This cringeworthy Microsoft Teams feature could soon be forced upon you

Microsoft is readying an update for collaboration platform Teams that will allow admins to change the way meetings are displayed for all attendees.

As explained in a new entry to the company’s product roadmap, meeting hosts will soon be given the option to enable Together Mode for all participants. The update is still under development, but should take effect by the end of May.

Launched in the summer of 2020, Together Mode for Microsoft Teams brings all attendees into a shared virtual background, with the goal of “making it feel like you’re sitting in the same soom with everyone else”.

Together Mode

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams

Although the ambition behind Together Mode is a noble one, the execution leaves plenty to be desired. In this writer’s opinion, the virtual background filled with floating heads only serves to emphasize the fact a meeting is not, in fact, taking place in-person.

While Microsoft’s AI system does a decent enough job of cutting out each person’s home office background, and some people will get on with the feature better than others, there’s an welcome strangeness to the final result.

The idea that meeting hosts should be able to dictate that everyone uses the feature is particularly strange. While there’s something to be said for operating on a level playing field, some users are bound to find the feature more helpful (or unhelpful) than others, which makes a blanket policy counterproductive.

However, not all of Microsoft’s attempts to introduce variety to the way Teams meetings are displayed have been quite so divisive.

Last year, the company rolled out a series of new presenter modes designed to help Teams users flex their presentation style to the occasion. Standout Mode, for example, seats the presenter’s video feed in front of the slide deck, while Reporter Mode places content above the shoulder in the style of a news broadcast.

The features were an example of the way in which virtual backgrounds and clever positioning of content can legitimately improve the quality of video meetings, delivering on Microsoft’s stated ambition to “help presenters deliver content more professionally and offer meeting participants dynamic experiences”.

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This cringeworthy Microsoft Teams feature could soon be forced upon you

Microsoft is readying an update for collaboration platform Teams that will allow admins to change the way meetings are displayed for all attendees.

As explained in a new entry to the company’s product roadmap, meeting hosts will soon be given the option to enable Together Mode for all participants. The update is still under development, but should take effect by the end of May.

Launched in the summer of 2020, Together Mode for Microsoft Teams brings all attendees into a shared virtual background, with the goal of “making it feel like you’re sitting in the same soom with everyone else”.

Together Mode

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Together Mode in Microsoft Teams

Although the ambition behind Together Mode is a noble one, the execution leaves plenty to be desired. In this writer’s opinion, the virtual background filled with floating heads only serves to emphasize the fact a meeting is not, in fact, taking place in-person.

While Microsoft’s AI system does a decent enough job of cutting out each person’s home office background, and some people will get on with the feature better than others, there’s an welcome strangeness to the final result.

The idea that meeting hosts should be able to dictate that everyone uses the feature is particularly strange. While there’s something to be said for operating on a level playing field, some users are bound to find the feature more helpful (or unhelpful) than others, which makes a blanket policy counterproductive.

However, not all of Microsoft’s attempts to introduce variety to the way Teams meetings are displayed have been quite so divisive.

Last year, the company rolled out a series of new presenter modes designed to help Teams users flex their presentation style to the occasion. Standout Mode, for example, seats the presenter’s video feed in front of the slide deck, while Reporter Mode places content above the shoulder in the style of a news broadcast.

The features were an example of the way in which virtual backgrounds and clever positioning of content can legitimately improve the quality of video meetings, delivering on Microsoft’s stated ambition to “help presenters deliver content more professionally and offer meeting participants dynamic experiences”.

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One of the most popular Microsoft Office builds will soon be killed off

Microsoft has confirmed that it will not be supporting its Office 2013 software suite for very much longer.

The company revealed that its office software offering will reach its official end of support within the next twelve months, after which it will no longer receive updates and security protection from the company.

Users of Microsoft Office 2013 are now being urged to upgrade or switch software before April 11, 2023, or possibly risk being hit by cyberattacks.

Farewell Microsoft Office 2013

“After five years of Mainstream Support, and five years of Extended Support, Office 2013 will reach the End of Extended Support on April 11, 2023. Per the Fixed Lifecycle Policy, after this date security updates for Office 2013 will no longer be available,” Microsoft said in an email to customers seen by BleepingComputer.

