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By Usama Jawad96
The first preview of .NET 6 is now live: Here's what you need to know
by Usama Jawad
Microsoft announced .NET 5 a few months ago as the first step in the path to .NET unification. The goal is to have a single set of APIs, languages, and tools that you can utilize across multiple platforms. Today, the firm has unveiled the next stepping stone in this journey, which is .NET 6 Preview 1.
The first preview of .NET 6 brings with it a raft of new features and capabilities. However, first and foremost is that it enables the next bits of .NET unification. Under this plan, while you can use .NET SDK to build mobile apps in Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, the size of the SDK will actually be smaller because mobile workloads are optional. This capability will be gradually rolled out with .NET 6 releases and will be complete in .NET 7.
With .NET 6, Microsoft is also leaning towards "open planning" so everyone is aware of the direction the company is headed in. This can be viewed in the Blazor-based app here which has multiple filters that allow you to see the plan most relevant to you.
Additionally, .NET 6 comes with a new Multi-platform App UI built on top of Xamarin. It is a toolkit that allows developers to get a consistent view of their apps across various platforms, also allowing them to share code. Microsoft states that the focus during .NET 6 releases will be performance, control themes, and "faster developer experiences". Preview 1 currently includes support for Android and iOS. Windows and macOS will be supported in future releases.
.NET 6 also includes support for developing Blazor desktop apps. This capability is primarily aimed at web developers who want to offer a feature-rich UI in offline desktop apps. Currently, Blazor desktop is being built for .NET apps, but Microsoft has stated that it can be used to build apps in other stacks like Swift as well. As can be ascertained, Blazor is built on top of the Multi-platform App UI, with focus being on providing performance similar to other desktop solutions.
Another project that the .NET is working on goes by the name of "fast inner loop". The aim of this initiative is to enable faster build time and to develop capabilities that allow developers to skip rebuilding altogether, and just integrate code edits in live processes.
With .NET 6, Microsoft is investing more in ARM64 support as well. Performance improvements are a key focus area in Preview 1, along with support for Windows Forms and Windows Presentation Framework (WPF). The development team also plans to add support for Windows Desktop app features in .NET 5 once it has enabled and tested them in .NET 6. With regards to Mac, initial support has been added for Apple Silicon ARM64 chips.
Microsoft also plans to improve containers in .NET 6. Multiple ways to do this include reducing container image size, enhancing the scalability of containers, adding support for Windows process-isolated containers, and optimizing performance, among many others. Based on the current Linux landscape and release strategy, Microsoft has stated that images for .NET 6 will be based on Alpine 3.13, Debian 11, and Ubuntu 20.04. Once the company begins to release new .NET 6 images, this base image version will not change. Debian 10, which has been used as the image in multiple past releases, will be retired.
The .NET command-line interface (CLI) also has a bunch of new experiences thanks to adoption of the System.CommandLine libraries. These include response files and Directives. Furthermore, math APIs and libraries have been added to .NET 6 too. It includes better support for Windows access control lists (ACLs) as well, with improvements to various relevant methods such as Semaphores and Mutex.
The .NET thread pool has been redesigned to enhance portability. It will be the standard for .NET releases going forward, and will allow applications to have access to the shared thread pool, regardless of their runtime.
A major part of .NET 6 Preview 1 is support for Apple Silicon. However, Microsoft has emphasized that this is currently in alpha stage. With this release, both ARM64 and x64 builds for macOS are being released. According to the company, this has been a major effort and as such, it does not plan to release ARM64 versions for earlier releases of .NET. Microsoft has also thanked Apple for all its support in bringing .NET 6 to Apple Silicon.
That said, there are still some issues with the current release on Apple Silicon. Debugging native .NET apps doesn't currently work for any Visual Studio product. Microsoft plans to add support for this in Preview 3. Other known issues include:
.NET has not been fully tested on Rosetta 2 emulation, but Microsoft has noted that this is a temporary bridge connected to ARM64 anyway, and will likely not be supported forever by Apple. The Redmond giant plans to support .NET on Macs on these older machines as long as Apple supports them.
As stated, another focus of this release is also performance improvements. As such, .NET 6 Preview 1 brings enhancements to single file apps, single-file signing on macOS, hardware-accelerated structs, and dynamic PGO. It also includes Crossgen2 - a new iteration of the initial Crossgen tool - which allows for easier code generation and cross-generation development. Currently, the SDK defaults to Crossgen, but will be moving to Crossgen2 in future preview releases.
.NET 6 will be officially released in November 2021, similar to how .NET 5.0 was released in the same timeframe last year. You can download .NET 6 by heading to this dedicated webpage and find out more details about it in the extensive blog post here. Microsoft has also stated that .NET 6 Preview 1 was tested on Visual Studio 16.9 Preview 4 and Visual Studio for Mac 8.9, so it is recommended that you use these configurations to test it for yourself.
By Abhay V
Google rolling out dark theme for Search on the desktop for some users
by Abhay Venkatesh
Google seems to be rolling out a new dark mode for Search on the desktop for some users. A new pop-up message suggesting that “Dark theme is now available has begun showing up for people, based on user posts on Twitter, which was corroborated by folks over at 9to5Google as well. The feature seems to also be showing up for users when accessing Google Search from the desktop in Incognito mode.
The prompt reportedly redirects users to a setting that lets them choose between light, dark, or system theme. This means that the search engine will adapt to the system theme settings on Windows and macOS, making it a much more streamlined option for those that prefer to switch between themes regularly. However, it is not clear if the rollout is part of an A/B test or an actual staggered release since the feature supposedly gets disabled for some users after a page refresh or when users navigate to image search.
