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By Usama Jawad96
Closer Look: Default apps settings in Windows 11
by Usama Jawad
We are inching closer to the general release of Windows 11, which is almost three weeks away. Although we have already discussed some of the OS' main features, we dive into some of the smaller capabilities in more detail twice a week in our ongoing Closer Look series.
So far, we have taken a look at Search, Widgets, the Start menu, Snap Layouts and Snap Groups, the Taskbar, quick settings and notifications, Virtual Desktops, and power and battery settings in Windows 11. In light of some recent developments, we feel that it is only fitting that we discuss default app settings available in the OS.
For the purpose of this hands-on, we'll be taking a look at Windows 11 build 22000.184 that was released to the Beta Channel a week ago versus a publicly available and up-to-date Windows 10 (version 21H1 build 19043.1237). As usual, it is important to note that the OS is still under active development so it's possible that some of the features we talk about may change by the time of Windows 11's general availability.
Default apps settings in Windows 10 Before we analyze what's on offer in Windows 11, we will first take a look at similar capabilities present in Windows 10. Fortunately, the ability to set default apps in Windows 10 is fairly straightforward. You get categories like Email, Maps, Music player, Photo viewer, Video player, and Web browser, and you can click on any of them to choose your default app. When being displayed a list of possible apps to choose from, you also get a label with the text "Recommended for Windows 10" below Microsoft apps like Microsoft Edge, Groove Music, and more. Microsoft apps are shown at the top of the list but there isn't anything more blatant beyond that.
Choosing default apps by file type in Windows 10 Of course, you can also choose default apps by file types and protocols, and have the ability to set defaults by app. It's quite a useful interface and utility, especially for power users who have a lot of software installed on their machine and want to customize how they want to open each of their files.
Default apps settings in Windows 11 When we come over to Windows 11, the situation is completely different, and not in a good way. While Microsoft has added a couple of useful search bars that should make it easier to sift through file extensions and associations, the first thing you'll notice is that the company has completely done away with the productivity categories. Instead, that space has been taken up by the "set defaults by app" UI, through which you can click on specific apps and then choose their association.
Setting default file types or link types by app in Windows 11 What this essentially means is that if you want to set Google Chrome (or any other browser, for that matter) as your default web browser, you will have to individually set it as the default for each and every extension and link, as can be seen above. In fact, when you attempt to switch a default app from a Microsoft-recommended one to another of your choice, Microsoft will show you a notification about how you're making the biggest mistake of your life (okay, I'm exaggerating that a bit).
There's not a lot else to say. Microsoft has added a couple of nifty search bars but stripped away the very useful ability that enables even laymen and people who are not tech-savvy to set their default app. This is strictly in contrast to Microsoft's boasts of accessibility in Windows 11. This UI and process is not accessible at all to someone who is not well-acquainted with tech. There's no other way to say it.
At best, this is a terrible design decision that has to be overturned at some point in time. And at worst, it's a very intentional move by Microsoft to promote its own default apps and make it difficult for people to set their own choice of apps as the defaults. I'm almost certain that it's the latter scenario given the fact that it strips away usability without offering a proper replacement.
This change does not only impact end-users, but app vendors as well. Now, they have to rely completely on the user to go and manually change the default app for each file association. There has been massive backlash on this decision from rival companies too. It has even led to Mozilla reverse-engineering Microsoft's own code for Edge in order to set Firefox as the default browser in Windows via a single click initiated by the user. Other developers are building tools that forces Windows to bypass default apps, especially when it comes to web browsers. I'm pretty sure that other Microsoft competitors will follow suit too unless Microsoft decides to either enhance its UI or plug this option entirely. If it does the latter, I can see rival firms taking it to court over antitrust issues.
All in all, there is nothing positive to say about the default apps settings in Windows 11. I won't mince words, it's absolutely terrible and counter-intuitive to human-centric design. I sincerely hope Microsoft rethinks the cost of what it's doing here. Moves like this erode public trust, as we have seen in the past with Windows updates and telemetry debacles in Windows 10.
Take a look at the section here or select from the links below to continue exploring Windows 11 in our ongoing "Closer Look" series:
Closer Look: Search in Windows 11 Closer Look: Widgets in Windows 11 Closer Look: Start menu in Windows 11 Closer Look: Snap Layouts and Snap Groups in Windows 11 Closer Look: Taskbar in Windows 11 Closer Look: Quick settings and notifications in Windows 11 Closer Look: Virtual Desktops in Windows 11 Closer Look: Power and battery settings in Windows 11
By Usama Jawad96
Closer Look: Search in Windows 11
by Usama Jawad
Windows 11 has been available to Insiders for the past couple of months now. While there has been some criticism regarding the confusing messaging around the minimum requirements, things seem to be going somewhat smoothly now. It is also important to remember that the operating system is still under active development so there's still some time before things are finalized.
