Windows 11 is close to getting some smart additions for those who use a stylus, and other improvements besides, as seen in a new preview build.
This is preview build 22635.2776 (also known as KB5032292) which has been pushed out to the Beta channel, the last avenue of testing before Release Preview (the final step before new features come to the finished version of Windows 11).
The big step forward here is for Windows Ink, with the ability to write directly in some text boxes in Windows 11 coming to a lot more people. In other words, rather than typing in text for a search, for example, you can directly scribble your search terms into the box.
This ability was available for the US, but is now coming with support for a bunch of new regions – that includes English (Australia), English and French (Canada), English (India), and English (United Kingdom), plus many more (check out the blog post for the full list).
Windows Ink is being further bolstered by a greater level of accuracy for its recognition technology, as well as some new gesture controls. There are now gestures to select, join, or split words, to delete a word, and to insert a new line.
The Task Manager has also been tinkered with in this beta release, with Microsoft noting that it has improved process grouping in the panel that lists your running processes.
Also rolling out in this preview are notifications for Microsoft accounts on the home page of the Settings app. We’ve seen these in the past, and they’re prompts to remind you about the status of your account, and tasks you might want to finish off (though we should note we’ve not been keen on the way this has been handled in the Start menu).
Analysis: Supercharging that stylus
This is an important update for those who use a stylus, then, outside of the US, as a lot more territories across the globe are now being covered with support for writing directly in menus. This is an excellent time-saving feature for those using their convertible laptop as a tablet, for example, and it’s something Microsoft is set to develop more going forward.
Indeed, we’ve been told in the past that the eventual aim is that you’ll be able to use your stylus to write anywhere in Windows 11, which is a very cool concept.
Improved process grouping in Task Manager should be a useful little change, too, if you’re one of the Windows users who takes an interest in diving into this area of the interface. Task Manager can be a useful tool for troubleshooting what’s slowing down your PC, for example, if it seems to have hit a sticky patch.
We don’t know how the change will work yet, but more intelligent grouping of related processes should enable better visibility into what’s happening under the hood at any given time with your Windows 11 system.
Google just announced five new updates to its predictive search, with some updates arriving this week. You can already experiment with the improved search bar on Google Chrome and ChromeOS devices.
The search giant announced the update in a blog post on Wednesday promising the improvements will make browsing with Chrome’s address bar “even faster.”.
Here are the highlights:
Whenever you have a question, you want to find the answers fast. With an updated address bar, the search engine will better be able to predict what you’re looking for, even if you don't get the beginning of the URL right. For example, when typing flights, Chrome’s omnibar on the desktop will suggest taking you to Google Flights. It may also take into consideration personal preferences such as preferred airline. No word on when this change is coming to mobile.
The search bar in Chrome now boasts increased responsiveness, allowing users to receive faster and more visible results as soon as they begin typing the first letter of their query. This, combined with a new layout should mean faster and more readable access to the information you need. This update is on the desktop, only.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been rapidly typing and misspelled a url; swapping vowels or some other irregularity. Chrome will now detect these typos and immediately show what sites are similar enough based on your previously visited websites.
For users who rely heavily on bookmarks to keep track of their favorite web pages, this update is a game-changer. Chrome now lets you search within your bookmark folders, making it more convenient to find those tucked-away pages. Whether you have an extensive collection of bookmarks or simply want to access a specific page more efficiently, this feature will help you stay organized and find what you need with ease.
Just remember that to search bookmarks through the address bar, you need to include the bookmark folder name.
Ever found yourself in need of an answer but unsure where to look? Google has addressed this dilemma with its latest update. Even if you haven't previously visited certain websites, the search engine will now suggest popular sites related to your query. This feature ensures that you're never left in the dark and can quickly discover sources of information through natural-language queries.
In all, these appear to be some useful quality-of-life updates to the address bar we all use so often. Now it's our turn to see how well they work.
YouTube is releasing a sizable update giving users new ways to search for and manage their content on the platform.