“After Office 2013 reaches the end of support, Microsoft won't provide any new security updates, and the continued use of Office 2013 after April 2023 may increase your organization's exposure to security risks or impact your ability to meet compliance obligations.”

In place of Office 2013, Microsoft has suggested users switch to Microsoft 365 Apps, a subscription-based model. Most commonly seen as part of Microsoft 365 and Office LTSC 2021 subscriptions, this package provides most of the key apps for business users, and receives regular updates and patches.

“Please start upgrading to Microsoft 365 Apps, which is designed to receive regular updates, and will help you stay current by getting security updates and our latest features,” noted Microsoft.

“Alternatively, if your organization requires a static, unchanging product, consider moving to Office LTSC 2021.”

The news is the latest key Microsoft product to reach its end of life in recent months. Most famously, Windows XP was put out to pasture back in 2014, although following months of back-and-forth, Microsoft eventually relented and said it would still offer some forms of support for users of the ancient software.

Via BleepingComputer

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One of the most popular Microsoft Office builds will soon be killed off

Microsoft has confirmed that it will not be supporting its Office 2013 software suite for very much longer.

The company revealed that its office software offering will reach its official end of support within the next twelve months, after which it will no longer receive updates and security protection from the company.

Users of Microsoft Office 2013 are now being urged to upgrade or switch software before April 11, 2023, or possibly risk being hit by cyberattacks.

Farewell Microsoft Office 2013

“After five years of Mainstream Support, and five years of Extended Support, Office 2013 will reach the End of Extended Support on April 11, 2023. Per the Fixed Lifecycle Policy, after this date security updates for Office 2013 will no longer be available,” Microsoft said in an email to customers seen by BleepingComputer.

“After Office 2013 reaches the end of support, Microsoft won't provide any new security updates, and the continued use of Office 2013 after April 2023 may increase your organization's exposure to security risks or impact your ability to meet compliance obligations.”

In place of Office 2013, Microsoft has suggested users switch to Microsoft 365 Apps, a subscription-based model. Most commonly seen as part of Microsoft 365 and Office LTSC 2021 subscriptions, this package provides most of the key apps for business users, and receives regular updates and patches.

“Please start upgrading to Microsoft 365 Apps, which is designed to receive regular updates, and will help you stay current by getting security updates and our latest features,” noted Microsoft.

“Alternatively, if your organization requires a static, unchanging product, consider moving to Office LTSC 2021.”

The news is the latest key Microsoft product to reach its end of life in recent months. Most famously, Windows XP was put out to pasture back in 2014, although following months of back-and-forth, Microsoft eventually relented and said it would still offer some forms of support for users of the ancient software.

Via BleepingComputer

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Microsoft could soon improve this divisive Windows 11 feature

Windows 11 looks like it might soon support third-party widgets, as another clue that they could be imminent has popped up courtesy of an eagle-eyed Twitter user.

FireCube did some digging and spotted that the widget manifest has been updated to reference downloading widgets – tiny apps that provide at-a-glance info, such as the current weather, or local traffic – from the Microsoft Store.

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The text informing users that they can “download new widgets and widget updates in Microsoft Store” is another piece of evidence that the eventual plan is to let developers put their third-party widgets in the Store, and allow Windows 11 users to download whatever they want.

The widgets panel would then be more useful, of course, with a bigger range of options and plenty more scope for customization, compared to the current situation where people can only use Microsoft’s own widgets in the panel.

As Windows Central, which spotted this, points out, its own Zac Bowden – a prolific source of Microsoft leaks – has previously said that the widget panel is expected to be getting third-party efforts, plus new features, and indeed that developers have already been briefed as to how third-party widgets will function. Previous leaks have pointed to third-party widgets being inbound, too.


Analysis: Expanding the widget panel in more ways than one

Bowden made those comments in December 2021, four months ago now, and with this latest spotting of a nugget of evidence that Microsoft is preparing to implement third-party widgets, it seems a firm enough possibility that they will debut at some point in 2022.

