports, the leak comes courtesy of Albacore, a Twitter account that's well known for leaking Windows features. In a series of Tweets we were given a glimpse of what are claimed to be some of changes Microsoft is making to Windows 11.
The first is a new ‘Stickers’ feature for Windows 11. Users will be able to edit stickers and add them to the desktop. These stickers can be placed over your desktop wallpaper, and will apparently remain there if you change wallpapers – though Albacore suggests this feature won’t work if you use a slideshow as your background, or if you have multiple monitors.
It’s also not currently clear if these ‘Stickers’ will be purely decorative, or if they could offer some sort of functionality, such as displaying the date and time.
There’s an interesting personalization feature coming to Windows 11 – Stickers for your wallpaper.You’ll be able to configure them using a new Sticker Editor app, they’ll persist across wallpaper changes as long as you don’t use a slideshow, use Fill fit & have only 1 monitor. pic.twitter.com/KIVtVxw3BCFebruary 5, 2022
Changes are also said to be coming to how notifications are shown in Windows 11. This appears to be an area where Microsoft struggles, as notifications in both Windows 10 and Windows 11 haven’t worked as well as many had hoped, with the notifications either being too distracting, or not distracting enough (and easily missed).
According to Albacore, there will be a new ‘Set priority notifications’ setting, which should hopefully give users more control over what notifications they get. Focus Assist, which is a quick setting for turning off or minimizing notifications, is also getting a new name – it’ll just be known as ‘Focus’.
There will also be new options for the ‘Focus’ setting, allowing you to hide badges on taskbar apps (and stop them flashing) and mute notifications. The aim of this mode is to minimize distractions so you can keep focused on the task at hand.
A new ‘Sustainability’ page is also being added to the Settings app. This will allow you to manage the power settings of your device so that it runs more efficiently, and there's also a link to information about how to safely recycle your device.
The page also has leaf-shape icons, and these look like the'll be used to give your device a rating for how energy-efficient it is.
A few more improvements coming to Windows 11 🍃• Sustainability: better energy consumption and device recycling awareness• Focus Assist is becoming Focus, now schedulable through Outlook & sporting more granular options• Notification priorities no longer tucked away in UI pic.twitter.com/5V6t51rDP4February 5, 2022
It also looks like some form of ‘tablet mode’ will come to Windows 11 that automatically hides the Taskbar when you use your device as a tablet (for example when using a 2-in-1 laptop in its tablet configuration).
It’s not clear when these new features will appear in Windows 11, if indeed they appear at all, but as some have been spotted in early builds it's possible that we could see them in Windows 11’s upcoming major update, known as Sun Valley 2, which is likely to come out in the second half of 2022.
Analysis: tweaks are welcome – but don’t forget the bigger stuff
Assuming this leak proves to be the real deal, these new features would broadly be welcome. While we’re not too sure how useful the Stickers feature will be, giving users more control over notifications, and information on how they can make their device run more efficiently, would certainly be great additions to Windows 11.
However, while it’s nice to get new features and performance tweaks, we don’t want Microsoft to take its eye off the bigger picture. There are still a few things it needs to iron out in Windows 11, including some vital missing features – such as the facility to drag and drop files onto apps pinned to the Taskbar – and we’d like Microsoft to prioritize addressing these issues, rather than worrying about cosmetic changes.
If you were worried that you’d have to wait a while before Windows 11 gets any major new features, then Microsoft has just shared some good news, which means the new operating system will get updated and improved far more regularly than first thought.
This means there will be three ‘Experience Pack’ updates alongside the annual feature updates. Rather than bringing a range of features, bug fixes and security upgrades across the whole of the Windows 11 operating system, as a major feature update does, these new Experience Packs will focus on adding or expanding features for particular aspects of the operating system.
So, Online Service Experience Packs will focus on adding features related to how Windows 11 manages online services and accounts – such as changing or improving the ‘Your Microsoft Account’ settings page.
Web Experience Packs will add features to do with browsing the internet, as well as features within Windows 11 that use the internet to bring you news and information. ZDNet spoke to Microsoft, which clarified that “the Web Experience Pack is updated through the Microsoft Store (while the Feature Experience Packs and Online Service Packs will be updated through Windows Update). The Web Experience Pack will allow Microsoft to update things like the Widgets experience in Windows 11.”
Finally, Feature Experience Packs will contain more broader features, such as updates to legacy apps to make them feel more modern.
Analysis: Keep the improvements coming
These new Experience Packs will be released independently of the annual major operating system updates, and this is good news for several reasons.
As we mentioned earlier, it means that you don’t have to wait a year for new features to be added. While in our Windows 11 review we said there’s a lot to like about the new operating system, it’s still not perfect. By having a regular new features coming to the operating system, Windows 11 will continue to evolve, while feeling fresh and exciting.
There’s another benefit as well. Microsoft’s move to single annual major updates for Windows 11 (and Windows 10, which is getting the same treatment) is a welcome move in many respects. It should reduce the number of times a user gets bugged to download, install and restart their PC. It’s also no secret that Microsoft has having some pretty major issues with recent Windows 10 updates. By focusing on a single update, there’s a hope that Microsoft will be able to ensure these updates are much better built and tested, hopefully reducing any potential problems.
However, if Microsoft kept all of its updates to a single download once per year, that could lead to very large and complex updates. By separating features to their own updates, this will reduce the size of the annual update.
Adding new features to an operating system is also fraught with complexities, and this is where issues sometimes arise. If a new feature is added that doesn’t work as expected – or ends up breaking other parts of the operating system – it should hopefully be easier for Microsoft to identify and fix if it’s part of a smaller Experience Pack update, rather than causing issues in a major annual update (which will also inevitably lead to bad PR).
So, this is good news from Microsoft regarding Windows 11. Hopefully the days of major issues after updating Windows are behind us.