Chief among these changes is the official launch of the search by song tool where you can look up a song just by humming, singing, or playing a tune directly into YouTube. It functions similarly to Shazam where you can point the app on a phone towards a song’s source so it can record it. YouTube's version uses AI tech “to match the [input] to the original recording”. This was first seen back in August when it was still in beta and it appears the final version works in the exact same way.
You first activate Voice Search on YouTube, then you switch over to the Song recorder where you will proceed to “play, sing, or hum” the tune for about three seconds into your phone’s microphone. From there, “relevant official music content” will show up on the screen.
Search by song will be exclusive to Android phones “for now” and will begin rolling out “in the next few weeks”. No word on when it’ll arrive on iOS, although we did ask.
The rest of the update is less restrictive as the other features will be more generally available. A lot is being added, so we’re just going to go over the more notable changes like the introduction of the You tab.
According to the company, this new section combines a user’s account page with their Library tab to create a one-stop shop where people can configure profile settings, find downloads, and previously watched videos. It saves you the hassle of having to hop back and forth between sections.
The YouTube player is receiving extra controls too. On mobile, a “Stable Volume” toggle switch is being added to “reduce jarring differences in volume”. This can be pretty helpful for content with bad audio mixing. Next is the lock screen which does exactly as the name suggests – locks a smartphone’s or tablet’s display “to prevent unwanted interruptions.”
Finally, pressing and holding down on the YouTube player instantly bumps the “playback speed to 2x”. Press to 2x, as the feature is called, will be made available on web, mobile devices, and tablets.
Everything you see will be rolling out “gradually to [users] around the world over the coming weeks” so keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives. More is on the way as the company teases it’s bringing “modern design elements to other areas of YouTube, such as the YouTube Kids app.”
If you plan on traveling anytime soon, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best YouTube proxies for 2023. Not every global region allows access to the platform.
Just two weeks after the initial announcement, Apple's Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro editing software have made landfall on select iPad models.
Both apps function similarly to their desktop counterparts with some customizations so they can take full advantage of the hardware. As stated in our previous coverage, Final Cut Pro will feature a new jog wheel to make interacting with the touch screen easy to do. This includes smoothly navigating the Magnetic Timeline and moving clips for a video. Support for the Apple Pencil is present enabling Live Drawing so you can draw and write on top of content. Additionally, Final Cut Pro on iPad allows for multicamera editing so you can easily combine multiple angles into one timeline.
As for Logic Pro, the music editing software comes with Multi-Touch so you can use your hands to zoom in on tracks or scroll through them. Custom audio boards can be built thanks to Plug-in Tiles. All you have to do is drag audio control plug-ins together like a jigsaw puzzle. Apple Pencil support is here as well for “precision edits”.
There are even a couple of new features not present on the desktop version. First, you have Beat Breaker, which lets “creators “reshape and shuffle sounds with a swipe of their finger or a pinch. There’s also Sample Alchemy for manipulating music samples with, as you can probably guess, just your finger.
The apps can do more than what we just described, but we think you get the picture. It doesn’t look like there will be any hiccups in the transition from desktop to tablet. So, how can you buy them?
Both Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro are available through the App Store for $ 4.99 USD (£4.99 and $ 7.99 AUD) a month or $ 49 USD (£49 and $ 59 AUD) a year “with a one-month free trial.” As you can see, the iPad versions of these apps are much, much cheaper than on Mac. Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro will run you $ 299.99 (£299.99/$ 499.99 AUD) and $ 199.99 (£174.99/$ 299.99 AUD) respectively.
Do note there are some limitations. The software only works with select iPad models. To use Final Cut Pro, you need to own either a 12.9-inch iPad Pro (5th or 6th gen), 11-inch iPad Pro (3rd or 4th gen), or iPad Air (5th gen) with iPadOS 16.4 or later installed. For Logic Pro, the app will work on “any iPad with the A12 Bionic chip or later” like the 7th Gen iPad from 2019. The device must also be running iPadOS 16.4.
It’s worth mentioning there have been rumors of these two applications coming to Apple’s rumored VR headset. This information comes from notable industry insider Mark Gurman who claims “there’s a very real possibility” they’ll roll out to the headset at some point. Apparently, the xrOS platform can run iPad apps.
