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Microsoft announces Agility SDK to accelerate DirectX 12 adoption
by Sayan Sen
Microsoft announced the DirectX 12 Ultimate API last year which would enable games to use several modern DirectX 12 graphics features like DirectX Raytracing (DXR), Variable Rate Shading (VRS), Mesh Shaders, and Sampler Feedback. However, DX12 Ultimate has a major limitation. The API is only supported by Windows PCs with the May 2020 update or newer, which was severely hampering the rate of adoption of the modern API as developers didn't want to code games for fewer people.
As a solution to this, Microsoft today has released the new DirectX 12 Agility SDK. This new SDK, unlike DX12 Ultimate, is compatible with PCs still using anything as back as the November 2019 update.Essentially, it will make DirectX 12 Ultimate features backwards compatible with older OS versions. According to Microsoft, developers are pleased with this as it should immensely help with the adoption of the DirectX 12 Ultimate API and its accompanying features as there are naturally a lot more users on older build versions.
Here's what Nick Penwarden, Vice President, Engineering, Epic Games, has said:
The Agility SDK is fully compatible with DirectX 12 Ultimate and HLSL Shader Model 6.6. The Shader Model 6.6 has been announced today and brings several modern shader compiling features which are listed below:
New Atomic Operations,
Helper Lane Detection,
Quad-based derivative operations,
Pack and Unpack Intrinsics,
Raytracing Payload Access Qualifiers.
For developers and users interested in or looking to try Agility SDK, you can find more details about it in the official blog here.
Outlook and Teams get new features to protect users' mental health
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft has announced a couple of new features that are designed to help workers take breaks in the digital age, especially given the number of meetings that can fill up a workday. The company says that back-to-back meetings with no breaks are one of the main reasons for the digital overload that many workers experiences in its Work Trend Index research.
The first feature is for Outlook, and it basically makes all meetings shorter by default within an organization. Last year, Microsoft made it possible for individual users to create these rules for themselves, but now employers can set it at the organization level, making meetings shorter for everyone so they can catch a break. Rules can be set so that the break is at the start of the meeting (as in, the meeting starts late) or at the end (meaning it will end early), and employees are notified of the company policy once it's in place, so they can understand why their meeting times may have changed by themselves. This is available starting today.
Then, there are a few new features for Viva insights in Microsoft Teams. Viva Insights is one of the four modules in Microsoft Viva, the company's Employee Experience Platform introduced in February, and this specific module lets workers get insights into all kinds of information about the members of the company, such as whether they've had time to take breaks, how much mentoring time they've had, and so on.
The new additions announced today include a new reflection feature that will prompt workers to think about how they're feeling and identifying certain patterns; a send praise feature that allows colleagues to compliment each other and "build a habit of sharing gratitude"; and a virtual commute feature that helps workers wrap up for the day and prepare for the following day. These will be available starting next week.
Microsoft is also bringing new guided mediations and mindfulness experiences from Headspace into the Viva Insights app. These experiences are curated and designed to help users relax before a meeting or close out their work day. This will come later in the year, though.
Destroy All Humans, Second Extinction, and more head to Xbox Game Pass
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
In the remainder of April, Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass subscription services are gaining even more games. The first wave from earlier in the month already carried some big hitters like Grand Theft Auto V, NHL 21, Zombie Army 4: Dead War, and the first-party Sony-developed game MLB The Show 21, which landed today.
In the next two weeks or so, the company plans to bring in the remade classic Destroy All Humans!, the early access co-op title Second Extinction, as well as cloud support for two classic Fable games. Here are all the games announced for the second wave of April arrivals and their launch dates on the service:
MLB The Show 21 (Cloud and Console) – Available Now Phogs! (PC) – April 22 Second Extinction (Game Preview) (Cloud, Console, and PC) – April 28 Destroy All Humans! (Cloud, Console, and PC) – April 29 Fable III (Cloud) – April 30 Fable Anniversary (Cloud) – April 30 As usual, the above-mentioned 'Cloud' arrivals are for Android devices utilizing Xbox Game Pass Ultimate's cloud game streaming feature. However, this will change soon, as the technology is finally hitting PC and iOS, with Microsoft beginning public tests for the feature today utilizing a web portal.
The Xbox team has also brought touch controls to more cloud gaming supported titles, them being:
Banjo-Kazooie Battle Chasers: Nightwar Killer Queen Black Overcooked! 2 Wreckfest Double Dragon Neon As more games enter the service, some older titles are phased out. Here are the experiences leaving on April 30.
With April games out of the way, Microsoft will have the next wave of games hitting its services starting in May. Meanwhile, it was also revealed last week that the Xbox Skill in Alexa has gained a new capability. The Amazon voice assistant now has the ability to directly download games from Xbox Game Pass to an Xbox console when asked.
