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Microsoft is bringing News and Interests to Windows 10 versions 21H1, 20H2, and 2004
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft is bringing the News and Interests feature that's been in testing in the Dev channel of the Insider program to older versions of Windows 10, including 21H1, 20H2, and 2004 (via Windows Central). The company released new cumulative updates to users in the Beta and Release Preview channels of the Insider program, bringing the feature to versions 21H1 and 20H2 today.
News and Interests has been a big highlight for Microsoft with the Dev channel since December, but it was believed to be part of a future feature update for Windows 10, so it's interesting to see Microsoft bring it to older versions. The fact that it's already rolling out to the Beta and Release preview channels also suggests we could see it being officially available significantly sooner than initially thought.
As to what News and Interests is, it's essentially a taskbar widget that gives you quick access to recent news and other information you may be interested in, like stocks, sports scores, or traffic information about a specific route you may usually take. It also makes it so that you have weather information displayed directly on the taskbar.
The feature is rolling out with builds 19043.962 for users running Windows 10 version 21H1 in the Beta channel or for pre-release validation in the Release Preview channel in commercial environments. For regular users in the Release Preview channel, running version 20H2, they'll see build 19042.962 instead, but they'll get the feature all the same. In fact, the two updates are exactly the same, labeled KB5001391, which makes sense considering they have the same bits. Here's the full changelog for both builds:
Just like version 20H2, Windows 10 version 21H1 is a simple enablement package, meaning they have the exact same bits, but certain features only light up in the newer release. It looks like this one will be coming to all versions based on the same bits, though. You can read our guide to what's new in Windows 10 version 21H1 here.
Xbox April update brings achievements to phones, Game Pass improvements
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft has released the April update for Xbox consoles, including the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, as well as for the Xbox app on smartphones. As usual, this update brings a few new features, starting with the mobile app, which is finally getting widespread support for achievements. Microsoft announced it was rolling out this feature gradually last month, and everyone should have it by the end of April. You'll also be able to compare you achievements with your friends and see monthly leaderboards to compare against them.
Over on Xbox consoles, this update brings some improvements for Game Pass subscribers. For starters, you'll now see a section called Play with Friends, which lists Game Pass games that are being played by your friends and lets you jump in and join them. Game Pass is also getting new game recommendations, for those times when you can't decide what to play next. These recommendations are based on games you've played before, so it could make it easier to find something you like.
Microsoft is also making improvements to game downloads. If you're downloading a game and playing something else at the same time, your console can now let you know if that game is impacting your download speed, and give you the option to suspend it so you can download faster.
As for known issues with this release, not a whole lot has changed, though Microsoft has removed issues related to the Xbox Series X|S controller and FPS Boost from the list, so presumably, those things are working fine now. You should be able to download the update now, but it will also install automatically sooner or later.
Microsoft announces Visual Studio 2022, now in a 64-bit flavor
by João Carrasqueira
Today, Microsoft announced Visual Studio 2022 along with its first public preview coming this summer. The next major release of Microsoft's flagship development toolkit will be "faster, more approachable, and more lightweight", according to Amanda Silver, who made the announcement on Microsoft's DevBlogs.
One of the big news with Visual Studio 2022 is going to be the transition to a 64-bit app. Indeed, Microsoft has been making a push towards 64-bit across the board, and now Visual Studio is joining the fray. A major advantage of 64-bit apps is that they're not limited to 4GB of memory, so this new release will have unrestricted access to all the memory on your PC. That should result in much better performance across the board and fewer out-of-memory errors.
The new version of Visual Studio will also come with updated icons that should be easier to identify and understand at a glance, support for the new Cascadia Code font that Microsoft introduced with Windows Terminal, new product themes, and integration with Accessibility Insights to help developers spot any accessibility barriers quicker. Microsoft is also making it easier to customize your experience with Visual Studio, with settings for the IDE and the ability to sync (or not) settings across devices.