It’s unknown if that’ll actually happen, but our questions may soon be answered. The company’s big WWDC 2023 event will be held in less than two weeks on June 5. We do expect to see the long-awaited reveal of Apple's VR device among other high-profile gadgets.
For those unfamiliar, Microsoft Loop is a new app that combines a powerful and flexible canvas with portable components that move freely and stay in sync across the software giant's apps. It is made up of three elements in the form of Loop components, Loop pages and Loop workspaces.
While Loop pages are flexible canvases where users can organize all of their Loop components in one place and Loop workspaces are shared spaces that allow teams to see and group everything important to a project, Loop components are an evolution of Fluid components that help users collaborate and get things done in chats, emails, meetings and documents.
Now Microsoft Outlook users will be able to leverage the power of Loop components when using the company’s email service.
Loop components in Outlook
According to a new post in the Microsoft 365 roadmap, Loop components are now rolling out in Microsoft Outlook and these live, interactive objects can be embedded in email messages to provide real-time collaboration.
In a support document, Microsoft highlights several of its Loop components that users can add to emails in Outlook or even messages in Microsoft Teams. These include bulleted lists, checklists, numbered lists, paragraphs, tables, task lists and more.
One of the nice things about Loop components is that they are automatically saved to OneDrive so that you’ll be able to easily find and use them again later.
With the addition of Loop components in Outlook, emails will become much more fluid as they’ll even be able to update themselves after being sent. Say you add a list of follow-up tasks to an email, collaborators can check off items as they complete them and all of the changes made to the Loop component will be reflected in the original email. This way users don’t have to waste time sending emails back and forth to one another once a task has been completed.
We’ll likely hear more from Microsoft regarding Loop components once Microsoft 365 users get a chance to test them out for themselves.
Windows is the most prevalent desktop operating system in the world, and therefore PCs running Microsoft’s OS are most often targeted by cybercriminals and their various strains of malware.
While desktop users on other platforms shouldn’t be complacent – even though that might be tempting with less commonly used and more locked-down OS alternatives – it’s true enough to say that those running Windows certainly need to consider security as a priority.
With that in mind, in this article we’re going to look at the most common types of malware which could possibly strike a Windows 10 or 11 system, discussing what they are, how they work and what they might do to any PC that’s unfortunate enough to be infected. Then to conclude, we’ll look at the tools you can use to detect and purge these various intruders, like malware removal software and antivirus and how to go about that process.
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The term ‘virus’ is quite often employed in a general sense to denote anything malicious which has infected a computer, but really, the umbrella term for that is actually ‘malware’. A virus is a specific type of malware, and in fact it’s the oldest family of malicious software around.
A computer virus, much like a biological one, exists with the aim of spreading itself. It hides in a file (like the EXE for an app, or a Word document), and infects the system when that file is opened, triggering the payload (the nasty things done to your machine, which vary widely).
The key element here is that it then tries to spread itself to other files, and should those files off your machine reach another PC, it then infects that (when the file is run), spreads again, and so the cycle continues.
A worm is much like a virus, and spreads itself in the same way, but with a key and very dangerous difference.
Worms directly attack and infect the system they come into contact with. In other words, you don’t have to open a file to trigger the infection; it happens with no interaction from the user required. In this case, there’s no chance to even, say, get suspicious about a Word document’s title and origin, and decide to leave it well alone – the infection just happens.
You’re surely familiar with the myth of the Trojan Horse, and the name of this kind of malware is a direct reference to the fact that it pretends to be a legitimate app or file. Most commonly, it’ll be a fake program that you might download thinking it’s the genuine article – maybe from an authentic-looking website – but when you run it, your machine will become infected (unlike a virus, though, it won’t attempt to spread itself).
Adware is one of the less vicious subcategories of malware, in that it won’t engage in something really nasty like nuking your data. Rather, it just serves up adverts as the name suggests (note that it could, however, track you online and targets ads too).
So, it’s more annoying as opposed to actively destructive, but clearly, it’s still not something you want hanging around on your Windows PC. Particularly not when in some cases it can result in a veritable avalanche of pop-up ads assaulting your desktop – which really isn’t pleasant and could hamper the performance of your Windows laptop or PC.