Although we have covered Windows 11's new features and capabilities multiple times, we feel that now is as good a time as any to dive deeper into specific features, compare them to Windows 10, and see how they can be further improved. As such, we'll be starting with Windows Search in this piece. Please note that the screenshots are from Windows 11 version 22000.132 released a few days ago and Windows 10 21H1 version 19043.1165.
Windows 11 Search settings Before we dive into what has changed in Windows 11 Search compared to that present in Windows 10, we feel it is better to quickly walk through some features which have not been changed, or at least, have not been modified significantly. First up, we have the Windows Search settings (pictured above) which can be found in the "Privacy and security" settings.
The configurations available are almost identical to what you would find in "Searching Windows" in Windows 10. You have the regular indexing configurations, excluded folders, two options for "Find my files", and some information related to indexing. Microsoft has only shuffled around the order of these settings and changed a bit of the wording, the general purpose is still the same.
Windows 11 Search The same is the case with the options available on top of the Search UI which has categories like "All", "Apps", "Documents", and more, exactly like Windows 10. There are also the "Give Feedback" icon along with the three-dotted menu on the top right corner which will be familiar to Windows 10 users.
However, this UI has changed significantly compared to Windows 10. For one, you can't add a search box in the taskbar. For people such as myself you hid that UI anyway, this is not a major concern. For people who did have a search box of considerable width across their taskbar, this change will likely come as a disappointment.
Windows 10 Search The Search UI itself has been altered a bit as well. Compare it to Windows 10 above, and you'll immediately notice the presence of the search bar at the top of the component in Windows 11 rather than at the bottom. The Windows 11 Search UI also has rounded corners similar to other components of the OS too, and it also appears cleaner. There are also some additional "Quick searches" available in Windows 11 such as "New movies", "Translate", and "Markets today", although that could be related to regions and preferences.
This look is perhaps also enhanced by the fact that the Windows 11Search UI hovers slightly above the taskbar and does not touch its top pane. This gives it the impression of being a separate "windowed" component and makes it feel less cluttered.
Windows 11 Search "hints" One nifty Search-related feature that I really like in Windows 11 is the "hints" capability shown above. Essentially, when you hover over the Search icon, you get your three most recent searches displayed in a small window. You can either jump to them directly through this UI or you can click on the search bar at the top to display the full UI. This capability is not present at all in Windows 10 and I personally welcome it.
Moving on to the main purpose of Search, which is, well, searching. I don't have any hard figures to back this up since I don't have two identical configurations to test both operating systems. I have Windows 10 running on a Core i7 machine with a 512GB SSD and 16GB of RAM. Meanwhile, Windows 11 is running in Oracle VM VirtualBox on the same machine and uses 50GB of SSD storage and 4GB of RAM from the same resources.
Despite this clear disparity in resources, Windows 11 Search feels much, much snappier compared to that present in Windows 10. It keeps updating results in close-to-real-time on the virtual machine while Windows 10 noticeably stutters and jitters while responding to keystrokes and updating results at the same time. I'm not technical enough to attempt to dig deep into the implementation of the component on both these operating systems, but in my experience, Windows 11 Search is clearly superior in terms of performance. I realize that Windows Search has to sift through more files on Windows 10 since that is not a fresh install, but to tackle this scenario, I searched for Windows Settings configuration items so both operating systems prioritize that, and Windows 11 still outperformed its predecessor.
Search results: Windows 10 (left) vs. Windows 11 (right) One of my pet peeves with Windows 10 Search is its tendency to favor web search results rather than on-device results. A very good example of this is in the side-by-side screenshot I captured above. As mentioned, I am running Windows 11 in a VM inside a Windows 10 guest machine so the left side of the screen shows the Search results for Windows 10 whereas the right side shows results from Windows 11.
For testing purposes, I created a "Test" directory on the desktop of both operating systems. And then fired a search query for "Test" while keeping case-sensitivity in mind. As you can see above, even though the directories are same - on each independent OS -, Windows 10 favored Bing search results for COVID-19 tests and internet speed tests, while Windows 11 quickly grabbed the correct directory. Even secondary search results for "Test" show Windows 11 configurations, and web results are at a much lower priority. So, it's clear that Microsoft has significantly upgraded its Windows Search implementation, which may account for some speed improvements as well, but mileage may vary for different use-cases.