By Steven P.
How to remove Search in sidebar in the Edge browser context menu
by Steven Parker
So you managed to switch from Firefox or Chrome or some other browser to Microsoft's new Edge browser and maybe you like it, maybe you find some things are just a bit annoying, and well, we can help with one or two things. The thing that bugs me most about the browser are the massive context menus that cause me to move my mouse half way up my screen just to paste some text, lets see what we can do about that!
Today we will be removing a duplicate search setting from the context menu. "Search in sidebar" was introduced to Edge stable back in January with version 88, before then it had been in testing in the Canary and Beta versions for about half a year.
What?! Search in sidebar does exactly what it says it is, however it overrides your default search engine and uses Bing for the results in the sidebar "Search the web" will always use your default search engine. Anyway, if you want to get rid of it, here's what you can do.
Go to three- dotted menu top right of the browser -> Settings -> Privacy, search and services -> Address bar and search -> Manage search engines.
Whoohoo! Find the Bing entry Ensure it is not already the default search engine
(you can't remove the default search engine) Click on three- dotted menu and select Remove If you still want to use Bing as a search engine choice, but not have the Sidebar search context menu, that's possible too.
Click Add and use the following entries Search engine: Bing Keyword: Bing.com URL: https://bing.com/search?q=%s According to a poster on Reddit, where Ii found this info, all of the above could be reset with a major version update, like going from Edge 90 to Edge 91 so you will have to repeat the steps above to remove the context menu option again., Aannoying,.. I know!
But I want it back, how can I get it back?
However, say you did all of the above and then massively regretted doing it and you want your Search in sidebar option back, and if you are like me and didn't bother saving the weird web address for the default Bing search engine, then you can get it added back here on this official Microsoft page.
Click the big "Make Bing my search engine" button, an executable called DefaultPack.EXE is downloaded and when you run it, the (default) Bing search is added back, sets to default, but as an added bonus it also restores the Search in sidebar function.
Now I am going to go off and see if I can find a trick to enable mouse cursor focus scroll., Llet us know in the comments if you have unofficial undocumented tricks or handy workarounds to make Edge that little bit better.
Microsoft is reportedly reviving the Microsoft Store with a new UI and policies
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft is reportedly planning to reinvigorate the Store app on Windows 10 with a new design and policy changes that make the platform more appealing for both end-users and developers. The information comes from Zac Bowden of Windows Central, citing sources familiar with the matter.
Most Windows 10 users, even some die-hard Microsoft fans, can likely recognize that the current Microsoft Store is far from being the centralized hub for installing apps that Microsoft wanted it to be. In fact, Microsoft itself has come up with other tools to install apps on Windows 10 more conveniently, specifically the Windows Package Manager that was released last year. Not only that, but the Xbox division created its own storefront for games, further cementing that navigating the Microsoft Store isn't all that pleasant.
With these purported changes, Microsoft apparently wants to change that. The new Store app will fall in line with the UI changes that are expected as part of the big Sun Valley refresh that's been rumored for some time now. That refresh targets Windows 10 as a whole, and we've seen some glimpses of those changes in Windows 10 Insider preview builds and apps like Alarms & Clock. The new Store app will have new layouts, iconography, and fluid animations.
The latest design for Alarms & Clock on Windows 10 Of course, it's not all about the UI, and Microsoft seemingly wants to change some policies, too, hoping to bring in more apps, which is a weak point for the platform right now. Bowden points to three major policy changes: first, developers will be able to submit unpackaged Win32 apps to the store, meaning both EXE and MSI packages will be supported; second, those apps will be able to manage updates using their own cloud distribution network (CDN), meaning apps with built-in update systems no longer need to use Microsoft's update system; and finally, apps will be able to bypass Microsoft's commerce platform and use their own revenue streams without giving Microsoft a cut of their revenue.
These are all major changes, and they would make the Microsoft Store arguably a better fit for the expectations of users on a PC. In its current form, it's with the Google Play Store and iOS App Store, but one could argue that the expectations for mobile platforms are significantly different from those of a PC. These policies could allow the current Windows app ecosystem to thrive as it always has, simply offering a hub for apps to be easily accessible.
According to the report, Microsoft will be taking the opportunity to bring many of its own apps to the Store since these changes are in place. Apps like Teams, Office, Edge, and Visual Studio are all said to be coming to the Store, signaling that Microsoft actually believes in the ecosystem.
This is all said to be coming in the fall, which is also when we expect the Sun Valley refresh for Windows 10 to show up, and Microsoft could announce these changes at this year's Build, followed by a public preview some time after that. However, the new Store could be brought over to older versions of Windows 10, too.