Again, this is a type of malware named after what it does – namely sit quietly in your system, spying on you, stealthily gathering data. The information harvested is transmitted to the malicious actor behind the spyware, and then bent to whatever dark purpose they have in mind.
It’s similar to adware, and it’s not outright destructive – the whole idea is that you never realize its presence, of course – and adware is generally considered a subcategory of spyware.
However, where spyware is different is that it poses more of a threat than adware, and a potentially major danger to your personal data and security. It could possibly be collecting info such as the passwords for your online accounts, for instance.
Ransomware is one of the nastiest kinds of malware, one which effectively takes over your machine.
If it infects a PC – like most malware, it may be hidden in a file perhaps emailed to you, or picked up via a dodgy web link – it systematically goes through your files and encrypts them (or at least some of the more critical ones). It then demands a ransom to be paid for the key to decrypt that data. Essentially, it locks away files so you can’t get to them, and threatens to throw away the key unless you pay up, usually in Bitcoin or an alternative cryptocurrency.
Of course, even if you do pay up, there’s no guarantee that the malicious party behind the scam will free your files from their encrypted chains. You are trusting an inherently untrustworthy third-party that this will actually happen.
How to remove malware from your Windows PC
Let’s say the unfortunate happens and you get infected by one of the above threats. You may be certain of an infection, or you might just suspect it. In the latter case, perhaps your computer is suddenly behaving oddly, running really slowly, or popping up random messages at you that don't make sense.
The first question to ask is: are you running an antivirus app? Remember, Windows has its own Microsoft Defender built-in, so you don’t have to install a third-party app if you don’t want to. Assuming you are running an antivirus, if you’re not sure – but suspect – that malware is present, run a manual scan (the option to do a ‘full scan’ should be easily accessible from the app’s main menu). This scan should pinpoint anything malicious, and then deal with the offending party automatically.
If you are certain you’ve been infected, and you’re running an antivirus already, this shows that these apps aren’t always totally bulletproof. It’s at this point you may want to ask yourself whether you’re running one of the best Windows antivirus apps, with a more accurate antivirus engine? If not, then switch over to one of these top-rated products to get better protection and run a scan.
If your antivirus doesn’t find anything, then you can enlist another line of defense: anti-malware (or, if you don’t have an antivirus, and don’t want to install one at all, you can skip straight to this step). Our recommendation as the top pick in this case is Malwarebytes. Once installed, start the app and click on ‘Scan’ to initiate the scanning process. If the apps finds a threat, it’ll deal with the malware (the software may also flag up potentially suspicious programs that you may or may not wish to get rid of). We have a full tutorial giving step-by-step instructions on how to clean up your Windows PC with an anti-malware tool.
In short, the combination of an antivirus and/or anti-malware should hunt out and destroy any malware present.
As a final note, there may be especially problematic malware, and here we’re mainly thinking of ransomware, which is a particularly thorny type of infection. In some cases, you might be locked out of your PC, or need specialist help, although don’t forget there are ransomware decryption tools out there from major security vendors that could help – you could check out Kaspersky and Avast’s resources for starters.
Meta-owned Messenger has announced the launch of end-to-end (E2E) encryption across its platform, meaning chats and calls should be safe from snooping.
Users can now choose whether to have their messages, group chats and calls fully encrypted when logged into the service. One option is to use vanish mode, which can be activated by swiping up on an existing chat to activate a new option where messages automatically disappear when the chat window is closed.
There's also the Secret Conversations feature, first introduced back in 2016, which also offers fully-secured chats and can be toggled on by swiping on the lock icon when starting a new chat.
“We know that people expect their messaging apps to be secure, private and provide them a space to be expressive,” Timothy Buck, Product Manager, Messenger wrote in a company blog post.
“Building secure and fun interactive features takes time and requires our engineers to innovate and solve technical challenges, so this is part of a series of product updates as we keep improving our services. With cybercrime and hacking on the rise, it’s more important than ever to find great ways to connect with friends and family through private and secure communications.”