Windows 11 Start menu Search Finally, another relatively minor change we have in Windows 11 is that the Search UI has also been added to the Start menu. In contrast, Windows 10 did not have a Search bar in the Start menu at all. While I welcome this change, the implementation is very odd, to say the least. When you click on the Search bar in the Start menu, the menu closes and the native Search UI opens instead. Considering that this is a rather poor user experience right now, I hope Microsoft will be updating this ahead of the general release to make it seem more native.
Overall, there is a lot to like about Search in Windows 11. The performance seems better, the search results are better, whoever added the "hints" on hover should be given a raise, and the UI is much cleaner. That said, there is still room for improvement. Personally speaking, I would prefer that the white space in the UI is better utilized or reduced, the Search in the Start menu be baked in to the component better, and the search bar in the "hints" to work directly in the smaller window instead of blowing up to the full UI. The good news is that we're still a few months away from general availability so if you have some nitpicking to do as well, please let us know in the comments section below and report it to Microsoft via Feedback Hub.
By Usama Jawad96
Google is improving its search results to protect people from online harassment
by Usama Jawad
Google Search is quite heavily used all over the world so it's no surprise that the company regularly updates the service with more features and redesigns it from time to time as well. Last month, it also revealed that it is working on a new technology called Multitask Unified Model (MUM) to fetch answers to more complex search queries.
Now, Google has revealed that it will be further enhancing its Search experience to better protect people from harassment.
Google's existing mechanism in this domain involves people manually reporting websites which post content about them without their consent and demand payment for its removal. A common example of this is revenge porn where malicious actors post explicit, non-consensual content of a person online. As part of the current process, Google investigates the information provided by someone affected from this harassment, and then removes the page from search results while also demoting the website's overall ranking.
Now, Google plans to further enhance this process by not only targeting the malicious site but also reducing the ranking of similar "low quality" predatory websites that appear in search results. This will aid in protecting people who are targeted by repeated harassment via unfavorable information posted about them online without their consent. Google says:
As highlighted, the road to enhance Search is an endless one, and Google says that it will continue evolving the experience based on feedback and the changing landscape.
By Abhay V
Microsoft Search will soon begin traversing Teams meeting transcriptions
by Abhay Venkatesh
Microsoft Search will soon allow users to search for recorded Teams meetings stored in SharePoint or OneDrive with not just meeting titles, but also using terms from the meeting transcription itself – if it is available. This is possible thanks to the firm indexing the contents in transcribed Teams meetings for search, along with the titles of the meetings or the filenames for files stored within OneDrive and Teams.
The firm listed the feature in the Microsoft 365 Roadmap (spotted by Petri) which is labeled as being in development. The company has provided more information in an admin center message, which was kindly posted by Petri.
The introduction of this feature makes it easy for users to search for recordings based on points of discussion, rather than lookup (or remember) the title of the meeting, allowing for quicker discovery. For those curious about confidentiality, the Redmond giant says that Microsoft Search results for recordings will be restricted only to the attendees of the meeting, ensuring that results will not include recordings that the individual wasn’t a part of.
However, currently, there is no granular control to tweak the feature as it is automatically rolling out to eligible users with no action required on the admin’s part. The only way to prevent Microsoft Search from indexing transcriptions is by turning transcriptions off completely, which seems like a hassle. It is not clear if the firm will introduce more options in the future.
The feature is being tracked in the roadmap under Roadmap ID 82003 and will begin rolling out to users later this month, with completion of the rollout slated for mid-to-late July.
by Razvan Serea
"Everything" is search engine that locates files and folders by filename instantly for Windows. Unlike Windows search "Everything" initially displays every file and folder on your computer (hence the name "Everything"). You type in a search filter to limit what files and folders are displayed.
"Everything" only indexes file and folder names and generally takes a few seconds to build its database. A fresh install of Windows 10 (about 120,000 files) will take about 1 second to index. 1,000,000 files will take about 1 minute.
"Everything" will run on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 . NTFS indexing requires the Everything service or running "Everything" as administrator.
Everything 22.214.171.1249 changelog:
fixed an issue with detecting NTFS volumes. "Everything" is Freeware. If you use "Everything" in a commercial environment and find it useful a donation would be appreciated.
Download: Everything 126.96.36.1999 32-bit | Portable | ~1.0 MB (Freeware)
Download: Everything 188.8.131.529 64-bit | Portable
Download: Lite 32-bit | Lite 64-bit
View: Everything Website
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