Would that be with the big H2 2022 (Sun Valley 2) update? Maybe, but given that Microsoft has been adding stuff to Windows 11 as and when it likes so far this year – witness the recent arrival of some big interface changes outside of major feature updates – then maybe this clue turning up now is a sign we could be installing third-party widgets in the OS sooner rather than later.

As for the other plans Microsoft has for the widget panel, at its recent Windows 11 reveal, we did catch a glimpse of a full-screen panel; so that could be in the pipeline too (and it’d provide more screen real-estate to populate with third-party widgets).

The widget panel is, of course, a divisive feature, and some folks really don’t appreciate it, viewing it as a rather pointless element of the UI. Its usefulness is certainly limited in its current form, being restricted to Microsoft services (like OneDrive, for example, and the likes of MSN weather).

Opening up the ability to add a huge range of new widgets from all over the shop would certainly help to make the panel a more compelling feature for Windows 11, and markedly improve the perception of this part of the interface.

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The best Microsoft Teams goodies will soon be available to all of us

Microsoft is readying an update for its online collaboration platform Teams that will help close the gap between the desktop app and web client.

As explained in a rather cryptic roadmap entry, the “modern meeting experience” will soon be made available to those that access Microsoft Teams via their web browser. In an email exchange with TechRadar Pro, a Microsoft spokesperson clarified precisely what this will entail.

“This ‘modern meeting experience’ update brings features currently available in desktop to web. This includes the modern meeting stage views like Dynamic View, Large Gallery, and Together Mode, as well as the ability to switch amongst those selections. In addition to that, there are updates to the pre-join experience and the control bar,” we were told.

Microsoft Teams for the web

Microsoft began trialling the “modern meeting experience” on the web in February, but is now preparing for a full rollout in June, after which users of the Teams web app will have access to the same breadth of functionality as anyone else.

More specifically, web users will benefit from features like Large Gallery view, which allows for as many as 49 people to appear on-screen at once, and Together Mode, which places all attendees on a common virtual background.

The update will also give web client users new presentation options in the form of Dynamic View, a feature that allows for elements of the meeting screen to be moved around and resized depending on the content being shared.

Lastly, the Teams web app will give users new options in the pre-meeting landing page that will make it easier to select audio and video sources before dialling into a session. 

More broadly, the update can be seen as part of Microsoft’s efforts to ensure the meeting experience is consistent for all Teams users, no matter which client or hardware they are using to dial in. Beyond the upcoming web app update, the company has made a number of additions with this goal in mind.

In recent weeks, for example, Microsoft has announced the expansion of the transcription feature to customers running Teams in a virtual machine, and an update that will improve the meeting experience on Mozilla Firefox. And previously, the company revealed plans to offer up important accessibility features to a wider range of attendees.

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WhatsApp may soon bring polls to group chats

WhatsApp might soon introduce a new feature that will allow users to conduct polls within groups. The feature can be expected to roll out to the final version in the coming weeks. The new feature is currently being tested on iOS, but may also come to Android.

As reported by Android Police and WABetaInfo, the Meta owned messaging app may soon enable polls for groups. Polls have been present on other apps like Twitter, Telegram and even Facebook.

The report has indicated that the feature is currently being tested in WhatsApp’s 22.8.0.72 beta version showing that you can create a question followed by adding choices for responses. The number of choices is limited to 12 and they can be rearranged in any order, according to the report. The polls feature was already under development. However, it is only in the recent beta version we have got to see the work in progress.

WhatsApp polls

(Image credit: WABetaInfo)

It is unclear as of this time if these would be admin restricted or not. However, it may be possible that WhatsApp may create options within the group to control and restrict who can create these polls within the group. More details could emerge in the coming weeks while this feature nears completion.

WhatsApp’s Communities vision

While WhatsApp recently rolled out multi-device logins for Android and iOS users, the instant messaging app has been working on a dedicated Communities feature as well. This would allow members of multiple groups to be part of a single group as well. These can be created by group admins only and give them greater control over managing multiple groups too.

From a larger perspective, it looks like WhatsApp is looking to turn itself not just into an instant messaging app for friends, families and businesses. But instead, it's looking to create a similar experience to the one Discord offers.