“We know the importance of safety and privacy when it comes to communicating with the people who matter most to you. End-to-end encryption protects you and your data from hackers, criminals and other prying eyes.”
The news comes shortly after the UK government hired a top ad agency to help it launch a campaign against Meta's plans to introduce E2E for Messenger. The Home Office apparently believes the move will allegedly help criminals, and has pointed to Meta's WhatsApp platform, which also features E2E encryption as an example of unregulated technology leading to crime.
Long before the ongoing pandemic shut down the world’s offices, millions of workers became conditioned to remote work—probably without meaning to—because their physical workplaces were rife with digital tools. But many practiced a form of remote work that doesn’t suit the current environment.
I mean, haven’t you received instant messages from people who could literally spin their chair 180 degrees to say the same thing? Have you not spent 45 minutes reading and responding to an email chain that a five-minute conversation down the hallway could have addressed?
In a physical workplace that is digitised to the teeth, we can get away with using tools inefficiently. Knowing that we can spin the chair or walk down the hall gives us permission to do so. Fire out that email as fast as possible, and if it doesn’t make sense, well, talk it out.
Not anymore. Now, we have to use our digital tools to their fullest potential. Our communications, processes, and handoffs must be impeccable. Today, the biggest difference is not the technology we use, but how we use it.
I would argue that even if you’re using platforms specialised to your department, there are some patterns and common needs in a remote work environment. Maybe you have all these boxes checked, but hopefully, I’ll point out a blind spot, and you can do something about it.
How do you initiate work?
If you’re working in a home office—perhaps while your kids reenact scenes from Lord of the Flies—your output is probably creativity, information, and ideas. And the more abstract and complex your product is, the more it’ll benefit from project management platforms. Coders (and marketers) gravitate to systems like Asana, Basecamp, Trello, Jira, and Workfront.
Particularly in a remote work setting, we need to be articulate about what we’re doing. What is it? Who’s it for? Why are we doing it? When’s it due? Time in a pandemic is a trickster. Project management will give some order to the groundhog days.
If you can't spin your chair, how do you talk?
In business, there are different versions of conversations. There are “check-ins,” often done by email, which tend to be light in substance but heavy in exclamation marks. There are, “what-do-you-really-need-from-me?” conversations, where someone sends an email, and you send one back asking the person what they actually asked. And there are many others, mostly done through email. That is why in remote work, you need a channel that isn’t email.
The top options tend to be Slack, Hangouts Chat, and Salesforce Chatter. They let you spin the chair around. Email is a medium of conversation, but it doesn’t facilitate talking. You need a way to talk.
How do we get things we need?
Have you ever counted the number of the emails you receive that entail person A, a coworker, asking person B, you, for something persons C, D, or E might have, maybe, delivered to you sometime last month?
In a physical setting, we can triangulate the location of any file, folder, or image. But in a remote setting, we need ways for people to share files and search for them without taking up someone else’s capacity. Whether your team uses Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, a digital asset management system (DAM) etc., you need a place where people can scoop their own ice cream instead of lining up and waiting for a coworker to do it.
Are we making a difference?
Without the in-person stand-ups, shout-outs, and comradery, it’s harder to feel impactful. Regardless of what department you work in, a system to measure your impact is priceless.
In marketing, we look to social and content analytics not just for validation, but to learn from our decisions and do better next time. In sales, our colleagues are motivated to hit their numbers and track how much business they’ve brought in. Many IT people find satisfaction in resolving tickets faster and eliminating recurring problems. Give yourself the pleasure of knowing you made a difference and the awareness to rise to a higher potential.
I wish I could end with a bold claim, like working remotely will be the best thing that ever happened to us! The reality is, we don’t know yet.
However, evicted from our usual routines, there is a chance to see anew the way we worked before the crisis, and the way we work within it. It’s the kind of perspective we normally get by traveling to a distant country or meeting someone from an unfamiliar background.
So, meet your new remote life. It’s weird. It’s boring, at times. But it’s going to make you rethink what remote work is, and what you and your team need to be successful in any conditions.