As for what types of apps you can build with it, Visual Studio 2022 will be compatible with Azure resources, .NET 6, and C++ 20. That includes full support for the unified framework in .NET 6 and things like the Multi-platform App UI (MAUI) that can be used to create apps for Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS.
Other improvements include better performance for the core debugger, support for text chat during Live Share sessions, more capabilities for the IntelliCode engine, improvements to code search, and better asynchronous collaboration, with new logic related to making commits and reviewing pull requests from platforms like GitHub.
IntelliCode suggestions in Visual Studio Microsoft also says it's "refreshing" Visual Studio for Mac, switching to a native macOS UI to offer better performance and reliability. It will also integrate with macOS accessibility features, and Microsoft is updating the terminology across the IDE so it's more consistent between Mac and Windows versions.
As mentioned above, the first preview of Visual Studio 2022 will be available this summer, and Microsoft will likely iterate on it a few times leading up to the stable release.
Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming is finally coming to PC and iOS through the web
by João Carrasqueira
It's been a long time coming, but Microsoft has finally announced that it's going to start beta testing Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming for PC and iOS devices on the web starting tomorrow. The service launched for Android phones last September, and for a few months, you could test Microsoft's Project xCloud - the precursor to the full service - on iOS, but that ended up being scrapped due to Apple's App Store policies.
Initially, the Xbox Cloud Gaming will only be available via invitation for select Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers. Microsoft will begin sending out the invites tomorrow, and more people will be getting invites over time. Players from any of the 22 countries supported by Xbox Cloud Gaming will be eligible to be invited, so you may want to keep an eye out on your email if you want to participate.
Microsoft announced in December of last year that it would make the service available on both iOS and PCs this spring, and sure enough, it's happening, albeit not via a dedicated app as had been spotted in the past. Instead, players will use a web browser to visit xbox.com/play and get started. To play, you can use a Bluetooth or USB controller, or touch-based controls in supported games, and you'll be ready to go. There seems to be no mention of keyboard and mouse support, however.
Microsoft is a bit behind some of its competitors in terms of platform support, since both Stadia and GeForce Now already support PCs. Nvidia's service also runs on iOS, as does Amazon's Luna, which is also in preview. On the other hand, Microsoft includes a large library of games directly in Xbox Game Pass, making its service more compelling, especially after today's news.
Microsoft Edge Canary gets a performance mode for some users
by João Carrasqueira
Image credit: HotCakeX (Microsoft Tech Community Forums) Microsoft's Edge browser is getting a new performance mode, and it's already available for testing if you happen to be running the Canary version of the browser. Spotted by user HotCakeX on the Microsoft Tech Community Forums (via WinCentral), there's a new toggle under the System section of the browser's settings page where users can enable performance mode.
According to the description, enabling performance mode "helps you optimize speed, responsiveness, CPU, memory, and battery usage" for the browser, though it doesn't specify at what cost those improvements might come. However, it is worth noting that enabling the option disables the timer for sleeping tabs, which likely means it's set to one of the lowest values automatically. Putting tabs to sleep can help save resources and improve performance, so it makes sense that this is one of the settings that's enabled with performance mode.
Microsoft does note that the performance improvements enabled by this toggle will vary depending on your system configuration and your browsing habits. Users with more tabs may notice a bigger difference, for instance, if those tabs are put to sleep quickly.
Performance mode began rolling out with version 91.0.586.0, but it's a hidden feature. You'll need to use a launch parameter to enable it, similar to the Workspaces feature spotted last week. In this case, the launch parameter is as follows:
The same user on the Tech Community Forums also noted the recent addition of the ability to add text to a PDF file in Edge Canary. This also appears to be a controlled rollout, as the feature isn't available on our end yet.
On the topic of performance, Microsoft recently released a Canary version of Edge for Android, featuring a series of improvements over the stable release. You can check out our comparison between the two versions here.