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By Steven P.
Microsoft PowerToys 0.49.0 adds new Find My Mouse tool and VCM is back
by Steven Parker
PowerToys is Microsoft's open-source project that offers a collection of nifty tools that people can use to customize the Windows 10 or 11 UI and experience to their liking. As we know, depending upon feedback and general stability, some of the utilities also make their way to the OS. A prominent example of this is Snap Layouts and Span Groups in Windows 11 which borrow heavily from the FanzyZones tool in PowerToys.
A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft released PowerToys version 0.47.1 to address some bugs and provide stability updates. Today, the company has rolled out version 0.49.0 which primarily centers around modernizing PowerRename's UI, adding a brand new mouse utility. Perhaps notably, the Video Conference Mute is also merged back into the stable releases.
If you are using PowerToys in Windows 11, you can grab it in the Microsoft Store. For others in Windows 10, you can open the app and click on "Check for updates" under the updates section on the General tab. Those who would like to try PowerToys for the first time can grab the version 0.49.0 installer from the app's GitHub page.
By Usama Jawad96
Closer Look: Touch keyboard in Windows 11
by Usama Jawad
It's almost been a month since Windows 11 became generally available, but since it is being rolled out in a staggered manner, it's not available for everyone. Although there are ways to jump the queue and immediately install the OS on your machine, it's wiser to know what you're getting into before you decide to pull the trigger. This is why we have been discussing Windows 11's features and capabilities in more detail 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, power and battery settings, default apps configurations, File Explorer, context menus, Teams integration, the updated Clock app in Windows 11, the Microsoft Store, the Snipping Tool, the Paint app refresh, the lock screen, the revamped Photos app, the voice typing experience, and the storage settings. Today, we'll be the touch keyboard in Windows 11.
For the purpose of this hands-on, we'll be taking a look at the generally available Windows 11 build versus a publicly available and up-to-date Windows 10 (version 21H1 build 19043.1288).
Touch keyboard in Windows 10 Before we dive into Windows 11, let's start with what we have in Windows 10 first. Touch keyboard in the OS is supported both on touchscreen displays and non-touchscreen display, which makes sense, because you could be in a scenario where your on-device keyboard and trackpad is not working so you can still connect and external mouse and troubleshoot to your heart's content with the touch keyboard. You can also have a dedicated button for it in the taskbar by right-clicking the taskbar and clicking "Show touch keyboard button".
Windows 10 has a fairly bare-bones implementation of touch keyboard, in terms of customization and personalization. You get a docked keyboard at the bottom of your screen which covers roughly 40% of the height of the display by default, but you can choose between five layouts including Default, Small, Split, Traditional, and Handwriting. The Small layout floats by default but you can choose between docked and float for all other layouts. A major accessibility problem with the UI here is that Microsoft does not offer textual hints as to what each icon means. You basically have to guess what each icon means until you become familiar with the UI.
Below the layouts, you see dedicated buttons for language preferences and typing settings, which take you to the respective configuration in the Windows Settings app. There is a microphone button on the top of the keyboard through which you can use dictation capabilities, provided that you have enabled online speech recognition. There is also a dedicated clipboard history button which becomes functional after you enable the capability. That's pretty much all there is to it with regards to the touch keyboard implementation in Windows 10.
Enabling the touch keyboard button via the Taskbar in Windows 11 is a pain Meanwhile, the touch keyboard in Windows 11 has gone through a major UI redesign. While it mostly the same in terms of functionalities, Microsoft has made it more accessible and offered tons of new customization options. But since we're talking about accessibility, I feel like it is important to highlight it (or lack thereof) in terms of configuration. While Windows 10 offers you a way to quickly add a dedicated button for the touch keyboard directly via the taskbar, we know that Windows 11's taskbar is so crippled that you actually have to follow this flow to do the same: right-click on Taskbar > click on Taskbar settings > expand Taskbar corner icons > toggle Touch keyboard. It's infuriating, but thankfully, it's just a one-time activity.
Touch keyboard customization in Windows 11 Coming over to the actual changes to the touch keyboard in Windows 11, you'll find out that Microsoft has a dedicated section for the capability in Windows 11 Settings app. This offers the bulk of customization options including keyboard size, theme, background, and key text size. None of these configurations were available in Windows 10 so all of these changes are very welcome. If you do not like the themes included by Microsoft, you can also design your own custom theme by clicking on the option in the Keyboard theme section. It's very easy to do and allows you to personalize your touch keyboard to your heart's content. You also have a handy "View your changes" button to preview your changes right then and there.
Touch keyboard in Windows 11 The touch keyboard's default UI has gone through some changes too. Remember I mentioned the names of all the keyboard layouts when talking about Windows 10? Well, the only way I found out their official names is via the touch keyboard in Windows 11, because that offers labels as to what each icon means. It's an extremely welcome change as I no longer have to guess what each icon means. The handwriting keyboard has been split off to a different menu, while more buttons have been added for Theme and resize and Give feedback. The language and typing preferences buttons are still there but are now nested in More settings. The docked/floating icon has been decoupled and moved to the top-right of the keyboard so it's always immediately accessible. I really like this reorganization of the UI overall.
The microphone icon has been moved to the keyboard itself while the emoji button has been moved to the bar on the top. That is the icon you see next settings icons in the screenshot above depicts that. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't seem to have assigned a label to it yet so I will just refer it to the Emoji button. That said, it now includes a lot of other options aside from emoji too, such as Kaomoji, GIFs, symbols, and clipboard history. When you open the keyboard in floating mode, you'll also notice other minor design elements like the rounded corners, and more.