WhatsApp could be aiming for a similar experience where members from various groups who have a common interest are able to meet members from groups that they aren’t a part of. Although it is interesting to see these new features, we would have to wait and see how they would work in real-world usage.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

WhatsApp may soon bring polls to group chats

WhatsApp might soon introduce a new feature that will allow users to conduct polls within groups. The feature can be expected to roll out to the final version in the coming weeks. The new feature is currently being tested on iOS, but may also come to Android.

As reported by Android Police and WABetaInfo, the Meta owned messaging app may soon enable polls for groups. Polls have been present on other apps like Twitter, Telegram and even Facebook.

The report has indicated that the feature is currently being tested in WhatsApp’s 22.8.0.72 beta version showing that you can create a question followed by adding choices for responses. The number of choices is limited to 12 and they can be rearranged in any order, according to the report. The polls feature was already under development. However, it is only in the recent beta version we have got to see the work in progress.

WhatsApp polls

(Image credit: WABetaInfo)

It is unclear as of this time if these would be admin restricted or not. However, it may be possible that WhatsApp may create options within the group to control and restrict who can create these polls within the group. More details could emerge in the coming weeks while this feature nears completion.

WhatsApp’s Communities vision

While WhatsApp recently rolled out multi-device logins for Android and iOS users, the instant messaging app has been working on a dedicated Communities feature as well. This would allow members of multiple groups to be part of a single group as well. These can be created by group admins only and give them greater control over managing multiple groups too.

From a larger perspective, it looks like WhatsApp is looking to turn itself not just into an instant messaging app for friends, families and businesses. But instead, it's looking to create a similar experience to the one Discord offers.

WhatsApp could be aiming for a similar experience where members from various groups who have a common interest are able to meet members from groups that they aren’t a part of. Although it is interesting to see these new features, we would have to wait and see how they would work in real-world usage.

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WhatsApp will soon help avoid the embarrassment of sending the wrong voice message

WhatsApp’s voice messaging feature will soon get some nifty updates to help compose, send, and listen to those convenient audio messages.

The Meta-owned app is the main mode of communication for over two billion people every month. It’s free, highly accessible, and end-to-end encrypted, making it an important app for users around the globe to connect with family and friends. These updates could enhance the already pretty good voice messaging feature of the app by helping avoid miscommunications in audio messages and helping listeners speed through long-winded conversations. 

Included features are:

WhatsApp didn’t provide a release date in the announcement or information about which platforms it will arrive on and in what order, but you can expect the features to roll out over the next few weeks. 

WhatsApp Voice Message Update

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

 Analysis: WhatsApp stays on top for a reason 

 The updates that Meta steadily brings to WhatsApp aren’t anything groundbreaking, and that’s by design. There’s a reason that the app continues to be the most popular global messaging app out there. 

Small features brought about in incremental updates maintain the app’s ease of use by not getting in the way of how the app’s two billion monthly active users already interact with it.

With these updates, it looks like the majority of the interface remains the same, and the new draft previews will help users avoid sending messages that weren’t ready yet. It’s the little things that count the most.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

WhatsApp will soon help avoid the embarrassment of sending the wrong voice message

WhatsApp’s voice messaging feature will soon get some nifty updates to help compose, send, and listen to those convenient audio messages.

The Meta-owned app is the main mode of communication for over two billion people every month. It’s free, highly accessible, and end-to-end encrypted, making it an important app for users around the globe to connect with family and friends. These updates could enhance the already pretty good voice messaging feature of the app by helping avoid miscommunications in audio messages and helping listeners speed through long-winded conversations. 

Included features are:

WhatsApp didn’t provide a release date in the announcement or information about which platforms it will arrive on and in what order, but you can expect the features to roll out over the next few weeks. 

WhatsApp Voice Message Update

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

 Analysis: WhatsApp stays on top for a reason 

 The updates that Meta steadily brings to WhatsApp aren’t anything groundbreaking, and that’s by design. There’s a reason that the app continues to be the most popular global messaging app out there. 

Small features brought about in incremental updates maintain the app’s ease of use by not getting in the way of how the app’s two billion monthly active users already interact with it.

With these updates, it looks like the majority of the interface remains the same, and the new draft previews will help users avoid sending messages that weren’t ready yet. It’s the little things that count the most.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More