This isn’t the first time that users have been able to spot dark mode for Search on the web. Back in May last year, the company was testing the theming option on mobile browsers via a hidden flag. Early this year, there were reports of a randomized test with an experience similar to what users are reporting today.
As for the theming option itself, the company is keeping the experience in line with its mobile apps, which means that the UI adapts a dark grey background color with white text. From the screenshots posted by users, it does not look like there are too many rough edges, although, the theme is applicable only to a few pages.
The addition of a dark theme for Search on the web will be a welcome addition for those that prefer the theming option, especially when working in dimly lit environments. It will be interesting to see if the Mountain View company expands the rollout of the feature soon or if this is another toe dip in the water to gauge reception from users.
By Abhay V
This week's Edge Dev build adds the option for a simplified right-click menu in PDFs
by Abhay Venkatesh
Just like clockwork, Microsoft has released a new Edge build to Dev channel users, bumping up the version to 90.0.789.1. While this is the second Edge 90 build being released for Dev users, it is still light on features, with the build today readying improvements to the right-click context menu for PDFs and adding a management policy for governing how Office files are opened in Edge. Other than that, there are a bunch of fixes to address reliability issues and changed behavior.
Additionally, the company has also reminded users of the impending end of support for Edge Legacy and has also linked to a post on what steps are to be taken by those that use kiosk mode. The firm has also detailed the new password management features brought by Microsoft Authenticator on mobile and on Chrome via the Microsoft Autofill extension.
With that out of the way, here is what’s new with today’s Dev channel release:
As mentioned in the release notes, the simplified right-click menu in PDFs is still rolling out gradually, so the settings to enable it might not be functional for most users for now. It is not clear what the exact changes are either, so users will have to wait for the completion of the rollout.
As usual, there are fixes to improve the reliability of the browser. Here is the complete list:
And here is a long list of fixes to address changed behavior, including a bunch of fixes aimed at Progressive Web Apps (PWAs):
Lastly, there are the known issues that users should be aware of when installing the latest Dev channel build. The list includes a few items that are being tracked for a while now, such as the duplication in favorites and the like:
As is the case always, the update should be installed in the background without any user intervention. However, you can always head into Settings and hit 'About Microsoft Edge' to force the browser to check for an update.
As for users in the Beta channel, the company released Edge version 89 to users in that channel last week, bringing features like sync data reset, PDF and autofill improvements, and more. As for Edge for Linux users, there is no word on when that version will receive features like history sync.
Total War: Warhammer III announced by Creative Assembly, coming this year
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
The Total War: Warhammer trilogy that Creative Assembly began back in 2016 is concluding this year with the newly revealed third entry. After several teasers from the past few days, publisher Sega announced the latest turn-based and real-time strategy title today with a brand new cinematic trailer, catch it above.
Total War: Warhammer III will have the conflict expanding to further territories like the Realms of Chaos and Lands of the East. New fantasy races are incoming too, with Kislev and Cathay, as well as Chaos factions Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh and Tzeentch. The studio promises to deliver the most diverse array of "legendary heroes, gargantuan monsters, flying creatures and magical powers that the series has ever seen."
"Our vision, from the start, was to create a series that felt like an incredible journey through this world we all loved," said game director Ian Roxburgh. "The enormous support of our players in ensuring the success of the first two installments has pushed our ambition to new heights, and we can’t wait for everyone to experience it."
Like in the first two games, Creative Assembly will allow players to combine the maps of the complete trilogy to have one massive campaign. However, this will arrive as a post-launch free update, as the studio's full focus is currently on Total War: Warhammer 3.
Total War: Warhammer 3 is coming to Windows later this year, with Linux and macOS versions coming soon after. Both Steam and Epic Games Store versions are currently available for pre-order, and Creative Assembly will be bringing the previous two games and all their DLC to the latter store before the latest game's launch.
By Abhay V
Microsoft reportedly planning special virtual events for Windows, gaming, and more
by Abhay Venkatesh
Microsoft is reportedly planning to hold a series of special events geared towards its various offerings such as the cloud, gaming, Windows, and security. The Verge reports that the events are expected to be held over the next few months, with the first one slated to take place this week that focuses on Microsoft 365 and the “employee experience”, guessing from a tweet posted by the Microsoft 365 Twitter account.
While the Redmond giant shares information about its products as part of large conferences such as Build and Ignite, these events are supposedly more specific, product-related ones. It is possible that the company will use these events to share specific roadmaps, launch new products, or just showcase new capabilities added to its products in the various categories.
With a major Windows 10 redesign – codenamed Sun Valley – expected to begin being tested with Insiders, it will not be surprising to see the Windows event possibly aimed at sharing more information on that front. Windows 10X, the firm’s modern, lightweight OS, is also expected to be launched sometime in the next few months. While rumors suggest that the OS launch will be one without much fanfare, it will be interesting to see if the company leverages a special event to talk about its newest OS offering.
The firm might also choose to share its plans for first-party games and its xCloud game streaming platform via the events aimed at gaming. Microsoft is also expected to bring Xbox game streaming to Windows sometime this spring, so an event to announce the expansion of that service might make sense.
The pandemic has forced companies into moving to a virtual setup for its events and product launches, and Microsoft is no exception. It will be interesting to see if these events are a one-time thing, or if the company is experimenting with a pattern for the years to come.