Overall, I really like the touch keyboard redesign. Even though I don't use it outside of some troubleshooting scenarios (because I don't have a touchscreen display), I feel like the customization options and UI reorganization will be welcomed by those who utilize it on a daily basis. That said, I think that Microsoft has the potential to go all-in now when it comes to customization. Maybe offer customers the ability to swap around keys, maybe someone wants to have the emoji keyboard on the keyboard rather than it being hidden on the menu, maybe someone wants to remove the microphone key altogether, and so much more. I have found no way to do any of these things yet, so either they are hidden inside menus or they do not exist altogether. Microsoft seems to be going in the right direction when it comes to accessibility and the UI of the touch keyboard but it has the potential to do so much more, and I'd be interested to see if the company has any plans for it moving forward.
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 Closer Look: Default apps settings in Windows 11 Closer Look: File Explorer in Windows 11 Closer Look: Context menus in Windows 11 Closer Look: Microsoft Teams integration in Windows 11 Closer Look: Clock app in Windows 11 Closer Look: Microsoft Store in Windows 11 Closer Look: Snipping Tool in Windows 11 Closer Look: Paint in Windows 11 Closer Look: Lock screen in Windows 11 Closer Look: Photos app in Windows 11 Closer Look: Voice typing in Windows 11 Closer Look: Storage settings in Windows 11
Microsoft apparently working on "Microsoft Loop", a purported workspace app
by Sayan Sen
Microsoft is seemingly working on an all-new "Microsoft Loop" application according to an image uploaded by Twitter user FireCube. Although we are speculating here, the new app, from what we can make out", seems to be a workspace collaboration app where multiple users might be able to interact inside it during workplace team meetings or similar collaborative sessions. However, information is absolutely non-existent about it at this point and Loop could be something different entirely.
The image of the new purported Microsoft Loop is given below and the app seems to be running a "VanArsdel Marketing" meet.
For those who don't know, Van Arsdel is an end-to-end UWP sample app for developers that Microsoft released back in 2019. Hence it might be possible that the VanArsdel Marketing meet shown in the image is a possible demo built inside Loop. Or it could simply be a demo that Microsoft is using internally.
FireCube thinks that the new app looks similar to Notion, a useful workspace management app, which we do agree with. The user interface, at least at first glance, does kind of look like the Notion app for desktop.
Notion for desktop Interestingly, FireCube isn't the first Twitter user to post about the new alleged Microsoft Loop app. Earlier, @ALumia_Italia had also posted about this new app but strangely, Twitter has decided to withhold that tweet for some reason.
Is Microsoft cooking something big that it doesn't want people to know about yet? We wonder.
Curiously, the term "Loop" isn't exactly new for Microsoft as the company had a team called Loop that designed its Arrow Android launcher back in 2015.
Age of Empires IV is now available on Steam, Microsoft Store, and Xbox Game Pass
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
There's a new real-time strategy game in town. Age of Empires IV is now available for Windows, marking the end of the 16-year hiatus for the main series. Developed by Relic Entertainment and Xbox Game Studios' World Edge, the title comes complete with a single-player campaign and multiplayer going up to eight players.
Read our review of Age of Empires IV here, where the RTS received a stellar 9/10 verdict for its deep strategy elements, audio systems, asymmetric factions, campaign variety, and other well-implemented elements.
The title ships with four single-player story campaign experiences focusing on different eras, countries, and historical figures like Genghis Khan and William the Conqueror, amounting to 35 missions. For cooperative and competitive multiplayer, eight civilizations are available: Chinese, Delhi Sultanate, English, Mongols, French, Abbasid Dynasty, Holy Roman Empire, and Rus, each coming with different abilities, and playstyles. The development team is also slated to deliver official modding tools in early 2022.
Here are the minimum and recommended requirements:
Minimum Recommended OS: Windows 10 64bit | Windows 11 64bit Processor: Intel Core i5-6300U or AMD Ryzen 5 2400G | CPU with AVX support required Memory: 8 GB RAM Graphics: Intel HD 520 or AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 DirectX: Version 12 Storage: 50 GB available space OS: Windows 10 64bit | Windows 11 64bit Processor: 3.6 GHz 6-core (Intel i5) or AMD Ryzen 5 1600 | CPU with AVX support required Memory: 16 GB RAM Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 970 GPU or AMD Radeon RX 570 GPU with 4GB of VRAM DirectX: Version 12 Storage: 50 GB available space Additional Notes: 4 GB of video RAM and 16 GB of system RAM Age of Empires IV for PC is available to purchase on the Microsoft Store and Steam with a $59.99 price tag. There is also a $79.99 Digital Deluxe Edition that adds several in-game profile customization items as well as goodies like the original soundtrack. Like other first-party games from Microsoft, the Xbox Game Pass for PC (or Ultimate) subscription offers access to the full experience for no additional cost as well.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft might replace the HTTPS lock icon in the Edge address bar to avoid confusion
by Usama Jawad
The lock icon in the Chrome address bar Many web browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge use a lock icon in the address bar to indicate that you're connected to the website via a secure HTTPS connection. However, as noted by Google back in July, many users misunderstand this representation and think that the icon indicates that you're connected to a trustworthy website even though that may not necessarily be the case. The company stated that it is exploring the possibility of replacing the lock icon with a down arrow in Chrome:
Although Google has not rolled out the change to Chrome Stable yet, it appears that Microsoft agrees with Google's stance and is considering implementing it in Edge as well. As spotted by Reddit user u/Leopeva64-2, Edge Canary now features a down arrow instead of the lock icon in the address bar. This can be seen below:
Implementation in Edge Canary That said, it is important to note that while this feature is definitely being tested, it is currently available for select users on Edge Canary via Microsoft's controlled rollout strategy. The company may decide to roll this out to a wider audience via the browser's development channels before making it available to the Stable channel. While the company hasn't announced any firm release date yet, the materialization of this implementation is highly dependent on developer and user feedback.